The Life & Power of Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen
The New Orleans Voodoo Queen
Marie Laveau was a well-known woman who lived in New Orleans in the 1800s. What was Marie Laveau well known for, exactly? Today Marie Laveau is known as the New Orleans Voodoo Queen, but back in her hay day Marie Laveau was known as a very powerful woman. Not only did she have wisdom but she had strong magick within her grasp.
Today hundreds of people visit her supposed grave in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans in hopes that the Voodoo Queen will grant their wishes. The ghost of Marie Laveau is said to haunt the cemetery, while others believe that she is not a ghost but indeed a powerful spirit of Voodoo...a loa. In this article we will take a brief look at Marie Laveau's life and the New Orleans Voodoo legacy that Marie left behind.
Marie Laveau was considered a "free woman of color", of which there were quite a few in New Orleans in the 1800s unlike in places throughout the rest of the United States. Being of a mixed descent, Marie Laveau was said to have been part Native American, part African, and part white-Creole. She was thought to have been a beautiful woman with piercing eyes and caramel-colored skin. Different historians and theorists debate the actual birthdate of Marie Laveau but the accounts range from 1794 up to 1806. There is no legal, historical documentation to back up any particular birthdate, unfortunately. Marie Laveau's parents were Charles Laveaux (a wealthy Creole plantation owner) and his mistress, a woman who was reportedly part Native and part African.
Marie grew up in New Orleans and was said to have learned the practice of Voodoo from a wise, local Voodoo priest. When Marie was around the age of 25, she married for the first time. The man's name was Jacques Paris, and due to the man's disappearance, Marie Laveau became known as the "Widow Paris". Some speculations have gone around that Marie rid herself of him by way of powerful voodoo magic. Speculations also abound that Jacques was either abusive or simply a deadbeat...and for Marie Laveau to gain more power and strength in the New Orleans community and with her magical practice, he had to go. No trial ever came against Marie Laveau but no body was found either...so everyone assumed that Jacques Paris was dead.
In the meantime, aside from Marie's homelife, Marie Laveau was very busy building relationships with some well-known figures in the New Orleans community including the Father Pere Antoine of the St. Louis Catholic Church. It is even rumored that Father Pere Antoine would allow for Marie Laveau to perform Vodoun magic right at the front of the Church, at the altar. To many community citizens, this was pure blasphemy...to others who knew and acquired help from Marie Laveau, her practice was special, accepted, and even necessary. It was said that outside of Marie's devout dedication to the Catholic Church and aiding Pere Antoine's religious & community needs, Marie Laveau conducted Voodoo gatherings or "circles". Everyone from the new slaves in New Orleans to the rich white women would join Marie Laveau's Voodoo circles. Witnesses' accounts of these Voodoo circles told tales of large bonfires and black men and women wildly dancing around the fires. Some even said that the women's bodies would "wriggle and writhe like a snake"....while many others claimed that the women would dance with literal snakes wrapped around their bodies. Marie Laveau herself was reportedly accompanied by a pet snake on many occasions.
You may be wondering, why didn't anyone stop these voodoo circles from happening? Wouldn't the local law enforcement break up these wild parties? Actually a few times the police were called in to break up or neutralize Marie Laveau's voodoo circles; however, Marie Laveau would supposedly use powerful Voodoo magic to keep the police officers at bay...in one case (according to a local at the time) almost "zombifying" the police officers. The Voodoo rites continued...
One story has been told time and time again of Marie's practice with Voodoo and the unadulterated aid given to her community. One particularly rich gentleman had a son who was on trial for "something that he didn't do." This man consulted the powerful Marie Laveau for her help in acquitting his son of the allegedly-incorrect charges. Legend has it that Marie Laveau went to St. Louis Church, and prayed for 3 straight days that the man would be acquitted of his charges. But she didn't JUST pray for 3 days...she also stuck extremely hot peppers (3 to be exact) in her mouth and held them there while she prayed for the entire 72 hours. The idea behind this practice is that pain and suffering would grab the attention or honor and respect from God and the Saints (and in the eyes of Voodoo practices the spirits or the "Loa") in exchange the spirits or God or both would grant her prayers. The man on trial was acquitted within days' time. Some people argue that this was because Marie Laveau knew the judge personally and simply convinced or made a deal with him to acquit the man. Others (like myself) believe in the power of intent and do believe in magic, just as Marie Laveau the Voodoo Queen did.
Marie Laveau ended up marrying a second time. She married a man named Louis Christophe Dumesnil de Glapion, though the marriage was actually sort of kept a secret...many people thought that Christophe was only a lover of Marie's. Unlike many "free women of color" in New Orleans in the nineteenth century, Marie Laveau refused to marry any of the richer white men and be hidden away from their "daytime lives". Many free women of color in those days were courted, sometimes married, and impregnated by a rich white man...all to have this relationship and seed of the relationship hidden from society's eye...sometimes even their own rich wives' eyes. Marie Laveau refused to go this route...it was degrading and she was more than that. In a way, you could say Marie Laveau was a strong feminist...fighting for women's rights even then. She is said to have had fifteen children with her second husband, one of which told many stories of her mother that were the exact opposite of what society in New Orleans knew of her mother. Some believe that she was merely trying to tone down the stories to keep the press and drama away from herself. One of her children was a daughter whom she named after herself....Marie Laveau the 2nd. She would also go on to be a powerful woman, both politically and magically just like her mother.
Another intriguing fact about Marie Laveau is that many people believe that she was a hairdresser who had quite a few wealthy white female clients. Some say that this is where Marie's real power stemmed from...having connections and her wonderful political and religious networking skills. This to me is simply another "logical explanation" to something that most people can't understand and try to brush off as just another hoax or scam.
Many people in New Orleans would go to Marie Laveau for healing, protection, court & legal issues, relationship advice, and much much more. Her power and intelligence was spoken of all over the city during her life, and is still spoken of today. The question now is what was the source of Marie Laveau's power? Was it here connections with politicians and religious officials? Or was it perhaps her knowledge and relationships with the spirits of Voodoo?
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Her Lasting Power
Since Marie's estimated death in the 1860s, multitudes of people (specifically Vodoun practitioners) flock to New Orleans to see the grave of the Voodoo Queen. There is one particular above-ground grave in the Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans that is thought to be the grave of Marie Laveau, though there is some argument as to whether it is Marie Laveau the first or 2nd. If you go there, you will see there are X marks all over the grave....these X marks are wishes that people have made. There is an old legend that if one is to mark three Xs on Marie Laveau's grave that she will be with you and grant you wishes or aid. There is also always gifts or offerings left at the base of Marie Laveau's grave, including flowers, cigars, alcohol, pictures, and more.
Marie Laveau lived and made an influence on New Orleans history in the nineteenth century, but she probably had no idea that some Voodoo practitioners would even consider her a Loa one day. Some people believe that Marie Laveau was actually a saint. She aided the poor and needy, she reached into the darkest parts of her soul to find her inner spirit, she was even thought to have been a nurse during the War.
Some people think that Marie Laveau's ghost haunts New Orleans, specifically the Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen her spirit traipsing around the cemetery, very near to her supposed gravesite. Whether Marie Laveau's ghost still visits New Orleans or not could probably never be proven; however, the power of Marie Laveau's Voodoo magic has lasted for centuries and still lingers in the air in New Orleans today. Visit Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo in New Orleans and get a small taste of what New Orleans Voodoo was like centuries ago when Marie Laveau was still performing Voodoo rites in Congo Square in New Orleans.
Written and owned © by Kitty the Dreamer, 2012. All Rights Reserved.