|voudou had been driven so far underground you couldn't find much about it even if you wanted to expend the energy. Only the most esoteric of African Studies scholars had written about it seriously. In the popular culture virtually nothing was available, and what was, was wrong. Most books purporting to be about American voudou were either luridly racist, such as Robert Tallant's|
Voodoo in New Orleans,
a ubiquitous and unfortunate presence in French Quarter bookstores, or poorly researched compendia of alleged hexes and rites.
|In the absence of the printed word, I turned to real life. Occasional trips to New Orleans and to South Carolina, and another assignment, this time for the late, great magazine,|
, enabled me to make the acquaintance of numerous present-day believers whose oral accounts and daily practices ushered me into a richness of experience I couldn't have gained from a library full of material. As my circle of contacts and friends grew, so did my knowledge of the theology of voudou, the history of its importation in the holocaust of slavery, its well-proven revolutionary content and consequent near-extermination, and the rise of the negative image which now flourishes. The more I learned, the more I realized how little I really knewhow little, in fact, anyone outside the voudou world really knew, especially in the United States. If at the start of my engagement with the religion I was asking, "What is voudou?" it became increasingly obvious there was a more encompassing question:
What happened to it
|If ever the nation harbored a cover-up, it did with voudou. So effective was the suppression that virtually nothing of the authentic African form, with the notable exception of Caribbean-shaped santeria, remains on North American soil. Successive generations of African Americans have left a widespread network of root doctors, hoodoos, healers and prophets, particularly in the South, but not even they can tell you the names of|