The Louisiana Crawfish Boil Experience

1. When is crawfish season?
  • You’ll see them as early as December, and they hit their peak around March-April and disappear come July
  • New Orleans has four seasons: Mardi Gras (winter), crawfish (spring), snowballs (summer), football (fall)
  • When it’s festival season, it’s usually a great time for crawfish
2. In New Orleans they don’t call them crayfish, crawdads or mudbugs: they’re crawfish.
3. Breaux Bridge, La. is the “crawfish capital of the world.”
4. What to throw in the boil:
  • 4-5 pounds crawfish per person
  • Basic — garlic, boil seasoning, lemon halves, celery
  • Classic – add red potatoes, corn, sausage, artichokes
  • Classic redux – add sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, pineapple, pork chops
  • Asian-Cajun – add orange wedges, lemongrass stalks 
  • You’ll also need…
  • Newspaper = makeshift table clothes
  • Plastic trays
  • Rolls of paper towels
  • Dipping sauce for potatoes
  • Traditionally lots of beer
5. Random tips/facts:
  • Don’t eat the straight ones
  • Look for the rare blue crawfish and less rare white crawfish
  • Make crawfish étouffée with leftover tails (if you have any), spicy potato salad with leftover potatoes, or a garlic mash to spread on bread with the leftover garlic
  • Don’t forget to get some meat from the claws!

The Casket Girls of New Orleans

What exactly are casket girls? The filles à la cassette (“women with suitcases”) traveled to French colonies in America. They arrived in the New World with a trunk, or cassette, containing their belongings. The word “cassette” morphed into “casquette” over time, and that translaed to “casket”. History recorded these women as “casket” girls. The filles à la cassette were some of the original “mothers” of New Orleans. Here’s their story.

Legends:

“Caskets” conjure up images quite different from a suitcase of dresses and petticoats these woman were known to carry on the long voyage to New Orleans. These suitcases were relatively small, so that the women could carry them without assistance. Many of the photos of “original” cassettes stretch this concept, literally, so that the suitcases appear to be large enough to carry a body.

By the time the storytellers told the tale of these women, their suitcases took on a new perspective. Why did young women bring “caskets” to the new world? Did their luggage contain more than petticoats? Paranormal Fiction writers love old New Orleans. The city’s mix of Catholicism and voudon set in a location influenced by Africans, French, Spanish, British, and Asian is nirvana for writers. It’s natural for writers to run with this and tell vampire tales.

Most of the vampire-themed stories centering on the filles focus on two things: the caskets and the convent. Perhaps one of the most interesting legends relating to vampires are the stories about the third floor of the 1751 convent building. The legend is that the third floor was sealed off. The windows were permanently shuttered. While some stories say those shutters were nailed down with nails blessed by a pope, Pope John Paul II was the first pontiff to visit New Orleans in 1987. One might assume these nails were brought to Rome for blessing, then shipped across the Atlantic. In spite of the holes in the stories, many are still fun to read. Don’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Old Ursuline Convent to decide for yourself. In the meantime, here’s a little history about the casket girls.

History of the casket girls:

The founders of New Orleans were explorers, trappers, and traders who established encampments along the lower part of the Mississippi River.  The French established three main outposts along the Gulf Coast: Mobile, Biloxi, and later, New Orleans. Because the early explorers were mostly male, Catholic priests in the region became concerned that, without wives, the future of Christian evangelism in the French territory was at risk. They turned to bishops and mayors of French port cities, who gladly agreed to empty their jails and brothels. This was essentially “transportation” of “undesirable” women.

These women did not make good domestic partners for the colonial men. The priests sought an alternative plan. They asked King Louis IV for assistance. The King tasked the Bishop of Québec with appealing to convents and orphanages in France. They sought out young women who they could contract to come to the colonies. The bishop’s expectation was that virtuous women from the convents to be good candidates for marriage. The “casket girls” were contracted to be wives of men in the colonies.

Most of the Casket Girls didn’t see much of their spouses. French women used to working in convents and orphanages now took charge of households. The men of the colony in the 1720s-1730s were fur trappers and traders. The trappers spent long periods away from home, collecting the merchandise they sold for export. The traders took manufactured goods from Europe to the farms, plantations, and outposts for sale.

The climate of the colony also required a good bit of adjustment for these women. The weather was hot and the clothing they brought from France was likely wrong for the climate. They adapted to the city as they established households and raised children.

Source: https://gonola.com

Sakpata: Vodun of Earth

When Mawu was dividing the world between her children, Sakpata was given dominion over the earth, at the displeasure of his sister Sogbo. Sakpata came down from heaven with plants, crops, tools, and skills that humans could use for development. Because he had taken so much with him, he did not have space for other necessary elements like water and fire, which were stolen later.

Humans were excited when Sakpata descended from the heavens with these tools of wealth. There was a lot of promise in them, and they hoped they would see their lives improve. Legba, Sakpata’s youngest sibling, told Sogbo, who was given control of the skies, to withhold rain in the sky. Knowing that their mother noticed, Legba went to Mawu and told her water would not be enough for everyone on earth, including the plants. Alarmed, Mawu ordered Legba to tell Sogbo to withhold the rains, which he had already done.

Sakpata soon realized that his crops needed rain, but none came. A drought ensued that caused everything to become dry and brittle. Humans began getting angry with Sakpata. They harassed him and cursed him for lying to them about the prosperity and convenience he had promised. Legba came down and found his brother in a messy state. That was when he told Sakpata he would talk to Mawu on his behalf. He told Sakpata to watch for a messenger, wututu bird, who would say to him what to do when the time came. When the bird returned, it told Sakpata to instruct the others to light a great fire, so the smoke could rise to heaven, signaling their distress.

Because it was so dry, everything caught fire very quickly, and the fire leaped into the sky. When Legba saw, he went to Mawu and told her that the earth was burning and the fire was so high and powerful it might spread to the heavens. Alarmed, Mawu told Legaba to order Sogbo to release the rain. The rain put out the flames and returned fertility to the land. It was decided that although Sogbo controlled the sky, people can call for rain when needed.

What does this story reveal? In this context, it describes the role and power of the spirit of the earth, Sakpata. Sakpata is not the Vodun of Agriculture or fertility, but he is the god of progress and elevating society. When the spirit comes to rule over men, he brings them the tools of trade, crops they can domesticate, and abilities such as woodworking and carpentry skills. These are ways in which this spirit facilitates that mission of progress and growth by equipping humans with the capabilities to prosper, the right tools, and the right environment to do so.

Source: Vodun. Monique Joiner Siedlak

Xevioso: Vodun of Thunder

Xevioso is the god or lord of thunder. A god of thunder is one of the most common in cultures around the world. In Yoruba’s version, he is considered the strongest. He represents wrath, aggression, and punishment. In other words, Xevioso is understood as primarily a spirit of explosive, uncontrollable emotion like anger, violence, and tremendous power. This is a double-edged sword as he can protect those who honor him, but if they offend him in any way, he will likely turn on them.

This is the spirit you turn to when you are looking for justice. Still, anger is usually a sign that something isn’t as it should be, or there has been a violation of some agreement or law.

In most cases, spirits host and govern over the earth, and there is a set of agreements we have towards one another: a type of an unspoken agreement. We go into the world having agreed on a particular set of rules like not stealing from or hurting each other, and so forth. And when someone steals from us, we feel violated, and we have a right to be angry about it, even more so if we know they are getting away with it. Your anger is a sign that someone is not playing by the rules, an injustice has been done. Given this, it is not illogical to suggest that exercising your anger would restore justice and, therefore, balance the world. In other words, Xevioso is the protector and dispenser of justice. Through his acts, he enforces and keeps relations between the gods in check and us. It is not senseless, aimless, unexplainable anger, or fury. Although we may not understand it sometimes, it adds up on a cosmic scale.

Source: Vodun. Monique Joiner Siedlak

Prayer to Marie Laveau

PRAYER TO MARIE LAVEAU

Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, hear my prayer.
I humbly request your assistance.
Through you I feel the gentle power of Divine Justice.
Give me strength to stand against my enemies and protect me from those who wish me harm,

Sweet Heart of Marie, Show me your wisdom
That I shall speak the truth and elevate the Ancestors
Madame Marie, Bless me with the protection of Johnny Conker
That he shall always have my back.

Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, Bless me with the powers of the Sacred Serpent Li Grand Zombi
That I may walk in balance, equally male and female.
Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, Bless me with the spirit of St. Maroon

That I shall never take for granted the freedoms that I have.
And with the light that emanates from your Spirit, Madame Laveaux, all darkness is Obsolete.

Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, pray for me.
Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, hear my plea.
Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, Madame Marie, pray for me. Ashe!

Source: The Magic of Marie Laveau

Food Through Culture: Mulatto Rice

The dynamic duos of rice and beans and peas and rice have their roots in the Akan, Aja, Yoruba and Igbo kitchens in Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria and Gabon. When Africans arrived in the Americas, they continued cultivating these crops, so rice and beans dishes can be found throughout the African diaspora: red beans and rice; Hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas and rice); black beans and rice; and pigeon peas and rice. The popularity of these dishes as staples and special occasion foods continued after the abolition of slavery.

In the seventeenth century, West Africans from Cape Verde to the Gold Coast cultivated large amounts of rice. They grew so much rice, in fact, that they became known as the people of the Rice Coast. White rice planters in the South sought out West Africans for purchase as slaves because of their knowledge of rice cultivation. These West Africans brought their methods of cooking long-grain rice with them to the colonial South. The African cook made her greatest culinary mark on areas like Savannah, where blacks outnumbered Europeans. Mulatto rice is evidence of diasporic links between Africa and several regions of the Americas. Zora Neale Hurston begins and concludes her classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God with rice and bean dishes. While Janie tells her friend Phoebe about how her grandmother escaped from slavery in Savannah and migrated first to Atlanta and then to West Florida, Janie is enjoying a plate of mulatto rice. “Mah mulatto rice ain’t so good dis time. Not enough bacon grease, but Ah reckon it’ll kill hungry,” says Phoebe. “Ah’ll tell you in a minute,” Janie says, lifting the cover off the plate. “Gal, it’s too good. You switches a mean fanny round in a kitchen.”

Mulatto Rice Recipe

6 strips bacon
½ cup onions, minced
2 cups water
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1 cup rice

Fry bacon in a pan then remove the bacon and brown a minced onion in the bacon grease. Next, add diced tomatoes. After it is hot, add a pint of rice to the mixture, and cook slowly until the rice is done.

Source: Zora Neale Hurston on Florida Food: Recipes, Remedies and Simple Pleasures

Reconstruction Act of 1867

As the Civil War drew to a close how to treat those states that had left the Union was a significant challenge. President Lincoln had a forgiving attitude and believed that the states never actually left the Union, and thus believed that all the states needed to do was accept the 13th amendment outlawing slavery. They then had to a elect new local governments and send their representatives to Washington. When Lincoln was assassinated Vice President Johnson took over. As the only Senator from the South to remain loyal during the Civil War he was not totally trusted by the Northerns. Johnson continued Lincoln’s policies towards the Southern states, but without Lincolns prestige, Johnson was opposed by the Republicans in the Congress. Johnson’s task was made harder by the actions of the Southern States in passing “Black Codes”- laws that put restrictions on the freed slaves.

The Republicans in the Congress who became known as the Radical Republicans never accepted Lincoln approach and believed that it was up to the legislative branch to allow states to fully return to the Union. In 1867 they passed the Reconstruction Act that assigned the military of the role of organizing local government, making sure that ex slaves received the full right to vote, and denied the right to vote to supporters of the confederacy. The South was divided into five military districts and the goal of the military was to ensure that African Americans were able to vote. The military oversaw the election process, and were responsible to make sure that all people holding office had taken an oath to the United States. Under the act for a state to be readmitted to the Union it had to approve the 14th amendment guaranteeing all men the right to vote.

President Johnson opposed the Reconstruction Act and vetoed it. His veto was easily overridden by Congress and became law. New governments were elected in the South and they included many African Americans.

The Myth of Marie Laveau, Part I

“Marie Laveau was a negress of café au lait tint, handsome in face, commanding in figure, and of remarkable intellect and force of character. She masqueraded as a hairdresser, thus learning the secrets of many a proud old New Orleans family. In helping sweethearts to secret meetings and forwarding clandestine correspondences, she had no equal and cared not whether the men and women she aided were old in coquetry and vice or young and innocent.”

~ Richmond Daily Palladium, 1900

James Edward Oglethorpe and the Founding of Georgia

James Edward Oglethorpe was born on December 22, 1696 in London England. He was one of ten children born to Eleanor and Theophilus Oglethorpe. James had a comfortable childhood, since his father owned land in different parts of England. The political nature of James Oglethorpe’s family had great influence on him. In 1698, Theophilus, James’ father, was elected to the House of Commons. While not much is know about Oglethorpe’s childhood, it is known that beginning in 1714 he was admitted to Corpus Christi College at Oxford University. Oglethorpe soon dropped out of school and joined the English military. He had a very successful campaign against the Turks. He returned to school after, but never graduated. Even though in 1731 Corpus Christi College awarded him an M.A. In 1722, Oglethorpe followed his father’s footsteps and was elected House of Commons where he focused on the domestic and international policies of England. At that time, in England, people could be jailed for their debt. This was the case with Robert Castell, one of Oglethorpe’s close friends. Due to the death of his friend in prison, as a result of bad prison conditions, Oglethorpe launched a campaign to improve prison conditions which earned him national notoriety.

It was during this time that Oglethorpe formed a plan to deal with all the poverty in England. His idea was to take all the “worthy poor” and move them to a new colony in the Americas where they could become farmers and merchants. Oglethorpe was also set on the idea that the structure of the social classes in England, which caused so much poverty, should be avoided in the new colony. This meant no one person would be allowed to hold much land and slavery would be prohibited. After he revealed his idea to King George II, he was given clearance to begin the colony of Georgia. Oglethorpe was also named one of the twenty-one trustees who would govern the colony. Unfortunately, when the new colonists were being selected, the original idea of picking people with debts was lost and the selection focused more on skills and usefulness.

In November 1732, 114 people left for Georgia to make their home there. Oglethorpe was on this first boat load of settlers. As a trustee, Oglethorpe worked hard, and at times, even broke the law, in order to allow Jews and other persecuted religious groups to settle in Georgia. He was strongly opposed to slavery. He did his best to make fair treaties with Native Americans and protect them from white traders. Though he was not officially a “governor”, because as a trustee he was not allowed to hold office, many considered him Georgia’s first governor for his clear leadership over the colony.

Georgia was agreed upon partially because it was a place the English could protect their colonies in America against the Spanish. It was because of this situation that Oglethorpe convinced the king to make him a Colonel. Oglethorpe launched a preemptive attack on the Spanish, which failed. The Spanish counter-attacked but Oglethorpe’s regiment managed to push back the Spanish in the Battle of Gully Hole Creek. In the Battle of the Bloody Marsh, Oglethorpe managed to beat the Spanish badly enough that they decided the heavy losses sustained were not worth the fight. Oglethorpe had successfully defended Georgia.

In 1744, Oglethorpe returned to England and married Elizabeth Wright. He settled in the small Essex town of Cranham. Oglethorpe remained a Trustee, but the other trustees in Georgia relaxed their restrictions on alcohol, slavery and land ownership. Oglethorpe lived to see the colony that he had made become part of the United States of America. After a brief sickness, Oglethorpe died on June 30, 1785.

The Hoodoo Altar

Before you begin any hoodoo work, you will need a place to do your rituals. This means you will need a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, and a surface such as a table, box, chest, or even a large flat stone. Some people set aside a portion of the floor to use as an altar, or they use a dresser top, with ritual supplies stored underneath. You will need basic items and some extra items to personalize your altar.

Cover your altar with a white cloth, and place two white candles at the back on either end. Figures or pictures of saints or other religious images should be placed at the back, between the two white candles. Place your incense burner in front of the image and in the middle of the altar, and to the right of that keep some holy water or a bowl of water that you have blessed. These are the basics of the hoodoo altar.

You can add fresh-cut flowers, special stones, a dish of salt, and a small dish of graveyard dirt, if you wish. The important thing is to not place anything on your altar that doesn’t belong there. Altars can range from the very basic to the extremely elaborate.

Your altar and everything on it should be blessed or consecrated. Your candles should be blessed and dressed. All of the bowls and other containers should be washed with salt water, conjure water, Florida water, or Holy water.

As you become familiar with working with the various spirits, you will learn how to set up altars for each spirit or family of spirits. For individual magickal works, however, the altar will be as individual as the work is itself.

Source: The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook