Voodoo is a phenomenon, a culture that could only have occurred in New Orleans, and there's something about the dark and mysterious beliefs that have stuck around for years, hiding down cobblestoned alleys and in dark corners of historic buildings. French Catholicism, African Vodun, and Spanish flair, all stirred up in the mixing pot that is America created a special New Orleans Voodoo that’s synonymous with the Big Easy. Voodoo queens preside over rituals and ceremonies and create amulets, charms, spells and more, guaranteed to... fix problems. If you need a wish granted, a problem fixed or an enemy destroyed, then behold the Roadtrippers’ guide to a New Orleans voodoo tour:
Step 1: Visit the Historic New Orleans Voodoo Museum
First and foremost, you should learn what you’re getting yourself into. The National Historic Voodoo Museum is the perfect place to start; you can discover the origins of voodoo, learn about important voodoo queens and see some old relics. The museum isn't huge, but it's dense, and each room is crammed with fascinating little tidbits. The atmosphere of the place is a little creepy, which is kind of perfect. They encourage questions, so don’t be afraid to ask!
Step 2: Stop into the Voodoo Spiritual Temple
Your spell will undoubtedly go a little better if you consult a voodoo priestess on what you want and what you’ll need to do to get it. Priestess Miriam doesn’t focus on “white” or “black” magic, so you don’t need worry about the Shadow Man coming after you. The temple has elements of West African tradition and Catholic tradition, so don’t be surprised to see a statue of a saint next to a voodoo doll!
Step 3: Stock up at Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo
Named for the most famous voodoo queen in all of New Orleans voodoo history, this shop has all of your voodoo needs covered. From spell kits and mojo bags to gris-gris and talismans, there’s something here to fulfill your every wish and desire.
Known as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, according to many eyewitness accounts, this was a title Marie Laveau not only earned but has not relinquished to this day. Marie Catherine Laveau was born a free woman of color in New Orleans on September 10, 1801. She was the illegitimate daughter of a free man of color and a Creole mother. Historians believe that Marie’s mother and grandmother were voodoo practitioners. In 1819, at the ripe young age of 18, Laveau married Jacques Paris, with whom she had two children, both of which are believed to have died young. Her husband also passed away under mysterious circumstances. By the time she was in her 20s she was known around town as the Widow Paris. This name would also be etched onto her tomb, which has become quite the popular tourist attraction.
After the death of Jacques, Marie became a hairdresser. Most of her clients were wealthy white socialites, which allowed her to be privy to the myriad of rumors and gossip that floated around the French Quarter. Because Laveau had access to a wealth of information from both the elite women she serviced, to their servants and slaves, she was able to convince people that she was a Voodoo priestess with mystical powers. She was basically the 19th century Miss Cleo. Laveau then entered into a common-law marriage with Louis Christophe Dominick Duminy de Glapion (say that five times fast!)
By the 1860s, Marie ceased practicing voodoo in public. However according to folklore she continued to practice Voodoo well into old age. Her daughter, Marie Laveau II, actually picked up the mantle her mother left behind and was known for her "wild rituals in the swamps around New Orleans."
Marie welcomed people into her home, day or night, and provided them food and a warm place to spend the night. She was also a "skilled nurse" and was known for her vast knowledge of herbs and other methods of healing. Marie also made herself available to condemned men, providing them counsel before they were they were executed. In fact, Marie became a folk hero of sorts, fighting on behalf of the helpless.
Step 4: Immerse yourself in the culture at Congo Square
To further understand the roots of Voodoo, head to Louis Armstrong Park in the Tremé neighborhood of the city to visit Congo Square. Slaves traditionally had Sundays off work, and would often gather at Congo Square to worship, sing, dance, and sell goods to buy their own freedom at an informal market. Their dress, musical rhythms, instruments, and dancing were influenced by African, French, Caribbean cultures. As the Civil War approached, the gatherings at Congo Square began to drop off, but Congo Square drew back Creole musicians in the late 19th century, where the soulful, freestyle music they played evolved into the only truly indigenous art form from America: jazz.
Step 5: Bolster your spirits with a stiff drink from the Voodoo Lounge.
The Voodoo Lounge isn't fancy, but neither is the ancient art of casting spells, so this divey little joint is the perfect place to hype yourself up to do the deed. The joint is open 24 hours, and although it serves up hurricanes, they also have a massive selection of scotch. Drinks here aren't too fancy, but they're cheap and the bartenders and crowd are always interesting. Plus, a popular New Orleans ghost tour meets up here, so if you're looking for some actual spirits, you can ask about it.
Step 4: Hit up St. Louis Cemetery #1 (at night!)
Now you’re ready to perform some voodoo! What better place to cast a spell than a historic, above-ground cemetery? You can sense the history here. Marie Laveau herself is allegedly buried in a crypt on the property. Believe it or not, her grave gets more annual visitors than Elvis’! Pay your respects and then cast your voodoo spell- if you dare*! But be warned: Visitors claim to have seen the ghost of the Voodoo Queen herself, walking around tombs in her trademark turban, while whispering a Santeria Voodoo curse to disrespectful gawkers. If you visit her grave, you'll notice that people still leave offerings, candles, flowers, Voodoo dolls, all in the hopes that Laveau will bestow her supernatural blessings. When people make a wish at her tomb, they return if their wish comes true and leave three X marks as a sign of their gratitude.
*Results not guaranteed, and consequences cannot be ignored
Afterwards, grab a bite to eat in the Séance Lounge at Muriel's in Jackson Square. This old restaurant is reminiscent of days when New Orleans was most famous for Storyville, the red light district that was filled with saloons and bordellos. The Lounge's decor speaks to the past, and also happens to be where Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan, Muriel's most active resident ghost, prefers to spend his time.
Yeah, it might seem weird to have the... well, ritzy Ritz-Carlton New Orleans as a stop on the voodoo tour, but their spa features a voodoo-inspired massage that's sure to help you decompress after casting your spell. According to them, the full-body massage features a "locally crafted herbal poultice ritual" made with "notes of absinthe, cypress, moss, vetiver, and incense". Sounds quite enchanting!
*Results of a Voodoo spell are not guaranteed, and consequences cannot be ignored. You've been warned!