On the Other Side of Pink


Hoodoo and Conjure New Orleans 2014

Hoodoo and Conjure New Orleans 2014. Photograph Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Holmes , all rights reserved worldwide.

 

 

Only in New Orleans are the Dead given a city in which to reside. Because New Orleans is built on swampland, the Dead cannot be buried in the ground lest they re-surface and float away. Consequently, all but the poor and indigent are laid to rest above ground in elaborate crypts, wall ovens and mausoleums. The decorative ironwork and sculptures adorn the plots, making the cemeteries resemble little cities; hence the nickname, “Cities of the Dead.” The cemeteries in New Orleans attract a lot of visitors each year because of their unique, historic character.

St. Louis Cemetery #1 is the most famous City of the Dead. It is the oldest New Orleans cemetery, constructed to replace the older St. Peter Cemetery as the main burial ground when the city was rebuilt after the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788.

St. Louis Cemetery #1 is also the place where the infamous Voudou Queen Marie Laveaux was laid to rest. This cemetery tends to get the most visitors of all the Cities of the Dead in part because of its architecture and history, and in part because of Voudou. People from all walks of life want a glimpse of Marie Laveaux’s final resting place. Voudou adherents from all over the country make pilgrimages to the gravesite, a testament to its spiritual significance. Most visitors want an opportunity to make a wish at her tomb in hopes that their wishes will be granted by the Voudou Queen. It is said that Marie Laveaux’s grave is the second most visited grave site in the United States, falling second only to Elvis Presley. That’s saying something.

The tomb of Marie Laveaux is more than just a tourist attraction, however; it is at the heart of New Orleans’ sacred geography. It is the place that connects many sacred sites running the gamut from swamps to churches, shrines, cemeteries, Congo Square, St Louis Cathedral, Bayou St John, and every home where someone lights a candle or says a prayer. Just as the cross marks drawn on her tomb mark the place where the world of the physical and the world of the spiritual intersect, her tomb signifies the place where people from all over the world meet and interact with the spirits of the Dead, as well as with the spirit of the Voudou Queen herself.

In December 2013, the tomb that holds the remains of the Mother of New Orleans Voudou was painted a bright pink. Despite the fact that the tomb of the Widow Paris is both a huge tourist attraction and sacred pilgrimage site, it wasn’t until Dorothy Morrison posted a photo of it on Facebook and I wrote an article for the New Orleans Voodoo Examiner that it finally got the local attention it deserved.

After much back and forth about what to do with the Pepto Bismal pink tomb, the Cemeteries Archdiocesan office decided to pressure wash the paint off of the tomb, apparently a standard method of upkeep for cemetery tombs and believed to be the best method to remove the paint. For folks interested in preservation and restoration, however, pressure washing is not the best method and tends to inflict more damage than desired.

Unfortunately, the tomb did suffer some damage as a result of the pressure washing. However, the tomb has been steadily deteriorating for years and remains in dire need of repair. The cost for its restoration is estimated in excess of $10,000.00, so Save Our Cemeteries, The Archdiocese of New Orleans, and the local preservation company Bayou Preservation, LLC have formed a partnership to restore the tomb. Given the cost of repairs, however, it cannot be completed without fundraising efforts. Therefore, they have started a restoration fund that the general public can donate to help fray the expenses. If you would like to donate to the restoration fund, please visit the website and donate what you can. Every little bit helps.

Unfortunately, there isn’t an obvious link to the project on the Save Our Cemeteries website. But you can go to the “Get Involved” tab and then “donate” and make your donation or contact them at (504) 525-3377 or at membership@saveourcemeteries.org.

Read the whole story from the beginning in the latest issue of Hoodoo and Conjure New Orleans 2014.

American Horror Story Coven: Will the Real Papa Legba Please Stand Up?


Papa Legba

Since the beginning of the season, American Horror Story Coven’s presentation of New Orleans Voudou was a hot mess. From stereotypes of black folks and fried chicken, to the misogynistic treatment of women and mischaracterization of the Mother of New Orleans Voudou, the show took all the advantage at their disposal to cash in on “for entertainment only.” The general public saw no problem with portraying Papa Legba as a pimped out, red-eyed black man with dreadlocks who snorts cocaine, wears a top hat and escorts children and “innocents” to the other side of the veil. They wouldn’t know the difference anyway, right? And, we all know the devil is willing to do anything in exchange for a soul. There’s just one problem, however, Papa Legba is not the devil. In fact, there is no devil in New Orleans Voudou.

The infamous legend of the “Black Man at the Crossroads” is one that ignites much curiosity across cultures and throughout time. References to folks making deals with devils and demons are found as early as the fifth century in the writings of St. Jerome, and in the sixth century, we find the legend of Theofilus. Numerous instructions for conjuring demons exist in the old grimoires, and of course, we cannot ignore the infamous deal with the devil made by legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. It is said Johnson went to a crossroads at midnight and summoned Satan who appeared as a large Black Man. Johnson gave his guitar to him, and the “Devil” tuned the guitar, played a few songs and gave the guitar back to him and with it, mastery of the instrument. In exchange for Johnson’s soul, it is said the Devil gave Johnson the skill to play the legendary blues for which he is famous.

Although Voudou is often associated with Satanism, Satan is an Abrahamic belief and is not found in the New Orleans Voudou religion. When Mississippi Delta folk songs mix references to Voudou and Hoodoo with Satan and the devil, it is suggested by some to be a metaphorical expression of social pain resulting from the oppressive environment of racism and poverty, couched in Christian terms and blamed on “the devil.” Other scholars suggest that it is not the devil at all who is referenced; rather, it is Legba, known as a trickster God of African origin (Hyatt, 1973; Sharma, 1997). Not unlike syncretism, which in this context is the cloaking of the Voudou spirits with Catholic saints, speaking of the devil is more acceptable than referencing an African deity. Syncretism functions to perpetuate African traditions on the downlow.

It really is not surprising that the depiction of the Marie Laveaux and Papa Legba characters were so one-dimensional in American Horror Story Coven; it’s the same old song and dance Hollywood and the media have been promoting since the inception of commercial film and media. Instead of acknowledging Voudou as the legitimate religion it is, it is portrayed as bad, akin to black magic at best and downright Satanic at worst. And, the Queen of this evil religion is depicted as the devil woman herself, capable of committing heinous acts against other human beings along the lines of Jeffrey Dahmer.

When a talented actress such as Angela Basset portrays the Queen of New Orleans Voudou, how-ever, there is a small glimmer of hope. Basset is undeniably a stunning and strong woman visually and looks believable as Marie Laveaux. In spite of the story line, it was possible for Basset to give viewers a look at Madame Laveaux’s gentler, nurturing side. After all, the Voudou Queen is known for her humanitarian efforts, spending time with people others wanted nothing to do with. She worked alongside Catholic priest Father Antoine tending to the sick and ministering to people in prison who were condemned to death. And yes, she embraced the traditions of her African ancestry. She was well-known as a practitioner of Voudou and equally known as a devout Catholic. She danced with the snake and prayed with the rosary. She successfully integrated the two traditions, greatly influencing the New Orleans Voudou religion we know today.

No one can deny the fact that character development in general was not among the strong suits of AHS Coven. Neither was the plot, which was all over the place and peppered with promising sub-plots that ultimately went no where. Sigh, as Maureen Ryan, TV critic for the Huffington Post wrote, “Even top-notch actresses can’t save shoddy material.” Never were truer words spoken.

Despite Voudou truth being much stranger and more interesting than fiction, AHS Coven’s Marie Laveaux was depicted as a mean, angry black woman who relished torturing people and hating witches. She sent her Minotaur lover to hunt down Madame LaLaurie and instead of hitting her target, he attacks Queenie, the human voodoo doll of the Coven. Not only did she behead Delphine LaLaurie, she hanged LaLaurie’s entire family. She sent a witch hunter to murder all of the witches in the Coven. She stole babies each year in order to have eternal life. To fulfill a deal she made with the devil—a devil called Papa Legba—she presented the newborns to him as payment for his favor.

Still, the Marie Laveaux character was not all bad. We like the idea of a powerful Black female leader getting justice for crimes against Black people. We root for her when she summons her army of zombies to exact revenge on a group of White men who had lynched a Black child in the 1960s. We like it when she buries Delphine for all eternity. Horror freaks probably even enjoy LaLaurie’s be-heading. And, we like seeing two powerful women, Marie Laveaux and Fiona Goode (played by Jessica Lang), align the Voodoos and the Witches and work towards the common good of eliminating their oppressors.

Just like the disappointing portrayal of Marie Laveaux, however, it wasn’t surprising to find that same, boring, stereotypical approach to Papa Legba (played by Lance Reddick), who was represented as ole Satan hisself. Announcements by the show’s producers prior to his first appearance on the show indicated their plan was to depict Papa Legba as a “Voodoo Satan.” Well, no one can say they didn’t live up to that intention.

Nevertheless, in spite of being depicted as Voodoo’s Satan, Papa Legba was not all bad. In fact, his character was riveting in some respects. While he is a soul collector, he is not seen tormenting the souls he has taken, unless of course, they deserve it and he has escorted them to Hell. He is upfront and honest about his expectations and intentions with the deals he makes; albeit, at the same time delighting in the psychological torment caused by such deals on the individual. “Welcome to Hell!” he says to Delphine upon her death, and when Fiona dies and enters her personal Hell, he laughs at her suffering. Nonetheless, AHS Coven’s Papa Legba neither looks like the actual Papa Legba, nor is his depiction as the God of life and death accurate. But, the argument is not that Lance Reddick didn’t do a good job of acting; on the contrary, he did a fabulous job. Unfortunately, he was acting out the distorted legend and myth instead of the real Papa Legba of the New Orleans Voudou tradition. It is not his fault he looked a fool dressed up like Baron Samedi and acting like a cocaine-snorting soul pimp from the hood.

A sloppy story line and lack of character development notwithstanding, the utter bastardization of an African-derived religion and not-so-subtle racist depictions of black men and women was couched in extreme violence against women—domestic and otherwise. Invariably, the women, who at the onset were hyped up as strong and empowered, perpetrated violence upon each other, burned each other at the stake and ultimately succumbed to violence at the hands of men. Madison, the witch played by Emma Roberts, was gang-raped by a bunch of frat boys in the first episode; but, she got immediate revenge through her magickal skills, killing all of her perpetrators with a wave of her hand. Throughout the series, Madison was portrayed as an extremely powerful witch bitch who perpetrated against her coven sisters, and was consumed by a predictable cat fight with Misty Day, played by Lily Rabe. Despite seeming impervious to the magick of others and being raised from the Dead, Madison was killed by a sorry excuse for a zombie, the reanimated frat boy named Kyle played by Evan Peters. Suddenly, her awesome powers of teleportation and telekinesis didn’t work—all of her superhuman witchy abilities were lost and she laid helpless while being strangled to death. Madison’s ultimate fate fell into the hands of the butler Spalding, played by Dennis O’Hare, who kept her corpse as a plaything, reducing her to a doll in his collection. In addition, Fiona, the Supreme Witch with unlimited abilities, ended up a victim of the Axe Man in more ways than one. She was ultimately chopped to death and sent to her own private Hell, doomed to live the life of the Axe Man’s dreams as a stay-at-home wife who cannot escape and someone he can smack around at will. Finally, Marie Laveaux, who, despite selling her soul to the nonexistent devil in real Voudou, stood helpless in front of the witch hunter who killed her. When the strongest women in the series end up being victims of violence in the most demeaning of ways, we move beyond mere violence into the realm of misogyny.

PAPA LEGBA, BARON SAMEDI, OR THE DEVIL?

AHS Coven’s Papa Legba was both a confused and confusing character to those in the know. He looked like a completely different Voudou Spirit, Baron Samedi, and was even given the same role as the spirit of life and death. He is shown snorting cocaine, like all black men wearing top hats stereotypically do. He delights in the pain and suffering of others. He takes souls before their time. Knowing there were actual New Orleans Voudou practitioners on set who appeared several times in ritual scenes, as well as an actual Voudou/spiritual consultant present, and given the short promotional video produced to promote the show where several New Orleans practitioners were interviewed about real New Orleans Voudou, the fact that Papa Legba was so incorrectly portrayed doesn’t make sense. In fact, it is inexcusable.

If we start with the general appearance of Papa Legba, we can say the entire AHS depiction should be scratched. The character looked more like Baron Samedi, Guardian of the Cemetery and head of the family of Ghede spirits. It is the Baron who wears a top hat, paints his face white, and who is associated with skulls. It is he who determines who lives and who dies. The Baron fights black magic and loves children. But, he doesn’t love children for their innocent souls as is suggested in AHS Coven, nor does he snort cocaine (though he loves to party). Baron Samedi protects children, and does not allow children to die before their time.

On the other hand, Papa Legba is commonly depicted in Voudou iconography as an old black man who wears a straw hat, smokes a corn cob pipe and sports a crooked cane. He can also take the form of a young child who is fascinated with toys, or a strong young man who can guide the way. He is associated with keys, not skulls, and is likened to St. Peter of Catholicism. Just as St. Peter holds the keys to the gates of Heaven, Papa Legba holds the keys to the Spirit World; he is the Gatekeeper to the World of Invisibles. He likes rum and coffee, not cocaine, and does not make deals with anyone for their souls. He is among the first to be called in Voudou ceremonies because it is he who opens the roads through which the other Voudou Spirits (loas) must travel in order to communicate and interact with humans.

Most importantly, there is no devil in Voudou. True, there are spirits with less than stellar attributes in the Voudou pantheon, but there is no Satan with legions of demons under his command whose sole purpose in life is the downfall of humanity. On the contrary, Papa Legba—as is the case with all the loas—is there to assist people with matters of daily living, to help when help is needed, to clear away obstacles in our path, and to provide opportunities for improving our lives. That’s a far cry from the cocaine-crazed baby snatcher portrayed in AHS Coven.

ABOUT PAPA LEGBA

Papa Legba is an African God whose origins are with the Fon people of Dahomey (Benin) Africa. He came to the Americas with the slave trade and has a prominent and essential place in New Orleans Voudou. In fact, he is arguably the most important loa in the New Orleans Voudou pantheon. All ceremonies begin and end with Papa Legba, and there can be no communication with any of the other loas without consulting him first. Papa Legba is the master linguist, the trickster, warrior, guardian of crossroads and entrances, and the personal messenger of destiny. His gift for linguistics enables him to translate the requests of humans into the languages of the Spirits. He goes by several names in New Orleans: Papa Legba, Papa Alegba, Papa Labas, Papa Limba and Papa Lebat. During Mardi Gras season, a popular shout by revelers is “A Labas!” Papa Legba is one of the most loved and revered of the Voudou loas.

In Africa, Legba is often depicted as a fertility God with a huge, erect penis. Sometimes, Legba is depicted as male and female, sometimes as a healer, and sometimes as a protector. In one form, he is depicted as an “apologetic Legba,” petitioned for forgiveness when a person has insulted the gods through awful behaviors like rape and burglary.

According to one legend, Papa Legba is the youngest son of Mawu and Liza, the creators of the world. Mawu and Liza are portrayed as twins but are one in Spirit. Mawu is the female aspect, and is associated with the East, the night moon, fertility, motherhood and night. Liza is the male aspect, and is associated with the West, the daytime sun, heat, work and strength. In another legend, Legba is the son of Oshun.

CHARACTERISTICS

For folks interested in developing a relationship with Papa Legba, you can start with learning about who he is and getting familiar with his characteristics. Papa Legba is the one loa that anyone can serve; initiation is not necessary. He is accessible to all, the kind Father who is happy with a cup of black coffee and a handful of peanuts in exchange for his help and wisdom.

Papa Legba is also the master trickster. A trickster’s primary objective is to teach; it is not malevolence. Thus, many times when he is petitioned for something he has fun with the manner in which he helps it manifest. He is a happy loa, and brings humor and unexpected blessings into the lives of those who serve him.

Areas of influence. This refers to the domains of human life that Legba is best suited to help: removing obstacles, providing opportunities, communicating, opening and closing doorways (physical and spiritual), opening roads, children, protection, and finding lost things.

Colors. All of the Voudou Spirits have colors associated with them. In New Orleans Voudou, Legba’s colors are red, black and sometimes white.

Number. As with colors, each Spirit has a particular number or numbers that corresponds to them. These numbers are important for knowing how many of a particular item or object is placed on an altar, how many times something may be repeat-ed, and has significance in magickal workings, as well. Papa Legba’s number is 3.

Day of the week. As with colors and numbers, each Spirit has a day of the week that is dedicated to them. This is the best day for you to show your devotion; although, serving the Spirits can be done at any time. Papa Legba’s days are Monday and the third day of each month.

Saints. When the slaves were brought to the New World and subsequently exposed to Catholicism, they identified the Voudou Spirits with Catholic saints who shared similar characteristics. Images of Catholic saints and a variety of artwork and statues are common on Voudou altars. Saints associated with Papa Legba include St. Peter, St. Lazarus , Holy Child of Atoche, St. Michael the Archangel and St. Anthony of Padua.

Feast days. At least once a year, the Voudou Spirits are honored with a huge feast and celebration. Each Spirit has a specific day when the celebration occurs. Sometimes, people opt to celebrate the feast days of the associated patron saint as an additional way of honoring and serving them.

New Year’s Day – Feast day of the Holy Child of Atoche

June 13 -Feast day of St. Anthony of Padua

June 21st & December 17th – Feast days of St. Lazarus

June 29th – Legba petro (feast day of St. Peter) bonfire lit in his honor

September 29 – Feast day of St. Michael the Archangel

November 1st – Bonfire lit in his honor for the coming New Year

Favorite place. Each Spirit resides in a particular place or places. For Papa Leg-ba, these places include crossroads, cemetery gates, doorways, entryways, thresholds of homes, 4 corners, and any place where two roads intersect.

Favorite animals. Each Spirit has their favorite animals. You can place images or figures of these animals on your altars as a way of acknowledging their preferences. Papa Legba is partial to roosters, dogs, possums, and mice.

Favorite things. Three stones, crooked stick, pipe, keys, doors, marbles, small toys, straw bag, playing cards, red flowers, mixed flower bouquet, pictures of crossroads, cigars.

Sacrificial foods/offerings. Corn (toasted), candy, rum, palm oil, black coffee (you can add sugar but no cream), anything sweet, coconut, plantains, red beans and rice, smoked fish, Louisiana hot sauce, cakes, yams, sugar cane, fruits, green grapes when asking for money, bananas and honey when asking for help with love. His food can be doused liberally with corojo butter and his water should be standing water.

Planet. Mercury, the Sun

Herbs. Each Voudou spirit has herbs associated with them that are used when preparing healing baths, oils, powders, creating wangas, and other ritual and healing items. These herbs will vary ac-cording to tradition. Herbs associated with Papa Legba include anise, star anise, rue, sweet basil, tobacco, guava, avocado, Alligator pear, red pep-per, camphor leaves, corn, wild peppergrass, peppermint, yellow thistle, Mexican thistle, Abre camino, Cuban spurge, Sargasso, wild convolvulus, foxtail, nettles, crowfoot, neat’s tongue, white pine nuts, jack bean, spiny blite, nightshade, black eyed peas, ateje, (cordia collocea), heliotrope, pigeon peas, mastic tree, chili peppers, corn stalks, corn leaves, corn silk, avocado leaves, avocado roots, coconut husk, coconut palm stem, corojo, wild croton, cowage, dried rose buds, senna, soapberry tree and bitter bush.

Symbols. These are the abstract and concrete representations of the particular loa. Papa Legba has many veve s or ritual symbols. Here is one:

legba_veve1
Altar placement. This is the ideal place in the home where you can build your altar to the particular Spirit. Voudou practitioners place representations of Papa Legba behind the front door of their homes in order to clear the path, accomplish goals, and to bring his protection.

LEGBA PURIFICATION BATH

In New Orleans Voudou, ritual baths are commonly used as prescriptive measures for a variety of conditions. The following ritual bath is a purification bath, and can be done whenever a cleansing is needed or when obstacles to your progress need to be removed.
Bath ingredients:

  • 3 cans of coconut milk
  • A handful of anise
  • A handful of sweet basil
  • A handful of peppermint
  • 1 white candle

Directions: Light the candle. Put all of the others items into a warm bath. Soak 15 minutes, turn to the left 3 times and say “I am clean”. Dress in white and sleep on white sheets. In the morning, gather up all the seed stuffs and herbs from the bath along with the candle remains and discard at a crossroads along with three pennies. Thank Papa Legba for attending to your needs.

HOW TO CREATE AN ALTAR FOR PAPA LEGBA

To create a basic altar to Papa Legba, you will need the following:

  • A small table or place on the floor
  • Red and black cloth
  • An image of Papa Legba (if you have a doll or statue, good, if not use a picture of him, one of his associated saints and/or his vévé )
  • 3 red or white candles
  • Three stones
  • Some of his favorite things
  • Fresh basil or sage
  • Palm oil
  • Maraca or bell
  • Three pennies

Directions:
Place the black cloth over the table and the red cloth diagonally across the black cloth. Place the glass bowl in the center of the altar and fill it with water. You can add a splash of coconut rum if you have any on hand. Place the three stones around the bowl. Take the other objects and arrange them on your altar on a manner that is pleasing to you. Pin a photo of Papa Legba’s vévé or patron saint to the front of your altar, or frame it and stand it up at the back. To bless the altar, take your sprig of basil or sage and dip it into the water and splash the items. Alternate ways to bless your altar would be to anoint it with palm oil, or burn some sage, cedar, frankincense, or sandalwood incense, and smudge it with the smoke.

HOW TO CALL ON PAPA LEGBA

Petition Papa Legba when you have people in your life who are sabotaging your relationships or efforts to get ahead, when you are facing an inordinate number of obstacles, when you are trying to accomplish a task or when you need new opportunities.

Make a coconut cake with fruit as an offering. Ideally, the cake should be made from scratch not purchased from a store. When you have the batter made, add a can of drained fruit cocktail and mix it into the batter and bake. Frost the cake and top with toasted shredded coconut. Set the cake on his altar.

Start by saying the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary three times each. If you prefer, you may address the Creator in a prayer appropriate for you. Then light your candles and begin shaking the maraca or ringing the bell to get Legba’s attention. Invoke Papa Legba by saying:

Hey Papa Legba,
Hear me and Open the door!
Open the door and come through, Papa!

Pour a little rum or water on the ground in front of your altar. Play some music with a lot of drumming or songs that are about the crossroads. Wide-spread Panic, Elton John and the Talking Heads all have songs called or about Papa Legba that can be used. Let the music move you into dance. When you are tired, sit quietly and meditate on the task you wish to accomplish. Acknowledge the barriers that get in your way. Once this is clear, ask Legba to exert his influence over the matter at hand. Make your request by simply talking to him as if he were a person in the room with you. When you are finished, take the cake and other offerings to a crossroads or leave by a nearby tree, if possible. Call to Legba, out loud if you can; if not, call him in your heart. Take the pennies and make a sign of the cross with each and leave with the offerings. Tell Legba he is paid. If you can’t get to a cross-roads, you can toss his offerings in the garbage as garbage is sacred to him.

In the days and weeks following, pay attention to the stories that come your way through your dreams, other people, books, or the media. Con-template on the truth inherent in each. In this way, you will gain wisdom from Papa Legba on an ongoing basis in your everyday life. By doing so, you are allowing the doors to open and obstacles to vanish.

References

Alvarado, D. (n.d.). PAPA LEGBA, EXU, ELLEGUA AND CORRESPONDING SAINTLY … Retrieved from http://www.squidoo.com/papalegba

Hyatt, H. (1973). Hoodoo—Conjuration—Witchcraft—Rootwork, Beliefs Accepted By Many Negroes and White Persons, Western Publications.

Sharma, B. S. (1997). Poetic devices in the Songs of Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues, Transcultural Music Review, No 3.

The above article is excerpted from Hoodoo and Conjure New Orleans #2. Copyright 2014 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved.

Bearing Witness to Fate: Ifa Reading for 2014 by Baba Eli


Jogo de Ikin Orossi

Jogo de Ikin Orossi

Put in simplest terms, Ifa is a religion of the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria West Africa.  Priests of Ifa are called Babalawo. Probably the most important job of the Babalawo is that of translating the teachings of Orunmila for Ifa’s many adherents. Orunmila, who is said to have walked the earth thousands of years ago, is the great prophet of the Yoruba people. He is said to have been the only Orisha to be permitted to witness the whole of creation from beginning to end. He knows the fate and all possible roads of everything in existence. Because of this, he is called “Eleri Ipin” The Witness of Fate. His many teachings, which range from how best to navigate the everyday affairs of the human condition to contemplating highly esoteric ideals, are coded in the 256 Odu of the Ifa religious corpus.

While Odu cannot be easily explained within the confines of one short article, I will for the purposes of this writing, define Odu as the language through which Orunmila speaks to the Babalawo in order to impart his wisdom, knowledge and advice on those who seek it. The precise methodology of this communication is a matter for another time and is best left to those in training for Ifa priesthood.

The tools of the Babalawo – the Diving chain (Opele) and the Ikin – are consecrated to provide a direct connection between The Babalawo and Orunmila. It is with these tools that Ifa divination is performed.  Dafa or Ifa divination is performed for a myriad of reasons. These reasons range from the aforementioned issues of every day human existence to the more in depth knowledge of the individual life experience such as Life path and/or Guardian (crowning) Orisha.

Opele Ifá Orossi

Opele Ifá Orossi

One of the most popular divinations performed by the Babalawo is the Reading of the Year. This is not performed for a single individual, but instead it is for the community at large. Through this reading, Orunmila imparts upon the Babalawo the most prominent energy patterns for the coming year along with knowledge of how to walk in balance with these energies to maximize blessings and prosperity. In Nigeria, his reading is done during their New Year Celebrations in June.  In the United States, we stick with our Gregorian calendar and perform the divination for the New Year on or shortly before December 31st.   My rendition of the Ifa reading for 2014 is as follows:

Ifa Reading for the Year 2014

I     II

II     I

II     I

I     II

 

The Primary Odu for this year is Iwori-Idi.  Each of the 256 Odu of Ifa consists of two “legs”.  The right leg speaks to us of the organization of our daily, temporal life, while the left leg pertains to the organization of our emotional and spiritual life.  The two legs of Odu work in harmony and are interdependent.

Iwori on the right side of the Odu suggests that this year we must steer clear of making snap decisions.  We must go forward with clear heads weighing all options carefully.  Don’t rush into anything.  Make plans.  Look at things from all angles.  My Baba likes to say “Measure twice and cut once”.  You may not get a do-over so make a good impression the first time!

Idi as the left leg of this odu says that we should seek opportunities to express qualities associated with Osun in our emotional and spiritual lives: love, sensuality, movement, adventure, curiosity and abundance.  With Idi it is not only that we need to express these qualities, but also to realize that we DESERVE the happiness and fulfillment associated with these qualities.

All praise to Olodumare that this Odu of Iwori-Idi comes to us Ire (On path/in good fortune) as confirmed by the Odu Otura-Ogbe.

Otura as the right leg of this Odu indicates that maintaining the balance of Ire requires us to approach our temporal/daily affairs with a sense of calm, clarity and focus.  We are instructed to maintain this in order to help us make, clear, concise and informed decisions.  Those based on logic and not the heat of the moment.  Otura also says to take the time to listen to the wants, needs and concerns of others before sharing our own with them.  Others may have insights that you never thought to consider.  This action also serves to show others that you care how they think and feel.

Ogbe as the Left leg says that our emotional and spiritual lives are full to the brim with opportunities this year.  By using calmness, clarity,  focus and empathy we will be able to choose the best paths and opportunities for all concerned.

The area of life governed by this year’s energy is that of relationships as confirmed by Ogbe-Ose.  Ogbe on the right leg of this Odu indicates There is tremendous potential and opportunity for growth in our day to day relationships.  We must remember the lessons of Otura (See above) to help us maintain balance, and the lessons of Iwori (above):  Choose wisely.  Make concise, clear and informed decisions.  Don’t make commitments without thinking long and hard about them.

Ose is the left leg of this Odu.  Ose is another sign of Orisa Osun.  In our spiritual and emotional relationships, Ose is a sign of pure joy, exploration, sexuality, curiosity, all those traits for which Osun is most well-known.  I leave it to each person reading this to interpret what this means to them.

The main Orisha to work with this year to maintain the balance of Ire and maximize the possibilities of this year’s primary Odu, is, of course, Oshun.  Oshun is the spirit of sweet water, of love, of prosperity, of abundance, etc.  Oshun is the Orisha without whom anything about life would be palatable.  She is what makes life worth living.  2014, therefore is a year of love, exploration and prosperity in our relationships. We must, however, remain vigilant.  Do not become careless or complacent.

Aboru Aboye Abosise

Baba Eli

Awotunde Ayodele Ifalere

Hoodoo and Conjure: Black Cat Dust


Black Cat Dust for Good Luck?

Hoodoo and Conjure magazine seeks to bring information about Southern conjure practices that are little known, interesting traditions. Most folks have heardBlack Cat Bone about the horrible practice of boiling a black cat alive in order to procure that one special bone that will render a person invisible, provide protection against black magic, or bring good luck, especially with regards to gambling. The Black Cat Bone was a most coveted bone by believers, and even today, there is a power and mystique associated with it due to the fact that its procurement involves such a taboo. Animal cruelty is not an acceptable activity, and while it was not considered such by practitioners in the past, it is in no uncertain terms considered cruel today. This taboo, along with the actual ritual itself, is believed to imbue the hoodoo with certain forbidden attributes gained by going through the actual experience of the ritual. But, there are many paths towards a similar destination, and perhaps the newer works created with a newer morality will prove to be just as powerful.

In addition to the special bone used for gambling, there was also the practice of killing a black cat in order to get a left front shoulder bone as an ingredient for a powder which was created to keep the law away. Called Black Cat Dust, this powder was believed to bring good luck in every area of life, from getting a job to making friends and keeping away enemies (Hyatt, 1978).

How is Black Cat Dust Made?

Black Cat Dust consisted of the powdered left front shoulder bone mixed with a ground up lodestone. The combination was then placed inside a bottle of Jockey Club Cologne and worn to attract luck. The technique for grinding both the lodestone and the black cat bone was similar – it involved grinding each back and forth using a window screen. Now, in the past, screens were undoubtedly made of sturdier material than today’s screens. To grind a bone to powder, Madrina Angelique suggests using a box grater. Heating up the bone makes it more brittle and easier to grate. She says it takes a long time to grind bones and that you have to take it real slow (Madrina Angelique, 2013, personal communication).

Read the full article Black Cat Dust in Hoodoo & Conjure: New Orleans

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New Issue! Hoodoo and Conjure: New Orleans


Hoodoo & Conjure: New Orleans

Hoodoo & Conjure: New Orleans

The long awaited follow-up to Hoodoo and Conjure #2 is here! This special edition, Hoodoo and Conjure: New Orleans, reads like a fine wine that only gets better with age –  this issue will not disappoint you!

The timing for this issue could not have been better. With the nation tuning in every week to American Horror Story: Coven to catch a glimpse of Voodoo and witchcraft in New Orleans on TV, we have managed to release Hoodoo and Conjure: New Orleans at the same time. We even have stories in this issue that are touched on in AHS: Coven; albeit, briefly (Mary Oneida Toups, Tituba, Marie Laveaux and Madame LaLaurie) all of which were planned over a year in advance of knowing what the show was even going to be about. Serendipity? Syncronicity? Or could it be the Universe telling the world it’s time to take notice of the importance of New Orleans in the grand scheme of super natural things?

In all its gloriousness and fabulous writ, Hoodoo and Conjure: New Orleans brings to you a fantastic collection of articles from a variety of notable as well as up and coming authors. As the title suggests, the majority of the articles center on New Orleans Voodoo, hoodoo, and Old New Orleans Witchcraft; however, we also include some fantastic articles about Appalachian conjure, goetia, international conjure, formulas, recipes, graveyard work, New Orleans style Day of the Dead with Sally Ann Glassman and much more!

Here we go…are you ready?!!!!

Mary Oneida Toups

Mary Oneida Toups

GET THE ORIGINAL STORY OF MARY ONEIDA TOUPS BY THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR, 6th generation New Orleans born Alyne Pustanio! Mary Oneida Toups is recognized to this day as the most powerful witch to have practiced in New Orleans in the 20th century. She was the founder of a powerful coven—The Religious Order of Witchcraft—the first to be recognized by the State of Louisiana as an official Church. According to Pustanio, “Toups’ Religious Order of Witchcraft formed the central axis of a powerful network of practitioners dedicated to the pure, unfettered study and practice of Old Style European witchcraft that still exists in New Orleans today. Many things about Mary Oneida (she preferred just Oneida) are shrouded in mystery, such as her origins. She is said to have been born in Mississippi, in the heart of Delta country, in April 1928 and, like many youths of her generation, when she reached her teens she began to feel restless and took to the road. Hitchhiking, exploring the back roads and byways of the rural South, her path eventually brought her to New Orleans, where she soon became part of a burgeoning bohemian movement already thriving there.

The New Orleans of the early 60s was filled with a current similar to that moving through cities such as San Francisco and New York, a youthful current of exploration and discovery, sometimes aided by drug use that culminated in the Summer of Love and Woodstock moments. In New Orleans, where everything has always been more laissez faire or laid back, the moment crystallized in an “Age of Aquarius” kind of esoteric awakening. Oneida arrived here just as this new awareness was about to bloom” (Pustanio, 2013).

Tituba, Copyright 2013 Jen Mayberry

Tituba, Copyright 2013 Jen Mayberry

READ ALL ABOUT TITUBA, THE BLACK WITCH OF SALEM by the founder of the Dragon Ritual Drummers and the Niagara Voodoo Shrine, Witchdoctor Utu! Utu tells us  ‘As hazy and mysterious a figure as Marie Laveau, many rumours, truths and fiction reflecting from the same mirror, legend and notoriety has been gaining decade after decade, long after her death. Not many people know, but all the hysteria and panic of witchcraft that led to the witch trials, all the hype and horror that has led to a juggernaut of tourism and magik, was because of a Caribbean Voodoo girl, and her name is Tituba ” (Utu, 2013). Utu gives us the back story of Tituba, and then shares with us how the conjurer can develop a relationship with her and work with her spirit.

In addition to these two exciting stories, Hoodoo and Conjure: New Orleans contains the following articles and authors:

  • New Orleans-Style Day of the Dead with Sallie Ann Glassman by Alyne Pustanio
  • In Memorium: Coco Robicheaux by Alyne Pustanio
  • Digging in the Dirt by Dorothy Morrison
  • Food as Medzin by Madrina Angelique
  • The Graveyard Snake and the Ancestors by Dr. Snake
  • Holy Death and the Seven Insights: A Gay Man’s Story of Self-Transformation and
  • his Search for Love by Carolina Dean
  • Adventures in Ghost Hunting by Carolina Dean
  • It Might be a Sign of Things to Come by H. Byron Ballard
  • Wicca and Voodoo: Bringing the Two Together by Nish Perez
  • Wicca and Voodoo: Rhythms by Louis Martinie
  • Crimson Light through Muddy Water: Southern Goth as an Occult Reality by Tim Broussard
  • Mystery Of a Sacred Sastun and The Trinity of Stones: An Interview with Winsom Winsom by Rev.Roots
In Memorium: Coco Robicheaux. Copyright 2013 Alyne Pustanio

In Memorium: Coco Robicheaux. Photograph copyright 2013 Alyne Pustanio

New Orleans Rope Doll

New Orleans Rope Doll. Photograph copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado

We  also have a good portion of the magazine devoted to applied conjure, such as:

  • Spell Work with the Dead by Madrina Angelique
  • How to Bury an Enemy by Madrina Angelique
  • Uncrossing Land by Aaron Leitch
  • Dem Bones by Danette Wilson
  • Conjure with the Goetia by Devi Spring
  • The Wishing Tomb of Marie Laveaux by Denise Alvarado

We also have formulas and recipes, as well as an illustrated tutorial How to Make a New Orleans-style Rope Doll. And that’s not all!

Whether you are a loyal reader or finding us for the first time, I am sure this collector’s issue will find a home on your coffee table or nightstand for years to come. So, relax, grab some coffee or tea, have a few snacks handy and get yourself a copy of Hoodoo and Conjure: New Orleans and witness all its fabulous glory. Much love and care went into its creation, and I hope that you find it every bit as satisfying to read as it was for me to create it.

Read more  and purchase a copy at http://www.creolemoon.com/books.htm#TLMBqQs5psQa9O8W.99

Hoodoo and Conjure: New Orleans. Artwork copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado

Hoodoo and Conjure: New Orleans. Artwork copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado