Dabbling with the unknown can be quite terrifying, especially when it comes to other customs, religions or spiritual practices that seem 'odd' in comparison to what we know.
Voodoo is a perfect example of this -- the word itself often conjures up images of evil spells, dolls and secrets intended to inflict pain and trouble onto other people in an effort to gain more individual power.
But perhaps the greatest irony is that the message, meaning and purpose of Voodoo could not be further from those connotations.
Voodoo's ideology is to push away negative energy and hone in on positivity, and those who practice most often use the religion to bring "good luck, good fortune, money and prosperity," says Megan Houlihan, who specializes in all things Voodoo at Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo in New Orleans.
We chatted with Megan about Voodoo itself, myths and judgements about the religion, and most importantly, how it can be used to bring financial success and prosperity.
Here are six items that Megan recommends for those looking to reach new heights in their business endeavors and financial lives:
‘We have all sorts of voodoo dolls for all sorts of things, but this one itself would be for money and prosperity. You want to look for something that has a green tag. We have ones for good luck and good fortune, for protection, for fertility and for abundance. Abundance is something else that you can use as far as businesses go, to kind of just bulk up what you’re looking to do.
If you’re looking for funds for something, that’s another way that you can go with that.”
“We also have these awesome little kits that are made in-house…they are money-drawing kits.
[The kit has] instructions inside —you have a candle, you’ve got a small doll, you’ve got some oils, and you just follow the instructions and it’s like a little spell that you can do all on your own.
Everything is very simply laid out, as long as you follow the direction you’re good to go. Voodoo is a lot about bringing things to you that are positive and pushing things away from you that are negative. So, you always want to have something going on that’s good, that’s positive.”
“[These dolls] are for protection and prosperity. You would hand them over the doorway of any business to kind of protect your business and to draw customers and money towards you.
You want to give [the doll] some attention — if you want to pin a dollar bill to it, or if you want to paint it or do something to make it more personal to you, you can, but that’s not required. You just hang it up and make sure you kind of know that it’s there, give it a little bit of love occasionally!
People who are really creative a lot of the time will put some little bits and bobs on there, maybe some cowire shells, or they’ll do a dollar or something like that. Other people just leave it exactly how it is, because they’re like ‘I don’t want to do anything to mess it up!’ And it’s like, you can’t really mess it up, you just kind of have to do what you feel like is the right thing to be doing."
“[The bags] are just a couple of little small ones ... One would be for success, this one would be for gambling, this would be for money and prosperity. It’s just a little bag that you carry with you — If you’re a guy, generally you throw it in a left pocket. If you are a lady, it’s better to keep it in your purse, because women keep more energy in their purses, they don’t keep things in their pockets.
Keep it with you, just hang on to it — Don’t ever open it. You just want to leave it as it is — They’re little bags of herbs that would get everywhere. And they’re made by practitioners with a specified purpose, so you don’t really want to mess with them a whole lot.”
"These are called mojo bags — These you can mess with! This is a little bag of stones that has a specified purpose, but what you can do is make them more personal to you. If you have something that you feel like brings you luck, or you have something that you feel like really represents you that you really want to throw in here as well, you can always do that. You can take the stones out and hold them, you can do whatever you’d like with them. But you don’t ever want anybody else to touch them, because once you’ve opened this bag, your energy is all over it and you don’t want anybody else to taint this thing that’s yours.
Some people will get like a saint’s medal, or throw cowrie shells in there (because cowrie shells are for good luck and they’re for money), coins for prosperity, lucky beans (we do them during St. Joseph’s day — it’s a little bean that you carry with you for good luck and for protection.) But all these different things are things that people can throw in there — Maybe you had a necklace and it broke but you still had a couple of the beads, someone will throw that in there. It can be anything."
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AOL: Why do you think people are so apprehensive to experiment with Voodoo to begin with?
Megan Houlihan: "I think that Voodoo's spent so much time being vilified because it is so secret, but the religion itself is all about service in the community, making sure your life is better but not by making somebody else's life miserable — just by making sure that bad and negative things are kind of brushed off of you, that they stay away.
AOL: What is one of the biggest myths that people have about Voodoo?
MH: "Voodoo dolls, specifically! Voodoo dolls, historically, if you had a doll, that doll was like a physical representation of that person, and the pins were used to — say your knee hurt, and they gave you something to make your knee not hurt anymore. They would pin what that was, so that if your knee hurt again, the root worker would know what had gone wrong, and what had fixed you last time...It was more of a physical/medical history than it was a thing to do bad things to people."
Watch our interview with Megan live at Marie Laveau's from the AOL Finance Facebook page:
AOL: What do most people come into the shop looking to use Voodoo for?
MH: "We get a lot of people who are looking for stuff for love, we get a lot of people who are looking for stuff for money, for work, and a lot of people who look for gambling stuff — They want a little charm because they're going to the casino, or somebody's bet on some game and they want a little thing to kind of just edge them a little bit.
AOL: How did you become a practicer of Voodoo? How did u become involved with the shop?
MH: "I've worked here for 13 years. I'm originally from Chicago and I moved down here, and I had studied religion previously but this was the one thing that kind of made sense to me, so i just kind of went with it. And when I got here, I actually got a job here before I had an apartment or anything else. I was living in a hotel...I think I was here not even 48 hours before I started working here! And I've pretty much been here ever since.
AOL: What are your favorite Voodoo items to use?
MH: "I use glass candles a lot, and I carry a little gris-gris bag with me that someone made a very long time ago. And I feel like that had done a lot to protect me and keep me on my path."
AOL: What would be one or two must-have items for entrepreneurs or business owners looking to start experimenting with Voodoo to help their business?
MH: "The two things that I would probably recommend most would be to get one of the house dolls, just because it's specifically designed for new business. And if you want to dress it up or do anything with it, the staff here can always help you figure something out. The other thing would be either a mojo or a gris-gris bag. You can either leave it behind the counter, or you can keep it with you, keep it by your register, just to kind of keep that positive energy flowing. Another thing I would always try and do, is have a better business or money-drawing candle always burning in the place during the day, at least an hour a day, just to kind of keep that positive energy flowing and keep that negative energy away."
AOL: What would you say to someone who's curious about experimenting with Voodoo, but still apprehensive about beginning?
MH: "Just because you don't understand something doesn't mean that it's bad. Voodoo is a religion that's hidden because it was vilified for so long. But just because of that, doesn't mean that there's not a lot of really great things that have come out of it. It's a beautiful [religion]— voodoo itself is such a part of culture in New Orleans, and New Orleans is an amazing place to be. Stepping just a little bit outside that box and being just a little more open to something outside of what your 'normal' is, can really be this amazing experience. And I don't think that anybody should be afraid of something that's a new experience."
You can visit Megan and the rest of the staff at Marie Laveau's and Reverend Zombie's House of Voodoo, both located in New Orleans' French Quarter.
RELATED: Avoid these 7 deadly financial sins
Avoid these 7 deadly financial sins
Avoid these 7 deadly financial sins
Greed. Considered one of the gravest of the cardinal sins, greed can get you into serious financial trouble and negatively impact your relationships. Whether it's a bigger house, fancier car or designer wardrobe, the desire for more, more, more will always burden your budget.
Shifting the focus to your "haves" from your "have-nots" is a good first step in conquering greed. In fact, a recent study found that the practice of gratitude has lingering positive effects and can make feelings of happiness and satisfaction more effortless over time.
(Goodshoot via Getty Images)
Sloth. Saving money isn't complicated, but it does require focus, commitment and hard work. Just ask anyone who has scaled back their spending to pay off debt or cultivated frugal habits to achieve a financial goal. Sloth, or laziness, is an avoidable sin thanks to the average consumer's instant access to information and digital tools to aid in saving money.
For example, mobile apps for couponing, comparison-shopping, price-checking and budget-tracking make it easier than ever to manage your spending. Digital tools, such as Mint, also make the process of creating a budget less daunting, resulting in a more mindful approach to your spending.
(Steve Cole via Getty Images)
Gluttony. The "high" associated with spending money can be a tough habit to sustain and break, which is why compulsive buying disorder, better known as "shopping addiction," is a bonafide condition. We've all experienced the thrill of a big shopping spree – and subsequent feelings of guilt and apathy once the novelty of the purchases wears off.
While gluttony is associated with food and drink in the biblical context, it can easily be correlated to the habit of spending in excess. Consumers with actual disorders should seek help from professionals. Others can combat the behavior by identifying spending triggers and finding less expensive ways to deal with them. Simply unsubscribing from retail newsletters and unfollowing brands on social media can curb the impulse to buy from your favorite brands.
Envy. The never-ending "highlight reel" perpetuated on social media can make anyone susceptible to the sin of envy and can lead to poor purchasing decisions in pursuit of a similar lifestyle.
According to a study commissioned by the American Institute of CPAs, more than one-third of consumers researched a purchase – a product or vacation – after seeing a similar purchase shared by someone in their social media network. Consumers also follow celebrities on social media who, in addition to touting their expensive lifestyles, are often paid by brands to promote their products.
To avoid letting envy overtake your rational purchasing decisions, take a break from social media and focus your attention on activities that don't result in impulse buys. With Americans spending nearly two hours per day on social media platforms, this exercise can help you cultivate healthier habits like reconnecting with a loved one face-to-face.
(John Lamb via Getty Images)
Pride. Being proud of your accomplishments is certainly not a sin. However, being too prideful about yourself and your lifestyle can result in financial ramifications. If you pride yourself on having the latest-and-greatest technology, for example, you're likely living lean after the launch of the latest Apple product or trending gadget.
Pride can also be a roadblock in pursuit of money-saving avenues, such as couponing, negotiating or requesting a price match. The fear of looking "cheap" can lead some consumers to avoid these activities to keep up appearances of financial solvency. Instead of concerning yourself with how others perceive you, focus your attention on cultivating healthy money habits, which can serve as inspiration to those around you.
(ViewStock via Getty Images)
Lust. Like envy, the sin of lust is supported by both social media and a celebrity-obsessed culture in which excess is flaunted at every opportunity. The next time you're overcome with lust over an object, walk away and give yourself some space and time to breathe. Impulses are brief by nature and typically subside when the object of desire is out of sight.
The next time you find yourself in line to buy something you didn't expect to buy, give yourself 24 hours before you make the purchase. More often than not, the desire for the item will dwindle.
(Lorado via Getty Images)
Wrath. If you're unsatisfied with a purchase or experience, calmly explaining your feelings to someone rather than screaming and making a scene is far more effective. What's more, threatening to slander them on social media is wrathful behavior that will not result in what you want.
While being too nice can cost you, being rude and vengeful doesn't do you or your bottom line any favors, either. If a purchase experience has you seeing red, give yourself a few moments to calm down and determine your desired result. Before you pick up the phone or face a representative, find out what others have done to reach a successful resolution by conducting some online research. After all, knowledge and a clear head are a more effective duo than anger and vengeance when resolving a shopping or billing dispute.