Introduction to Documents
These documents are presented as links and talismans. They are tendrils reaching back into the space/time occupied by Dr. John Montanee. Revel in the shapes of the letters, the subtle interplay of space and ink. The forms of the documents are links firmly set in time's fabric. Use them to enter a New Orleans now lost in the thick mists of dark swamps and bayous. The content of the documents, in particular the signature of Dr. John, is well suited to talismanic use. The documents are given to the practitioner to use and their “use” is of paramount importance. If they serve the three conjures, then their function is most adequately addressed. I know of no historical documents definitely connecting Dr. John Montanee to the drums or to Marie Laveau though there are definite folkloric references to such connections. What we call “history” is a filter used to organize perceptions and it is important to remember that all perception is selective. Visual focus is a good example of this. We do not see all that is in front of us. We select what we consider to be important and focus on that small section of the available visual array.
One need only remember the early critiques of feminists focusing on “his-tory and her-story” to realize that history can also be very selective in its content. In addition, a famous dictum states that “history is written by the winners” and the conditions for winning may consist of things as simple as knowing the right people or luck. It can be helpful to recognize that objectivity is something to be attained rather than a given in historical studies. Most definitely, not something to be taken for granted.
That being said, the spirits and loa have provided the chance to rely heavily on the exacting work of Carolyn Morrow Long and the ground breaking work of Barbara Trevigne. It is truly by the grace, persistence, and knowledge of Barbara Trevigne, Carolyn Long and other like researchers that these and many other documents were recalled from obscurity and eventually oblivion.
Carolyn Morow Long’s thorough research into the figures of New Orleans Voodoo gives the historical section of this grimoire an integrity not otherwise possible. Her discovery of John Montanee’s signature and her kindness in taking me to the Notarial Archives Research Center to see and to make copies of his signature has and will continue to benefit generations of drummers in the Spiritual Houses and Voodoo Temples of New Orleans. Madame Barbara Trevigne’s research, writings, and first hand contact with the spirits is a blessed font from which flows both wisdom and knowledge. She is the first to uncover and make available through publication definitive information regarding Dr. John Montanee’s life including his marriage, his burial, and his children. Her article reproduced here is an inexhaustible source of both facts and avenues of future investigations. She is a living talisman connecting all of us to Marie Laveau and to Dr. John. To these two I would add, Maegdlyn Morris who provided inspiration and piecing intellectual insight in the gathering of all of the grimoire’s materials. In addition, so much of this grimoire would have been lost to Hurricane Katrina without Maegdlyn’s numerous interventions.
There is much more than a simple finding or discovery here. The loa and spirits smiled and a gate opened through which the documents could be recalled by those chosen for the task.
It was only within the last decade or so that the majority of these documents were brought to light. This is an amazing and exciting fact. New Orleans Voodoo is a living, growing spiritual practice and these documents contribute to its resilience and vitality. The documents follow a general chronological order. A transcription of selected sections of some of the original documents is provided where the original text may be difficult to read. The text in italic is not found in the original document. Italicized text in “Selected Transcriptions” and “Selected Entries” is meant to clarify, render unreadable text accessible, or suggest possible avenues of thought and inquiry.
I would encourage all, in particular lovers of New Orleans and its history, herbalists, voodooists, and drummers to be a part of this research through addition to or comment upon these documents. The above internet domains are funded by a perpetual private grant and as such will be available to all in perpetuity.
© Copyright 2014-2018 Dr. Louie Martinié
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