Old Man River:  History Along the MississippiApril 19-November 2, 2003

Legends and Spirits


Bald eagle and alligator crossing sign
The Upper vs. The Lower Mississippi
voodoo exhibit section
VOODOO ALTAR that was compiled especially for this exhibit by Priestess Miriam, and on loan from:
~ The Voodoo Spiritual Temple of New Orleans, New Orleans LA
"The ancient Mysteries uncoil and call to all those who would listen."
- Louis Martinie, Waters of Return: The Aeonic Flow of Voodoo

Based on the West African beliefs and herbal healing brought to the Caribbean and America by black slaves, the Vodun religion, or voodoo, is practiced by an estimated 50 million people worldwide. Shrouded behind myth and superstition, many people still link voodoo to black magic and sorcery.

While this is a misconception, these notions are based partly on exotic rituals and historical experimentation with toxic substances. Today, voodoo works toward releasing the untapped spiritual and mental powers lying hidden in everyone.

A voodoo altar represents the crossroad between reality and the spirit world. Altars can include a wide variety of materials from fabric and metal charms to skulls, beads, and statuettes. Candles, herbs, plant material, oils and incense are utilized for their healing properties and to combine negative and positive forces toward meditation and spiritual development. Some of the more familiar voodoo representations include:

Voodoo dolls - Once used to curse an enemy, voodoo dolls today represent distinct themes of good luck and good fortune. Pins in the doll can act as tools to focus healing energy into different areas of the body, or to dispel bad habits.
Ju-ju - Blessed objects are used for protection from evil and negativity. Among these talismans are skulls, spirit bottles, and wall hangings.
Gris-gris bags (pronounced "gree-gree") - Derived from the French word for gray, "gris-gris" combines black (negative) and white (positive) forces. Herbs and oils placed in small bags are blessed by a voodoo priest or priestess for a special purpose, such as a love charm.
Mojo bags - Negative forces are utilized to balance positive forces. Negative substances could include powdered ochre, cayenne pepper, fingernail clippings, human hair, animal skins, and chicken bones.
Ceremonial drum - Loa are believed to reside in ceremonial drumbeats that relay spiritual insights and good fortune. Loa (meaning "the mysteries" or "the invisibles") are spirits that can act as intermediaries between the Creator and the human world.
Snakes - The power of lightning is represented by snakes and serpentine symbols, and signify the wise and powerful African deities known as "Dumballah."
African Bone Readings - Divining tools are used in spiritual readings to bring insight and look into the future. The voodoo priest or priestess "throws the bones," reading the future according to the bones' position in relation to each other. The bones symbolize human characters, the family, and the positive or negative forces influencing their lives. Red stones represent negative forces of the underworld. Brown stones represent wisdom and perception.

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Did you know … ?
In the early 1800s, Haitian slaves experimented with poisonous herbs and toxic animal parts to taint the food prepared for their French masters, causing paralysis in the nervous system which led to "zombie" tales of horror.

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This section "Legends and Spirits" has the following related pages:

Continue through exhibit

2 men in a canoe
Early Exploration and Development
River Days
view of Bellview, Iowa
Riverfront Property
Civil War enenactors
Man vs. Man

Bald eagle and conservation officer
Man vs. Nature
jazz musician
The Arts Along the River
You are here!New Orleans graveyard
Legends and Spirits
View Selected Artifacts
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