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

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

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

Gris-Gris

A gris-gris, sometimes known as a grigri, is an object that most Voodoo practitioners craft for their patrons. This talisman or amulet has its origins out of Africa and is designed and crafted for various uses. It is commonly created to ward off evil or as just essential protection against anything classified as a spiritual attack on a person. However, this isn’t its only use since, in the more western area of Africa, they can be used for birth control. The practice of wearing a gris-gris was surprisingly used by believers and non-believers alike. Its appearance, while varied, was usually a small cloth bag inscribed with African verses that contained small ritualistic objects. Allegedly, it was also used in the Islamic faith as protection against evil spirits called Djinn.

In Haiti, they are seen as objects of good fortune used to improve the external lives of the wearers and imbued with some sort of incantation. New Orleans has its version of a gris-gris. While they may be inaccurately represented as a form of black magic, they are, in fact, a much more positive item in the arsenal of Voodoo objects. Unlike the belief that it was designed to bring ill-will on patrons’ enemies, records indicate people tampering with other’s amulets as a form of vengeance. It is believed that, in actuality, the gris-gris was just sources of healing and protection. Why would its original meaning change so much in the course of Voodoo history? Many believed Marie Laveau used these talismans to curse people, but odds are, she simply used them to improve the way of life of those around her.

Source: Marie Laveau: Life of a Voodoo Queen. Monique Joiner Siedlak

Louisiana Code Noir

In 1741, four African slaves lived in the colony for every 1.2 free white. This imbalanced population combined with high mortality, the threat of conflict with Native Americans, shortages of food and goods, and isolation produced a colony in which African, French, and Spanish cultures blended to create a unique culture known as Creole. Because most of the Africans who first arrived in Louisiana were of one nation, the Bambara, they succeeded in preserving their language and culture and, through their solidarity, ultimately acted as an Africanizing influence on Louisiana. European colonists, aware of their precarious position in the colony, were inclined to work together with slaves and afford them some rights under the Code Noir.

While the system was certainly brutal for African slaves, the harsh conditions of life in Louisiana resulted in difficulties for all settlers. Since many of the colonists were themselves rejected by French society and forced into exile in Louisiana as criminals or debtors, historian Gwendolyn Midlo Hall states, “Africans arrived in an extremely fluid society where a socio-racial hierarchy was ill defined and hard to enforce.” Hall expertly sums up the situation in colonial Louisiana, “Desperation transcended race and even, to some extent, status, leading to cooperation among diverse peoples.” Though the arrival of Anglo-Americans with the Louisiana Purchase resulted in stricter laws governing slavery and narrower views in terms of race, Louisiana society would remain more diverse, fluid, and racially ambiguous than the other Southern slave states.

The Code Noir was established in 1724 to regulate slavery in colonial Louisiana. The Code Noir stated that slaves were to be instructed in the Catholic faith, given food and clothing allowances, and allowed to rest on Sundays and the right to petition a public prosecutor if they were mistreated. Also, young children had to be sold with their mothers. The Code Noir prohibited slaves from owning property or testify against whites.