5 Things You May Not Have Known About Voodoo
The Krewe de Bayou's Voodoo Masquerade Ball is coming up tomorrow as we bring Acadiana together for one of the best balls in all of south Louisiana. The event will take place at La Marquise in Parc Lafayette.
We've heard from so many of you who are anxiously getting ready for the Ball and more importantly getting your costumes prepped up. Since the theme is voodoo, it sounds like a lot of the Mardi Gras magic will be in the air come party time.
From voodoo dolls to witch doctors, Marie Laveaus of all styles and more, it should be fun to see what everyone comes dressed up like. But when we talk Voodoo, do you really know what it all entails?
There are a lot of misconceptions about voodoo. Is it religion? Is it magic? Is it safe to be around? Well, we'll shed a little light on the subject as we present to you five things you may not have known about voodoo.
There are actually three major types of voodoo, each drawing influence from a different place. Western African voodoo is practiced by around 30 million people, particularly in Ghana and Benin. Rituals and beliefs are extensive and largely untouched by the influence that has shaped other types of voodoo.
Louisiana voodoo is a unique form of voodoo practiced, of course, mainly in Louisiana and the southeastern United States. Brought over from West African voodoo, this form has been heavily influenced by Spanish and French settlers as well as the Creole population.
Haitian voodoo, practiced in Haiti, has been shaped largely by its French influence in addition to Christianity.
This is kind of a surprise to a lot of folks. There are parallels between voodoo and Christianity. In fact, it's so strong that there is no animosity between the two parties, and in many areas they peacefully coexist. At one point practitioners who had also been baptized could expect repercussions from the church for partaking in voodoo ceremonies.
At one time, Pope John Paul II spoke at length about the esteem with which he holds practitioners of voodoo, acknowledging the "fundamental goodness" in their teachings, practices and beliefs. He even attended a voodoo ceremony back in 1993.
Someone who practices voodoo is often accused of being a powerful person who orders the spirits do their bidding. That's not quite the case; actually the opposite is true. Voodoo practitioners view themselves as servants of the spirits. They don't tell the spirits to do anything, instead they provide offerings and honor, and then they ask.
Voodoo priests and priestesses go through extensive training before performing any ritual that opens themselves up to spiritual possession. During these rituals, one of the two spirits that inhabit the body -- the ti bon ange -- leaves the body in order for the spirit of a loa can possess it. The ti bon ange is the part of the spirit that contains the individual and must be protected when the individual is hosting the loa. The other part, the gras bon ange, is a spirit that is shared among all the living.
Many people think of voodoo as dark magic used by people wielding power to inflict damage to the spirit and body. That's not exactly correct. On the contrary, much of voodoo centers around healing and herbalism. One of the most prominent reasons for summoning a spirit in a voodoo ritual is to ask for aid in healing the sick.
Healing is a spiritual idea as well as a physical one. Practitioners can focus on healing a broken heart or changing a person's luck for the better, as well as healing the body. Given all that, voodoo priests and priestesses will still recommend modern medicine and treatment if they deem the situation beyond their control.
In most cultures people recognize white magic as the good and black magic as darker. However, in voodoo there is no black or white. When an evil spirit is bribed to do something bad, it's called red magic. When a practitioner allows an evil loa to take possession of them, their eyes turn red, showing that evil is present.
Sometimes a benevolent spirit can turn evil by the wishes that's imposed on it. This is in complete contradiction to the roots of voodoo teachings, which center around the good and the charitable. Part of the role of a practitioner is to stop red magic before it happens.