We must save the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple
by Kenya Coviak
The New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple burned, but the fire driving endures. The Priestess of the temple, Priestess Miriam, shall rise and continue the work that has been her path since 1990. That work continues onward to be the home for traditional Vodoun spiritual services in the heart of NOLA, right across the street from Congo Square. It is a dream she continues since starting it with her late husband Oswan Chamani.
On February 1, 2016, the shop, its Cultural Center and Botanica suffered from the devastation of an electrical fire and the subsequent combination of flame and water damage. Of course, there are no coincidences or strange happenings, so the Temple Room and most its contents,miraculously spared the full brunt of the tragedy, are still here. Volunteers continuously remove and repair them.
The landmark organization offers Traditional Voodoo services and weddings. Forging a presence for worship and study, the communities of Pagans must take swift action toward rescue. Non-ATR Pagan leaders studying sociological/religious commonalities find value in its continued cultural anthropologic presence and training opportunities. For a quick glimpse into the living history that she embodies, watch Priestess Miriam in “Sense of Place New Orleans – Voodoo Spiritual Temple”, a short clip available on Vimeo.
Of special interest to polytheists, it continues an unbroken line of decades of work. Visitors learn by direct contact when they experience the rites and sacred spaces. It serves as a testament to the enduring religious tradition of the people. More than a building, Priestess Miriam commands an institution and Tradition that expands throughout the world to Believers.
“It is one of the longest running spiritual temples in NOLA as well as one of the longest ones run and featuring a woman of colour in the city as well. Priestess Miriam herself is a NOLA icon, recognized as an inspirational leader in the community, with awards presented to her by various mayors over the decades.” – Witchdoctor Utu
This work requires money. Those who see the potential loss here rally to the call. Witch, Odinist, or Heathen, all see the critical work that repositories and living history are providing to the students and devotees across belief system boundaries. All understand the effects that come with destruction of a holy place. Every neo Pagan person of faith knows the importance of having a physical history intact, no matter the tribes Every believer wants a place they call home. We must be industrious and driven to restore that which has been injured, for in doing so we heal ourselves.
The living web of connection maintained by the temple reaches far. Witchdoctor Utu, the founder the Niagara Voodoo Shrine and the Dragon Ritual Drummers, sustains and continues a membership of 14 years in the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple. The troupe tours a circuit of appearances that Pagans of all persuasions attend and join in celebration. Big familiar names including NOLA locals such as Warlocks Christian Day and Brian Cain, Bloody Mary, Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman and Priestess Claudia work the effort for rebuilding.
Rev. Lilith Dorsey, a temple member from NYC, Priest Louis Martine, Miriam’s husband Allen, and Gina, Mishlen, Maegdlyn and Pamela command efforts at the scene. These are the ones grinding in the muck and damage. These are the folks working on site, some after trekking from all over the continent.
I ask all who hear and read these words, to dig down and consider contributing something. A dollar or a thousand dollars, all donations go to rebuilding. The remains in the photograph by Jeff Mohnkern bear grim witness.
Please watch this column for more updates as the rebuilding progresses. You donate to the future by visiting this their fundraising page at the site gofundme page entitled Save the Voodoo Spiritual Temple! You make an impact by donating and sharing this message.