Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Voodoo Museum

Offbeat Museums

For such a tiny museum (only two rooms), I left with a monumental amount of information and ample food for thought.  Lately, our modern culture has been obsessed ad nauseam with the world of voodoo and zombies.  This little museum in New Orleans even had a term for it:  Fakelore.  They attempted to set the record straight and my travel buddy, who is a huge fan of The Walking Dead, was thoroughly spellbound.

As for me, I found the merging of Voodoo and Catholicism in this part of the country a curious, but pragmatic indulgence.  Voodoo was brought to Louisiana by the slaves in the early 1700's and adopted by the Creole settlers.  Why I should be so surprised was a question I've since addressed.  After all, the church adopted hundreds of pagan rituals over the span of time in order to lure people into its fold.  This was just one more example. Religion and superstition are one and the same.

In Voodoo, God is detached from the mundane everyday life of humans.  He used to live on Earth, but left, leaving behind a slew of voodoo spirits--Catholic saints among them.  Pray to God and your requests go unanswered.  Leave a bottle of rum, however, at the altar of one of his emissaries, and your luck just might change.  The museum had several examples of such altars and they were great fun to dissect.  The Mami Waters altar was piled with make-up, jewelry, candy bars, tampons and peanuts.  She was worshiped as the protector of mothers and children throughout Central Africa.  So human!  I loved it!
There was an emphasis on affaires d'amour, rather than evil.  Many of the Voodoo Queens like Marie Laveau were called upon to help people fall in love or stay in love.  They specialized in love potions, charms and spells to make these things happen.  Many famous people called upon their services such as Andrew Jackson, the Marquis de Lafayette and even Queen Victoria.

It's not to say that evil was not addressed here.  Every religion has created monsters to keep the brethren on the straight and narrow.  The Rougarou, a cross between a werewolf, a vampire and a zombie, was absolutely terrifying!  The skeletons, voodoo dolls and zombies paled in comparison.

Besides the fascinating exhibits, the jazz music playing in the background will make you start dancing in the narrow hallway, I guarantee it!

  Far from scary, this little museum is a place of joy and a testimony to the eternal optimism of the human spirit.  Every single one of us turn to the gods when sorrow and despair wrench our souls.  I don't know if we'll ever let go of superstition.  It seems to help when the chips are down.  And if prayers go unanswered or the charms in those gris-gris bags don't work, well . . . only then do we shrug our shoulders and sigh.  God works in mysterious ways.  It is what it is.  Time to move on.  We're all stronger than we think.

1 comment:

  1. Cool museum. In the course of my varied work, I once came across an old religion from Jamaica in which followers sang traditional Christian hymns and made blood sacrifices. It seems as logical as any other form of religion to me.