Sacred devotion or shameless promotion? : modern Voodoo in New Orleans

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2013-05

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Voodoo has become a marketing tool for New Orleans. The city is inundated with Voodoo shops and curios and businesses and sports teams that incorporate Voodoo in their names. Visitors to New Orleans believe having a reading with a Voodoo practitioner is an authentic experience of an important aspect of the city’s culture and history. Today, while Voodoo is still all over New Orleans, it faces many challenges. Most of the cultural understandings about Voodoo are incorrect. People forget that Voodoo is an actual religion. They often see it as a sinister system of spells and magic used for nefarious purposes, which relies on the aid of evil spirits. The truth is, Voodoo is an old religion, still practiced today that includes, but doesn’t consist wholly, of esoteric elements. Practitioners don’t seek to do harm, but to help. Most Voodoo rituals held in New Orleans today are performed in order to petition the spirits to protect the city from social and environmental forces that threaten it. There’s also an ongoing debate about what “authentic” Voodoo consists of. Some believe that Voodoo is ancestral, that it’s in your blood and you can’t convert to it. Therefore, they believe, white practitioners are misguided at best and con-artists at worst. Others maintain that Voodoo is fluid, evolving religion and it can be whatever a person wants it to be. They believe that anyone who is sincere can connect with the spirits and seek their help.

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