Cajun French: Gris-Gris

Before I get to the post, the winner of yesterday’s giveaway for my release day is KAK. Drop me an e-mail, KAK at danica(dot)avet(at)gmail(dot)com with your physical address. Thank y’all for the support on such an important day!

I waffled about what today’s post would be about.Β  I’m not lying! I spent a good 30 minutes flipping through words in my brain on my morning drive when Godsmack’s Voodoo came on the radio. That decided me. Today’s word is gris-gris.

It isn’t a Cajun French word. It’s an amulet used in Voodoo which can either bring the wearer good luck or bad luck. In Cajun French though, a gris-gris can also be a bit like the evil eye. It’s kind of like a spoken word or even a thought you have towards someone. The first time I heard this word used was when one of my childhood friends used it in reference to a girl she didn’t like. “I could put a gris-gris on her!”

Now, I don’t know how much y’all know about Voodoo (and I can’t claim to be an expert), but there are many people, especially in this area, who are terrified of it. I remember a story my mom told me about an older lady she lived next to when she was first married. It seems that the woman had upset someone else and one morning she woke up with a gris-gris on her doorstep. The older lady closed her front door and wouldn’t go out of it. In fact, she wouldn’t touch the amulet, going so far as to have her house moved so she wouldn’t have to cross it. That’s some serious believing.

Putting the evil eye on someone, the gris-gris, is almost like a spell in itself. Every time I’ve talked with someone who said this word, their hands will come up and perform some complicated gestures. It’s never the same between people, but the intent is understood. Of course, Cajuns talk with their hands. Seriously, y’all. I don’t know if I could have a good conversation with someone if my hands were tied. So maybe it isn’t an actual curse you’re placing on someone, but the emotion behind it that makes us wave our hands around.

Now for the pronunciation. It looks pretty straight forward, doesn’t it? But if you want to get the full experience of the gris-gris, you have to put some effort into the saying of it. It isn’t just a gr sound like groan or grain. It’s more like a guttural gr with a little rolling of the r. I wish I could figure out a way to explain it, but imagine if you’re trying to clear your throat and you might get it. It sounds more powerful with this pronunciation than saying it phonetically.

And since I’m on this topic, tomorrow I’ll be over at Marsha A. Moore’s blog talking about legends and death omens of this area. I won’t go into it in-depth, but I will glance over a couple of supernatural things in this area. I’ll be giving away prizes, so I hope to see you there!

So what did you think of today’s lesson?


Filed under paranormal

20 responses to “Cajun French: Gris-Gris

  1. Hey woman! Love the growing list of books! Good subject today too, since it’s definitely Cajun and New Orleans flavored. lol

    Covered a ‘Gathering’ in Honey Island Swamp in my magazine staff writer days (Wiccans, Native Americans, Druids, Voodoo practitioners, Christians, athiests . . . oh, and bikers!) Metaphysical practitioners — meaning Tarot cards readers, readers of scrying tools, palm readers, etc– abounded. It was fantastic! While there I was invited by the Voodoo practitioners to come watch them next time they danced down the Loa. Sorry, but I’m not ashamed to admit I’m one of the ones scared of them, so I politely refused the invitation.

    Maybe you could cover a Mojo sometime– a gris-gris with attitude!

    Keep the books coming, Danica! Lovin’ ’em!

    • Thanks, Runere! I’m definitely trying to churn them out!

      I’m not very familiar with Voodoo…okay, it scares the hell out of me, so I try to stay away from it. It’s that Catholic superstition thing I think…whatever it is, I do not mess with it, LOL.

      • Little tidbit for you and your readers: Maire Leveau, New Orleans’ voodoo queen, was raised within the strict guidelines of the Catholic Church. A devout Catholic, she attended Mass every day of her life. Marie is the one who incorporated Holy Water and candles into Voodoo ritual.

      • *grin* I think I knew that, there are a lot of similarities between Catholic ritual and Voodoo. I believe they call upon saints? I’m not entirely sure. That’s a great tidbit though!

  2. jeff7salter

    I’m definitely familiar with the gris-gris. Growing up in St. Tammany Parish, across the Lake from Orleans & Jefferson parishes.
    I’ve never PUT a gris-gris on anybody, and (as far as I know) have never been the target of a physical gris-gris … but there were a lot of verbalizations which would cause those hand movements you referenced.
    At least one of them was followed by the individual spitting … unless I’m crossing into another culture. Ha.
    One of the college papers was called Gris-Gris … but can’t recall which one.
    Or was that a magazine? Don’t remember anymore.

    • I think the hand motions for a non-physical gris-gris is a lot like the Welsh evil eye. The spitting thing is probably another culture. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another person spit when they put the gris-gris on someone!

  3. KAK

    I won, I won! Yay me!

    As for the gris-gris, I never cease to be amazed by the power of individual belief in whatever form it manifests. When individual belief blossoms into group belief, all hail the power of change.

  4. I knew this one AND how to say it, Heck, I might have even tried to deploy one last week!! Good thing I wasn’t in New Orleans – I maight’ve popped into Reverend Zombies and made a purchase! LOL!

  5. Great post, Danica–you had me at gris-gris!

    My novel has a great deal of Voodoo in it, and even though I lived in New Orleans and married a native New Orleanian, there was still lots to understand–and I was fascinated by it all. The first thing a friend explained to me were the gris-gris bags–and I loved learning how many variations there were depending on people’s experiences–kind of like my husband always says about Gumbo recipes: there are as many recipes as people making it!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed, Erika πŸ™‚ Your husband hit the nail on the head with his gumbo analogy! There are so many ways to make it and everyone thinks their way is the best πŸ˜‰

  6. Love it! I am finishing up a new romance based around superstition. It’s different than Voodoo, but pretty close. I grew up with a lot of superstition in my family~it can really alter your life.

  7. Craig

    I was reading through your page today and found it very interesting. And as a desendent of Marie Leveaux I have say that Runere McLain is correct she did pray through the Saints of the Catholic Church when proforming her spells.

  8. Debra

    Great analogy

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