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

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image of Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies

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.

Affiliations: 1: University of Rochester


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1. Cox Robert S. Body and Soul: A Sympathetic History of American Spiritualism 2004 Charlottesville University of Virginia Press
2. Estes David "“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
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11. Rodriguez Junius P. "“Code Noir of Louisiana (1724).”" Slavery in the United States: A Social, Political, and Historical Encyclopedia 2007 Santa Barbara ABC CLIO 541 543
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13. Turner Richard Brent "“The Haiti-New Orleans Vodou Connection: Zora Neale Hurston as Initiate Observer.”" Journal of Haitian Studies 2002 Vol 8 112 133
14. Ward Martha Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau 2004 Jackson University Press of Mississippi

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