Please join us in WHITE as we celebrate the Solstice with the 150-year-old ceremony started by legendary Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau.
Exactly one hotel and one bar in the world do this …
Please join us in WHITE to celebrate the Solstice with the 150-year-old ceremony started by legendary Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau.
ST. JOHN’S EVE | VODOU RITUAL | SUMMER SOLSTICE
On Thursday, June 22 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM, International House celebrates the advent of sultry summer with reverence and Vodou mystique found only in this Northernmost Caribbean City. A local institution, the hotel observes Saint John’s Eve on or before John the Baptist’s birthday (June 24). For the 24th year, this ritual is led by Priestess Sallie-Ann Glassman, and as always in New Orleans, a cocktail is created to whet the experience. A head washing ceremony, Haitian Clarin rum, our own Abigail Gullo lighting the Solstice Bonfire Punch and the bottled elixir bring it all vividly to life. You, in casual white, do too.
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 in South Louisiana the 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 of 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 - born 6 months before Jesus - 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 Voodoo into the sacred recipe. By cleverly forging a relationship between its divine spirits - the Lwa or Loa -and Christian saints, Vodou found new voice in a city that welcomed the vitalizing energies of French Caribbean culture - musically, spiritually, culinarily and otherwise. Indeed, with great panache, charismatic hairdresser and Priestess Marie Catherine Laveau reinvented
Vodou – then ridiculed and practiced only by an “underground” few - as “Voodoo" and popularized it to the highest strata of society in New Orleans.
Marie’s honored subject was the biblical St. John, always and forever a wild man both in life and in her 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 the “Voodoo Queen” Laveau, 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.
Author, speaker, teacher, artist and mountain climber, Sallie Ann ministers to many from her Island of Salvation Botanica store and Bywater temple. She was born in Maine, initiated a Vodou priestess in the rich Haitian Kreyol tradition and carries the spiritual torch for a new generation. This year she honors Marie, who rose dramatically from water to kick off wildly popular head-washings in Bayou St. John and who “they” say is rising now to become a Lwa.
Fittingly for 2022, Ms. Glassman’s altar in the hotel’s soaring lobby features a 10’ papier-mâché statue of Marie with billowing white sheers that bear her insignia and dance in summer's breeze. The sheers signify the porous veil between the spiritual and physical worlds. They represent the lwa veves of Ayizan for feminine power, Loko for masculine power, Legba for spiritual guidance and Petwo for meaning in our experiences. And, they serve as the beautiful, ethereal backdrop for Glassman’s popular ceremony of ritual drumming and dancing.
Once again, the gifted “spirit handlers” making drinks at the hotel’s Loa bar have co-created John’s Way with Glassman. “It is our annual limited-edition cocktail, a bottled elixir,” says Creative Director Abigail Gullo. Adds hotel owner Sean Cummings, “We create it to facilitate personal reinvigoration and the embrace of New Ways and fresh spiritual starts that we all need in life.” The elixir employs the seven waters which heighten healing properties of medicinal herbs grown by various of loa's gifted purveyors. It includes: Aguardiente (“firewater”), Genapi, (flavored with Wormwood blossoms), Kümmel (infused with Caraway), Spanish Moss, Jasmine, Sweet Olive and other herbs. Adds Gullo, “This elixir highlights the role of cocktails in New Orleans - ever-present during life’s epiphany moments.” John’s Way is presented in a wooden box, designed by artist Britney Penouilh. It contains a rich array of traditional altar elements, such as a gris-gris bag, candle, elixir, headscarf and ritual incantation. Each is revealed or concealed in specific, drawers, shelves and compartments, such that the composition itself forms a reverent altar to St. John and Marie Laveau. Says Glassman, “The gris-gris bags are for Marie, with lavender, jasmine, basil and hyssop for luck.”
With a nod to the June 21 Summer Solstice, only twenty-one John’s Way bottles will be sold. The beautiful keepsake box, with 500ml elixir, is $100.
With architecture, music, food, culture and climate unlike any other city in the world, International House celebrates seven New Orleans rituals throughout the year that give locals and visitors alike a lively, soulful, utterly authentic taste of this PLACE and its colorful characters.
For this High Holy Day on the Vodou calendar, please join us - cocktail in hand!
6:00p - Introduction by Priestess Sallie Ann Glassman
6:15p - Lighting of the Solstice Bonfire Punch and Toast to St. John with Abigail Gullo
6:30-7:30p - Ceremony honoring St. John and Marie Laveau | spiritual head-washings
• 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 Teilhard’s timeless reminder that we are “… spiritual beings on a human journey."