Open Letter to Cat Yronwode and Lucky Mojo Regarding the Accusation of New Orleans Voodoo as a Faux Religion Perpetuated by Fakers


This blog will address a very serious matter. It will likely offend some people, enrage others, and amuse those with no vested interest in the issue. Frankly, I don't care what people think. This is something I need to say for me and for my ancestors whose voices are the ones to whom we should be paying attention.

As some of you know, over the past 2 years I have been the subject of much gossip. You would think people had better things to do than talk about me and my life, but some folks thrive on making themselves look better by deliberately attempting to discredit others.

I was informed this morning about an article on the Lucky Mojo website that has made stunningly inaccurate statements about New Orleans Voodoo as a religion. It is called "Hoodoo is not New Orleans Voodoo." Here is a portion of the article, followed by my response.

In recent years, contact between Americans and Haitians, an influx of Haitian immigrants to the USA, and the popularity of Voodoo among interested white practitioners with backgrounds in Paganism and/or Hermetic magic have led to the creation of a form of the ritualized practice hat goes under the name New Orleans Voodoo.

New Orleans Voodoo is a newly constructed faux-religion which has no cultural, family, liturgical, or social roots in traditional African, African-American, or Haitian religions, but traces back to literary sources instead. Since the mid 20th century it has evolved under the hands of four major promoters, none of whom had direct lineage transmission from the previous ones and each of whom accreted a small following which took no part in the major social life of New Orleans.

Each of these promoters was or is an author and/or the owner of a tourist venue or a store. Each of these promoters and their followers drew or draw upon a handful of 20th century anthropological and popular works describing Haitian Voodoo, which they use as source-books for their performances. These source-books include the works of authors such as Zora Neale Hurston (1938), Maya Deren (1953), Alfred Metraux (1958), Milo Rigaud (1969), and Wade Davis (1985). At best the fabrications of these promoters can be said to be historical fantasy recreations in the style of the Renaissance Faire venues in the USA, and at worst they have been a means to part sincere seekers from their money under the guise of offering exotic initiations or ecstatic worship services that are spurious at their root.

The four major promoters of the faux-religion of New Orleans Voodoo have been Robert Tallant (1940s), Charles Gandolfo (1960s-1990s), Sallie Ann Glassmann (1990s), and Denise Alvarado (2000s). Other, less well-known, promoters have included the author and publisher Raymond J. Martinez (1950s), the dancer Ava Kay Jones (1980s-1990s), the author and store owner Sharon Caulder (1990s), the store owner Miriam Chemani (1990s - present), the author John Shrieve, and the paranormal / haunted tour organizer "Bloody Mary."

New Orleans Voodoo has historically had no community membership base, in Louisiana other than as a source of employment for shop employees, dancers, authors, and publishers. These faux-religionists write books, compose music, sell Voodoo-themed goods in their shops, hold Voodoo-themed festivals and workshops, and put on Voodoo-themed dance and drumming performances for tourists. The latter events were especially popular under the direction of Charles Gandolfo and Ava Kay Jones.

New Orleans Voodoo has been promoted to the outside world by small independent coteries of less than ten or twenty core participants who charge money for their literature, workshops, museums, tours, and/or performances. Its wider range of participants are tourists and spiritual seekers; there is a notable and significant lack of community participation from the environs of New Orleans. None of its leaders or followers can demonstrate that its practices spring from a local community base.

Having been repeatedly accused of fakery, some of the promoters of New Orleans Voodoo have belatedly sought initiations in Africa or Haiti to add gravitas to their literary mining expeditions through well-known works describing Haitian Voodoo. Others have gone out of their way to acquire actual African artifacts to display in their museums, or to purchase Brazilian Quimbanda statuary to resell as spurious Voodoo goods. At least one made a point of importing Haitian art for sale -- some of which, it turned ut, was manufactured for her by a movie-prop maker in Hollywood California. And always among the expensive and exotic faux-Voodoo religious goods are salted a dizzying variety of small, cheap faux-Voodoo trinkets made in China, often decorated in Mardi Gras style, as if Mardi Gras were an alternative form of Voodoo. And, of course, when they wish to promote "magick" or "spell-casting", they turn to traditional African American hoodoo, which they re-brand as Voodoo.

First, before my response, I have a couple comments. Where is your source of information coming from? Have you not read any of the historical records or literature that clearly indicate Voodoo arrived in the 1700s when the first Bambarans set foot in New Orleans? Who happened to have also brought the gris gris tradition with them which remains, since the 1700s, an integral part of New Orleans Voodoo?

More importantly, how many New Orleans Voodoo or Hoodoo practitioners have you spoken to? Anyone over the age of 30? Have you ever heard of the term oral tradition, the hallmark of the transmission of knowledge for virtually all indigenous traditions? How about institutionalized colonization? Cultural appropriation? Cultural hegemony?

How is it that a white Jewish woman from California, who has never spent a significant amount of time in New Orleans, if any at all,  has claimed the narrative of  New Orleans Voodoo and Southern Hoodoo?

Let me just speak from an academic standpoint, since everyone seems to thinks of Ms. Yronwode as a scholarly writer. If indeed it is Catherine Yronwode who authored the article, and since it is on the website I assume it is and if not, then it is approved by her to be there, the very premise for the argument is flawed. First, you are using French Quarter Voodoo as the context of comparison. French Quarter Voodoo is geared towards tourists. It does not define the tradition, which is very idiosyncratic given the social and historical conditions that have influenced its evolution. Secondly, your facts are just wrong, period. Show me some scholarly sources that back up your statements. Third, this kind of article is a prime example of the insidious nature of colonization and its wonderful counterpart hegemony, which in essence means that you have used one cultural platform of comparison as the legitimate one (your opinion), to judge another, usually indigenous one, in this case  New Orleans Voodoo. Cultural hegemony occurs when a dominant culture (European American) manipulates and dominates another, typically minority, typically indigenous, culture. In laymen's terms, you have presented your opinion as the legitimate one, "my way is the right way," without any kind of productive discourse with anyone intimately involved. This is just wrong. It is something indigenous (African and Native American) people of the Americas have endure for over 500 years and frankly, I'm sick of it.

Here is my response to Ms. Yronwode. Knowing how she operates, it will be posted by her somewhere anyway, so I want people to see it from me first.


Greetings Catherine,

As you and I have never had a real conversation other than one concerning mutual plagiarism, and with the unfortunate exception of our initial "introduction" to each other where I was falsely accused of being the editor for a document that someone on my forum had written, I had hope we remained on at least cordial grounds as I continued to look out for your work being lifted, etc. and shared with you instances of the misuse of your online presence by unscrupulous others, simply out of common professional courtesy and an effort to demonstrate good will and character.
It is evident we don't see eye to eye on things in terms of our mutual experiences and knowledge about Southern hoodoo and especially New Orleans Voodoo. Yet, I have never publicly named you as a major hoodoo marketeer or accused you of anything other than offering an alternate point of view from my own. Any personal thoughts or feelings remain my own.
Imagine my surprise to find this in my inbox. "The four major promoters of the faux-religion of New Orleans Voodoo have been Robert Tallant (1940s), Charles Gandolfo (1960s-1990s), Sallie Ann Glassmann (1990s), and Denise Alvarado (2000s). Other, less well-known, promoters have included the author and publisher Raymond J. Martinez (1950s), the dancer Ava Kay Jones (1980s-1990s), the author and store owner Sharon Caulder (1990s), the store owner Miriam Chemani (1990s - present), the author John Shrieve, and the paranormal / haunted tour organizer "Bloody Mary."
And of course, I was provided a link where i got to read the whole sordid story.
Now this could get really ugly, as I feel as though the respect I have shown for you has not been reciprocated, given past experiences and this current article on your website.  And nothing gets in my craw worse than someone who shows me one face and behind my back shows their true character. With the numerous times in which we have emailed back and forth and the many times Nagasiva has written and asked questions about things he said he wanted to know my opinion about, it would seem to me we could have had some very constructive conversations about your thoughts and opinions about New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo, or your concerns about me as a person or my qualifications. But no, you had to make it personal by jumping on the discredit Denise bandwagon. Okay, let's go there.
You have a right to your opinion, as do I. But let me ask you this, could it be possible that you are wrong? Could it be possible that what you know about New Orleans Voodoo and the role of Hoodoo in the tradition is not what you think it is? Could it be that you don't know me at all except for what others who don't know me have stated, and our limited email conversations? 
Let me be clear about a few things. One, I was born and raised in New Orleans, and my experience with Hoodoo and Voodoo never did and never has come from the French Quarter Voodoo variety. Nor has it come from literary sources about Haitian Vodou. And this is why everything you have stated and all of the haters fail; the platform of comparison is not qualified as such. That is tourist Voodoo, that is not the Voodoo that has survived along the bayous in its many variations and handed down through families and by virtue of being in the culture. You also have not recognized the small group of people in the French Quarter who are actually doing great things with regards to the preservation of the religion and who have worked hard in the community to preserve things like the sacred cultural geography intimately related to Voodoo in New Orleans. Voodoo in New Orleans began as a bunch of different African religions forced together, where slaves and Natives found common themes, and it is through those common themes where New Orleans Voodoo comes from. It has come to embrace the influences of many cultures as you are aware. While there was a period of time when there were community ceremonies and celebrations, these were not the actual rituals taking place, only parts and representations of it. The real stuff was and always has been until recently behind the scenes, in secret. Unless you grew up as a person of color in the South, which you are not,  and experienced the necessity of remaining underground, which you have not, then it would be hard to understand.

New Orleans Voodoo practitioners do not deny that the religion lacks the formalized rites of Haitian Vodou. That doesn't mean it is not a religion. It doesn't mean that it is not a religion because much of the tradition for many, looks a whole lot like Hoodoo. That's not something I, or Mambo Sallie Ann, or Charles Gandolfo, or Zora Neale Hurston, for that matter, made up. That is the way it is and has been. Tallant, on the other hand, definitely fabricated quite a bit, much of which I have attempted to clarify over the years. I can understand the confusion, however, if you were never immersed in New Orleans culture or the traditions of the Louisiana swamps. Trust me, there's a whole lot more to the story than you will ever have the privilege of knowing or seeing.

Those who have accused me of "fakery" as whoever authored the article wrote, and I assume it is you, are at least half my age, not from New Orleans, never spent any significant time there or in Louisiana, and have never provided any sources for their accusations. They wouldn't know "real" New Orleans Voodoo if it stared them in the face. That is because the platform from which they are judging the religion is not the religion; it is French Quarter tourism. Of course it doesn't match up. But instead of taking me up on offers for productive discourse, they, as have you, have made assumptions about me and some very well respected individuals in New Orleans that is simply founded on ignorance. Instead they, as have you, have taken it to the public. This will not sit will with many of those whom you accuse to be fakers of a "faux" religion. 
In everything I have written, I have never claimed to be the last word on New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo, only to say that it is my experience. The reason for that disclaimer is because anyone from my generation, and anyone who has done their research (not just reading books, but actually talking to people who are actually from Louisiana and actual practitioners) will know that the manner in which it has been passed down was through individual families and thus there is variation. There is as much variation in the manner in which Christians may express their devotion to God,  some may actually do unto others while others could care less and still other fall somewhere in between. The variations do not disqualify it as a religion. There are still unifying beliefs and practices that make it what it is. New Orleans Voodoo is a living, breathing, fluid tradition and this is part of its beauty and its appeal to believers. 
It is true that some New Orleans Voodooists have sought initiations in related traditions. Some have clung to vestiges of the religion by continuing in the practice of New Orleans style Hoodoo and rootwork and no longer claim the religious aspects of it. Some are Christian, quite a few are not. Many have developed unique yet recognizable rites of their own. Some folks belong to temples and houses, most do not. New Orleans Voodoo has long been known to be an individual religion, having been made so due to sociohistorical circumstances like the Louisiana Black Code, and as I mentioned earlier, the rampant and pervasive racism that has characterized the South for so long. 
You may not wish to know the truth behind your accusations or have any interest in exploring preconceived notions based on outsider and fledgling opinions or blues songs. You may not have any interest in actually speaking with some of the people you have accused of fakery or perpetuating a "faux" religion. That is your choice. However, I find it deeply offensive what you have written, and a deliberate attempt at claiming a cultural narrative that is not yours to claim. Indeed you have a right to your opinion, but unless you have walked in my shoes, Priestess Miriam's shoes, Mambo Ava Kay Jones, and the many others whom you did not acknowledge in your misguided article, you will never know the truth. Instead, it appears this is more of the case of wanting to be "right," instead of really wanting to be right, and that is just unfortunate. 
You have not been, nor will you be the only narrative on the indigenous traditions of the South. More folks, and more folks of color, and more scholars of color, are speaking up. I strongly encourage you to do as our Cherokee elders say, "listen or your tongue will make you deaf."
Blessings,
Denise Alvarado


As I have always said, my door is open to discussion. We can use this as a learning opportunity for everyone concerned. I want to be clear I am not engaging in a drama warfare; however, because I am publicly implicated and deeply offended by the utter disrespect shown in the article, I felt compelled to go public with a statement.

Comments welcome, haters, don't waste your time.



Comments

  1. Do you have the website address? I'd like to read the whole post.

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    1. The whole article is in the above blog post. I am sure you can find the original by going to the lm website and looking for Hoodoo history.

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    2. One of her workers said I should just learn how to act, talk to women. I thought to myself, then why hire you for a ritual, you aren't cheap, I may spend 600 dollars. But I'm glad I've found some authentic voodoo workers such as Samantha Corfield, rev Sevina. As well as priestess Miriam, and queen Bianca. I can't stand fakes as I was scammed last year.

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    3. There is no Queen Bianca, should have left that one out of your response.

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    4. Has Cat never heard of Marie Laveau, Dr. John, Congo Square or Bayou St. John? She is only demonstrating her ignorance. I will not be buying any of her books as she has shown that simply does not know what she is talking about.

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  2. Good for you! She seems to get away with this kind of slanderous crap all the time, and her groupies, like her, don't bother to do the research to find the real truth. Excellent response to her webpage article - which by the way, I had seen and was disgusted with when I read it. There is NO need for that sort of trash-talk between or about practitioners. We have enough hurdles to avoid without them coming from our own. :)

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    1. Thank you for your comment Granny Tackett. I couldn't agree with you more.

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  3. Thanks so much for this. I'm white and from the South. There are a lot of hoodoo traditions in my family and my father used to offer 'advice' and make mojo bags for people when I was a child and taught me about the folklore of different ingredients and things. We have no known 'lineage' to speak of. It doesn't change the fact that many persons of color over the years had my father do work on their behalf and that I am continuing the tradition. However, I doubt anyone outside a small town in SC would recognize my father's name or mine. I have often thought about taking Cat's course so I could join AIRR but have hesitated because something made me uneasy. I especially did not like the requirement that all materials be purchased from Lucky Mojo with exorbitant shipping prices. This article just further justifies my decision not to align myself with Cat's brand of hoodoo. I don't need high school drama and 'my way or the highway' attitudes.

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    1. Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your position and perspective.

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    2. Denise thank you for publishing this. I first really paid attention to this person last night on the Hermetic Hour podcast. Some of her statements disturbed me, because like the poster above, I grew up as a Southern White and around Root folks. Things she was saying didn't make sense. I started to poke around. She seemed to be very negative towards Southern White (Anglo/Irish/Germanic/Scots/Scandi) folks and dismissive of their input into the Hoo Doo question. Firstly, the only issue I have with your article is this statement she is a "white Jewish woman" - she's actually, according to wikipedia, Sicilian and Ashkenazi Jewish . We were not raised to understand Ashkenazi Jewish people as being white, because they aren't - many like Catherine, are extremely hostile to us and who we are - plus when they find it to their advantage, they act like they are white and when they are in trouble, they turn around and claim not to be white. The point is, she doesn't like us, nor is she doing Southern African Americans any favors by stealing their culture. A quick look at her Facebook page shows her stances . She is the Rachel Dolezal of Hoo Doo basically. Also, it is apparent to me she has wholesale cultural appropriation for the sake of making money, on her mind, not the salvation of the root tradition. She has flat stolen, and admits that she stole and altered, Southern Hood Doo labels from well known black artists. That's not a person I would trust and again, thank you for writing this article even though it is now two years old.

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  4. Invariably, the party who first throws names around, names of "inauthentic practitioners" is the inauthentic one. Classic false guru legitimization technique.

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  5. Wow, where to start with what's wrong with Yronwode's article. How about her sneering at promoters of the religion because they own shops? You are the founder and owner of Lucky Mojo Curio Co., Cat! How do you not see the hypocrisy here?! And the claim that they "take no part in the major social life of New Orleans" is so wrong, it's insulting. I've always tried to stay out of the various pissing matches between New Orleans Voodoo and Spiritual Church Hoodoo; and even though their bottom line is to sell Lucky Mojo products, I have found some of Yronwode's books to be good resources. But this is a bridge too far.

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    1. Thank you for taking a moment to leave your comment and opinion Sarah.

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  6. wat a shame d need 4 money is....!
    if.

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    1. Short and sweet, I can appreciate that:)

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  7. Lot's of love for you Denise. You were engaging, charming, and well learned when we spoke to you about Hoodoo on "Keep It Magic". Let the haters be your motivators -- I learned that lesson the hardway.

    xxoo

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Storm. Many blessings to you:)

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  8. Wow, Mama Denise. I think your response was well put. I don't know why she does this kind of thing, but ever so often she starts in on someone or other about something they've done (or not done, whatever the case may be). Never quite figured out why some people are like that. Even if you were a faker (and I sincerely do not believe that for a second) the lessons I've learned from you and the products I've gotten from you have been far superior to those from lm. As another responder said, I had seriously considered that course years ago but there are several things that do not sit right with me so I never bothered and don't even bother to browse those pages anymore--something's just not right with the whole set up to me personally, even if her info is accurate I don't need it from them. I don't see how you can say such things about something that is so individual, but what do I know since I'm not one of her students, right? Anyway, I for one do appreciate your wisdom, insights, experiences and definitely offer you my support.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words of support Rachel. It's always a good thing to follow your intuition -your gut instinct - with any aspect of life, you will never regret it. So happy to hear you have benefited from what I offer and that you find them superior to Lucky Mojo ... it brings a smile to my face. I do appreciate your support. Blessings to you:)

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  9. Hey Denise... While shocked that she would stoop so low as this, I am not at all surprised. My guess is that the buzz wore off from trying to ruin another well known rootworker from a few years back so now she needs another drama fix. I feel this whole AIRR groupie thing is a joke, for one thing. Too hokey...too cliquey...too self agrandizing. My paternal grandmother was a Mennonite with her own ways which she passed down, while my maternal grandmother was a Ozark Mountain healer of Choctaw & Scottish decent. Back in the day it wasn't called anything but the work & belief was mighty powerful just the same. I take huge offense to what this Cat has said & done to a woman I admire & enjoy what she has to say...you are a gift , Denise. Don't let this bully in neo-voodoo garb pull you down. All she is doing is what my gramma would say is "letting her slip show". Keep up your good work. I, for one, appreciate everything you have shared. Just wanted to let you...and the world...know that... <3

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    1. Ahh, granny magic...very cool. Big Native influence there and you are right...when you grow up in a culture of natural living, folk healing and folk magic, there aren't labels like there are today, just a lot of fixin' this and that; just living a way of life. Thank you for taking the time to comment, it is much appreciated. Blessings~

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  10. **slow clap** Thats all i can really say

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  11. Very well said Denise. Thank you for this. It has been years since I have lived in Louisiana, I hope to return someday. Until then...Blessings from Indiana.

    Viv

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  12. My thoughts as someone who has no dog in the hunt and who has written a book on the topic.

    1) First, the term "New Orleans Voodoo" is problematic in itself. British imperial officials lumped together a bunch of indigenous South Asian religious practices and called them "Hinduism." Tourists and anthropologists took notes on a bunch of disparate indigenous Haitian folk practices and called them "Vodou." And "New Orleans Voodoo" has been used to describe stuff as diverse as Black Hawk Spiritism and Sallie Anne Glassman's Thelema/Vodou hybrid. When I hear "New Orleans Voodoo" my first question is "what KIND of New Orleans Voodoo are we talking about?"

    2) Alvarado's term "French Quarter Voodoo" is actually quite useful in this context. There has long been a tourist trade in the Quarter, and there have long been entertainers offering "spells" to said tourists. (A similar trade, catering largely to African-Americans, existed in Algiers). Yronwode errs in thinking this a contemporary trend that started in the 1970s: there are reports of similar activities in New Orleans from the early 19th century.

    3) There are a number of African-American folk practices which can be traced directly back to Africa. The "gris-gris" bags of the Low Country and the Mississippi Delta look very much like the gerrygerrys of the Mande -- and a good number of Mande slaves were imported to those regions because the Mande were traditionally rice farmers. The griots of Mali used a pentatonic scale with flattened thirds and fifths: they wrote many songs about love and tragedy and were reputed to have magical powers. And a fair number of Mali slaves wound up in the Delta -- a place known for a very similar type of music. (In musical parlance, flattened fifths are called "blue notes"). If you can't find African roots in New Orleans culture, then man, you just ain't lookin' very hard!

    4) In all these debates about whether New Orleans Voodoo is something distinct and separate from Hoodoo, I never hear anybody talk about the Black Hawk Spiritualist Church. That's pure New Orleans, and it's had an enormous influence on regional African-American folk practices. The New Orleans region is far more Roman Catholic than most of the places where Hoodoo is practiced, so veneration of Mary and the Saints is more frequently seen than the Psalm magic you find in Protestant regions. There are spirits served in New Orleans who are rarely seen elsewhere, like St. Marron and Assonquer/Onzoncaire. You can hold your breath until you turn blue, but those distinctions -- and many others -- aren't going away anytime soon.

    5) I have met both Priestess Miriam and Mambo Sallie Anne Glassman: I was favorably impressed by both women. They are acting as spiritual leaders to a congregation and, based on everything I can see, doing a fine job in that role. Calling them "fakers" and "frauds" is an unjust insult -- especially coming from one of their business competitors.

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    1. Thank you for your comments Kenaz. The more I have written about New Orleans Voodoo and my life experience in general,the more I am coming to the conclusion that a distinction is indeed needed to describe the "what kind of Voodoo," exactly as you have stated. I have actually come to the conclusion that Creole Voodoo, or Louisiana Voodoo, or even Swamp or Bayou Voodoo are better names for what I have called New Orleans Voodoo my whole life. Folks just don't know the difference and we need to differentiate it for them.

      I have actually written quite a bit about Black Hawk and agree he is a significant part of the religiomagical landscape of the city. I have also begun writing more about the lesser known loas, like Annie Christmas who is one of the most incredible Spirits ever. I appreciate your mention of St Maroon and Ozoncaire, these are two more who have rarely been mentioned in the literature. Acknowledging these unique Spirits illustrates a pantheon of Spirits that is unique to New Orleans so thank you for that and for taking the time to comment..

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    2. Thank you for introducing the crux of the matter, What types of African traditional religious practices are we talking about??[all of them],because on that slave ship , Huasa, Ibo, Fulani, Mende,Sudan,Yorauba Benin, we were chained together, and ask God for strength.ESCLAVES NEGROS ESPIRITUES, We see once again we have to analyze any discussion of African based cultural/spiritual practice within historical context of the MAAFA/ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE and the struggle for Black liberation in the Americas/carribean,, there cannot be any discussion or argument about how African cosmology/spirituality survived middle passage and chattel slavery and its manifestation of spiritual and psychological RESISITANCE through the past /current practice in the Black Community ,, We areREALLY talking about how Black people reaffirm their presence as a spiritual collective, and to have two nonafrican [ no disrespect,I love both of you sisters,but this aint your fight and you canot define what is African/Blackness in its essential essence -that is =our god consciousness as a people, ] argue how the Black man/woman/community within the African Diapora ,ID themselves within the DUA-IFE of my great - grandparents ,who were brought in chain,lynched and fought for civil rights and still suffering in ghetto,I must take an African Centered position.. thank you but this our children will learn on our laps for our elders what 'rootworking ' means to us and how we will take this knowledge of our ancestor gifts and use them in practice,//work// to survive as Black folks in 2014, I appreciate your work, but as with any analysis of Black folkways,we have recognize the historical context of any analysis of African traditions.

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  13. After reading the above article and listening to a recent Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour show where Yronwode hurls f-bombs towards the Spirit Guardian of the Crossroads (well, apparently her disgust seemed to only be centered around the ATR-associated names for the same spirit) with no justification or explanation, but only to say "hoodoo is American". I can only wonder, is this the unveiling of some sort of agenda, or are we witnessing Ms. Yronwode going completely off the rails?

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    1. One can only guess, unless within the inner circle...

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  14. *loud applause and throws roses* VERY well said as always Denise. I have long stopped trying to understand the utter contempt that white folks, and this is no offense to anyone who may read this, have for our time honored traditions, no matter where they hail from. I remember her starting a war with Dr. Kioni for no apparent reason a few years back. Where is the productivity in this?? Why the need?? If you do not understand something nor would take the time to bother to research it, why even comment at all?? I am seeing the same sort of contempt in these tv shows such as Witches of East End and American Horror Story. It is simply disgusting and sickening in this day and time. I too, am sick of it.

    Well done Denise....bravo

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  15. It would appear that Cat is jealous of you and or has too much free time on her hands.

    Wickedpa

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  16. Funny how Yronwode never mentioned Marie Laveau. I couldn't believe she didn't mention her. She really should have, if she's going to discuss New Orleans Voodoo.

    My impression is that Yronwode is on a huge ego trip (to put it mildly), and wants to be THE only sole authority/expert on Hoodoo, and I guess Voodoo too. Well she isn't.

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    1. That omission in and of itself speaks volumes. Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Oh, my granny sure would be shocked and a little more than amused by Ms. Yronwode's words.

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  18. Hello, I just recently came across LM Correspondence Course and was thinking about joining, but it seems like the more I keep searching the more my spirit guides keep taking me to sites like this to see the real truth. I have had a bad feeling about the LM Course, one that her oils are entirely overpriced. I can't imagine for the life of me why on earth her 1/2oz oils are $7.00 when they supposedly make them in their warehouse. In order to take the course you have to purchase all the crap from her store and then sit and wait for her to schedule you in for an interview to determine if you are accepted. If you look at it a majority of her people are brain washed, and for the life of me I see one on her AIRR that is saying she is old time traditional hoodoo, but then turns around and say she doesn't do hoodoo she just uses it to get people to her website, since using hoodoo will move her up on the search engines. The best one is this same lady that belongs to AIRR is saying that she is Christian, her white momma worked in the fields with the blacks and this white woman was a Christian Pentecostal who learned how to do conjure. According to this confused lady conjure is Christian work using the Bible and not spell work, yet she magically uses conjures to do magic spells.

    I think that the entire AIRR groupies are fake and they are so damn full of each other and they use the AIRR logo to profit out of people that are vulnerable and don't know any better.

    Why on earth would anyone pay the ridiculous prices by LM is beyond me and why would they weak minded individual continue to buy into their BS. If you go into their forum every damn spell is telling people to use LM product. I can't imagine how people buy this BS and overprice crap.

    How does a Jewish lady know so much about African Americans or Native American culture. According to her book she learned it all from African Americans working the crop field near her home in California, but what I don't get is back in the day when she claims she learned all this, blacks feared to talk to whites so how did she learn it.
    I thought looking at her husband's name that perhaps she learned a lot from her African American husband, but the man is white and looks like a Nazi with the beard. I think they have a mixture of BS.

    The reason people are going to her and Momma Starr and the others is because they are offering these courses very cheap. They tell you to buy all the crap from LM site and then if you don't get accepted into their program you are stuck with a bunch of overpriced crap.

    Sorry, I don't mean to go off, but I am seeing some crazy stuff coming from all those fake ass Hoodoo practitioners.

    I wanted to take the course and learn, but I don't want to learn from a bunch of High School felonies that have nothing better to do with their time but to bash on others.

    As a Santera/Palera, I'm really thrown off by LM and all their BS.

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    1. As someone who has done a great deal of research into the practices of conjure or "hoodoo", as well as having been taught some of these things growing up I have to respectfully disagree with the notion that the Christian addition is not authentic to the practice. Things change and evolve, and the same is true with conjure when it came to North America. There are some interesting similarities when it comes to the concept of voluntary ritual possession in Vodou, and the descent of the Holy Spirit in Christianity, of particular significance within the Pentecostal denomination.

      For me, the fact that using the Bible accomplishes so much in the practice validates the adaptation of using it within conjure. I mean, if you wish to practice the African diasporic religions wouldn't it make more sense to practice them in their original context? I can understand wanting to preserve these religions, but it seems tedious to try and disentangle conjure from the Native American and European influences to practice something that is still very much intact in its own rite.

      As for LM and Cat, I feel there are too many liberties taken to appease practitioners of other religions and traditions, in particular Neopaganism, as conjure is a noble spiritual practice that shouldn't be picked apart for its power, but respected for what it is and left alone. I don't agree with the heavy Hyatt influence in LM's angle toward hoodoo, as it was pointed out about the distrust and fear African Americans felt toward white people much of these information is just not reliable, and there are just some serious discrepancies in the actual structure and practice of hoodoo that defies logic and common sense (e.g. taking a cleansing bath in the morning at dawn and throwing the water to East) that are readily taught. That being said, I don't feel it is fair to assume that everyone with AIRR is corrupt, fake, brain washed, ect. In particular the comments about Mama Starr who I have dealt with and truly feel is authentic and true, and someone I personally respect and appreciate for what she does in the community. It is nearly impossible to have any kind of presence outside of LM due to it's strategic take over of the online market, and so one can either accept this reality or try and on Goliath without a slingshot. I take issue with lumping Mama Starr into the AIRR members who push LM products, because I know for a fact that is absolutely untrue, she has her own website and line of conjure products, books, radio show, ect, and is only loosely affiliated with the AIRR. All of this being said, I respect the African diasporic religions for bringing to this country practices that are near and dear to my heart, and it is my sincere hope that we can one day see that we are more alike than we are different from one another in our spiritual and religious traditions. I hope that I haven't offended anyone in sharing my thoughts, as that was not my intention, only to share my perspective and what I know to be true about Mama Starr

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    2. Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts.

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    3. Deacon Millett, Miss Melenie seem helpful, yet I'm unsure of there credentials.

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    4. Moma Starr is just as money-oriented as LM. She can also be quite nasty toward others, bully them, and be underhanded. I have observed lousy behavior from her and other ConjureCon folks (love that double entendre). Starr claims to detest the Neopagan exploitation of conjure, but she's part of ConjureCon, and they're all Neopagans.

      cat systematically going after Alvarado was, in hindsight, fairly predictable. She is trying to clear the decks of all competition. She does this then she feels threatened, and she has her whole pack of feral zombified students to assist her in her dirty work. I think that she wants to retire, and perhaps corner the market for LM as much as possible, then sell it. She's also crazy and mean, to boot.

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  19. I think Cat and is just too full of herself.

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  20. Now I know I'm not the only one who felt this way about LM. When I first started on this journey about 10 years ago I came across her site. I've never bought anything from LM but I have spent more than a few hours reading through her various articles and such. For some reason I've always felt uneasy about lm. Nothing real alarming bit just this constant nagging feeling that it ain't what it appears to be. At first I thought maybe it was because of her race. So I decided to study some more and become exposed to other view points and sources. In fact some of the first books I read was yours and Kenaz Filan's. Up until recently I haven't visited the site in a few years. What brought me back to it came from someone's link on another site that mentioned the AIRR. At first I was excited until I realized that it's another "fine LM product".... well more or less. Looking back I know it wasn't her race that was the problem but the incessant hawking of her LM product line. Darn near every page it's LM this and LM that. She talks so bad about New Orleans voodoo but her site comes across as the very thing she talks about. In fact it's like tourist version of new Orleans voodoo with a whole bunch of other traditions/religions/beliefs mixed in. I'm sorry but it comes across as fake. I was not raised in Louisiana but my mother's family was and they were both voodoo and Catholic. Unfortunately I could not learn from them since my grandmother forbade it since the only ones who did practice it in her family were into the left hand/black arts side. The little I did learn from them was taught to me orally and it is very real. I don't know where she got her information from but I can say most older Black people will not talk to white people about anything hoodoo/voodoo related. And if they do tell you, best believe they won't tell you everything. Especially if you aren't even from the region. The distrust is too high. She can keep all that lm mess. I know her site and brand of voodoo is not for me and never was. I feel I've made the right decision to stay away. Thank you Ms. Alvarado for bringing this subject up to light.

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  21. Ms. Alvarado - this is an absolute Master Class in how to set the record straight while staying classy doing it. I know you don't need praise from random internet strangers, but well done. Respect.

    barnabas

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  22. ....looks like she slipped up and let her true feelings show......met her once......not to friendly toward African Americans......drove 4hrs to see the shop and the itty bity church....got treated real bad......

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  23. Thank you for your thoughtful, insightful and well-written letter. It's hard to know why cat has turned on you. One can speculate that it's about money, power and hubris on her end.

    cat yronwode is such an asshole, and becomes more of one with every passing year. I hope that she reaps the awful things that she has sown. I suspect that she is mentally ill.

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    1. I know this is very late to this conversation, but please don't say things like you think she must be "mentally ill." There are no diagnoses of "money-grabbing," "jerk" or "bully." These behaviours and actions by Yronwode are demonstrably personal choices; by contrast a mentally ill person can't choose to not demonstrate unusual or culturally unacceptable behaviours when they are very unwell - therefore, if Yronwode's actions were really the result of mental illness she would display the same arsehole behaviours to everyone, she wouldn't single out people and certainly wouldn't focus solely on her competitors.

      There may be a personality disorder at work here in Yronwode (Narcissistic or Sociopathic PD), after all she is married to a "Satanist" who has stated online and in the press that he believes the world is over-populated and its his duty to convince desperate, lonely, abused and/or mentally ill CHILDREN to kill themselves in order to lower the population. And C Yronwode has stated she "fully supports" him in his monstrous and wicked actions.
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1578945/Predators-tell-children-how-to-kill-themselves.html

      Why he is exempt from this method of population control is beyond me. I guess he is just too special....

      However, the PDs AREN'T mental illnesses - the differentiating factor is people with PDs can actually choose not to act in bizarre ways, and they can be fully cured by talking therapy. In fact most people with PDs grow out of them in their early 20s, whereas mental illnesses get worse with age and can never be cured, just managed/controlled with medication. Mental illness also causes serious structural problems in the brain (the grey-matter of mentally ill people's brains, who actually manage to live to around 60, looks like Swiss cheese - it is truly horrible), whereas PDs do not.

      Also, I have found that mentally ill people are often some of the nicest people in the world because they have suffered so much.


      Dear Ms Alvarado, thank you for your books. I have thoroughly enjoyed them and found them wonderfully immersive, very informative and well written. I am white and an atheist but I have the greatest of respect for those who work so hard to preserve, document and share endangered indigenous beliefs and traditions as you have done. Thank you, and thank you for making your books so accessible by writing in such a clear, organized and approachable manner.
      I do own Yronwode's green book, I stumbled across it second-hand in a local charity shop for £1. It was very annoying to read, it was jumbled and frequently vague, and I don't understand why including an index was such an anathema to her. After learning more about her I am very glad I didn't buy it new as I did with your books, I would feel very guilty and dirty if she and her husband had received royalties from my purchase.

      I hope this finds you safe, well and happy.
      Best wishes,
      Lia

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    2. Lia - You seriously are trying to get be to spin my opinion on cat because you don't like my using the term "mentally ill"? Utterly reidiculous.

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  24. The yronwodes and the people who work for them are frauds

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  25. Needless to say, I am shocked and offended. As someone with some family oral traditions of hoodoo and folk magic passed on to me, I thought that by taking Cat's course I could increase my credentials and legitimacy as a rootworker, because regardless of authenticity, LM does dominate hoodoo. Unfortunately, I am continuing to realize that it was a mistake to take the course. Oh wrll. I started my learning and the polishig of my traditions with your spell book, Denise. So at least I can always return to its wisdom. Hopefully, being a former student of cat wont ruin my reputation.

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    1. Gosh, don't even tell people you've been a student of cat's!

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  26. What about Cat posting death threats that sound like murder solicitations? Then, going after the blogger who spread that word about her viciousness?
    http://cat-yronwode-truth.tumblr.com/

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  27. Many people believe that Cat Yronwode has a personality disorder that seems to be getting worse as she ages. Her husband Nagasiva promotes suicide and has written an instruction manual which can be searched for on the Lucky Mojo website. Google "Yronwode suicide" and just look at what comes up!

    Do these things sound like they belong to trustworthy spiritual leaders or to the leaders of a CULT?

    A couple of weeks ago Cat posted a Death Curse upon a teenage boy on the Lucky Mojo website! She was forced to remove that due to the intervention of law enforcement, thank goodness! The beginning of the broken link can still be viewed, and lots of people saw it before it was taken down. In a stunning act of pure bullshit, the Lucky Mojo company now pretends that that published Death Curse on a Teenager never even existed, and that Cat is being defamed!

    Cat has attacked and destroyed several people by publishing lies about them on the internet and by stalking them online. This includes several former students. There is absolutely nothing in her course that cant be learned somewhere else without the risk of being targeted by her special brand of CRAZY. You never know what will set her off! Better safe than sorry!

    Watch out for AIRR, Hoodoo Psychics, and the Missionary Independent Spiritual Church too! They are all owned and operated by the death-cursing Cat Yronwode and her suicide promoting husband Nagasiva. Stay Safe!!!

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  28. I am a white British female in my forties, I wanted to do the course too, but when I applied it was rejected. She explained that because of my lack of African American background I would need a n African American friend to help me with the coursework -interviewing them. When I explained that I have tried hard to find such a friend but to no avail she was most unsympathetic. Apparently that just is not good enough!

    I was really irked because I could not find anywhere to study, especially to gain entry to the AIRR. I was intent on studying hard and with the highest respect of African American history and tradition. What really got my goat was this - what if I had found someone to help me? Asking a bunch of questions is never going to make up for actually being there, or having the right background. How crazy is she? All I could ever hope to attain in that regard is to educate myself as much as possible and try my best to imagine what it must have been like.

    Besides, despite my lack of African American background I have an unusual blood type which I am told is common to Africans. And I have always been strongly drawn towards this path. In fact, an African neighbour once jokingly told me that she thought I was more in touch with my roots than herself :)

    Anyway, rant over. Since this happened I have discovered some lovely and open minded individuals who have a much warmer and embracing attitude, whose hearts are in good places and have put back my faith in hoodoo before it was too late. Sadly they do not teach, but it is a good start.
    Thank you for reading. Blessings xx

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  29. I like this. I will admit I have bought a few things from her site and I kinda feel guilty now. They are all thrown away anyways but still I feel like I cheated black people in a way. Uplifting a shop that sells their culture. I wont lie, her products did work (at least for me) but once I found out she was a white something made me stop dead in my tracks (please no one take offence to this, I don't mean it in a rude way). I guess deep down I knew I shouldn't be buying from that site but I ignored my instincts. I know it's kinda silly to say this but I feel the need to apologize. Sorry :(

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  30. Thank you Miss Alvarado for this elegant response. I am happy I came across your site. I found LM in 2007 and started ordering quite a bit of products. I was one of those sheeple, purchasing products and spending lots of money and getting very little results. I was going through a terrible time and I just wanted relief. Over the years i have used a few of the AIRR members including Momma Starr and i can personally testify that she is mean and nasty. During my first reading of which i paid for a full hour she yelled at me and made me cry. That reading lasted 5 minutes and she told me to take a coffee baths. Our second follow up reading she did not pick up up the phone and never called me back or replied to my emails. I also worked with the crook Ali and I have been scammed by him as recently as this year. It took him 6 months to send my products and the only reason I received them is because I had to contact the ombudsperson to intercede for me. What I got was garbage. I am do done getting scammed by this bunch of fakers and I hope this post helps someone to avoid being scammed. The whole thing is a sham and i will never purchase another product from them. After all they have such a high turn over rate, those products can't be so spiritually pure as cat would have us believe. Thank you Miss Alvarado for confirming my decision.
    Blessings to you always.

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  31. Well I am not surprised by any of this. I actually am a graduate of the HRCC course. I believe, as has already been stated, that Cat is mentally ill. She is mean, paranoid and suffers from delusions. And she does get worse with every passing year. It's very sad. In fact, I will be posting this anonymously because I am afraid of her

    Denise, from what I can tell you are a genuine person and I have learned a lot from your books and web information. I hope you continue your work and are blessed immensely.

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  32. For some years I've known about the Lucky Mojo website. Only today, though, did I learn about their correspondence course. I was browsing around Etsy and was reading about a seller's credentials. He claimed to be a member of AIRR (Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers). I also noticed that the labels on his products (e.g. hot foot powder), candles, and oils seemed quite familiar. So, as with anything, I do research. This research brought me to their page on how to be a member of AIRR, which requires completion of their correspondence course. Once I saw it was Lucky Mojo, I started to wonder. It sort of clicked. His color label designs looked quite similar to that of the Lucky Mojo products.

    I don't know the man nor am I even going to attempt to discredit him. However, the first thing that popped in my investigative head when I saw this was "white labeling." The term private labeling is sometimes used in marketing. Basically, it means a person has another company make the products for them (e.g. Lucky Mojo), but their company name and so forth is on it. I could be wrong. Maybe he just uses a similar packaging method and printing as they do.

    I had considered taking it as I enjoy learning. I know some of what some may call south folk magic (born, raised, and still live in deep south Louisiana), but I'm always willing to learn more. As I started reading the FAQs on the correspondence course, a few things struck me as odd.

    1. In order to request to start the correspondence course, you MUST have previously purchased a product from the Lucky Mojo website other than the correspondence course. The excuse given is that in their experience, most people that have not previously purchased products never complete the course. That is, they have a much higher success rate of those completing the correspondence course from those that have purchased Lucky Mojo products previously. I considered that to be quite odd. I see no correlation between purchasing a product (powder, oil, spell, etc) and completing a correspondence course, which should teach you how to make these very products you've previously purchased.

    2. You MUST have some connection with an African American. The excuse given on the website FAQ is that the correspondence course deals with African American Hoodoo. In doing so, one needs to understand African American people. I know quite a few African American people, many whom are my friends. The very large majority of them are Christians, with no interest in hoodoo, voodoo, or related religions or practices. Once again, I see no correlation between that homework assignment and the purpose of the correspondence course.

    In regards to what others have mentioned about having to purchase all of your tools and resources from them, I haven't read any of that. Then again, I haven't read very deeply into the website. I would think that it shouldn't matter where a person purchases their tools and materials from. It annoys the hell out of me when people try to use excuses such as "Purchase from here because it's more pure or better quality." While this may be true in some cases, I would think that if students should be required to purchase their materials from the Lucky Mojo website, that they should get a slight discount on their purchases since they're a student.

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  33. I may be late but THANK YOU for putting her/them lucky mojo people in their place! They moderate everything and if you don't talk about their products in forums they will write you a nasty email and block you. LOL! I love Ms Denise books and her blog. Thank you for setting the record straight with them folks over there!

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