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Hurricane Protection Ritual
As a Manbo, Ms. Sallie Ann Glassman has led her Haunted Bywater neighborhood in community Vodoun rituals to fight crime and to ask for protection from hurricanes.
by A. Pustanio Photos by Ricardo Pustanio

 

 

Ms. Sallie Ann Glassman's lived in New Orleans for over 25 years and owns the Voodoo shop, Island of Salvation Botanica in the Bywater Neighborhood. She is a Voodoo mambo, or priestess, and received her initiation in Haiti.

So far, the Voodoo, or something, has worked. The city has never taken a direct hit from a category 4 or 5 hurricane.

But at this time of year, when public officials hold conferences about the threat and the local news media raise the issues in print and on TV, it's not something she will spend a lot of time being concerned about.

"I always just give it up to Danto and try not to worry about it," she said. "Worry is a pretty useless emotion. This will be the year, or it won't. It's up to her."
This is the Seventh Year that the Hurricane Protection Ceremony was performed In the center of the Street at her New Orleans, Bywater, Piety Street botanica.
Author of Vodou Visions, Sallie Ann Glassman

This Voudou ritual, is specifically designed to summon the protection of the spirit world against the devastating hurricanes that often plough in from the Gulf of Mexico, it is dedicated to the Catholic Lady of Prompt Succor and to Ezili Danto, the Vodoun Loa of Storms and Passion.

Manbo Sallie Ann Glassman begins each ritual with a description of the powers of each intercessor describing how, in years past, the Catholic priests of local churches adjacent to the Mississippi River would bring out a blessed statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor to literally face down the threatening hurricane and turn it in its path, keeping the city safe.

Ezili Danto, on the other hand, is delighted by storms and the mayhem they can cause, however, if she is appeased with offerings and ritual, she will divert the storm's fury and protect those who acknowledge her power .Neither intercessor should be taken lightly, says Manbo Sallie Ann, and especially if Danto is called it is wise to leave her offerings in thanks for her appearance and her continued protection.

The crowds of 80 plus gathered this night at the corner of Piety and Burgundy streets, With them they have brought a hodgepodge of significant offerings: white candles and flowers for the Holy Mother, and to adorn her Vodou Altar, red candles and brightly dressed dolls for Danto. Nearly everyone has donned the appropriate white and red colors.

Manbo Sallie Ann and her devotees begin the ceremony by calling first upon Ellegua, or Papa Legba as he is affectionately called in the old Kreyol, to meet them at the crossroads between the worlds and to open the way that they may celebrate and honor the intercessors in both the physical and spirit worlds. A mock battle between the emissaries of the spirit world and the Manbo ends in the Mambo's victory and for a brief time she becomes the bridge between the worlds.

Once this is achieved Manbo Sallie Ann makes offerings to the spirits and the intercessors, while her devotees sing and drum up the power of Vodoun. Soon all begin to sway and respond to the call of "Ayibobo!" which roughly means "Amen!" in the old Kreyol tongue. Offerings are presented to the intercessors by all the Manbo's devotees and then the audience is asked to come forward with their personal offerings. These are placed upon the altars while the drummers continue to the drum up the power of the two worlds.

Following this, Manbo Sallie Ann bends down to the ground where she begins to draw in corn meal the intricate and powerful "veve" -- the otherworldly symbol that in this world is the mirror of the power of the spirit world. As she draws, pinching out the corn meal, her devotees will sing and circulate bottles of blessed water in which the audience is invited to wash their hands.

Once the veve is drawn the ceremony begins in earnest to summon the intercessors to accept the offerings and bless the devotees.

This is the part that nearly everyone associates with voodoo ceremonies, where devotees and unsuspecting spectators alike become possessed by the power of the spirit world and begin to whirl and gyrate to the maddening drums. This night, several people succumb to the power of the Lwa's, dancing wildly and collapsing into the arms of friends nearby .Pigeons are released, set free to call to the spirit intercessors to come down from the lofty heights and join the passion of their servants. And this hot July night in the Bywater of Old New Orleans is no exception.

The ceremony concludes with a "cool down" period of gentle drumming and friendly conversation as amazed spectators disperse into little cells to talk or assemble to meet the Mambo herself.

Manbo Sallie Ann has performed this ceremony each July for the last seven years and in all that time New Orleans has been spared the devastation of a major storm. Although in September of 1998 the city came close to being overrun by hurricane Georges, and was even evacuated because of the certainty of the storm's course, at the last moment Georges turned away from New Orleans and ploughed into the nearby Mississippi Gulf Coast instead.

When asked if she thinks Our Lady of Prompt Succor or Ezili Danto had anything to do with this, Manbo only smiles.

Anyone who has experienced the passion and zeal of this Vodoun Hurricane Protection rite would have no doubt whatsoever that there's something to it. Mambo Sallie Ann's next scheduled event is a ritual ceremony on El Dia de los Muertos to honor the dead and the souls of those departed ancestors we would like to recall.This event is by reservation only. For more information, please contact Manbo Sallie Ann Glassman at Island of Salvation Botanica. Her Website address is http://www.feyvodou.com/

<<Click here to read a review of Vodou Visions by Jane Wichers>>

Manbo Sallie Ann Glassman begins each ritual with a description of the powers of each intercessor describing how, in years past, the Catholic priests of local churches adjacent to the Mississippi River would bring out a blessed statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor to literally face down the threatening hurricane and turn it in its path, keeping the city safe.

Once this is achieved Manbo Sallie Ann makes offerings to the spirits and the intercessors, while her devotees sing and drum up the power of Vodoun. Soon all begin to sway and respond to the call of "Ayibobo!" which roughly means "Amen!" in the old Kreyol tongue. Offerings are presented to the intercessors by all the Manbo's devotees and then the audience is asked to come forward with their personal offerings. These are placed upon the altars while the drummers continue to the drum up the power of the two worlds.

Heat and humidity rise visibly steaming from the pavement on Piety Street where Voodoo priestess Manbo Sallie Ann Glassman calls out her neighbors in the Bywater district to pray once again for nature's mercy.

Manbo Sallie Ann bends down to the ground where she begins to draw in corn meal the intricate and powerful "veve" -- the otherworldly symbol that in this world is the mirror of the power of the spirit world. As she draws, pinching out the corn meal, her devotees will sing and circulate bottles of blessed water in which the audience is invited to wash their hands.

  But at this time of year, when public officials hold conferences about the threat and the local news media raise the issues in print and on TV, it's not something she will spend a lot of time being concerned about.

This is the part that nearly everyone associates with voodoo ceremonies, where devotees and unsuspecting spectators alike become possessed by the power of the spirit world and begin to whirl and gyrate to the maddening drums. This night, several people succumb to the power of the Lwa's, dancing wildly and collapsing into the arms of friends nearby.

Offerings are presented to the intercessors by all the Manbo's devotees and then the audience is asked to come forward with their personal offerings. These are placed upon the altars while the drummers continue to the drum up the power of the two worlds.

 Vodoun Devotees in an offering to the spirit of Ezili Danto, the black Madonna.

This Voudou Hurricane Protection Ritual, is specifically designed to summon the protection of the spirit world against the devastating hurricanes that often plough in from the Gulf of Mexico, it is dedicated to the Catholic Lady of Prompt Succor and to Ezili Danto, the Vodoun Lwa of Storms and Passion. On the third Saturday in July every year, Ms. Glassman stands in front of her shop on Piety Street, her temple, and hurls fried pork skins and rum into the air in an offering to the spirit of Ezili Danto, the black Madonna.

 

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