The Horrors of American Horror Story Coven: A Voodoo Priestess’ Perspective

Legend of LaLaurie photo by Lilith Dorsey

 

There is a show on FX TV….

Full of fluff about Wicca n Voodoo.

It will be the ruin of those poor producers,

I hope they don’t think they’ve won.

 

No I’m only kidding. I’m not hexing them. I just like filk, it’s like mental floss. But, I’ve held my forked Voodoo tongue long enough. We are about halfway through the latest season of AHS Coven. Angela Basset is beaming with the fact her Marie Laveau performance has been rated in the top five of her career. The season is full of tropes, tricks, and trash and it’s time to get real.

WTF?

There is a scene where the witches are besieged by Marie Laveau’s army of zombies…all I can say is wtf. I salute their attempt to show voodoo as a method of social control, but, and here’s my own cliché for you, we don’t need no stinking zombies. Ironically, Voodoo practitioners would more likely employ some of the tactics the show is attributing to the witches: racists would be compelled into oncoming traffic, spontaneously combust, or just have their throat slit. The Voodoo religion was raised on the magic of slaves who were being raped, beaten, and tortured daily, they fought back with any means necessary.

I Don’t Know What That Was.

I don’t know what that was, they got some real power in that witch house now”- Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau

Angela Bassett is breaking my little black heart, both as a Voodoo practitioner and a proud woman of color. In a promotional interview with Arsenio Hall they bring out a “voodoo doll” of him and she heals it with hearts. It was almost as if I was watching a decades old performance of epic stereotypical proportions, like that of Stepin Fetchit or Sleep N’Eat. As for the Voodoo practices in the show, I don’t know what that was, or was even trying to be.

Within the confines of the American Horror Story Coven plot-line Marie Laveau has solicited reinforcements in the form of a serial killing “witch hunter” This is Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, I think Abraham Lincoln Vampire hunter was a more plausible plot line. The scene where she is afraid of fire, was impractical. What is she a scarecrow? Voodoo eats fire for breakfast, see my post on fire magick.

Trope-Tastic

The ridiculous use of tarot and spirit boards this season are also completely trope-tastic. Did they just do a search for what everyone misbelieves about witches and voodoo practitioners? None are so psychic as those who cannot see… they are going to get a lot of baggage out of this one, even though we have all seen it before. Then there is the character of Fiona Good. She is not so good. Is she a Cliché, a Fairy? Now I think Jessica Lange is a living legend, she can only shine through whichever artistic channel she is given. But I want this show to serve as a meta text for America’s collective horror story, Ed Gein, Lizzie Borden, and the rest. I did appreciate a visit from the Ax Man. How could you not love a real historical legend who decreed himself “ the worst spirit who ever existed either in fact or the realm of fancy.” So we all better jazz it or we’ll get the Ax. His mysterious warning letter mentioned crimes that were to take place on St.Joseph’s Day, a celebration for Mardi Gras Indians and particularly favored by Sicilian Immigrants to the city. This connection has been underexplored in my opinion. Madame LaLaurie is another example of a true to life character gone wrong. New Orleans spooky history has given the American Horror Story writers yet another interesting persona , diabolical  and downright dirty. Her crimes, however, are in the past and the show wants to humanize her a bit. This gives Kathy Bates a reason to shine and share her delightful culturally anachronistic one liners, but does little for the storyline.

Dr. John and Lilith Dorsey at Krewe du Vieux 2010

One of the most exciting scenes came with the burning of character Myrna Snow ( Maybe Myrtle, everyone calls this fuzzy redheaded chick something different) saying “I go proudly to the flame. Go ahead.” They then immediately underscore the scene with Dr. John’s classic “Right Place, Wrong Time.” I have worked and performed with Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) and even choreographed his Night Tripper Voodoo Show on it’s recent return. This “Wrong Time” woman sees a lot of parallels in this scene to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s cult occult film The Holy Mountain, which ironically is one of Dr. John’s favorite films too. Fiona is even dressed like Jodorowsky’s conquering hero. That is this season’s only saving grace, cinematically this season is phenomenal. American Horror Story: Coven evokes Alejandro Jodorowsky, Alfred Hitchcock, Nicholas Roeg, and other legendary directors. I have no illusions about the truth of a fiction piece about New Orleans Voodoo like this one. I studied documentary film-making at NYU and I have questionable faith in the truth of any production. Unfortunately people believe what they see, and if everyone tried just a bit harder they would really see the truth about Voodoo is out there, just beyond their television set.

About Lilith Dorsey

Lilith Dorsey M.A. , hails from many magickal traditions, including Celtic, Afro-Caribbean, and Native American spirituality. Her traditional education focused on Plant Science, Anthropology, and Film at the University of R.I, New York University and the University of London, and her magickal training includes numerous initiations in Santeria also known as Lucumi, Haitian Vodoun, and New Orleans Voodoo. Lilith Dorsey is a Voodoo Priestess and in that capacity has been doing successful magick since 1991 for patrons, is editor/publisher of Oshun-African Magickal Quarterly , filmmaker of the experimental documentary Bodies of Water :Voodoo Identity and Tranceformation, author of Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism and The African-American Ritual Cookbook, and choreographer for jazz legend Dr. John's "Night Tripper" Voodoo Show. She believes good ritual should be fun and innovative, and to that end she led the first ever Voodoo Zombie Silent Rave Ritual in July 2013, complete with confused Thriller flash mob.


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