The python curls around my wrist, squeezing ever so slightly. A whispered warning. The other snakes don't do as well in public, says John T. Both, a voodoo priest of New Orleans. The last time he took his nine-foot python for a walk through the humid streets of the French Quarter, it picked a fight with a pit bull.

 

Born in Scotland, Both grew up in Virginia among a family of voodoo practitioners. Snakes are his spirit animal. While little authentic voodoo remains in the swamps of Louisiana, you'll find traces of the religion scattered throughout the city: an X on a tomb, a small offering of mascara here and there, or even a python named Bea Arthur, slithering over pale skin.

ST. LOUIS CEMETERY

 

Spanning just one city block, St. Louis Cemetery Number One nearly gets lost among the apartment complexes and office buildings that have sprung up around the once hallowed ground. Skyscrapers disrupt the skyline of whitewashed tombs and marble angels; a man peddles lemonade and ice-cold soda at the iron gate; and tourists scuff the rows of crypts with their stiff, new running shoes. I pass by two volunteers hard at work restoring the city's famed graves with whirring power tools. Above, the sun, not moon, beats down. There are no stars.

 

THE SOUTHERN GOTHIC

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