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New Orleans Supernatural

Five French Quarter spots for channeling the city’s complex spiritual heritage.

voodoo-bone-lady
The Voodoo Bone Lady. (Photo: Christopher Garland)

It couldn’t have been a more appropriate afternoon for checking out some of New Orleans’ strange magic. The sky had been tipping its hat, indicating that the rain we’d been promised for days was imminent. Walking into the French Quarter, it was unlike any other time I’d been there; while the streets were quieter and the murky daytime sky gave a surreal tinge to the buildings around us, there was an even more unmistakable sense of this neighborhood’s deep history. For a moment or two, it felt like one could tap into the old New Orleans and the interchange of cultures that shaped this city’s origins, including, of course, the omnipresent belief in something existing beyond the here and now—spirits, energies, ghosts, magic.

At Erzulie’s Authentic Voodoo you can purchase a range of spells including one that might be most useful: for finding, fixing, or sending out love.

Potions and spells at Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo Shop. (Photo: Christopher Garland.)

Crossing Jackson Square, I thought of one of an evocative passages about New Orleans and its famous belief system, Voodoo, from Blake Touchstone’s “Voodoo in New Orleans”: “As the bewitching hour of midnight approaches, the warm swamp air is filled with the throbbing beat of drums, the chant of emotion-wrought voices, the smells of fire, gumbo, whisky, and boiling cauldrons, and the heightened sense of excitement and passion.”

In New Orleans, traces of the supernatural are all around us, from the psychics who come with the promise of extrasensory perception to the Voodoo practitioners who commune with spirits as powerful and old as nature itself. Here’s a guide to getting in touch with the supernatural in New Orleans.

Tour meeting point for The Voodoo Bone Lady. (Photo: Christopher Garland.)

Five New Orleans Spots for Channeling the Supernatural

Erzulie’s Authentic Voodoo

807 Royal St.

New Orleans Voodoo is connected to the primarily Haitian religion, Vodou, a syncretic belief system that originated amongst enslaved peoples of largely West African in the French slave colony of Saint-Domingue (what is today the republic of Haiti). In Vodou there are many spirits (lwa, or loa, in Haitian Kreyol), but one of the most popular and powerful is Erzulie, the spirit of love and prosperity. Therefore, at Erzulie’s Authentic Voodoo you can purchase a range of spells including one that might be most useful: for finding, fixing, or sending out love. These are powerful concoctions, so you are able to consult with one of the practitioners about how to use the wide array of spells available at the store. Erzulie’s Authentic Voodoo also offers psychic readings (which just might also inform you about what particular spells you need to use!).

Tarot readings are available throughout the French Quarter. (Photo: Christopher Garland.)

The Voodoo Bone Lady Voodoo Shop and Tarot Reading

701 Royal St. for tours; 201 St. Charles Ave. for appointments 

Over the past 30 years the Voodoo Bone Lady has been entrenched in the metaphysical; she is not only a Voodoo priestess but also a renowned psychic and medium. The Voodoo Bone Lady discovered at a young age that she had a special gift, and for decades she has completed readings for countless people. However, the Voodoo Bone Lady extends her skill set to designing a wide array of tours, including cemetery, ghost, and French Quarter tours. While the Voodoo Bone Lady is not on every tour, she regularly meets with groups either before or after the tour—a good opportunity to request an appointment with her psychic prowess.

Baron Samedi and the Virgin Mary side-by-side at Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo Shop. (Photo: Christopher Garland.)

Boutique du Vampyre

633 Toulouse St.

Although Voodoo and zombies have a prominent place in the visual culture of New Orleans, vampires and the people who are fascinated by them also have a strong connection to this place. New Orleans was both the inspiration and setting for author Anne Rice as she brought to life the vampires Louis, Lestat, and Claudia (amongst many others) in The Vampire Chronicles, and this city continues to draw fans of these beguiling nocturnal beings. There is no place in America that celebrates vampires more than the Boutique du Vampyre. They have one of the most comprehensive offerings of vampire books in the country, and, as co-owner Marita Crandle tells me, new releases “are always highly anticipated.”

As the only vampire shop in the country, Boutique du Vampyre provides props for various vampire-related shows, from HBO’s True Blood (Eric’s crossbow hangs on the wall behind the counter at the Boutique du Vampyre) on through to The Vampire Diaries. But this doesn’t mean that there are only vampire-focused goods at the boutique. Crandle claims that they have some of the most authentic Voodoo dolls in the city: “We have them made by a Voodoo priestess who goes out to the swamps, collects Spanish moss, and cures it” in order to create the boutique’s dolls, she says. The eclectic collection at Boutique du Vampyre also includes replica shrunken heads, silver bullet necklaces if you’re ever in need of stopping a pesky werewolf, and handcrafted sunglasses if you’re feeling a little vampiric after some all-night activities in the Quarter.

At the Boutique du Vampyre. (Photo: Christopher Garland.)

Reverend Zombie’s Vooodoo

723 St. Peter St. 

A friend of mine told me that one of his fondest childhood memories of visiting New Orleans was when his parents would decide to go to Pat O’s because he could head across the street to check out Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo. If there is a comprehensive, one-stop shop for someone seeking the physical artifacts of New Orleans and its faith systems, this might be it: there are multiple Voodoo altars in the shop, and literature about various belief systems practiced in New Orleans and beyond is available for purchase. You can buy your very own representation of a religious figure, including the distinctive and powerful Baron Samedi (the master of death); candles to be lit during religious ceremonies; and tarot cards if you, too, believe that you have the gift.

Interior shot at Marie Laveau’s. (Photo: Christopher Garland.)

Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo

739 Bourbon St.

Much like Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo, the Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo—named after the famed and omnipotent Voodoo priestess from the 19th century—the walls are crammed with the various items (beads, candles, figurines, masks) associated with Louisiana Voodoo. Also, from 12:00 p.m. until close every day Marie Laveau’s offers a selection of psychic readings, including tarot, for anyone seeking spiritual (and other) insight. Being surrounded by the artifacts at Marie Laveau’s, which draw on faith traditions from around the Caribbean and beyond, gives a real sense of this city’s knotty and complex spiritual heritage, and just how fantastic it is that this part of New Orleans’ culture is so visible and celebrated in its oldest neighborhood.

Christopher Garland lives in the Lower Garden District, where he enjoys evening strolls, happy-hour beer, and close proximity to the basketball court at the corner of Magazine and Napoleon. An Assistant Professor of Professional Writing & Public Discourse at the University of Southern Mississippi, Christopher reads and writes for work and pleasure. More info: www.christopherjgarland.com

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