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Supposed to be nice weather on Saturday, about 70 (I guess that polar vortex thing has stopped pumping out its freezing deathrays... for now) and no rain. I might drive up to Rayne, which is only about a half hour from Abbeville. They have a Catholic cemetery where the burials go in the wrong direction (north-south instead of east-west) and a couple other sites of interest.

I'm also working on an idea inspired by reading Judika Illes' Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints, and Sages--I'm currently on the Rs. Most of the listings mention major places of veneration, and when there's one in Louisiana I make a note. I thought it would be cool to photograph them as a series. A couple of them I have already, like the Saint Roch shrine in New Orleans. Apparently there's a shrine for Santisima Muerte in New Orleans! But first I have to finish the book.
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I also shot a roll of 120 in the Diana, I sent that to Dwayne's Photo earlier this week (along with a roll of 35mm B&W that I have no idea what's on it).

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Catholic Cemetery

Catholic Cemetery
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First off, I have to admit that it was dumb of me to schedule the meetup 2 days after I drove back from Alabama. Getting back in the car and driving 3+ hours was the last thing I wanted to do. However, I've been trying to shoot Fort Pike since last spring; it was closed for months after Hurricane Isaac, and when it finally re-opened last fall, first weather and then the holidays kept getting in the way.

Technically, the forts are within the city limits of New Orleans, but they are way the hell far away from anything. Macomb is part of the Venetian Isles community, which is outside the levee system, and it's taken a real pounding in the last few decades. They had made some attempts to clean it up enough so it could be open to the public, but essentially gave up after Katrina. Pike, which is on the Rigolets, the strait which connects Lake Pontchartrain to the Gulf of Mexico, is even further away from the city. It's fared better though, and has periodically been open to the public.

These are just the digital shots, I shot a roll in the LC-A+ that has to be developed. I also shot my last pack of Impossible Project color film; I bought a 3-pack when they allegedly improved it and was just as disappointed in it as I'd always been. The last pack has been sitting in the fridge for a year and I finally decided to get rid of it; surprisingly, all of the photos are worth keeping. Apparently the trick is to refrigerate it until it's a year past expiration, and THEN use it.

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It looked like the state made some kind of half-assed effort at restoring this one room, which had new plaster and a few pieces of wooden furniture, then went "fuck it". The plaster was filthy and coming off in chunks.

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I'm not sure Macomb is accessible by land anymore. It might be around the other side, but it was so beat up looking that I wasn't even tempted to try and enter it. Hope and I drove past it and went into a bar to ask directions, they were like "It's basically across the street". We were looking right at it before we saw it, it's almost camouflaged.

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...is where I spent my holidays. When Granny died in April, Mom decided she wanted to spend the first Christmas without her away from home. She and Phil have been going there for weekends for a few years now, but I've never been. Anyway, they rented a house that was like 3 minutes walk to the Gulf of Mexico, it was nice. It's not warm this time of year of course, but I don't mind the cold. And I like beach towns in the off season, although Mom says it's pretty quiet even in summer. It doesn't have any major touristy draws, it mostly attracts people who either have a boat or just want to spend time near the ocean. Mom and Phil closed on a condo while we were there, so maybe I'll see more of it. It's not too bad of a drive, we left at 10:30 and got there about 4:00.

I shot some film, but these are just digital shots.

Dauphin Island Cemetery

I found this at one of the cemeteries on the island, propped against a tree.

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I found this beach out at the end of the island, it had a lot of tree trunks with the roots exposed. I think Hurricane Ivan probably eroded that end of the island and pushed the beach up into what had been a stand of trees. Barrier islands are pretty unstable and really don't last any time at all, in geological terms.

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Audubon bird trail

There's an Audubon bird trail that leads to a little lake. Apparently Dauphin Island is the only place in Alabama that John James Audubon drew birds, although he drew them all over south Louisiana.

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Driftwood macro.

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New Year's Day was our last full day, we had incredible skies. You can see some of the natural gas platforms in the distance. At night they're lit up and actually look quite pretty. Anyway, as long as they're not oil--no tar balls washing up on the beach.
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martin and joan chaplets

Both of these saints have set forms to the number and placement of beads on their chaplets, but not for the colors, so I just used the colors that are generally associated with each of them: grey or silver for Saint Joan (for her armor and sword), and purple and white for Saint Martin.

saint joan medal

Saint Joan's chaplet starts with 2 large beads, then has 3 sets of 5 beads separated with 2 more large beads. This adds up to 19 beads, the age of Joan when she was burned at the stake. I used hematite for the main beads, which is a dark silvery charcoal color. The blue and pink don't have any special meaning, I just liked the way it contrasted.

chaplet fleur de lis

Of course I used a fleur-de-lis charm to finish it! Saint Joan is the matron saint of France, and of all bad-ass women.

saint martin medal

Saint Martin de Porres' chaplet is 3 beads, then 10--essentially it's a single-decade rosary. I took apart an old rosary to make this chaplet; I've never liked it because the person who strung it used this gross waxed thread that picks up every speck of dirt in a 5-mile radius. (The white beads are leftovers from Saint Dymphna's chaplet.)

saint martin crucifix

I wanted to use a mouse as the charm on the end but couldn't find one, so I just used the crucifix that was on the rosary. The most famous story about Saint Martin is that the head of his abbey asked him to poison the mice, but he couldn't bring himself to kill them, so he told them that if they left he would feed them everyday. They did leave, and every day they would line up outside the walls and he would feed them.

Saint Martin de Porres is the patron saint of African-Americans, all racially mixed people (he was the son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed slave), those that strive for interracial harmony, and anyone who loves animals. He is also syncretized to Papa Candelo in the religion of Santeria.
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The Pink Slim Dress has a dumb name but is an awesome camera. It's the SuperHeadz knock-off of the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, which it re-created faithfully except for the Viv's annoying habit of breaking if you breathe on it too hard. It's great for photographing large buildings, like LeBeau was before a bunch of gas-huffing chucklefucks burned it to the ground--I used it last spring, when Trish and I photographed the house in slightly better days.

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

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Chaplets are any form of Catholic prayer beads. All rosaries are chaplets, but not all chaplets are rosaries. Many non-rosary chaplets are dedicated to certain saints, and for many of the most popular ones they have evolved over the years into traditional forms--certain colors and/or numbers of beads. They can be closed, like a rosary, or open. Traditionally the open forms have the saint's medal on one end and a crucifix on the other, but when have I ever shown myself interested in tradition? Mine have the medals but not the crucifix.

chaplets

The top one is a Saint Dymphna chaplet, the bottom one Saint Lucy. I've already talked about my interest in Saint Lucy, I've also been interested in Saint Dymphna for several years. She was an Irish princess who was beheaded by her pagan father, partly for being a Christian but also because she refused to marry him (yeah, gross) after her mother died. She is the matron saint of those who suffer from mental illness, seizure disorders, and somnambulism.

Saint Dymphna chaplet 1

The traditional form for Saint Dymphna's chaplet is to start with 2 large beads of any color, then add 3 sets of 5 beads each (which adds up to 15, the age she was killed) in red (symbol of her martyrdom), white (symbol of her virginity), and green (symbol of relief from your illness).

Saint Dymphna chaplet 2

The saint's medal. Saint Dymphna is almost always portrayed carrying a book, and sometimes a sword as well. Often she is either crowned, or there is a crown at her feet.

Saint Dymphna chaplet 3

Dymphna was Irish, so I finished the other end with a Celtic knot charm.

Saint Lucy chaplet 3

The traditional form for Saint Lucy's chaplet is 9 beads arranged in 3 sets of 3. Since she is associated with vision, I used "evil eye" beads.

Saint Lucy chaplet 1

The saint's medal. She is depicted here carrying the usual tray of eyeballs, and the palm branch of martyrdom.

Saint Lucy chaplet 2

Lucy is also associated with divination, so I ended the chaplet with a little crystal ball charm!

I think I want to do one for Saint Martin de Porres too, but I need to read a little more about him.
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I shot these with the LC-A+ and the Pink Dress; there were only a few frames left on each roll, I used most of them at LeBeau Plantation. That's one reason I'd like to go back, the other is that there's tons of stuff I didn't even get to see (like the Catholic church).

Magnolia Plantation

Magnolia Plantation

American Cemetery

Magnolia Plantation

American Cemetery

American Cemetery

Saint Lucy

Dec. 13th, 2013 05:05 pm
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Saint Lucy's altar

Maybe I'm getting a little too into this whole Southern Conjure/New Orleans Voodoo/Folk Catholicism thing, but today is Saint Lucy's feast day and I made her an altar. I'll leave it up until the winter solstice, because Lucy is a solstice saint whose name comes from the Latin word for light, "lux".

My interest in Saint Lucy actually predates my interest in NOLA Voodoo, back to my teenage years. I mean, she's a teenage girl carrying around a tray with eyeballs on it and a sword. That's awesome. And at the same time I was getting interested in photography, in which vision is kind of important.

In regular Catholicism, Lucy is the matron saint of blind people or people with vision problems, either because her eyes were gouged out during torture, or because she pulled them out of her head to dissuade a pagan suitor who admired them. (In that version, God miraculously restores her sight.) In folk or magical Catholicism, she is associated with more mystical forms of sight, and people often keep her image near divination tools (hence, my tarot cards).

I don't like saint statues, because unless you spring for a really expensive one they tend to look kind of cheesy, so I always use other images. This is actually a bottle spell I made a couple weeks ago, it contains a petition paper, an eye milagro, and some herbal ingredients associated with eyesight--mundane and mystical. The idea behind bottle spells is they last as long as the bottle stays sealed. The front is decorated with Domenico di Pace Beccafumi's portrait of Saint Lucy, painted in 1521.

I chose the flowers and cookies that I did because they kind of remind me of both eyeballs and suns!
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I shot this in August and kind of stuck it in a drawer and forgot about it for a few months.

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Saint Rita honey jar

Honey jars are old school Hoodoo, used to sweeten up your life. Some workers claim they can only be used to sweeten specific people to you, but I've spoken with older workers that wouldn't agree with that. And they don't always have to have candles burned on top--if you're trying to sweeten a person, then you "set a light on them". If you're keeping a honey jar to make your life sweet in general, then just keep it on your altar or other charged space and let it do its work.

Saint Rita is the matron saint of all women, but especially of abused women or women in difficult situations. (She was married at age 12--!!!--to an alcoholic who abused her.) She is associated with bees because as an infant, a cloud of bees was observed flying into and out of her open mouth as she slept, but caused her no harm. So what better saint to help me with a honey jar?

Saint Rita honey jar (back)

The back. This is a very small jar, just a couple of inches high. Inside are allspice berries, lavender, shredded angelica root, and a single dried rosebud. Roses, along with figs, are a traditional offering for Saint Rita. As she was dying, her cousin asked her if she could get her anything. Rita asked for roses; the cousin went out into the garden but didn't expect to find anything because it was winter. She found a single rose and a single fig.

Saint Rita honey jar (top)

She is called "the Saint of the Impossible", and like Saint Jude can be petitioned for success in lost causes.
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The girl working the photo counter at Walgreen's was confused by this camera, she called me a couple hours after I dropped it off and asked me if it was supposed to put two images on each photo. She asked me if it was a Lomography camera though, so she obviously knows something about cameras and film.

Marksville

Fort deRussy Cemetery

Marksville

Big Bend

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Phil volunteered to cover a shift at the Natchitoches VA clinic on Friday, and Mom and I tagged along. It's about as far from Abbeville as New Orleans, but north rather than east. Mom's been there but always wanted to see it at Christmas (it's famous throughout the south for the Christmas lights they put up along the main street and the Cane River Lake). I've never been there but always wanted to see it, it's the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase--they're celebrating 300 years next year.

American Cemetery

American Cemetery is only a few years younger than the town, and is considered to be the oldest extant cemetery in the Louisiana Purchase.

American Cemetery

The oldest markers are long gone, I think the oldest surviving one is from the last few years of the 18th century. But there are a lot of eroded bricks underfoot, so they're all still down there somewhere.

Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile Store

Kaffie-Frederick is the oldest general store in Louisiana (that's still in business), and they've been using the same cash register since 1910.

Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile Store

We picked Phil up for lunch and had meat pies for lunch, because what else are you going to eat in Natchitoches? There's a restaurant in town, Laysone's, that claims to have invented them, but that's bullshit. That's like claiming you invented the burrito. (It's basically a regional variation of the empanada--people who aren't from Louisiana always forget that we were a Spanish colony too, not just a French one.) Mom says the last time she and Phil ate there the pies were terrible, they tasted like they were made with potted meat and fried in old oil that tasted like rancid onions. So I went on Urbanspoon and found a place with good reviews, Merci Beaucoup on Church Street.

After lunch Mom and I drove down LA Highway 119. which is also the Cane River Heritage Trail.

Magnolia Plantation

The house at Magnolia Plantation is still privately owned and lived in by descendants of the original family that built it in the 1830s, but in 2001 they donated the land and surviving outbuildings to the National Park Service.

Magnolia Plantation

Melrose Plantation

Melrose Plantation is of interest because it was built by free people of color.

Oakland Plantation

Oakland Plantation had a general store that also served as the local post office for many years.

Christmas display

We stayed late enough to see all the lights come on. They even had a snow machine! I think it was some kind of soap suds.

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As previously mentioned, I drove down to Arabi on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and photographed what's left of LeBeau Plantation. There was police tape strung across the property line along the road, but I just stepped over it. It was obvious I wasn't there to vandalize the place or anything and I didn't seriously think anyone would call the po-po on me, but I was technically trespassing on a crime scene so I didn't hang out. I didn't rush, but I did my thing and left. (The gaping hole in the chain link at the back of the house is still there, but I guess the damage has been done.)

I also shot film in the LC-A+ and the Ultra Wide & Slim, but didn't finish the rolls. These are the digital shots.

LeBeau: after the fire

LeBeau: after the fire

The whole thing still stank of charred wood. And the property was all muddy even though it hadn't rained in several days, because they kept the fire hoses on for hours, to make sure it didn't flare back up.

LeBeau: after the fire

LeBeau: after the fire

LeBeau: after the fire

I think public stocks need to be brought back as punishment for shit like this. Put those morons in them for a week, plunk down a giant bin of rotten vegetables, and let people hurl away. Look, I was young and dumb once, I drank and smoked pot, and obviously I understand the allure of abandoned properties. But holy fuckballs, I never did anything a fraction as stupid or callous as purposely setting fire to a 165-year-old building.
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Loaded cowrie shells are an idea I got from Rita's Spiritual Goods. I actually bought one of hers, although I haven't gotten it yet; in the meantime I wanted to make one of my own with a humpback cowrie I already had. I really like the idea, although I don't know how traditional they are. I've been told they are, but I've only seen them in Rita's shop and in another online store that I'm pretty sure got the idea from her. They feel traditional though, and of course cowrie shells are not uncommon in African-derived religions.

loaded cowrie shell top

Inside I put crushed pine incense, frankincense, blessed Dead Sea salt crystals, and dried orange peel. Those are all cleansing/protecting ingredients.

loaded cowrie shell bottom

The bottom is covered with blue linen from an old napkin, and I pressed the line of glue around the edge into dried pennyroyal, then dressed the shell with Blessed Oil. The smell of the stuff inside passes through the fabric, especially when you shake it up and get the juju flowing. The one I bought from Rita has healing ingredients, so I don't feel like having two of them is going to be superfluous.
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Last week I drove about an hour north to Acadia Parish to see the grave of Charlene Richard, a 12-year-old girl who died of leukemia in the 1950s. There's a local movement to have the Vatican open a petition for her beatification and eventual canonization, people claim to have been cured of cancer by praying to her and stuff like that. It's interesting to be able to observe the middle part of that slow process, which can take centuries. She's not (yet?) an official saint of the RCC, but she's more than just another dead person.

Grave of Charlene Richard

There are kneelers all around her grave for people to pray, a petition box on top of it, and (of course) a donation box. More on that later.

Grave of Charlene Richard

Grave of Charlene Richard

Grave of Charlene Richard

She's buried in St. Edward's Church cemetery in Richard, and after I took some photos of her grave I went into the church. Richard is a tiny community--not a town even, a village--and from the outside the church just a little A-frame; but as soon as I walked in I saw where that donation money was going. Every square inch of wall was crammed with statuary and mosaics and stained glass. It looked like Donald Trump's private chapel.

St. Edward's Catholic Church

These chandeliers are ludicrous, and there were like a dozen of them in that tiny place.

St. Edward's Catholic Church

These are their holy water fonts! There were two of them! (For those not familiar with Catholic churches, the fonts are usually just stone bowls bolted onto the wall.)

Honestly, I think Pope Frankie should be notified. I would have thought that money was going partially towards defraying the costs of her beatification petition, with some going to charity. Like maybe, I don't know, childhood leukemia research??

St. Edward's Catholic Church

Baby Jesus is very disappointed in you.
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Lucky Nine Oil

I think this is the last oil that I'll make for a while. There are hundreds--possibly thousands--of different Hoodoo condition oils, but there are maybe a dozen that you'd use on anything like a regular basis*. This isn't even one of them, I just made it because I thought it looked fun and I had one more bottle from World Market that wasn't being used.

Lucky Nine Oil is a very NOLA-specific condition oil, and you'll always find it in books by NOLA-area workers like Anna Riva and Denise Alvarado. It's called that because it has nine ingredients, and you're supposed to add nine drops to your bath for nine days in a row to get what you need. (It's said to work well for those seeking employment.) Nine--three threes--is an especially lucky number in African-derived magico-religious systems; it's also a sacred number in Catholicism, folk or otherwise, hence the novena, which literally means "nine" and lasts for (yup) nine days.

Oils:

  • Musk

  • Rose geranium

  • Frankincense

  • Myrrh

  • Sandalwood

  • Orange

  • Bergamot

  • Allspice


Add a few pinches of dried vervain and blend in a base oil that's light and sweet-smelling, like almond or sunflower. This is an oil where I wouldn't substitute dried herbs or resins for the oils, because as mentioned, it's primarily a bath oil, so you want it to be liquid.

*The only one I haven't attempted to make myself is Van Van Oil. For whatever reason, I prefer to buy it; I like to get it from different sources and compare. Everyone makes it slightly differently: some people make a cheap and easy version with just lemongrass oil and vervain; some people go so heavy on the citronella that it smells like bug spray; some people sweeten it up with lots of lemon verbena. I drove down to Arabi last Saturday to photograph the remains of LeBeau Plantation (look for a blog post about that later), and on my way back through NOLA I stopped at F&F Botanica, where I'd never been before. I was so overwhelmed by their candle selection that I forgot about everything else, and I'm kicking myself for not getting some of their Van Van Oil. I guess I'll just have to go back soon!
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I went up north to Avoyelles Parish last month and was waiting until I got the film I shot developed before I did a blog post about it, but... I have no excuse, I've just been procrastinating. The good part is that most of my free time has been spent actually going places to take more photos, because we have been having some gorgeous weather. So anyway, here are some of the digital shots I took.

Fort deRussy Cemetery

Fort deRussy cemetery has many Confederate graves and is allegedly haunted.

Fort deRussy Cemetery

Marksville State Historic Site

Native American burial mounds are impressive in theory; in reality they're pretty much just big, old piles of dirt.

Marksville State Historic Site

Main Street, Marksville, LA

Marksville water tower and cemetery

In other photography news, yesterday I sold a print of the Buddhist temple on Avery Island in the morning, and SEVEN more prints of LeBeau Plantation in the evening! The woman that bought the print last week, her husband decided to buy 5x7 copies of a different shot for his brothers and sisters. They all played in the house as children.
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I sold a print of this house, which Trish and I photographed last April, on Friday morning. Which is good, but the reason why I sold it sucks: it burned to the ground about 2:00 in the morning.

plantationruins

The woman who bought the print said her husband grew up across the street from the house and used to play in it as a kid, so she wants to give him the print as a Christmas present. He was one of nine kids, and they all played there as children, so she might be buying more.

No one's lived there in decades and it has no electricity, so when I heard about it I pretty much figured it had to be arson. But I thought it would turn out be accidental: teens having a bonfire or homeless people trying to stay warm, it got out of hand, oops. Turns out it was deliberately set by a bunch of grown-ass men; they were drunk and smoking pot and trying to "summon ghosts" (the place has a reputation of being haunted, which I'm sure is bullshit), and when they didn't show up, one of them decided to set the place on fire. You can't see it, but I'm making the angriest, most disgusted face you ever saw right now.

I never could figure out who owned this property when I researched it earlier in the year; turns out a foundation has owned it since the 1960s with the stated intention of restoring it. They've collected about $100 million towards that goal and spent about 1% of it, mostly in the form of huge salaries for themselves. Typical Louisiana corruption, in other words. Too bad they couldn't have parted with some of that money to hire a night watchman.

It's a very eerie feeling, to know that something I photographed is gone forever. That must have been how Clarence John Laughlin felt towards the end of his life, going over the plates for Ghosts Along the Mississippi and realizing that about 1/3 of those houses are just gone.

I'd like to go photograph what's left, but that's going to have to wait because it's probably still an active crime scene right now.

June 2014

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