In nearly every corner of the planet, no city is more associated with Mardi Gras than New Orleans. Indeed, the extravagant annual festival is viewed by many as the pinnacle of everything a celebration should be – parades, music, masquerades and general debauchery which can only be stopped by the threat of wartime (and once due to a police protest in 1979). The celebration has continued strong since 1703, in which a small plot of land 60 miles south of what is now ‘Nola was named “Pointe Du Mardi Gras” by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, a Canadian explorer. But we at Paranormal Supplies would be remiss if we didn’t discuss the more… esoteric side of the festival.
When most hear the term “Voodoo”, it’s understandable that they may think of some of the more outlandish aspects of the religion. Snake symbolism, zombies, mysterious men adorned in top hats and corpse paint – All very much aspects, but not quite to the extent that one might assume. In truth, Voodoo is a fusion between ancient African tribal practices and Catholic doctrine. Slaves brought to the area, though forced by their owners to give up their ancestral religions outright and convert to Christianity, found parallels within the Catholic saints and the animism present in their traditions, eventually merging the two. In addition, Native American tribes and New Orleans slaves displayed marked intermingling, and thus some of their practices were incorporated into the budding religion known as Voodoo (not to be confused with Hoodoo, which is related though not the same, and most certainly a thing.)
In Voodoo practice, veneration of one’s ancestors and the dead are powerful tenants, and post-emancipation practitioners took it very seriously during Mardi Gras festivities. Many chose to honor their Native American allies by hand-crafting elaborate “Indian” costumes from beads and feathers, as well as highly-structured “Tribes” with varying roles such as Flag Boy, Spy Boy, and Queen (if you’ve ever heard the song “Iko Iko” by the Dixie Cups, yes, that’s what it’s about). These traditions still exist today, though some (if not most) who participate don’t practice voodoo. Really, the Mardi Gras Indians are one of the most instantly recognizable and beautiful aspects of New Orleans Mardi Gras, and a vibrant piece of the puzzle that is New Orleans culture.