St. john's eve
St. John's Eve was a collaboration between myself, Alan Walter of Loa and High Priestess Sallie Ann Glassman. The three of worked together to create a ritual elixir. This elixir was a limited production, hand-crafted, hand-labeled cocktail with an incantation written by Sallie Ann. Alan made a cocktail we named John's Way based on the ingredients Sallie Ann prescribed to the elixir. I created the graphic, made all the labels and shrouded the hotel in a fine clothe stenciled with Marie Laveau's insignia. For the evening of the event, Sallie Ann conducted a VooDoo ritual in the lobby of International House Hotel.
ST. JOHN’S EVE | VODOU MYSTIQUE | SUMMER SOLSTICE
On Friday, June 20 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM, International House celebrates the advent of sultry summer with reverence and Vodou mystique found only here. A local institution in this Northernmost Caribbean City, the hotel observes Saint John’s Eve on the Friday before John the Baptist’s birth (June 24). For the 16th year, this ritual is led by Priestess Sallie-Ann Glassman, and as always in this colorful city, a cocktail is created to whet the experience. A food truck, cigars roller, chalk artist and Haitian rum add to the mix. You, in casual white, do too. White scarves will be gifted to the first 50 guests.
Since St. John’s birth falls so near the June 21 Summer Solstice, there is little wonderment in anyone’s zodiac circle that the feast day of John the Baptist is linked inextricably to the pagan holiday Midsummer’s Night.
And while to modern sensibilities here in South Louisiana this longest day of the year conjures imprint moments of relentless heat and humidity, to the ancient eye the Summer Solstice must have been a truly marvelous event, as the life-giving sun or Sun God appeared to stop still in the sky before dramatically reversing direction. Equally marvelous over the centuries, celebrations attending this Solstice have featured rites of purification and renewal, promising a spiritual fresh start for the initiate. How perfect a legacy for a prophetic man, whose mission was to announce that the Old Way would soon yield to a New Way.
Yet, this is New Orleans so of course stir Vodou into summer’s sacred recipe. By cleverly forging a relationship between its divine spirits, the Lwa, and Christian saints, Voodoo found new voice in a city that welcomed the vitalizing energies of French Caribbean culture – musically, spiritually and otherwise. Indeed with great panache, legendarily charismatic hairdresser and Priestess Marie Catherine Laveau almost singularly reinvented Vodou – then ridiculed and practiced only by an “underground” few – as “Voodoo”, and she popularized it to the highest strata of social and spiritual life.
Her honored subject was the biblical St. John, always and forever a wild man both in life and in her spectacular ceremonies. Thousands attended, and this yearly gathering remains an exotic amalgam of Haitian Vodou, Roman Catholicism, Native American tradition and Masonic mystery. It has been conducted by a noble line of priestesses, from Marie Laveau the “Voodoo Queen”, whose grave 150 years after her death is still the second most visited in the nation, to internationally recognized local Priestess Sallie Ann Glassman today.
For St. John’s Eve each year, Glassman erects an Altar in the hotel lobby. “This year”, says she, ”My altar is dedicated to Marie.” As well, Loa bar’s Creative Director and “Spirit Handler” Alan Walter conferred with Glassman in creating a beautifully bottled elixir he calls “John’s Way.” Says Alan, “This libation is intended as a handmaiden to personal reinvigoration, fresh starts and New Ways. We can each use a little of that from time to time.” It also underscores the role of cocktails in a robust life of ritual, passion and life’s epiphany moments in New Orleans.
John’s Way employs “seven waters” which maximize the healing properties of ingredients grown by Walter and his curious purveyors: Aguardiente, an Anise and Sugarcane Spirit (meaning “firewater”), Genapi, a rare Alpine Liqueur flavored with Wormwood Blossoms, Kümmel (a spirit infused with Caraway), Spanish Moss, Jasmine, Sweet Olive and other herbs. The bottle presents a custom label designed by Britney Penouilh that includes instructions for a private ceremony which heightens the potion’s effects. It comes with a tiny gris-gris bag, along with a candle hand-painted with Marie Laveau’s personal insignia.
6:00 Introduction by Priestess Sallie Ann Glassman
6:15 Toast to St. John by Alan Walter
6:30 -7:30 Ceremony honoring Marie Laveau | spiritual head-washings by Sallie Ann
• BRING SOMETHING • TAKE SOMETHING • Bring offerings for Marie of blue and white candles or flowers, hair ribbons, brushes or barrettes and Creole foods, and take a white scarf as a symbol of spiritual rejuvenation and reminder that we are all spiritual beings on a human journey.