New Orleans is popular for many things — Mardi Gras, Cajun-style cooking, and jazz music to name a few. But when my friends and I took a trip to NOLA during Halloween, I was surprised to find myself more connected to my spirituality than ever before. 10/10 would recommend visiting New Orleans, at any time of year. It was my first time to ever visit the famous city, and I was eager to eat great food and experience the Blackness of the city.
I had been living in Denver, Colorado for the past two years, and after going to an HBCU you could say it's was sort of a culture shock. The lack of Black culture, people, and representation made me really appreciate the places where we can take up space and celebrate ourselves.
I felt like I'd lost parts of myself over the past half-decade. I lost myself to failed relationships, to school, to motherhood and to other people's expectations of me. I felt very disconnected from myself, and what I should be doing in life.
What was my divine purpose? I had recently lost my job---one that I was very good at and very proud of. Being fired from my steady 9-5 and choosing to focus on my PR company was scary. I felt anxious and doubted that I could survive off freelance and contract work. For the first time in a long time I had no idea who I was, what I wanted, or where I needed to go.
I grew up in a very Christian household, with momma forcing me to church every Sunday. I had a "say your prayers and God will take care of the rest" type of upbringing. From a very young age, I realized that wasn't going to work for me. I didn't grasp the concept of blind faith too well, and whenever I asked questions about the Bible or probed on the contradictions within the text, I would be scolded by my elders. It was apparent to me that asking questions that challenged the Bible was not acceptable.
After having my son, I was pulled toward researching different religions and spiritual practices that are practiced throughout the diaspora. In my readings on voodoo, santeria, and obeah I realized how connected I am to these spiritual practices and the ritualistic habits that even my own mother practiced. I officially gave up on Christianity in 2017 and started identifying as spiritual (just as many other young Black people).
I refused to revert back to believing in a religion that had never served me, and in my eyes had not served my community much either.
While in New Orleans, I knew I had to visit the botanicas and voodoo shops that the city is popular for. I knew I wanted to experience some Black-ass culture and NOLA is known for just that. What I was not expecting was to feel energetically and spiritually charged after my trip. It felt like the city was alive. I walked down to the French Quarter and into Jackson Square, which is a crowded area, depending on the day. I looked up to find a massive white cathedral across from the park, which immediately made me think of the slaves and post-slavery culture that heavily influenced the city—especially the spiritual connection to African spiritual practices such as voodoo.
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I visited the Reverend Zombie's House of Voodoo in the French Quarter to look for supplies such as herbal blends and books on magick. I was immersed in a very authentic experience that didn't feel like a tourist stop despite the popularity of the place. Unlike other voodoo and occult shops I visited on my trip, this shop educated visitors on proper etiquette when dealing with alters, herbs, and offerings. You're allowed to leave offerings to your ancestors or the saints on various alters within the shop. By leaving dollar bills, coins, or treats for your Orishas and ancestors, you're showing gratitude and feeding them for protecting and guiding you. You're not allowed to take photos of the alters as it is said to steal the magic(k) and scare away the Orishas, or spirits.
I later stopped by Botanica Macumba, a small spiritual supply shop for practitioners of various Afro-Caribbean spiritual practices. They offer spiritual services and doubles as a café and event space. When I walked into Botanica Macumba, I immediately realized that their alters were not like the ones at Reverend Zombies, there were barely any offerings and the shop tenders said I could take photographs which suggested the altars were merely for show. I saw a shrine to the saint Erzulie Freda, a spirit (or loa) who I have felt very spiritually connected to since the start of my journey. She rules over material success and abundance, and I felt like it was a sign from my ancestors that I was on the right path with love and would be abundant.
My spiritual journey led me here to a place that would remind me of the spirits that have guideded me and protect me my whole life.
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It's almost a priority to visit the famous priestess Miriam Chamani at the Voodoo Spiritual Temple in New Orleans. The spiritual temple was loosely depicted in the movie, The Skeleton Key, and the priestess had been given plaques from the mayor of New Orleans. I went to the temple on Halloween night, not intending to get a reading, but after speaking to the priestess for 20 minutes it was as if she had given me one. She spoke in lucid-like conversation, almost as if she was in and out of this realm or relaying messages that were coming from multiple mediums. She questioned me and was intrigued by where I was from and what I was searching for though I never said I was from out of town or that I was searching to connect deeper to myself.
My trip to New Orleans allowed me to connect deeper to Afro-Caribbean spirituality and find my way back to my divine path.
I felt like everything I wanted for my life was in question. The priestess told me to focus on the messages from my guides and decide where I wanted to go, what I actually want to do with my life and who I wanted to be. I left in a haze, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the conversation with the priestess — mostly because it was hard to follow along with everything she was saying as she went in and out of her slight delirium. Although it was a challenge to follow along with her, what she said really resonated with me and the entire experience was very eerie.
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The trip had been filled with signs that despite feeling lost before landing in NOLA, I was on the right track spiritually. I was reminded to trust myself and to manifest the life I wanted without limits. My guides and the orishas have provided me with constant messages that they were there with me along my journey, protecting me. My trip helped me to stop doubting myself and my intuition, and I felt more in touch with myself and the purpose I should be focused on in life. Voodoo and other Afro-Caribbean spiritual practices have a reputation of providing strength and prosperity to the African descendants of the diaspora, and New Orleans was a great reminder of that. It allowed me to see how powerful our African traditions and spiritual practices truly are. It reaffirmed my own power and faith within myself.
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