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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Do You Do Voodoo?

*Woodcut print "Karma" by Chelsea Semb

Shantybellum sports a couple of little Voodoo dolls in the kitchen. One of our guests, Chelsea Semb, was so enchanted she sent us an original piece of artwork she did after she returned home.

If you're not familiar with Voodoo, the word is derived from the religion known as Vodun, which originated in Africa and was brought to America on the slave ships. The word "vodun" means "spirit."

According to the website Religious Tolerance, the Vodun religion, which is practiced by 60 million people worldwide today, goes as far back as 6,000 years in Africa. The Vodun religion has many similarities to the Roman Catholic religion. You can read about it here.

Then there's Voodoo. Yes, that's the fun stuff we see in movies and horror tales. Voodoo is an evil, imaginary religion based on bizarre rituals rife with violence and terror where the dead can rise again as Zombies and people can be controlled and affected by the use of voodoo dolls and pins.

Practitioners can do good deeds with white magic or evil deeds with black magic. But who wants to hear about white magic? Let's face it. Black magic is lots more fun.

From the Religious Tolerance website:

"Sticking pins in dolls was once used as a method of cursing an individual by some followers of Vodun in New Orleans; this practice continues occasionally in South America. The practice became closely associated with Voodoo in the public mind through the vehicle of horror movies."

The first time I ever came across a Voodoo doll, I was traveling back to California, flying out of the New Orleans airport. They had Voodoo dolls in the gift shop complete with pins and instructions on where to stick 'em.

My little girl had been bothered by some bullies at school, and it struck me that this might be a fun and harmless way to let her vent her spleen and give her a feeling of power again. When I returned to LA, we got the doll out and said, "Hmph! Take this, mean girl," dissolving into giggles, happy with our new-found power.

Who knew a little Voodoo would do you so good? I do. And now you do, too.


*This just in: Patty Killelea made one of the dolls in the Shantybellum kitchen. Patty's a wonderful artist here in town. A lot of her art is centered around the Catholic Church and religious icons. They're gorgeous. Catholic icons....voodoo dolls. Maybe there IS a connection, eh?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

New Friends at Shantybellum -- Diana and Paul Gessler

*Click on the photos to see full size. They're wonderful! The first two pictures are four journal pages from the Gesslers' trip through Natchez and northern Mississippi. The third is the cover of Diane's book on New Orleans, which I plan to take with me on my next visit later this month.

There's a funny thing about Shantybellum. The little pink house on the corner seems to beckon to people with an artistic eye. About a month ago Tommy and I were standing on the porch next door when I pointed across the street.

"Look. Someone's taking a picture of Shantybellum."

"Well, Girlfriend, they're probably just horrified that anyone really puts those tacky pink flamingos in the yard. I told you not to do it. They just want proof when they go back home and tell their friends."

The Hawaiian-shirt flag was bad enough. But the day we put those flamingos on the lawn? All heck broke loose. My father called me on the phone:

"Elodie, listen. Everybody knows that pink flamingos are tacky, tacky tacky!"

For a minute there, I could actually hear the ghost of Bessie Rose (My dad's mother) fussing about people who have no taste. Ha! The flamingos stayed.

We waved at the couple, who rather than covering their mouths and sniggering, seemed quite taken with the place. So we went went over to say hello, and ended up giving them a tour.

Diana and Paul were on their way back home from New Orleans, and were looking around Natchez a bit before moving on. This is a couple who have combined their love of travel and their eye for detail with Diana's talent with a paintbrush.

Diana has written several travel books that she illustrates, herself, in beautiful, bright colors and published by Algonquin Books. Diana has books on Washington, DC; Charleston, SC; New Orleans, LA; the state of California, et al. Diana also gives classes on creating your own illustrated travel journal. In fact, the July/August issue of Southern Lady has a showcase of Diana's work in two spreads.

After a really pleasant visit during which Diana signed a copy of her New Orleans book for me (Thank you, Diana!), we sent them off to Ferriday, LA to visit Frogmore Plantation and the Delta Music Museum.

We hope they'll return someday soon to come see more of Natchez and the surrounding area, and that they'll enjoy their visit with us as much as we enjoyed ours with them.