It is almost impossible to separate voodoo from New Orleans history and the modern-day culture. They are all intertwined, meaning that you would be missing out if you do not attempt to understand some of the voodoo religion and its continuing influence over the city.
|Display at the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum|
Louisiana voodoo developed as an amalgamation of traditional religious practices brought by slaves from West Africa and the Catholic religion which the local landowners and settlers followed. Slaveowners tried to make their slaves convert to Catholicism. Like so many other aspects of New Orleans culture, religious beliefs combined, bringing together various backgrounds to create something unique to the region.
The most famous practitioner was Marie Laveau, the daughter of a white planter and a black Creole. While working as a hairdresser, she developed a reputation for being able to cure sickness, unite lovers, and bring luck to clients. Her customers ranged from the wealthy white elite of the city to slaves and the impoverished. A strict Catholic, she encouraged many of her followers to attend Mass, and it may have been this that helped to cement the link between the two systems.
Today, although voodoo has become very commercialized in New Orleans, used to sell all manner of trinkets to tourists, it is still an important belief system. Many stores in the French Quarter can provide good luck charms, dolls, and advice.
A good place to learn more is the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum on Dumaine Street. Visitors can learn about local tours, or can book readings with practitioners. They can also browse the museum which, while small and often crowded, contains a wealth of information about Marie Laveau, voodoo's origins, and its links to Catholicism. Again, be aware that many of the displays are altars and should be treated with respect. They may look very different to a Christian church altar, but each item carries significance.
|Offerings at the tomb of Marie Laveau|
|Burial vault marred by scratches|
Incidentally, the story of how people are buried in New Orleans is incredibly interesting but I shall leave that for you to learn from your guide.
|This Voodoo Circle was originally located in a building on Toulouse Street and is believed to have been used to protect the inhabitants from the spirits.|