Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 22

18 Populär Culture Review and its developing ties to and incorporation o f hoodoo, “a form o f African American folk magic that operates independent o f the gods” (Anderson, Hoodoo 42). According to New Orleans’ folklore, this biending o f Voodoo and hoodoo saw its heyday during the reign o f New O rleans’ most famous Voodoo queen Marie Laveau (1801-1881) and lead to the term “New Orleans Voodoo Hoodoo.” Despite the whites’ disapproval and skepticism, in 1817, the New Orleans Municipal Council passed a law that allowed slaves to gather on Sundays at Congo Square, the present Louis Armstrong Park. This given freedom for the slaves encouraged and attracted more and more white onlookers. According to Voodoo priestess Ava Kay Jones, the white scrutiny, however, soon tum ed into performance pieces, emphasizing drumming and music rather than the presentation o f religious rituals (see Jones, Voodoo online). In this respect it is surprising to find out that in 1820, the local newspaper, the Louisiana Gazette, reports o f several arrests o f black (and later white) people for holding occult practices and the idolatrous worship o f an African deity called Vaudoo (see Louisiana Gazette). In his book New Orleans As It Was (1895), Henry Castellanos, one o f the city’s most prominent citizens in the late nineteenth Century, relates similar scenarios o f arrests especially in the 1860s, a time when more and more white people “were identified as attending a Voodoo ceremony” and seeking help from Marie Laveau (Castellanos 14). The eventual inhibition o f these assemblies in public spaces led to nightly gatherings in remote locations as for example at the St. John Bayou. As a result, folkloric accounts “o f Voodoo orgies and o f whites being possessed by spirits” developed (Jones, Voodoo online). This fictionalized almost gothic-like setting trenched in secrecy and looming danger has fueled the imagination o f Hollywood’s moviemakers ever since, and is apparent in Alan Parker’s visualization o f the midnight Voodoo ceremony in the heart o f the swamps. Ancestor Worship In addition to the worship o f the ancestral and spiritual world during Voodoo ceremonies, Voodoo followers also build ancestor altars either at their temples or homes (see Picture 1).