This is nothing a little sage can’t fix.
Belfazaar Ashantison is certain of that. A practitioner of voodoo for more than 25 years and a New Orleans voodoo priest for 14, Ashantison — you can call him Zaar — is convinced that given a little time and the right access, he can undo whatever’s been done to the Pelicans in this lost season.
The mounting injuries. The 27-46 record. There’s a simple explanation.
“I do believe, honestly, that they are jinxed, for lack of a better word,” Ashantison said. “I think there’s a negative energy that keeps surrounding them.”
So when coach Alvin Gentry suggested Monday — almost certainly with tongue in cheek — that the Pelicans might turn to “a voodoo doctor” to get to the bottom of their almost-unthinkable injury bug, he might have been on to something.
Seven Pelicans — Anthony Davis, Quincy Pondexter, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Bryce Dejean-Jones and, as of Tuesday, Jrue Holiday and Alonzo Gee — are out for the season with injuries. Forward Ryan Anderson and guard Norris Cole haven’t been ruled out for the year, but injuries have them on the sideline.
Pelicans players have missed a combined 267 games to injury and illness and will miss at least 63 more over the team’s final nine games.
It’s enough to make you wonder if something sinister is going on. Or in Ashantison’s case, to utterly convince you of it.
On Monday, Gentry said he was putting out “an all-points bulletin” for voodoo practitioners willing to assist at the Smoothie King Center, saying the Pelicans have “got to find the bones under this place or we’ve got to do something.”
Ashantison, who works at Voodoo Authentica in the French Quarter, said he’d come to the Pelicans’ aid “in a heartbeat.”
He’s not alone.
Just down Dumaine Street at the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, priestess Cinnamon Black figures she, too, could be of assistance.
“You would do a ritual of some sort,” she said. “You would do a blessing. I would give them a gris-gris bag for good health.”
It wouldn’t be Black’s first foray into the world of sports. In 2010, the museum’s priestesses, she said, performed a ritual to break the infamous “Madden Curse” — the alleged injury jinx that hit football players featured on the cover of Madden NFL video games — when Saints quarterback Drew Brees was on the box.
Before she could commit to a cure for what ails the Pelicans, Black said, she’d consult with more experienced priestesses. She’d formulate a plan. But voodoo, she said, “absolutely” could prove valuable to the Pelicans.
Ashantison’s best guess is that the team’s hex is the result of the unrest in owner Tom Benson’s family. Benson is in a legal battle to remove stakes in the Pelicans and Saints from trust funds created to benefit his daughter and grandchildren. The family has challenged his mental competency.
That tumult “has caused this negativity to snowball,” Ashantison said, and he figures the Pelicans are the victims. But he’s sure there are fixes.
“The easy way around that is a spiritual cleansing,” he said. “There’s a number of different ones you could do.”
The easiest, he said, is a simple “sage smudging.” You light a smudge stick — a bundle of herbs bound with string — and cleanse the locker room. You throw some sea salt in the corners to “lock it down so none of these little jinxes work,” he said.
“The whole time, the team would be reciting Psalm 23, the most powerful of the protective psalms,” Ashantison said. “It also talks about prospering in the face of enemies. In this case, the enemies would be (opposing) teams and injuries.”
Ashantison is a Pelicans fan — “I liked them better as the Hornets,” he admits — and he’s offering his services. But Gentry, as it turns out, doesn’t need an APB for help. It’s not hard to find willing assistance in New Orleans.
“We did a ritual for Drew Brees,” Black said. “Why not do one for them as well? They’re part of our city, and we’re all one big family.”