History of Mardi Gras
On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived at a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans, and named it "Pointe du Mardi Gras" when his men realized it was the eve of the festive holiday. Bienville also established "Fort Louis de la Louisiane" (which is now Mobile) in 1702. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America's very first Mardi Gras.
In 1704, Mobile established a secret society (Masque de la Mobile), similar to those that form our current Mardi Gras krewes. It lasted until 1709. In 1710, the "Boeuf Gras Society" was formed and paraded from 1711 through 1861. The procession was held with a huge bull's head pushed alone on wheels by 16 men. Later, Rex would parade with an actual bull, draped in white and signaling the coming Lenten meat fast. This occurred on Fat Tuesday.
New Orleans was established in 1718 by Bienville. By the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans, but not with the parades we know today. In the early 1740s, Louisiana's governor, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, established elegant society balls, which became the model for the New Orleans Mardi Gras balls of today.
The earliest reference to Mardi Gras "Carnival" appears in a 1781 report to the Spanish colonial governing body. That year, the Perseverance Benevolent & Mutual Aid Association was the first of hundreds of clubs and carnival organizations formed in New Orleans.
By the late 1830s, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback riders to celebrate Mardi Gras. Dazzling gaslight torches, or "flambeaux," lit the way for the krewe's members and lent each event an exciting air of romance and festivity. In 1856, six young Mobile natives formed the Mistick Krewe of Comus, invoking John Milton's hero Comus to represent their organization. Comus brought magic and mystery to New Orleans with dazzling floats (known as tableaux cars) and masked balls. Krewe members remained anonymous, and to this day, Comus still rides!
In 1870, Mardi Gras' second Krewe, the Twelfth Night Revelers, was formed. This is also the first recorded account of Mardi Gras "throws."
Newspapers began to announce Mardi Gras events in advance, and they even printed "Carnival Edition" lithographs of parades' fantastic float designs (after they rolled, of course - themes and floats were always carefully guarded before the procession). At first, these reproductions were small, and details could not be clearly seen. But beginning in 1886 with Proteus' parade "Visions of Other Worlds," these chromolithographs could be produced in full, saturated color, doing justice to the float and costume designs of Carlotta Bonnecase, Charles Briton and B.A. Wikstrom. Each of these designers' work was brought to life by talented Parisian paper-mache' artist Georges Soulie', who for 40 years was responsible for creating all of Carnival's floats and processional outfits.
1872 was the year that a group of businessmen invented a King of Carnival, Rex, to preside over the first daytime parade. To honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff, the businessmen introduced Romanoff's family colors of purple, green and gold as Carnival's official colors. Purple stands for justice; gold for power; and green for faith. This was also the Mardi Gras season that Carnival's improbable anthem, "If Ever I Cease to Love," was cemented, due in part to the Duke's fondness for the tune.
The following year, floats began to be constructed entirely in New Orleans instead of France, culminating with Comus' magnificent "The Missing Links to Darwin's Origin of Species," in which exotic paper-mache' animal costumes served as the basis for Comus to mock both Darwin's theory and local officials, including Governor Henry Warmoth. In 1875, Governor Warmoth signed the "Mardi Gras Act," making Fat Tuesday a legal holiday in Louisiana, which it still is.
Like Comus and the Twelfth Night Revelers, most Mardi Gras krewes today developed from private social clubs with restrictive membership policies. Since all of these parade organizations are completely funded by their members, New Orleanians call it the "Greatest Free Show on Earth!"
Mardi Gras Parade Throws
So what are "throws?" Well, they are exactly what they sound like - items that krewe members on floats throw to parade-goers as the floats pass by! Throws often include doubloons, beads, cups, homemade trinkets, toys and more!
The throwing of trinkets to the crowds was started in the early 1870s by the Twelfth Night Revelers, and is a time-honored expectation for young and old alike.
In 1884 (over 125 years ago), Rex started using medallions instead of trinkets. These medallions are represented by today's doubloons. These doubloons are aluminum and anodized in many different colors. They depict the parade theme on one side and the Krewe's emblem on the other. They have become collectors items.
In the Bacchus parade, the King's float throws doubloons with the image of the celebrity king on one side of the doubloon. If you're lucky enough to catch one, hold onto it!
Other popular throws include cups (otherwise known as New Orleans dinnerware), long pearl beads and stuffed animals.
Be warned! If you're at your first parade and reach down to pick up a doubloon with your hand, your fingers may never be the same! Many stomp on doubloons in their rush to claim them.
Hint: If you're standing next to a bunch of old grandmothers dressed in high heels and playboy bunny outfits, don't think your chances are any better. They may be old, but they have fast feet and the spikes on those heels - ouch!
Mardi Gras Krewes
Featured Parade KrewesKrewe of ZULU
Home page of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, well-known for its interesting history and "golden nugget" (coconut) parade throws.
Mardi Gras Indians
The Mardi Gras tradition often considered our "Black Mardi Gras". See the beautiful beaded and feathered costumes they hand-design and create throughout the entire year!
Krewe of Bacchus
Krewe of Bacchus features national celebrity monarchs each year, and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors. Its yearly exclusive Rendezvous can be seen live. Re-broadcasts now online!
Krewe of Rex
This parade krewe is the origin of many traditions of Mardi Gras, including the Carnival colors of purple, green and gold, as well as the collectible doubloon coins (introduced by Rex in 1960).
Krewe of Endymion
Endymion quickly emerged as one of Carnival's 'Super-Krewes' in 1974 with the inclusion of more floats and celebrity guests.
Other Parade Krewes:
Krewe of Bilge
The Krewe of Bilge is a Mardi Gras boat parade in Slidell, Louisiana, which throws to paradegoers from the middle of Slidell waterways! Some great spots to catch the parade are at The Dock of …Read More »
Krewe of Mona Lisa and MoonPie
Established in 1984, the Krewe of Mona Lisa and Moonpie is a Slidell, Louisiana based parading group. They are the original walking parade in the southwestern Louisiana city. The Krewe say…Read More »
Krewe du Vieux
Born of the remains of the Krewe of Clones, which began parading in 1978, Krewe du Vieux marched for the first time in 1987. When the Krewe of Clones decided to become more respectable, Craig "…Read More »
krewedelusion is the Big Easy's newest, satirical parade. krewedelusion keeps its annual theme a secret until the actual day of the parade. This unique parade krewe is the root organizatio…Read More »
Krewe of Little Rascals
Founded in 1983, The Krewe of Little Rascals is America's longest-running, most flamboyant children's Mardi Gras krewe in Carnival history. Named after the famous group of kids from TV…Read More »
Krewe of Perseus
The Mystick Krewe of Perseus of Slidell is the city's oldest Carnival organization, founded in 1970, and is named for the Greek god who slew Medusa. Perseus hosts a ball and a thirteen-floa…Read More »
Krewe of Cork
Founded in 2000, the Krewe of Cork has grown into a world-famous Mardi Gras and wine industry phenomenon. Krewe members gather on selected Fridays, usually the first Friday of each month…Read More »
Krewe of Oshun
Founded in 1996, the Krewe of Oshun is named for the Yoruba goddess of love and intimacy. The organization provides its members and families with a year-round venue for wholesome family enterta…Read More »
Krewe of Cleopatra
Founded in 1972, the Krewe Of Cleopatra celebrates their 40th anniversary by moving from the Uptown to the Eastbank. The all-female Krewe will kick off Mardi Gras season by marching…Read More »
Krewe of Excalibur
Founded in 2000, Excalibur was named for the legendary sword of King Arthur. Formed by approximately 250 men and women members, the Krewe of Excalibur's medieval theme lends itself to grand…Read More »
Krewe of Eve
The Krewe of Eve was created in 1986 when six local residents decided to form a ladies-only parade krewe. The Krewe of Eve began with 260 ladies, after its founding members threw a party and invite…Read More »
The Mystic Knights of Adonis
Founded in 1999, The Mystic Knights of Adonis shares only a similarity in name to The Mystic Krewe of Adonis which paraded in Orleans Parish during the 1950's. Adonis was the epitome of mal…Read More »
Knights of Nemesis
The Knights of Nemesis take its name from the goddess of retribution in the Greek mythology. In 2004, a group of one-time members from the Krewe of Gladiators and several long-time carnival par…Read More »
Krewe of Pontchartrain
The Krewe of Pontchartrain was organized in 1975 and was named after Lake Pontchartrain, which forms the northernmost border of New Orleans. The Krewe of Pontchartrain consists of more than 275…Read More »
Krewe of Choctaw
Founded in 1935, The Krewe of Choctaw had their first parade in 1939, 4 years after the founding of the organization. Although the krewe took the name of a Native American tribe that inhabited …Read More »
Krewe of Freret
The Krewe of Freret is a New Orleans based co-ed krewe that with a focus on preserving Mardi Gras tradition, supporting local businesses and conducting service events that benefit the city. …Read More »
‘tit Rəx is New Orlean’s first and only MicroKrewe. A group of artists, businesspeople, teachers, workers and bon vivants founded ‘tit Rəx in 2009 in a response to the super kre…Read More »
Knights of Sparta
Founded in 1952, the Knights of Sparta take their name from the city-state in southern Greece, renowned for its simple, stoic ways and exemplary disciplines. The Knights of Sparta, an all-male …Read More »
Krewe of Caesar
Founded in 1979, the Krewe of Caesar takes the name of an actual historical figure rather than a myth. Formed by more than 800 men and women members, Caesar is the largest Carnival organization…Read More »
Krewe of Olympia
The Mystic Krewe of Olympia was formed in 1965 by a group of northshore businessmen that wanted to bring a New Orleans style parade to the northshore community so that the rural residents …Read More »
Krewe of Titans
The Mystic Krewe of Titans is a parade that takes place in Slidell, Louisiana. The Krewe is one of the newest parading organizations in Slidell, formed in 2009. The Krewe is composed of 12…Read More »
Krewe of Pygmalion
Founded in 2000, Pygmalion takes its name from the Greek legend of a Cypress king who sculpted a statue of the sea nymph Galatea. So real and beautiful was the statue to Pygmalion, he fell helpless…Read More »
Krewe of Chewbacchus
The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus is a Sci Fi themed parade width over 600 dues paying members and more than 50 homemade parade contraptions. The krewe's ball, the CHEWBACCHANAL, is in the…Read More »
Krewe of Carrollton
Founded in 1924 by a group of local businessmen, Carrollton has a long-standing tradition of rolling exactly at its designated time. The krewe has weathered the tests of time through its nearly…Read More »
Krewe of King Arthur and Merlin
Founded in 1977 on the West Bank, King Arthur now parades on New Orleans' Uptown route. The Krewe of King Arthur's 450+ members are best known for their afternoon parade on the first Su…Read More »
Krewe of Alla
The all-male Krewe of Alla originally formed in 1932. Since then, the krewe has staged a total of more than 75 annual street parades, one 75th anniversary parade, one Gretna Kick-Off parade, a…Read More »
Krewe of Dionysus
The Krewe of Dionysus was founded in 1985 by a group of Northshore businessmen with the intention of bringing the first all-male krewe to Slidell. The club’s royalty is selected at the C…Read More »
Krewe of Tchefuncte
The Krewe of Tchefuncte was organized in 1973. It is a boat parade that cruises the Tchefuncte River in Madisonville, Louisiana every Sunday before Mardi Gras. While most Mardi Gras Krewe&rsquo…Read More »
Krewe of Barkus
The Krewe Of Barkus isn’t like your other Mardi Gras Parade. This one has gone to the dogs. Man’s best friend is the center of this parade through the streets of the French Quarter…Read More »
Krewe of Druids
Established in 1998, the Ancient Druids take their name from the priest class of ancient Celtic societies who connected their people with the gods and nature. The Ancient Druids are a parade-on…Read More »
Krewe of Nyx
The Mystic Krewe of Nyx, founded in 2012 is one of the newest Krewe’s to parade in New Orleans Mardi Gras. It is an all-women's Mardi Gras Krewe, embracing women of diverse backgroun…Read More »
Knights of Babylon
The Knights of Babylon were found in 1939, by a group of professionals called The Jeter’s Club that wanted to stage a first-class parade for the public. They continue that tradition today usi…Read More »
Krewe of Muses
Organized in 2000, the Krewe of Muses is named after the legendary daughters of Zeus. In Greek mythology, muses were patrons of the arts and sciences, as well as sources of inspiration for artists,…Read More »
Knights of Chaos
Organized in 2000, the Krewe of Chaos is formed by 200 male riders. It is believed that the krewe's name refers to the cessation of the parading career of the venerable Krewe of Momus, an o…Read More »
Krewe of Hermes
Founded in 1937, while America suffered through the Great Depression, a group of New Orleans businessman met to come up with a solution to the widespread woes of the time, a solution that only New …Read More »
Founded in 1996, Le Krewe d'Etat features 21 floats, including a special signature High Priest Float. Its floats adhere to a traditional style of design that impart Le Krewe d'Etat'…Read More »
Krewe of Selene
The Krewe of Selene parades in Slidell, Louisiana on the Friday night before Mardi Gras. It came into existence in 1998, founded by a group of local professional women. Their first year began with …Read More »
Krewe of Centurions
Founded in 1979, the all-male Krewe of Centurions decided to name themselves after the fabled group of Roman warriors and leaders of men. Originally formed by a partnership of businessmen from …Read More »
Krewe of Morpheus
Established in 2000, the Krewe of Morpheus is named for the Greek god of dreams. The krewe strives to be inclusive in membership, and is formed by more than 500 male and female riders. This kre…Read More »
Krewe of NOMTOC
Founded in 1951, the Krewe of NOMTOC (New Orleans Most Talked Of Club) began parading on the Westbank (Orleans Parish) in 1970. Their inaugural parade had six floats, six bands, six marching un…Read More »
Krewe of Iris
Founded in 1917, the Krewe of Iris first stated parading in 1959, and it is the oldest and largest all-female krewe in New Orleans. Named for the Goddess of the Rainbow and Messenger to th…Read More »
Krewe of Tucks
The Krewe of Tucks first began in 1969 as a group of Loyola University students. The name "Krewe of Tucks" comes from the name of a now non-existen uptown pub where two college students d…Read More »
Krewe of Endymion
The Krewe of Endymion is one of the three Super Krewes. Super Krewes are defined by their stunning use of visuals and floats laced with brand new technology and celebrity Grand Marshals. Their para…Read More »
Krewe of Isis
Founded in 1973, the all-female Krewe of Isis first started parading in Kenner before taking the standard Veterans Memorial Boulevard route in Jefferson Parish. Comprised of 250 riders and 21 f…Read More »
Krewe of Okeanos
Founded in 1949, the Krewe of Okeanos is named for the Greek god of oceans and fertile valleys. The Krewe was originally formed to bring the carnival to St. Claude Avenue, the founder’s n…Read More »
Krewe of Mid-City
Founded in 1933, the Krewe of Mid-City is the 5th-oldest continuously parading organization of the New Orleans Mardi Gras season. Often called "The best day parade in Mardi Gras," Mid-Cit…Read More »
Krewe of Thoth
Founded in 1947, the Krewe of Thoth is named for the Egyptian Patron of Wisdom and Inventor of Science, Art and Letters. The krewe's original parade route was designed specifically to serve peo…Read More »
Krewe of Bacchus
Early in 1968, the Krewe of Bacchus broke with Carnival tradition by staging a Sunday night parade with bigger and more spectacular floats than anything previously seen in Carnival. They then decid…Read More »
Krewe of Napoleon
In 1980, the Krewe of Napoleon was created in 1980 to provide Jefferson Parish with fun and different Mardi Gras festivities. The Corps de Napoleon's primary mission is to honor New Orleans…Read More »
Krewe of Proteus
Founded in 1882, the Krewe of Proteus is the second-oldest krewe in Carnival history. Their floats even still use the original chassis from the 1880's. The Krewe of Proteus parade is based …Read More »
Krewe of Orpheus
Founded in 1993, the Krewe of Orpheus takes its name from the musically-inclined son of Zeus and Calliope. Founding members included Harry Connick, both the junior and senior. In New Orleans, t…Read More »
Krewe of Hera
Jefferson Parish’s newest addition to Mardi Gras is the Krewe of Hera. The all-female Krewe is the first Carnival group to join the lineup since Hurricane Katrina and is one of only two femal…Read More »
Krewe of Zeus
Founded in 1958, the Krewe of Zeus was the first to stage a nightime parade in the suburbs of Jefferson Parish, where it holds the title of oldest parading organization. In Ancient Greece, Zeus…Read More »
Krewe of Zulu
Early in 1909, a group of laborers who had organized a club named "The Tramps" went to the Pythian Theater to see a musical comedy performed by the Smart Set. The comedy included a skit e…Read More »
Krewe of Rex
The Rex parade is an annual attraction of traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras and considered a centerpiece of the festival because of the Krewe’s rich and colorful themes, maskers in original …Read More »
Krewe of Grela
Founded in 1947, The Krewe of Grela takes its name from the comunity where the parade passes through, Gretna, LA. It was the first krewe to hold a parade on the Westbank of Jefferson…Read More »
Krewe of Argus
The Krewe of Argus, founded in 1972 now includes 600 male, female and child riders, has 30 floats and marching bands. Rolling on Mardi Gras Day in Jefferson Parish, it follows the Veterans Memorial…Read More »
Krewe of Lyra
The Krewe of Lyra is a coed social networking organization and Mardi Gras Krewe based on the Northshore. They were founded in 2010, originally as an all-women organization. Last year, they went…Read More »
Krewe of Elks Orleans
Founded in 1935, the Krewe of Elks Orleans is the oldest and largest of all the truck float krewes. The Elks Orleans are a group of over 50 individually designed truck floats that parade follow…Read More »
Krewe of Crescent City
Founded in 1947, the trucks in the Crescent City parade hold over 3,000 male and female riders. The trucks each represent a different Carnival organization. The krewe sets no overall theme for …Read More »
Krewe of Jefferson
Founded in 1972, the Krewe of Jefferson is the last truck parade in Jefferson Parish. Krewe Of Jefferson was founded by former captain of the Krewe Of Jason wanted to bring Mardi Gras to Jeffer…Read More »
Krewe of Elks Jefferson
Founded in 1974, The Krewe of Elks-Jeffersonians is sponsored by the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks, a worldwide fraternal society dedicated to charitable deeds. Following the Krewe of…Read More »
Mardi Gras Traditions
Mardi Gras is about music, parades, picnics, floats and excitement. It's one big holiday in New Orleans!
Everyone is wearing purple, green, and gold, and adorned with long beads caught from the beautiful floats. You'll see a lot of crazy costumes, kids everywhere, and both locals and visitors having a great time. People sit on the ground, throw balls, play music, eat great food and watch the crowds walk by between parades. During Mardi Gras, all of the businesses and roads are practically shut down. People walk everywhere and meet new friends.
Every year, we get a lot of questions about how it all begin, and how the traditions have changed. Keep reading to find out the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Why do Women Bare their Breasts?
Question: A friend of mine was at a parade on Canal Street and told me that his girlfriend got a coconut. Apparently, she had to bare her breasts to get one. Can you tell me the story behind that?
Answer: She didn't have to bare her breasts. You see, during Mardi Gras the coconuts are a great treasure, and they are hard to get. That is also true for the beautiful beads that many throw. Some people will do anything to get them. Because the people throwing the treasures know that, they will sometimes take advantage of women by asking them to show their breasts for them.
Please tell your friend that no one has to do anything they don't want to do, and those who request women to do so can be arrested on the parade route.
Flashing for Beads
I've heard that it's a tradition on Bourbon Street for women to bare their breasts to the crowd for beads. Can someone explain this? Where did this tradition come from?
Answer: As a fifth-generation New Orleanian, let me say this was never and is still not a tradition. Saying it is "tradition" is like saying that people who get drunk and pass out on Bourbon Street are following tradition as well.
Thankfully, this does not occur everywhere in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, but just in the Bourbon Street area of the French Quarter. That's also an area known for its strip joints, where those interested in this sort of thing can see it year-round. Let me explain why you may have heard this rumor:
Within the last 10 or so years, a few spring break-aged tourists visiting our city have started getting drunk after the parades on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, causing them to lose their inhibitions. This has drawn a lot of onlookers. The end result is that certain types of individuals are now attracted to the French Quarter in the evenings after the parades.
Throughout the year, the beautiful balconies in the French Quarter are noted for being a wonderful place to enjoy the history, atmosphere, and culture of the city as the sounds of jazz drift by after a fantastic meal. During Mardi Gras, many think of them as a place to get away from the crowd surges below. (Bourbon Street balconies during Mardi Gras are now sold to news media, large corporations, or long-term customers up to five years in advance.)
Sadly, many bystanders caught in this crowd will never return to Mardi Gras, because they don't realize they did not experience the "real" Mardi Gras. The flashing for beads and related behavior does not occur in other areas of the city. The Mardi Gras that locals grew up with, enjoyed and love is occurring in every other part of New Orleans and the surrounding suburbs - not in the French Quarter.
The large, traditional Mardi Gras krewes who bring you the "Greatest Free Show on Earth" do not even parade through the Quarter because there is a size restriction on floats in that area. There are some small foot-parades through the French Quarter, but nothing like what you see in photos and videos, or that you would normally think of when you hear the word "parade." That is why you never see a large parade with floats filmed from a balcony in the Quarter - only the crowds after the parades.
The result: If you're a woman, be warned. If you go into the French Quarter at night after a parade, many men are there just to see the sleazy stuff they saw on the news or the Internet, and often assume every woman there wants to be part of the frenzy.
We look forward to the day people will again understand, appreciate and experience the magic of Mardi Gras!
(Follow-up response from one person who asked this question: THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! I'm so glad it's not a tradition everywhere in New Orleans. You are right, the news - at least in the Midwest where I'm from - concentrates all its efforts on the French Quarter. To tell you the truth, the French Quarter at night during Mardi Gras was not my idea of a good time. I much preferred the market early in the morning, with the street musicians, artists and families enjoying the real sights. The Riverwalk is just lovely and you meet the nicest people there. Again, thank you for the correction.)
The following is an exchange between a writer for a travel site and Judy Weitz, owner of MardiGrasNewOrleans.com. We are re-posting the exchange here since we encounter this sentiment and get questions like this often:
Writer: ...but it was only after we had our first Sazerac, New Orleans's most famous cocktail, that we truly forgave that steamy Southern city for hosting an annual celebration for drunken lunkheads... Whenever we have a foolish urge to head to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, we do what most wise people would: have a Sazerac and wait it out.
Judy Weitz: I just had to respond to your comments about Mardi Gras here in New Orleans. I am a fifth generation New Orleanian with two children, and when they were nearing their teenage years, I actually felt guilty for going to and enjoying parades! Why? Because Mardi Gras is and always has been a family event! It is not for drunks and never has been. It is sad that so many have that misconception.
In fact, this is the best place to come if you have a child and want to enjoy outdoor picnics and watch the Greatest Free Show on Earth. You and your family will enjoy watching marching bands, listening to music in the air and catching free toys, doubloons and beads. You can feel the excitement in the air!
While you wait for the parade, have that cotton candy and sit down on your chair or right on the ground with the rest of your family. Enjoy watchihng other throw frisbees and walk their dogs. Watch for the approaching parades, and see if you can catch doubloons from the celebrities.
Unfortunately, and in part due to the way the news media has focused on the activities of those who visit and go the French Quarter after the parades, when people hear the words "Mardi Gras"all they think about are the activities occurring in the French Quarter (i.e., female tourists flashing their breasts and crowd surges - a spring break crowd trying to catch a glimpse).
That is not Mardi Gras. It has absolutely nothing to do with the real Mardi Gras celebration. Unfortunately, sex makes more news, so every news camera visiting our beautiful city for Mardi Gras heads for the spring break crowd on Bourbon Street instead of giving adequate coverage to those who spend thousands of dollars and months of time planning this holiday season.
It is our hope that visitors who have seen Internet sites by tourists showcasing these tourists will realize that they are only seeing one-tenth of one percent of what happens during the entire Mardi Gras season in New Orleans. Hopefully, people will soon realize Mardi Gras is not one big spring break for dirty old men, but an enjoyable celebration for families and friends.
Locals stay away from the crowded French Quarter in the evenings after a parade, but we wouldn't miss Mardi Gras for the world!
Writer Response: Thanks for the note. You had some very good points, and they will be well taken. Next year, we'll work to improve our coverage. Cheers!
Mardi Gras Floats
Parades are a major part of celebrating Mardi Gras, and what's a parade without some really great floats? Ever since krewes began parading through New Orleans over 100 years ago, parade floats have played a major role in Mardi Gras history.
Some floats are elaborate and beautiful, while others are funny and satirical. Many krewes have a theme to their parade each year, and so floats are created to reflect those themes. Thousands of dollars are poured into making these floats, and they're not made overnight. Krewes work on these creations year-round, often at secret "dens" around the city. We're not exaggerating when we say krewes take their floats seriously.
On parade day, dozens of krewe members will ride on the floats, tossing beads and home made "throws" to cheering crowds. Seeing what the krewes come up with each year is never boring, and makes each parade as exciting as the next.
Mardi Gras New Orleans Voodoo Roots
Opinions can differ about Voodoo and Hoodoo but basically, Voodoo can be defined as an organized religion combining elements of African Vodun and Roman Catholicism. Hoodoo on the other hand is folkloric magic comprised of handed-down traditions practiced primarily in Louisiana, sometimes referred to as 'New Orleans- own brand or style' Voodoo. New Orleans has made a rousing comeback from Hurricane Katrina, and Mardi Gras has once again returned, complete with jazz music, beads and gleaming gold, purple and green parades.
Many ethnic Yoruba were taken as slaves to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Venezuela and the rest of the New World (chiefly in the 19th century, after the empire collapsed and the region plunged into civil war), and carried their religious beliefs with them. These concepts were combined with preexisting African-based cults, Christianity, Native American mythology, and Kardecist Spiritism into various New Orleans lineages.
In New Orleans, the spirits of deceased ancestors are carefully protected through common rituals such as jazz funerals, featuring brassy bands and a 'second line' of parades in top hats and umbrellas.
Beads & Voodoo Dolls
A Krewe Captains' Mardi Gras Voodoo Doll Ball favor are one of the many items and tokens seen at Carnival time. Are they real voodoo are just a special gift curio? The truth is in the believing. Many seek out Voodoo beads and T- shirts with a Voodoo flavor when visiting each year the Big Easy.
Santería (Cuba), Oyotunji (USA), Candomblé (Brazil), , Umbanda (Brazil) , Batuque (Brazil) , Lukumí (Cuba). The popularly known Vodun, or Voodoo Hoodoo religion particular of New Orleans was founded by slaves from a different ethnic group, but shares many elements with the Yoruba-derived religions above. Marie Laveau in New Orleans 1800's took these many forms and rolled them into one type and branded it eternally as New Orleans own Voodoo Hoodoo style.
Each Orisha or Voodoo Loa has their own colors and beads play an import part in their followers signs and beliefs and recognition. Prized over the years were glass beads from Czechoslovakia. These beads often have found their way into voodoo practice in New Orleans possibly because of their shear abundance and the power from their excitement that is generated.
Many of the store bought curio Voodoo dolls and high end Voodoo dolls have actual Mardi Gras Beads on them caught at Parades. the reason is this is indicative to the power of the season and the good fun intentions of the Krewes that throw them.
Also a common Voodoo belief that each pair you catch is a reward from the Lwas and a sign of things to come depending on the traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple (symbolic of justice), green (symbolic of faith) and gold (symbolic of power).
The accepted story behind the original selection of these colors originates from 1872 when the Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia visited New Orleans. It is said that the Grand Duke came to the city in pursuit of an actress named Lydia Thompson. During his stay, he was given the honor of selecting the official Mardi Gras colors by the Krewe of Rex...thus, did these colors also become the colors of the House of Romanoff. The 1892 Rex Parade theme ("Symbolism of Colors") first gave meaning to the representation of the official Mardi Gras colors. Interestingly, the colors of Mardi Gras influenced the choice of school colors for the Louisiana arch-rival colleges, Louisiana State University and Tulane University. When LSU was deciding on its colors, the stores in New Orleans had stocked-up on fabrics of purple, green and gold for the upcoming Mardi Gras Season. LSU, opting for purple and gold, bought a large quantity of the available cloth. Tulane purchased much of the only remaining color...green (Tulane's colors are green and white).
New Orleans Real Voodoo Dolls
New Orleans Artist, Sallie Ann Glassman who is a Voodoo Priestess, Connie Born, and Krewe Of Mid City float designer Ricardo Pustanio and others all artfully capture the real spirit of New Orleans in their fantastic and exciting Mardi Gras Voodoo dolls creations. These dolls are fashioned of carefully selected fabrics and original designs each unique to the artist. They are often dressed in skirts and necklaces made of real Mardi Gras beads. Each one-of-a-kind doll represents New Orleans' richly diverse and fascinating culture and these artist are the most sough after dolls to purchase.
Please visit Voodoonola.com
Crossed roads play an important part of Hoodoo at Mardi Gras. They are said that this is where the spirits gather to watch the living. Many locals place their own statues of Ellegua on street corners on Mardi Gras Day so they can see the people go by and gain great strength from the energy and excitement that is in the air.
In addition, author Ed Morales has claimed that Yoruba mythology played a part in early American blues music, citing blues guitarist Robert Johnson's Cross Road Blues as a "thinly veiled reference to Eleggua, the orisha in charge of the crossroads."
Voodoo And King Cake
A King Cake is ring-shaped and, besides the dried lima bean which designates the King (who must make the cake the following year), contains amulets and fortune-telling trinkets.The special cake served on this night is the galette des rois. It is thin and round and is cut into pieces, always one more piece than there are guests, and carried into the room covered with a white napkin. The youngest member of the party gets to distribute the pieces. So goes the tradition usually at normal and Voodoo get together's across the city.
In some New Orleans voodoo communities, engagements are announced on Epiphany. The remaining bachelors and spinsters are then paired off by lot (reminiscent of Valentine's Day).
Three King's Voodoo
This holiday is celebrated only in New Orleans. Small King Cakes flavored with orange rinds, vanilla, raisins, and sugar are eaten. These Voodoo King cakes are thought to heal the sick, enable you see Voodoo spirits, and promote fertility, and speak with the dead.” One tradition in New Orleans was to search for Secret New Orleans' Voodoo Cemetery Gates Of Guinee, The Portal To The Afterworld. Bringing a piece of King Cake with you as an offering. The dead love sweets, and even more so they love King Cake in New Orleans.
The exact location of the haunted cemetery gates isn't really ever told to outsiders of the Secret Societies. New Orleans Tour Guides and Haunted Cemetery or ghost tours will skirt around the issue, or just look at you like they don't know what your talking about, so never mention it (seriously). They say just to talk about the accursed cemetery gates spells doom to those that ask or search for it or speak of it openly to anyone. Those who know feel it is inviting them , "The Ghede" to take you away. Only someone pure of heart with only one burning question to be answered by the dead is ever told the whole truth. A unnamed New Orleans Voodoo priestess says quite bluntly, search and you shall find them rusted shut, or worse they will certainly find you and be wide and opened.
Ghede' is a very wise man for his knowledge is an accumulation of the knowledge of all the deceased. He stands on the center of all the roads that lead to Guinee, the afterworld. To find these mysterious gates in the city of New Orleans might take a little detective work. Some Locals say if their open when you find them... beware! If you then enter you will never return to the real world.
To find these gates, they say is to find the way to communicate openly with the dead. And not just the spirits of those that have died in New Orleans. Local Voodoo followers of Marie Laveaus' Secret Society profess that anyone can come to these gates of Guinee if you can find them.
Speak the name of the deceased you wish to speak to aloud five times through the bars, and they will come and speak to you from the other side. One real warning though, if the rusted shut heavy gate opens do not enter. For you will be one of the living trapped in the world of the dead forever. If you arrive and the Guinee gates are open turn and walk away crossing yourself three times as fast as you can and don't look back.
The Origins of Voodoo in Historic New Orleans
In New Orleans voodoo-religion, Guinee is the legendary place of origin and abode of the voodoo gods. It is here that the souls of the deceased go after their death. On their way to Guinee, they first have to pass the eternal crossroads which is guarded by Ghede.
" Although one is pure of thoughts and in heart, searches for the gates of the truly dead. You never know when the winter winds (November) blow, If the cursed gates are searching for you too."
"If you enter the gates backwards you might have a small chance, to flee with your life all intact. But if your motives are untrue then the living death calls your name , then there is nothing you can do."
Attributed to Madame Marie Laveau, 1800's New Orleans
Ghede is represented as an undertaker, dressed completely in black wearing dark glasses. His followers disguise themselves as corpses and they dance the Banda Mardi Gras Day. Other members of his retinue are Baron la Croix (Baron of the Cross) is the mystical Baron responsible for the reclamation of souls, and Baron Cemetière a spirit of the dead. And they say he loves nothing more then a slice of King Cake left for him at any cemetery gate.
Twelfth Night Voodoo King Cake is usually a rich and dense coffee cake which contains both a bean and pea. The man who finds the bean is the King, the woman who finds the Pea is the Queen. But if a woman finds the bean, she can choose the King, while the man who finds the pea can choose the Queen. The royal pair then direct the rest of the Voodoo company in merriment. They assign the revelers ludicrous tasks or require them to behave in ways that are contrary to their usual roles.
In New Orleans, every action of the royal pair is commented upon and imitated with mock ceremony by the entire group.
Les Rois (The Kings)
Voudon twelfth night celebration of the twelve days of Christmas is the official end of the winter holiday season and one of the traditional days for taking down the Christmas decorations. In southern and western Louisiana, Voodoo revelers gathered in Sugar Cane fields where they sing to the earth, drink to their health, poured hot cider over their roots, left cider-soaked toast in their branches for the birds and scared away evil spirits with a great shout and the beating of drums and dance. they also have been known to burn their Christmas tress this night.
Mardi Gras arrived in North America with the LeMoyne brothers, Iberville and Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France's claim on the territory of Louisiana, which included Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
The explorers eventually found the mouth of the Mississippi River, sailed a while upstream and named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras Point). The traditional Catholic celebration ensued leading to what many refer to as North America's first Mardi Gras; thus, the French province of Louisiana has the claim to the first Mardi Gras; Mobile would become the official capital of the Province in 1704.
Carnival celebrations became an annual event highlighted by lavish balls and masked spectacles. Some were small, private parties with select guest lists, while others were raucous, public affairs. Voodoo Societies incorporated these traditions into their cerimonies. The older Voodoo societies of New Orleans which are secret groups still uphold these traditions. And the more open Voodoo shops and contemporary societies are virtually unaware of the practices, Rituals and get together's that are going on in the city. " You have to be a member of one of these groups," says Bianca the Voodoo Queen. "The public and those not part of these groups are not involved." " The rituals are all very sacred and secret and the vibe of outsiders is not accepted."
Mardi Gras Beads And Voodoo Spells
Special Mardi Gras Voodoo spirit Bottles papier-mâchéd or voodoo dolls which symbolize happiness, strength of will and stubbornness to succeed. Are always purchased usually on Mardi Gras Day. They are special ones made just for the season and bought without eyes; an eye is then painted on when a wish is made, and a second eye painted on when the wish comes true.
Lent, when flesh may not be eaten, immediately follows Carnival. On Shrove Tuesday, New Orleans Voodooist ‘shrive’ (confess) their sins and might eat pancakes to use up the last of the eggs and butter before the fast of Lent … which is why the French called it Mardi Gras: Fat Tuesday. The first egg you cooked that morning, boiled, fried, scrambles over easy ... etc., is set aside and brought to church with you when you get ashes put on your forehead and then to the cemetery the following day and placed on a grave to feed the dead.
Another Mardi Gras Voodoo custom is to incorporate beads into homemade voodoo dolls that you have caught from a parade. Some say the energy from these are very powerful.
Mardi Gras divination using a onion to find out the name of a future husband the names of possible candidates were written on onions which were left on or near the church altar on Mardi Gras Day, then planted, the first onion to sprout indicated who it was to be.
If you're lucky you can still find a Voodoo fortune teller or wise woman ( at home Mardi Gras day who is not out at the parades), where you can divine your future from a bowl of mashed potatoes to scrambled eggs. Various charms are hidden in the potatoes or eggs and everyone given a spoonful. Your future depends on the charm you find in your serving a coin denotes great wealth, a button batchelordom for another yea, ring marriage before the next year is done– just be careful you don't swallow it!.
A slightly more sophisticated way of predicting the future was done by a local "wise woman" who would crack an egg white into a glass of beer and "read" the signs from the settlement of the egg. But you have to drink down the mixture when your done so that the future will stay as you desire.
Epiphany or Twelfth Day in New Orleans
Epiphany, the oldest festival on the Christian Church calendar, is a national holiday in at least 15 nations. Celebrations generally are related to children.
The name derives from the Greek word meaning appearance of a god. It commemorates the visit of the Magi, or Three Wise Men, to the baby Jesus in the stable in Bethlehem, and also His baptism as an adult. Because of the latter, many customs today have watery associations, such as the blessing of fishing fleets in harbors around the world.
The spectacular parade countdown to Fat Tuesday begins the Friday twelve days before Ash Wednesday. Here the nearly sixty parades will stir an inimitable mix of royal ritual, teasing bead and bauble giveaways, liberal libations, mask fantasy and joyful excitement until the people's collective soul rises extravagantly on New Orleans Mardi Gras Day to reaffirm its tremendous appetite for the pleasures of life.
Phunny Phorty Phellows humble start March 5th, 1878. The modern organization was revived in 1981 by a small group of friends and Mardi Gras enthusiasts. It has continued without interruption to the present day.
New Orleans voodooist celebrate January 6th, as Les Rois (the kings) and many turn out along the parades route to catch the first beads of the season. Many locals believe that if a young girl or guy takes those beads to a Mambo or Hougan and has them so blessed that the person they desire only needs to see them wearing them and they will fall in love with them forever. These are believed to be the strongest when it comes to using them in a spell or hex for they are the first official parade of the season on a high New Orleans Voodoo Day celebration. The custom and practice has been said to date back to when throws were first introduced at Mardi Gras and very much more glass beads were a prized possession and hard to come by.
The Phunny Phorty Phellows paraded with the Krewe of Clones from 1981 until 1986. In 1982 we also began a tradition of riding the streetcar line (in a streetcar) and proclaiming the arrival of the Carnival season on Twelfth Night. That is the night when the new Boss and Queen are chosen by the traditional King Cake method as well as the occasion of the sumptuous Coronation Ball. A “Carnival Countdown” take place right before the Phellows board the streetcar.
Comus, New Orleans’ first Mardi Gras krewe, was so successful with its parade and ball that a group of enthusiastic, Carnival-struck Orleanians decided it was time to increase the enjoyment of the celebration by forming a second Carnival krewe. The name chosen was Twelfth Night Revelers, representing 12 days after Christmas (also known as Little Christmas), Jan. 6, the official starting day of the Carnival season.
Just as Comus added new wrinkles to the Mardi Gras festivities, the new krewe had a few innovations of its own to add. On the evening of Jan. 6, 1870, the Twelfth Night Revelers opened the Carnival season with a nine-float parade that was equal in splendor and pageantry to the previous Comus parades. Following the nine floats, many maskers followed on foot, dressed in the colorful costumes of Europe, Asia, Africa and America. The leader of the Twelfth Night Revelers, called the Lord of Misrule. In New Orleans, the Twelfth Night Revelers, an organization that officially opens the Carnival season, presents a tableau ball each year.
BUDDY STAL, Clarion Hearld, New Orleans
Feb. 3, 2000
Phunny Phorty Phellows official web site http://www.phunnyphortyphellows.com/
Mardi Gras Day Voodoo Blessing of the Waters
In the past the three great New Orleans waters, Lake Ponchartrain, Bayou St. John, and The Mississippi River were all said to have been blessed personally by Marie Marie Laveau. A grand Voodoo solemn procession was made to the banks of all three. There, a gold cross was thrown into the dark cold waters, while doves are released overhead. This to bring back life to the chilled dead water. Some say the tradition is still carried on by a small select group and have witnessed their procession and actual rituals.
On Lake Ponchartrain, the ritual differs slightly, this the traditional date of the Baptism of Christ was commemorated in the water-related ceremony of the Blessing of the Waters. When the Voodoo Queen conducted the rites, which were held to bring bounty and safety to the fishing community for the year ahead all along the bayou and to all who worked on the water.
Mardi Gras Dates
The date of Mardi Gras can vary from February 3 to March 9 in non-leap years or February 4 to March 9 in leap years. Like Lent, the date is dependent on that of Easter.
Mardi Gras falls on the following dates in the following years:
February 28, 2017.
February 13, 2018.
March 5, 2019.
February 25, 2020.
February 16, 2021.
March 1, 2022.
February 21, 2023.
February 13, 2024
The 19th Century
The century began with the great war general and ruler of France, Napoleon Bonapart regaining the rights to Louisiana from Spain but an official transfer never took place. Soon President Thomas Jefferson successfully negotiated the sale of the entire Louisiana Territories from France in 1803. At this time, the city consisted of just the 1300 structures in the French quarter and about 8,000 inhabitants over half of whom were black..
Nowhere else in North America were blacks accorded the freedom to dance and drum in a public environment of their own choosing. Authorities would eventually try to restrict the cultural practices to the most popular spot, Place des Négres or Congo Square. Correspondingly, the attention helped make the spot internationally famous and numerous accounts exist of the Sunday afternoon glory of music, motion, and fancy dress.
Following a major influx of 10,000 settlers from French Haiti and other islands of the Caribbean, Louisiana became a US state in 1812. Nevertheless, it was not until 1827 that the right to party in mask was restored. In 1823, the visiting Protestant minister Flint recorded this description of Negro Carnival.
Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau
"The great Congo-dance is performed. Everything is license and revelry. Some hundreds of negroes, male and female, follow the king of the wake....All the characters that follow him, of leading estimation, have their peculiar dress, and their own contortions. They dance, and their streamers fly, and the bells that they have hung about them tinkle. Never will you see gayer countenances, demonstrations of more forgetfulness of the past and the future, and more entire abandonment to the joyous existence of the present moment.
For some time, the only refined Carnival festivities open to the wealthy northerners were the Quadroon Balls which were revived after the departure of the Spaniards. French Creole society arranged marriages for economic and social reasons and it was at these Balls that gentlemen might select well educated mistresses whose lighter skin was supposed to mean their ancestry was less than one quarter black. The revelry and lively atmosphere of these balls was legendary and considered by many the highlight of the carnival season.
About 1900, it was reported that the favorite disguise of blacks on Mardi Gras day was the Indian warrior. Musically, the Indians rhythms and melodies were West African and quite similar to certain popular Afro-Caribbean Carnival celebrations of Cuba, Haiti and Trinidad. The visually dramatic Indian costumes could be said to demonstrate solidarity and mixed blood with the oppressed native culture of their new homeland. Yet the paraders were mostly paying homage to their own ancient African identity and deep festival arts traditions. The flamboyant costumes had been inspired by the popular Wild West shows while the expressed impulses for renewal, freedom, and reversal of the established order were vintage carnival.
The unique local Mardi Gras organizations known as Krewes were fostered by these various strong cultures who tended to form mutual aid societies devoted to promote the general improvement in their member lives. While the first women carnival club event was staged in 1896 by the "Les Mysterieuses" ladies, all-women Mardi Gras parades are a rarity amongst the Krewes organized around traditional values of family, community and social status. The main event for krewes is their annual Ball which often stars members daughters as debutantes and the Queen and the older male members who help their King perform the ceremonies as Dukes. Traditional Mardi Gras Balls are strictly private containing long standing rituals whose mystery would be diluted by outsiders.
Who do Mardi Gras Hoodoo?
Mardi Gras, as a mystical observance, is particularly sacred to the Barons and to the Marassa. Mardi Gras is a point on which first and last things embraced. Many come to new orleans in search of Mardi Gras Voodoo Dolls and Voodoo Mardi Gras Doll Necklaces and a bit of magic .
Courir Le Mardi Gras (The Devil). The Voodoo Tarot of New Orleans is a deck rich in primal spirituality.
Capture both the spirit and the imagery of Voodoo's African, West Indian, and Catholic influences. Ancient and earth-honoring, Voodoo's practices take on different forms specific to time and place, but its essence remains focused on the loa--the potent spiritual forces of Voodoo that are manifested directly through human beings and their actions.
The authors draw strong parallels between the Waite and Thoth Tarots, the Kabalistic Tree of Life, and the Voodoo tradition as it is practiced in New Orleans. Just as the major and minor arcana of the Tarot represent the archetypes of the human psyche and the natural forces of our world, so do the loa of Voodoo embody the primal energies of the universe. With a variety of spreads and readings, the authors show how the Tarot can be an idea channel through which the loa exercise their powers to teach, advise, and initiate the serious student into their mysteries.
The New Orleans Voodoo Tarot (Destiny Books S.) (Hardcover) by Louis Martinié, Sallie Ann Glassman
Le Grande Zombi is the Great Snake of New Orleans Voodoo. The god of snake-like things is a very old creation. It belongs to no other family but to Lissa-Mawu itself. It is a very important servant. In the days the earth was being created it carried Lissa-Mawu about in its mouth. When they rested it left its excrement which we call 'mountains'. It is important because it was creation so very early in the sequence of creation outlined above, and it is the link between all aspects of the universe as we know it. It binds all the levels together. If for no other reason it is wise to respect it because it is the trusted servant of a most powerful creation god.
To quote a follower of the religion:
"Da(nh) is powerful. We have no love for him. He gives and he takes away. He is a thief. One is never done with being anxious about placating him, for he does not forgive readily, as Legba does."
Danh is a vodun who gives life its visible properties: movement, flexibility, sinuousness, fortune (good than bad; bad then good). It manifests itself as a serpent, as the rainbow, as an umbiicus, as plant roots, as the nerves of animals, as gas coming out of mountains. It is the cord that leads from the Olurun through all the parts of the universe as created. It was why mammals are animated at birth with the cord. It is why if plants have their roots severed they die, as they lose connection with the spirit world. In a mature organism, humankind in particular, it is a volatile Fortune, either a confident, assertive conqueror or an bitter lackey. At death it is the thin stream of material which comes out of the top of the head, floating upward, taking a sinuous shape, holding vast sinister power capable of destroying mountains, or killing people.(
In his memoir Under a Hoodoo Moon: The Life of Dr. John the Night Tripper (St. Martin's Press), Mac Rebennack says that his mother was "cool" although she was always, "pushing me to be with society-type people. One year she finagled to get me into a kids' Mardi Gras ball. She did me up a costume, a little prince's outfit or some such thing: I was getting into the get-up, but when she hit me with a wig I freaked. I hollered, threw the wig across the room and refused to wear it; she had to do a lot of calming me down before I let her put it back on."
But mama, who had a business making hoop skirts for girls and women who attended Carnival balls, would seem to have triumphed in the long run. In fashioning his conjureman Dr. John persona in the late 1960s, Rebennack took to wearing elaborate headdresses and plumes, and necklaces of bones and beads
One woman, Sadie Hayes, made me a suit of alligator, snake and lizard skin with chamois in between to hook it all up.," he recalls in his book. "When I put on that uniform, I looked like Frankenstein coming down the street. When this stuff started coming apart in pieces, I had to start hanging around taxidermy shops big time, scavenging new material to help put things back together."
And on the cover of his 1992 album Goin' Back to New Orleans, the originator of the anthem "Mardi Gras Day" is resplendently attired in a Mardi Gras Indian suit.
HooDoo" explains Ishmael Reed in Shrovetide in Old New Orleans, "might be called Vodoun, streamlined. In New Orleans it's all over town, invisible to all but the trained eye. Faced with curious and sometimes comical suppression by the police, it never went underground; it merely put on a mask". As Reed makes clear in this illuminating discussion of the voodoo ritual pervading Mardi Gras, the principal mask behind which blacks perform in this orgiastic, white celebration is that of trickster.
Flambeaux (Keepers of the Light)
King Zulu and his followers wear this trickster's mask when blacks mimic the white parade led by King Rex, and what begins as an outrageous white caricature of a slave society with black victims "adopting the oppressor's parody of themselves" ends in the masked comic rebellion of the hoodoo trickster. "While you're laughing at us," comments Reed, pointing out how the black trickster appears to accept the roles demanded by white authority only to reverse them through disguised mockery, "we're laughing with you but the joke's on you".
Flambeaux originated a century and a half ago to light the floats in night parades. Indeed, the first Flambeaux carriers were slaves and free men of color, that held lights which lit the way for the floats and night parades before there were electric street lamps able to gather light in such focus that it would enable crowds on the routes to adequately see the style and fancy, of the parades. Many Voodoo's believe the carriers are possessed by Orunmila.
The torch bearers were originally slaves of the wealthy owners who were able to finance any parades that the town held. Free men of color, mostly Creoles, came into the game after the civil war, when, holding slaves became unlawful. Nowadays, most floats at night are all self-lighted, and the flambeaux carriers that survive are more fun, than functional. It has become controversial to carry the torches these days in New Orleans. Each year the once favored tradition is set upon by those who want it to go away, because of its heritage and the deeper meaning held by those who understand the long history from the African-American side. Soon this tradition, right or wrong, will leave us.
Celebration fires for Orunmila
New Orleans voodoo once wore scary masks on Mardi Gras Day and and burn bon fires on Lundi Gras Night and danced in the streets to frighten winter away was a great part of the Voodoo New Orleans tradition. Orunmila is an Orisha (Orisa), and deity of prophecy. He is recognized as "ibi keji Olodumare" (second only to Olodumare (God)) and "eliri ipin" (witness to creation). Orunmila is also sometimes referred to as Ifa ("ee-FAH"), which is actually the embodiment of knowledge and wisdom and the highest form of divination practice among the Yoruba people. Although Orunmila is not actually Ifa, the close association exists, because he is the one who leads the priesthood of Ifa. Priests of Ifa are called babalawo (father of secrets) or Iyanifa (female Ifa priest). His feast is Celebrated on January 6th and celebrated all the way until Mardi Gras Day in some New Orleans Voodoo Hoodoo Societies. The ritual to him is that of lighting a torch to chase away winters cold chill. This ritual many Voodsi believe translates to the New Orleans Parade tradition of the Flambeaux.
The Yoruba god of prophecy. He is the eldest son of Obatala, and instructed him on how to create the earth.
The Flambeaux is one of the oldest traditions of Mardi Gras. The very first Mardi Gras Krewe, Comus was lit by the flambeaux in 1857. They normally carry kerosene containers mounted on sticks.
Among New Orleans Certain Voodoo Societies, Orunmila is recognized as a deified Ancestor that was present both at the beginning of Creation and then again amongst them as a prophet that taught an advanced form of spiritual knowledge and ethics.
He is the enlightenment bringer by New Orleans Voodoo standards and shows the illuminated things which we all must see and not ignore. Many symbolize him as a black Flambeaux carrier dressed in white.
You'll see some parade-watchers, throwing coins to the carriers, rewarding them for their Banda style gyrations. This tradition of throwing quarters, dates back to when the only compensation for the task was thrown by the crowds in appreciation, not only for the light that they provided, but the show some would put on to keep the parade interesting. But those not in touch with Voodoo never saw the significance of what they were doing.
Still today many Voodoo Practioners actually give small gris-gris bags or Voodoo dolls to them to carry along a parade route with them believing that the energy from the thousands of people will strengthen their personal luck or magic. One New Orleans voodoo has often spoken on how many of the Flambeauxs become actually possessed while marching to the drums in many of the parades. "Just look at their eyes and you'll see the spirit mounted them and has taken them over their actions." " Some call it Mardi Gras Madness, but's it's really real Voodoo Lwas at play." Says Armando a Bourbons Street Voodoo Priest. "The public is usually unaware of these Ghede that have taken over the bodies of the many Flambeaux."
Parades that continue to use flambeaux include: Hermes, Babylon, Pegasus, Bacchus, Sparta and, to a lesser extent traditionally, Endymion, D'Etat.
These are the Traditional Parades that appear with Flambeaux Sparta Parade, Druids Parade, Saturn Parade, Babylon Parade, Hermes Parade, D'Etat Parade, Orpheus Parade, Choas Parade, Proteus Parade.
To find out new Orleans Mardi Gras Parade Schedule visit here.
> 2008 New Orleans Mardi Gras Parade Schedule 2008<
Mardi Gras Gris Gris... "Gris-Gris" itself is a New Orleans term for Voodoo, Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday") is the day before Ash Wednesday also called "Shrove Tuesday" or "Pancake Day". It is the final day of Carnival and Romance languages:IPA: [karnaval]). It is a celebration that is held just before the beginning of the Christian liturgical season of Lent. The feast should not be confused with the Swedish Fettisdagen (Fat Tuesday) or the Polish Tlusty Czwartek (which translates to Fat Thursday).
Each year Priestess Miriam Chamani has a Mardi Gras Ritual. Mardi Gras at the NEW ORLEANS VOODOO SPIRITUAL TEMPLE is a time when the fever and fashion of Carnival mix with the ferver and faith of the Temple's voodoosants. The combination is often an estatic marriage of ritual and revelry. Excess is the key. Ritual robes and costumes blend...of the two of us, my drum was the better dressed wearing a full skirt of human hair for these particular photographs. Would my drum have consented to wear such a skirt during other rituals of the Years Cycle?....no, the drum has refused the skirt numerous times...it would have been a bit overdone...but, during Mardi Gras it is almost impossible to overdo anything.
The Voodoo Spiritual Temple gives lectures and tours to the New Orleans cemeteries, as well as the following services: http://www.access.avernus.com/~rogue/temple/Mardi10.html
Priestess Miriam had a sense of mysterious forces around her ever since her childhood. She became consciously active in spiritual studies and began practicing in 1975. Though born and raised in Mississippi, she studied her spiritual and occult work in Chicago, Illinois. She was ordained as a Bishop after many years of preaching the ministry at the "Angel Angel All Nations Spiritual Church" in Chicago. Her husband Oswan Chamani was born in Belize, Central America. There he studied Voodoo (called Obeah in Central America) under three different teachers of which two were African Diviners. His courses consisted of of going into the jungle to learn about trees, roots, plants and shrubs pertaining to his practice. He learned how to handle snakes and how to cure snake bites as well as other kinds of maladies.
The Voodoo Spiritual Temple
828 N. Rampart Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
Perhaps the cities most famous for their Mardi Gras celebrations include New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, Venice, Bahia, and Mazatlán. Many other places have important Mardi Gras celebrations as well. The carnival is an important celebration in most of Europe, and in many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.
New Orleans Mardi Gras is particularly well-known, often called "the greatest free show on earth". The celebrations draw many tourists to the city in addition to the celebrating locals for the parties and parades. Most tourists can be found within the French Quarter, especially Bourbon Street.
Mardi Gras came to New Orleans with the earliest French settlers. New Orleans developed new traditions, including Krewes such as the Krewe du Vieux, the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, and the famous Rex parade, in addition to Mardi Gras Indians and king cake parties.
There are as many as 60 Krewes that have parades in the greater New Orleans area. Officially, the Mardi Gras season, more properly called Carnival, starts at the end of the twelfth day of Christmas. Most parades, balls and other festivities occur on weeknights and weekends in the 2-week period before Mardi Gras Day. Though each parade is unique, there are certain common ingredients: 1) either a King or Queen who reigns over the parade, picked from the Krewe membership; 2) gaily colored floats, ridden by Krewe members, who throw various items, including bead necklaces (beads), doubloons with the Krewe emblem and often, that year's parade's theme, and assorted other fun items; 3) marching bands, usually from high schools and universities, but often other invited guest bands.
Particularly since the inception of the larger parade organizations (sometimes called "super krewes") such as Bacchus and Endymion, it has become fashionable to invite Hollywood and other celebrities to act as Grand Marshals for parades.
New Roads, Louisiana hosts the state's oldest Mardi Gras celebration outside New Orleans. This historic and charming Creole town of 5,500, located 35 minutes northwest of Baton Rouge on False River, attracts as many as 75,000 people each Shrove Tuesday for a family-friendly celebration. The Community Center Carnival Club parade, founded in 1922 and Louisiana's oldest outside New Orleans, rolls at 11 a.m. The New Roads Lions Carnival parade, founded in 1941 and which is staged as a charitable fundraiser, rolls at 1:30 p.m. Each parade consists of 25-30 floats built fresh each year, eight-ten marching bands and drill units and tons of trinket "throws" including beads, cups and small toys. Unlike the exclusiveness of formal krewes, New Roads' parade particiaption is open to the public, with schools, churches, clubs, businesses and families building and riding the floats.
Lafayette, Louisiana is home to a large Mardi Gras celebration which attracts about 250,000 parade-goers for seven parades during the Carnival season. An annual event since 1934, it is generally a family-oriented event lacking the perceived decadence of its New Orleans cousin. Lafayette is geographically the heart of Cajun Country, and as such draws Cajuns and Creoles from all of the surrounding area to participate in Mardi Gras festivities. Hollywood celebrities have served as Grand Marshals. Visitors enjoy the Cajun hospitality and cuisine. Lafayette's population is approximately 90% Catholic which contributes to the popularity of Mardi Gras.
Elsewhere in Louisiana
Mardi Gras is a legal holiday in Louisiana. Other places in the New Orleans metropolitan area also have celebrations; notably the suburbs of Metairie, La Place and Chalmette has large parades. Without the restrictions on commercial sponsorship of parades seen in Orleans Parish, there is much advertising and trademark placements on the parades in Metairie. Metairie parades also tend to be more family-oriented, and even include a children's parade.
Houma, Louisiana hosts a significant Mardi Gras celebration of nine parades which draw about 70,000 spectators each year. Mardi Gras has been observed annually in Houma since 1947. Nearby Thibodaux, Louisiana has celebrated Mardi Gras since 1954. There, the Carnival calendar includes five parades. Many other cities and towns throughout southern Louisiana have Mardi Gras parades in the weeks leading up to Shrove Tuesday and some also on that day. These communities include Golden Meadow, Lockport, Grand Isle, Morgan City, Berwick, Patterson, Jeanerette, Grand Marais, New Iberia, St. Martinville, Franklin, Sunset, Opelousas, Baton Rouge, Port Allen, Addis, Livonia and Maringouin. .
In parts of the Cajun country of southwestern Louisiana, the traditional Courir du Mardi Gras (French - Running of the Mardi Gras) is still run, sometimes by maskers on horseback led by "Le Capitaine" who gather ingredients for making the communal meal (usually a gumbo). The townspeople will gather in costume and move from home to home requesting ingredients for the night's meal. The requested homeowner may comply with their wishes, usually by giving some form of vegetable or live animal, such as a chicken or pig, to the members of the run. The homeowner will often release the animal and make the runners catch it. In many cases, if the homeowner refuses to give an ingredient, the runners will steal one. These Courir can be witnessed in Church Point, Louisiana, Eunice, Mamou, Louisiana, Ville Platte, and Elton, Louisiana. The costumes used in these events are often homemade, employing sheets, paints, and frequently masks of wire mesh, as well as traditional conical hats known as capuchons.
There are also Mardi Gras parades in Northern Louisiana in Shreveport, Louisiana by the Krewe of Centaur and the Krewe of Gemini and in Monroe and West Monroe by the Krewe of Janus. Lake Charles, in southwest Louisiana, hosts a Krewe of Krewes parade, which is the second largest parade in the state. It also hosts parades for children and even pets. Alexandria also celebrates with parades and days of celebration.
Mardi Gras is one of the exceptions to the Louisiana law against wearing hoods and masks in public, the other two being Halloween and religious beliefs.