The Voodoo Priestess Whose Celebrity Foretold America’s Future

Marie Laveau, the Self-Invented New Orleans Prophetess, Blurred the Sacred and Profane While Presiding Over a Multiracial Following 

Any tourist who rolls into New Orleans’s French Quarter eventually finds themselves standing before a Bourbon Street botanica called Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. It’s a small shop, and the front window is cluttered with the materials of a spirit altar: candy, bones, saint figurines, jewelry, sugar skulls, and a small porcelain statuette of the woman in blue herself, wearing her signature orange tignon: Marie Laveau.

Wander inside the shop, and you’ll find every surface packed with totems, oils, potions, pendants, plastic souvenirs, herbs, and unmarked satchels of gris-gris; a …

The Religious Roots of America’s Love for Camping

How a Minister's Accidental Bestseller Launched the Country's First Outdoor Craze

Summer 1868 passed as an unremarkable season at Saranac Lake in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. The weather was fine, the scenery delightful, and the usual array of 200 to …

My Antidote to L.A’s Madness Lies Less Than 100 Miles Outside the City

Finding Peace in a Benedictine Abbey Transplanted From China and Thriving in California’s High Desert

Driven. Rushed. Anxious. These adjectives describe me and many of the nearly 4 million people with whom I share the malls, freeways, and surface streets of Los Angeles. Some days, …

In Medicine, Dying Doesn’t Have to Be a Struggle

Options, Not Treatment, May Be What's Most Needed at the End of Life

Grandma’s dying.

She lived a full life, but illness is getting the best of her. Could be days, could be weeks, the doctors say—unless, that is, she tries one particular …

Has Modern Medicine Made Dying Harder Than Ever?

Hospitals Have Gotten Better at Keeping Us Alive, But That Also Means Thornier Questions at the End of Life

In his 2010 New Yorker essay “Letting Go,” surgeon Atul Gawande stops by the intensive care unit at his hospital and describes the sad state of its patients at the …