The power of voodoo. Who do? New Orleans do! Voodoo has been and still is displayed in many famous fictitious works, ranging from books and movies to comic books and stage plays. However, its portrayal is usually contradictory to the reality of voodoo and all that it entails. Voodoo is often portrayed as evil, involving the use of potions, dolls, and sacrifices. Even though there may be useful or historical references behind the use of those tools, that display is more in line with Hoodoo rather than voodoo. Louisiana is known for its history of voodoo practices, and was even the setting for the popular Disney movie, “The Princess and the Frog.” Let’s explore the significance of Voodoo practices in Louisiana from the olden days till now.
Establishment of Voodoo Practices in Louisiana
The history of Voodoo can be traced back to West Africa centuries ago. Voodoo was introduced in Louisiana during the period of French Colonization back in the late 1600s. During the early 1700s, the practice of Voodoo was becoming increasingly common because, during the period between 1719 and 1731, African captives were being brought to Louisiana as slaves. The African group which was known as Fon (and is now known as Benin) were the majority that had been brought over, alongside were many other tribes such as Ewe, Mina, Chamba, Mandinga, Bambara, Sango, Ado, Congo, and Ibo. But, these captives did not come alone, they brought with them their religious beliefs, languages, and cultural practices that were all linked to the importance of ancestor and spirit worshipping. Louisiana Voodoo, as it is now known, became popular due to the knowledge that these tribes knew about poisons, herbs, amulets, and charms.
Adaptation of Voodoo in Louisiana
During the period of French colonization in Louisiana, selling the children of African slaves and separating them from their families was illegal. Thus, the huge population of native Africans in Louisiana and their importance of maintaining close ties to each other is what helped them keep their culture and old world traditions alive. During that time, voodoo was adapted into Louisiana in a number of ways. The production and use of wearing amulets and charms to protect oneself or harm others were very much popular and became significant in Louisiana Voodoo. A poisonous charm known as Ouanga was adapted into Louisiana Voodoo and was used to poison enemies. Ouanga contained the toxic components of the figuier maudit trees that were brought from West Africa and cautiously preserved in Louisiana. The poisonous roots were ground up and combined with elements such as nails, roots, bones, crucifixes, holy incense, holy candles, holy bread, and holy water. Since these African rituals and beliefs were allowed to be practiced, they adopted Catholic beliefs and practices into the Louisiana Voodoo rituals.
Another reason Louisiana is so rich in knowledge about Voodoo is due to the importance the native Africans gave to respecting elders and worshipping ancestors. The older African slaves lived much longer and thus helped to keep Voodoo practices alive in Louisiana and the effects of that can be seen until today.