Lynn's winner is: Anya K. Congratulations, Anya K! Send me your contact information and I'll pass it along to Lynn. Thanks to everyone who participated.
The Real Story on Louisiana Voodoo
Being a Louisiana native, south Louisiana to be exact, I have a unique view of the supernatural. Unlike most of the other states in the country, here we view the paranormal as “normal."
Our culture incorporates belief in traditional religions. We’re not called “The Bible Belt” for nothing. Yet along with being faithful Catholics, Baptists, Methodists and other conventional religious dominations, our culture is infused with Native American and African spiritual traditions and beliefs. I grew up hearing about spells and whispered references that “something was put on her."
My elderly babysitter, a Creole from old New Orleans, taught me to burn the hair from my combs and brushes. Not only would I be vulnerable to spells, but mice and rats would use the hair to build their nests which would give me terrible headaches.
For the most part when I read about Louisiana voodoo or Marie Laveau in books, the authors typically write a mixture of stereotypes and incorrect facts. That old cliché “Truth is stranger than fiction” definitely applies. Naturally I don’t have enough space to give this topic the full attention it needs, so I’ll just provide a few tips from this Louisiana native Creole (mixture of African, Choctaw Indian, and Spanish descent). Feel free to use them in your fiction.
Marie Laveau perfected the art of creating a layer of fiction to disguise the truth of New Orleans voodoo. She was brilliant at PR, recognizing the value of creating a mystique for the public. She perfected the public performance of voodoo celebrations that helped her become a force in New Orleans, and even in state politics. Marie used her influence to in effect become one of the earliest feminist activists. In her time, late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, women had no rights. Once married anything she owned belonged to her husband. He could divorce her, but she couldn’t get rid of him. Marie consulted with white and black women to help them gain some measure of control over their lives. She used a network of Creole freeborn servants, slaves and merchants to gather inside information. Her clients were convinced she had mystical powers to learn all these secrets. Marie also used her brains and skills to free slaves. I highly recommend VoodooQueen -- The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau by Martha Ward (www.marthaward.net/), a thoroughly researched and well documented account of the real story of this voodoo icon. In fact, you’ll learn much about old New Orleans and Louisiana history. Voodoo as practice in rural Louisiana is different from what you see as a tourist in New Orleans. Actually most of what you see as a tourist is just that, created for the consumption of “outsiders”. In rural Louisiana, in most of the state really, true voodoo practitioners are very secretive. They don’t advertise. You must find them only through their former clients, friends and relatives, who will first feel out if you can be trusted to keep your mouth shut. Why? If others know about your spells or gris-gris then they will counteract them and thus render them ineffective. The other reason is because we are The Bible Belt, and they don’t want to feel the backlash of dabbling in what some consider witchcraft or sorcery. This is just a small sample of the real story on voodoo in Louisiana. I haven’t even touched on traiteurs, loup garou and more. Here are a few more books I can recommend if you want to write stories about Louisiana:
The Free People of Color of New Orleans by Mary Gehman
Dictionary of Louisiana Creole by Albert Valdman, Thomas A. Klingler, Margaret M. Marshall and Kevin J. Rottet
Cajun Self Taught by Rev. Msgr. Julies O. Daigle
Lynn will give away a collection of three of her novels set in Louisiana. Leave a comment here to enter her giveaway. Her winner will be selected and posted on Tuesday night. Stop back by to see if you won.