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New Orleans Travel Guide

Voodoo, Ghosts, and Tarot: 12 Ways to Immerse Yourself in the Magic of New Orleans

Your guide to everything occult and supernatural in the Big Easy.

New Orleans has an essential witchy atmosphere and a long history with the occult and hauntings. A trip to N’awlins just isn’t complete without engaging with the magical underbelly of the city.

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Visit Marie Laveau's Grave

You don’t have to go to the U.K. or France to visit the tomb of a queen. Marie Laveau was the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans in the 19th century, a title earned by her reputation as the most powerful priestess (and person) in the Big Easy in her time. A hairdresser by day and voodoo priestess by night, she offered charms, fortunes, and advice to people of all walks of life and garnered a power that even saved men from execution. In death, her legendary power attracts visitors to her crypt in St. Louis Cemetery, where many say silent wishes and place offerings in the hopes that the Queen can still work her magic in the afterlife.

PHOTO: Tanya Scott
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Shop for Spells and Magical Talismans

The South has a saying: You can’t walk a few feet without running into a church. In New Orleans, replace “church” with “magic store” and it’s about the same. Don’t overthink the idea of magic and if it’s real or not— because, really, who cares? Shops like Esoterica Occult Goods and F&F Botanica Spiritual Supply offer magically-infused items that are fun to browse or buy. So, whether it’s a candle that will bring you more money, a gris gris pouch that will ward off bad luck, a tarot deck to help you peer into the future, or a Witch’s Cord to help you find lost items, shopping magic stores make for a memorable experience.

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Visit a Tarot or Palm Reader

Psychic services are currently a $2 billion industry, and the consequences of that are clear in New Orleans. From the palm readers that set up chairs in Jackson Square to the tarot card readers in dimly-lit shops throughout the Quarter, visitors have plenty of options to dive into the future. Enter the experience with an open mind and you’ll find it’ll be a win-win time: You either learn about your future or have a delightful story to tell.

A great tarot card reader will provide a full reading without you sharing anything about yourself beforehand. Elie at Hex: Old World Witchery has the vibe of a life coach, the enthusiasm of a cheerleader, and the inner eye to read your future.

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Take a Magical Walking Tour

New Orleans has some of the most interesting walking tours in the world. With a long history and plenty of occult-like aspects to draw on, many of the walking tours in NOLA are magical. There’s ghost, vampire, pirate, voodoo, and cemetery tours, and sometimes tours that mix and match a variety of these subjects. These tours take guests through the French Quarter and sometimes outside of it, like those in the Garden District. Guides are generally knowledgeable with rave reviews for the folks at Free Tours by Foot and French Quarter Phantoms. Some guides even dress in costume and provide a theatrical show.

INSIDER TIPMany tours have connections with local bars in the French Quarter, which tend to offer tour guests discounted drinks. And in New Orleans, you can take your drinks with you—walking tours are always more fun with a giant daiquiri in hand.

PHOTO: Infrogmation of New Orleans (CC BY 2.0) / Flickr
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Meet with a Voodoo Priestess

Marie Laveau has inspired a thriving community of voodoo practitioners, priests, and priestesses. Take an opportunity to visit a real voodoo priestess, whether it’s to learn more about the religion, ask for a blessing, or participate in a private ritual. The Voodoo Spiritual Temple is a suitable place to start. Established in 1990, it’s headed by Priestess Miriam, who provides a voodoo altar, cultural center, and store. Priestess Miriam is a fascinating woman who has traveled the world to spread blessings and welcomes people of all backgrounds, religions, and races to her temple.

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Stay in a Haunted Hotel

With a history of 300 years, it’s hard to find a hotel in New Orleans that isn’t haunted. Meet the mischievous ghost of Maurice on the 14th floor of Hotel Monteleone. Male travelers report having hair-raising experiences with a brothel Madame at Hotel Villa Convento, which is reportedly the famed brothel sung about in The House of the Rising Sun. For a low-key ghostly experience, there’s a young female ghost at Lafitte Guest House known to move items about. We prefer enjoying a cigar with the elder ghost gent at Bourbon Orleans Hotel.

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Attend HexFest

A witch, voodoo priestesses, Padre Nganga, psychic, and warlock walk into a room… That’s not the beginning of a horrible joke; it’s what happens every year at HexFest. Lauded as a “weekend of witchery,” HexFest is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the magic of New Orleans. Quite literally, it’s a festival that focuses on magic. HexFest is held in the French Quarter and includes a variety of magical workshops for new and old practitioners and those who might be interested in learning more about the magical culture that New Orleans has long embraced.

PHOTO: Jennifer Boyer (CC BY-ND 2.0)/ Flickr
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Explore the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

There’s a lot of misconceptions surrounding voodoo, so don’t miss a chance to dispel these myths. Dive into the education and history around voodoo by visiting the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum. Though it may be small, it packs a mighty punch of relics, paintings, and charms, attracting visitors and those of the educational and literary type who want to dive into this thriving culture and religion.

PHOTO: Linda Minutola
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Explore New Orleans Like a Vampire

The Ursuline Convent is rumored to have brought vampires to New Orleans in the 1700s in the form of Casket Girls, or single women shipped over from France. Over the centuries, the vampire craze spread to unexplained city crimes and pop culture books and films like Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, making New Orleans the perfect place to experience the life of a vampire. This can be done with Boutique du Vampyre, a store that offers paid packages to experience New Orleans at night like a vampire. These are catered experiences that include learning the history of the vampire culture, events and tours, and dining (though not the blood variety).

There is a modern tribe of self-professed vampires that live in New Orleans who feed on blood and psychic energy. While they’re reportedly hard to find, it might help to start out at the New Orleans Vampire Association.

PHOTO: Muriels Jackson Square
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Have a Drink in the Seance Lounge at Muriel's Jackson Square

Creole food with a side of ghost? Head to the Séance Lounge at Muriel’s Jackson Square for such an experience. Located in a building that was a holding facility for slaves to be auctioned off to slave owners in the 1700s, Muriel’s Jackson Square has a haunted past that can’t quite leave the property. It’s home to reported ghost activity, especially in the Séance Lounge, which is said to house the ghost of Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan, who bought the building in 1788, restored it after the Great New Orleans Fire, and then committed suicide in the very room after losing his home in a poker game. Today, the lush lounge draws visitors interested in interacting with Jourdan over a Sazerac or two.

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Explore the Gates of Guinee, the Voodoo Underworld

Like many religions, voodoo practitioners have their own afterlife known as Guinee, looked after by Baron Samedi, a loa (or god). There are seven gates or portals from our world to Guinee and many voodoo practitioners claim they are located in New Orleans, and if visited in the right order, the right time (usually on annual holidays), and with the right offerings, the living can cross through these gates. These gates are said to be in the cemeteries around Canal Street like Saint Louis Cemetery and Saint Louis Cemetery No. 2. It’s not exactly clear where the gates are, but it could be a thrilling New Orleans adventure to try to find them.

INSIDER TIPIf you enter through a gate, you will be unable to return to the living. Some say if you accidentally stumble across these gates, cross yourselves three times and walk away – quickly.

PHOTO: Ghost City Tours
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Go on a Ghost Hunt

New Orleans is a haunting center of paranormal activity. While tours share ghost stories and staying in a haunted hotel doesn’t guarantee a paranormal experience, a “Dead of Night” ghost hunt with Ghost City amps up the chances of experiencing something spooky. Armed with camcorders, MEL meters, Spirit boxes, laser grids, and other paranormal technology, guests enter a haunted home in the French Quarter in search of apparitions, ghosts, and other signs of the afterlife. Ghost hunters are left with a chilling experience and digital files of any recording they took.

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