Voodoo from Haiti to New Orleans

Voodoo and hoodoo were and are a large part of the culture of New Orleans. The powders, oils, and other concoctions made by and sold to those affiliated are known to contain various interesting and exotic ingredients. I am interested in learning not only why certain ingredients are used, but also in where they are and used to be sourced from.

1. The practice of Voodoo traveled over from West Africa and Haiti, and has changed quite a bit along the way.

With European colonialism and the Haitian Revolution at the end of the 18th century, slaves from many different tribes came to be a very large presence in New Orleans. Voodoo traveled to New Orleans by the traditions carried by the West African and Haitian slaves. The practice was influenced through colonialism and the slave trade, and by the presence of French, Spanish, and Creoles in New Orleans, so there were several variations of voodoo.

The flow of the Slave TradeThe flow of the Slave Trade

For example, some West African slaves were forced to adopt Catholicism from their European colonists, and therefore the Haitian voodouists were forced to disguise their voodoo spirits, or “loa,” with catholic saint names.  

2. After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, things began to change and morph…

Slaves were treated terribly in Louisiana during the 18th century, and white men forbid the slaves’ gathering, for fear of preparations for an uprising. It wasn’t until the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, when Americans became the main authorities, that voodouists were freer to practice as they wished. Unlike the European’s Christianity, and because of its diasporic nature, voodoo was very loosely practiced, and there were no specific rules or regulations on what form it could take. 

In New Orleans, the practice became mainly focused on gris-gris, paraphernalia or “novelties,” and Voodoo Queens. There was hear-tell of scandalous orgies and rituals, which took place among the New Orleans voodouists, and came about with the rise of “Voodoo Queens,” such as Marie Laveau, in the 19th century. There are tales of human sacrifices, massive orgies, and bodies writhing unnaturally like snakes.

 3. The Ritual

According to many locals living in New Orleans in the early 19th century, There was a quintessential voodoo ritual that went on in secrecy. It take place late at night along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, Bayou St. John, and Congo Square, and always involved a voodoo queen and Li Grand Zombi, or a snake, who they worshipped. It roughly adhered to this agenda…

Python snakePython snake

1. All participants would gather around a fire, and a Python would be brought in a box to the queen.

2. She would allow the snake to lick her face, and from here she would gain “the power.” 

3. The queen would then stand on the snake box, and begin to shake and move. She would touch or hold hands with the king and others to transfer her power. 

A Voodoo Queen With a PythonInteresting Facts

  • In French, a voodouist, or voodoo practitioner, translates as “servant of the spirits.”

  • “The goat without horns” was a term coined for white children who were supposedly stolen and sacrificed to Voodoo spirits during rituals.

  •  According to legend, the first man and woman on earth were blind, and it was the snake that opened their eyes and gave them sight.

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