Acadiana is full of mystique and cultural treasures many outsiders have yet to learn about.
One of those mysteries is Traiteurs: Acadiana’s Hidden Healers.
They’ve been around for centuries passing it on from one generation to the next, and there are some who are still healing here in Acadiana.
Southwest Louisiana’s “traiteurs” or “healers” have been talked about, sought after, researched, and documented.
They’re often called folk healers who use folk medicine, rituals, or prayers to treat a number of ailments.
Traiteuse, Becca Begnaud explains, “there’s a different prayer for a different ailment. If you have a sprained ankle, there’s a prayer for that, if you have an earache, there’s a prayer for that, if you have shingles, there’s a prayer for that. There’s also a gesture…you have to circle the area or make the sign of the cross”.
Becca Begnaud is a registered nurse and says she became a traituese when her neighbor, Ms. Eva, shared the prayers and rituals with her.
Begnaud’s own grandfather was a healer, but he died before he could pass it on to her.
Like Begnaud, Ms. Eva continues to practice to this day, but on a limited basis because of her age. When she was eight years old, she learned from an elderly traiteur
“He told me en francais, “You listen”, and I did – I didn’t know what I was saying and I never forgot that treatment. I treated for sprains and sunstrokes,” Ms. Eva tells KLFY’s Darla Montgomery.
Ms. Eva passed it on to her daughter and her daughter passed it on her daughter. Now there are three generations of practicing traiteurs in their family.
For those who don’t know, the practice can appear dark and mysterious. Many people often confuse it with voodoo and Louisiana’s Marie Laveau, a creole practitioner of voodoo renowned in New Orleans.
Others think it derived from slaves and African witch doctors. But traiteurs are far from that.
Believers and researchers know it is rooted in spirituality and the catholic faith. It’s passed on from one generation to the next.
Anthropologist Dr. Ray Brassieur at UL Lafayette explains, “There’s a nostalgia about it, there’s also a fear that it could go out of the world and be lost and many people talk about it as a lost art. I don’t necessarily believe that because what is see in the young people is a great interest in it and they seek out people who know and thy learn what they can.”
Brassieur’s findings reveal commonalities in healing methods amongst local cultures. He says traiteurs are hidden deep in the creole and cajun cultures typically only found through word of mouth. There is no published listing with their names and contact information.
Brassieur also says, “It was in Acadia and it did come down to Louisiana. At the same time there’s healing traditions that came from Africa, there’s some that came with the Islano’s, the Spanish-speaking people too they had folk healing traditions and, of course, the Native Americans had a way to heal as well. Those ideas blended in Louisiana.”
Healing is a passion for Ms. Eva, Begnaud and those like them.
Begnaud believes the greatest healing of all is yet to come, “There were Native Americans, African Americans, and Europeans who all treated each other with dignity and respect, and if we just acted like that we could have world peace today”.Editor’s Note: the traiteurs we featured are staying true to the practice and chose not to list their contact information. So, how do you find a traiteur? The same way it has been done for over two centuries, you just have to ask around.