New Orleans Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau! Brief History of Marie Laveau – The New Orleans Voodoo Queen!
New Orleans Voodoo and New Orleans Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau! Another Voodoo history segment from Kalila Smith‘s research and published chapters on Voodoo In New Orleans and our beloved Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau!
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The most noted Queen of Voodoo was Marie Laveau. She was born in 1783, to Marguerite Darcantel, a slave from
Haiti and mistress of a wealthy plantation owner, a Frenchman, Charles Laveau. In the 1700 & 1800′s, French aristocratic men often took women of color as mistresses in a custom called placage. In the placage arrangement, children of the union had right of heir ship and bore the father’s name. No doubt in this sort of arrangement, the children would also be reared in their fathers’ religion, Catholicism. Marie was raised in her father’s plantation. She was educated and studied to be a hairdresser. She was a devout Catholic, who went to mass everyday of her life. She was a dark skinned woman with long black hair that she frequently wore in a single braid making her look much like an Indian or a Gypsy, probably adding to her mystique.
In 1819, she married Jacques Paris, a native of Santo Domingo. Her father gave her property in the French Quarter when she married. She was married in St. Louis Cathedral. A short time later, her husband was killed and she was to be referred to as the “Widow Paris.” There is no documentation on his death. It is suspected that he possibly left her. Rather than losing respect in the community, she insisted that she was a widow. She later became mistress to Christophe Glapion with whom she had numerous children. Some accounts speak of her having as many as 15 children, it is believed however that she actually only had three daughters, one of which was also named Marie.
Most people believe that she rose to the heights that she did, due to her ability of being inside the homes of the aristocrats and having the opportunity to know their personal business. It is believed that she had spies amongst the servants in these homes that helped gave her insight to what was going on in their lives. I think perhaps to some degree that this may be true. But also take into consideration that Voodoo uses a lot of sympathetic magic, meaning it works on the principal of obtaining personal belongings from the one that it affects. As a hairdresser, this woman had the opportunity to obtain hair from her clients. Imagine how much power this gave her!
As a hairdresser, she also worked doing nursing. Back then, hairdressers and barbers could do minor surgical procedures, such as removing warts and moles. She could help with sore throats and minor stomach distresses as well. She would take in the sick and nurse them in her home, regardless of their race or ability to pay. She also would minister alongside Pere Antoine to prisoners on death row.
She became interested in herbal healing and studied herbs under Sanite DeDe, the city’s first Voodoo Queen. No doubt Voodoo was her mother’s religion. She became very interested in the Voodoo religion. In spite of her attraction to Voodoo, she never abandoned her Catholic roots. She saw similarities between the two, particularly, between the Voodoo Loas and the Saints. Both Voodoo and Catholicism having demi-gods, under one Supreme Being, each having a specific purpose. She incorporated the use of candles and Holy Water in Voodoo rituals. It was because of this “blending” of religions that the White Creole Catholics began to find Voodoo a bit more palatable. Actually, the church was conned into believing that the Voodouns had converted to Catholicism! By the 1830′s, Marie Laveau was the Queen of Voodoo and Voodoo once again was practiced inside the city limits.
She retired as Queen in 1875. Although throughout her rein many a New Orleanian feared her, when she died at the age of 98 in 1881, others believed she was a saint. Her life was embodied with rumors and gossip set off by the hysteria of fear. It has only been in recent years that the public is realizing what a great humanitarian she was. She is buried in St. Louis Cemetery # 1. Thousands flock to her tomb to make wishes and leave offerings of thanks. Her tomb is covered with X’s, evidence of those who have asked for wishes to be granted. Some of the X’s are circled indicating that the wish had been granted. Each day grateful believers leave “offerings” of thanks for favors bestowed. Everything from flowers and Mardi Gras beads, to food or even money can be found at the site. Remains of candles that have burned down give evidence of rituals at the tomb.
Her daughter, also named Marie went on to become Voodoo Queen when her mother retired. Marie II was much more enterprising than her mother. She commercialized Voodoo. She opened up a shop on Bourbon Street. She sold herbal remedies, roots, and spells. She was best known for her love spells. Wealthy people paid well for her work.
But sometimes, things didn’t always work out the way they had expected. There was once a particular aging wealthy bachelor, who had fallen in love with the daughter of a business associate. He made a deal with the associate, who was having financial problems to have his daughter’s hand in marriage. The girl was young enough to be his granddaughter. In fact she swore that she would rather die than marry him! She had given her heart to a young adventurer who was exploring the West Indies in search of his fortune. She had promised to wait for him.
The father wanted to be wealthy but wanted to her also to be happy. He and his friend visited Marie II for help in arranging a wedding. Marie listened intently to their woes and agreed that the wedding would take place. She gave the girl’s father some powder to place in her food every night for the next week. She also gave the older gentleman some herbs that she said would help with his impotence.
After a week had passed, the girl, pale and sick, went to her father and told him that she had changed his mind. She agreed to marry the old man. Two weeks later, the wedding was held in the Cathedral with a reception her in the
Grand Ballroom. As the old man danced his young bride around the ballroom for his guests, he began to gasp for air. He swayed back and forth as his face turned red, then blue. He collapsed to the floor, dead of a heart attack.
The father was horrified and blamed himself for using Voodoo. He went to Marie II and accused her of trickery. Marie
smiled and said, “There was no trick, a wedding is what you asked for and a wedding is what you got.” The story of course had a happy ending.
The young woman became a very wealthy widow and eventually married the man of her choice. The moral of the story is “careful what you wish for.”