In New Orleans, cemeteries and voodoo are two of the biggest tourist draws. So when I had an opportunity to go on a tour that included them both I jumped at the chance. But any tourists expecting souvenir voodoo dolls and stories of conjuring up evil spirits will be sadly disappointed. This tour was delivered from a well-researched, drama-free, historical perspective. I can highly recommend Viator’s Cemetery and Voodoo Tour, code: 16584P2. (I received no compensation of any type in exchange for my review of this tour.)
Viator’s Cemetery and Voodoo Tour Particulars
Our 10:30 am tour was one of two each day (except Sunday, when there’s only one tour) that left from the Beignet Café at 334 Royal Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter. David, our guide, was a native New Orleanian whose passion for NOLA’s history was obvious and enthusiastic. In addition to a thorough and informative tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1, our tour included brief stops at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Congo Square and the spot where Marie Laveau’s house once stood.
This cemetery and voodoo tour is all on foot, so be sure to wear good walking shoes. Depending on the time of year you might also want to bring a hat, sunscreen and a bottle of water. Our early-May weather provided enough sun to get sufficiently hot and there is not much shade to be found inside the cemetery. Don’t forget to bring your camera as well, as even flash photography is allowed inside the cemetery.
Famous Residents of St. Louis Cemetery #1
My favorite resident of St. Louis Cemetery #1 was the voodoo queen herself, Marie Laveau. She shares her final resting place with many other famous New Orleans residents including Etienne de Boré, the first mayor of New Orleans and Homer Plessy, the plaintiff from the landmark 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision on civil rights.
The oldest tombs in this cemetery date back to the late 1700s and many of the cemetery’s tombs are still active today.
Interesting Facts about St. Louis Cemetery #1
- In September of 2014 the cemetery changed its rules so that only relatives of the entombed are allowed in the cemetery unless accompanied by a licensed tour guide. This was the unfortunate result of significant vandalism in which tombs were destroyed and/or defaced.
- Tombs within New Orleans can be used multiple times. The only criteria is that a new corpse may not be added to a tomb for a minimum of one year and one day after a previous burial. This gives the previous remains time to break down before a new corpse is added.
- Nicolas Cage owns a tomb inside St. Louis Cemetery #1. It is painted white, shaped like a pyramid and bears the inscription, “OMNIA AB UNO,” which means “everything from one.” If that sounds familiar, it may be because those words were also used in the iconic Nicolas Cage film, National Treasure.
- Wall vaults inside St. Louis Cemetery #1 can actually be rented in certain circumstances. For instance, if a family member dies within a year and a day of the last family member to be interred in the family tomb, he or she could be placed in a rental tomb until enough time has passed to be moved to the family tomb.
What about the Voodoo Portion of This Cemetery and Voodoo Tour?
Voodoo is discussed throughout the tour and in a fashion that dispels common myths about the practice. The tour visits both the tomb of Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, as well as the spot where her home once stood. Our guide spent some time discussing the legacy of Marie Laveau in New Orleans and how modern-day practitioners have reconciled both their voodoo and Catholic beliefs.
Final Note: At the time I took this tour there was another tour group in the cemetery within ear shot. That tour guide was theatrical and exaggerated, making the cemetery – which should be a place of reverence and respect – seem more like an adventure theme park. I think you will enjoy this Viator Cemetery and Voodoo Tour much better. It is a great bargain at only $25.