Priestess Ritual and Bonfire Punch at International House Hotel on Vodou's Holiest Day

07:00 May 31, 2023
By: Arielle Gonzales

St. John's Eve is a Vodou Ritual performed at the International House Hotel in New Orleans on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, with Ceremonial Dress and Offerings to Vodou Spirits by Priestess Sallie Ann Glassman.

The country turns to New Orleans year after year for the key rites inherent within the culture of this legendary city. However, it is practically hard for foreigners to participate in these indigenous customs. Vodou, based on Haitian traditions, is a very local underground culture in New Orleans. For the 25th year, International House presents a unique opportunity to see a ritual ushering in the June Solstice and the holiest day of Vodou, St. John's Eve, performed by one of our era's most famous Vodou priestesses, Sallie Ann Glassman.

On Wednesday, June 21, 2023, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., the lobby of International House completely changes itself for the ceremonial homage with a 10-foot tall figure of Marie Laveau carved out of Louisiana wood, important to the St. John's Eve ceremony. (Laveau is buried at Cemetery 1, the city's oldest cemetery.) With head washings, drumming, spiritual chalk painting, a papier-mâché altar, and crying out to loa (Haitian word for Vodou spirit), the evening reveals the hidden truths of sacramental offerings.

The Beltane Bonfire Punch will be presented by Abigail Gullo, the Spirits Creative Director for the hotel's bar, loa (which was just named one of Tales of the Cocktail's top ten honorees for the "Best U.S. Hotel Bar" category). The cocktail celebrates the origins of Vodou by using the finest Clairin Rum from the countryside of Haiti. Before distillation, the juice is prepared from wild Sugar Cane and fermented with indigenous yeast strains.

The communal punchbowl is a combination of Rum with Cognac, Sorrel, Caribbean Spice, Red Summer Flowers, and aromatic Fruit that is prepared with fire, replicating the bonfires along the levees. Attending visitors are given a complimentary toast tasting from the bowl. This fire is intended to bring God's blessing to the summer crops while also repelling bad spirits. On a limited basis, whole glasses may be offered for purchase.

Additionally, a handcrafted limited-edition bottled elixir - John's Way - will be available to purchase. Using seven glasses of water, the elixir maximizes its healing properties. The mix includes Aguardiente, an anise and sugarcane spirit (meaning "firewater"); Genapi, an Alpine liqueur flavored with Wormwood Blossoms; Kummel, a spirit infused with Caraway; foraged Spanish Moss; Jasmine; Sweet Olive; and other local herbs. A white candle, a gris-gris bag, a white headscarf, and detailed instructions for a private ceremony accompany each keepsake bottle.

A "Midsummer's" experience is all part of International House and Loa's primary goal: to provide their visitors with a genuine display of New Orleans' customs, traditions, and rituals, providing a true feeling of place. For additional information, go to the International Hotel or call 504.553.9550. For more information about this event, please contact Simone at

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