watched a program the other night on the Learning Channel or Discovery
Channel about voodoo and how it is practiced around the United
States and elsewhere in the world. The program started me thinking
about my old friend Lula Mae and some of her escapades with voodoo
and hoodoo and all that.
remember Lula Mae, the old black lady, who worked as a maid for
our family about forty years ago, around 1970. She always had
a story to tell and taught me many things, not only about black
culture, but also the various spells and other things involved
in hoodoo and voodoo. Lula Mae was a devout Christian and sang
in her church choir, as well as a choral group, but she didnt
let any of this interfere with her belief in hoodoo and voodoo
and other practices of the occult.
went over to various places in Louisiana every three months or
so with a group of her church lady friends to sing in church chorus
competitions and while there, took advantage of the opportunity
to get a fresh supply of all the herbs and potions necessary to
cast voodoo spells. It was during one of those trips that she
went to visit the Hoodoo Queens.
particular choral competition was in New Orleans or one of the
surrounding towns. Lula Mae's group sang their preliminary competition
on Wednesday night and then had Thursday and Friday to sightsee
and explore before their next competition on Saturday. Of course,
a large part of the exploration was to the various voodoo shops
in and around New Orleans. It was a tip from one of these shopkeepers
that sent Lula Mae and her friends on their great adventure to
meet the "Hoodoo Queens.
the whole story as she related it to me:
was four of us: me, Sister Etta Ruth, Sister Carrie, and Sister
Mary Fay. All of us was members of the Greater Ebenezer Missionary
Church Reformed competition chorus and were all full-blooded church
members, exceptin' for Sister Mary Fay who is half-Catholic. There
was four other sisters what sang with us, but they was high-falutin'
heifers and didn't much stay with us when we wasn't singin'.
had won our primary singin' on Wednesday night, so we was on our
own till Saturday. On Thursday morning, we got up early and was
going to the Audubon Park Zoo, but we got lost, and by the time
we figured out where we were, it was time to go to lunch. Since
the church was paying for meals, we ate lunch at one of them famous
cafes. We all split one of them hurricane drinks, and let me tell
you, Mr. Harlingen, if one person was to drink one of them things
by their selves, they'd be drunker than a waltzin' pissant. Shoot,
just the little bit I had made me plumb dizzy.
that afternoon we went down in the French Quarter to them hoodoo
places. I bought me some of that incest burnin' stuff to keep
the bad spirits out of my house and a couple of geegaws to put
in my good luck sack. But mainly we was lookin' for a special
powder made out of dried frogs and poke salat and sassyfras and
some other stuff, that Sister Mary Fay needed to help her catch
a man. Lord knows, Mr. Harlingen, with her looks, bless her heart,
it was gonna take some sure nuff powerful stuff to help
looked and looked, but nobody had any and really didn't seem to
know what we were talkin' about when we asked for it. Finally,
it was getting late in the afternoon and we found this little
shop down on Chopolouplas Street
(I think she was talking about Tchopitoulous)
that a grizzled-up old white woman was runnin' and she knowed
exactly what we was lookin' for, but she didn't have it. She told
onliest place that she knowed where a body could get that stuff
was from the
Hoodoo Queens that stayed way out in the swamps.
it wasn't nothin' gonna satisfy Sister Mary Fay until she got
some of that powder, and she asked the old lady how to get to
the Hoodoo Queens' place. At first, the old lady couldn't rightly
remember the directions and offered to order some of the powder
for Mary Fay. But when Mary Fay told her that she wasn't from
here and couldn't wait, while handing over a five-dollar bill,
the old lady suddenly remembered the directions.
told us to go out to Clearview Parkway and go across the Mississippi
on Huey P. Long's bridge. She said after we crossed the river,
to stay on Highway 90 and don't turn until we got to Paradis.
When we got to Paradis, we should look for a big white sign with
three colored dots on it in a triangle. She said she thought the
dots were red and green and yellow, but wasn't real sure. She
said it didn't really make no difference because we'd know the
sign when we saw it. We was to turn left on the road by the sign
and go till we come to another sign with dots on it and turn whichever
way the arrow on it was pointin'. Said to keep on followin' them
signs and directly we'd come to the Hoodoo Queens' place.
didn't want to be rude, so we looked around the shop a little
longer, but soon made our excuses, and after going over the directions
once more, we left the shop, found my car, and headed on back
to our motel which was out by the airport. Sister Etta Ruth, who
was the head navigator, looked on the map while we were on our
way and found Paradis. It didn't look to be too far out, maybe
fifty miles or so, and we decided, with a little begging from
Mary Fay, to go out there the next morning and visit the Hoodoo
the next morning, we set out. It wasn't too much trouble to find
Clearview Parkway and get headed in the right direction, but Mr.
Im gonna tell you, if I'd have knowed about Huey P. Long's
we'd never have started out on that trip. That thing's a death
got a railroad going right down the middle of it, and there was
a train going on the track at the same time we weretalk
about shake, I thought the bridge was gonna fall down and dump
us all in the Mississippi River.
Mary Fay said three "Hail Marys" and one "Our Father"
on her rosary necklace, and I said two my own self, and I ain't
even half-Catholic. And that wasn't the worst part. Them lanes
was so narrow that we went by a big truck, and if the driver had
spit out his window, it would've come right in ours.
fire, Mr. Harlingen, I was so scared that I'll bet I was as white
is. Let me tell you, I was sure glad to get down off that
that, it wasn't too bad going to Paradis, although it did seem
like it was a lot further than it looked on Sister Etta Ruth's
enough when we pulled into Paradis, we hadn't no more than
gone past the first red light, when we saw a big white sign with
different colored dots in a triangle.
turned left, like the ol' lady said, and it didn't take no time
till we was out of town and there wasn't nothing in sight but
a bar ditch on one side of the road and a cypress swamp on the
other and you could just tell they was both full of snakes and
gators. Directly, here come another sign with three dots and an
arrow pointing down a road across a little bridge over the bar
ditch. I turned down the road and told Sister Etta Ruth and
Sister Carrie to be sure to mark the landmarks in their head in
weren't any signs on the way back.
kept on going, getting deeper and deeper in the swamp. It seemed
time we'd get about ready to turn around, thinkin' we was lost,
another one of them signs with the colored dots pointing the way.
only change was the swamp on either side got thicker and thicker
road got thinner, until we were on a little bitty ribbon of a
barely wider than a pig trail, with a little asphalt spread on
top. Two cars
could pass, but they'd be pretty good friends after they got by
and they'd better well be payin' close attention or they'd wind
up out in
the swamp with the snakes and gators.
tell you the truth, I was gettin' kinda scared, us bein' out in
the middle of that swamp. We was all gettin' scared by then, since
it had been a long time since we saw a sign with dots on it, and
we just knowed we was lost. But we had to keep on a-goin' cause
there weren't no place to turn around on that little bitty pig-trail-assed
that was all we could do, we just kept on a-goin till directly
we come to this hand-drawed sign that said 'Ferry Ahead.' I slowed
down and in about a half-mile, it looked like the road just quit
on the edge of a bayou. There was another hand-drawed sign with
a red light flashin' that said 'Ferry $2.50 Round Trip' and it
had the three colored dots
down at the bottom.
looked out across the bayou to the yonder side and saw this funny
lookin' boat settin' there. It had what looked like bridges hiked
up in the air on both ends and this little ol' house thing hangin'
off one side. Directly, this young fella goes out and unties the
rope holdin' it to the shore, and
it cranks up and comes across the bayou towards us.
made it across the bayou and come in right against the bank on
our side. The young man took hold of this crank and let the bridge
thing down so it matched up just perfect with the road, then he
hopped off the boat with a rope and tied it up to a stob there
on the bank. While he was doin' all that, this little ol' wizened-up
black man, all stove up and stooped over with arthritis, but dressed
in an official uniform, come out of the little house that's hangin'
on the side of the boat, tyin' on a nail apron. He come up to
my window and told me in a language that sounded like Cajun English,
that it was $2.50 for a round trip. I gave him the money and asked
him for a ticket for my come-back trip. He put the money in his
apron and told me not to worry cause he'd be there when we came
back from seein' the hoodoo queens, cause there weren't no other
way out. I asked him how he knowed we was going to see the hoodoo
queens and he said that was all there was out there.
little man hobbled out on the boat and waved me to come on. I
was scared to death, so I just half closed my eyes and drove on
till he said to stop. The boy cut loose the rope and cranked up
the bridge, and we put-putted across the bayou, and they let us
off on the other side.
we got off the boat, we drove just a little ways down the road,
through a thick stand of trees, and then we saw itthe hoodoo
queens' castle. It really looked more like a big barn than a castle.
was surprised that there was already fifteen or twenty cars in
the parking lot, as early as it was, but we pulled in and found
us a parking place right up near the front gate. We decided to
put on our choral robes, they being purple and all embroidered
up and everything, we figured they'd be right nice to wear to
see the hoodoo queen. Besides, we wanted everybody to know we
was together so they wouldn't try anything on just one of us.
we got up to the gate, there were two guys dressed up in soldier
suits and carryin' bazooka guns. They come to attention, and this
little lady who was dressed like a soldier, too, and sittin' in
this little booth, told us that it would be $5.00 apiece to get
in. We thought that was kinda funny for them to be chargin' admission
since we was comin' to buy somethin', but we wasn't about to argue
with them soldiers with bazookas. So we
paid our money, told her our first name, got our tickets, and
went on in.
had to walk a hunnert feet to the front door of the castle, and
when we got there, the doors just automatically opened up into
this little waitin' room. It was dark inside, but I'm here to
tell you, there stood two of the biggest black men Id ever
seenthey was huge, huger than any pro-football or basketball
both must've been at least seven-foot tall, and they had these
solid gold turbines on their heads that made them even bigger.
They was all dressed in white with a gold sash around their waists,
gold chains and jewels hangin' from their necks, rings on every
finger, and each one was holdin' a big scimitar sword. The darker
one of them spoke in a big boomin' voice and told us Welcome
to the house of the seven sisters. Welcome to each of you: sister
Lula Mae, sister Etta Ruth, sister Carrie and sister Mary Faith.
We hope you enjoy our hospitality. Sister Lula Mae you may enter
was a lot scareder than I was comin' over that Huey Long's bridge,
and I was scared half to death on that thing. How you reckon he
knowed our names, him just standin' there and all? They say hoodoo
queens knows everything and can read your mind, but this guy was
just a helper. I told him that we was all together, that's why
we all was dressed alike. He said sorry, that each sister had
to go alone into the castle to wash off her soul of bad spirits
and bad luck. He said there was four rooms all in a row, and you
had to go through each one to get to the next one, until finally
when you was in the fourth room, you'd find all the herbs and
incest and stuff and most of all the seven voodoo queens. But
you had to get through the first three rooms first. I looked over
to the other girls, and they said to go ahead and they'd be there
if I needed them. Well, I just toughed up and went ahead on in,
since I knowed I had my lucky bag around my neck.
first room wasn't too bad. It was all mirrors. Mirrors on the
floor, mirrors on the ceiling, mirrors on every wall. Everywhere
you looked there was a mirror, and I saw myself in every one of
them--must've been about a million Lula Maes in all them mirrors.
I like to see myself in lookin' glasses and all that, but seein'
me ever where I looked really spooked me. I couldn't wait to get
out of that room, but I couldn't remember which way to go, so
I walked round and round till a door just opened up like magic.
Boy howdy was I glad to get out of them mirrors--at least for
a second. Then I seen what come next.
second room really, really scared me. Everywhere you looked there
was snakes and spiders and gators and all kinds of stuff like
that just a hissin' and spittin' and snappin' at you. They even
had snakes what was hangin' up in the roof and from the walls
and everywhere. I ain't shamed to tell you, Mr. Harlingen, I was
glad I had my choral robe on since I peed all over myself on account
of Im scared to death of snakes and stuff. Finally, I just
closed my eyes and run as fast as this fat ol' woman could go
to that next door.
next room wasn't too bad.
was full of black cats and rabbits and crows, just runnin' loose.
All you had to do was to walk across to the next door, and your
soul was all cleaned and washed of evil spirits and bad luck.
This wasn't hard, exceptin for them damned cats kept on
rubbin' on my legs and the crows were all raisin' hell.
I gets to the room filled with herbs and roots and incest and
powders and candles and all kinds of other stuff, shelves from
floor to ceiling, with folks just a waitin' to help you find what
you needed. This room had seven corners and in each corner was
one of the seven hoodoo sisters, the voodoo queens, sitting on
me tell you, them gals was ugly! Them gals was so ugly that they
made sister Mary Fay look like Miss America. There was only four
on duty, so that's all I saw. But Im gonna tell you, them
four was ugly enough for all seven of 'em and then some. And they
all looked at you just hateful and snarling. One, she had six
fingers on one hand and her teeth all stuck straight out of her
mouth. Another one, she had her eyes up on her forehead, and another
had one really big ear and one little bitty ear and, I ought not
be tellin you this, three tits, just a-hangin out there
for the world to see, three of em. The other queen looked
pretty much like everyone else, except she was bald headed and
she stared and stared and didn't say nothing to nobody and ever
now and again she'd snap her fingers and lightnin' would shoot
from them. Folks say they'll tell you anything you want to know,
but to tell you the truth, I was too scared to ask them anything.
Mr. Harlingen, two of them queens weren't no sisters either. Two
were black alright, but the other two were white. And I don't
mean just light complected, I means white and I can sure tell
all my other choir sisters finally got through and we got our
candles and incest and other stuff we needed and were ready to
go, except Sister Mary Fay was scared to ask one of the hoodoo
ladies about her love potion. Finally, she just walked up to the
bald-headed one and told her what she wanted, and that witch told
her it would be $50. Sister Mary Fay gave the money and the queen
snapped her fingers and the lightnin' flew and right away, here
comes one of the helpers with a potion and hands it to sister
Mary Fay, and we was ready to go.
went out the door and, Mr. Harlingen, would you believe that them
hoodoo queens had done switched that building around till we came
out almost in front of our car? We all got loaded into the car
and came back across the ferry and never did look back till we
got to Nawlins.
chorus won the singin' on Saturday night and got a big statue
for the church, but Sister Mary Fay didnt care nothin
about that, all she could talk about all the way from Nawlins
to home was that magic powder and how she couldnt wait to
try it out on her latest man, Willy. Let me tell you, that ol
gal was in a twit.
aint no sooner got back home, but Sister Mary Fay had done
give Willy a dose of that magic stuff. Lordy, Im a-tellin
you that stuff worked and it worked good. Sister Mary Fay done
just what that hoodoo lady told her, and the next thing we knowed,
she had done caught Willy and they was married up without tellin
the shame of the matter was, that Willy, he turned out to be so
sorry and no count that the police come and hauled his ass off
Sister Mary Fay is makin noises about goin back over
to Nawlins. She wants to go back to them Voodoo Queens to see
if maybe they can make up some kind of somethin to get her
man out of jail and make him straighten his ass up and not be
Im gonna tell you one more thing for sure, hoodoo or voodoo
or whatever they call it, this fat old woman ain't never gonna
be near them voodoo queens or them swamps or snakes again. Naw
sir, I sure aint.
Harlan has a BS from Sam Houston University in Huntsville,
Texas. After spending 4 years in the USAF during the Vietnam era
and 35 years as an itinerant steel salesman, he is now semi-retired,
dabbling in steel sales, and writing. His fiction has appeared
in USA Deep South and DeadMule.com.