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NOVEMBER 1, 2009


New Orleans Day Of The Dead

Today in New Orleans All Saints' is more subdued but still an important day for visiting and decorating cemeteries. A modest but steady stream of people makes its way to family tombs in Lafayette or St. Louis No. 1 or Cypress Grove, and Save Our Cemeteries, an organization devoted to the study and preservation of the Crescent City's historic graveyards, has taken to stationing its members in several of the older cemeteries to pass out information and solicit memberships. This is the traditional day for visiting and beautifying the cemeteries of New Orleans. To true New Orleanians this day is as important as Mardi Gras.

In the aftermath of Katrina, when all the city of New Orleans appears to be dead, who, you might ask, would want to hang around this place now?

It would have to be somebody familiar with desolation, that’s for sure, and not put off by challenges. Someone who brings the party with him, so to speak; who knows just the prescription for these post-Katrina blues.

No it ain’t the Big Boeuf of Fat Tuesday! It's Gede' Of Course!

Too dread to be dead and too much of a good time to be kept down, now’s the time to call on Papa Gede for a healing wild abandon.

Known as the Lwa of the Dead in Vodoun, Papa Gede, or Ghede, is also known as the Baron Samdi, and is married to Manman Brigit, mother of all Gedes. Together the Gedes dress in funeral colors of purple and black and surround themselves with graveyard imagery. The Gedes are very wise, Papa Gede most of all, because they possess the accumulated wisdom of all the dead.

Papa Gede usually appears wearing all black, a top hat, sunglasses with one eye out, to symbolize his power in the world of the seen and the unseen. He is a wise counselor and a shameless trickster; he is especially loving toward children, and is called the patron of children throughout the Vodoun world.

You can count on Gede to keep you from wallowing in your sorrows, and he usually arrives when everyone is tired, exhausted and ready for sleep. That’s when Gede will want to hear another song, have another drink, and eat another meal!

Devotions to Gede, who is syncretized with St. Gerard, are carried out during the entire month of November, but most especially on November 1st (All Saints Day) and 2nd (All Souls Day).

During these devotions, Papa Gede will arrive with the entire retinue of Gedes in tow. They eat and drink with gluttony, for, like Death, the Gedes are never satisfied, and they especially enjoy hot, peppered foods and rum that has had Scotch Bonnet peppers soaking in it.

But Papa Gede is not just gluttony and cool clothes. He is the powerful Lwa often called upon for healing. As the Avatar of Death it is also within his power to effect healing, and if ever there was a need for healing, it is here, now.

Each Year La Source Ancienne Ounfo & The Island of Salvation Botanica & Magical Pharmacy present their Annual New Orleans DAY OF THE DEAD CELEBRATION, Voodoo Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman presiding holds a open to the Public day of the dead ritual. Followers wear white with a purple headscarf, or black and purple for Gede. They bring a dish of food for the people, and an offering for the Dead or Gede.

Gede’s tastes tend towards peppers, flat breads, rum, cigars, goats, crosses, grave-digger’s tools, black cock feathers, skeletons, sunglasses with one lens, hot Creole foods, money, the colors black, mauve, and white. He is syncretized with St. Gerard.
Or you can bring something that your ancestors or loved ones enjoyed in life.

New Orleans Day of Holy Obligations

The beautiful city of New Orleans is broken but not beaten, is bent but not destroyed. Slowly, it is beginning to heal. She is like a grand old dame who is suffering from a serious, life-threatening illness, and she needs every healing effort. Who better to call on now than Papa Gede?

He is able to help with grief, and there are many grieving here and throughout the Diaspora that is post-Katrina New Orleans. Gede will also lead the Beloved Dead across the black waters of the Abyss where they can rest, and their loved ones can heal.

In heavily Catholic New Orleans, All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2) have been observed for centuries through rituals celebrating life over death.

During the Yellow Fever epidemics in eighteenth century New Orleans, death always loomed close. It's presence left the lasting impression on this city and its inhabitants that life is a gift, perhaps fleeting, and should be enjoyed to its fullest each day. And so, on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, New Orleanians honor the lives of their dead loved ones by painting tombs with brilliant whitewashes, placing yellow chrysanthemums and red coxcombs on graves and ringing statuary with immortelles (wreaths of black glass beads). On these days, cemeteries throughout the city are alive with the flickering glow from fields of candles, as death is forgotten and lives lived are celebrated.

The most deadly diseases to strike Louisiana during the antebellum period were cholera, smallpox, malaria, and yellow fever. In an epidemic year the mortality rate could reach as high as sixty percent of those who contracted a disease. The death rate in New Orleans ranged from a low of 36 per 1,000 in the late 1820s to a high of 1 in 15 during the summer of 1853. Over 12,000 people died of yellow fever in New Orleans that year, with still more deaths in rural areas in south Louisiana, marking the single highest annual death rate of any state during the entire nineteenth century. Because people died faster than graves could be dug, the popular saying was that pretty soon people would have to dig their own graves.

It is one of the many rich New Orleans' traditions we observe annually at International House, for we can imagine no other city which has turned such tragedy into such a joyous celebration of life.

November 1st, All Saints' Day, is the time when folks in New Orleans traditionally come to pay their respects and leave flowers on the family plot.

Of these older cemeteries, St. Roch's, probably the best kept up, most retains the older air of All Saints' hustle and bustle. Once at the heart of the Ninth Ward's life, it is still visited by many former residents of the neighborhood who have moved to Gretna or St. Bernard Parish or other suburbs. Practically every grave and every niche in the wall "ovens" have flowers. People greet each other, chat with each other, or stop to joke with St. Roch's indefatigable sexton, Albert Hattier, about his own recently completed tomb, which sits prominently guarding the gate to St. Roch's No. 2.. Lower Louisiana is famous for its "Cities of the Dead," the cemeteries of above-ground tombs and wall crypts, or "ovens." Because so much of the area is below sea level, coffins did not readily stay in the ground but rather floated to the top. It only took a heavy rain to raise the dead. To address the problem antebellum authorities at times prohibited interment in the ground. Thus, most south Louisianians were, and still are, buried above the earth's surface.

Burial construction varied by class and faith. Wealthy Louisianians commissioned large, elaborate family tombs, while those with lesser means were buried in small units of ovenlike wall crypts. The very poor who could not afford tombs or crypts were buried below ground, often in unmarked or mass graves. During epidemics the dead were often buried one on top of another.

Jews also interred their dead below ground. According to Jewish belief, the body had to return to the soil and thus was usually buried in the ground in a wooden casket without nails.

But it is only in a few of Louisiana's rural communities, like Lacombe on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, and Lafitte, on Bayou Barataria, where the sublime night-time vigils, once more common, still take place to give All Saints' an especially distinctive aspect. In both of these places, as well as in many others in South Louisiana where All Saints' is observed without the candlelight vigil, the week before is a time of intense preparation. Undergrowth, weeds, and any cemetery trash are cleaned up, and tombs and graves, most of which have copings or slabs or in some other way conform to the South Louisiana style of raised grave structures, are painted (once with whitewash, today more likely with latex)

Antebellum Louisianians mourned the dead by staging elaborate funerals and processions, decorating graves at the time of death and on All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, placing black wreaths on doors and black ribbons on door pulls, and wearing clothes and jewelry that symbolized stages of mourning. Many customs incorporated Latin and African elements, a cultural heritage from Louisiana's colonial era.

New Orleans Mourning jewelry is composed in part of human hair. Hair jewelry could be made by the mourner or by artists who specialized in such work with hair clipped from the deceased at the time of death.

The level of subterranean water is high enough that coffins tend to pop up out of the ground. An exception is Holt cemetery, where the graves are in the ground.

"It's a cemetery for mostly people who don't have the money to build those big magnificent tombs. So there are a lot of handmade, homemade tombs, made with found objects, with materials that are just lying around, very impermanent materials. It's a lot of very improvised memorials. Very personalized as well."

Rob Florence is the author of New Orleans Cemeteries: Life in the Cities of the Dead.

"It's one of the things that's very moving about this cemetery. You can tell that people have put a lot of thought and a lot of time and a lot of devotion into these memorials and within a year or even six months, it's not gonna be there."

The New Orleans Saints are a professional American football team based in New ... since the franchise had been granted to New Orleans on All Saints' Day. African-American influences on Louisiana mourning traditions included the celebration of funerals with dancing, music, and singing.

The wearing of white at funerals and other celebrations involving the dead had religious symbolism and was most likely an African-American cultural carryover. In 1819 English-born architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe encountered a funeral procession in New Orleans for an old Congo slave woman and wrote:

In going home to my lodgings this evening about sunset, I encountered a crowd of at least 200 negroes, men and women, who were following a corpse to the cemetery. Of the women, one half at least carried candles, & as the evening began to be dark, the effect was very striking, for all the women & many of the men were dressed in pure white. The funerals are so numerous here, or rather occupy so much of every afternoon in consequence of their being, almost all of them, performed by the same set of priests, proceeding from the same parish Church St. Louis Cathedral], that they excite hardly any attention.

In antebellum Louisiana, and even now, celebration of death did not end with the funeral. On or near tombs and crypts friends and relatives placed immortelles, wreaths commonly made of such durable materials as glass and wire.

According to older Latin Catholic tradition, the living also remembered the dead on All Souls' Day (2 November), burial sites, adorned them with flowers and ornaments, and held midnight feasts. Louisianians continue to observe All Saints' and All Souls' Day in much the same way today.



La Source Ancienne Ounfo &
The Island of Salvation Botanica & Magical Pharmacy

Thursday, November 1st
3319 Rosalie Alley
New Orleans, LA.
New Orleans Day of The Dead Celebration, with Sallie Ann Glassman

Followed by potluck supper & procession to the cemetary to feed the dead. Please wear white with a purple headscarf, or black and purple for Gede. Bring a dish (not a blonde) for the people and an offering for the DEAD or GEDE. Gede's tastes tend towards peppers, flat bread, rum, cigars, goats, crosses, gravedigger's tools, black cock feathers, skeletons, sunglasses with one lens, spicy creole foods, and money! He is syncretized with St. Gerard. Or you can bring something your ancestors or loved ones enjoyed in life.

FOR MORE INFO AND RSVP: (504)948-9961


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