When Hurricane Katrina broke the levees of New Orleans and flooded 85% 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.
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.
Voodoo Priestess Sallie Ann Glassman performs a ceremony at Bayou St. John (photo by Alfonso Bresciani):
Voodoo Priestess Miriam Chamani performs a ceremony at the Voodoo Spiritual Temple:Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.