Gnostic and Countercultural Elements in Zora Neale Hurston’s “Hoodoo in America”

in Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies
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Over the last decade, religious studies scholars have given attention to Zora Neale Hurston’s “Hoodoo in America.” These works, however, have not considered the important role of gnosis in hoodoo. This article acts to extend this literature by examining how Hurston employs secret knowledge to advance a particular understanding of hoodoo. Specifically, I argue that Hurston’s ethnographic study of New Orleans hoodoo captures a system of African-derived magical practices that is characterized by both gnostic and countercultural elements. These elements in turn reveal an intricate relationship between gnosis, human agency, and material culture that finds expression in the complex ritual system of New Orleans hoodoo.

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References

CoxRobert S. Body and Soul: A Sympathetic History of American Spiritualism 2004 Charlottesville University of Virginia Press

EstesDavid “The Neo-African Vatican: Zora Neale Hurston’s New Orleans.” Literary New Orleans in the Modern World. Edited by Richard Kennedy 1998 Baton Rouge Louisiana State University Press 66 82

HurstonZora Neale “Hoodoo in America.” The Journal of American Folklore 1931 44 317 417

HurstonZora Neale Mules and Men 1935 Philadelphia J. B. Lippincott Repr. 1990. New York: Harper and Row

HurstonZora Neale Tell My Horse 1938 Philadelphia J. B. Lippincott

HurstonZora Neale Moses, Man of the Mountain 1939 Philadelphia J. B. Lippincott

KaplanCarla Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters New York Anchor Books

MooreJohn E. Field Hydrology: A Guide for Site Investigations and Report Preparations 2012 Boca Raton CRC Press

NolanCharles E.NolanCharles E. Religion in Louisiana 2004 Vol. 19 of The Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial Series in Louisiana History Lafayette Center for Louisiana Studies

RobertsKodi A. Voodoo and Power: The Politics of Religion in New Orleans, 1881–1940 2015 Baton Rogue Louisiana State University Press

RodriguezJunius P. “Code Noir of Louisiana (1724).” Slavery in the United States: A Social, Political, and Historical Encyclopedia 2007 Santa Barbara ABC CLIO 541 543

TomlinsonW. K.PerrettJ. J. “Mesmerism in New Orleans, 1845–1861.” American Journal of Psychiatry 1974 131 1402 1404

TurnerRichard Brent “The Haiti-New Orleans Vodou Connection: Zora Neale Hurston as Initiate Observer.” Journal of Haitian Studies 2002 8 112 133

WardMartha Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau 2004 Jackson University Press of Mississippi

1

Hurston 1935; Hurston 1938; Hurston 1939.

2

Hurston 1931, 319–320.

3

Estes 1998, 66–82; Turner 2002, 112.

5

Hurston 1931, 320. The call is defined as a direct summoning of the individual by a divine entity. See note 4 for examples of authorities of divinity in the hoodoo pantheon.

6

Hurston 1931, 326, 357, 362, and 368.

7

Kaplan 2002, 124.

8

Rodriguez 2007, 541–543.

10

Hurston 1931, 357.

11

Hurston 1990, 183;185.

12

Kaplan 2002, 139.

13

Hurston 1931, 363.

14

Hurston 1931, 332.

15

Hurston 1931, 372.

16

Hurston 1931, 320.

17

Moore 2012, 146.

18

Ward 2004, 21.

19

Hurston 1931, 326. It is important to note that Hurston establishes a direct correlation between Haitian Vodou and hoodoo as practiced in New Orleans.

20

Hurston 1931, 327.

21

Hurston 1931, 327.

22

Hurston 1931, 336.

23

Hurston 1931, 341–342.

24

Hurston 1931, 364.

25

Hurston 1931, 380.

26

Hurston 1931, 382.

27

Hurston 1931, 387.

28

Hurston 1931, 414.

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