One of the things that I most closely associate with New Orleans is voodoo. All that voodoo that they do. I wanted to immerse myself a little more in it on this trip, without actually doing any voodoo. Because I’ll be honest; it scares me a little.
Haunted History Tours offered just the right introduction to the practice and history of voodoo. Right up front they put their disclaimer that their Voodoo History Tour was not centered around the sensationalist practice of voodoo and that we wouldn’t be taking part in any voodoo rituals. It would be an informational tour that shared the background and stories of voodoo in New Orleans. Perfect! I told them I was interested and they invited me to come along.
We met at Reverend Zombies Voodoo Shop, which is one of two of the larger voodoo shops in the French Quarter (the other being Marie Laveau’s). If you wander inside, you’ll see voodoo dolls and whatnot. But if you look closer, you’ll see that they’re not the devices of torture that you think they are. They are different colors for different purposes: prosperity, fertility, love, health, etc. There are also shelves, jars, and bags full of herbs and powders. Voodoo actually hearkens back to herbal medicine and pagan beliefs. It got a bad reputation later from opposing religions.
We learned about some popular misconceptions, such as the idea that sticking pins in voodoo dolls causes harm. Not so. Sticking a pin in the heart of one is not meant to cause that person to have a heart attack. Rather, it might mean that you want their heart to heal. Different fallacies like this are what made up the heart of the Voodoo Tour. That, and some sightseeing of important places in the area that had to so with the history of voodoo.
The tour also included a lot of information about Marie Laveau and her daughter, who were both considered the Voodoo Queens of New Orleans. Their stories are fascinating. You can’t visit New Orleans without being touched by their presence in some way. The voodoo shop, Marie’s former house, her tomb and voodoo altars offer a vibe that is always lying beneath the surface of the festivities and debauchery in the French Quarter. I find it best to just give in and explore this unique history of the city. I appreciated all the background information we got on our tour.
But what I loved most about the tour was the practical information. I wish more tours included these extras! Our tour guide talked about palm reading and tarot cards, etc. For anyone who’s ever been to New Orleans, you know that psychic readers set up tables all over Jackson Square and the main streets of the French Quarter. Our guide told us a little about what we should look for if we decided to have our fortunes told. She gave us some insight into our palms and what we might learn by looking at them ourselves. She recommended a few places to get our cards read and talked about the prices to expect. I felt like we we getting great insider knowledge from a native New Orleanian.
All that voodoo that they do. It’s fascinating. It’s quintessentially New Orleans to me.
Does it interest you?
*Special thanks to Haunted History Tours for a fascinating evening.
Fascinating that some ancient beliefs and practices filter through to the present day. In many cultures there were healers and wise women for centuries who possessed knowledge that made them both desired and feared. Voodoo is a colourful example.
Yes. That’s exactly the sort of belief system that voodoo was built on. It’s folk medicine. Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen, was a hairdresser who knew everyone’s secrets and problems and offered herbs and remedies, but somehow that got twisted into something more like hoodoo — hexing and drinking the blood of chickens and conjuring up evil. That seems to be how voodoo is viewed now, but I believe it began as more of a healing spiritualism.
Voodoo has definitely gotten a bad rep for being creepy and negatively associated with inflicting harm on others so it’s nice to know the original intent behind a lot of the practices. It’s interesting that the pins-in-the-doll was more for healing purposes but it does remind me of acupuncture, which also uses needles so I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised.
It seems that almost everything we associate with voodoo is backwards. I think when we think of voodoo, we think of hoodoo — which seems more like conjuring spells.
That sounds super interesting! Most ancient practices get a bad rap. But I find them fascinating and quite peaceful.
What we learned was definitely contrary to popular belief.