We’ve all heard about voodoo, of course. It crops up in movies, usually involves zombies, and is all the rage in New Orleans. Right?
Denise Alvarado makes it clear that there’s a lot more behind this rich and intriguing tradition, and she’s in a position to know. She is a medicine woman in the Native American tradition, a cultural anthropologist, and she was raised in the Voodoo and Hoodoo culture of New Orleans. “Contrary to popular belief, Voodoo is first and foremost about healing,” she writes, which fairly well demolishes the stereotype of curse-casting, pin-sticking psychopaths.
New Orleans-style Voodoo is considerably more complex than you may have imagined, and like the city, it is unique. The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook leads off with a well-sourced history of Voodoo’s evolution in Louisiana, from the arrival of African influence in the early 18th century through the Creole influence of the 19th century and on into the all-American commercialization of the practices in the 20th century. Along the way, Voodoo has incorporated Native American rituals, Catholic beliefs, and even European folk magic.
The heart of Voodoo lies with “spirit forces” known as Loas. These are not gods but more like liaisons between humans and their deities of choice. Similar in some respects to angels or saints, the Loas are not to be used like servants but must also be served and respected. Alvarado includes a good bit of information about some of the primary Loas, their histories, fields of influence, and tips about how to win their favor. Alvarado also provides us with a partial list of the 10,000 plus Catholic saints that play a part in Voodoo, many of whom have corresponding Loas and purposes.
But you probably just want to know how to cast a spell. Don’t worry— The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook is appropriately titled, for it does contain well over 100 pages of information about herb magic, gemstones, color magic, candle magic, magical ink and oils … and yes, spells. Whether you want to banish evil, attract love, draw prophetic dreams, or enjoy an easy life, Alvarado’s got you covered. She even includes a recipe for Marie Laveau’s Floor Wash for Business Success.
It’s rare to find a book that addresses such a topic in a scholarly manner while still showing respect for folk traditions. Alvarado, as mentioned, straddles both worlds and is therefore able to write about Voodoo with both an academic and experiential slant. The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook is a tome that I recommend for anyone interested in folk healing, magic and mysticism, or cultural studies.