- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2005

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The last time Don Glossop saw his customers, they were ritually burning green candles, hoping voodoo would pierce the federal bureaucracy and hasten the arrival of desperately needed relief checks.

Mr. Glossop’s shop, New Orleans Mistic, has been closed since Hurricane Katrina swamped the city t, and most of his clients, who practice a local variant of voodoo, have scattered across the country.

He fears that Katrina, which laid waste to entire neighborhoods and claimed hundreds of lives here, might take another casualty: New Orleans’ status as the country’s voodoo capital.

“As of today, I would say it’s pretty dead,” Mr. Glossop said. “Even the tourist shops are in jeopardy. There is a chance for a huge loss here.”

Voodoo has long been entrenched in New Orleans, quietly practiced in homes with altars, candles and incense.

It also is part of the vernacular here, showing up in jazz and conversation. Some residents still sprinkle red brick dust on their doorway steps to ward off evil spirits.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The “go away” hurricane ritual was performed in July, just as it always is near the start of the hurricane season.

“It didn’t quite work out so well,” said Giselle Moller, manager of Marie Laveau House of Voodoo.

“Imagine if the hurricane would have hit us straight on. There would have been no French Quarter,” she said.

Even before Katrina, some thought voodoo was fading in New Orleans because the younger generation was less interested in the complicated practice, which involves substantial memorization of rituals and songs, Mr. Glossop said.

Defenders say voodoo is a legitimate African-based religion that has been maligned in movies and popular culture.

“Voodoo is not some kind of black magic cult,” said Wade Davis, a Washington-based National Geographic explorer in residence who has studied the religion extensively in Haiti. “It’s the distillation of very profound religious ideas that came over during the tragic era of slavery.”

In New Orleans, much of what is practiced these days is a system of folk magic. Some also practice Haitian voodoo.

As the city revives, proponents hope voodoo will make a comeback, too, because it is part of the intrigue that draws visitors.

“I think it’s going to be a very strong part of what will get people back here,” said Jameson King, who works in one of the voodoo shops in the French Quarter. “We’re here for more than drinking.”

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