Voodoo, New Orleans
Getting your palms read by a voodoo person is essential New Orleans behavior.
You just have to do this.
If I remember rightly the place I went to was up towards the Frenchman St end of Bourbon St.
It was quaint and had a bit of character to the shop. An essential ingredient if you want the real New Orleans experience.
In general you can get the tacky voodoo dolls from most tourist shops. But sometimes you have to just peep into a store like this for a more appealing voodoo item.
My palm reading cost $20 or so.
If you're thinking of love potions, spells, and dolls with pins in them -think again. Voodoo in New Orleans is a living religion, imported to the West Indies (especially Haiti) from West Africa where "vodu" is a serpent deity, and then brought over to New Orleans with the slaves who practiced it.
Once it reached New Orleans, it became diluted with Christianity and a new kind of voodoo (similar to Santeria as practiced in Spanish speaking Caribbean islands and Brasil) was born.
There are a few voodoo shops in the French Quarter, featuring some pretty authentic items even if the shops themselves appear to be tacky and cluttered - which actually is a standard feature of voodoo.
More interesting however, are the little churches that exist throughout the city, with strange names like "The Original Spiritual Church of St. Obadiah"...these are the actual worship places where you'll find aspects of Catholicism, charismatic Protestantism, and Voodoo all rolled into one style.
.....THAT'S New Orleans "voodoo"!
Voodoo today practiced by around fifteen percent of the city's population, was brought to New Orleans by African slaves via the French colonies of the Caribbean. In Louisiana, a new form of Voodoo emerged flavored by the local culture, more influenced by Catholicism and impacted by basic European superstitions. In rural communities, Voodoo became known as Hoodoo, a less-organized, faith-based practice promoted from generation to generation by word-of-mouth and influenced by other Western religions.
The historic figure of Marie Laveau, known as the Voodoo Queen, is one of the great figures of New Orleans' connection to this unique spiritual practice. Her grave, located in St. Louis Cemetery #1, still attracts visitors who leave tributes and mark the stone of her resting place in recognition of her stature.
Voodoo is not only designed to heal the sick, but also to guide the spirit to God. The religion uses herbs and charms, often dispensed in a bag known as the gris-gris, to ward off misfortune and promote love, happiness and prosperity.
The actual religion of Voodoo, or Voudon, originated from the ancient practices of Africa. Voodoo came about most likely in Santo Domingo where slaves devoted rituals to the power of nature and the spirits of the dead. For many enslaved Africans, such spiritual traditions provided a means of emotional and spiritual resistance to the hardships of life. In time, slaves from the Caribbean were brought to New Orleans and they brought Voodoo with them.
From the very beginning of the New Orleans colony in 1718, the white colonists had gotten trouble from the beliefs of their black slaves. Shiploads of slaves came through the city on a regular basis and were bought and sold for manual labor and household work.
These slaves, most of whom spoke no French, had brought with them their religions and beliefs from Africa and Haiti, but soon learned that they were forbidden to practice their own religions by their masters. Many of them were baptized into the Catholic church and later, the use of these Catholic icons would play a major role in their new religion of Voodoo. These icons would take their place in the Voodoo hierarchy and be worshipped as if they were praying to the God of the Catholic church.
Soon after the introduction of the African slaves to New Orleans, Voodoo began to play a major part in the traditions, and fears, of the general populace. It was not long before the white colonists also began to hear of it and to feel its power. By the end of the century, Voodoo was firmly entrenched in the culture of New Orleans.
The religion was practiced by the slaves and the free blacks as well and so strong was the power held by the upper echelons of the religion that they could entice their followers to any crime, and any deed. Whether or not these priests held supernatural power or not, the subtle powers of suggestion and of secret drugs made Voodoo a force to be reckoned with.
There has been no practitioner of Voodoo greater than Marie Laveau. the undisputed Queen of Voodoo. During her lifetime, she was the source of hundreds of tales of terror and wonder in New Orleans. She was born on Santo Domingo in 1794. Her father was white and she was born a free woman. The first record of her in New Orleans was in 1819. During her long life she gave birth to fifteen children.
Marie embraced the power of Voodoo and became the queen of the forbidden but widely practiced culture.
Marie became a legend in New Orleans, which is particularly amazing in such a segregated culture, but she was more than just a Voodoo practitioner. Marie had an imaginative mind and is credited with changing Voodoo into much more than just an African superstition. It was Marie who brought the Virgin Mary into Voodoo as the central figure of worship and she borrowed freely to bring Catholic traditions into the culture. Marie died in June of 1881 but many people never realized that she was gone. Her daughter stepped in and took her place and continued her traditions for decades to follow.
Today, Marie and her daughter still reign over the shadowy world of New Orleans Voodoo from the confines of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Both are entombed in this cemetery in two-tiered, white stone structures. The tombs look like so many others in this cluttered cemetery, until you notice the markings and crosses that have been drawn on the stones. Apart from these marks, you will also see coins, pieces of herb, beans, bones, bags, flowers, tokens and all manner of things left behind in an offering for the good luck and blessings of the Voodoo Queen.
Many believe that Marie returns to life once each year to lead the faithful in worship on St. John's Eve. It is also said that Marie's former home at 1020 St. Ann Street is haunted. Many claim that they have seen the spirit of Marie, and her ghostly followers, engaged in Voodoo ceremonies there.
Voodoo has been a part of the rich cultural heritage of New Orleans for centuries. Today you can find a voodoo priestess listed in the phonebook, at least one voodoo bar, several voodoo tours, a voodoo shop, a yearly voodoo concert (See My Must-See Activites), and there's also a voodoo museum, which traces the history of this ancient religion from the days of the slave trade. All kinds of cool little trinkets can be found here. Plus, where else can you cause your boss severe pain by conjuring up all kinds of spells written hundreds of years ago? And the pain is so cheap too... hhhhmmmm? You better rate me good, OR ELSE!