We took a carriage ride from the French Quarter to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. It is one of three cemeteries belonging to parishioners of the great cathedral on Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Marie Laveau, the Voodoo queen of New Orleans is interred there. She was born around 1800 to two free persons of color in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She was also a devout Catholic. The church at the time understood the cultural significance of Voodoo in New Orleans and did not frown on their parishioners practicing it. She passed away in 1881. The markings all over her vault are from people who come to ask her for favors or help with a problem. Why three X’s is not known for sure, and there are several theories.
St. Louis Cemetery is owned by the Archdiocese and they had recently clamped down on security just before our visit. Apparently there were some prior unfortunate incidences with film crews and vandalism. You now must have a tour guide to escort you through. Thank goodness for our local carriage driver! You can also wait at the gate for a tour guide to show up with their group, then pay them the going rate of about 10 bucks to let you tag along. The oldest tomb we saw was from 1800 and had recently been restored..
It felt strange walking around among the many vaults, no grass underfoot like cemeteries in the Midwest and the South. Only dirt, crumbling stone and brick, and crushed seashells. There were bits of green trying to pop through, tiny plants and flowers in the cracks of the tombs. It was the only sign of life other than us tourists. I wondered how the souls buried there would feel about all these people, most of them not even from New Orleans, traipsing through every day. In many ways it’s better than having no one there at all. Their burial site will always be appreciated unlike so many that have been long forgotten.