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Arts & Culture

Fight of the Living Dead: New Orleans vs. Atlanta

When the Saints play the Falcons, they will be playing for more than just a NFL football win, but who has the better zombie cred.

Oh, Atlanta. The division rivalry we really mean.

Giving Atlanta its due, the city has expanded beyond its historical reputation as “Where Gone with the Wind happened; also, peaches.” Everything is still named Peachtree This-That-and-the-Other, but Atlanta has become a transportation and financial hub and a world city. That’s all very well and good, but in 2011 they went too far and declared themselves “Zombie Capital of the World,” apparently because “The Walking Dead” is set and filmed there.

New Orleans Voodoo candles
With luck, the magic here will result in multiple pass interference calls against Atlanta. (Photo courtesy of

How can I put this politely? WRONG. Atlanta isn’t even the zombie capital of the United States. At best it’s third, after second-place Pittsburgh, epicenter of the zombie outbreak in the “Living Dead” movies, and – duh – New Orleans.

Recently, zombies have been “scienced up,” with things like viruses or “cosmic rays” blamed for the dead becoming so all-fired antsy. It would do us good to remember that the original zombies got that way not because of a bad cold or sunspots or an experiment gone horribly awry in an altogether predictable way, but from good old-fashioned black magic. This whole zombie idea originated in Haitian Vodou, a religious system that combines Christianity with traditional African beliefs, and proudly asserts that human beings can change the world around them by calling on spirits or manipulating physical symbols… you know, magic. And while most practitioners of Vodou work for good (or at least indifference,) there were always those with, uh, less good agendas, such as raising and enslaving the dead. Louisiana has its own form of Voodoo, but the similar origins of (and long contact between) Louisiana and Haitian Vodou have ensured that they share similar features.

While New Orleans has not – yet – suffered a zombie outbreak like those that devastated fictional versions of Atlanta and Pittsburgh, we’ve got Voodoo coming out our ears. (And with all this Voodoo AND a major research university, our chances of zombie attack are somewhere in the neighborhood of “inevitable.”) Before it happens, though, prepare yourself with a visit to the French Quarter’s Voodoo Museum, conveniently located near Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, a gift shop and shrine considerately located on Bourbon Street. Bolder visitors may want to visit the grave of Marie Laveau, the former Voodoo Queen of  New Orleans, who rests in the beautiful and historic St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. I also highly recommend the Island of Salvation Botanica, the shop of Sallie Ann Glassman, who is known for two things: being a widely respected Vodou priestess (the correct term is “manbo”), and being friends with Joan Rivers. Finally, if you’re more interested in things that are simply named after Voodoo, check out the barbecue restaurant, the Arena Football League team, and the music festival.

For more, check out this intelligent discussion of New Orleans Voodoo that isn’t a thinly veiled excuse to talk smack about Atlanta.

This is part of a 2012 New Orleans Saints season series, pitting not only opposing football teams, but their native towns’ differences against each other in some good, old fashioned, good humored smack talking. 

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