The Magic of a Voodoo Reading & Marriage Blessing
Priestess Miriam of the Voodoo Spiritual Temple blessed Christina’s marriage with wisdom, love and positive energy. Voodoo is a positive religion, much maligned by media and lore.
One belief my husband and I share is Voodoo.
When we decided to get married in New Orleans, I told him I wanted to get our wedding and marriage blessed by a Voodoo priestess. He agreed immediately. Our families, and even some of our friends, were skeptical of this choice. It is no secret that I engage with the occult, but my husband, Alex, doesn’t believe in witchcraft or many elements of the mystical. I think our family and friends were surprised Alex had agreed and nervous about what we were getting ourselves into. Undoubtedly, some of them see Voodoo as a malevolent practice, one that involves devil worship, cannibalism, and curses. We can thank TV shows, movies, and lore for such false depictions. Our skeptical loved ones questioned why we would want to tie something like that to our wedding.
The answer was simple: we wanted as much positive energy surrounding our wedding day and marriage as possible. Alex may not believe in many aspects of the occult, but he does believe that Voodoo is a powerful religion, and he believes in me. He knew that it was important for me to have our wedding blessed by a priestess.
As mentioned above, there is a misconception that Voodoo is dark magic, but there is so much more to it than pricking a doll with pins to torture someone. The monotheistic religion began in West Africa, and was brought to the Caribbean and the United States during the slave trade. When these slaves came to the Western world, they were forbidden to practice their religion, so many began to substitute their gods with Catholic saints. In fact, today many Voodoo practitioners consider themselves to be Catholic; New Orleans Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau the First went to St. Louis Cathedral to worship every day.
Like Catholicism, in Voodoo, there is one supreme god. In Voodoo, he is called Bondye. There also are lwa, spirits which act as intermediaries between Bondye and humans. Those who practice Voodoo see their relationship with the spirits as reciprocal – often they will bring food or other offerings to the spirits in exchange for their assistance. The lwa are also invited to possess a believer during a ritual so it can communicate directly with the living.
How believers practice Voodoo varies. However, rituals are the backbone of this religion. Common ones include animal sacrifice (to provide sustenance for the lwa) or other offerings, veves (the drawing of symbols during rituals in cornmeal or another powder), possession (to communicate with the lwa), and Voodoo dolls (often created in the image of a specific lwa). The purpose of these rituals is to communicate and maintain a relationship with the spirits, not to harm people. Many of these rituals are private. The public can, howevere, be a part of certain Voodoo rituals.
The types of rituals the public usually ask for are readings and blessings. Both use the spirits in order to provide knowledge or protection. These are the two rituals Alex and I received before our New Orleans wedding.
I spent months researching priestesses online, desperately searching for a legitimate one. I was losing hope when I came across Voodoo Spiritual Temple’s website and read about Priestess Miriam, a woman who has been practicing West African spiritual and herbal healing for 28 years in New Orleans. I called to schedule the blessing and spoke to her for 15 minutes. During our conversation, she told me that Alex and I should think of it as being similar to my father giving me away on the wedding day. She said she would do a reading for us and then bless our union in a ritual that is meant to provide protection. By the end of the conversation, I knew she was the right person to bless our marriage.
At 2 pm on Thursday, October 4th, Alex and I arrived at Voodoo Spiritual Temple on Rampart Street. The shop was small and dimly lit, yet warm, with various oils, powders, and jewelry for sale on the tables lining the walls. Almost every item had a description that mentioned it was made by the priestess herself.
Priestess Miriam sat behind a desk at the back of the room. She was African American and her face was lined with life, as though as she had experienced a great many things, but there was a youthful energy to her as well. She wore a blue snake print blouse and long beaded earrings that hung down to her shoulders. Her eyes were kind and knowing, her smile vibrant and warm.
She ushered us into a long room to the right: Her temple.
This area resembled an antique shop, crowded with dolls, altars, clothing, and various knick knacks. At the back of the room was a square table with a green cloth. Drawn in white on the cloth was a circle divided into four quadrants with various symbols etched inside each one. Two backless chairs were set up on one side of the table for Alex and me. On the other side was her own chair, a high-backed one painted in a myriad of colours and symbols.
She sat down before us and asked why we were so stressed (something we had not mentioned). We talked a little about our wedding and the stresses involved with that as she took a pile of bones in her hands and began to transfer them from one palm to the next. Bone readings are a type of divination which uses animal bones, nuts, or shells to gain insight into aspects of someone’s past, present, and future. It is a ritual rarely practiced these days; it was clear Priestess Miriam had been doing it for years. With the bones in her hands, she pressed her palms together and began to shake them as if she was playing Yahtzee. After a minute, she dropped them onto the green surface. The bones were glossy and smooth, caramel and off-white in colour.
Priestess Miriam studied them for a minute before asking us if we were looking to make changes in the near future. I told her I want us to move to New Orleans in the next few years. She asked why I feel drawn to that city and shared with me how she didn’t choose the Crescent City; her destiny did. She then turned to Alex and asked, “What do you like?”
He said, “I like her,” and motioned to me. He continued by saying he’s an easygoing person. The priestess replied, “Yes, until someone backs you into a corner and then you know exactly what you want.” This reading of Alex was dead-on. He said to me afterwards that he felt like she had gotten inside his head.
The priestess collected the bones in her hands again and repeated the earlier process. Once she had finished studying them this time, she asked if we had recently signed a contract. We told her we had, that we’re starting a business. Without us saying anything else about the business, she said there was a married man helping us and one woman. Our contractor is married and has been very supportive in the last couple months, and Alex’s mom, with three decades of interior design experience, has been helping with everything from furniture to design to being someone to vent to when things inevitably go awry.
Priestess Miriam nodded, listening to us. She sat back in her chair and said, “New or used books?” Alex and I were dumbstruck. My face grew hot and the hairs on my arm stood tall, my flesh covered in goosebumps. We are opening an independent bookstore in our South Philadelphia neighbourhood this winter, however, we had never mentioned anything to the priestess that hinted to the type of business.
If there had been any questions in our minds about her authenticity, after that they had disappeared.
The priestess finished the reading by telling us we should receive all the money we need for the bookstore within the next couple of weeks and should know by February if our business model would be successful. She also said that we should know within five to six years if we are supposed to move to New Orleans or stay in Philadelphia. She concluded with advice on how to communicate clearly with one another before leading us into the shop.
Back in the small front room, she took each of our hands and placed them on top of one another. She whispered a blessing and hugged both of us. Minutes later, as we were walking out the door, she told us she loved us.
Outside on Rampart street I felt overwhelmed. There was a knot in my throat and tears building in my eyes; not because I was sad, but because I felt as though I had been looked inside of, taken apart, and put back together again. Priestess Miriam had seen Alex and me for who we were as a couple and as individuals. In 75 minutes, she had looked into our future, yet also our past and present, and gifted us with tools to better live in the present moment and accept our destinies as they unfold.
Many people fear Voodoo, seeing it as an evil, vengeful religion. Instead, it is a practice that works in tune with various spirits and one god, offering protection, prosperity, and a connection to the afterlife. It is a religion based on healing and fulfillment, which is exactly what Alex and I were looking for in the days leading up to our wedding. We wanted our marriage blessed in order to surround our union with positive energy and protection. Priestess Miriam gave us so much more than that, though. The rituals she performed gave us strength and knowledge our relationship didn’t have before. Voodoo gave our wedding and marriage a spark of magic.
Priestess Miriam feature photo: (cc) David Berkowitz