Monday, June 22, 2015

The Summer Solstice, St. John's Eve, and a Voodoo Priestess Ghost

Summer Solstice 2
Bethel, Alaska at midnight on the summer solstice

Yesterday was the summer solstice here in the northern hemisphere, and since the solstice plays a big role in my novel Polar Day I had hoped to find a juicy ghost story to tie in with it. Unfortunately when searching for solstice legends all I could find were stories about faeries. I realized I shouldn't have expected to find haunted stories connected to the day when the sun enjoys its longest time in the spotlight.

But I happened to stumble upon something new to me, which was the close connection between the solstice and the Catholic celebration of the feast day of St. John the Baptist. Celebrated on June 24, St. John's day has always been closely aligned with the solstice and the beginning of summer, and was originally celebrated any day between June 20 and June 26 before the church fixed the date as the 24th. Now, most celebrations to mark the day are held on June 23, or St. John's Eve.

The feast of St. John has a great deal of historical significance in the practice of Voodoo in Louisiana. I have always been both intrigued and a little freaked out by Voodoo. I think it is super cool to read about but also more than a little creepy.

Voodoo Altar in New Orleans, taken by Greg Willis

Apparently, the most important time of the year in the Voodoo religion is midsummer, or the solstice. I was thrilled to discover that the most famous Voodoo priestess in Louisiana history, Marie Laveau, was known to hold Voodoo rituals on the Bayou St. John in New Orleans on St. John's Eve, and many believe her ghost still keeps the tradition alive today.

Marie was believed to have been born in 1801 and she lived until 1881. Throughout her adult life she was the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans and the most powerful and influential priestess in the city. Marie's ceremonies included the singing of Voodoo hymns, nighttime dances around a bonfire to show respect to the deities, and offerings made in sacrifice to the gods. I don't know what those offerings were but it's creepy to imagine, as the rituals were performed in the dark in an isolated stretch of the bayou north of the city.

Legend states that Marie's voice can still be heard chanting and singing at St. John's Bayou on St. John's Eve. In addition, city residents have reported seeing Marie at her home on St. Ann Street. If the stories are to be believed, Marie continues to walk St. Ann Street at night, wearing a long white dress, a turban, and a knotted handkerchief around her neck.

Marie Laveau is buried in the St. Louis cemetery in New Orleans, which is considered the most haunted cemetery in the United States. Visitors to the cemetery have reported seeing Marie walking between the graves and muttering Voodoo curses under her breath. Others have said Marie's ghost has taken on the form of a Voodoo cat with glowing red eyes. The cat disappears through the sealed door of Marie's tomb.

Source

I have to admit I think a Voodoo priestess cat is very cool. What animal could be more appropriate for the ghost of a Voodoo Queen? I'd love to see this kitty and now part of me wants to come up with a story for a Voodoo priestess cat.

I really wouldn't want to be in New Orleans this week as I know the heat and humidity would be way too much for me, but I can't deny I'd be curious to go to St. John's Bayou on St. John's Eve and see if I could hear Marie's ghost leading her followers in hymns and chants. If by chance I did hear someone singing I'd probably run all the way back to Ohio. :D

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

22 comments:

  1. Love that photo of Alaska!

    I feel the same way about Voodoo - intrigued and creeped out. We spent a day in New Orleans awhile back - really interesting place and would definitely go back. :)

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  2. Voodoo priestess cat - there's a story there for sure.
    Voodoo is really creepy.

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  3. Fascinating, Julie. I find it so interesting that so many different religions practice the same events yet in different ways.

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  4. Wow, I didn't know any of this! You came up with a good ghost story for the solstice after all! What could be spookier that a Voodoo Queen who's voice can sometimes still be heard?

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  5. Voodoo is definitely something no one should mess with.

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  6. The Summer Solstice is also important to witches too. They celebrate it as well as the other solstices of the year. I don't know anything about voodoo. Even doing research on it would creep me out. Voodoo priestess cat is really cool, though.

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  7. the Celtic druids called this day "Lughnasa" or there abouts. Big day for the Druids.

    Interesting to hear there many other cultures who also took it down a dark road.

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  8. Lovely photo!

    Voodoo and black cats, sounds like you've covered it, after all she's wanders the cemetery as a ghost or is that as the cat?

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  9. Ooh, you found a creepy solstice story for sure. I've always wanted to do the solstice at Stonehenge, but I have a feeling it might be overcrowded with too many druid wannabes.

    Hope you're having a great summer so far!

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  10. I have read about the voodoo priestess and my boss was in New Orleans a few years back and took a tour of the graveyard. They are all above ground since the ground is actually water underneath. he mentioned how her grave has many gifts left in front. So wild that the voodoo religion is connected with the Catholic religion

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  11. A VooDoo priestess cat sounds interesting. And VooDoo is interesting. I took a world religion class in college which shed some surprising light on VooDoo. I remember thinking it seems like it has been dramatized a bit by other religions and now popular culture, but I wish I could remember more about it :)

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  12. A Voodoo priestess who can turn into a cat sounds really cool. It'd make a great story. I hadn't realized that the Solstice was so big with Voodoo practitioners.

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  13. @Madeline, I thought New Orleans was a really fascinating place too, I visited there back in the 90s. Of course, the heat was a bit much for me but I know that's no surprise. :D

    @Alex, I'm kind of obsessed with the cat now LOL.

    @Karen, totally agree. I love learning about all the different rituals.

    @Bish, isn't it the creepiest? LOL I love it.

    @Shelly, agreed!

    @Chrys, I can't believe I forgot about witches when my story has a witch. I think I got too wrapped up in the ghosts LOL.

    @Susan, oh, I knew about the Druids but didn't know their word for it. Interesting!

    @Yolanda, it seemed like she does both, the ghost and the cat! Maybe it depends on how the mood strikes her LOL.

    @LG, happy summer to you as well! Great to see you. And I would love to see Stonehenge too but I think you are right about the wannabes.

    @Birgit,ooh, how cool! Although the business about the graves above ground is kind of creepy for some reason LOL.

    @Emilyann, oh I wouldn't be surprised at that, it does seem like it's been sensationalized. That would be really interesting to learn about the different religions. I wish I had taken a class like that in college.

    @Cherie, I hadn't either and honestly I would expect the exact opposite! I just associated Voodoo more with darkness and fall/winter but I guess that shows how clueless I was.

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  14. That would be a great cat story. Thanks for this additional information about events surrounding my summer solstice birthday. In Sweden, as I'm sure everyone knows, we raise the Maypoles and dance around them all through the light summer's night in celbration of Midsummer's Eve. And unmarried girls pick seven different kinds of wildflowers, place them under their pillows, hoping they will dream of the man they will marry.

    At least that's what they used to do, these days, they probably just go online hoping to find some guy.

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  15. What a great story! I didn't know that St Louis cemetery was so haunted or that there was a voodoo priestess cat! Thanks for all the creepy details - love them!! :)

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  16. I'd wilt too. I have a kitty cursing me. Maybe it's voodoo. Cool story.

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  17. voodoo priestess ghost?? yeah, that definitely counts as a scary story for this week!!! I'm impressed that you managed to find a ghost connected to the longest day of the year. Well done :)

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  18. @Inger, oh, I hope they still do it the old way, it sounds so much more fun than just going online.

    @Lexa, isn't it creepy? I love it too. :D

    @Mary, maybe Nini can use the Voodoo to get totally back to her old self, I hope so. I could see her as a priestess!

    @Liz, I still can't believe it, so fun LOL.

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  19. Loved this post, Julie! Quite a few voodoo shops in New Orleans, mostly with made in China junk (which lots of tourists flock to -- mostly out of curiosity, I think). But Marie's legend remains very much alive (pun intended). I also think voodoo's creepy and have never met anyone who practices it but understand there are those living deep in the bayous who do.

    My beloved Chena would give me that look when the Fancy Feast I opened for her didn't suit her morning's taste. :)))

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  20. I loved New Orleans when we visited some years back. We passed some voodoo shops, but didn't go in. (I'm chicken!) Your voodoo story is very cool, and that cat would definitely make a great character for a scary story.

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  21. Interesting stuff. ^_^ I've only learned a little bit about Voodoo, but I think I understand why it has such a creepy reputation; what you said matches a lot of what I've read so it seems like that reputation is well-earned. That is very cool that so many people have seen Marie Laveau's ghost, especially in the form of a cat, though.

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  22. @Kittie, I thought about your Louisiana stories when I was reading and writing about this! Aww, maybe Chena was a priestess. My Nate gives me that look quite often too but I don't think he's involved in Voodoo, at least I hope not. :D

    @Susan, I went in to one of the shops and bought a Voodoo doll for fun but I'm sure it wasn't authentic LOL.

    @Mason, isn't it? I just love the cat.

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Thank you for your comments!