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Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is the high point of
Carnival followed by the quiet of Ash Wednesday.
It is good to remember that Carnival literally
means "Farewell to Flesh" (Carnis= LATIN:
"flesh" and vale= LATIN: "farewell").
Carnival is a celebration of great excess. It
is a time when the flesh and all of the material
pleasures that it apprehends are set ablaze in
the passion of the moment. The fat, so to speak,
is in the fire and one is left with the ashes
Opinions can differ about Voodoo and Hoodoo but
basically, Voodoo can be defined as an organized
religion combining elements of African Vodun and
Roman Catholicism. Hoodoo on the other hand is
folkloric magic comprised of handed-down traditions
practiced primarily in Louisiana, sometimes referred
to as 'New Orleans- own brand or style' Voodoo.
New Orleans has made a rousing comeback from Hurricane
Katrina, and Mardi Gras has once again returned,
complete with jazz music, beads and gleaming gold,
purple and green parades.
Many ethnic Yoruba were taken as slaves to Cuba,
the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Venezuela
and the rest of the New World (chiefly in the
19th century, after the empire collapsed and the
region plunged into civil war), and carried their
religious beliefs with them. These concepts were
combined with preexisting African-based cults,
Christianity, Native American mythology, and Kardecist
Spiritism into various New Orleans lineages.
In New Orleans, the spirits of deceased ancestors
are carefully protected through common rituals
such as jazz funerals, featuring brassy bands
and a 'second line' of parades in top hats and
Beads and Voodoo Dolls
A Krewe Captains' Mardi Gras Voodoo Doll Ball
favor are one of the many items and tokens seen
at Carnival time. Are they real voodoo are just
a special gift curio? The truth is in the believing.
Many seek out Voodoo beads and T- shirts with
a Voodoo flavor when visiting each year the Big
Santería (Cuba), Oyotunji (USA), Candomblé
(Brazil), , Umbanda (Brazil) , Batuque (Brazil)
, Lukumí (Cuba). The popularly known Vodun,
or Voodoo Hoodoo religion particular of New Orleans
was founded by slaves from a different ethnic
group, but shares many elements with the Yoruba-derived
religions above. Marie Laveau in New Orleans 1800's
took these many forms and rolled them into one
type and branded it eternally as New Orleans own
Voodoo Hoodoo style.
or Voodoo Loa has their own colors and beads
play an import part in their followers signs
and beliefs and recognition. Prized over
the years were glass beads from Czechoslovakia.
These beads often have found their way into
voodoo practice in New Orleans possibly
because of their shear abundance and the
power from their excitement that is generated.
Many of the store bought curio Voodoo dolls
and high end Voodoo dolls have actual Mardi
Gras Beads on them caught at Parades. the
reason is this is indicative to the power
of the season and the good fun intentions
of the Krewes that throw them.
Also a common Voodoo belief that each pair
you catch is a reward from the Lwas and
a sign of things to come depending on the
traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple
(symbolic of justice), green (symbolic of
faith) and gold (symbolic of power).
The accepted story behind the original selection
of these colors originates from 1872 when the
Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia visited New
Orleans. It is said that the Grand Duke came to
the city in pursuit of an actress named Lydia
Thompson. During his stay, he was given the honor
of selecting the official Mardi Gras colors by
the Krewe of Rex...thus, did these colors also
become the colors of the House of Romanoff. The
1892 Rex Parade theme ("Symbolism of Colors")
first gave meaning to the representation of the
official Mardi Gras colors. Interestingly, the
colors of Mardi Gras influenced the choice of
school colors for the Louisiana arch-rival colleges,
Louisiana State University and Tulane University.
When LSU was deciding on its colors, the stores
in New Orleans had stocked-up on fabrics of purple,
green and gold for the upcoming Mardi Gras Season.
LSU, opting for purple and gold, bought a large
quantity of the available cloth. Tulane purchased
much of the only remaining color...green (Tulane's
colors are green and white).
Orleans Real Voodoo Dolls
New Orleans Artist, Sallie Ann Glassman
who is a Voodoo Priestess, Connie Born,
and Krewe Of Mid City float designer Ricardo
Pustanio and others all artfully capture
the real spirit of New Orleans in their
fantastic and exciting Mardi Gras Voodoo
dolls creations. These dolls are fashioned
of carefully selected fabrics and original
designs each unique to the artist. They
are often dressed in skirts and necklaces
made of real Mardi Gras beads. Each one-of-a-kind
doll represents New Orleans' richly diverse
and fascinating culture and these artist
are the most sough after dolls to purchase.
Crossed roads play an important part of Hoodoo
at Mardi Gras. They are said that this is where
the spirits gather to watch the living. Many locals
place their own statues of Ellegua on street corners
on Mardi Gras Day so they can see the people go
by and gain great strength from the energy and
excitement that is in the air.
In addition, author Ed Morales has claimed that
Yoruba mythology played a part in early American
blues music, citing blues guitarist Robert Johnson's
Cross Road Blues as a "thinly veiled reference
to Eleggua, the orisha in charge of the crossroads."
Voodoo And King Cake
A King Cake is ring-shaped and, besides the dried
lima bean which designates the King (who must
make the cake the following year), contains amulets
and fortune-telling trinkets.The special cake
served on this night is the galette des rois.
It is thin and round and is cut into pieces, always
one more piece than there are guests, and carried
into the room covered with a white napkin. The
youngest member of the party gets to distribute
the pieces. So goes the tradition usually at normal
and Voodoo get together's across the city.
In some New Orleans voodoo communities, engagements
are announced on Epiphany. The remaining bachelors
and spinsters are then paired off by lot (reminiscent
of Valentine's Day).
Three King's Voodoo
This holiday is celebrated only in New Orleans.
Small King Cakes flavored with orange rinds, vanilla,
raisins, and sugar are eaten. These Voodoo King
cakes are thought to heal the sick, enable you
see Voodoo spirits, and promote fertility, and
speak with the dead.” One tradition in New
Orleans was to search for Secret New Orleans'
Voodoo Cemetery Gates Of Guinee, The Portal To
The Afterworld. Bringing a piece of King Cake
with you as an offering. The dead love sweets,
and even more so they love King Cake in New Orleans.
The exact location
of the haunted cemetery gates isn't really ever
told to outsiders of the Secret Societies. New
Orleans Tour Guides and Haunted Cemetery or
ghost tours will skirt around the issue, or
just look at you like they don't know what your
talking about, so never mention it (seriously).
They say just to talk about the accursed cemetery
gates spells doom to those that ask or search
for it or speak of it openly to anyone. Those
who know feel it is inviting them , "The
Ghede" to take you away. Only someone pure
of heart with only one burning question to be
answered by the dead is ever told the whole
truth. A unnamed New Orleans Voodoo priestess
says quite bluntly, search and you shall find
them rusted shut, or worse they will certainly
find you and be wide and opened.
is a very wise man for his knowledge is an accumulation
of the knowledge of all the deceased. He stands
on the center of all the roads that lead to
Guinee, the afterworld. To find these mysterious
gates in the city of New Orleans might take
a little detective work. Some Locals say if
their open when you find them... beware! If
you then enter you will never return to the
find these gates, they say is to find the way
to communicate openly with the dead. And not
just the spirits of those that have died in
New Orleans. Local Voodoo followers of Marie
Laveaus' Secret Society profess that anyone
can come to these gates of Guinee if you can
Speak the name of the deceased you wish to speak
to aloud five times through the bars, and they
will come and speak to you from the other side.
One real warning though, if the rusted shut
heavy gate opens do not enter. For you will
be one of the living trapped in the world of
the dead forever. If you arrive and the Guinee
gates are open turn and walk away crossing yourself
three times as fast as you can and don't look
In New Orleans
voodoo-religion, Guinee is the legendary place
of origin and abode of the voodoo gods. It is
here that the souls of the deceased go after
their death. On their way to Guinee, they first
have to pass the eternal crossroads which is
guarded by Ghede.
" Although one is pure of thoughts and
in heart, searches for the gates of the truly
dead. You never know when the winter winds
(November) blow, If the cursed gates are searching
for you too."
"If you enter the gates backwards
you might have a small chance, to flee with
your life all intact. But if your motives
are untrue then the living death calls your
name , then there is nothing you can do."
Attributed to Madame Marie
Laveau, 1800's New Orleans
is represented as an undertaker, dressed completely
in black wearing dark glasses. His followers
disguise themselves as corpses and they dance
the Banda Mardi Gras Day. Other members of his
retinue are Baron la Croix (Baron of the Cross)
is the mystical Baron responsible for the reclamation
of souls, and Baron Cemetière a spirit
of the dead. And they say he loves nothing more
then a slice of King Cake left for him at any
Twelfth Night Voodoo King Cake is usually a
rich and dense coffee cake which contains both
a bean and pea. The man who finds the bean is
the King, the woman who finds the Pea is the Queen.
But if a woman finds the bean, she can choose
the King, while the man who finds the pea can
choose the Queen. The royal pair then direct the
rest of the Voodoo company in merriment. They
assign the revelers ludicrous tasks or require
them to behave in ways that are contrary to their
In New Orleans, every action of the royal pair
is commented upon and imitated with mock ceremony
by the entire group.
Les Rois (The Kings)
Voudon twelfth night celebration of the twelve
days of Christmas is the official end of the winter
holiday season and one of the traditional days
for taking down the Christmas decorations. In
southern and western Louisiana, Voodoo revelers
gathered in Sugar Cane fields where they sing
to the earth, drink to their health, poured hot
cider over their roots, left cider-soaked toast
in their branches for the birds and scared away
evil spirits with a great shout and the beating
of drums and dance. they also have been known
to burn their Christmas tress this night.
Mardi Gras arrived in North America with the
LeMoyne brothers, Iberville and Bienville, in
the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent
the pair to defend France's claim on the territory
of Louisiana, which included Alabama, Mississippi,
The explorers eventually found the mouth of the
Mississippi River, sailed a while upstream and
named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras
Point). The traditional Catholic celebration ensued
leading to what many refer to as North America's
first Mardi Gras; thus, the French province of
Louisiana has the claim to the first Mardi Gras;
Mobile would become the official capital of the
Province in 1704.
Carnival celebrations became an annual event
highlighted by lavish balls and masked spectacles.
Some were small, private parties with select guest
lists, while others were raucous, public affairs.
Voodoo Societies incorporated these traditions
into their cerimonies. The older Voodoo societies
of New Orleans which are secret groups still uphold
these traditions. And the more open Voodoo shops
and contemporary societies are virtually unaware
of the practices, Rituals and get together's that
are going on in the city. " You have to be
a member of one of these groups," says Bianca
the Voodoo Queen. "The public and those not
part of these groups are not involved." "
The rituals are all very sacred and secret and
the vibe of outsiders is not accepted."
Mardi Gras Beads And Voodoo Spells
Special Mardi Gras Voodoo spirit Bottles papier-mâchéd
or voodoo dolls which symbolize happiness, strength
of will and stubbornness to succeed. Are always
purchased usually on Mardi Gras Day. They are
special ones made just for the season and bought
without eyes; an eye is then painted on when a
wish is made, and a second eye painted on when
the wish comes true.
Lent, when flesh may not be eaten, immediately
follows Carnival. On Shrove Tuesday, New Orleans
Voodooist ‘shrive’ (confess) their
sins and might eat pancakes to use up the last
of the eggs and butter before the fast of Lent
… which is why the French called it Mardi
Gras: Fat Tuesday. The first egg you cooked that
morning, boiled, fried, scrambles over easy ...
etc., is set aside and brought to church with
you when you get ashes put on your forehead and
then to the cemetery the following day and placed
on a grave to feed the dead.
Another Mardi Gras Voodoo custom is to incorporate
beads into homemade voodoo dolls that you have
caught from a parade. Some say the energy from
these are very powerful.
Mardi Gras divination using a onion to find out
the name of a future husband the names of possible
candidates were written on onions which were left
on or near the church altar on Mardi Gras Day,
then planted, the first onion to sprout indicated
who it was to be.
If you're lucky you can still find a Voodoo fortune
teller or wise woman ( at home Mardi Gras day
who is not out at the parades), where you can
divine your future from a bowl of mashed potatoes
to scrambled eggs. Various charms are hidden in
the potatoes or eggs and everyone given a spoonful.
Your future depends on the charm you find in your
serving a coin denotes great wealth, a button
batchelordom for another yea, ring marriage before
the next year is done– just be careful you
don't swallow it!.
A slightly more sophisticated way of predicting
the future was done by a local "wise woman"
who would crack an egg white into a glass of beer
and "read" the signs from the settlement
of the egg. But you have to drink down the mixture
when your done so that the future will stay as
Epiphany, the oldest festival on the Christian
Church calendar, is a national holiday in at least
15 nations. Celebrations generally are related
The name derives from the Greek word meaning
appearance of a god. It commemorates the visit
of the Magi, or Three Wise Men, to the baby Jesus
in the stable in Bethlehem, and also His baptism
as an adult. Because of the latter, many customs
today have watery associations, such as the blessing
of fishing fleets in harbors around the world.
The spectacular parade countdown to Fat Tuesday
begins the Friday twelve days before Ash Wednesday.
Here the nearly sixty parades will stir an inimitable
mix of royal ritual, teasing bead and bauble giveaways,
liberal libations, mask fantasy and joyful excitement
until the people's collective soul rises extravagantly
on New Orleans Mardi Gras Day to reaffirm its
tremendous appetite for the pleasures of life.
Phunny Phorty Phellows humble start March 5th,
1878. The modern organization was revived in 1981
by a small group of friends and Mardi Gras enthusiasts.
It has continued without interruption to the present
New Orleans voodooist celebrate January 6th,
as Les Rois (the kings) and many turn out along
the parades route to catch the first beads of
the season. Many locals believe that if a young
girl or guy takes those beads to a Mambo or Hougan
and has them so blessed that the person they desire
only needs to see them wearing them and they will
fall in love with them forever. These are believed
to be the strongest when it comes to using them
in a spell or hex for they are the first official
parade of the season on a high New Orleans Voodoo
Day celebration. The custom and practice has been
said to date back to when throws were first introduced
at Mardi Gras and very much more glass beads were
a prized possession and hard to come by.
The Phunny Phorty Phellows paraded with the
Krewe of Clones from 1981 until 1986. In 1982
we also began a tradition of riding the streetcar
line (in a streetcar) and proclaiming the arrival
of the Carnival season on Twelfth Night. That
is the night when the new Boss and Queen are chosen
by the traditional King Cake method as well as
the occasion of the sumptuous Coronation Ball.
A “Carnival Countdown” take place
right before the Phellows board the streetcar.
Comus, New Orleans’ first
Mardi Gras krewe, was so successful with its parade
and ball that a group of enthusiastic, Carnival-struck
Orleanians decided it was time to increase the
enjoyment of the celebration by forming a second
Carnival krewe. The name chosen was Twelfth Night
Revelers, representing 12 days after Christmas
(also known as Little Christmas), Jan. 6, the
official starting day of the Carnival season.
Just as Comus added new wrinkles to the Mardi
Gras festivities, the new krewe had a few innovations
of its own to add. On the evening of Jan. 6, 1870,
the Twelfth Night Revelers opened the Carnival
season with a nine-float parade that was equal
in splendor and pageantry to the previous Comus
parades. Following the nine floats, many maskers
followed on foot, dressed in the colorful costumes
of Europe, Asia, Africa and America. The leader
of the Twelfth Night Revelers, called the Lord
of Misrule. In New Orleans, the Twelfth Night
Revelers, an organization that officially opens
the Carnival season, presents a tableau ball each
BUDDY STAL, Clarion Hearld, New
Feb. 3, 2000
In the past the three great New Orleans waters,
Lake Ponchartrain, Bayou St. John, and The Mississippi
River were all said to have been blessed personally
by Marie Marie Laveau. A grand Voodoo solemn procession
was made to the banks of all three. There, a gold
cross was thrown into the dark cold waters, while
doves are released overhead. This to bring back
life to the chilled dead water. Some say the tradition
is still carried on by a small select group and
have witnessed their procession and actual rituals.
On Lake Ponchartrain, the ritual differs slightly,
this the traditional date of the Baptism of Christ
was commemorated in the water-related ceremony
of the Blessing of the Waters. When the Voodoo
Queen conducted the rites, which were held to
bring bounty and safety to the fishing community
for the year ahead all along the bayou and to
all who worked on the water.
Mardi Gras Dates
The date of Mardi Gras can vary from February
3 to March 9 in non-leap years or February 4 to
March 9 in leap years. Like Lent, the date is
dependent on that of Easter.
Mardi Gras falls on the following dates in the
2007 – February 20
2008 – February 5
2009 – February 24
2010 – February 16
2011 – March 8
2012 – February 21
2013 – February 12
2014 – March 4
The 19th Century
The century began with the great war general and
ruler of France, Napoleon Bonapart regaining the
rights to Louisiana from Spain but an official
transfer never took place. Soon President Thomas
Jefferson successfully negotiated the sale of
the entire Louisiana Territories from France in
1803. At this time, the city consisted of just
the 1300 structures in the French quarter and
about 8,000 inhabitants over half of whom were
Nowhere else in North America were blacks accorded
the freedom to dance and drum in a public environment
of their own choosing. Authorities would eventually
try to restrict the cultural practices to the
most popular spot, Place des Négres or
Congo Square. Correspondingly, the attention helped
make the spot internationally famous and numerous
accounts exist of the Sunday afternoon glory of
music, motion, and fancy dress.
Following a major
influx of 10,000 settlers from French Haiti and
other islands of the Caribbean, Louisiana became
a US state in 1812. Nevertheless, it was not until
1827 that the right to party in mask was restored.
In 1823, the visiting Protestant minister Flint
recorded this description of Negro Carnival.
Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau
"The great Congo-dance is performed. Everything
is license and revelry. Some hundreds of negroes,
male and female, follow the king of the wake....All
the characters that follow him, of leading estimation,
have their peculiar dress, and their own contortions.
They dance, and their streamers fly, and the bells
that they have hung about them tinkle. Never will
you see gayer countenances, demonstrations of
more forgetfulness of the past and the future,
and more entire abandonment to the joyous existence
of the present moment.
For some time, the only refined Carnival festivities
open to the wealthy northerners were the Quadroon
Balls which were revived after the departure of
the Spaniards. French Creole society arranged
marriages for economic and social reasons and
it was at these Balls that gentlemen might select
well educated mistresses whose lighter skin was
supposed to mean their ancestry was less than
one quarter black. The revelry and lively atmosphere
of these balls was legendary and considered by
many the highlight of the carnival season.
About 1900, it was reported that the favorite
disguise of blacks on Mardi Gras day was the Indian
warrior. Musically, the Indians rhythms and melodies
were West African and quite similar to certain
popular Afro-Caribbean Carnival celebrations of
Cuba, Haiti and Trinidad. The visually dramatic
Indian costumes could be said to demonstrate solidarity
and mixed blood with the oppressed native culture
of their new homeland. Yet the paraders were mostly
paying homage to their own ancient African identity
and deep festival arts traditions. The flamboyant
costumes had been inspired by the popular Wild
West shows while the expressed impulses for renewal,
freedom, and reversal of the established order
were vintage carnival.
The unique local Mardi Gras organizations known
as Krewes were fostered by these various strong
cultures who tended to form mutual aid societies
devoted to promote the general improvement in
their member lives. While the first women carnival
club event was staged in 1896 by the "Les
Mysterieuses" ladies, all-women Mardi Gras
parades are a rarity amongst the Krewes organized
around traditional values of family, community
and social status. The main event for krewes is
their annual Ball which often stars members daughters
as debutantes and the Queen and the older male
members who help their King perform the ceremonies
as Dukes. Traditional Mardi Gras Balls are strictly
private containing long standing rituals whose
mystery would be diluted by outsiders.
Who do Mardi Gras Hoodoo?
Mardi Gras, as a mystical observance, is particularly
sacred to the Barons and to the Marassa. Mardi
Gras is a point on which first and last things
embraced. Many come to new orleans in search of
Mardi Gras Voodoo Dolls and Voodoo Mardi Gras
Doll Necklaces and a bit of magic .
Courir Le Mardi Gras (The Devil). The Voodoo
Tarot of New Orleans is a deck rich in primal
Capture both the spirit and the imagery
of Voodoo's African, West Indian, and
Catholic influences. Ancient and earth-honoring,
Voodoo's practices take on different forms
specific to time and place, but its essence
remains focused on the loa--the potent
spiritual forces of Voodoo that are manifested
directly through human beings and their
draw strong parallels between the Waite
and Thoth Tarots, the Kabalistic Tree of
Life, and the Voodoo tradition as it is
practiced in New Orleans. Just as the major
and minor arcana of the Tarot represent
the archetypes of the human psyche and the
natural forces of our world, so do the loa
of Voodoo embody the primal energies of
the universe. With a variety of spreads
and readings, the authors show how the Tarot
can be an idea channel through which the
loa exercise their powers to teach, advise,
and initiate the serious student into their
The New Orleans Voodoo Tarot (Destiny
Books S.) (Hardcover) by Louis Martinié,
Sallie Ann Glassman
Le Grande Zombi is the Great Snake of New Orleans
Voodoo. The god of snake-like things is a very
old creation. It belongs to no other family but
to Lissa-Mawu itself. It is a very important servant.
In the days the earth was being created it carried
Lissa-Mawu about in its mouth. When they rested
it left its excrement which we call 'mountains'.
It is important because it was creation so very
early in the sequence of creation outlined above,
and it is the link between all aspects of the
universe as we know it. It binds all the levels
together. If for no other reason it is wise to
respect it because it is the trusted servant of
a most powerful creation god.
To quote a follower of the religion:
"Da(nh) is powerful. We have no love for
him. He gives and he takes away. He is a thief.
One is never done with being anxious about placating
him, for he does not forgive readily, as Legba
Danh is a vodun who gives life its visible properties:
movement, flexibility, sinuousness, fortune (good
than bad; bad then good). It manifests itself
as a serpent, as the rainbow, as an umbiicus,
as plant roots, as the nerves of animals, as gas
coming out of mountains. It is the cord that leads
from the Olurun through all the parts of the universe
as created. It was why mammals are animated at
birth with the cord. It is why if plants have
their roots severed they die, as they lose connection
with the spirit world. In a mature organism, humankind
in particular, it is a volatile Fortune, either
a confident, assertive conqueror or an bitter
lackey. At death it is the thin stream of material
which comes out of the top of the head, floating
upward, taking a sinuous shape, holding vast sinister
power capable of destroying mountains, or killing
In his memoir Under a Hoodoo Moon: The Life
of Dr. John the Night Tripper (St. Martin's
Press), Mac Rebennack says that his mother was
"cool" although she was always, "pushing
me to be with society-type people. One year she
finagled to get me into a kids' Mardi Gras ball.
She did me up a costume, a little prince's outfit
or some such thing: I was getting into the get-up,
but when she hit me with a wig I freaked. I hollered,
threw the wig across the room and refused to wear
it; she had to do a lot of calming me down before
I let her put it back on."
But mama, who had a business making hoop skirts
for girls and women who attended Carnival balls,
would seem to have triumphed in the long run.
In fashioning his conjureman Dr. John persona
in the late 1960s, Rebennack took to wearing elaborate
headdresses and plumes, and necklaces of bones
One woman, Sadie Hayes, made me a suit of alligator,
snake and lizard skin with chamois in between
to hook it all up.," he recalls in his book.
"When I put on that uniform, I looked like
Frankenstein coming down the street. When this
stuff started coming apart in pieces, I had to
start hanging around taxidermy shops big time,
scavenging new material to help put things back
And on the cover
of his 1992 album Goin' Back to New Orleans, the
originator of the anthem "Mardi Gras Day"
is resplendently attired in a Mardi Gras Indian
HooDoo" explains Ishmael Reed in Shrovetide
in Old New Orleans, "might be called Vodoun,
streamlined. In New Orleans it's all over town,
invisible to all but the trained eye. Faced with
curious and sometimes comical suppression by the
police, it never went underground; it merely put
on a mask". As Reed makes clear in this illuminating
discussion of the voodoo ritual pervading Mardi
Gras, the principal mask behind which blacks perform
in this orgiastic, white celebration is that of
Flambeaux (Keepers of
and his followers wear this trickster's
mask when blacks mimic the white parade
led by King Rex, and what begins as an outrageous
white caricature of a slave society with
black victims "adopting the oppressor's
parody of themselves" ends in the masked
comic rebellion of the hoodoo trickster.
"While you're laughing at us,"
comments Reed, pointing out how the black
trickster appears to accept the roles demanded
by white authority only to reverse them
through disguised mockery, "we're laughing
with you but the joke's on you".
Flambeaux originated a century and a half
ago to light the floats in night parades.
Indeed, the first Flambeaux carriers were
slaves and free men of color, that held
lights which lit the way for the floats
and night parades before there were electric
street lamps able to gather light in such
focus that it would enable crowds on the
routes to adequately see the style and fancy,
of the parades. Many Voodoo's believe the
carriers are possessed by Orunmila.
The torch bearers were originally slaves of the
wealthy owners who were able to finance any parades
that the town held. Free men of color, mostly
Creoles, came into the game after the civil war,
when, holding slaves became unlawful. Nowadays,
most floats at night are all self-lighted, and
the flambeaux carriers that survive are more fun,
than functional. It has become controversial to
carry the torches these days in New Orleans. Each
year the once favored tradition is set upon by
those who want it to go away, because of its heritage
and the deeper meaning held by those who understand
the long history from the African-American side.
Soon this tradition, right or wrong, will leave
Celebration fires for Orunmila
New Orleans voodoo once wore scary masks on
Mardi Gras Day and and burn bon fires on Lundi
Gras Night and danced in the streets to frighten
winter away was a great part of the Voodoo New
Orleans tradition. Orunmila is an Orisha (Orisa),
and deity of prophecy. He is recognized as "ibi
keji Olodumare" (second only to Olodumare
(God)) and "eliri ipin" (witness to
creation). Orunmila is also sometimes referred
to as Ifa ("ee-FAH"), which is actually
the embodiment of knowledge and wisdom and the
highest form of divination practice among the
Yoruba people. Although Orunmila is not actually
Ifa, the close association exists, because he
is the one who leads the priesthood of Ifa. Priests
of Ifa are called babalawo (father of secrets)
or Iyanifa (female Ifa priest). His feast is Celebrated
on January 6th and celebrated all the way until
Mardi Gras Day in some New Orleans Voodoo Hoodoo
Societies. The ritual to him is that of lighting
a torch to chase away winters cold chill. This
ritual many Voodsi believe translates to the New
Orleans Parade tradition of the Flambeaux.
The Yoruba god of prophecy. He is the eldest
son of Obatala, and instructed him on how to create
The Flambeaux is one of the oldest traditions
of Mardi Gras. The very first Mardi Gras Krewe,
Comus was lit by the flambeaux in 1857. They normally
carry kerosene containers mounted on sticks.
Orleans Certain Voodoo Societies, Orunmila
is recognized as a deified Ancestor that
was present both at the beginning of Creation
and then again amongst them as a prophet
that taught an advanced form of spiritual
knowledge and ethics.
He is the enlightenment bringer by New
Orleans Voodoo standards and shows the illuminated
things which we all must see and not ignore.
Many symbolize him as a black Flambeaux
carrier dressed in white.
You'll see some parade-watchers, throwing coins
to the carriers, rewarding them for their Banda
style gyrations. This tradition of throwing quarters,
dates back to when the only compensation for the
task was thrown by the crowds in appreciation,
not only for the light that they provided, but
the show some would put on to keep the parade
interesting. But those not in touch with Voodoo
never saw the significance of what they were doing.
Still today many Voodoo Practioners actually
give small gris-gris bags or Voodoo dolls to them
to carry along a parade route with them believing
that the energy from the thousands of people will
strengthen their personal luck or magic. One New
Orleans voodoo has often spoken on how many of
the Flambeauxs become actually possessed while
marching to the drums in many of the parades.
"Just look at their eyes and you'll see the
spirit mounted them and has taken them over their
actions." " Some call it Mardi Gras
Madness, but's it's really real Voodoo Lwas at
play." Says Armando a Bourbons Street Voodoo
Priest. "The public is usually unaware of
these Ghede that have taken over the bodies of
the many Flambeaux."
Parades that continue to use flambeaux include:
Hermes, Babylon, Pegasus, Bacchus, Sparta and,
to a lesser extent traditionally, Endymion, D'Etat.
Mardi Gras Gris Gris... "Gris-Gris"
itself is a New Orleans term for Voodoo, Mardi
Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday") is the
day before Ash Wednesday also called "Shrove
Tuesday" or "Pancake Day". It is
the final day of Carnival and Romance languages:IPA:
[karnaval]). It is a celebration that is held
just before the beginning of the Christian liturgical
season of Lent. The feast should not be confused
with the Swedish Fettisdagen (Fat Tuesday) or
the Polish Tlusty Czwartek (which translates to
Each year Priestess Miriam Chamani has a Mardi
Gras Ritual. Mardi Gras at the NEW ORLEANS VOODOO
SPIRITUAL TEMPLE is a time when the fever and
fashion of Carnival mix with the ferver and faith
of the Temple's voodoosants. The combination is
often an estatic marriage of ritual and revelry.
Excess is the key. Ritual robes and costumes blend...of
the two of us, my drum was the better dressed
wearing a full skirt of human hair for these particular
photographs. Would my drum have consented to wear
such a skirt during other rituals of the Years
Cycle?....no, the drum has refused the skirt numerous
times...it would have been a bit overdone...but,
during Mardi Gras it is almost impossible to overdo
Priestess Miriam had a sense of
mysterious forces around her ever since her childhood.
She became consciously active in spiritual studies
and began practicing in 1975. Though born and
raised in Mississippi, she studied her spiritual
and occult work in Chicago, Illinois. She was
ordained as a Bishop after many years of preaching
the ministry at the "Angel Angel All Nations
Spiritual Church" in Chicago. Her husband
Oswan Chamani was born in Belize, Central America.
There he studied Voodoo (called Obeah in Central
America) under three different teachers of which
two were African Diviners. His courses consisted
of of going into the jungle to learn about trees,
roots, plants and shrubs pertaining to his practice.
He learned how to handle snakes and how to cure
snake bites as well as other kinds of maladies.
Perhaps the cities most famous for their Mardi
Gras celebrations include New Orleans, Rio de
Janeiro, Venice, Bahia, and Mazatlán. Many
other places have important Mardi Gras celebrations
as well. The carnival is an important celebration
in most of Europe, and in many parts of Latin
America and the Caribbean.
New Orleans Mardi Gras is particularly well-known,
often called "the greatest free show on earth".
The celebrations draw many tourists to the city
in addition to the celebrating locals for the
parties and parades. Most tourists can be found
within the French Quarter, especially Bourbon
Mardi Gras came to New Orleans with the earliest
French settlers. New Orleans developed new traditions,
including Krewes such as the Krewe du Vieux, the
Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, and the famous
Rex parade, in addition to Mardi Gras Indians
and king cake parties.
There are as many as 60 Krewes that have parades
in the greater New Orleans area. Officially, the
Mardi Gras season, more properly called Carnival,
starts at the end of the twelfth day of Christmas.
Most parades, balls and other festivities occur
on weeknights and weekends in the 2-week period
before Mardi Gras Day. Though each parade is unique,
there are certain common ingredients: 1) either
a King or Queen who reigns over the parade, picked
from the Krewe membership; 2) gaily colored floats,
ridden by Krewe members, who throw various items,
including bead necklaces (beads), doubloons with
the Krewe emblem and often, that year's parade's
theme, and assorted other fun items; 3) marching
bands, usually from high schools and universities,
but often other invited guest bands.
Particularly since the inception of the larger
parade organizations (sometimes called "super
krewes") such as Bacchus and Endymion, it
has become fashionable to invite Hollywood and
other celebrities to act as Grand Marshals for
New Roads, Louisiana hosts the state's oldest
Mardi Gras celebration outside New Orleans. This
historic and charming Creole town of 5,500, located
35 minutes northwest of Baton Rouge on False River,
attracts as many as 75,000 people each Shrove
Tuesday for a family-friendly celebration. The
Community Center Carnival Club parade, founded
in 1922 and Louisiana's oldest outside New Orleans,
rolls at 11 a.m. The New Roads Lions Carnival
parade, founded in 1941 and which is staged as
a charitable fundraiser, rolls at 1:30 p.m. Each
parade consists of 25-30 floats built fresh each
year, eight-ten marching bands and drill units
and tons of trinket "throws" including
beads, cups and small toys. Unlike the exclusiveness
of formal krewes, New Roads' parade particiaption
is open to the public, with schools, churches,
clubs, businesses and families building and riding
Lafayette, Louisiana is home to a large Mardi
Gras celebration which attracts about 250,000
parade-goers for seven parades during the Carnival
season. An annual event since 1934, it is generally
a family-oriented event lacking the perceived
decadence of its New Orleans cousin. Lafayette
is geographically the heart of Cajun Country,
and as such draws Cajuns and Creoles from all
of the surrounding area to participate in Mardi
Gras festivities. Hollywood celebrities have served
as Grand Marshals. Visitors enjoy the Cajun hospitality
and cuisine. Lafayette's population is approximately
90% Catholic which contributes to the popularity
of Mardi Gras.
Elsewhere in Louisiana
Mardi Gras is a legal holiday in Louisiana. Other
places in the New Orleans metropolitan area also
have celebrations; notably the suburbs of Metairie,
La Place and Chalmette has large parades. Without
the restrictions on commercial sponsorship of
parades seen in Orleans Parish, there is much
advertising and trademark placements on the parades
in Metairie. Metairie parades also tend to be
more family-oriented, and even include a children's
Houma, Louisiana hosts a significant Mardi Gras
celebration of nine parades which draw about 70,000
spectators each year. Mardi Gras has been observed
annually in Houma since 1947. Nearby Thibodaux,
Louisiana has celebrated Mardi Gras since 1954.
There, the Carnival calendar includes five parades.
Many other cities and towns throughout southern
Louisiana have Mardi Gras parades in the weeks
leading up to Shrove Tuesday and some also on
that day. These communities include Golden Meadow,
Lockport, Grand Isle, Morgan City, Berwick, Patterson,
Jeanerette, Grand Marais, New Iberia, St. Martinville,
Franklin, Sunset, Opelousas, Baton Rouge, Port
Allen, Addis, Livonia and Maringouin. .
In parts of the Cajun country of southwestern
Louisiana, the traditional Courir du Mardi Gras
(French - Running of the Mardi Gras) is still
run, sometimes by maskers on horseback led by
"Le Capitaine" who gather ingredients
for making the communal meal (usually a gumbo).
The townspeople will gather in costume and move
from home to home requesting ingredients for the
night's meal. The requested homeowner may comply
with their wishes, usually by giving some form
of vegetable or live animal, such as a chicken
or pig, to the members of the run. The homeowner
will often release the animal and make the runners
catch it. In many cases, if the homeowner refuses
to give an ingredient, the runners will steal
one. These Courir can be witnessed in Church Point,
Louisiana, Eunice, Mamou, Louisiana, Ville Platte,
and Elton, Louisiana. The costumes used in these
events are often homemade, employing sheets, paints,
and frequently masks of wire mesh, as well as
traditional conical hats known as capuchons.
There are also Mardi Gras parades in Northern
Louisiana in Shreveport, Louisiana by the Krewe
of Centaur and the Krewe of Gemini and in Monroe
and West Monroe by the Krewe of Janus. Lake Charles,
in southwest Louisiana, hosts a Krewe of Krewes
parade, which is the second largest parade in
the state. It also hosts parades for children
and even pets. Alexandria also celebrates with
parades and days of celebration.
Mardi Gras is one of the exceptions to the Louisiana
law against wearing hoods and masks in public,
the other two being Halloween and religious beliefs.