A couple of weeks ago I met up with some friends down in New Orleans for a long weekend. I’d visited the city a few times in college, pre-hurricane, and was curious to see if anything had changed since. So we visited the typical tourist areas and I visited some of the stranger attractions (I can’t for the life of me figure out why more people didn’t want to get up early on a Saturday to spend time in a cemetery…). Being in New Orleans, it seemed appropriate that one of the top sites on my list to see was the Voodoo Museum located in the historic French Quarter.
The Voodoo Museum was started by Charles Gandolfo (aka “Voodoo Charlie”). Voodoo Charlie was famous for recreating voodoo ceremonies at Halloween or even private weddings! After his death, his younger brother Jerry took over as caretaker of the museum. The artifacts present were collected over a number of years from a wide variety of sources and are meant to represent various aspects of the religion and it’s practices.
Louisiana Voodoo, also known as New Orleans Voodoo, describes a set of underground religious practices which originated from the traditions of West Africa. It is a cultural form of the Afro-American religions which developed within the French, Spanish, and Creole speaking African American population of the U.S. state of Louisiana. Voodoo was brought to the French colony Louisiana through the slave trade. Louisiana Voodoo is often confused with (but is not completely separable from) Haitian Vodou and southern Hoodoo. It differs from Vodou in its emphasis upon Gris-gris, voodoo queens, use of Hoodoo occult paraphernalia, and Li Grand Zombi (snake deity).
The core beliefs of Louisiana Voodoo include the recognition of one God who does not interfere in people’s daily lives and spirits that preside over daily life. Spiritual forces, which can be kind or mischievous, shape daily life through and intercede in the lives of their followers. Connection with these spirits can be achieved through dance, music, singing, and the use of snakes, which represent Legba, Voodoo’s “main spirit conduit to all others.” Unlike the Judeo-Christian image, the Voodoo serpent represents “healing knowledge and the connection between Heaven and Earth.” Deceased ancestors can also intercede in the lives of Voodoo followers.
This museum has mixed reviews on Trip Advisor, etc. but for a $5 admission fee I figured it was worth taking a chance. The museum is certainly not traditional, but I generally find that makes things more interesting. (smile) It’s really just a couple of rooms and a hallway filled with a hodgepodge of artifacts related to the voodoo religion. There are photographs, a few explanatory cards, newspaper articles, and a wide array of interesting looking skulls and statues. Mr. Gandolfo was speaking with some other patrons while we were wandering about and really seemed to know his stuff. I definitely recommend asking any questions you may have! Overall, I would recommend stopping by the Voodoo Museum if you have some time to spare – it’s well worth the admission (just go in with realistic expectations).
The museum has a small shop and there’s also a very legit (or so I’m told) fully stocked voodoo shop just down the street should you be so inspired. (smile) The museum is located at 724 Dumaine Street and is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Admission is $7, but it seems most people get the discount down to $5.
This post is also Day 4 of the 5 day challenge. I’m tagging Molly @ The Move to America to join the fun! If you would like to participate, post a photo every day for five days and write a story to go along with each photo. Your stories can be fiction or non-fiction; short paragraphs, multiple pages, or poems. Each day, please invite one person to carry on the challenge. The challenge is not mandatory and can be refused, but I hope you accept and have fun!