The blood drips off the bones onto the children while they sleep… This from the most memorable tour and craziest story heard during my week-long stay in New Orleans. It was told to me and others in our group by Jerry while walking along N. Rampart Street on the way to the cemetery. We were part of the Voodoo Tourrun by the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum on Dumaine Street between Royal and Bourbon. If you want the real deal, go on this tour and not one of the voodoo tours run by tour companies in the city.
The secret Voodoo mission takes place every year, going back as far as 1819. It begins on the eve of Fat Tuesday, the day before Christian fasting and sacrifice – the next day being Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Fat Tuesday is traditionally the last day to stuff your face, drink yourself silly, and overindulge in anything you plan to give up for the 40 days of Lent.
As the revelers in the city don colorful and elaborate costumes representing the chosen theme of their parade, the Skull and Bone gangs of the Voodoo tradition wear black sweats on which they have painted white skeleton bones. Instead of elaborately painted and feathered masks, their faces are covered by oversize paper mache skulls. They join together in Congo Square, just north of the touristy French Quarter, and perform a religious rite as dawn approaches. They ask the spirits for strength of purpose to do well what their faith commends them to do.
After the ceremony at Congo Square, the gangs split up throughout the Lower 6th and 7th Wards to seek out the children. Their pots and pans clang in the silent morning as the skeletons make their presence known. They carry calf and pig bones, blood dripping from bits of meat still on the bones. The houses they enter have been chosen by the owners’ beforehand. Parents usher the skull and bone members into the house and toward the children’s rooms. The skeletons chant over the sleeping bodies, while the blood drips off the bones onto the children while they sleep. If the kids don’t wake up, they are tap-tap-tapped awake, and told to be good and act correct, or the skeletons will come to get them before their time. That mission complete, it’s on to the next house.
If you visit New Orleans, don’t miss the best tour in town at the Historic Voodoo Museum.