Louisiana Voodoo: its Origin and the Influence of Voodoo Queens

Louisiana Voodoo is also known as New Orleans Voodoo or Mississippi Valley Voodoo. It is often mistaken with Haitian Vodou but the two religions are not the same. The differences in Louisiana Voodoo include the practice of gris-gris, voodoo queens and the reverence of the snake deity.

This religion refers to a set of beliefs and traditions practiced by majorly the African descendants of the people of Louisiana and the liturgical language is Creole.

Origin:

The Louisiana Voodoo practice began as a result of the activities of slave traders. African slaves who were brought to French Louisiana came along with the practice of their religions, most of which involved reverence of spirits and connection with ancestors. A syncretism of all the elements of their faith and religious beliefs brought about the practice of Louisiana Voodoo. These different African groups included Benin, Yoruba, Congo, Hausa, Ado, Ewe, Ibo, and the Fon tribe.

The African slave traders were more in number among the population of the French Colony. Unlike the British colony, their communities were kept intact, and this included the practice of their different religions. This practice would include the wearing of amulets, the use of herbs for healing, the worship, and reverence of spirits and ancestors.

Due to the revolt of Vodou practicing slaves in Haiti, the French colony took steps to suppress the practice of Voodoo. However, the Louisiana slaves did not revolt as much against their Masters.

Beliefs:

The practitioners of Louisiana Voodoo religion believe strongly in the use of songs. These songs serve as mediums between the spirit and the physical realm. They are taught and handed down from generation to generation.

The songs will be accompanied by clapping, tapping, foot-stomping but exclusive of drums beating. These songs are sung in reverence of the deities; acknowledging and praising them or talking about their traits and personalities. The songs can also be raised from an individual believed to be spirit possessed. Other practitioners would then learn the songs. It can also originate from the dreams of Voodoo practitioners.

It could also be one of the deities singing through a spirit possessed individual.

Singing also forms a major part of their rituals. The rituals are carried out in four stages: preparation, invocation, possession, and farewell.

Voodoo Queens:

Female Practitioners of Louisiana voodoo were known to be very powerful and influential. They were referred to as Voodoo queens and were reverenced by many including political and legal authorities. These women created income by selling charms, gris-gris, herbs and amulets believed to be able to cause desired negative and positive results. Soon, they rose to fame and prominence despite being women of color. 

At a time when the French colonies gave certain privileges to free people of color, which included the purchase of assets and a right to education, these Voodoo queens were given a better platform to exercise further influence.

The most powerful and influential at that time was Maria Laveau. She was called the Voodoo Queen of Queens.