When I heard of this idea for a Halloween celebration, I was thrilled. New Orleans is one of my favorite spots. When GK heard it was to be a spooky tale, she wanted to be included. GK drew "child's visage" and we collaborated on the story line. I hope you will enjoy our efforts. Special thanks must be given to Marfi and Anna....for thinking up this wonderful homage to the witchiness of the Bayou.
And so our tale begins.....set in modern day New Orleans. Our main character is a lovely, head strong, child of the bayou. The city is what it is....mysterious, dark and well, you'll see.
Jean Paul Bienbille VII was the son of the most influential man in the parish. And on his twenty first birthday, which was on All Hallows Eve there was to be a Bal Masque at his father's club in Nawlins. His people sent out invitations to only the prettiest girls in the surrounding parishes and it was going to be the party of the year.
Jean Paul had invited all his college friends, all his rowdy kinfolk and many of the elite that did business and were colleagues of his parents. He had hopes of finding a very pretty escort among the young ladies that had been sent an invitation. What these hapless girls did not know was that one was to be selected to be Jean Paul's "poupee' cherie'". Darling Doll was also a family tradition from the time when the Bienville were just beginning to build their empire in the swamps of Louisiana. When the Cajun and Creole ancestry had used more than just good manners to convince people to obey the Bienville. Fantoche (puppet) had its origins in voodoo.
The first thing that Momma said when she saw who the invitation to a grand Bal Masque was from, was "Hell no, you're not goin' anywhere near those folks. I have told you about how they are evil doers and no good girl of mine is gonna get in a mess with them".
Kinda wish I woulda listen to Momma now. But the tellin' of this tale isn't gonna do itself, so I might just as soon tell it now.
I was determined to go to the Bal Masque. I knew that I needed to take some precautions because of everyone knowing the Bienville way with folks. So I visited Auntie Kella down on St. John's Bayou. She is the all time bestest witch I know. She can give me a protection amulet, a gris gris pouch, a glass of her better than anyone else's Sweet Tea and I will be safe to go to the party and see all the wonder of 'Nawlins. And I know that Auntie Kella is never gonna tell Momma about this because my Momma would cast right back on her. You see, we are all witches on this side of the St. John. I don't have the gifts my Momma and Auntie have. But I do know what's good and right, I can heal and cast and I am careful alright. I mostly mix up the herbs and make the healing potions.
I've only been to "Nawlins one other time when my Grandmama was sick in the hospital. I went to see her and then I took the trolley car and took myself to the French Quarter. I wandered for the rest of the afternoon. I looked through the iron work fences to those courtyards and private sitting places all made out with wrought iron fences and gates. There are so many magickal views of The Big Easy. It's nothing like living in the bayou and yet it is. The beauty and mystery of my part of the world is deep and wide like the River itself that brings life to us.
The sights and smells of the French Quarter are like nothing else. And Jean Paul's Bal Masque is going to be held in the oldest hotel right off of Jackson Square, not far from the River. It is sure to be the best of the best of the season, maybe even better than Mardi Gras. The Bienville do not hold back when it comes to Laissez les bon temps rouler. The whole of the Crescent City would be green with envy of my invitation.
I just had to go. So I packed my satchel, waited until all was quiet and secreted away to Nawlins with my protection amulet, my cleansing potion, my dress and my excitement all packed in. It was early morning of the party when I got to Jackson Square. It was just like I remembered it, but much quieter because the French Quarter sleeps late. Only a few people busying themselves to begin their day were on the streets.
I passed the day visiting a cemetery, some shops and people watching. I took a ride in a carriage, ate a Mufelatta and went past the locks to the port to watch the paddlewheel steamers take visitors out for a ride on the river. The day was wonderful but I couldn't wait to change into my dress and to attend the party.
When I approached the hotel I was shaking with anticipation. There was a crowd of people at the door. Many were trying to get into the Masque who did not have invitations and they were turned away. There were guards at the doors to keep those people out. I walked right up to the front of the line and gave a very stern man my invitation and his face turned from sour to welcoming immediately. He called an escort to the door and instructed him to take me to the honored guest section of the ballroom. I was floating on air. Me from St. John's Bayou an honored guest.
Inside the ballroom was like every dream of grandness I have ever dreamed. The whole room was decorated in gold, black and pearl. Huge centerpieces dripped with crystals, pearls and lavish black floral arrangements set in golden urns. The dazzling crystal chandeliers were almost blinding. I had never seen so many pretty girls in one place at one time. I felt honored to have been invited at all.
Very soon the music began and a few couples went out onto the floor and swayed to the tune. A young man of medium height and blond hair and the most intense brown eyes I had ever seen, asked if I would care to dance and I handed him my dance card. He filled in two lines and we went out onto the floor. He introduced himself as Jean Paul Bienville and squeezed my hand. I was taken aback. This is Jean Paul? My Momma had made him sound like he would have horns, a tail and been evil looking. This young man was nothing like what I had expected. I softened to his lead and we danced into the middle of the dance floor. We talked as we danced and he thanked me for coming to his birthday celebration. He asked where my people were from and how I enjoyed Nawlins? I asked him how he had enjoyed Princeton and how long he would be back in Nawlins. He said not long. Just long enough to complete some family business and then he was off to France for a getaway. And the dance was over.
Honestly that is the last thing I remember until I laid eyes on myself, for lack of a better word, hanging from my strings. Being chosen Fantoche isn't all it's cracked up to be. I wanted to dance and have a good time.....I had no idea I would only dance when The Master pulls my strings for eternity.
If you see my Momma would you tell her I love her, I'm sorry I didn't heed her words and send my best to her. If you see my Auntie, warn her that the juju here is stronger than we reckoned on.
Who dat????????????? Why it sounds like my Momma's voice calling me in to supper? And I am here on the summer porch feeling the air blowing off the water.
Oh Auntie Kella must have dosed my sweet tea with a sleeping draft when I went looking for adventure, because I am in my very own bedroom here in Saint John's Bayou. I can hear the two sisters, my Momma and Auntie Kella laughing and talking in the kitchen. I can smell the damp coming off the water and my Momma's cheese grits and bacon frying in the skillet.
Oh Auntie Kella is the bestest witch in the whole world. Even if she did trick me.
Thank you so very much for coming to Olde Baggs n Stuft Shirts and we hope that you have enjoyed "the childs" adventure in Nawlins or her imagination of such.
GK and Oma Linda