Not even a full 24 hours into our arrival in New Orleans, I found myself pacing back and forth in Jackson Square– examining and carefully selecting Duchess out of the line-up of makeshift psychic pop-up shops luring in customers one by one with the charm of their crystal balls and tarot cards. I, along with fellow Bookpackers Ryan and Melissa, ventured from our quaint abode on the dormant side of Canal St. during the witching hours into the wild… when the sun has been long gone for hours, yet the heat still clings to every square inch of your skin– energy and drunkards still oozing from every dark corner the French Quarter. What better way to formally introduce yourself and shake hands with the shadows of the city?
Here, there is talk of voodoo and hoodoo, of magic and curses, of the holy ghosts and the evil demons that lurk. Unlike any other city that I’ve traveled to within this country and without, never have I seen such a blatant and immediate embrace of the supernatural and all of its elements. While some weary visitors may scoff and call it “superstition”, here it is called and claimed as culture and in the land of the Southern Gothic, it’s best if you learn not to question it.
In juxtaposition to the potent Christian foundations of both this city and this country, talk of black magic and other worldly creatures that come back from the dead and hunt for blood can seem blasphemous– evil even. However, as Duchess the fortune teller explained to me when I asked her about the discovery of her craft, “Dark and Evil aren’t the same thing”. A simple phrase, yet an impactful one as many people tend to use “darkness” as a euphemism for what is truly evil.
Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire is the second book on our reading list, and the first to indulge the southern gothic style. In it, a vampire by the name of Louis recounts his life from the perspective of his undying eyes and immortal soul. It’s a story of American history–a very real subject– told through the vessel of the mythology of New Orleans– a subject of the supernatural. With that being said, both subjects are equally as haunting in varying ways. As discussed in seminar, parallels can be drawn between the dark vampiric nature of Louis and the evil vampiric nature of the White America throughout the duration of slavery. Both parties rely on sucking the life out of their victims in order to sustain themselves and their legacies– a point in which is not emphasized enough throughout Rice’s novel.
I’ve always been afraid the dark and to this day, I prefer to sleep with a nightlight. There is something so uneasy about not knowing what creeps behind your eyelids as soon as you shut them. However, there is a beauty in darkness that this city is helping me uncover with every step down the decaying side streets, with every view of the overgrown ivy consuming and reclaiming its land. There is something eerie about this city’s willingness to believe in spirits we cannot see but that is what makes New Orleans a place like no other– an imaginative playground in which one can create and destroy life in their image. There is an infinite amount of stories to be told– stories to be written, to be photographed, or heard through the seductive sounds of the brass instruments casually played in the street. This is a place where darkness lives amongst the life, within the light, and all throughout the brilliant neon lights that resurrect this immortal city and continuously give it vibrant life.