My last trip to the Crescent City occurred many years prior to Katrina. During this trip, another undiscovered gem awaited me. By this time, entrepreneurs had long recognized the legends of Marie Laveau and the thin chance of witnessing an authentic rite attracted tourists to a sweltering city that had nearly as many lizards as it had mosquitoes. Depictions of the free woman of color saturated the Quarter, and the portraits varied, depending on the choice of artists. The tignon and gold hoop earrings were the giveaways to the identity of the subject, however. Given the amount of posters devoted to him, a male seemed as popular as Marie. The masculine figure usually sported a top hat and cigar, and occasionally one side of his face was depicted as a skull. Because I had never run across the entity in any of my readings, I pegged him as a voudou priest, perhaps Marie’s counterpart who had escaped fame outside the Delta region. Maybe the rumors of Marie’s dancing with a snake sent many a Creole’s imagination into hyper drive, but this priest’s reputation led to no such fantasy. Not until years later, while reading a book on Haitian voudou did I realize that the man with the top hat and cigar was none other than Baron Samedi of the Gede. For lack of a better explanation, the Gede make up your dying bed — or may be persuaded not to. From what I understand, they are given to risque behavior and language that should not be uttered in the drawing room — but they may be more fun to have around than the gloom of relatives reflecting on Death.
In all my travels to New Orleans, I have neither seen a voudou doll nor run across anyone who believed in voudou. Hats off to those who are dedicated to this path without seeing it as a profitable monetary venture. My personal belief is that voudou dolls are something you’ll want to make yourself if you feel they will help you focus on what you want to draw into your life. If, however, you wish to hang the doll as wall art, then I’m sure there are artists who do not mind selling or giving their work as gifts.
All the same, after seeing Marfi’s pic of a doll and the pics of “spirit dolls” across the Internet, I decided to try my hand at making a spirit doll from branches, cloth, and paper mache. While creating it, I was reminded of the connection between this world and the world beyond our senses.