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Voodoo rituals are a part of everyday life in New Orleans. When asked, locals can recall having witnessed or participated in any number of voodoo and vodoun-inspired rituals in their lifetime. Now Haunted New Orleans Tours present the Top Ten Most Powerful Voodoo Rituals as chosen by our New Orleans readers!


No. 1: Hurricane Protection Ritual

This ritual is held each July, approximately a month into New Orleans’ annual hurricane season. Under the direction of Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman and La Source Ancienne Ounfo, the ritual is held to honor the powerful Petwo Lwa Erzulie Dantor and to thank her for continued protection in the face of these powerful and destruction forces of Nature. Mambo Sallie Ann assembles the servite around the peristile in her temple where offerings are made and rituals are performed to invoke Dantor across the dark waters of the Great Abyss, asking her to keep her faithful safe for another year. Appropriate offerings at the Hurricane Protection ritual include spicy fried pork, corn and egg omelets, spicy cakes and candies such as “Red Hots” and “Hot Tamales,” rum, whiskey, cigars, Florida Water, and storm water. Dantor is syncretized with the Catholic Our Lady of Prompt Succor and the Black Madonnas of Poland, among others. Mambo Sallie Ann and the Ounfo have been holding the Hurricane Protection Ritual each year for the past eight years, and each year New Orleans has been protected. However, the destruction and havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina have tempted many to suggest that Dantor finally failed her servite and the City. Devotees of this powerful Lwa are quick to point out that, actually, Hurricane Katrina did turn away from New Orleans at the last minute: after making landfall in Louisiana’s southern Plaquemines Parish, Katrina turned eastward and vented her worst fury on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Believers in Dantor and the power of this yearly ritual credit this last minute turn to the great Lwa and reiterate what officials all across the region have said again and again: This was not a direct hit; had Hurricane Katrina been a direct hit, there would be nothing but water where the City now stands. Thanks to Erzulie Dantor, many believe, there is something left of New Orleans today.

No. 2: Marie Laveau Headwashing Ceremony

Commemorating the time of year most preferred by Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau for her workings, this ceremony takes place on June 23rd, traditionally St. John’s Eve and an important date in many cultures. During her lifetime Mambo Marie Laveau hosted her voodoo “bamboulas” to coincide with this date; these always took place along the waterway known as Bayou St. John in New Orleans. To honor both the tradition and the great Voodoo Queen herself, Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman and La Source Ancienne Ounfo host a midsummer headwashing ritual each year on the same waterway favored by Marie Laveau. This ritual, performed for the benefit of devotees and members of the public alike, is a celebration of the season of fullness and plenty. As with other rituals, Marie Laveau, honored as a powerful ancestral Lwa in her own right, is invoked by the Mambo to join in the festivities. A ritual headwashing takes place and all are invited to share in the powerful “ashe” or energy that is invoked from the presence of Marie Laveau and that is passed, through the Mambo, to each devotee. Hypnotic ritual drumming accompanies the ritual and after headwashing is complete devotees dance long into the sapphire night. Offerings for Marie Laveau are appropriate and these include white candles, white scented flowers, hair dressing items such as combs, brushes, ribbons and clips (Marie Laveau was a hairdresser by trade), foods such as fried pork and coconut cake, cigars, Florida Water, and, of course, rum. Mambo Sallie Ann repeats her waterside ritual in the lobby of the International House Hotel in New Orleans each June 24th, St. John’s Day.

No. 3: Bianca’s Midnight Blessing of the Monkey and Cock Statues

Modern day Voodoo Queen Bianca reigns over New Orleans Voodoo in direct line from Marie Laveau, recognized as the original queen. Each year, sometimes twice a year, Queen Bianca will host a ritual in which the Monkey and Cock Statues created in honor of Marie Laveau are blessed and charged. In this ritual, which always takes place outdoors in a highly secret location, Queen Bianca will invoke the spirit of Marie Laveau, becoming possessed by the powerful Voodoo Queen. Through Bianca, her modern day counterpart, Marie Laveau is able to be present with her devotees and personally blesses the Monkey and Cock Statues. The highly secret vodusi of Queen Bianca’s Sosyete present the living, channeled Marie Laveau with the first Monkey and Cock Statue of each year as an offering; other offerings preferred by Marie Laveau, including those detailed above, are also presented and accepted by Laveau through the powerful Queen Bianca. The first Monkey and Cock statue remains with the powerful Mambo throughout the year until the time of the next ritual when it is ceremoniously broken in favor of another. This ritual is said to take place once each year, usually around April 30th or May 1st; often, however, Queen Bianca and her vodusi will repeat the ritual in the fall of the year, coinciding with harvest festivals and Samhain rituals. As stated, the location for each ritual is a closely guarded secret and is only shared with members of the Sosyete at the very last minute, when they are called to assemble. This is one of the most powerful examples of continuing devotion to the great Marie Laveau surviving in New Orleans today.

No. 4: Day of the Dead Ritual

Voodoo rituals commemorating the ancestors and sacred dead coincide with the timing of other such rituals the world over. The Day of the Dead rituals observed by the practitioners of vodoun, however, tend to be the least public and least accessible of all voodoo rituals. Generally, these rituals are celebrated on or about the 1st of November, a date that coincides with the Catholic observance of All Saints’ Day. Sometimes, however, the vodoun rituals will begin one to two days prior to this holy day. Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman traditionally hosts a Day of the Dead (or, Dia de los Muertos) ritual in which she honors the ancestors (the family Lwas) and the powerful Lwas who advocate for the dead as they cross the dark waters of the Great Abyss. Paramount in these celebrations is the honoring of Gede, the great Lwa of death and regeneration. Gede, and his family of Gueddes, as well as Manmam Brigit, his wife, all hold prominent roles in voodoo commemoration of the dead. Offerings to Gede or Manmam Brigit are appropriate on this occasion; these include black and purple candles, sunglasses with one eye missing (to acknowledge Gede’s ability to see in both worlds – living and dead), cigars and cigarettes, rum, spicy pork, bones, graveyard stones and dirt, crosses, black jewels, and raw cotton. Devotees are often invited to participate in the Day of the Dead Voodoo Rituals by bringing photographs or other items that commemorate their deceased loved ones and by participating in a ritual “Dumb Supper” under the direction of the Mambo or priestess.

No. 5: Blessing of the Mississippi River

This ritual is held each year around the beginning of May to commemorate the great Mississippi River, a force of life and commerce in Louisiana and the surrounding region. The powerful Rada Lwa Yemaya, also called Oshun in the Santeria religion and Mami Wata to the Dahomey, is the force invoked in this traditional ritual. The Mambo stands at the river side and, following invocation of the water spirit, will propitiate her with offerings such as sea shells, sweet cakes, red wine, and fresh fruits such as mangoes and pomegranate. The offerings are ritually “fed” to the river to honor the Lwa and to seek her blessing for a profitable and healthy year.

No. 6: Blessing of the Cemeteries.

This ritual usually takes place in the dark month of November. After the Day of the Dead celebrations, there are specific rituals designed to invoke the powerful Lwas who protect the Cities of the Dead; these Lwas include Manmam Brigit, again, but also the powerful Santeria spirit Oya who dances about the tombs and guards the entrance to graveyards. The ritual is a procession through the cemetery with offerings left at significant crossways and tombs as indicated by the Mambo. This will ensure the safety and sanctity of this last resting place and will honor the powerful protectress who guards the sleeping dead. Offerings to Oya include deep purple eggplants, orange and purple candles, pumpkins and squash (cooked or raw), rum and whiskey, cowrie shells and cigars.

No. 7: Crime Protection Ritual

This voodoo ritual, held in to honor and ask protection of the powerful Lwa Ogun La Flambo, is held at least once a year, but will be held more frequently if there is need. Designed to seek the intervention of Ogun in stopping the spread of violent crime and in keeping the hearth and home safe, the ritual is a powerful reminder that devotees of vodoun seldom go unrewarded. Entire neighborhoods have been offered for protection from Ogun, who is syncretized with St. George and is often depicted on horseback, carrying a spear. Invoked by the Mambo, Ogun is a powerful advocate; he is appeased with offerings that include 151 proof rum, iron nails, cauldrons, horse shoes and farming implements, and machetes that have been painted or marked with his veve. Ogun is said to leave no request unanswered and those who put their house under his protection have nothing to fear.

No. 8: Voodoo Wedding Ceremony

Voodoo weddings are growing in popularity in New Orleans and couples have come from as far away as Canada and Australia to be joined in one of the most meaningful rituals in all vodoun. Priestesses and priests who perform the rituals insist that the couple approach the union soberly, meaning having meditated not only on the meaning of the union but on the which of the powerful Lwas will most closely associate with the newly-married. Usually, the priestess is closely involved in this process, guiding the couple and interpreting the signs from spirit. Voodoo weddings seem to bring extreme joy to Erzulie Freda, the Rada Lwa of True Love, and she always seems to respond to wedding invocations. La Sirene, another aspect of Erzulie, also likes to lend blessings to wedding unions, and Gede likes to show up because there’s a party involved, but also because his role as the Lwa of regeneration is important to the process of starting new life together. Once the couple has achieved this awareness, the priestess will guide them and invoke not only the Lwas but also the ancestors for blessings on the union and the couple’s new life. Similar to pagan handfastings, Voodoo weddings invite the couple to revel in the joy of togetherness by jumping over the ritual broom; the broom is then presented to the couple as their first wedding gift, to be displayed in a place of honor in the new home. Gris-gris bags containing appropriate herbs and object links, such as hair or fingernails, from the couple, are created and consecrated; these are also presented to the couple. Invoking the Gran Zombi is another voodoo wedding ritual: Gran Zombi, the snake, represents the great creator spirit of the Universe and is invoked to bless the union. The couple joins hands and the snake is placed over their arms to ritually coil upon them and bind them together in spirit. Voodoo weddings, with their significant ancient rituals, drumming trance dances, and wide-open connection to the spirit realm are occasions for great celebration among vodusi and devotees; this is part of their growing popularity among people from all walks of life. The voodoo wedding is definitely a different experience from a traditional church wedding with wedding bands and flowers. Whatever ceremony you choose the exchange of women's and mens wedding bands is still a powerful symbol for married couples.

No. 9: Blessing of the Mardi Gras.

This unique ritual is generally held at or around midnight of Lundi Gras, or the Monday prior to Fat Tuesday in New Orleans. In this festive ritual the blessing of all the Lwas and ancestors is asked for a happy and safe Mardi Gras day. Usually performed separately by each sosyete or Ounfo, drumming and colorful clothing distinguish this ritual from others of more serious intent. Gede again finds honor in this ritual, as he is the patron of the unexpected, but there are other trickster spirits honored and called upon as well, and these vary with the whim of the Mambo each year. All in all this is a ritual designed to bless the party and direct that a good time will be had by all. Offerings include a mix of New Orleans delicacies including gumbo, red beans and rice, and the real Food of Mardi Gras, the King Cake! Often, necklaces of little King Cake babies are made throughout the previous year to be offered to the Lwas at this festive time. So far, they have never failed to reward the faithful as a good time is had by all!

No. 10: Bianca’s Annual Drumming Ritual

The highly secret Sosyete of Bianca the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans conducts regular drumming rituals in secret locations throughout the New Orleans area. In the face of Hurricane Katrina, Bianca and her vodusi undertook a marathon drumming ritual, maintaining it through the very worst of the hurricane’s fury. Even the winds and floodwaters of Katrina could not drown out the drums, and in the end, despite the devastation, the storm turned and spared New Orleans it’s very worst. Under normal circumstances, that is pre-Katrina, Queen Bianca regularly called her Sosyete together, usually around the middle of August, for an annual ceremony to propitiate the Lwas and the ancestors, thanking them for their unceasing attention to the faithful. These drumming rituals are the direct descendants of the “bamboula” that Marie Laveau hosted during her reign as Queen of Voodoo, and, in fact, Queen Bianca still refers to the ritual by that popular name today. With the displacement of many members of her ultra-secret sect, it will be some time before Queen Bianca will host another “bamboula;” but she asked that the drumming rituals continue to take place in absentia until the Sosyete is once again reunited in its New Orleans home.

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