When visiting New Orleans, it is easy to assume that Voodoo, as practiced by the likes of the nineteenth-century “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans” Marie Laveau, is alive and well, as evidenced by the Voodoo-inspired tourist shops, merchandise, and art that are ubiquitous in the French Quarter. Such is not quite the case. Following more than a century of suppression, the religion that throve into the late nineteenth century was struggling to survive by the 1940s and may have ceased to exist as a living faith shortly thereafter. While some scholars have suggested that the African American Spiritual churches of New Orleans are modern manifestations of Voodoo, these congregations lack key features of the historical Voodoo religion and have but a tenuous connection with it. The city’s current practitioners of Voodoo, meanwhile, tend to be initiates of Haitian Vodou or West African Vodun. Ultimately, Lower Mississippi River Valley Voodoo, both in New Orleans and elsewhere, is best understood as a historical religion rather than a living tradition. Contemporary practitioners of “New Orleans Voodoo” are constructing an emerging religion from elements of African diasporic belief in a city deeply imbued with a legacy of Voodoo.

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