Louisiana Voodoo Also Known As New Orleans Voodoo

| Tuesday, August 24, 2010 | |
Louisiana Voodoo Also Known As New Orleans Voodoo Cover Louisiana Voodoo, also known as New Orleans Voodoo, describes a set of underground religious practices which originated from the traditions of the African diaspora. It is a cultural form of the Afro-American religions which developed within the French, Spanish, and Creole African American population of the U.S. state of Louisiana. It is one of many incarnations of African-based religions rooted in West African Dahomeyan Vodun. They became syncretized with the Catholicism and Francophone culture of south Louisiana as a result of the slave trade. Louisiana Voodoo is often confused with—but is not completely separable from—Haitian Vodou and southern Hoodoo. It differs from Vodou in its emphasis upon Gris-gris, voodoo queens, use of Hoodoo occult paraphernalia, and Li Grand Zombi (snake deity). It was through Louisiana Voodoo that such terms as gris-gris (a Wolof term) and voodoo dolls were introduced into the American lexicon.

Louisiana Voodoo and Christianity

As a result of the fusion of Francophone culture and voodoo in Louisiana, many Voodoo spirits became associated with the Christian saints that presided over the same domain. Although Voodoo and Catholic practices are radically different, both saints and spirits act as mediators with the Virgin Mary and Legba presiding over specific activities. Early followers of Voodoo in the United States adopted the image of the Catholic Saints to their spirits.

St. Peter corresponded to Papa Limba, also referred to as Laba. Papa Limba refers to the Dahomean spirit Legba, the guardian of crossroads, gates, and entrances to villages. As St. Peter is known as the guardian of Heaven and is frequently depicted holding the keys to Heaven, his image was combined with that of Papa Limba. Some also associated Papa Limba with the devil. A popular song in Louisiana referring to St. Peter strongly coincides with a Haitian Voodoo song to Papa Legba:

St. Peter, St Peter, open the door,
I’m callin’ you, come to me!
St. Peter, St Peter, open the door,

Papa Legba, open the gate for me, Ago-e
Ativon Legba, open the gate for me;
The gate for me, papa, so that I may enter the temple
On my way back, I shall thank you for this favor

The serpent is the central figure of New Orleans Voodoo. Known as Li Grand Zombi, the serpent also became associated with Saint Patrick. Traditionally, St. Patrick expelled all snakes from Ireland, and is frequently depicted standing on or brandishing his staff at a snake. During a Voodoo ritual, the Voodoo queen focuses on the snake as she acts as diviner or prophet for the rest of the members of the rite.

Other Catholic practices adopted into Louisiana Voodoo include reciting the Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer.

A common misconception of Louisiana Voodoo is that its relationship to the Catholic Church is one of opposition. The similarities between Voodoo and Catholicism are what kept African beliefs from dying out as they did in other areas of the world. Historically, there has been little hostility between followers of Catholicism and Voodoo in New Orleans. Although Voodoo later experienced opposition from Protestant churches, its relationship to the Catholic Church has always been amicable. Today, most followers of Voodoo also practice Catholicism and see no conflict between the two religions.

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