We must save the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple

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.

Priestess Miriam – Voodoo Spiritual Temple – New Orleans Travels in New Orleans, Louisiana in May 2012 (cc) David Berkowitz www.marketersstudio.com / www.about.me/dberkowitz

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.

This photograph shows water and flame damage, courtesy of Louis Martine, of the inside of the Temple.  Holes mar the walls and ceiling.  Broken glass litters the floor.

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.

WemustsavetheNewOrleansVoodooSpiritualTemple

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.

Accessibility and Pagan Events

This is a first post in what will likely be a series of posts.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t technically apply to religious groups, it likely applies to any public place that Pagan groups host events. Whether or not it applies, it’s just plain good manners to do our best as event organizers to make events that everyone can attend and enjoy.

There are lots of types of accessibility, and no one is expecting you to get all of them right every time. What people hope, though, is that it’s not a lot of drama when they ask for help because an event is not accessible. Look at your event venue closely, with a critical eye, and think about what others will see.

I’m coming at this from a couple of perspectives. I am the parent of children with disabilities. They have or have had mobility challenges, medical challenges, communication challenges, and autism. I have mental health challenges. And over the years I’ve been care giver to a number of elders who had increasing challenges of all sorts.  I don’t know everything, but I’ve learned a lot, and want to see events that are more welcoming.

Let’s start with the basics.

Standard wheelchairs are 24 to 27 inches (61-69 cm) wide. To accommodate that, 32 inches is the minimum, more if there’s any turning involved to get lined up with the door.   Keep in mind that this helps those with walkers, and parents with children in strollers too.

Stairs are awesome, if your body works as designed, and if you’re not trying to carry something large or heavy. Avoid them if possible, because anyone who needs wheels to get around will find them impossible.  Ramps are also easier for those who use sign to navigate, because they can continue to pay attention to their communication partner, rather than looking at their feet (remember that if you’re signing to someone, you’re not walking in front of them, you’re walking beside them, so wide ramps are better).

Elevators are great too, assuming they work, and assuming they are a decent size. This picture below is one I took at a Pagan event in a local municipal building – our double stroller held a toddler and a preschooler that day, plus over 100 lbs of medical gear…and it was all we could do to get the stroller and me into the elevator.

two children in a stroller, in an elevator that is just big enough for the stroller

 

While we’re on the topic of medical gear…some people are going to need electricity. Lots of people sleep with CPAP machines, lots need battery powered devices charged at various points. Have a plan when someone asks where they can plug in.

Have chairs at your ritual site – not everyone is going to be able to stand or dance or whatever you have in mind.

Have a “quiet” space designated – someplace for people who need a minute to calm down or gather themselves or whatever, and make sure that someone is there to staff it to talk to people who need to ground (even neurotypical people need that sometimes at big events with lots of energy), and to just be on hand just in case. Music is awesome at events, but not everyone can handle loud music, so consider having ear plugs available.

And, as a final thought for today, consider making your event staff wear some identifiable clothing or vests. Make sure that all visitors know those people can help them, and make sure those people know that their job is, among other things, to help people who ask for help, whatever the question is. They don’t have to know everything, they just have to be willing to help.