Jeff Anderson spoke on his travels to Senegal, Africa and the research he’s done dealing with Voodoo culture in the U.S. at “Coffee and Culture” last Thursday morning as part of International Week.
Anderson, professor of liberal arts and associate professor of history, presented “Not Born in the USA: The International Roots of Voodoo” to a crowd in the Liew Family International Student Center.
Anderson says that because of Hollywood’s stereotyping of Voodoo, many Americans believe it deals with things like zombies and Voodoo dolls.
“That’s not really what it is,” said Anderson. “It’s a real thing…it’s not just a scary black magic.”
Anderson approaches Voodoo in a realistic and truthful way.
For 20 years, Anderson has devoted his time to studying and writing books about African – American national and spiritual beliefs and continues to dig deeper into the magical practices of Voodoo, hoodoo and conjure.
“It’s a religion. People do practice it. [They] do believe in it,” said Anderson.
For the most part, people who practice Voodoo are respectful of other religions, such as Christianity, but there are times where pastors experience hostility.
During the event, Anderson spoke on Voodoo’s origin and history, its religious structure and beliefs – such as the spiritual voodoo hierarchy- and its role in the south Louisiana culture.
The story of the Famous Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau, was discussed, along with some of the ceremonies and functions held in the city. In Louisiana, the voodoo religion was fairly common and practiced up until the 1930s.
Anderson explained how much of the information about voodoo in Louisiana was gathered by undercover writers who went through some of the secret initiations and rituals.
Anderson showed his collection of charms and statues used for the religious culture and shared the story of entering a temple in attempts to witness a spiritual deity.
Cole Smith, junior history major, says he will most likely purchase Anderson’s Voodoo Encyclopedia in the future to have a solid factual record of the Voodoo religion for his teachings.
“Dr. Anderson is brilliant,” said Smith. “I rather hear from someone who knows what they’re talking about.”
Smith said he was surprised to learn just how much the Voodoo culture still thrives in Africa.
Although the Voodoo community is very closed off, Anderson suggests that Voodoo enthusiast travel to New Orleans to see a public St. John’s Eve ceremony or travel to Miami, Florida if they’re interested in learning more about the religion.
Anderson says that he will continue traveling and gathering as much information as he can about the Voodoo religion.