Priestess explains how Voodoo is about healing

Posted at 9:14 AM, Feb 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-13 09:14:50-05

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) - New Orleans has long been associated with Voodoo, and in fact many people living there still practice the often-misunderstood religion.

Popular culture has enforced the notion that Voodoo is about dark arts - human sacrifice, dolls, magic spells. But for those who practice it, the religion’s stereotypes ring hollow.

“It’s about how to heal yourself - your life - and how to become a freely empowered being,” said Sally Ann Glassman, a Voodoo high priestess.

Glassman said she was ordained in Haiti more than 20 years ago. The walls of her small New Orleans shop are lined with candles and herbs, charms and hand-labeled glass bottles.

“Some of the herbs are just tasty. Some are medicinal, so they actually have healing properties, and some of them are magical,” she said.

Voodoo combines West African tribal religions with aspects of traditional Catholicism. Predominately practiced in Haiti, Voodoo was brought to Louisiana by slaves in the 1700s.

“There is so much in the symbolism of Voodoo that is about the movement from slavery to freedom,” she said.

Glassman said she believes the current negative stereotypes surrounding Voodoo stemmed from this time period - slaveowners seeking to discredit the religion that was bringing empowerment to enslaved people.

The high priestess is working to break those stereotypes, not by defending her religion but instead preaching it, holding public ceremonies to bring her practice to the people.

“Voodoo is very much about respect and honor - to each other, to the planet, to the ancestors, to the spirit,” Glassman said.

In addition to Voodoo's rich history in New Orleans, Glassman said it's deeply intertwined in the current culture, helping shape the vibrant city seen today.

“Our architecture, our food, our cuisine - here in New Orleans, it’s completely interwoven and intersects with the ongoing culture,” she said. 

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