Dr. John Montanee
A New Orleans Voodoo Grimoire
To Sleep On The Tomb of
Doctor John Montenet
© 2014 Witchdoctor Utu
While I live in the Niagara region of Ontario Canada, I serve the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple. After Hurricane Katrina made her devastating visit to the Crescent City, I was on one of the first flights into New Orleans after she was officially evacuated. I was there at the request of Priestess Miriam of the Temple, to help get it back up and running in time for Halloween, as well as essentially gut her house so restoration and rebuilding could begin. While the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple was spared harsh damage, her house was not so fortunate. Each day we worked at the house, and each night returned to the Temple where we slept and ate, only to start again the next day.
Monday, October 17th, 2005
The first day I arrived to help with the cleanup I did what I always do when landing in New Orleans, I went to St. Louis Cemetery Number 1 to pay my respects to the city’s matron spirit and legendary Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, as well the city’s equally profound spirit of Doctor John Montenet.
I was shown the working tomb of Doctor John by members of the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple, and have worked at its location since 1999.
Since my first year visiting I was told of an old rite that was not easy to accomplish; to sleep upon Doctor John’s tomb itself, all night long inside the cemetery. This would bring about a much closer relationship with his spirit, enable blessings and conjures to be shared and received, a passage rite of devotion and gratitude, bravery and lunacy. The neighborhood that surrounds St. Louis Cemetery Number 1 was extremely hostile for decades, at the best of times it was not wise to venture in or out of any other entrance than the one on Basin Street, most used by tour groups and tourists alike. As I arrived on my trip to serve the Temple after Katrina’s visit, I went to the cemetery. I was disappointed to see that the gate was locked. However now that the housing projects that surrounded the cemetery were abandoned post evacuation, I walked around the corner in relative safety and solitude to see the condition of the side gate, and much to my surprise and joy the gate was not even there, taken from the damage and water, the cemetery beckoned. As I walked through the cemetery that usually teems with tourists all day as well as workers, it was unlike any other time I walked its sacred grounds, I was alone in there, not another living soul. It was paradise and the silence allowed for thoughts and intentions not previously heard. I visited Marie Laveau to offer my condolences to her shrine and spoke to her of the work I was in the city to do. Soon I was off to see the good doctor. I would say no more than two minutes at his door and shrine I heard the test, the challenge, for now there was relative safety in the area, there was an opened gate to the cemetery 24 hours a day, it was the perfect time to accept the challenge, to sleep for one night upon the working tomb of Doctor John Montenet. Consider the risks of this rite at any other time previous to Katrina; having to climb the wall of the cemetery to gain entrance, illegal and as stated earlier, beyond dangerous, as many witnesses in the hostile hood would clearly see one go in, and many could quite possibly follow one in there for who knows what macabre reason. But the gate was not even attached to the wall, it was not even there, the projects abandoned, it was the time to do what I had wanted to achieve for many years. I would sleep on the Doctor’s tomb.
Sunday, October 30th 2005; Devils Night
After daily returning to the cemetery during breaks and early evening for visits and recon, it was Devils Night that I would spend in St. Louis Number 1. While the projects were abandoned and evacuated, this was still not without danger. There was a curfew in order during those weeks, no one on the streets after 12 AM, no excuses and no reason would be accepted, if one was caught on the streets by the numerous army convoys patrolling the Quarter, one would be scooped up and taken away, the end, so once I was in there it was for keeps. There were of course still undesirables in the city too, lurking in the shadows for nefarious opportunities. It was evening; I walked past the New Orleans Police Department, now a home to the very officers banished from patrolling the Quarter because of corruption, thuggery and failure to secure safety for the residents that were there. It was in fact the New York State Troopers that patrolled the Quarter. I walked past their compound, barbecues cooking and rap music blaring. I waved as I walked by; it was only 8 PM or so, nothing to see here. As I walked in at dusk, I greeted the gate keeper, knocking at the entrance with my bag filled with rum, beer and tobacco to share and offer. I was in.
It started with time spent at Marie Laveau’s tomb, the guardian of the graves. I walked back and forth between her and Doctor John’s tomb sharing offerings, prayers and intention. It eventually came to be bed time, not that much sleep would ensue. I made a bed of sorts upon the doctor’s tomb, lay down and looked towards the sky. This was unlike any other sky in the city, probably the darkest it had been in several decades, other than the French Quarter there was no power in the city, darkness ruled. While seeing the stars that night, meteors shot across the sky, celestial anomalies that would not be possible to witness in other times danced. The heaviness eventually set in, spirit took over, and I was enveloped into his concrete tomb, becoming one with the cement and his intense presence...it seemed to last forever.
When dawn began to illuminate the day, the sun’s warmth was celebrated, it was glorious. It was like a church service was to begin, myself the only human in the congregation. I finished off with placing the Doctor John card, from the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot deck, on the tomb along with fallen palm leaves and various flowery trinkets akin to a graveyard. His tomb was now a shrine, a testament to our time together that night, as well as every day previous. As I walked out of the cemetery, no less than 30 feet from me, lay an old black man who had also bedded down for the night between two tombs, this surprised me. He would have seen and heard everything I was doing in there, he must have thought many things watching a strange white man wander and commune with the spirits that night, and resting openly upon the tomb of the Doctor. I listened and accepted that he was a protector of sorts, a watcher and elder of the city who found solace in there, it was peaceful and safe, it was a blessing.
While I had felt the power of Doctor John for years, drummed for him and to him across the continent, it was that passage rite that made my connection to him one so profound and sacred it has never left my mind, and enters my thoughts often. I did it to honour Doctor John Montenet, to honour Priestess Miriam the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple, to honour Priest Oswan, I did it to honour Louis Martine; the Spiritual Doctor and Priest of the Temple, I did it to honour and connect with the drumming conjurers who came before me, those who had also endured the rite. That night with the blessings of Doctor John I entered an order, I received his conjures, I entered as a friend and left as family...he is a part of me, I entered his tomb.
(After Katrina, great areas of the city and parish were without electricity. Therefore, sleeping on Dr. John’s tomb, Utu saw a sky similar to the the sky Dr. John looked to for messages, as indicated by Lafcadio Hearn, page 100. Starlight reigned upon New Orleans.)
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