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Voodoo Hoodoo Lore, Essay Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1605

Essay

Louisiana Voodoo

Louisiana Voodoo refers to an Afro-American religion practiced by the Creole speaking population in Louisiana. It has its roots in the Dahomeyan Voodoo of West Africa which became merged with Catholicism as well as Francophone culture that is found in south Louisiana. The Dahomeyan Voodoo was introduced to Louisiana due to slave trade since slaves from West Africa were brought to work in the plantations.

Ideology

Louisiana Voodoo is a set of beliefs that has grown over the years from its early form as west African Dahomey Voodoo to the present from of religious practice that encompasses several religious beliefs (Hall 56). It combines religious and cultural practices originating from West Africa and Europe as well as aspects of the catholic faith. It is a set of beliefs that has incorporated the cultures of different people making it a diverse form of religious practice. The word Voodoo has been derived from the Dahomenian word vudu which means spirit in the Dahomean language.

This spirit is considered to be an invisible and strange power that has the abilities to get involved with the affairs of human beings. Voodoo is based on the belief in the existence of one God and other numerous but minor spirits that control various aspects of our lives (Jacobs & Andrew 84). This supreme God does not usually interfere with the day-to-day life of individuals. The spirits are responsible for controlling several aspects of life. They are believed to be both good and bad spirits and will influence the life of a person according to the kind of experience that they control.

In order for a person to be able to be in contact with these spirits, they should engage in activities such as dance, singing, the use of snakes and music which all represent the legba. The legba is seen as the major spirit channel that leads to the other spirits. The snake is an important feature of Voodoo and is usually seen as a representation of the knowledge to heal and serves as a connection between earth and heaven. In addition, elders in a society are highly regarded and play as intercessors between the members practicing the religion.

Development

Dahomeyan Voodoo was introduced into the French Louisiana by African slaves who were brought to work in the farms. The slaves were mainly from present day Benin, a country in West Africa. The slaves brought there religious practices as well as their culture and language with them. Due to the resulting large numbers of the slaves in Louisiana, they were able to form their own society of black slaves and continued with their cultural and religious practices that they had practiced while still back in Africa. Most of the African families were able to remain intact following the embargo Act that was passed in 1808 putting an end to slave trade into Louisiana (Hall 63).

The French authorities promoted an increase in the slave population as they banned any form of separation of the slave families with most of the slave families that had children below the age of fourteen being sold together. Such policies were instrumental in the development of an independent and well integrated slave community. From their African cultural and religious practices, thy were able to bring knowledge on various poisons and herbs, traditional beliefs in the worship of ancestral spirits, in addition to the creation of charms that were used to protect oneself from harm.

They were able to continue preparing and wearing charms such as the ouanga that was used in the event one wanted to poison a person deemed to be an enemy. It was prepared using the roots of a poisonous tree known as the figure maudit tree that was indigenous in West Africa and had been brought by the slaves. Another root commonly used in the preparation of the charms was the ground up root. In order for the charm to work, the person giving the charm would invoke Allah or Jesus Christ so as to ensure protection.

It was a cultural practice among the Dahomey to respect elders in the community. As such, the slave community in Louisiana upheld this practice with most of the older members of the community being held in high regards. This ensured that there was a large number of elderly slaves within the community. In addition, their practice of worshiping ancestors was also maintained. Dahomey Voodoo believed in the existence of spirits that controlled most aspects of life (Decalo 126). There were spirits for such things as love and family.

Though most of the spirits had their own African native names, the French creoles who were Catholics influenced the black slaves into changing the names of these spirits and adopted new names that were the names of catholic saints. The spirits were named and paired together with the saint that controlled similar aspects of life. Thus a spirit that was considered to control love would be named and paired to a saint who controlled love as well. The slave were further influenced by the French Catholics and hence adopted other practices of the catholic religion such as saying the lords prayer, using the symbol of the cross, baptism using water, as well as reciting the Hail Mary.

The nineteenth century saw the emergence of Voodoo queens who were women specialized in the Voodoo religion. They directed most of the ritual and ceremonial activities of the religion. They also were able to make and administer charms as well as magical powders that were used to cure ailments, provide protection from one’s enemies and grant the wishes of people (Fandrich 183).

Practices

The saints as well as the spirits are recognized as mediators that with Hail Mary and the Legba respectively. The recital of the Hail Mary is a common practice as is the Lord’s Prayer. Due to this integration of both Catholicism and African voodoo most of the adherents of Voodoo also are Catholics. Rituals are normally carried out inside houses as opposed to outside as a way of showing respect to the spirits. Various Voodoo routines include prayers, readings, as well as spiritual baths. There are a number of superstitions that are held by voodoo practitioners. Such superstitions comprise:

“To stop a Voodoo spell being placed upon you, acquire some bristles from a pig cooked at a Voodoo ritual, tie the bristles into a bundle and carry them on you at all times. If a woman sprinkles some salt from her house to yours, it will give you bad luck until you clean the salt away and put pepper over your door sill. If a woman wants her husband to stay away from other woman, she can do so by putting a little of her blood in his coffee, and he will never quit her. If a woman’s husband dies and you don’t want her to marry again, cut all of her husband’s shoes all in little pieces, just as soon as he is dead, and she will never marry again. You can give someone a headache by taking and turning their picture upside down. You can harm a person in whatever way you want to by getting a lock of his hair and burning some and throwing the rest away. You can make a farmer’s well go dry by putting some soda in the well for one week, each day; then drawing a bucket of water out and throwing it in the river to make the well go dry. Put a person’s photograph on the wall and drive a tack into the heart and he will die. Put a piece of silver under your head at night and witches will not bother you. Put sugar, coffee and salt on the stove and burn it, which will bring you anything you wish for if you do this on a Friday morning between six and twelve o’clock. Put your sweetheart’s or husband’s picture behind the looking glass, then stick a pin through his heart and he will never leave. Sew some salt in a man’s pants pocket without him knowing it and he will not leave you” (www.mysticvoodoo.com)

There is wide spread use of spells which are believed to be cure all spells since it can be used effectively to settle the problems that a person could be having. There are also numerous voodoo dolls that are types of gris-gris. Unlike other voodoo dolls, the one used in Louisiana is used to bless instead of cursing others. There are a number of pins that are usually pinned ion to the doll. The essence of pinning the pins in to a doll is to pin a person’s picture or name in to a doll which then represents a spirit. Once this has been done, the gris-gris is the carried out on the doll based on such categories as luck, finances or love (Jacobs & Andrew 159).

The Louisiana voodoo does not encompass nay form of persecution carried out on its followers. It is focused on serving people both its members as well as others by influencing the outcome of the happenings in life through the relationship between nature, the ancestors and spirits.

Works cited

Alvarado, Denise. The Mystic Voodoo: Voodoo Hoodoo Lore. 29 Mar, 2010 http://www.mysticvoodoo.com/hoodoo-voodoo-lore.htm

Hall, Gwendolyn. Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole  Culture in the Eighteenth Century. Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 1995.

Jacobs, Claude and Andrew, Kaslow. The Spiritual Churches of New Orleans: Origins, Beliefs, and Rituals of an African-American Religion. Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press, 2001.

Decalo, Samuel. Historical Dictionary of Dahomey, (People’s Republic of Benin), New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1976.

Fandrich, Ina. The Mysterious Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveaux: A Study of Powerful Female Leadership in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans. New York: Routledge, 2005.

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