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Cajun Faith & Healing // Traiteurs

by Angelle Gaspard

Traiteur. Treater. Healer by faith.

What was once a common practice in South Louisiana has since died down. Gheens is a small town that follows a long, rough road between Matthews and Raceland. Edna Quick lives in the middle of this small town. Quick is a practicing traiteur and the only one left within the town.

“I have people from different places that come to be treated, and I do not refuse them because I’m doing the work of the lord,” she says with a soft Cajun accent.

Quick sees people from within the state, and even others from states like Texas and Georgia. Word of her practices travel from one person to another. People now, and in the past, see traiteurs or bring their children to be treated for illnesses that may or may not otherwise be curable by modern medicine, and just as tradition shows, Quick does not accept payment for what she does.

“This is the lord’s work, it’s not mine. I don’t heal, the lord does,” she says.

Some people continue to visit traiteurs like Quick today for one reason, faith. People have faith in this woman and her abilities to heal ailments through prayer. Quick says people will call and set up appointments for ailments such as shingles.

They meet her in her home and she first has them explain what the problem is and where it is located. She then takes them to an alter she has in her bedroom and says a particular prayer that she was taught and then she gives them instructions about what they need to do on their own. Part of the healing process is the prayers made by the traiteur, but another part is the patient’s ability to follow through with any additional prayers or practices they are instructed to do.

In the past, medical care was not as affordable nor was it readily available in South Louisiana.

“Treaters were common,” she reminisces. “That’s how we grew up. We had no money to go to the doctor.”

Growing up, Quick was treated within her own home because she comes from a long family line of traiteurs. Her aunt, sister, and mother were all treaters. She explains that she was able to go to her family as well as three or four other treaters within the area.

“Now I’m the only one left,” she says. “I think this is a dying practice, and it’s a very sad thing to be lost.”

Quick learned all of her treatments and prayers from her mother and sister, who were both traiteurs. She says at first she did not want to learn any of it because she was too young to understand. As she grew older, her sister fell ill and asked that Quick learn their mother’s treatments. She says that she learned everything fairly quickly and at the time she was taught completely in French.

The practice has been passed from one woman to another in Quick’s family, but she has not yet taught her daughters.

“It’s gotta be somebody that want to do it and devote themselves,” she says passionately. “You’ve gotta devote yourself because if you call me today and ask me, I’m not going to refuse you.”

She says she does not want to pass it on to someone who will not commit fully and be open to accepting anyone at anytime for treatment because it would be a waste.

Traiteurs truly exhibit characteristics of selflessness. Because of modern medicine some people have turned away from older traditions and practices of traiteurs like Quick, but some still have faith in the old ways. The only way the tradition will live on is if others who share the gift are willing to take the time to learn the old treatments and prayers to keep this unique aspect of southern culture alive.

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