New Orleans Voodoo: Before and After Hurricane Katrina - Pacific Standard

New Orleans Voodoo: Before and After Hurricane Katrina

Practitioners of different voodoo traditions are coming together to form new communities after the hurricane devastated their numbers.
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New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: pisaphotography/Shutterstock)

New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: pisaphotography/Shutterstock)

When Hurricane Katrina broke the levees of New Orleans and flooded 85 percent of the city, 100,000 people were left homeless. Disproportionately, these were the poor and black residents of New Orleans. This same population faced more hurdles to returning than their wealthier and whiter counterparts thanks to the effects of poverty, but also choices made by policymakers and politicians—some would say made deliberately—that reduced the black population of the city.

Prior to the storm, celebrations and ceremonies were race segregated and those who adhered to Haitian- and New Orleans-style voodoo kept their distance.

With them went many of the practitioners of voodoo, a faith with its origins in the merging of West African belief systems and Catholicism. At Newsweek, Stacey Anderson writes that locals claim that the voodoo community was 2,500 to 3,000 people strong before Katrina, but after that number was reduced to around 300.

The result has been a bridging of different voodoo traditions and communities. Prior to the storm, celebrations and ceremonies were race segregated and those who adhered to Haitian- and New Orleans-style voodoo kept their distance. After the storm, with their numbers decimated, they could no longer sustain the in-groups and out-groups they once had. Voodoo practitioners forged bonds across prior divides.

This post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site, as “New Orleans Voodoo: Before and After Hurricane Katrina.”

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