New Orleans has always been in the collective the place where the mystery, the magic and the esoteric (do you remember the witches and their magic rites?) meet and come together in a kind of legend, whose origin goes back in the history of the city itself.
All began with the first migrations of african slaves from the caribbean islands.
These people, suddenly drawn into slavery, transformed their traditions and the worship of ancestors in a sort of religious practice to bear the sufferings and humiliation endured.
At the end of ‘700 a major slave revolt in Haiti and Santo Domingo forced most of the landowners to move, with the entire African community, to New Orleans.
Was just here that the meeting with Catholic worship, fervently practiced in cities, gave birth to an unusual rite, better known as Voodoo, where the fetishes were worshiped as saints, able to offer relief and evil at the same time (never heard of black and white magic?), all thanks to the work, mostly in formulas and potions, of feared priestesses of the occult, witches to be clear!
Among these, the most famous of New Orleans, praised and remembered in the historical memory of the people, as in the stories of the local guides is undoubtedly the hairdresser Marie Leveau, the daughter of a landowner and a black woman born free, known as The Voodoo Queen.
Magic potions, propitiatory rituals, amulets, dolls for the evil eye (all strictly paid), there was nothing that she could not do, proficient as few to mix part of the traditions of the Catholic worship such as prayer, devotion to the saints and the use of incense with the rites of his ancestors, with whom seemed to be in constant contact.
He practiced his art in public in Bayou St. John, a marshy area in the east of the City Park, and reached the height of its power during the ritual of the night of St. John, at the end of June, nicknamed, coincidentally,the Night o the Witches.
It seems that a few days after his death, which occurred in 1881 mysteriously, many people have seen Marie do rituals and walk freely in the French Quarter, sightings that, according to the locals, occur frequently today.
There is no doubt that the charm of this story, fueled by books, movies and popular TV series has grown so much that having created a kind of targeted tourism to the places linked to its existence.
Whether you are skeptical, superstitious, gullible or, like me, just curious and you’re going to Nola (it is so that the people of New Orleans call their town), here you can find a small tour do it yourself inside the French Quarter on the trail of Marie Leveau.
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
The perfect starting point for a tour like this is undoubtedly the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, located in the middle of the French Quarter, the 724 of Dumaine St, a side of the more famous Bourbon Street.
This incredible site has the feel of the real Voodoo… you find yourself, quite disturbing scene, surrounded by countless amulets, voodoo dolls (the rag dolls with hat pins inserted), plants and insects preserved in the glass jars, crosses, candles consumed, portraits, altars halfway between the sacred and the profane, and an impressive variety of gris-gris, a kind of dust made from lizards and snakes dried.
There are also objects for magical practices which tradition says they belonged to the same Marie Leveau.
It’s also possible to see, at the end of the visit, a short documentary on the history of Voodoo and its close relationship with the people of New Orleans.
St. Louis Cathedral
This impressive place of worship in a gothic style is located in Jackson Square, the main square of the French Quarter.
It was built in 1789 on the site of two ancient churches destroyed in a fire.
Its peculiarity, in addition to a baroque interior, is the fact that it have accepted over the centuries among its faithful not only people of different races (in addition to whites and the blacks, here are also the Creoles) but also people who follow a mixed worship, a kind of mixture of Catholic rites and Africans, still practiced today, especially in the Bayou and in the countryside outside the city, which then gave birth to the Voodoo.
It seems that the same Marie Leveau participate in these religious and that just here to have “collected” part of his entourage.
St. Louis Cemetery n.1
Immediately behind the Fench Quarter, in the north, along Basin Street (the entrance is located between St Louis Street and Conti Street) there is the oldest cemetery of the city, the St. Louis Cemetery n.1, consecrated in 1789 .
A very charming place both for the presence of very old graves, some in the process of disintegration, but for the fact that here are buried the most famous characters in the history of the city, first of all Marie Leveau.
His tomb, easily traceable thanks to groups of tourists arriving continually (if you can go there early in the morning you will avoid this unpleasant inconvenience), is the subject of constant prayer and supplication (just to note the many X engraved on stone sign for a request made and the votive offerings) by many “believers” who still venerate she.
There are two other historic cemeteries in the city, the St Louis Cemetery n.2, built to solve the overcrowding of the first, which there is further north and the immense and the picturesque Lafayette Cemetery n.1, toward the Garden District, easily reached with the Old St. Charles Streetcar, often used in the filming of movies and TV series.
Voodoo Shops in Bourbon Street
If you are still not satisfied and want to continue to discover the voodoo culture of the city you can peek in the many shops that crowd the legendary Bourbon Street and its side streets, you will find a bit of everything, even “joyful” hearses… you could really write a series of books on the close relationship that binds this city to the concept of life and death.
One tip, avoid taking photos and making jokes or sarcastic comments inside these shops, the owners (it seems that almost all practice these rites) are very touchy.
Considering the number of voodoo dolls in circulation in the city, skeptics or not, better be careful!!