My idea was to have a reading done by a Voodoo Priestess. I didn’t know what a reading would be nor what a makes a Voodoo Priestess, so I was going in blind to it apart from the representation of voodoo in movies. Even I knew that stuff would be an exaggeration.
Voodoo is a religion that was founded in Africa and moved on to Haiti during the slave trade. As far as I can gather, the essence of Voodoo is that the universe is one whole thing and everybody plays their part in it. Like fate. The religion has a pantheon of deities, each one having it’s own jurisdiction.
In New Orleans Marie Leveau is probably the most famous. She was a powerful priestess (having twins represents power; she had 2 sets of twins and 1 set of triplets) who worked her way up in New Orleans society in the 19th century. Her daughter, also called Marie, bore a striking relationship to her and carried on the tradition.
I wandered through the streets of New Orleans on a hot and humid afternoon. I was looking for a more “genuine” voodoo centre than the ones selling feather boas and beads. The French Quarter, although generally a lively place, does have some quiet streets. On one of these back streets I found what looked like the ideal place. It had a small sign above the ajar door stating simply “Voodoo”. I ventured in.
The place was pretty dark. Candles flickered as I opened the door. A tall, thin guy, dressed in black with dark long hair, a goatee and a necklace made up of tiny skulls greeted me with a broad grin and a warm “Hello”. He said that he would do the reading and I waited to pay Dora, a woman he called from behind a beaded curtain, while he went through to get ready. I scanned the shop. To my uneducated eyes, it seemed authentic enough. There were racks of small vials of potions, each labelled with how they can affect you. Love, lust, wealth, to name a few. Ornate carvings lined the walls, casting ugly shadows that either danced on the wall in candlelight or stood fast in the bolt of sunshine that came through the narrow crack in the door. I also noticed a whole coop’s worth of blackened and withered chicken’s feet, tied with feathers and ribbons. This was a lot creepier than I had expected and I’d started to wonder what I was getting myself into. I was sweating already, but it was hot in there; the air conditioning had broken.
Dora swished through the beaded curtain, bringing with her a strong whiff of incense and tobacco. She too was dressed head to toe in black. Her straight dark hair had a streak of bright white. I figured that had to be died in. I paid her and she smiled brightly and told me to go on through.
I made my way cautiously through the curtain, as it seemed even darker in there. This area had more carvings, books and what looked like larger jars of the potions out front. There were also half a dozen shrines to what I assumed were Voodoo deities. A couple, looking as much like holidaymakers as me, were in there browsing. They looked a little uncomfortable. Like they were trying to weigh up how long to spend browsing before they could leave without looking rude.
The reading area was to the back of this room behind a bamboo screen. I went through and the guy who was to do my reading was busy lighting more incense. I sensed we were at the very back of the building, as there was a window covered by shutters next to the table where we sat opposite each other. Dust particles glittered in the sunshine streaming through the slats on the window shutters across the pack of well worn tarot cards in the centre of the table.
I introduced myself and he told me his name was “Zarg”. I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. That’s either short for a much longer name or is a name he has made up because names like Brian and Colin just aren’t inkeeping with the atmosphere.
I thought I may as well come clean, “I don’t know the first thing about voodoo, other than what I’ve seen in films”.
“That’s OK. What I do is not really part of voodoo, although it can give you some indications as to how voodoo may help you”. This was starting to sound like my Scientology experience. “I’ll start by giving you a palm reading and then we’ll move on to the cards”.
He took my right hand (I’m right handed) and spent some time studying it before moving across different areas and explaining what each section of my palm was telling him. My cynical mind was telling me that he would be suitably vague about everything and that he would be studying my face as much as my palm to see when he made a close connection to something I could identify with. Plus, in the cases of psychics (a different area to this) I often think that it is in people’s nature to try to please the person giving them information and so they wrack their brains to find something that connects them. He explained to me that reading palms, Chiromancy, was invented by a psychologist, who gave up his practise to build a career in showbusiness out of it.
Then followed the Tarot cards. He explained to me that Tarot reading helps to gain an insight into the present and future of the client.
The air was hot, humid and filled with incense. The palm experienced had made an impression on me and I started to enjoy the whole experience. The atmosphere added to the intensity and made me take it much more seriously than I would have normally done.
So no Voodoo as such. Although he did suggest that I should look into a few deities.