Sallie Ann Glassman
writing credit: Catherine Wessinger
SALLIE ANN GLASSMAN TIMELINE
1954 (December 14): Sallie Ann Glassman was born in South Portland, Maine to atheist parents of Ukrainian Jewish heritage.
1970: Sixteen-year-old Glassman visited the Jane Roberts group in Elmira, New York, and observed Roberts channel the entity known as Seth.
1976: Glassman moved from Kennebunkport, Maine, to New Orleans where she worked as a bartender. Glassman met a psychic reader called André the Martiniquan at the Voodoo Museum on Dumaine Street in the French Quarter. He began to teach her about Vodou.
1980: Glassman and friends formed a group named the Simbi-Sen Jak Ounfo to perform Vodou ceremonies.
1980: Glassman became involved with the creation of a Caliphate Ordo Templi Orientalis group in New Orleans, named the Kali Lodge, and performing weekly OTO rituals.
Ca. 1980–1984: Glassman took painting classes with artist Michael G. Willmon at the Art Institute of New Orleans.
Ca. 1980: At the request of Gerald Schueler, Glassman began making pastel drawings inspired by the Enochian tradition for a deck of Enochian Tarot cards.
Ca. 1988: Glassman went to California to visit Cherel Winett Ito, the executor of the estate of Maya Deren. Glassman was permitted to read the transcripts of Joseph Campbell’s interviews with Maya Deren.
1989: Glassman’s Enochian Tarot deck was published with a book by Gerald and Betty Schueler, The Enochian Tarot.
1990–1992: Vodou rituals were performed in her home from which Glassman drew inspiration for making pastel drawings for a New Orleans Voodoo Tarot card deck.
1992: Glassman’s New Orleans Voodoo Tarot deck was published with a book authored by Louis Martinié, The New Orleans Voodoo Tarot.
Ca. 1993 (June 23): Glassman and members of her Vodou congregation performed the first ceremony at Bayou St. John in New Orleans honoring Marie Laveau, the nineteenth-century Voodoo priestess of New Orleans. This was the beginning of an annual public Vodou ritual performed at Bayou St. John.
1995 (August 18): Glassman performed the first public Vodou ceremony in the Bywater neighborhood in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans to ask Ogou to protect the neighborhood from crime.
1995: Glassman opened Island of Salvation Botanica on Piety Street near her home in Bywater.
1995 (November): Glassman went to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and was initiated as a manbo asogwe (high priestess) in Vodou by houngan asogwe (high priest) Edgard Jean-Louis and houngan asogwe Silva Joseph.
2000: Glassman published her book titled Vodou Visions.
2005 (June): A peristyle (temple) was completed for the rituals of Glassman’s Vodou congregation renamed La Source Ancienne Ounfo, for which Glassman obtained 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.
2005 (August 29): Hurricane Katrina landed on the Gulf Coast of the United States, causing a storm surge and the breaching of canal levees in New Orleans, resulting in the flooding of most of the New Orleans Metropolitan Area.
2008–2009 (November 1–January 18): Prospect.1 New Orleans, a city-wide international exhibition of contemporary art was held. A building on St. Claude Avenue, which formerly housed a furniture store and which Glassman and her partner Pres Kabacoff were developing into the New Orleans Healing Center, hosted an exhibition of works of art for Prospect.1. A satellite exhibition of works of art included Glassman’s own paintings and the works of other artists.
2008: Glassman and co-workers organized the first Anba Dlo (Beneath the Water) festival held at the Healing Center, highlighting New Orleans culture and music, with a symposium of experts discussing issues relating to water in south Louisiana.
2010 (January 12): A massive earthquake devastated Haiti. Glassman brought Edgard Jean-Louis to New Orleans to stay at her home.
2010 (August 26): Edgard Jean-Louis died at his home in Haiti.
2011: Glassman and Kabacoff moved into the unique home they built in Bywater.
2011 (March): The first New Orleans Sacred Music Festival was held at the New Orleans Healing Center.
2011 (August): The New Orleans Healing Center was officially opened on St. Claude Avenue in New Orleans.
2011 (October): Glassman and Kabacoff married.
2014: Glassman was named 2014 New Orleans Top Female Achiever by the New Orleans Magazine.
Sallie Ann Glassman (b. 1954) is a manbo asogwe (high priestess) in the Haitian Vodou, or Vodoun, religion, a spiritual counselor, businesswoman, author, educator, social activist, community organizer, and artist, who in the late twentieth century through the early twenty-first century contributed significantly to the reintroduction of Haitian Vodou to New Orleans, Louisiana. Haitian Vodou was first brought to New Orleans in the early nineteenth century with the influx of French-speaking slave owners and slaves from Saint-Domingue (Haiti), fleeing the successful slave revolution there. Haitian Vodou contributed in great part to the unique Voodoo tradition in New Orleans. Prior to the Civil War (1861–1865), slaves, free persons of color, and whites participated in Voodoo rituals in New Orleans. After the Civil War and emancipation of slaves, through the end of the nineteenth century, police regularly broke up Voodoo rituals in New Orleans as part of the effort to maintain whites’ control over African Americans. Expressions of Voodoo continued quietly in the African American community in New Orleans, away from the eyes of whites (Long 2002:90). In the first half of the twentieth century, anything related to Voodoo and Hoodoo (magical practices and products) in New Orleans was seen as fraudulent by the dominant white community (Long 2002:92–94). Beginning in the 1960s through the present, Voodoo came to be seen in New Orleans as entertainment and a source of tourism dollars; during this period a number of Voodoo and Haitian Vodou practitioners became publicly active in New Orleans (Long 2002:95–97). Sallie Ann Glassman, [Image at right] who was initiated as a manbo asogwe in Haiti, has played a prominent role in bringing Haitian Vodou and its rituals out into the public, and establishing Vodou as an important expression of the unique New Orleans culture. She does this by performing public Vodou rituals, giving interviews, and permitting her ceremonies to be filmed. As is the case with many Vodou practitioners in Haiti and also in New Orleans, Sallie Ann Glassman is an artist. Her artistic work is integral to her worldview and spiritual practice. While Glassman’s spirituality is expressed primarily through her involvement with Vodou and its rituals, she also affirms the mystical aspects, music, dance, myths, and truths of many other religious traditions. She expresses her artistic vision in pastel drawings, gouache and oil paintings, art installations in the form of Vodou altars, shrines, and sacred spaces, and decorating her living, work, and worship spaces to evoke the spiritual reality she senses within and underlying the physical world.
Glassman paints Vodou rituals, sacred sites that are human-made as well as natural, and landscapes. She sees everything as being sacred and filled with the spiritual, flowing source of life. According to Glassman, even things that are “vile,” dark, and decaying are filled with divine life energy. [Image at right] She explains that this is why she is attracted to swamps, such as those in south Louisiana. In swamps, things live, die, decompose, and are recycled in the life and death process. The life, death, and decay process produces fertile soil that gives birth to new life in the forms of bugs, flowers, plants, fish, reptiles, birds, and animals. A swamp is a place for breeding new life while everything in the swamp is being consumed (Wessinger 2017a).
Glassman reports that since childhood she has perceived the physical world as not being solid and as merely the surface of a greater force. She sees reality as an “energy flow” with the world as a “reflective image” on top of it. She regards her view of reality as corresponding to the Vodou teaching that there is an “invisible world of spirit within the visible world,” which is “an ocean of life.” She seeks to convey in her paintings the “numinous, energetic presence” within “whatever the surface is.” She terms her painting and drawing style preternatural realism, which is not “supernatural,” but an “extremely heightened natural” (Wessinger 2017a). For Glassman, in addition to learning to know the Vodou lwa (deities) through rituals, possession, making offerings at altars, meeting persons embodying a lwa at that moment, her art is spiritual practice. When creating an altar, drawing, or painting, she is focused and free from thoughts about doing other things. She feels fully present at the “meeting point” between herself and the world and “life itself” (Wessinger 2017b).