Louisiana Voodoo – Part 1

There are so many good reasons to visit New Orleans, it’s a city with a unique atmosphere, style and culture that has spawned from what is a dense history considering how short it is in relation to many others across the world. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the History of this city and its people don’t just lie here in the state of Louisiana but also in the many other nations that those people hail from. Native American, French, African, Spanish, English, Italian, South American, the list is endless and each influences the place in some way or another. Since it’s earliest days these cultures have lived side by side and over time have blended together to create a new one that is recognisable and exciting to people the world over. There are so many examples in its food, its music and even its architecture but arguably one of its most fascinating examples is in its religion, I’m talking about Louisiana Voodoo.

Out of Africa

You’ve all no doubt at some point seen something of voodoo in film or television; spooky magic, curses, pins being stuck into dolls, that sort of thing, but there’s far more too it than this. Voodoo in the media is something of a mishmash of different practises from different types of the religion including Haitian Voodoo and Hoodoo too. Though similar each have their differences, they did however all spawn from the beliefs of enslaved West Africans that were brought to the Americas in the early 18th Century.

The French colonists brought many slaves over to French Louisiana, so many in fact that it got to be that the enslaved peoples got to outnumber the Europeans by more than two to every one settler in the area. Unlike other areas such as the British colonial territories the enslaved Africans were not separated from their families at auction. Often, they were kept together, it was because of this that their beliefs continued and were carried through their community unlike anywhere else in the Americas. Voodoo is a melting pot of these African religions which even went on to have elements of Catholicism blended into it when the religion became feared as a catalyst for destruction by the French.

A Religion Survives

After the start of the Haitian Revolution 1791 the French would no longer tolerate the religion and life became very difficult for Voodoo practitioners in North America. The revolt was believed to have been started by slaves that practised the religion, not only that but the specific instigators were allegedly taken over by one of the Voodoo deities during a ritual. This caused a violent reaction from the French oppressors who then attempted to stamp out the religion. Followers in Louisiana didn’t however fight back against the slavers, instead they hid their beliefs and even disguised them as Catholic worship, this is where that influence comes in. It’s also because of this that they began to carry more charms and amulets that have since become synonymous with the religion and though most were kept for protection or healing there were some carried to harm others, this is where the voodoo doll comes from.