Saturday, May 18, 2013

Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen of New Orleans

Marie Laveau was born a free woman of color on September 10, 1794 in Louisiana. She is known to be the most famous and powerful Voodoo Queen in New Orleans. The story of her life and death have some conflicting information and some aspects of her life are simply not concrete. Her father, Charles Laveau, was a white plantation owner and her mother was said to be his mistress and of mixed races. Marie Laveau married Jacques Paris, also a free man of color, around the age of twenty five. Soon after they were married, Paris is said to have gone missing or perhaps died, the accounts aren't entirely sure. Either way Marie started calling herself the "Widow Paris" as was custom in that time. Within a little while after Paris's death Marie married Christophe de Glapion and together they had anywhere from seven to fifteen children.

Her occult practice was a mix of Roman Catholic beliefs, Saints and African spirits. She was renowned for her magical capabilities and is reputed to have had a large multiracial following. At some point she is said to have become a hairdresser and soon became a confidant and magical practitioner for the multiracial women who employed her. Her magical skills were said to be strong in matters of love and money. She was also an accomplished healer, knowledgeable in medicinal herbs and was a nurse during the yellow fever outbreak. Marie is said to have been a spiritual healer and would sit with people who were about to pass over and guide them peacefully to the afterlife. Eventually everyone was coming to Marie Laveau for advice and for magical concerns.

One of her daughters, also named Marie Laveau, is said to have followed in her mothers footsteps and together they created and held large ceremonies such as the festivities of St. John's Eve which is celebrated on June 23rd and coincides with the summer solstice. This was a huge gathering with hundreds, and reputedly thousands of spectators at one point, and is a sacred day on the Voodoo calendar. The festival consisted of drumming, dancing, bonfires and offerings to the Voodoo spirits. During this ceremony Marie danced with her snake and sat on her throne presiding over the ceremony.

There is much mystery surrounding Marie's life and death. Accounts say that she died in 1881 peacefully in her home. Although some reports claim that she was seen walking the streets on the night of her death and after. Other accounts say that she was seen performing rituals as late as 1890. Her daughter, who is said to have looked like her, took over the spiritual practice and became a Voodoo Queen herself and historical accounts often confuse the two. Marie is buried in St. Louis Cemetery number one in the Glapion family crypt. Each year many people visit her tomb and bring offerings of white rum, candy and money for Marie's blessing. People also draw three X's on her tomb in hopes that she will grant their wish.

Some people say that Marie Laveau never died and that her spirit lives on in New Orleans. In Voodoo religion a Queen practitioner who dies is said to advance to the next spiritual realm. Honor this famous Voodooienne on her birthday and on St. John's eve or the summer solstice. 

Photo courtesy of Carolina Gonzalez

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