Dr. John Montanee
A New Orleans Voodoo Grimoire
© 2014 Claudia Williams
I constantly marvel at it: How the energy of a person one may never have met or have an opportunity to meet can still alter your life. The man who remains today New Orleans’ premier male Vodou practitioner, Dr. John and his remaining energy here played a major role in altering my life path. I am eternally grateful.
My husband and I first visited New Orleans in 1991. We were occultists, but not terribly familiar with Vodou. We ventured into the New Orleans Voodoo Museum one miserably hot August afternoon and were greeted by one of the most gorgeous women I’d ever seen, a Voodoo priestess named Margaret, who I came to know, admire and have the privilege to call friend. She took us on a tour of the museum. Her spirit and spirituality were palpable. She oozed truth, beauty, charm and power.
The items in the museum were/are spectacular. (We continue to build our own occult museum now with theirs as inspiration.) On a chair there sat an old, slightly tattered top hat. Margaret saw I was immediately mesmerized, “It belonged to the great Voodoo man, Doctor John” she smiled. To me, the hat was alive, glowing with the essence of the man who’d owned and worn it. I could see the power of the man, I could sense his own feeling of pride when he donned that hat and went to work helping people with his skills. The worn black satin glowed with a life force still imbued in it by its owner.
As we left that day, Margaret pointed to my pentacle necklace and said, “We learn from each other.” Over the next three years I visited the museum several times. A year after the first visit I was delighted when I walked in and Margaret remembered me. Right away I was ushered in to visit the hat. Still it glowed. Still it spoke to me. A little louder with each visit, “You belong HERE now. THIS is the work you should be doing.”
Our last visit before purchasing our home and moving here, we stayed in an apartment behind the museum. One day, the late Charles Gandolfo, an owner of the museum, took us on another tour. I think he’d heard about the girl with the hat fascination. He picked it up and inspected it for a moment, “I don’t let people touch these things as a rule,” he said, “but in this case I think it’s all right.” He held out the hat for me to hold. I held it as best I could to show reverence and appreciation for the special privilege.
I saw the magnificent specter of Dr. John in my mind’s eye. “You’re almost here,” I heard him say. “You’ll know when the Spirits call you and you will come to us and bring your own abilities to share.” In fact we were in the process of purchasing our home and moving from New York City to New Orleans. I was doing psychic work professionally, though not yet working with the Orisha or Loa. Without missing a beat, Charles took back the hat, saying, “He’s talkative today.” He inspected the hat as if to make sure he didn’t miss any messages intended for him. Looking slightly disappointed, he returned the top hat to its place.
I thought of these marvelous people I had met; Margaret, Charles and others. THAT is what I want, what I aspire to, I thought. I hope to leave a legacy of energy and inspiration. To think someday someone might hold an item that had been mine and walk away feeling a positive change for having touched upon that spirit, that energy. I felt a sense of healing and renewal that was extraordinary. I will remember those visits with Dr. John’s hat always. As my personal spiritual practice has for many years now been in the West African based traditions, the energy I communed with was correct, this was where I belonged.
I know to always listen to the Doctor.
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