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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.  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?

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