Grimoire – Introduction to Magick – Various Magickal Practices & Their Customs – New Orleans Voodoo Hoodoo

Tablet of Contents on This Enchanted Page

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The Basics

In New Orleans, anyone can practice Voodoo. There is no formal religious initiation rite, no rigid orthodoxy, and there are no standard ways to worship—though there are guidelines. Voodoo is a fluid, adaptable, syncretic, and inclusive spiritual and religious practice that embraces the hearts of all people, no matter their race, creed, or origin. The loas, spirits, orishas, and mysteries—all terms used to describe the divine archetypal forces of Voodoo—are ever-changing, manifesting in infinite ways according to the filter of a given culture and geographic location. The word Voodoo means “spirit of God.” Contrary to popular belief, Voodoo is first and foremost about healing. It is a religious system based on three levels of spirit: God, the loa, and ancestors. Voodoo believers accept the existence of one ultimate god referred to as Bon Dieu (Good God), below which are the powerful spirits often referred to as loas. These powerful spirits act as intermediaries between Bon Dieu and practitioners and are responsible for the daily matters of life in the areas of family, love, money, happiness, wealth, and revenge.

Finally, ancestor reverence is considered the foundation of New Orleans Voodoo. The loas and ancestors are not worshipped; rather, they are served and revered, respectively. New Orleans was a major port where multiple cultures converged, and as a result, the influences on New Orleans Voodoo are very diverse. While New Orleans Voodoo as a unique system has no formal initiation rites, many people who practice it are, in fact, initiated into one of its closely related “sister” religions. There are also family lineages in New Orleans that pass down specific traditions that are held in confidence. These are the mambos and houngans who reside in New Orleans, more commonly referred to as priests, priestesses, or kings and queens of New Orleans Voodoo. There are Cuban-inspired Santeros, Haitian-initiated mambos and houngans, Obean rootworkers from the West Indian islands (i.e. Belize, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic), followers of the Spiritualist Churches, hoodoos and rootworkers who incorporate candle magic, spells, and the veneration of Catholic saints, and followers of the Yoruba tradition of Africa.

New Orleans Voodoo is highly influenced by Native American spirituality and herbalism, as well. For example, the famous Indian War Chief Black Hawk is a Voodoo saint and is often included in the ritual work of hoodoos and Spiritualists. However, many Spiritualists who venerate Black Hawk deny engaging in hoodoo activities, despite the similarities found between traditions. For one thing, there are influences at play in New Orleans that are not present in other areas. For example, the inclusion of Spiritualist oils and Indian spirit products were inspired by the Spiritualist churches and exploited by the hoodoo marketeers.

There is the infamous Algiers district of New Orleans where some of the most popular formulas such as Fast Luck derive. And there are the Cleo May and Dixie Love products that cater to ladies of the night and to all women desirous of their effects. Furthermore, French perfumery had a huge impact on the Creoles of high society, and some of these perfume names and ingredients made their way into the hoodoo formulary. The use of Voodoo dolls and doll babies in magick spells has become iconic of New Orleans Voodoo, although their use by genuine practitioners is much more complex than is commonly perceived by the public at large. And gris gris is a completely unique magickal system in New Orleans that involves far more than filling a red flannel mojo bag with a few symbolic items of conjure. New Orleans Voodoo lacks the rigid orthodoxy found in Haitian Vodou.

According to Louis Martiné, drummer, priest, and spiritual doctor with New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple:

New Orleans Voodoo is the wild child of Voodoo’s feral religions, the trick played upon the trickster. In New Orleans Voodoo, where the ultimate authority rests within the individual and his or her living relationship with the loa, there can be no orthodoxy to sit in grand judgment. If judgment were to be meted out, its throne would well bear the word “success.” And who is best suited to decide what is “success” than the involved mind stream as it is now (The Individual), as it was in the past (The Ancestors), and as it will be in all of its future incarnations (The Offspring)?

What is New Orleans Voodoo Hoodoo?

New Orleans Voodoo originated from the ancestral religions of the African Diaspora. It is one of many incarnations of African-based religions rooted in the West African Dahomean and Central African Voodoo traditions. It became syncretized with the Catholic religion as a result of the massive forced migrations, displacements of the slave trade, and the Code Noir. Slave owners forbade the Africans from practicing Voodoo under penalty of death and, in areas controlled by Catholics, forced many of them to convert to Catholicism. The result was a creolization of the names and aspects of the Voodoo spirits to those of the Christian saints that most closely resembled their particular areas of expertise or power. Under the guise of Catholicism, the religion of Voodoo survived.

Louisiana was founded in 1682 after the King of France, King Louis XIV, embarked upon active exploration of the Mississippi River in order to enlarge his own empire and stop the progress and expansion of Britain and Spain. René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, reached the mouth of the Mississippi River and claimed possession of the river and all the land around it for France. He called the new territory “Louisiane,” or “Louis’ land.” Louisiana’s colonial period lasted from 1699, when the French established a permanent settlement in the area, to 1803, when the United States purchased it. New Orleans was designated the capital of colonial Louisiana in 1718. According to the New Orleans Voodoo Museum, New Orleans Voodoo had three distinct phases: African, Creole, and American.

The African phase began in 1719, with the arrival of the first 450 Africans who set foot in New Orleans from the Bight of Benin. According to records of the French slave trade voyages4 from Africa to Louisiana during the French regime, two-thirds of the slaves brought to Louisiana were from Senegambia. In 1720, 127 more slaves arrived from Senegambia. In 1721, 196 were from Senegambia, 834 were from Bight of Benin, and 294 were from Congo/Angola. From 1723 to 1747, all of the people stolen from Africa were from Senegambia, with the exception of 464 from Bight of Benin in 1728.

Some of the specific African cultural groups that arrived in Louisiana include the Bambara, Mandinga, Wolof, Fulbe, Nard, Mina, Fon (Dahomean), Yoruba (Nago), Chamba, Congo, Ibo, Ado, Hausa, and Sango.7 Most references to the African origins of New Orleans Voodoo emphasize the Congo region; however, the historical documents reflect a significant population of people from Senegambia, including some practicing Muslims (which makes sense, given Senegambia was under the rule of the Islamic Almoravides Empire; though, many resisted the conversion to Islam and maintained their traditional African religions and beliefs). The reason that so many Sengambians were sold into slavery in Louisiana was because the slave trade was organized by the Company of the Indes, a privately owned company licensed by the King of France, who held an exclusive trade monopoly in Senegal and Louisiana during the years of the African holocaust.

From a geographic perspective, Senegambia refers to a large region between Senegal and the Gambia rivers. One might assume that since the region is so large, the culture would be heterogeneous. On the contrary, there were many commonalities among the differing cultural groups, as evidenced by the similarity of language groups. It might be likened to Scandinavian culture; while Scandinavia is comprised of three different countries (Denmark, Sweden, and Norway), they are related linguistically and culturally. If you can speak one Scandinavian language, you can typically understand (i.e. speak and read) the other two. Examination of the traditional practices of the people from the Senegambia region reveals a far greater influence on New Orleans Voodoo than has been previously recognized.

For example, gris gris, a religiomagical tradition from Senegambia, is one of the hallmarks of New Orleans Voodoo. The first slaves in Louisiana were not African, however. They were Native Americans, most of whom were warriors. Some of the Native American tribes in the area at the time were the Natchez, Choctaw, Cherokee, Tunica, Tamira, Chaouchas, Chickasaw, Illinois, Houma, Arkansas, and Miami. The indigenous peoples from various tribes were captured and sold into slavery by both the British and the French. In fact, indigenous people were bought, sold, and exported from Louisiana to the West Indies at a ratio of two Indian slaves for one African slave.

Even though the export of slaves was outlawed by 1726, the slave trade continued, albeit on a smaller scale. Enslaved Africans joined enslaved Native American Indians when they arrived in Louisiana. Many times they lived under the same masters. Like the Native American Indians, the enslaved Africans were not the passive, submissive people so often depicted in print and media. Among the Mande, for example, there was the principle of fadenya, meaning “father-childness.” Fadenya is the cultural principle of the innovator, the one who rebels against social order, and the one who travels “to foreign lands to gain special powers and rewards that are eventually brought back for the benefit of the village.”

The rebels are the ones who are considered heroes. By the time the African slaves arrived, the Indians already had experience as escapees. The Indians who escaped retreated to the nearby swamps, and some even remained in the city, literally hiding in plain sight. They were well organized and heavily armed. It comes as no surprise that the Africans and Native Americans banded together to escape, and steal food, supplies, and weapons. They organized to raid settlers for more supplies and wreaked all kinds of havoc for their masters and the colony. The colonizers feared a great uprising by the joining together of these two populations, and with good reason. By 1729, the Natchez, in cooperation with recently arrived Africans, wiped out the entire tobacco settlement of the Company of the Indes, which had been in control of the colony along with approximately one-tenth of the French population. By 1731, the Company of the Indes officially turned its Louisiana concession over to France. Undoubtedly, the French and the British allied with the various Indian nations and used these alliances to their benefit.

They used slaves in battles that would turn African against Indian, Indian against African, and Indian nation against Indian nation. They dangled the carrot of freedom as incentive for alliance with both groups. They played upon the preexisting intertribal conflicts among Indian tribes. Arming slaves in any great number made the colonizers even more nervous, but they needed their assistance to achieve the goal of maintaining control over the colony. The gumbo of cultures that comprised colonial Louisiana included people of French, Canadian, Spanish, Latin American, Anglo, German, Irish, English, Scottish, Jewish, Native American, and African descent. In addition to joining the Native Americans, the first African slaves also encountered the social rejects from France who were exiled to New Orleans, many of whom were made into indentured servants.

France and Spain were fighting over Mobile and Pensacola, leading to mass desertions among French and Swiss soldiers. Consequently, New Orleans was comprised largely of rejects, deserters, and African and Indian slaves. The shared desperation among the diverse groups of people led to a degree of cooperation that seemingly transcended status and race. Eventually, France was defeated in the French and Indian War and abandoned North America. New Orleans and the west bank of the Mississippi were ceded to Spain. During the years of Spanish rule (1763 to 1803), the white population almost doubled and the slave population grew 250 percent.13 In 1803, the United States purchased the Louisiana territory. Shortly after this time, there were several influxes of immigrants from St. Domingue (Haiti); the first consisting of an estimated one thousand refugees.

According to Debien and le Gaedeur, another nine thousand refugees arrived indirectly from St. Domingue via Cuba in 1809. While some of these refugees settled in New Orleans, most of them made their homes west of the Atchafalaya Basin in St. Martinville and the surrounding area.14 Because of the large number of Haitians settling in this area, it became known as le Petit Paris, as residents attempted to recreate their lives as they had been in St. Domingue.15 Undoubtedly, the spirits followed the refugees, and thus we can see how some of them became part of the New Orleans Voodoo pantheon. From 1719 to about 1830, Voodoo in New Orleans was much like it was in Africa. The main difference was a merging of the different African cultures and region-specific religious practices. But the languages, dances, and traditions were decidedly African.

The direct influence of African tradition, however, was eventually cut off when the importation of slaves from outside of the United States became illegal in 1808. The Creole phase is marked by the convergence of distinctly different cultures, the loss of African languages, and the development of the Creole language. This phase was in high gear during the years between 1830 to 1930, when Voodoo peaked in cultural influence. The Creole language became the primary language, the African rhythms of Voodoo dances gave birth to jazz, and Voodoo Queens emerged. Gris gris continued as a system of coping with the daily problems of life. Voodoo rituals merged with Mardi Gras and other celebrations to the point that many activities that were Voodoo in origin went unnoticed by the ordinary person.16 New Orleans Voodoo had integrated elements of European folk magick, Native American spirituality and herbalism, African Voodoo, and Catholicism.

Catholic saints took a prominent place in New Orleans Voodoo at this time, masking, but not replacing, the loas of the traditional African Voodoo religion. The American phase occurred after 1930, when New Orleans Voodoo became a business referred to as hoodoo. Voodoo was exploited by popular media and commercialized by people looking to make a quick buck. Voodooists became uncomfortable with the distorted imagery that was emerging and went underground. Community events and rituals that had once characterized it during the Creole phase disappeared. Practitioners became increasingly isolated, giving way to a growing number of individual practitioners called rootworkers. The term hoodoo began to replace Voodoo, and neighborhood drugstores began to be a major source of hoodoo and conjure materia medica. The popularity of gris gris remained, but the original meaning and purpose behind it seemed to fade into the shadows.

Characteristics of New Orleans Voodoo Hoodoo

Once the outward and public expression of the religion went underground, many people believed Voodoo all but disappeared in the twentieth century. There is a common presumption that any “authentic” Voodoo in New Orleans disintegrated into gris gris as if gris gris were a less important system (see Jacobs and Kaslow, 1991, for a discussion on the influence of Voodoo in New Orleans Spiritualist Churches). This perception is undoubtedly due to a lack of understanding of the religious context of gris gris and its association with Voodoo and Islam in Africa. Instead, gris gris is likened to a mojo bag and not recognized as a religious tradition. The misinformation is further perpetuated by contemporary and popular authors, hoodoo marketeers, and other ill-informed individuals who continue to publish and republish the same misinformation.

The term Voodoo hoodoo is commonly used by Louisiana locals to describe our unique brand of New Orleans Creole Voodoo. It refers to a blending of religious and magickal elements. Voodoo is widely believed by those outside of the New Orleans Voodoo tradition to be separate from hoodoo magick. However, the separation of religion from magick did not occur in New Orleans as it did in other areas of the country. The magick is part of the religion; the charms are medicine and spiritual tools that hold the inherent healing mechanisms of the traditional religion and culture. Voodoo in New Orleans is a way of life for those who believe. Still, there are those who separate Voodoo and hoodoo.

Some hoodoo practitioners integrate elements of Voodoo, and some do not. Some incorporate elements of Catholicism or other Christian religious thought into their practice, while others do not. How much of the original religion a person decides to believe in and practice is left up to the individual. Some people don’t consider what they do religion at all, preferring to call it a spiritual tradition or African American folk magic. Everything mingles each into the other—Catholic saint worship with gris gris spirits, evangelical tent meetings with spiritual church ceremonies—until nothing is purely itself but becomes part of one fonky gumbo. That is why it is important to understand that in New Orleans the idea of Voodoo—or as we call it gris gris—is less a distinct religion than a way of life.

New Orleans Voodoo evolved to embrace aspects of the “fonky gumbo” of cultures in the nineteenth century and as a result, it is distinguishable from other forms of Voodoo and hoodoo found in other areas of the country. For example, there is a blend of Spiritualism, African Voodoo, Native American traditions, Santería, Catholicism, and Pentecostalism. An additional hallmark of New Orleans Voodoo hoodoo is the borrowing of material from European and African folk magic, Kabbalistic influences, ancestor worship, and strong elements of Christian and Jewish mysticism, such as the use of various seals and sigils. In fact, for many practitioners, the Bible is considered a talisman in and of itself, as well as a primary source for magical lore. The psalms and the saints are aspects key to hoodoo practice for many practitioners, though not all.

New Orleans Voodoo is unique in its use of Spirit Guides in worship services and in the forms of ritual possession that its adherents practice. There is candle magick, and there used to be Voodoo séances (I don’t know how prevalent these are among practitioners today). The Voodoo-influenced Spiritual Churches that survive in New Orleans are the result of a mingling of these and other spiritual practices. I should point out that Spiritualists will typically say that they have nothing to do with Voodoo or hoodoo. Still, some of the spiritual practices are extremely similar, whatever you call it.

A most important difference, however, is the retention of elements of the various religious practices from the different African cultural groups that arrived on the Louisiana Coast. For example, there is gris gris from Senegambia; the “serpent cult” of Nzambi from Whydah, or Li Grande Zombi as it is known in New Orleans; the obvious influence of fetishism, the nkisis or “sacred medicine,” from the Congo basin of Central Africa; and the Bocio figurines from the Gulf of Guinea and the Congo Kingdom.


Among the enduring influences in New Orleans Voodoo today are elements of Catholicism. This is the direct result of Louisiana’s Code Noir or Black Code. It was written specifically to control the behavior and religious practices of slaves and free Africans and ordered the Jews out of the colony. It served to reinforce the notion that the status of those with darker skin was always lower than people of lighter complexions and contact between “racial” groups was intentionally disrupted.

The Code Noir imposed only one religion—Catholicism. According to the Community College of Denver, the Code Noir initially took shape in Louis XIV’s decree of 1685, and while the code was modified on several occasions, it is the original document that established the main lines for the policing of slavery right up to 1789. The very first article expels all Jews from the colonies and insists that all slaves be instructed as Catholics and not as Protestants. For the most part, the Code concentrated on defining the condition of slavery (passing the condition through the mother, not the father) and establishing harsh controls over the conduct of those enslaved.

Slaves had virtually no rights, though the code did enjoin masters to take care of the sick and old. The influence of Catholicism in New Orleans Voodoo and hoodoo is evident in the presence of the various saints and the use of the psalms in magickal and healing works. Those who incorporate Catholic elements may or may not be practicing Catholics. There are significant populations of practitioners who utilize these elements for their poetic and inspirational nature value as opposed to a strictly religious one.

Gris Gris

A distinguishing characteristic of New Orleans Voodoo is its emphasis on gris gris as a magickal system. Gris gris is both a noun and a verb, referring to a powder or poison, a ritually prepared object such as a doll, or a small cloth bag filled with magickal ingredients. Gris gris also refers to the act of working the gris gris (spell or charm). Gris gris is an integral aspect of life that can be traced back to the African Muslims and to Senegambians.

Serpent Worship and Li Grande Zombi

Li Grande Zombi (also called Damballah Wedo) is the major serpent spirit of worship among New Orleans Voodooists. In New Orleans Voodoo, snakes are not seen as symbols of evil as in the story of Adam and Eve. Snakes are considered to be the holders of intuitive knowledge—knowing that which cannot be spoken. Women often dance with serpents to represent the spiritual balance between the genders. Voodoo rituals in New Orleans almost always include a snake dance to celebrate the link to the ancient knowledge. The origin of Li Grande Zombi can be traced to the serpent deity Nzambi from Whydah in Africa. According to the Bantu Creation story, Nzambi is the Creator God:

Nzambi exists in everything and controls the universe through his appointed Spirits. In the beginning only Nzambi existed. When he was ready to create, millions and millions of pieces of matter swirled around him counterclockwise until Ngombe was born. Ngombe is the universe, the planets, the stars and all physical matter. Nzambi then created movement, and the matter that he had created began to change and drift apart. So, he decided to create a being that could traverse the universe and mediate between matter and space. Nzambi focused on a fixed point and gave life to a being who was simultaneously man and woman, a manifestation of the nature of Nzambi, called Exú-Aluvaiá.

Another description of Li Grande Zombi is provided by Louis Martiné, priest, spiritual doctor, and elder of the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple:

The Grande Zombie is the Temple Snake, a defining element of New Orleans Voodoo and a loa of great stature. The Grande Zombie of New Orleans Voodoo is best not confused with the Zombie of Haitian Voodoo which has been described as a ritually animated corpse. The Temple Snake bears little physical or spiritual resemblance to such a being. The Grande Zombie can fill many roles and perform many ritual functions. In the context of this Order of Service the Temple Snake is the umbilical cord, the connection between the Mother and the child.

Some people prefer to honor Li Grande Zombi by purchasing a live boa constrictor or python, but this is not recommended unless you know how to take care of one and have the appropriate enclosure and willingness to feed it the live food it requires. Even though these creatures can become accustomed to eating frozen mice, rats, or rabbits, it is not the optimal choice. Remember, these serpents grow to be very large, and they can be dangerous. So how does one use a large snake in Voodoo ceremony without being bitten? Well, one way is to be sure that the snake has been fed prior to the ceremony. The other issue is how familiar the snake is with people and activity. Snakes should be conditioned through exposure to tolerate such stimuli; a well-trained eye for snake behavior is required to maintain safety for the serpent and the people present.

Still, there are always the risks of startling the animal or over stimulating it, not feeding it enough, or allowing an inexperienced person handle it. With so many things to consider, it is best to use a snake fetish or doll instead of a live animal, and to rely upon the experience of the Voodoo Queen to bring out her snake when called for in a ritual. Individual practitioners have no real need to acquire one of these creatures. The use of the powers of Li Grande Zombi and snakes in general is commonly found in hoodoo, especially the use of snake sheds in the preparation of gris gris, conjure powders, and oils. Strength, power, retribution, and renewal are among the qualities associated with snake sheds in conjure.

Snake imagery is also seen in the phenomenon called “live things in you.” This is a condition in which a person believes they have been hoodooed and as a result there are live things, oftentimes snakes, living inside the body. The afflicted person will report being able to feel the snakes crawling around under their skin or in their bellies. Snake conjure can also involve drawing a person to you. One way this is done is by taking hairs from your head and naming them for the one you desire. The hairs are then placed in a bottle during a gentle rain and the bottle is allowed to fill up with rain water. The bottle is then sealed and kept near the front door of the home. Within a few days, the hairs are said to swell up and turn to into snakes. The power of the snake is believed to be so strong that the one desired will be unable to withstand the urge to come to your home. The old-timers will say that in order to become skilled at conjuring, you have to get the gift and/or permission from the snake.

One way this was done in the past was by eating the brains of a snake so that the wisdom of the serpent would be transferred to the eater. Conjurers were also expected to lie down in the woods and call upon the snakes to come and crawl all over their bodies. If they were able to calmly look at the serpents in the eyes without flinching, they were believed to be fit to be a conjurer.


The belief in zombies is an exceptional aspect of New Orleans Voodoo that stems from Haitian Vodou. A zombie is a living person who has not died; rather, it is a person who is under the influence of powerful drugs administered by a bokor (a priest skilled in the art of sorcery). Believed to be dead, the affected person is buried in a grave. The bokor later digs up the person and gives them an antidote. At this time, the bokor also captures the victim’s Ti Bon Ange (a part of their soul referred to as the zombie astral) and puts it into a clay jar and keeps it. The victim awakens from near death but loses his or her free will. The victim is then forced into a life of slavery, serving only the bokor.

Although many people believe in zombies, there are only a few documented cases. The most famous of these cases concerns Felicia Felix-Mentor, a Haitian woman believed to have been made into a zombie in the early part of the twentieth century. While gathering information for the book Tell My Horse, author Zora Neale Hurston encountered the supposed zombie and photographed her.22 In 1982, Wade Davis, a Harvard ethnobotanist, discovered that a person could be turned into a zombie by means of folk pharmacology. He presented his theory for zombies in two books, The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (1988). As a result of his travels to Haiti and subsequent investigations of Haitian Vodou practices, Davis claimed that a living person can be turned into a zombie by introducing two special powders into the bloodstream: one, coup de poudre (meaning “powder strike” in French), which includes the powerful neurotoxin found in the puffer fish called tetrodotoxin (TTX), and two, dissociative drugs such as datura.

When combined, these powders reportedly bring on a death-like state. Davis also popularized the story of Clairvius Narcisse, a Haitian man said to have been turned into a living zombie in this fashion. This case was the subject of his book, The Serpent and the Rainbow. In New Orleans, there arose the tradition of the zombie bottle. Zombie bottles are created in a secret mystical tradition that requires a great deal of skill and knowledge. Only a few Voodoo conjure artists still create these special and unique magickal fetishes. They are each completely unique, individual creations made for a specific person or family as a guardian of the home. Over the centuries, people across cultures have had their own versions of the genie in the bottle. Africans have been known for their colorful blue bottles hung on the outside of their huts for the purpose of capturing evil spirits. This practice was brought by slaves to the southern United States, where you can find bottle trees in the countryside.

Often zombie bottles will contain more than one spirit. It is believed that whoever owns the bottle also owns the spirit or spirits residing inside the bottle. The spirit is there to do your bidding and will not respond to anyone other than its owner. Stories abound about strange things happening once a zombie bottle is brought into the home. If you are tuned in, the spirits inside have been known to sing or speak. They are said to be great protectors of the home and are sometimes placed beside the front door to ward off evil and negativity. Others choose to create a special place on an altar for them and feed them special foods that keep them happy. In Louisiana, they sometimes function as the house protector and take orders from the home owner as they sit on a shelf or mantle, fiercely protecting whomever they are told to defend.

Voodoo Dolls

Voodoo dolls are derived from the fetishism brought to New Orleans by the African slaves. This practice of image magic with dolls was also commonly used by some of the Native American cultures, as well as in European folk magic and witchcraft.24 The use of Voodoo dolls reportedly peaked during the reign of the infamous Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau.25 Voodoo dolls are made as gris gris—as sacred vessels to represent or house a spirit. Although they are most commonly depicted as objects of revenge in popular culture, approximately 90 percent of the use of Voodoo dolls in New Orleans is centered on healing, finding true love, or spiritual guidance. In New Orleans, Voodoo dolls are largely sold as souvenirs, curios, and novelty items. Refer to my book, Voodoo Dolls in Magick and Ritual, for an in-depth discussion of the history and evolution of Voodoo dolls in New Orleans.

The Mardi Gras Indians

There’s a great secret in New Orleans with regards to Voodoo hoodoo that is often overlooked. It is perhaps one of the most unique aspects of New Orleans culture, particularly during Mardi Gras and St. Joseph’s Day celebrations. With their elaborate costumes and fabulous performances, the Mardi Gras Indians’ flamboyant displays sometimes cause the average onlooker to miss the important role they played in the history and shaping of New Orleans Voodoo hoodoo. Their contributions to the enduring Voodoo hoodoo tradition lie in the transmission of cultural knowledge via chants, dance, and music. Their authentic African rhythms are used in the rituals and celebrations of major Voodoo holidays and rituals. Indeed, little is understood about the specific Mardi Gras Indian tribes and their activities outside of local legend.

Only those who grew up in their neighborhoods would be aware of their presence and influence. New Orleans Mardi Gras is full of secret societies, and the Mardi Gras Indians are among them. They are tribal in every sense of the word; like in any tribe, or any gang for that matter, there are secrets to uphold and measures to be taken to ensure outsiders remain just that—outsiders. The phrase “Mardi Gras Indians” is used for the benefit of outsiders, as the Indians do not refer to themselves as such, preferring to use “Black Indian” or to identify as a member of a tribe. I remember hearing lies about the Black Indians of New Orleans when I was growing up . . . they aren’t really Indians, they’re just masking up for Mardi Gras . . . they aren’t really fighting, they’re just putting on a show.

Again, these are popular misconceptions put forth by the uninformed. According to Big Chief Bo Dollis of the Wild Magnolias in a 2000 interview,26 At that time my mama wouldn’t let me mask—not with Brother Tillman, anyway. He was kind of rough. He’d come home at the end of Mardi Gras Day and his suit would be bloody, you know, he’d get into humbugs . . . Oh yeah, they were still fighting. But most of the time it would happen when they’d meet a gang from downtown, and I didn’t go that far.27 The masks worn by the Mardi Gras Indians honor the Native Americans that helped enslaved Africans to escape. Masking is also a means of acknowledging the mixed blood of Africans and Indians, an important part of African heritage overlooked when judging only by the color of one’s skin. They have their own Creole street language that is believed to be part Choctaw, part Yoruba, part French, part Spanish, and mostly unknown. On Mardi Gras and on St. Joseph’s night, one member of a Mardi Gras Indian tribe, the spy boy, runs reconnaissance missions around his gang’s path, looking for feathers and listening for chants of rival gangs. It is no coincidence that the Mardi Gras Indian tribes meet up at the street corner crossroads and proceed to walk through them while pounding out foot-stomping beats on the points of specific spirits, singing songs that call on various Voodoo spirits, and referencing military preparedness.

Upon careful observation, one can see similarities between the Black Indians of New Orleans and the Rara celebrations in Haiti, which begin on the eve of Lent just as carnival ends.28 There are more than fifty Mardi Gras Indian tribe names from in and around the New Orleans area. The oldest is Creole Wild West, founded in the eighteen hundreds. Some, like the Wild Squatoulas and Medallion Hunters, are no longer active. Others, such as Fi-Yi-Yi and Congo Nation, haven’t yet reached their peak. One thing is for sure: when it’s Mardi Gras time in the Crescent City, the streets are graced with colorful Indian costumes, confrontations, and call-and-response style chants and Indian second line rhythms. If you are ever in New Orleans during the Jazz & Heritage Festival or Mardi Gras, join the second line of the spectacular walk-around parades.

You won’t be sorry. During the rest of the year, there is warfare among Mardis Gras tribes and rival gangs. The main focus is turf—who is the strongest and the best—and all year long they prepare for the “show” by creating their elaborate costumes, which are second to none (the trannies of New Orleans run a close second, admittedly, but in my opinion no one will ever out-costume the Black Indians). If you really want to get inside the psychology of the Black Indians, listen to their music. You will hear rhythms straight from Africa and learn about a culture that has changed little for 250 years. Listen to the songs listed below, as they provide a snapshot of an aspect of New Orleans culture that is intimately tied to the experiences of the original slave inhabitants of Louisiana.

“Jockamo,” Sugar Boy Crawford & the Cane Cutters “Handa Wanda Pt. 1,” Wild Magnolias “Big Chief Got a Golden Crown,” Wild Tchoupitoulas “My Gang Don’t Bow Down,” Flaming Arrows “Yella Pocahontas,” Champion Jack Dupree “New Suit,” Wild Magnolias “My Indian Red,” Dr. John “Second Line Pt.1,” Bill Sinigal & the Skyliners “Big Chief,” Professor Longhair “Iko Iko,” the Dixie Cups One of the most popular songs of the Mardi Gras Indians is “Iko Iko,” a song originally penned by Sugar Boy Crawford in November 1953 on Checker records and called “Jock-A-Mo.” The song tells of a “spy boy” or “spy dog” (a lookout) for one band of Indians encountering the “flag boy” for another band.

He threatens to set the flag on fire. Many artists have covered the song and have sung the words phonetically and thus incorrectly, without understanding their meaning. In reality, no one really knows what they mean or what language it is, but there are many theories. According to Dr. John on the liner notes to his 1972 album, Dr. John’s Gumbo: Jockamo means “jester” in the old myth. It is Mardi Gras music, and the Shaweez was one of many Mardi Gras groups who dressed up in far out Indian costumes and came on as Indian tribes. The tribes used to hang out on Claiborne Avenue and used to get juiced up there getting ready to perform and “second line” in their own special style during Mardi Gras. That’s dead and gone because there’s a freeway where those grounds used to be. The tribes were like social clubs who lived all year for Mardi Gras, getting their costumes together. Many of them were musicians, gamblers, hustlers and pimps. Another theory is that Jockamo is actually an old African festival called Jonkonnu.

It is believed that this festival began during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The slaves were allowed to leave the plantations during Christmas to be with their families and celebrate the holidays with African dance, music, and costumes. The tradition continued after emancipation and Junkanoo has evolved into an organized parade with sophisticated, elaborate costumes and unique music among people living in the Bahamas. It is also celebrated in Miami and Key West, Florida, where the local African American populations have their roots in the Bahamas. Yet another theory is that Jockamo is a corruption of the word Jonkonnu, which is further adulterated when it is translated as “John Canoe.” John Canoe is said to be either the name of a slave trader or the name of an African tribal chief who demanded the right to celebrate with his people. Okay, now let’s think about that one. If Jockamo is indeed an adulteration of John Canoe (or the other way around), is it logical to think that on the one day of the year that the slaves were allowed to celebrate, they were going to celebrate their enslavement?

Were they really singing and dancing and partying with the name of a slave master? Do I need to point out the flaw in this theory? I am more inclined to accept the theory that it is a derivative of the African festival Jonkonnu, or one pissed off tribal chief. Of course, my rejection of the slave master theory wouldn’t hold water from a scientific standpoint, because words cannot always be translated in isolation. We would have to look at the whole of the song to determine what it really means, and that’s just way beyond the scope of this book. Suffice it to say that what we have is a continuation of African and Indian traditions that hold much mystery to us all.

Characteristics of New Orleans Voodoo Hoodoo Folk Magick

Fortunately, there are a lot of the old traditions that we do know and understand. At the core of New Orleans Voodoo hoodoo are African folkloric practices such as crossing and uncrossing, using spiritual baths and washes, laying tricks, creating gris gris, crossroads magic, and foot track magic.

Crossing and Uncrossing – Simply put, crossing refers to spiritual works that cause harm or bad luck, while uncrossing refers to works that reverse it. A number of products are used to aid in putting an end to crossed conditions, particularly when used in conjunction with one or more of the psalms. For example, products such as uncrossing crystals, oils, sachet powders, incenses, and even chalk are believed to be particularly effective when used in conjunction with the 37th psalm. The word cross is virtually synonymous with the words hex, jinx, and curse.

Foot Track Magic – Foot track magic involves throwing powders and gris gris in the path of a targeted person. That individual will suffer from unusual problems and a streak of bad luck after they have walked on it. The belief is that the toxic properties of the powder or gris gris will be absorbed through the foot and “poison” the individual. Ailments such as back problems, difficulty walking, edema, and difficulty concentrating are some of the complaints of those who have been victimized in this fashion. Foot tracks can also be used for other purposes, such as keeping a lover from wandering off. You can put a hoodoo on a person by filling an old shoe with red pepper and placing under their house. There are two methods of foot track magic: the direct method and the sympathetic method. The direct method is when the powder or other substance is thrown on the ground or a bottle is buried and the person’s foot actually touches or walks over it. Some folks take care and throw down the mess in an “X” pattern. I was always told you just throw it where you know the person is going to walk. The second method involves capturing the person’s footprint by gathering the dirt from an actual footprint of the target, or by taking an old sock or shoe and doctoring it with some other powder.

Floor Washes – Floor washes are used to remove negativity from the home or business or to bring good fortune, increase the number of customers, or attract love. Florida Water is commonly used as a floor wash. A ritual floor washing typically starts at the back of the premises and ends at the front doorstep. The top floor is washed from the ceiling to the floor, and this is repeated on each floor. Extra time is spent scrubbing the doorway. For best results, the floors, corners of the rooms, closets, doorsteps, walls, fabrics, and furniture are washed. The left over water is thrown out of the front door in the direction of the east, if possible. In the old days in New Orleans, urine, and especially the urine of a child, was frequently used as an ingredient in a floor wash, as was red brick dust.

Laying Tricks – Laying tricks is another reference to the throwing of special herbs, powders, and gris gris in a place where the intended target will touch it, usually by walking on it. It also refers to the concealing or disposing of magickal objects by strategically placing the ingredients in certain places in order to fix the trick, or seal the deal. For example, if you want to keep your partner faithful, you could take a pair of your lover’s dirty underwear, tie them in a knot, and bury them in their backyard. If it is an enemy work, then bury the work in the person’s yard, or under their doorstep or porch or somewhere else they are inclined to walk. If it’s a money spell, you could bury the spell in the yard of a bank, or, if you can get away with it, in the yard of a treasury mint. If you are a gambler, bury it in a potted plant or in the garden or yard of the casino. Following this train of thought, the same can be done for court case spells (in the courtyard), blessings (in the churchyard), school success (schoolyard) . . . you get the picture. The following are some frequently employed places for laying tricks. Buried in a building structure. A common place for laying tricks is in construction sites, because the tricks will last forever—or at least for as long as the building stands. Bank construction sites are good for attracting money; courthouse sites are good for keeping the law away; hospitals and doctor’s offices are good for healing; and church sites are good for protection. Placed in a chimney. To bless the home, a trick can be laid inside a chimney. Buried in a garden or potted plant. When you want to attract love, luck, fertility, or success, bury a trick in a garden in spring and summertime or in a potted plant anytime. A trick to work against someone else can also be planted in the person’s garden or in a potted plant at their place of residence. Buried in the earth in the home yard. To ground a trick and keep it working, bury it in someone’s yard. Plant good luck works in your own yard, under your porch, or beneath the front steps for fixing blessings, love drawing, money drawing, and protection. Plant a bad luck trick in someone else’s yard to hex them. Placed under carpets or rugs. This is reflective of adapting hoodoo to modern times. When you don’t have a yard to work with, the same principle can be employed by placing a trick under someone’s rug or carpet. Buried under the enemy’s doorstep or porch. To hex or jinx and enemy, place a trick under their doorstep or front porch. Placed in food or drink. This method is typically employed in domination spells, to keep a mate faithful, or in enemy works. Scrape some skin from the bottom of your foot and bake it in some food that will be eaten by someone you wish to dominate or jinx. Add semen or menstrual blood in your lover’s food or drink to keep them bound to you. Thrown into a fire. To neutralize a jinx, burn it in a fire and spread the ashes around a tree. For example, to cause harm to your enemy, burn a bad wish written on paper in a fire and spread the ashes around their doorstep or front porch. Prayers and well wishes can also be accomplished in the same manner. Burn a special prayer in a fire and scatter the ashes near the home for special blessings. Placed in clothing or on objects. For love spells, money spells, protection spells, and court cases, mojos are often sewn into clothes, curtains, pillowcases, and mattresses. Disposed at a crossroads. To dispose of ritual remains such as candle wax, ashes from incense, and the like, leave them at a crossroads. Bad luck tricks can also be disposed of in the middle of a crossroads where cars will run over them and destroy them. Tossing coins in the middle of a crossroads is considered good luck. Buried in a cross mark indoors. As an alternative to a crossroads, an artificial crossroads can be created by making a cross mark indoors. The basic method of creating an indoor crossroads is by drawing an “X” with cornmeal, chalk, or cascarilla on the floor. The cross mark is used for fixing spells, harming an enemy, or as part of protection spells and likely has its origin in the Kongo cosmogram. Buried in a graveyard. Ritual objects used in extreme magic—like causing serious illness or death—can be buried in a graveyard. Thrown in running water. Throwing a spell into running water is best used for wishes and banishing. Placed in a tree. Trees are believed to absorb negativity and evil, so bad works are often buried at the base of trees to neutralize them. Placed in a bottle. An old practice with origins in the African Congo involves making wishes and placing cobalt blue bottles onto branches of a tree to make a bottle tree that functions as a talisman. My mama always had a bottle tree in the yard. This practice used to be common in the South, but over time the practice seemed to fade away. In recent years, however, it seems as if bottle trees are beginning to make a comeback all over the country.

Spiritual Baths – Spiritual bathing is an ancient practice. In hoodoo, spiritual baths are taken to cleanse oneself of negativity or to bring good luck. Almost always, when someone goes to a rootworker for treatment, a spiritual bath will be part of that treatment. A person is directed by the conjuror to put special herbs, oils, or other ingredients in the bath water to bring about the desired change. This is often done in conjunction with the recitation of special psalms. Removing negativity requires washing oneself with a downward stroke, while bringing luck or fortune requires washing oneself in an upward motion. The left over water can be used in other spellwork, added to floor wash, or disposed of at a crossroads.

Magickal Oils, Incenses, and Sachet Powders – For thousands of years and across cultures, the belief that plant and animal aromatics (or “odours,” as they are referred to in the old texts) have psychological, natural, and supernatural effects on human beings. Ancient magicians regularly made use of anointing oils, incenses, and powders as a means of consecrating themselves, their altars, or other ritual items, or to alter their state of consciousness. Instructions for preparing sacred oils and anointing formulas are provided in biblical texts as well as in Egyptian papyri, European grimoires, and other ancient and sacred books. As the art of perfumery developed alongside the science of pharmacology, the formulas of the various hoodoo oils, ointments, and powders coincided with this evolution. In New Orleans, the influence of Egyptian and French perfumery on the magickal formulary is quite pronounced, though often unrecognized. The ancient use of oils, powders, and incenses for psychological stimulation, as aphrodisiacs, in religious and spiritual contexts, for psychic development, for healing, and for magickal influence persists to this day in their application in hoodoo.

The Hoodoo Altar

Before you begin any hoodoo work, you will need a place to do your rituals. This means you will need a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, and a surface such as a table, box, chest, or even a large flat stone. Some people set aside a portion of the floor to use as an altar, or they use a dresser top, with ritual supplies stored underneath. You will need basic items and some extra items to personalize your altar. Note that not all works require the use of an altar. For those that do, the instructions I am providing here are just the basics. Cover your altar with a white cloth, and place two white candles at the back on either end. Figures or pictures of saints or other religious images should be placed at the back, between the two white candles.

Place your incense burner in front of the image and in the middle of the altar, and to the right of that keep some holy water or a bowl of water that you have blessed. These are the basics of the hoodoo altar. You can add fresh-cut flowers, special stones, a dish of salt, and a small dish of graveyard dirt, if you wish. The important thing is to not place anything on your altar that doesn’t belong there. Altars can range from the very basic to the extremely elaborate. Your altar and everything on it should be blessed or consecrated. Your candles should be blessed and dressed.

All of the bowls and other containers should be washed with salt water, conjure water, Florida water, or Holy water. Directions for dressing your candles are provided in the chapter on candles, and instructions for how to consecrate your ritual objects are provided in a later chapter as well. As you become familiar with working with the various spirits, you will learn how to set up altars for each spirit or family of spirits. For individual magickal works, however, the altar will be as individual as the work is itself.

The Ancestral Altar – Anyone who wishes to develop a Voodoo spiritual practice should create an ancestral altar first. This altar can honor your biological ancestors, the universal archetypal ancestors, or both. Any and all connection to the spirit world is dependent upon the strength of your ancestral connection. The following are some guidelines for creating your own ancestral altar. Follow your intuition when creating your altar, and feel free to add to or subtract from the suggestions below.

How to Create an Ancestral Altar

To create an altar you will need:

  • A table, flat stone, or shelf
  • White cloth
  • Photos and mementos of your ancestors
  • White candle
  • Glass or crystal bowl of water
  • Fresh-cut flowers
  • Incense
  • A portion of each meal of the day
  • A dish with nine different types of earth, including graveyard dirt

Drape the white cloth over the table or shelf. If using a stone, leave it bare. Place the glass bowl of water in the center of the table and the white candle behind the bowl. Arrange the photos and mementos, flowers, and bowl of earth on the altar in a manner that pleases you. The bowl of food should go in front of the bowl of water. You can add a small white candle in the bowl of food as well.

How to Address the Ancestors

First, light the incense to purify your surroundings. Sprinkle a little fresh water on the items on your altar, including the earth, to give respect to your ancestors. Light your candle and offer it to the four sacred directions—east, west, north, and south—then place it behind the bowl of water. Begin speaking to your ancestors by introducing yourself. Say something like, “Greetings, ancestors, my name is _______, son/daughter of ________ and ______, and I come with a pure heart to honor you with these offerings. “I honor [Say all of your ancestors names out loud]. I honor all of those remembered and forgotten, who were associated with my ancestors as friends, companions, and loved ones. I love, honor, and respect all who have gone before me. “To all my relations, all grandmothers and grandfathers, all elders and ancient ones, to all the creatures, plants, and living things of our Mother Earth, I offer my reverence and gratitude. I thank you for your guidance and protection, seen and unseen. “For all those who suffered so that we may carry on the traditions, for those who died prematurely, in a violent manner, or to anyone in particular need, I offer this special prayer so that you may rest in peace through the intercession of the four archangels and the Seven African Powers.” Say the prayer to the Seven African Powers here, followed by a sincere prayer of your own. You can now talk to your ancestors about your problems and ask them for guidance. When you are finished, offer them the food and drink and thank them for listening. Take a moment and meditate on your life, focusing on your blessings and abundance. Visualize passing on all that is good to your ancestors who have gone before you and to those yet to come. To conclude, pour water on the ground and say “Aché!” Let the candles burn out if possible. At any time, you can focus on the positive aspects of your loved ones and pour water for them. Do this daily or weekly, while saying their names out loud. You can remember them by offering them some of the food you eat every day. A point of clarification: we do not worship our ancestors. We honor and respect them, and ask for their guidance.

The Voodoo Pantheon

The spirits that comprise the Voodoo pantheon are the result of the forced mingling of various tribal groups because of slavery. In an incredible feat of psychological and spiritual survival, the tribal groups were able to combine their very different religious practices into one Voodoo practice that is no longer “pure” according to African standards. However, in the throes of slavery, the stolen people created new practices that incorporated not only their own rites and deities, but the rites and deities of other cultural groups. The original African rites spread to Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, the West Indies, the Dominican Republic, and other parts of the United States, where they began to take on characteristics of the local cultures. There are literally hundreds of spirits, and the list is always growing. The spirit forces in New Orleans Voodoo and Haiti are referred to as loas (lwas), mystères, and invisibles. In Santería and Yoruba they are known as orishas. They are not deities; rather, they are comparable to saints or angels in Western religions in that they act as mediators between a distant Creator (Bon Dieu, or Good God) and humanity. It is not uncommon for New Orleans practitioners to acknowledge the loas found in Haiti, the orishas of the Yoruban tradition and Santería, the Catholic saints, the spirits of ancestors, zombie spirits, Native American spirits, archangels, and spirits that are uniquely New Orleanian in origin. In fact, it is not unusual to refer to spirits, saints, angels, and archangels as loas. The voodooists’ relationship with the loas differs from saints and angels in that the loas are not merely petitioned with prayer—they are served. They are distinct entities with their own personal preferences and individual sacred rhythms, songs, dances, ritual symbols, and special forms of servitude. In the Yoruban tradition, the orishas are God’s ambassadors, ruling the fortunes of humankind, as well as the forces of nature. Their aspects are determined by their elemental natures. Thus, the orisha of lightning is also the orisha of sudden inspiration, vengeance, and dance; the orisha of the ocean is the orisha of motherhood, femininity, and creativity. In this way, the orishas represent ancient archetypal forces, a notion reflected in the phrase, “Las Sietes Potencias,” or the Seven African Powers.

The Nations

The pantheon of Voodoo spirits is organized according to nations and more formally in Haitian Vodou according to rites. Two of the major nations are Rada and Petro. Some mistakenly refer to the Rada loa as “good” and the Petro loa as “evil.” This is misleading; the Rada loa can be used to make malevolent magic, while the Petro loa can heal and do beneficial workings. They are more accurately referred to as “cool” and “hot,” respectively. You will find that contemporary hoodoo has little if anything to do with the Voodoo nations. It is for the sake of being thorough with regards to the religious aspects of New Orleans Voodoo that I have provided this information. A New Orleans Voodooist will not serve all of the spirits listed, but will recognize and acknowledge the existence of these and many, many more.


A major family of loas, the Rada loas consist of older, beneficent spirits who can be directly traced to Dahomean Voodoo. Rada loas are guardians of morals and principles and related to Africa, whereas Petro loas are connected to the New World. According to Milo Rigaud (1953), the Rada loas include (this is a partial list):

  • Agwé
  • Ati Bon Legba (meaning “tree of justice” in Fon)
  • Loko
  • Ayizan
  • Damballah Wedo
  • Ayida Wedo
  • Maitresse and Grande Erzulie
  • Erzulie Freda
  • La Sirène
  • La Baleine
  • Marassa
  • Maitre Kalfou (Master of the Crossroads)
  • Baron La Croix
  • Baron Samedi
  • Manman Brigit

Some loas (such as Erzulie) have both Rada and Petro manifestations. Their traditional color is white (as opposed to the specific colors of individual loas) and they are associated with the element air. There are also loas classified in various combinations with other nations, such as Rada-Dahomey (i.e. Legba Ati Bon, Sobo, Ayizan, Erzulie Freda, etc.) and Rada-Nago-Congo (La Sirène, La Baleine).

Petro Loas

The Petro loas are generally the more fiery, occasionally aggressive, and warlike loas assumed to have originated in Haiti under the unforgiving conditions of slavery. Their rites feature whip cracking, whistles, and ignited gunpowder. In addition, Petro drumbeats are swifter and more syncopated than the Rada rhythms. The Petro rites are an integral part of the Haitian Vodou initiation ceremony (Kanzo), the rite by which serviteurs are initiated as priests and priestesses (houngans and mambos). Erzulie Dantor is considered the “mother” of the Petro nation and is one of the most important Petro loas. Other Petro loas include (this is a partial list):

  • Ogun Changó (Petro, Nago)
  • Lemba File Sabre (Nago, Petro)
  • Manman Pemba
  • Damballah la Flambeau
  • Trois Carrefours (Three Crossroads)
  • Grande Brigitte (Petro, Rada)
  • Captain Zombi
  • Jean Zombi
  • Erzulie Toro (the Bull)
  • Erzulie Gé Rouge (Red-Eye)

Their traditional color is red and they are associated with the element fire. In New Orleans, Petro spirits often designated as la flambeau.

Congo Loas

The Congo loas are thought to descend from the Lemba, an ethnic group in southern Africa who claim a common descent belonging to the Jewish people. The entire northern area of Haiti is especially influenced by Congo practice. Congo spirits are associated with the element water and include, but are not limited to, the following spirits:

  • Simb’bi d’leau
  • Grande Alouba
  • Canga
  • Lemba Zapou (Congo, Petro)
  • Sinigal (Congo, Senegal)
  • Man Inan Laoca (Congo Legba)
  • Manman Pen’ba (Congo, Petro)

Nago Loas

Originating from Nigeria (specifically the Yoruba speaking tribes), this nation includes many of the Ogun spirits:

  • Ogou Fer
  • Ogou Changó
  • Ogou Bha Tha Lah (Mixed Nago)
  • Ogou Baba
  • Ogou-Tonnerre (nago, Petro)
  • Lemba File Sabre (Nago, Petro)
  • Ti Jean

Guede Loas

Although the guede are included in the section about Voodoo nations, they are not considered a nation; rather, they are a family of loas. The guede (ghede) are the spirits of the dead. They are traditionally led by the Barons (La Croix, Samedi, Cimitière, Kriminel), and Manman Brigit, though these classic guede spirits are included among the Rada loas. The guede are loud, rude, crass, sexual, and a lot of fun. Their traditional colors are black, purple, and white.