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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Witchcraft in the Streets

If a person who just so happens to be on Bourbon Street, and is not really into all types of debauchery, drunken revelries, promiscuous liaisons, total nudity and half-nudity, senseless carousing, mind-altering inducements, licentious depravity, hints of fornication, more hints of fornication, fornication in the streets, and fornication anywhere you like fornication, then that person begins to seek for the lesser (or the greater; it depends on how you look at it.) of the two evils.

Nevertheless, instead of indulging in the vigilant booze and boobs mentality of this notorious street, I found myself more and more drawn to the more mysterious spirit of this place, in this city of New Orleans. On attempting at finding a good metaphor for the French Quarter, I would say that this mysterious spirit is its undergarment, except you know as well I, that particularly Bourbon Street would rather throw out the undergarment altogether. So my metaphor flops.

-But this spirit that I keep referring to is the intriguing practice of Voodoo. Once again, perhaps I am wrong in calling it a pervasive spirit of the French Quarter. Most of the travelers here are unaware of what Voodoo really is, and are in no way governed by it. Their spirit is that of riotous fun. Their god is Pan. Their priest…Epicurus. Voodoo is a neat trinket, a nifty knick-knack for them that they hold at lesser value than the New Orleans shot glass they bought beside it. It was the real practitioners of this art, that I was curious about, not the consumerism of it. And maybe that’s a difficult dividing point. With Christianity it can be as well, but you see the difference is that Christianity thrives best when this division is made. (I have many who raise their hands in support of this idea; one of these hands, of which, is nail-scarred.) The practice of Voodoo and many other pagan beliefs thrive best when the two are mingled together. I honestly believe that if Voodoo didn’t make such a hot touristy impression then there would be no Voodoo...at least in this country. Our nation’s god of Consumerism would stamp it out...if Voodoo didn’t bow to this more sovereign power.

I found myself peeking into the shops at the fantastic odds and ends. -The infamous dolls and the many primitive grotesque figurines. I noticed the tarot card and palm readers line the courtyard outside a cathedral. Questions arose. What gets a person into these sorts of things? I wonder what their story is. –And, the clergy of this cathedral, what are their thoughts on this?

One shop I went into and I deliberately asked what had pulled her into Voodoo. Well, she corrected me. She was not Voodoo; she was a witch. Her friend and co-worker, who was also inside the shop was not Voodoo either. She was “nondenominational”. (I didn’t ask, but I seriously wondered what that was supposed to mean; and I assure you she wasn’t talking about a nondenominational Christian.) A fellow in the back was pointed at as being some type of mystic. (Again, another tricky word that can be attached to any religion.) The interesting thing about this New Age shop was that no one really cared about what you believed in; it was all a matter of how you perceived this belief. That is how you received your label...not in any way from whether or not you believed in a huge sea-turtle that has swallowed the cosmos or not, but in what ways you accepted or communed with this belief. The witch was very methodical. She saw her craft as science. The nondenominational was open to this idea, but also felt a lot of other things. The mystic threw his arms up in the air in bewilderment and got up and walked further back into the backroom he was already in. Maybe, I am being bold here, but maybe you can tell there is not much behind a belief when it is primarily based on the way “you” call the shots, and apprehend, and categorize everything…when the entire value is on the believer and not the “It’ of what the believer believes.

The witch, I couldn’t get her to converse with me. She is usually paid to move her mouth and seeing how I wasn’t paying, not to mention she was a witch, she seemed slightly bothered by me. The nondenominational was more open and started describing all the wonderful and not-so wonderful things about gris-gris (Herbs and special powder used for incantations), when all of a sudden this slight jarring was going on inside of me. This was not physical. -Something spiritual. –Something similar to a void yawning open. Just then words fell into my thoughts, “What am I doing here?” In complete reaction, inside my thoughts, while starring point blank at this fortune-teller as she rambled on about gris-gris, I thought the name, “Jesus” and next I thought, “Jesus, forgive me” or “Jesus, draw me nearer to you.” And then in complete reaction to this name, it almost seemed that the atmosphere around me was revolting at my thought. There was this inner shaking. It may have been my imagination. –But I left that store as soon as I could. Outside, I coughed and had to shake myself a bit. “Okay”, so I thought, “I won’t be going back into any fortune-teller huts, intruding on them and inquiring about this and that.” Of course, this didn’t quiet my inquisitive mind about Voodoo at all...they’ll be more about this later.

So far, I think I have given the French Quarter of New Orleans a bad name. It is not all so. I am very driven to that place. –And most of my spare time in New Orleans, I spend it walking those streets. They remind me of a foreign country. And I love that foreign country feel. There is an amazing vitality throbbing down the avenues, bristling at the cafes. I can’t really put my finger on it.

4 Comments:

Blogger hsp said...

Been praying that you would have one of those moments...where you know that you know who He is, not just in theory, but deep within you. He has amazing stories for you to tell my friend. I dare say you will go to more places that are undesirable and if you will let Him, He will guide you as to the "story" He has for you to tell. Just cling to Him, cause they can be scary places! Jesus really is the only one who can save...I realize that you are a big boy and you are pretty good at taking care of yourself, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that these adventures you are having in New Orleans, makes me want to double up on my prayer for you.

9:28 PM  
Anonymous the author said...

Thank you.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Damien said...

Damie, here. When we talked about this, I thought you said "you" were revolted (& you may've been, but your writing says the "place" seemed revolted at the thought of Jesus & your devotion to Him. This is very different & says a lot about your sensitivity to not just good spiritual things, but to evil, as well. All I can say is congradulations!

1:41 PM  
Anonymous the author said...

Yes, I felt this revolt around me or inside of me...it is difficult to describe the exact impression. But really, I can easily pass it off for my imagination, for many times I will seem to objectify my subjectivity, when nothing really occurs at all except my own musings. -And the question keeps occurring, why did I feel such unease in this Voodoo shop with these New Age witches than I did in the Voodoo Museum with the Voodoo Priest? I almost felt at ease there. As though I would have liked to have stayed.

10:31 PM  

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