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“Giants of Jazz: Art…

Oct 20 - Dec 17, 2017
This spring, art and music converge as The Historic New Orleans Collection… more

22nd Annual Pasta &…

Oct 20 - 20, 2017
Join us for an unforgettable evening ..Paris, Montmare, Cabaret, Can Can, and… more

Amazing Scavenger…

Oct 20, 2017 - Jul 03, 2027
Turn New Orleans into a giant game board with this fun scavenger hunt… more

Boo at the Zoo

Oct 20 - 28, 2017
Bring your little ghosts and goblins to Boo at the Zoo Presented by Bryan… more

Concerts in the…

Oct 20 - 20, 2017
The Historic New Orleans Collection's popular outdoor music series Concerts in… more

David Hansen's Garden…

Oct 20, 2017
Since 2006, Hansen's Garden District Jazz Trio has performed every night at… more

David Hansen's Garden…

Oct 20 - Dec 29, 2017
Since 2006, Hansen's Garden District Jazz Trio has performed every night at… more

East of the…

Oct 20, 2017 - Jan 07, 2018
The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) will present East of the Mississippi:… more

East of the…

Oct 20, 2017 - Jan 07, 2018
The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) will present East of the Mississippi:… more

Golden State Warriors…

Oct 20 - 20, 2017
Come experience NBA basketball at its best as the Pelicans take on the NBA's… more

Houmas House Presents…

Oct 20 - 31, 2017
For the month of October, there will be a 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm haunted tour.… more

Magazine St. Art…

Oct 20, 2017
Magazine St. Art Market is a unique way to experience the best of our local… more

Oktoberfest NOLA

Oct 20 - 21, 2017
Cost $8 - children 12 and under free - tickets available at gate … more

Saenger Theatre…

Oct 20 - 28, 2017
Plan your escape to the new musical comedy getaway ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE!… more

The Fountain Lounge…

Oct 20 - Nov 18, 2017
Join us for Amanda Ducorbier at the Fountain Lounge in the Roosevelt Hotel.… more

The Fountain Lounge…

Oct 20 - Dec 29, 2017
Join us for Sam Kuslanr at the Fountain Lounge in the Roosevelt Hotel. While… more

The Historic New…

Oct 20 - 21, 2017
The Historic New Orleans Collection's Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for… more

The Irish Cultural…

Oct 20, 2017 - Jan 22, 2027
Join us at the beautiful Irish Cultural Museum of New Orleans every Friday… more

Backyard Grooves

Oct 21, 2017 - Jan 10, 2026
In The Voodoo Garden, All Ages.   more

Bruno Mars: 24K Magic…

Oct 21 - 21, 2017
Join us for Grammy Award winner and world-renowned, multi-platinum selling… more

“Giants of Jazz: Art…

Oct 20 - Dec 17, 2017
This spring, art and music converge as The Historic New Orleans Collection… more

Voodoo in New Orleans

Mention the word Voodoo to many people today, and you're likely to draw apprehensive stares and cautious curiosity. The many popular misconceptions about Voodoo have caused many people to mistakenly believe Voodoo is an inherently evil concept, involving pins stuck into dolls and curses.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Voodoo is really a system of religion and spiritualism that finds its roots in ancient Africa. In many ways it differs little from modern organized religion. Its followers believe in one God and the search for a better understanding of the spiritual aspects of life - a far cry from the many who associate Voodoo with devil worship or human sacrifices.

Voodoo existed for many years in Africa as a rich part of the cultural fabric. The hierarchy of Voodoo includes God first, followed by Loa (spirits) that oversee all that happens on earth. Each of the Loa has its own preferred fruit, vegetable, color, day of the week, number and other life elements. The reason the spirits are so well known is that Voodoo is a religious practice passed from generation to generation by Griots, or story tellers.

African slaves in the Caribbean islands during the 19th century were banned from practicing Voodoo, but it didn't take them long to realize the parallels between Voodoo and Catholicism. Soon, the names of Catholic saints and many Catholic rituals, including ceremonies and costuming, were mirrored by Voodoo practitioners.

As a major slave trading post, it's no wonder that Voodoo made its way to New Orleans from Martinique, Haiti and the French West Indies. Established cultural blends of French, Spanish and Indian traditions made the city an ideal setting for the practice.  

By the time Voodoo wove its way into New Orleans culture, the French Quarter was a thriving riverside city, believed by some to be mystical. In the streets of New Orleans, it was most common to hear people speaking Spanish or French.

One tall, statuesque woman of color, Marie Laveau, was an attractive mix of African, Indian and Caucasian blood, known as a Quadroon. A hairdresser by trade, Laveau knew when to talk and when to listen as she entered homes of some of the richest and most powerful women in the city. These women told her their great family secrets, stories of their husbands' dalliances with other women and tales of reinventing their family histories to delete references to questionable ancestry. If knowledge is power, Marie Laveau became a queen.

Her potential would be realized by 1830, by which time she would be considered the undisputed Queen of Voodoo in New Orleans. With the gift of showmanship, Laveau injected a healthy dose of mysticism and sensuality into Voodoo ceremonies, using snakes liberally as symbols. She borrowed heavily from Catholic tradition, including ritualistic elements such as incense, holy water and prayer. Part theatrical dramatist, part mystical agent and part spiritual leader, Laveau caused Voodoo to be incorporated into New Orleans' rich cultural tapestry for decades.

It is said there was a second Marie Laveau, one of Laveau's 15 children, who carried on her mother's legacy. It is a powerful legacy that moves many New Orleanians to honor the life and work of the original Laveau every June 23 on St. John's Eve, the night believers think the Voodoo Queen's spirit rises.

Marie Laveau's grave in St. Louis Cemetery #1 on Basin Street is visited and meticulously maintained by legions of followers, who still place offerings there, including food or various symbols of Voodoo.

You won't find much of a trace of Voodoo in its authentic form on the streets of New Orleans today. It is a quiet movement that owes much of its existence to its heritage and its history.

A good place to begin a look into the world of Voodoo is the Voodoo Spiritual Temple on North Rampart Street in the Quarter. prseided over by Priestess Miriam. With a focus on traditional West African and herbal healing practices, the Temple is a unique spiritual experience. 

For a look at the evolution of Voodoo, stop in at Island of Salvation Botanica on St. Claude Avenue in the Bywater. Priestess Sallie Ann Glassman is one of the city's most visible Voodoo high priestesses, advocating for public peace and spiritual healing. The shop is a local favorite for spiritual supplies. 

Conventional wisdom says Voodoo is more an object of curiosity, a part of New Orleans history, than it is a contemporary practice. However, Priestesses Miriam and Sallie Ann are leaders of a quiet but strong movement to preserve Voodoo's history and practices. While ceremonies and rituals are not public spectacles, they are very much a part of New Orleanians' spirituality.

Still, the aura of mysticism surrounding Voodoo pervades, perhaps because it fits right in with the fascination surrounding New Orleans culture. Voodoo, like jazz music, our multi-cultural cuisine, Mardi Gras and even the city's traditional Spanish architecture, is a part of this place. It belongs here among the aged streets and centuries old oak trees that make New Orleans the singularly distinctive place that it has always been.

This material may be reproduced for editorial purposes of promoting New Orleans. Please attribute stories to New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. 2020 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130 504-566-5019. www.neworleanscvb.com.