Tonight was St. Joseph’s Night and that means Mardi Gras Indians! We live right on the edge of Central City, the heart of Mardi Gras Indian territory. Lasalle Park is the central meeting place every year for all of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian tribes…which just happens to be about 3 blocks from my house.
I’ve already written about the Mardi Gras Indian culture here in New Orleans (you can read about it here), so I won’t regale you with a long explanation now.
But this year, I got something a little special. Just as we left our house, we ran into two tribes meeting on their way to Lasalle Park.
When two tribes meet, there is an complex ritual of greeting. A great deal depends on whether or not the two tribes are friendly with each other. Even when the tribes are friendly, the ritual of greeting is an elaborate dance and contest of wittiness. This tradition comes from “Playing the Dozens,” a contest of insulting each other in witty ways.
Luckily, these two were friendly tribes. When the tribes are enemies, onlookers back away and the underlying violence of the Mardi Gras Indian culture comes out in a much more hostile interaction. In the past, unfriendly tribes would have reacted with violence, but since Hurricane Katrina, each tribe has worked hard to bond together, which helps the community as a whole. While there are definitely tribes that still don’t like each other, they generally keep their violence to their song and dance.
These two tribes were a lot of fun to watch! Enjoy!
Happy St. Joseph’s Night!!!