The Crescent City has always been steeped in history and mystery. The moment you step into the French Quarter, you can feel the weight of the past pressing down on you. Now more than ever, New Orleans tarot cards breathe fresh life into the occult and its strong connection to the city.
What is New Orleans Voodoo Tarot, and how is it Different from Traditional Tarot Decks?
The New Orleans Voodoo Tarot is a collaboration between artist Louis Martinie and Mambo Sally Ann Glassman, two huge names in the modern Voodoo community. It has been honored by the New Orleans Art Institute and is a vital addition to tarot deck collections.
I feel like this New Orleans Voodoo Tarot deck should come with its own Spotify soundtrack of great jazz artists and shamanic drummers to accompany it. I can practically hear the trumpets when I hold the deck in my hands. It is the melody you would hear floating up to you from street musicians while you enjoy some spicy creole delights and an adult beverage at a cafe in the Quarter, imparting the spirit of New Orleans upon your psyche. This is the kind of deck that will feed your soul.
The New Orleans Voodoo Tarot is a celebration of African American culture. It makes accessible both the spirit and the complex and ancient concepts that make modern-day tarot cards so fascinating. Some say this is the first truly American tarot deck, but it is built solidly on the foundations of the Waite and Thoth tarots.
This deck has the structure of the major arcana and minor arcana, but it brings in complex magical concepts that have been passed down from early esoteric masters such as Dr. Dee. The concepts of kabbalism and the Enochian tarot are woven into the illustrations, introducing you to the ancestors and walking you through a loa exercise that is utterly mind-blowing and incredibly intimate.
There is a colorful and vibrant energy to the artwork that makes the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot a graphic tour de force, and the accompanying book clearly explains voodoo’s African roots in a way that honors the practice instead of making it the boogeyman that curdles Puritan hearts. It emphasizes voodoo’s connection to west Indian spirituality, as well as its adaptations to local culture that bring in catholic influences and vocabulary. In the Pandora’s box that the colonization of the New World unleashed, voodoo was and is the spirit of enslaved peoples persevering.
This is not a beginner-level deck, but if you started your study here, it would be a solid foundation for all things esoteric.
The History of Tarot and its Connection to New Orleans
Modern-day New Orleans is a melting pot of cultures and traditions, and nowhere is this more evident than in its spiritual practices.
One of the most popular forms of divination in the city is tarot reading, which has its roots in both Europe and Africa.
Tarot cards first appeared in Italy in the 14th century, and they quickly became popular as a way to predict the future. By the 17th century, they had made their way to France, where they were used by fortune-tellers and charlatans alike.
Despite the insistence that young America was a staunch, anti-occult society, the practice of Tarot is embedded into the country’s history. Most notably, Antoine Court de Gébelin was known to have had a keen interest in tarot cards and related the 22 cards of the Major Arcana to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Being a man of his time, he focused on the Egyptian symbology in the Thoth Tarots and thought perhaps they were influenced by the study of Champollion’s interpretation of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, which was happening contemporarily to him.
Court de Gébelin was a member of the American Philosophical Society, and his renown was mentioned in the letters of James Madison. He was a forward thinker on the subject of the human psyche and used tarot cards in interesting ways to connect to the cultures of the past. The same way we do today.
Since New Orleans is still so heavily influenced by its early connections to France as well as the fact that it is a port city and still has its share of gaming establishments that may amuse a traveler. It is easy to see where the Tarot card connection came in.
To this day, it is easy to stroll through the french quarter and get a reading in Jackson Square while street artists work beside them and jazz musicians play for tips.
In New Orleans, tarot reading is often used as a way to connect with one’s ancestors and tap into the wisdom of the past. For many people, it is an essential part of their spiritual practice.
Which is one reason you see such interesting decks being created by local artists in the city. Tarot has really been embraced in the Voodoo tradition.
I can see how modern progeny of former slaves, ex-pats, and people who have come to New Orleans from far and wide by choice or otherwise find comfort in a tool that may connect them to ancestral spirits when they have been removed from the touchstones of ancient places and they have minimal connection with spirit within the modern day.
New Orleans is a very spiritually sensitive space. This is due in part to the city’s rich spiritual history and its reputation as a hub for unleashing primal energies. (Especially around Mardi Gras time.)
It is also a place that showcases some of the most unique and creative African American cultures; in music and food and art.
Who should consider a New Orleans Tarot reading, and what are the benefits of doing so?
Let me start by saying that if you have an issue that is better worked out with a family therapist; a medical professional is always your best option. Let’s have fun with Tarot cards and respect the history and mystery of them but first and foremost let’s all handle our own internal business. We should always come to a reading with our own internal balance intact.
That being said, anyone who is interested in a more visceral connection with this amazing city and its history should consider sitting for a reading. There are some truly amazing intuitive talents in this town.
I think it is great fun to do one of the many walking tours about the history New Orleans like one of the many ghost tours then sit for a reading with a well-respected local.
Whether you believe in the power of Tarot readings or not, there’s no denying that New Orleans Tarot Cards are more popular than ever. If you’re looking for a unique way to connect with the city’s spirituality, consider getting a Tarot reading from one of the many Tarot readers in New Orleans.
Like this one for instance; at the bottom of the cup tea room – a great stop on any visit to New Orleans.
How can you use New Orleans Tarot Cards to gain insight into your life and future path?
If you choose to welcome New Orleans Tarot Cards into your life, you have leveled up to a whole new area of esoteric studies. It will introduce you to historic concepts of the art and introduce you to the magical roots so that like a good jazz musician you can learn the historic basis and theory of magic and intuition and then pull the threads apart and arrange them in unique ways to introduce interesting rhythms, much the same as a jazz musician would take a classic piece and make a unique musical experience out of it.
If you dive into these New Orleans Tarot Cards, be sure to read the guidebook that comes with it, and spend time meditating with each of the cards because they all have much to say. If you are the curious type it will probably lead you even deeper into the history and wonder that is available to us in the simple colored cards that reach back through the ages and propel us forward into a bright future.
Most of all have fun, get inspired, and get ready to DANCE! Because the New Orleans oracle deck will definitely laissez les bons moments rouler!