Voodoo Museum in New Orleans
Article exploring Voodoo religion
Picture of a Voodoo altar
Don't Lose Your Mojo, Baby!
September 30, 2000
Voodoo. Up until a few days ago, the very word conjured up sinister images of serpents, skulls and crossbones in my mind. So imagine my fascination when I learned that New Orleans, not only has a Voodoo Museum and a Voodoo Temple, but that an estimated 15 percent of the city's residents practice it! Visions of bubbling caldrons and dolls stuck with pins danced in my head.
The Voodoo practiced in New Orleans today is a blend of French, Spanish and Indian cultures, and African-Americans aren't the only people who practice it. The majority of the practitioners we met were. Lots of businesses and restaurants have little shrines for good luck. Voodooism is also interesting for visitors. Just about every tourist shop in the French Quarter sells Voodoo candles, potions and dolls "guaranteed" to bring health, money or success.
The spirits of Voodoo rule over everything in the world, including family matters, harvests, love, happiness and health. In order to keep them happy, Voodoo users give them offerings according to their preferred colors, numbers, and types of food and drink. African sculptures, Mardi Gras beads, stones, tambourines, candles, clipper ships, lighters, chapstick, conch shells, horns, brooms, antlers, feathers, straw baskets, perfume bottles, skulls, puffer fish, starfish, crutches, sun glasses, rolls of film, packages of cigarettes, and stacks of dimes and pennies are used! Food was plentiful, including caramels, honey, coconuts, cupcakes, a Nutrigrain bar, dried bananas, garlic and a red onion. There were also bowls of standing water, which are believed to absorb negative energy. When sprinkled on an altar, water refreshes the spirits.
Sounds good -- now what about the skulls and crossbones? Bones are believed to bring such good luck, Voodoo users keep them as gris-gris, or charms.
And the serpents? In Voodoo, snakes are not seen as evil but as a symbol of man. Women often dance with serpents to represent the spiritual balance between men and women. Crosses, meanwhile, symbolize the crossroads where heaven and Earth meet.
Nearly every religion in the world is represented in Voodooism. Voodooism openly embraces people of all races, genders and ages. I wonder when that acceptance will be returned?
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Links to Other Dispatches
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Rebecca - If Jamestown wasn't the first colony, what was?
Nick - Don a headdress made of turkey feathers and return to the 1600's