Explore New Orleans

Keeping the Voodoo on the Bayou

Modern-day practitioner Sallie Ann Glassman keeps New Orleans' voodoo traditions alive.

The X-marked tomb of legendary voodoo queen Marie Laveau in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is a popular, year-round haunt for visitors, but every June, the summer solstice provides an opportunity for additional exploration of the African-Haitian religion that has become synonymous with New Orleans.

With the solstice comes the annual voodoo headwashing ceremony along Bayou St. John, where Laveau once practiced. Held on St. John’s Eve (June 23) on the bayou’s Magnolia footbridge, the baptism and cleansing ritual is led by modern-day high priestess Sallie Ann Glassman. Wearing all white, participants invoke the spirit of Laveau as the sun sets, hoping to cleanse negative energy and be blessed with a successful year. Rhythmic drumming and dancing go late into the night.

Glassman also conducts the ceremony in the lobby of the International House Hotel June 22 , from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. For gris-gris bags, other offerings and more information, visit her Island of Salvation Botanica in the New Orleans Healing Center.

Slideshow: The Annual Voodoo Headwashing Ceremony at Bayou St. John

(All images ©Shawn Fink)