by NoPo Ness
Spiritual interests in North Portland, like those around the world, run the gambit from the mainstream to those shrouded in mystery and myth. Jonathan and Tanya Scott, proprietors of Orleans Candle Company, not only sell some the best and most inexpensive candles in Portland but also have a wealth of informational and spiritual supplies including those used in traditional Hoodoo, Voodoo and Santeria practices. Jonathan, who has a degree in World Religions from Trinity University in San Antonio Texas and whose father is a professor of religion, is happy to demystify these more misunderstood spiritual practices.
The Scotts relocated to Portland after Hurricane Katrina wiped out their home and business in New Orleans. Tanya grew up in the family business, at F & F Candle and Botanica, open since 1968 and supplying candles, oils, herbs, roots and other spiritual and religious products to the people of New Orleans. After the store flooded in the hurricane, it was rebuilt and although, they have the New Orleans location back up and running again, their house and their old neighborhood still resembled a war zone, even after a year. The Scott’s sold what was left of their old house to a contractor and moved their life to North Portland, opening the store on North Lombard where they live, work and make their own soy candles and essential oils. Both Jonathan and Tanya are amazingly upbeat and willing to share any information, history and personal experiences with an ever-interested Portland population.
One of the more important distinctions between the patrons of his New Orleans location and the Portland location, in those who are interested in the practice of Santeria, Voodoo and Hoodoo rituals, according to Jonathan, is that those who come into his Portland location are looking for something outside of the Christian values that they may have grown up with and are looking to explore something new. They embrace the rituals but not the religious aspects of these practices.” To spiritual people these are not spells or magic these are things that people do to help themselves. They are not necessarily focused on anyone else,” said Jonathan.
Voodoo, Hoodoo and Santeria all have African roots. While Voodoo and Santeria are both religions, which incorporate a variety of tribal African spiritual practices with Catholicism, Hoodoo is not. According to Catherine Yronwode, author of Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic, Hoodoo is a Central African / Congo / Bantu system of practice or “African retentions” which are beliefs, customs, sayings, or even complete rituals that have been recorded in Africa and that have survived in the United States through the many centuries that Africans have lived here. All three sprung from the tribal religions and practices of slaves brought to America. The language of Santeria is Spanish and the majority of followers are of Cuban descent while Voodoo’s devotees are French in language and is a Haitian religion.
One common misconception, perpetuated by Hollywood, is that of Voodoo dolls, which really had no place in traditional African tribal religions, and were adapted from European folk magic. In both Santeria and Voodoo, Catholic Saints are joined to African Orishas, or spirit forces of nature personified. Similarly to Catholicism, those who practice Santeria or Voodoo pray to a specific Orisha or Saint to help or guide them in the challenges of daily life. “The main difference between the Catholic practice and someone that practices Santeria or Voodoo is that someone practicing the latter might provide an offering, such as a banana to the Saint,” explained Jonathan.
Although, the Scotts’ main business is selling candles (including some of the yummiest soy candles I have ever smelled) they also sell natural herbs, Certified Organic essential oils, fragrance oils, artisan jewelry, books, and other botanical products, which draw in other curious crowds, such as those interested in Wicca, Native American rituals and alternative medicine.
“It’s a racist stereotype to say that African religions are dark magic or evil. People are more accepting of other tribal religions such as Native American rituals and practices but with those religions rooted in Africa these negative associations, which were racially motivated, have continued on,” says Jonathan.
Want to learn more? Visit Jonathan and Tanya at Orleans Candle Company at 5036 North Lombard St. or on the web. Tell them Ness sent ya!