I have always had an interest in the religions of the world. The history behind many world religions, as well as their devout followings are very intriguing to me. This fascination is a key factor in why I chose New Orleans as my most recent travel adventure. I was curious and excited to find out what locals thought and believed of this ancient religion. What I learned amazed me.
One of the first things I learned is that many locals don’t want to talk about Voodoo; at least not with outsiders. Most of the random locals I spoke with gave the impression they were either scared of the religion or had no interest at all. There were a few exceptions.
The first person who spoke openly about Voodoo with me was actually very knowledgeable. Out of respect I wont share names or any personal details, but they did tell me a story I’d love to share.
Voodoo in New Orleans
As a French Quarter guide, my source traveled a set path for their tours. Along the path they came to notice a recurring scene; a veve drawn in cornmeal in front of a local school. Each night they noticed the same veve and began to point it out on the tour, “Look, this is a real Voodoo ritual!”
One night as they were walking by the school they noticed something different. An elderly woman was lighting candles surrounding the same symbol. They watched from afar while the ritual was being performed. At the end they walked by, careful not to disturb the elderly woman.
As they greeted the woman they were met with kind eyes as she volunteered her story. Her granddaughter went to that school and was having problems with a bully. The woman was performing a ritual to invoke the Voodoo deity, Erzulie Mansur – protector of women and children.
This went on for a few weeks until it just stopped. The elderly woman was not seen again, nor was the veve etched in cornmeal.
After hearing the story I was given a sort of history lesson on Voodoo. From what I took away everything I had previously believed was based on false knowledge. Did you know Voodoo God’s are actually the equivalent of Catholic Saints?
Papa Legba is the counterpart of St. Peter as they both are guardians of the gate.
Aida Wedo is the counterpart of the Virgin Mary.
Ghédé, the counterpart of St. Expedité and Ogun is St. Jude. The list goes on for each deity and each saint!
The practice of Voodoo in New Orleans isn’t about violence and murder as much as it is about love and protection. Mainstream media and shows like American Horror Story: Coven have led many to fear the Voodoo religion before they really understand it.
I was informed that there are certain practitioners that welcome visitors to observe their rituals; some even invite onlookers to participate. While I didn’t have the chance to observe on this trip I am excited to do so on the next.