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Grief & Loss in Cajun/Creole Culture

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Kara Holcomb

on 22 April 2013

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Transcript of Grief & Loss in Cajun/Creole Culture

Grief & Loss in
Cajun/Creole Culture Burial Rituals and
Jazz Funerals Religion Cultural Catholicism Tradition Voodoo, Voudou, Vodou
"Spirit" or "Mystery" Jazz Funerals Rituals and Traditions Cajuns vs. Creole Cajuns & Creoles Social workers
responsibility Influences from:
West African concept of rituals as transformative journeys
Music and burial traditions of New Orleans black brass bands, social aid and pleasure clubs, and the Black Church
Catholic street processions and religious celebrations
Haitian Voodoo’s ancestral spirits The slave population soon began to mask their rituals and beliefs in Catholicism. It is the conglomeration and fusion of these diverse cultural belief systems that comprised the first Creole religion and makes Voodoo what it is today--Cultural Catholicism

They incorporate folk elements without rejecting long standing official practices and beliefs. Cemeteries held an important place in Creole life. A family tomb received almost as much attention as a church. To not visit the family tomb on All Saints' Day (November 1) was unforgivable. Vodou is a Caribbean religion blended from African religions and Catholic Christianity

Among Cajuns and Creoles there is the continued use and popularity of folk healers or treaters— called traiteurs —who believe their gift of healing is a blessing from God and an integral part of their Catholic faith.

Vodou can be described as a healing religion of introspection into the mysteries of the universe.
(Turner,2009) Culture of "prayer and party"
Rich history of ritual, tradition, and community
Rituals comfort mourners and aid the passage of both the living and the dead
If funeral rites aren't done properly...
Older traditions
Bereavement meal Similarities between Catholicism and voodoo Protective Factors & Social Work Interventions Voodoo believers accept the existence of one god, below which are the powerful spirits often referred to as Loa. These powerful spirits are responsible for the daily matters in life in the areas of family, love, money, happiness, wealth, and revenge. Proverbs...Wen man dead, grass grow da e door. Discussion Questions Archangel (St.Michael) is the most important spirit/angel to call on to help “fight your battles in the spirit world” They utilize a wide range of Catholic saints and syncretic altars for power figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., St. Michael the Archangel, and Chief Blackhawk. Emphasize spirit possession and ecstatic behavior
African Communities Misconceptions Animal sacrifice, not human
In Voodoo the sacrificed animal is used and consumed in a feast to honor the different pantheon of spirits called Loa. Darrell Corder
Kara Holcomb
Lauren Langford “The spiritually inclined find New Orleans cemeteries not somber and depressing but rather uplifting. Many people in New Orleans are conditioned by their environment and upbringing not to run from and shun death, but to embrace and celebrate it. New Orleans cemetery traditions are joyful... The cities of the dead are not stark, unhappy, foreboding places. New Orleanians often go to the cemeteries not so much to mourn and lament but to pray for solace and to achieve communion with deceased friends and loved ones."

(Florence & Florence, 2007, p.21) Voodoo Dolls
The term Voodoo doll was invented by an American writer who made up a story about Voodoo after hearing that it was witchcraft. Catholics believe in heaven and hell after death, Voodoo practitioners share a similar belief of the good going to a heaven-like place and the bad doomed to live on earth as bodiless spirits. The belief of souls is also very important to both religions.


The ideas of Catholic saints and Voodoo lesser gods, or loas, are very similar.... The Acadians were an extremely resourceful people who took full advantage of the flatlands, bayous, and wild game of South Louisiana and its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico to create a truly unique local cuisine. While many Acadiana residents today have German, French, or Italian roots, among others, their way of life is strongly influenced by the Cajun culture. As LSU history professor William Arceneaux puts it, "All Acadians are Cajuns, but not all Cajuns are Acadians." Along with its food, this rural area of Louisiana is famous for its Cajun French music and language. “the early citizens added the fiery seasonings of the Spanish to the subtle sauces of the French. The Choctaws furnished the native herbs- such as file for the gumbo (the elixir of Creole life)- to an appreciative market, and with the improvisations of its inspired cooks... New Orleans went about compounding a cuisine all its own.” Page 241 The Cajuns brought their recipes not just from France, but also from about 150 years of living in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It is they who give South Louisiana its French flair. Cajun cuisine is heavy on hearty seafood dishes, often made in one big pot and served over rice. Standard fare includes: Recipes were developed in New Orleans and are usually more urbane and cross-cultural, including the cuisine traditions not just of the French and Spanish, but also of other European and African countries. Creole dishes are all about the rich sauces. Standard fare includes: Creole Cuisine “The guest's most constant need-nourishment-has ever been admirably taken care of. For, as the Creoles always expressed it, “an empty sack cannot stand up.” (Page 240) Their cuisine is a metaphor for their relationships,
made up of many influences,
odd creatures and techniques and held in the
highest regard. Protective Factors Individual

Family & Social

Cultural Personality & attachment style: positive or negative appraisals; confrontation or avoidance

Emotion regulation: positive or negative appraisals; confrontation or avoidance Strong family ties
Cajun sociability-strong sense of community
Food: Gumbo is the elixir of Creole life Use of rituals to make sense of “passing” and celebrate life of deceased
Inclusive cultural mix and blending of beliefs
Emphasis on “togetherness”
Food Be knowledgeable about Cajun culture and sensitive to cultural traditions and customs
Use professional knowledge to create your own practice method
Be self aware, self reflective and introspective about your own beliefs, experiences and reactions
Normalize survivors grief experience
Assists individuals and families to draw on strengths and develop coping strategies
Respect and allow clients to grieve loss in their own unique ways Creole Influences
French and Spanish descent
Catholicism
African and Native American ancestry More on Voodoo 1. What are some of the strengths you might identify in terms of grief work with this population?

2. Given the diverse influences of this population, how would ensure that you are engaging in culturally competent practice? After the Civil War and Emancipation, Social Aid Clubs created
They supported brass bands that played for parties, weddings, and funerals
When private insurance companies came along, social aid clubs became obsolete
The Jazz Funeral tradition remained Two parts:
Somber journey to the gravesite
Exuberant return from cemetery
Band leads somber procession from church or funeral home to gravesite
After internment ceremony complete and band is respectful distance from grave, second-line beat begins
Play lively and joyous music with friends, family and celebrants
Changes in today's Jazz Funerals
(Turner, 2009) “The traditional jazz funeral recognizes that there is something not only to mourn, but also to celebrate, even in death”
(Bagneris, & Marsalis, 1998).
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