I am ready to explore. It’s 2pm before I go off! I call a cab and set off for the heart of town, the French district.
I eat, and go to a tourist place to ask where I can find voodoo shops, get a map and start walking around, observing. The French Quarter is magnetic and like a set and has so much history it’s oozing out of the cracks in the walls. Some places smell pretty bad still, mould and musky. It’s just under 2 years since Hurricane Katrina came and blasted though this place.
I go to the Voodoo Museum and Madame Laveau’s House of Voodoo. Voodoo Museum has pictures (wild eyed folk) and artifacts (snakes in jars, dehydrated cats, an empty snake cage with signs dedicating it to their magical blonde python …) and an altar. I am allowed to take pictures. I do the ritual at the altar. I buy incense, candles and some potions for fast luck, love and success. Isn’t voodoo a way for people to ask for what they want or deal with their fears. Rituals are key.
I ask if I can take a copy of their print out which explains what voodoo is – suprisingly the lady is ok with that, I remember pulling it out of the protective sleeve, but when I look for it later it turns out I can’t find – I must have left it on the desk, or maybe I am not supposed to have it, and that is why it slips away. They are pretty much out of everything and I buy the last nag champa …
I learn that the Queen in voodoo has the highest power. In the part I am playing, I am a Queen. The script identifies me as the Queen of Swords.
I took a picture of a picture in the Museum of Voodoo.
This picture really struck me when I got home since there is a strange green light on the right and people here talk about that - because of the background and the effect of the light, I think it looks like a hand is coming out towards the viewer - sort of in a "stop" positon. Perhaps she didn't want to be photographed
Madame Laveau’s House of Voodoo has signs EVERYWHERE about not touching anything and not taking any pictures. They are very suspicious of the general public and the girl at the desk is positively pissed off. There are some cool daggers in there from Brazil, but I don’t buy one. I buy some candles, some sage and a postcard. Their tarot card reader comes out from out back and he has dreamy eyes. He is finding out his schedule and needs a break, he squats outside to smoke and read. It’s a job after all – like acting.
After shooting is done for the day Armando and Jessie take Heidi and I to get something to eat and then his friend Magic Mike shows up and gives us the ghost tour of New Orleans. It’s a very cool private tour and he tells us all the ghost stories. The last story is absolutely sick and horrific.
We learn that the king of France sent all the prisoners and thieves and prostitutes to New Orleans to build the city. “Gypsies, tramps and thievies …”.Of which I am one, I am feeling an ancesteral link to this city. There’s Chartres Street in the french quarter for example, which they pronounce Charters. A building on Charters street has a history of fire! It caught fire in 1700’s and because it was GOOD FRIDAY the owner and the priest could not ring the bell to alert the town, that a fire had started and 1200 people died in that fire. Later the same spot caught fire again – from a child playing with fire in the building behind the one on Charters street. As Magic Mike says as part of his tour “so, you see New Orleans is no stranger to disasters like Katrina” It is a city that takes that in it’s stride and picks right back up again, until the next time. The ghosty part of this story is that this building on Charters street is apparently built on American Indian burial ground, where they would keep two fires burning on poles for their dead.
Today I see New Orleans as a ghost town, of old souls and new. This city is imprinted on by a colorful past. The French quarter is like an old Hollywood set – after all it’s been used over and over for movies. When Katrina ripped through, some people died (numbers vary from over 1000 to less than 7000), some people disappeared and some people decided that they had had enough and left forever. Half the population have not returned and the people that stay live with the ghosts, the memorabilia and artifacts that have been left from all that has gone before.