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Voodoo Blog

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Apr 06
2009

Who, and what, is the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum?

Posted by gmg in museumFAQs

Founded in 1972 by New Orleans native and artist Charles M. Gandolfo, the Voodoo Museum is a real, brick and mortar, museum located in the heart of the French Quarter at 724 Dumaine Street, New Orleans, La. 70116. The museum displays and explains the history of Voodoo, as well as, its contemporary existence. It deals with Voodoo as a spiritual practice, the superstitions of Hoodoo, the folklore and facts about Marie Laveau, and the fusion of Voodoo into music and jazz, Mardi Gras, movies and literature. The museum is open seven days a week from 10:00am until 6:00pm. Our telephone number is 504-680-0128 and out email is info@voodoomuseum.com. (General Admission is normally $7.00 per person, but for anyone who mentions this website, admission will be discounted to $5.00.)

Click here for a map.

Apr 05
2009

What does the Voodoo Museum do?

Posted by gmg in museumFAQs

Our primary purpose is to collect, authenticate and subsequently display and explain Voodoo with the emphasis on Louisiana Voodoo. Our main focus is on the education and entertainment of visitors to New Orleans. The museum also serves to assist researchers for both for scholastic and literary projects. Media productions, documentary, commercial and independent are also welcome. The Voodoo Museum may also act as a point of contact, or referral, between the general public and persons, events and services within the local Voodoo community.

The Voodoo Museum also operates a gift shop both on site and via the internet that sells many one of a kind, locally hand made, Voodoo objects and curios such as Voodoo dolls, gris-gris bags, potions and other things.

The Voodoo Museum provides Walking Tours to Congo Square and the tomb of Marie Laveau in St. Louis Cemetery #1. Other customized and/or group tours are also available. Please details under Services.

Arrangements may be facilitated to contact Voodoo psychics for reading and consultations.

The Voodoo Museum may also provide a historian and/or Voodoo practitioner to appear as a speaker.

Special performances of Voodoo rituals, or by a Voodoo Queen, intended for the entertainment of groups, or private parties, may also be arranged.
Apr 04
2009

What is Voodoo?

Posted by gmg in FAQs

Voodoo is an ancient West African spiritual practice concerned mainly with interaction with spirits. When the Trans-Atlantic slave trade had the consequence of exporting Voodoo to the Americas it, both, integrated it with other African beliefs and practices, as well as with newer ideas, practices and images from the western European colonial nations. Today, Voodoo is expressed in many ways and under many names. The one consistent, however, is the continued belief in the interaction with spirits.
Apr 03
2009

Friends and Guests Comments

Posted by gmg in comments

Ritual CandleHave you visited the museum? Have you used our services? Post your comments here and share your experience.

Apr 02
2009

Isn't Voodoo evil?

Posted by gmg in FAQs

No, but that’s the common image it has thanks to movies, some books and some genres of folklore. In any drama, one has both a protagonist, and an antagonist. In the movies and similar dramatizations Voodoo makes a very mysterious and dramatic evil antagonist. Rarely does the zombie, or the witchdoctor, get to play the good guy and Voodoo Queens are at best, usually neutral.

In fact, Voodoo is a very familiar belief in spirits who function, not unlike Saints, to intercede in the lives, fate and fortunes of the faithful. Voodoo actually has no devil. Only the misuse of Voodoo by evil persons can cause some spirits to assume a malevolent character.

The primary spirit in Voodoo is typically represented by serpent. While this is a good and benevolent spirit, western culture is prejudiced to view the serpent as evil and satanic. Likewise, sexuality, which is seen as a positive force in Voodoo, is viewed as unpuritanical in western cultures.
Therefore, the combination of prejudging Voodoo by western standards with the dramatic licenses exploited in the movie industry, have given a false impression. Voodoo, in fact, is a very positive, benign and healing spirituality. Hoodoo, however, is another subject.  
Apr 01
2009

What’s the difference between Voodoo and Hoodoo?

Posted by gmg in FAQs

When the horse gets in front of the cart, Voodoo becomes Hoodoo. Originally, Voodoo entered our vocabulary via the Franco-African culture of south Louisiana. And, like most French words, Americans are inclined to mispronounce them. When Anglo-African Americans recognized Voodoo as the same practice they knew as conjure or root work, they synchronized the concept, and the word, as Hoodoo.

Today, a newer set of definitions is used. Voodoo, (originally called Vodoun in Africa), is used to define the spiritual practice in which the magic that is effected through the gris-gris objects and invocations, is solely the work of spirits.  Hoodoo, meanwhile, has come to be the practice of superstition in which the gris-gris magic is invested in the object (a doll, a potion, a candle etc.) or invocation alone, without the force or even the knowledge of the spirits. Therefore, Voodoo is the spiritual practice that uses gris-gris, while Hoodoo is a superstition in the gris-gris alone.    
Mar 31
2009

Who was Marie Laveau?

Posted by massicot in Marie LaveauFAQs

Marie Laveau was a free woman color born in New Orleans in 1801. She was product and propagator of the unique New Orleans plaçage system that paired white males with free women of color. She was a Creole, a Catholic, a traiteur (healer), a resident of the Vieux Carré and most recognizably, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. She was a very real person with a factual history as colorful and romantic as anything any writer could invent. Yet, most of what we are familiar wit about her is product of folklore and fiction writers. During the golden age of New Orleans she, in fact, did rise to the level of Voodoo Queen. She was a spiritual leader, a gris-gris maker, a problem solver, an oracle and an adept with the ancient African Voodoo snake spirit, li grand zombi. She was also a giver, a person who took in children, a person who visited prisoners and the sick, and a person know mainly for good works.  She is credited with everything from Voodoo rituals, to orgies, everywhere from the courtyard of her cottage, to Congo Square, to Bayou St. John, to Lake Pontchartrain, to the rear garden of the St. Louis Cathedral to the middle of the Mississippi River. When she died in 1881, newspapers took the highly unusual step for a woman of color of running long narrative obituaries both praising her as a saint and discarding her as a witch. When she was alive, any person wishing her help could visit her cottage on St. Ann Street and knock at the front door.  Since she died, and even through today, any one seeking her powers can still visit her tomb, and knock at her door.   
Mar 30
2009

What is the connection between Christianity and Voodoo?

Posted by gmg in FAQs

Voodoo is strongly acclimated to, if not merged with the Catholic faith. Besides the historical facts that both in Benin as well as in the French, Spanish and Portuguese colonies where Voodoo landed, the Catholic Church was either the only and official religion, or was heavily propagated; only the Catholic Church offers the nearly identical spiritual practices that the Voodoo could relate to.

In general, Voodoo maintains the belief in an almighty God who, however, is detached from pedestrian lives and interactive mainly with chiefs and priests. The Christian churches of western Europe furnished in the American colonies that function of an elitist access to God, putting them not in conflict, but therefore, in a juxtaposed conformity with Voodoo beliefs.

The Catholic Church alone, however, offered a host of venerated Saints with personifications and roles not that different from those of the Voodoo spirits.  Hence, for example, as the Voodoo spirit Legba commands access to abode of God in Africa, in New Orleans it was easy to reinvent him as St. Peter holding the key to heaven.  

Next, the veneration of sacred objects, especially the uncorrupted corporal remains of Saints and relics, like splinters of the True Cross, relates naturally to the Voodoo beliefs that objects, gris-gris, are imbued with spiritual characteristics beyond their mere physical properties.   

Finally, the most sacred of Catholic beliefs, the transformation of the Eucharist during Mass into the actual body of Christ, relates to the Voodoo understandings that when the spirits possess either persons, or things, they are transformed, in fact, into that living spirit.

In 1967 Pope Paul VI issued a papal encyclical, called the Africae Terrarum, which said in part, “Many customs and rites, once considered to be strange are seen today, in the light of ethnological science, as integral parts of various social systems, worthy of study and commanding respect. In this regard, we think it profitable to dwell on some general ideas which typify ancient African religious cultures because we think their moral and religious values deserving of attentive consideration.”
 
Later Pope John Paul II attended Voodoo ceremonies in Togoland and Benin. He also said, in part, in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Africa, “Africans have a profound religious sense, a sense of the sacred, of the existence of God the creator and of a spiritual world.”

Mar 29
2009

How did Voodoo come to New Orleans?

Posted by gmg in FAQs

Voodoo comes from an area of West Africa today recognized as the Republic of Benin. During the height of the slave trade, the town of Whydah (in present day Benin) was at the center of what was then called the Slave Coast. Different European colonial powers established factories along the African coast for the purpose of securing and exporting slaves. The French were, for a time, the major slave exports from the Benin region. On the other side of the Atlantic the French only had two major colonies that imported slaves (not counting an assortment of small Caribbean Islands); Saint-Domingue (now called Haiti) and la Louisiane. Therefore, it is not surprising that Voodoo is particularly recognized in these two former French colonies.

Slaves that were brought to New Orleans came directly from Africa. In fact, when the very first captives arrived in Louisiana 1719 they were from the Benin region. When the first slaves arrived in New Orleans they were observed to be unwilling to part with their small fetish, or gris-gris, objects. Even as they were settled into the Negro Camp set up in what is today the Algiers section of New Orleans, many of their physical maladies could only be cured by an African healer.

The subsequent French, then Spanish, colonial regimes neither condoned, nor specifically suppressed Voodoo. The area known today as Congo Square became a Sunday gathering place for African, and later Creole, slaves who sang and danced to pass the day in rest and recreation. Since, Voodoo does not segregate the secular from the sacred; these Sunday gathers maintained many of the old African ways and spirits.

Shortly after the American purchase of Louisiana Voodoo received a major reinforcement from the Catholic Church. During that period, the de facto schismatic priest, Père Antoine, appears to integrated relations and beliefs with Marie Laveau and Voodoo in probably the same way he interacted with the Freemasons.  From that point forward the Voodoo spirits are not only intertwined with the Catholic Saints in New Orleans, Voodoo itself is in some ways masked within the church.

With the increasing Anglo-African American, non-Catholic, population in the Americanized city, Voodoo began to merge with spiritualist beliefs and conjure practices to form separate Voodoo Spiritualist congregations.

Unlike Benin and Haiti where Voodoo has fused with the political structures, in New Orleans Voodoo has fused more distinctly with the music culture.

Today, Voodoo remains active in New Orleans as a spiritual belief, in the music and Mardi Gras and in the interest and curiosities of visitors and scholars.
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