VOODOO on the Reservation: Tales from the Rez
The Zullys were not Indians (PC-Native Americans but I’m old school). Nobody knew where they came from. Perhaps someone did know but none of my relatives knew which was surprising since they always seemed to be up-to-date with the latest reservation happenings. The Zullys had no children and they lived in abandoned barracks located on farm sites of various tribal members. They were nomadic. That is, they moved around the reservation at will. Often tribal members–or one of my relatives–would go traveling down a reservation road and there the Zullys would be, taking up residence under a spreading mesquite tree right smack dab in the desert. Like I said, most times they inhabited an empty barrack but at various times, and I don’t know why, the open environment of the desert lured them out of their dilapidated abode. We once lived in a barrack so I can understand why the Zullys would abandon a falling apart heap of lumber. They were free to do as they pleased as long as it was within reservation laws and rules and as long as Indian folks didn’t mind their squatting. Indian people did not bother them. But we thought them strange for living under a mesquite tree. Gossip grew around them. Juicy gossip that had people wildly speculating and exaggerating.
Word had it that Mrs. Zully was seen several times dancing naked around a blazing campfire. True? Don’t really know. But that bit of news caught on like wildfire. Gossip also had it that Mrs. Zully was into voodoo. I don’t recall anything being said about Mr. Zully. Perhaps he was just the fire starter or the blanket-sheet tent builder. Anyway, some of us younger ones had no clue what voodoo was and the idea and image of a lady dancing naked in the moonlight was…well…quite shocking, but also sooooo frighteningly intriguing. Seeing the shocked reaction from kids and a few naive adults fueled the gossipers to greatly embellish their tales. It scared the heck out of kids and promptly inspired the teenagers–mostly the boys–to want to go out and investigate the great spectacle of Mrs. Zully dancing naked around a blazing fire in the desert. And wouldn’t you know, their last campsite was located about a mile west of Dad’s fields.
So, of course, the three of us–the twins and I–just had to trek down to check out the Zully’s campsite. Were we in stealth mode? We thought we were but in fact we were not. We sneaked around while there was still some daylight left. I mean, we were nosy but not stupid. This was the time of year when rattlesnakes were out and about. Plus, we were pretty convinced that we were voodoo safe while the sun still could be seen. Evil only came out at night, right? Anyway, when we reached the Zully’s campsite, we found it deserted. Still, we took it upon ourselves to cautiously explore the remains of the campsite, looking for voodoo evidence. Naturally we had no idea what the heck we were looking for. Someone had said that Mrs. Zully made dolls and stuck cactus needles into them. They were supposed to represent the body of a person who had done the Zullys wrong. We didn’t find any dolls stabbed with cactus needles laying around. All we found were the remains of several fires, a partially burned man’s sock, a few discarded empty food cans, and one hoop earring which none of us had the guts to touch. Voodoo cooties, you know. But daylight was fading fast so we hightailed it out of there just in case the area had been cursed with black magic.
As time went by and the voodoo scare dissipated, we made our own voodoo dolls to scare the heck out of each other. We made them out of socks and Mama’s buttons and we’d hide them in pockets, under pillows, in drawers, wherever. But Mama, a Christian lady, would not let us keep them for long and we could not stick her sewing pins and needles into them. That was forbidden.
***The Zullys really did exist, but that’s not their real last name. They did live in empty old barracks and occasionally in the desert that surrounds the reservation. And the gossip spread by superstitious Indian folks had us believing that they engaged in voodoo rituals. Did they? I don’t know.
IMAGE: Don’t laugh but I made it just minutes ago. I kept with our tradition and used a sock.