Another great place to find real spiritualists is at botanicas. The most reliable and trusted of these for decades was F&F Botanica in Treme, which closed in 2018. (Eerily, its co-owners and an employee all passed away within months of each other.) Known for its welcoming ethos and fair prices, F&F was a one-stop shop for candles, incense, herbs, perfumes, books, and beads. Now, a New Orleans visitor may have to check out a few different places (see below) to get a more complete picture of the Voodoo religion.
But there are certainly a few authentic Afro-Caribbean spiritual shops left where you can find items pertaining to Voodoo, Hoodoo, Santeria, and Catholicism alike. Typically, you’ll walk in and find altars and particular deities that will clue you in as to the shop’s religious faith. Try to find items that are made at the store -- like spiritual oils, dressing candles, or perfume. Many of the priests or priestesses will light a candle for you and keep it on their altar, giving you a sheet of parchment paper to write your name and intention, and they will pray on it for seven days.
In most of the shops, there are rooms in the back to get a reading from a priest or priestess. Often, you’re able to record your reading on your phone, and you’ll receive a prescription afterwards -- like an okra bath, rum and coconuts, or a daily psalm to read until all is well. The late Jonathan B. Scott of F&F said the best approach is to let the spirit guide you to the right items or practice. If all else fails, ask your ancestors for help.
“I'm not gonna tell anybody to throw away their faith, but the most essential piece is the egun, your ancestors,” says Yaya Bea. “So if you praise and you honor your ancestors, life would be so much better -- especially in New Orleans.”