Monday, March 29, 2010

Marie Laveau and Louisiana Voudou

In our class with Professor Huang, the concept of "syncretism" was mentioned, which immediately called to mind the practices of Marie Laveau, who incorporated Roman Catholic beliefs into Louisiana Voudou. Louisiana Voudou, which is different from Haitian Voodoo, was brought to the United States through the slave trade and gained great popularity as an underground religion for the French, Spanish, and Creole speaking African-American population in Lousiana. Marie Laveau herself is a mysterious figure, enhanced by the fact that Marie Laveau was actually two women- a mother and daughter with the same name. Laveau's freedom of religion was aided by her friend/mentor Pere Antoine, who allowed her to practice Catholicism by day and Voudou by night. Rumors about her Voudou practices frequently included her use of snakes, especially of her pet snake named Zombi with whom she danced during rituals. Other, more extreme rumors, claim that her Voudou rituals frequently tranformed in large orgies, sometimes involving the blood of sacrificed animals. The only things known for sure about Marie Laveau are that she was beautiful, always wore a tignon, a headdress that free women of color were required to wear as a symbol of "working, domestic, and enslaved women," and was the most powerful woman in New Orleans during her lifetime.

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