Vacation #2: Rosalie Alley, NOLA

Between Piety and Desire in the Bywater is Rosalie Alley, which you’d probably pass and not even know was there. It’s where the peristyle for La Source Ancienne, the Vodou society headed by Sallie Ann Glassman (who also owns/runs the Island of Salvation Botanica), is located, and the fences are covered in art.

Rosalie Alley

Rosalie Alley

Rosalie Alley

Rosalie Alley

Rosalie Alley

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Is it still August?

So, August is grinding on and on and on, but there’s only a week left. Truth be told, September is nearly as bad, but at least by the time it rolls around you know the end is in sight. Plus, I’m taking a week’s vacation at the end of September, so… I got that going for me.

I do not do photography during the summer, except for rare exceptions where I think of something that’s both air-conditioned and worthwhile to photograph–the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans was probably the most successful of those ventures. I like to spend the time I would usually be out photographing combing antique stores for more cameras, but that’s fraught with its own kind of peril, as small town Louisiana antique stores tend to be housed in old buildings that are poorly air-conditioned. Or not at all, as I learned to my horror when checking out a couple of “stores” in Sunset last spring that turned out to be old barns. It was only the first week of June and already terrible; I can’t imagine they actually keep the places open during the dog days of summer. Anyway, I’ve been slowly working my way through the Louisiana Antique Trail over the last few months, although I’m saving Slidell and Covington for when my bank account is a little more recovered from the car purchase. Those towns both contain large antique “districts” with several stores, and I’ll probably want to spend some real money.

I haven’t had much luck finding anything at the stores I’ve visited thus far; I think hipsters are doing to vintage cameras what they did to vintage typewriters a few years ago. What I tend to find in stores lately is either broken and cruddy, or way overpriced. I did find a couple of fun items for my Conjure experiments at a store in Maurice (a small town between Abbeville and Lafayette) last weekend.

road opener lamp

Small oil lamps are not at all an unusual item in antique stores, although finding a small clear one kind of is–for some reason the small ones tend to be opaque or painted glass. This one was only $12, and it was totally intact with a wick that had never been used (although it was severely frayed at both ends and I had to trim a bit off), so I bought it and turned it into a  into a Road Opener spell lamp.

lamp close-up

Inside the bowl:

  • Broom straws (for sweeping away obstacles)
  • Dragon’s Blood resin
  • Orange peel
  • Five Finger Grass (along with salt–see below–frankincense, and angelica root, this is an “add to everything” ingredient for me)
  • Rock salt
  • A bay leaf that’s also my petition paper (use a Sharpie)
  • A quarter, a dime, and a nickel, which adds up to age and has my initial scratched onto each one
  • A few drops of Van Van Oil
  • Some orange glitter. I was hoping it would make a suspension in the oil but alas, it’s too heavy and just settled to the bottom.

I’m also waiting for delivery of a piece of tourmalinated quartz and I’m going to add that when I get it, assuming it’s small enough to fit in the lamp without taking up too much space. Crystals are not a traditional element of Conjure and to be honest I mostly consider them to be New Age Woo, but I just kind of felt like I wanted a crystal in this one and I’m going with my gut. File it under “Won’t hurt, could help”. One of the alleged elements of this stone is that it helps with “self-sabotage”, and that is definitely something I struggle with.

fish bottle

I also found a tiny blue bottle shaped like a fish; it once held a brand of bitters called Fisch’s. I dug out the cork fragment lodged inside with an awl, then soaked it first in Dr. Bronner’s and hot water then Florida Water and hot water, several times each. It’s now holding an offerory oil for my ocean altar of sandalwood, vanilla, and ylang-ylang essential oils in a carrier of sweet almond, and I dropped in a pearl from an old earring (I stopped wearing earrings years ago). An offertory oil isn’t a condition oil like Van Van, it’s just an offering: “I made this for you, it smells nice”. (It does smell amazing BTW; I don’t measure but it’s about an ounce of carrier and it was something like 5 drops each vanilla and sandalwood and maybe 8 of ylang-ylang.)

fish bottle top

Normally what I do with old bottles is carve a smaller cork out of a wine bottle cork, but this bottle is so tiny it didn’t seem like the best solution. I’m pleased with the workaround I came up with: I found an old glass bead big enough to not fall through the neck, and sealed it to the bottle with gold sealing wax. If I want to use the oil, all I have to do to re-seal the bottle is pass the bead through a candle flame to re-soften the wax, and then stick it back on the bottle neck.

lucky cat dish

I also went to World Market that day, and I found this little Lucky Cat dish for just a few bucks, I think it’s supposed to hold used tea bags. It’s going on my prosperity altar to hold small offerings/items. My “family tradition” is Catholic and I mostly try to work within that and not appropriate much from other cultures, but Lucky Cat and Buddha are small exceptions, both on my prosperity altar. Oh, and I like the Hamsa, but that’s such an ancient symbol that it’s really kind of universal.

Mystic Krewe of Barkus: Bark Wars

I have this thing where every year I try to go to one festival I haven’t been to before (this year I’m reallyreallyreally hoping that can be the Los Isleños Fiesta in St. Bernard Parish, which I always seem to miss), and every Mardi Gras I try to go to one parade I haven’t been to before. Last year was Krewe de Vieux, and this year I went to Krewe of Barkus. It was yesterday, and they had ridiculously good weather for it in New Orleans, sunny and about 72 degrees.

I didn’t get very many good photos. I could kick myself because I aaaaalmost brought my old digital camera, even started to put fresh batteries in it, then thought nah, I’ll just use my cell phone, this isn’t going to be “art” and it will be one less thing to carry. Well, my phone picked yesterday afternoon to act like a toddler not getting its way. The camera function kept crashing; or the focus would get all weirdly shallow and focus on the wrong thing. Like the crowd behind the parade would be in focus instead of the dogs, or a dog’s paws would be in focus but its face wouldn’t. And almost everything came out blurry, that camera usually has better action capture. It’s not like anything was moving fast. I deleted about 2/3 of the photos I took and wound up with less than 20 worth keeping. Oh well, just means I need to go back next year, right?

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Barkus’ human handlers must include a small army of discreet pooper scoopers; I didn’t notice any scooping but I walked back to my car along their route and I didn’t see any dog poop either.

I didn’t want to try to drive back through the French Quarter, which was a madhouse getting into–there were like 8 parades happening yesterday–so I decided to skirt the worst of by going down North Peter and getting on the freeway via Elysian Fields. Which I realized would take me past Island of Salvation Botanica, where I haven’t been in… gosh, I think it’s been a couple of years now. I just haven’t been hanging out in the Marigny, I guess. So I checked my phone and it looks like they’ve expanded their hours, they’re now open 7 days a week and even until 6:00 on Sunday.

The place has gotten a little more commercial, everything was slightly overpriced, and it even sells “Voodoo Dolls”, which I know they know is not actually A Thing, but it’s something tourists like to see. I didn’t see as many of Sallie Ann Glassman’s own oils, and the ones I did see had gone from 1 ounce to 1/2 ounce bottles–but the prices were still the same. I can’t really complain, because I know a lot of that money is going to the restoration of the city and the neighborhood–there were a couple of buildings I noticed that had businesses in them that were empty shells the last time I was there–but I think I will be buying most of my spiritual supplies from F&F Botanica when I’m in NOLA from now on.

Feast of St. Lucy

…was yesterday, and this year’s altar was a little more elaborate than last year’s:

Feast of St. Lucy

I always have the statue, incense, and at least one candle on her altar. Oh, and the flowers are usually dried, because I’m not made of money, come on. The extra offerings–extra candles (including a novena which will stay lit); fresh flowers; peppermint schnapps; Occhi di Santa Lucia cookies I made myself–will stay up for 9 days, from her feast day to the winter solstice. On each of those nights I will say 9 prayers (now you know why the St. Lucy chaplet I made has 9 beads), instead of my customary one.

The little jar between the candles is Eyes of St. Lucy oil, which can only be made during a novena for St. Lucy and is most powerful when the novena takes place during this period. There’s a few different recipes for this and they really only have 2 things in common, rue and olive oil–St. Lucy was Italian, after all. Mine is olive oil with rue, myrrh, angelica, star anise (2 intact ones, to represent eyes), and a rock of blessed Dead Sea salt. Like frankincense, I add that to a lot of my oils for extra oomph. You can dress candles with it, rub it on your hands before you pray, dab a little (a VERY little–it has salt in it) on your eyelids before going to bed for prophetic dreams. It will only be ready to use at the end of the novena.

The color of the candle holders all have special meaning; there are many colors associated with St. Lucy instead of the one or two that most saints have. Red because she was martyred; silver (or white) because she is a solstice saint; green for evergreen in winter; gold for light (the Latin for Lucy is Lux, which means light). The novena candle is actually white, as they pretty much all are, but I pulled it out and rolled it in green glitter before lighting it. Also why I chose green and white flowers.

Capitalism, gluttony, & slavery: MURICA FUCK YEAH

Welp, we don’t get too many 3-day weekends at the job, and I have to say I feel like I did not waste this one.

Friday I drove to the Tanger Outlets in Gonzales, which is about 20 miles east of Baton Rouge and just under a 2-hour drive from Abbeville. I’ve been wanting to go to the Coach outlet there since the first year I lived in Louisiana but just never got around to it. Yelp reviews said that the prices weren’t much below full retail, unless you went on a holiday, so I figured the 4th was my best bet. I confess myself a tad disappointed on finding out that it wasn’t an outlet so much as a factory store. I was hoping for like, last season’s bags at a reduced price, but instead it was a secondary line Coach makes for outlets and mid-range department stores like Macy’s. Everything was “trimmed in real leather” but nothing was MADE from real leather. I’m not even sure Coach sells old bags or factory seconds/mistakes; I think they might destroy old stock like Chanel does.

But a non-leather Coach bag is still a Coach bag, which is to say it’s made by hand and will last for years if you take care of it. They were having 50% off the entire store and I drove almost 2 hours to get there, so I was not leaving without a damn Coach bag.

coach bag

I knew right away this was the shape that I wanted but dithered for a while on the color. I eventually settled on this khaki/tangerine combo, which is colorful enough to be interesting but neutral enough to go with most outfits that are predominantly earth-toned. It’s just large enough to hold all my stuff, but not so large that I feel like I’m hauling around luggage. And I like that clamshell shape, so I don’t care if it goes out of style. (When have I ever cared about being IN style, anyway?)

There must have been some secret discount on top of the 50%, because the price tag was $358 and I paid $108, and that was with the tax. That’s only about $20 more than I paid for my London Fog, and I’ve had that for several years. It’s funny, as much as I like shoes and always have over a dozen pairs, I don’t care about quality. I’ll wear any old cheap $20 pair if I think they’re cute, and toss them without a second thought when they start to fall apart. Handbags though, I’m willing to spend more on. It’s not that I care about the name Coach so much, but since I was a teenager leafing through the September issue of Vogue I’ve always seen Coach as the best handbag there is, and I’ve just always wanted one. One, shit, there were women in the line with 6 or 7 hanging off their shoulders, and clutching fistfuls of wallets. I felt positively restrained, just buying one.

I got home early enough to do some cleaning, so I wouldn’t have to worry about it for the rest of the weekend, then ate a grilled rib-eye and a baked potato for supper. I don’t know what vegetarians eat on Independence Day and I don’t care.

Saturday was my photography group’s meetup, and in the interests of not having anyone need to be treated for heatstroke, including and especially myself, I’ve moved to indoor shots until Louisiana stops feeling like the mouth of hell is belching on us. Nottoway Plantation in Iberville Parish is one of the few I haven’t seen. It’s the largest surviving antebellum home in the state, and architecturally it’s pretty interesting, asymmetrical with some Italianate elements—those rich planters loved their square Greek Revivals, for the most part. More to the point, it’s a popular event center/hotel these days, which means air-conditioning.

I was pleasantly surprised to be told that photography was allowed inside the house, provided we not use a flash. Most of those old plantations don’t allow photography at all; they say it’s to protect the interiors/original furnishings, but it’s really because they want you to have to buy their gift shop books. This was my first real photo shoot with my new camera phone, and I’m pretty happy with the results. It’s going to replace my film cameras or anything, but it’s always good to have a digital back-up. Plus I firmly believe that everyone should always have a camera at all times. What if you see injustice that needs to be documented? Or aliens? Or aliens committing injustice?!

white ballroom

This is the most famous room in the house, the White Ballroom. The tastes of the filthy rich haven’t changed much in the last 165 years, have they?

I also got some shots of the grounds, it actually wasn’t too dreadful if you stayed in the shade. I went home along the River Road as far as Plaquemines before hopping onto I-10, and took some more photos along the way.

I got home around 6:00, stuffed my baked potato skins from the previous night with cheese and had that for supper, then spent the evening making some novena candles.

novena candles

Sunday was a generally lazy day, although I did get the car washed and do some grocery shopping. The bulk of the afternoon was spent writing letters, drinking Summer Shandy (beer and lemonade), and watching Oz—between watching this show for the first time (I just finished season 4) and binge-watching season 2 of Orange is the New Black, my visual entertainment has been quite prison-themed lately. Then I made meatballs for supper and read The Soul of a New Machine until bedtime. One of the writers for Halt & Catch Fire must have read that book, because I recognize certain things, mostly use of the term “kludge” and an obsession with the early text-based computer game Adventure.

the hoodoo that you do

I still mostly make my own Conjure items, but one there’s one seller on Etsy that I absolutely love, Rita’s Spiritual Goods. I got a couple of items from her last week. (Both of the photos are hers, btw.)

work space protection witch bottle

This is a Work Space Protection Witch Bottle; she listed one several months back and I loved it, but I was unemployed at the time so I couldn’t very well justify purchasing it. I’ve been watching her listings like a hawk since I started my new job in March, waiting for her to list another, and when she did I snatched it up within seconds. It’s on my desk at work. I can identify a cats’ eye shell (for deflecting the “evil eye” from negative co-workers), safety pins (witch bottles always have pins or needles or shards of glass in them), and what I think is Spanish moss? That’s sometimes a money-drawing element, but more commonly used for jinxing. (It’s also used for stuffing doll-babies, but that’s more for practical reasons.) It might be some other kind of moss or lichen, though. There’s also some stuff that’s a complete mystery, herbs and bits of stone and something that looks like a nut that’s been painted gold. The seahorse is a good luck symbol and also carries meanings of patience and peristence.

hand of fatima charm bottle

I bought this Hand of Fatima charm bottle at the same time, I just really like that symbol (also known as a hamsa). I recently bought a necklace that looks like a rosary except there’s a hamsa on the end instead of a crucifix. In this one I can identify allspice berries and lavender, which I use in every positive work I make myself, an evil eye bead, and a skull bead. The skull is a near-universal symbol with a thousand different meanings, but in Conjure charms meant to bring fortune to the bearer it usually has a “reverse bad luck” meaning.

I like that I can identify some of the contents and know why they’re there, but I also like that I can’t identify everything. Good rootworkers for the most part “follow the recipe”, but we all have idiosyncracies. It’s like cooking: before you can be great you have to be able to re-create the classics, but once you have that down, a little improvisation can make the dish amazing.

hamsa rosary

This is the necklace I mentioned. The Etsy seller was shutting down her shop, so I got it for 40% off.

Crown of Success charm bottle

This is a Crown of Success charm bottle that I made myself last week. In the center is a High John root that I anointed with Crown of Success oil. It also contains cinnamon stick, allspice berries, vervain, lodestone gravel with gold magnetic sand, and rock salt. I sealed the top with gold sealing wax, sprinkled orange glitter on it, and pressed a crown seal into the top. (I didn’t have to buy the seal, it’s part of a set I already had.)

I’ve also recently become interested in Lenormand cards, a style of card divination similar to Tarot that was used by Marie Anne Lenormand, a Napoleonic-era French cartomancer. I bought a deck on Amazon yesterday; you know I’m a sucker for a pretty deck so had to get Ciro Marchetti’s “Gilded Reverie” deck:

gilded mass market cover

I don’t know a lot about the method yet, but I look forward to learning. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe that cards can “tell the future”, but I think they can be a helpful tool to explore your subconscious. (And Carl Jung believed that too, so I’m in good company.)

Ocean Goddess Altar

ocean goddess altar

I went back up to the Worthmore 5 & 10 in Rayne last weekend, which I like to think of as “the store that time forgot”. I saw rolls of heavy duty elastic in the sewing section labeled CORSET REPAIR. And I picked up a pack of onion skin typewriter paper. When’s the last time you saw something labeled as being specifically for typewriters for sale?

They have a cool religious section with some unusual items, including some very nice resin statues. Usually resin statues have awful paint jobs that look like they were slapped on by blind children in the midst of an epileptic seizure, but they had some small ones for just $5 that were perfect. I bought this one of Our Lady of Regla, to go on my altar along with Yemaya, La Sirene, and Stella Maris. I consider all of these matron saints who are associated with the ocean to be different aspects of the same spirit.

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