Monday, September 12, 2011

Deja Vu & Marie Laveau: Encounter with the legendary Voodoo Queen

I love New Orleans!! Often felt like home away from home and I almost moved there in the '70s.
It was also the place where I had my one and only encounter with a profound deja vu experience.

I was then living in the extreme northern region of Louisiana and was not fond of it at all. Had moved into the area when I was around 13 and it never felt like home to me. It was family, some of the friendships I had developed over the years, as well as being in a long-term relationship, that kept me tied there.

One of my friends, Jimmy, eventually moved to New Orleans giving me an open invitation to visit whenever I felt like it. I took him up on it and often. I fell in love with New Orleans the moment I set foot in the wonderful French Quarter (where Jimmy was living).  Having always been a very imaginative person, everything about the place appealed to me immediately - it was like stepping into another place and time. Years later I understood why novelist Ann Rice moved there for inspiration - walking about at night would get you lost in your mind with your imagination working overtime.

This is an old postcard I kept for sentimental reasons, instead of mailing to most reflects what I often experienced or felt on some of my strolls - the moody atmosphere:

Bourbon Street certainly was a lot of  fun, but there was so much else to the Quarter - whenever I hear Bobbie Gentry sing "Courtyard" I immediately go back in my mind and recall the gorgeous courtyards that are

Bobbie sings the melancholic "Courtyard":

The first visit there was also my most memorable in other ways. (I should backtrack and point out that I had been there once before, with someone else, but it was a quickly aborted trip because Hurricane Camille was approaching and we had to leave the city in a hurry, actually within hours of arriving there. I barely remember anything except the exodus of people leaving this first visit on my own was truly my "first visit there")

My friend Jimmy had given me instructions as to how to find my way back to his apartment if I got lost and then left me on my own the first day, as he had to go into work for most of the day - he would join me later and then spend the weekend showing me about. I was never concerned about getting lost, since there were some prominent landmarks there that helped me in keeping my sense of direction, and I was only interested in exploring the French Quarter at this point....I also had the bravado that most of us have at age 20. My curiosity about the place knew no bounds and I was off wandering around taking in the sights, the sounds, the smells from the cafes - the wonderful chicory coffee and beignets...

the fantastic architecture.....

This was the age of "flower power" and hippies were coming into New Orleans in droves. I remember seeing a line of young people and asking what they were waiting for & was informed that a local merchant was known for having pity on the low-on-money and was selling huge plates of a popular local fare - red beans and rice, with some sausage for 75 looked wonderful and was absolutely delicious.

I recall this first visit to New Orleans as being one of my happiest experiences ever - I wanted it to never end...I could have strolled about forever, getting enraptured by this magical city.

Then it happened!
I was totally lost in admiring the unique architecture of some of the homes/doorways in the French Quarter:

I was standing in front of one particular door when I was suddenly overwhelmed with an incredibly powerful sensation that just went right to the core of me and all I could think in my mind was: "I've been here before". I had heard of "deja vu" and realized that this was what I was experiencing. I just never knew it could feel so strong, so profound and just envelop you that way. It was not frightening, but definitely caught me completely off guard. The thought that I had been standing here before, at this exact spot, some other time and place would not leave me. I eventually moved on, but the experience was swirling about in my head and I found myself trying to analyze it. When I later related what had happened to my friend Jimmy he told me he wanted to see the spot with me when we went out sightseeing again the next day.

A couple of his friends had joined us as we did our strolling. When we got to the house where my experience had occurred, Jimmy and his friends looked at each other with knowing smiles and then told me that locals maintain that the voodoo priestess Marie Laveau (sometimes spelled Marie LaVeau) had once lived in this house. At this point I had never heard of her, but it began a lifelong fascination with her.  (I was to go back to New Orleans countless times over the years, but I'll never forget that special one-of-a-kind encounter.)

There has been much written about the fascinating woman known as Marie Laveau - much of it shrouded in mystery, speculation, half-truths, growing myth...and she continues to fascinate to this day. She has been the topic of plays, movies, art, and song.

If you want to know more about this woman of mystery, Wikipedia is actually the best place to start - there are links to other resources, such as fan sites, websites, songs, etc. etc.
Marie LaVeau information on Wikipedia

While checking out the Wikipedia site, give a listen to this classic song, penned by Shel SilversteinLaveau":

Like many before and after me, I left trinkets at her tomb to show my appreciation for all I've learned about her:

I kept very quiet about my encounter, except for telling a few close friends about it. I no longer tried to analyze it, simply accepting that strange things do happen, things we can't explain. All I need to know is that I felt it & it profoundly affected me in many ways. So glad I got to know Marie LaVeau.

No comments:

Post a Comment