"Perhaps no portion of Louisiana history is more shrouded in mystery than that which relates to the origin of the peculiar superstition called Voodooism," wrote the Daily Picayune on page 10 of the June 22, 1890, edition. Truer words have seldom been published.St. John's Day, the feast day of John the Baptist, is this Saturday, and it's reputed to be the holiest days on the New Orleans Voodoo calendar. It joins Catholicism and Voodoo, fact and folklore, Europe, Africa and America, in a quintessentially New Orleans way. But is the link between St. John's Day and Voodoo more fact or folklore?Much of the written record of the Voodoocelebration of St.
John's Day comes from the sensational accounts published in newspapers. According to the reports, it was on St. John's Day that Marie Laveau, the so-called queen of New Orleans Voodoo, was reputed to preside over the religion's biggest spectacle.
that portion of the lake shore between Bayou St. John and Milneburg is
thronged by the curious, and in former years many of the orgies would
scarcely be deemed improving to the refined or cultivated," the Daily
Picayune wrote on June 26, 1872.
Salt, pepper, a cat and a
black snake were all boiled in a pot, the "New Orleans Times" wrote two
days later. But that recipe sounds so generically heathen that you
wonder whether it has more to do with what happened in a Voodoo
ceremony or in a critic's mind.
St. John's Day falls close
to the summer solstice, the longest day in the year and an important
day in Catholicism and older European religions.
"All the other saints are
celebrated on the days of their deaths, but St. John's celebration is
on his birthday," says Sallie Ann Glassman, an American who was
initiated into the Voodoo religion in Haiti. "It falls close to the
"The celebration is rooted in earth-centered practices," said Barbara Trevigne, a historian of New Orleans culture.
Voodoo as folklore
But Brenda Marie Osbey, the
state poet laureate, grew up in the religion in New Orleans. She
contends that much of what has been written about Voodoo is simply
false, including the application of that name to New Orleansrel......
Some people will be scared out of their wits when they hear the term “Voodoo” being mentioned. What is so scary about Voodoo in terms of religion, culture, and cult? The term Voodoo (Vodun in Benin; also Vodou, Voudou, or other phonetically equivalent spellings in Haiti; Vudu in the Dominican Republic) is applied to the branches of a West African ancestor-based spiritist-animist religious tradition.As a religion, Voodoo is not so old. Some scholars say it is a mix of West African religions with a veneer of Roman Catholicism. Vodou is belived to have been brought to Haiti, and also to Jamaica, Cuba and Brazil, by slaves from the Guinea Cost of Africa. It would be right to call thereligion a product of the slave trade.Under slavery, African culture and religion was suppressed, lineages were fragmented, and people pooled their religious knowledge and out of this fragmentation became culturally unified.
to combining the spirits of many different African and Indian nations,
Vodou has incorporated pieces of Roman Catholic liturgy to replace lost
prayers or elements.
Vodou is a complex mystical
vision of the world.
It combines man, nature and supernatural powers
i.e. relating to, or being above or beyond what is natural. Vodou is a
rather democratic religion with everybody having direct access to the
spiritual world, no go-between is required. Vodou holds as a practical
aim what is referred to as the state of beign possessed (by the devil)
in other religions. “A Catholic goes to church to speak of Godand a
Vodouisant goes dancing near a church to become God,” as a popular
Haitian saying goes.
From the point of view of
Vodou, a human being is a combination of several bodies overlaid on one
another. Only one body – a physical one – is within reach to usual
perception. The next one is something akin to the body’s energy
dublicate, “the spirit of the flesh” which enables it to funtion. The
above spirit begins to ooze from the body after death, it passes to
organisms living in the ground. The process takes 18 months to
complete. According to Vodou doctrines, the soul or non-physical,
spiritual center of a human is made up of two parts: a “little good
angel” and a “big good angel.” A “big good angel” is similar to “the
spirit of the flesh”, it is a pure yet finer energy creature that
Gelin Jean Sergo was just 12 years old when one angry, restless spirit, Simbi Andezo, came to him in a dream and said he was to become a "vodousiant," or practitioner of voodoo. "My life changed that night," says Sergo, now a "hougan," or voodoo priest, and second in charge of a temple in downtown Port-au-Prince. "I was having difficulty in school and in social situations, but everything got better when I became a vodousiant."More than its beginning as a slave revolt that created a nation, more than its bloody history of exploitation, occupation and dictatorships, more than even the grinding poverty that afflicts the majority of itspopulation, Haiti is known for one thing — voodoo.The word voodoo comes from the West African word "vodun," which means spirit.
While there aren't accurate statistics, the government says significant portions of Haiti's population of more than eight million people are practitioners.
"It was brought here from Africa, with slavery," says Sergo. "The culture of voodoo is in the heart of every Haitian."
Haitian voodoo became mixed
with Catholicism, probably as a way for slaves to hide it from their
masters — most of whom forbade the practice. Voodoo spirits were, and
still are, associated with painted images and statues of the Catholic
saints, concealing the original intent of the vodousiants' worship.
Voodoo was officially
sanctioned as a religion in 2003 byousted Haitian President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, himself a former Catholic priest. There is a
formal commission known as Conavo to help correct what some adherents
say are misconceptions about voodoo: the obsessions with zombies,
voodoo pin dolls and sexual orgies, fed by Hollywood and popular
Sergo is assistant director of the commission.
"We want to show voodoo as
a religion focused on doing good," he says in the neat temple office,
complete with bookshelves and a computer. In fact, the only outward
sign that the space is connected with voodoo at all is a small,
costumed plastic doll attached above the door frame. "We want to
establish it more as a social institution."
Voodoo has much in common
with traditional religions, including the belief in a supreme being,
"Bon Dieu" or &quo......
This is a ritual common among tribes throughout North America, except for those within the southwestern part of the United States, for acquiring a guardian spirit or seeking supernatural guidance.The ritual is most important to people east of the Rocky Mountains and in some parts of the western United States. A vision quest provides the average individual, not just a medicine man, with access to spiritual realms for help.Usually, sweat-bath purification rites precede the vision quest, or "crying for a vision," as it is occasionally called. The individual goes alone into the wilderness to a sacred place where he fasts, thirsts, smokes tobacco, prays, and meditates for a vision. This vigil can continuefor several days and nights.
tribes practice self-mortification or mutilation, such as cutting off a
Some tribes use hallucinogenics; small groups in southern
California consume a jimson weed drink, and medicine societies along
the Missouri River use mescal.
In a true vision quest, the
seeker goes into a trance or experiences a vivid dream in which his
guardian spirit manifests, or he receives his sought-after advice from
the spirit of the Great Spirit.
Vision quests are mostly
undertaken by males usually when entering puberty, but sometimes in
childhood. They exert a powerful force in the maturation process,
providing a focus and sense of purpose, personal strength, and power.
When seeking a guardian
spirit, the individual usually asks to be given certain powers, such as
forhunting or healing, or luck in warfare, love, gambling, and so on.
The guardian spirit usually appears in animal form, but may change to
human form. In bestowing powers, it also may prescribe food taboos;
teach a song, which is used to reconnect the individual with the spirit
at any given time; and given instructions for ornamentation and for the
assembly of medicine bundles.All instructions must be followed lest
the person will lose the spirit. Ideally, the spirit will leave behind
a physical token of the vision, such as a feather or claw. If the
spirit that appears is undesirable, its powers are refused, and at a
later time another vision quest is attempted.
There are other reasons for
which vision quests are undertaken such as in times of war, disease,
death, and childbirth (the latter to seek instructions for naming the
child). Most Native Americans believe thatthe ......