Mamanita and the “Voodoo Witch”

Phil Pastras

in Dead Man Blues

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2001 | ISBN: 9780520215238
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520929739 | DOI:
Mamanita and the “Voodoo Witch”

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Jelly Roll Morton describes Anita Gonzales as the only woman he ever really loved and admits that she “managed” him. The phrase “voodoo witch” and the idea that Laura Hunter had made a pact with Satan suggest that Laura was involved in black magic, a practice that has a problematic relation to voodoo. Considering the length of time that Anita and Laura knew each other, it is hard to imagine that Anita could be so misinformed about the nature of Laura's voodoo practice or about the religion itself. The title of “Mamanita,” Morton's “Spanish tinge” piece dedicated to her, is suggestive: voodoo worshipers commonly use the prefix “Mama” when they address a priestess, or mambo. Anita had living proof of the connection between Catholicism and voodoo in the person of Laura, who was Jelly's godmother. Anita's relationship to Jelly touched virtually every aspect of his life.

Keywords: Jelly Roll Morton; Anita Gonzales; voodoo; Laura Hunter; Mamanita; Catholicism

Chapter.  14155 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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