Marie Catherine Laveau
September 10, 1801
|Died||June 15, 1881 (aged 79)|
|Resting place||Saint Louis Cemetery|
|Occupation||Occultist, voodoo priestess, midwife, nurse|
|Known for||Voodoo Queen of New Orleans|
|Spouse(s)||Jacques Paris, Christophe Glapion|
|Voodoo Queen of New Orleans|
|Born||September 10, 1801|
French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
|Died||June 15, 1881 (aged 79)|
New Orleans, Louisiana
|Venerated in||Louisiana Voodoo, Folk Catholicism|
|Major shrine||International Shrine of Marie Laveau , New Orleans Healing Center circa 2015|
|Feast||June 15th, September 10th|
|Patronage||Mothers, Children, Fevers, Love, Volunteerism|
Tradition or genre
Marie Catherine Laveau (September 10, 1801– June 15, 1881)[nb 1] was a Louisiana Creole practitioner of Voodoo, who was renowned in New Orleans. Her daughter, Marie Laveau II, (1827 — c. 1862) also practiced rootwork, conjure, Native American and African spiritualism as well as Louisiana or what is known today as New Orleans Voodoo.
Historical records surmise that Marie Laveau was born free in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, Thursday September 10, 1801. She was the biological daughter of Marguerite Henry (also known as Marguerite D'Arcantel), a free woman of colour who was of Native American, African and French descent, and Charles Laveau Trudeau, surveyor and politician. On August 4, 1819, she married Jacques Paris (also known as Jacques Santiago, in other records), a French immigrant who had fled as a white refugee from the black Haitian Revolution in the former French territory Saint-Domingue. Their marriage certificate is preserved in the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. The wedding mass was performed by Father Antonio de Sedella, the Capuchin priest known as Pere Antoine.
The death of Jacques Paris was recorded in 1820. He was part of a large French immigration of refugees to New Orleans in 1809, after the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804. They had two daughters, Felicite in 1817 and Angele in 1820. Both disappear from the records in the 1820s.
Little is known with certainty about the life of Marie Catherine Laveau. Marie Catherine (1801-1881) was approximately 1/3 each African, Native American and white. Laveau's only two children to survive into adulthood were daughters. The elder named Marie Euchariste Eloise Laveau (1827-1860-2), the second daughter was named Marie Philomene Glapion (1836-1897). It is not known which of these daughters went on to become Marie II.
Following the reported death of her husband, she entered a domestic partnership with Christophe Dominick Duminy de Glapion, (a white man of French descent) with whom she lived until his death in 1855. They were reported to have had 15 children (or, perhaps 15 children and grandchildren). They had seven children according to birth and baptismal records.
While it is difficult to determine the histories of the two Maries in tradition, it is believed that the elder Marie was a dedicated practitioner of Voodoo. The younger displayed more theatrical rubrics by holding public events (including inviting attendees to St. John's Eve rituals on Bayou St. John). "Laveau was said to have traveled the streets like she owned them" said one New Orleans boy who attended an event at St. John's. It is not known which (if either) had done more to establish the voodoo queen reputation.
Marie Laveau I started a beauty parlor where she was a hair-dresser for the wealthier families of New Orleans. Of Laveau's magical career, there is little that can be substantiated, including whether or not she had a snake she named Zombi after an African god, whether the occult part of her magic mixed Roman Catholic saints with African spirits, or whether her divinations were supported by a network of informants she developed while working as a hairdresser in prominent white households. She appeared to excel at obtaining inside information on her wealthy patrons by instilling fear in their servants whom she either paid or cured of mysterious ailments.
On June 17, 1881, it was announced in the Daily Picayune that Marie Laveau had died peacefully in her home. However, oral tradition states that she was seen by some people in town after her supposed demise. One of her daughters, also named Marie (a French Catholic tradition to have the first names of daughters be Marie, and boys Joseph, then each use middle name as common name) possibly assumed her position, with her name, and carried on her magical practice, taking over as the queen soon before or after the first Marie's death.
Marie Catherine Laveau Paris Glapion died on June 15, 1881, aged 79. The different spellings of her surname result from many different women with the same name in New Orleans at the time, and her age at death from conflicting accounts of her birth date.
Laveau's name and her history have been surrounded by legend and lore. In 1982, New Jersey-based punk rock group The Misfits were arrested and accused of attempting to exhume Laveau from her grave after a local concert. The arrest took place in nearby Cemetery No. 2 and there are conflicting accounts of the incident.
Marie Laveau is generally believed to have been buried in plot 347, the Glapion family crypt in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans, but this has been disputed by Robert Tallant, a journalist who used her as a character in historical novels. Tourists continue to visit and some draw X marks in accordance with a decades-old tradition that if people wanted Laveau to grant them a wish, they had to draw an X on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and if it was granted, come back, circle their X, and leave Laveau an offering.
The tomb in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 was vandalized by an unknown person on December 17, 2013, by being painted over with pink latex paint. The paint was removed because the structure is made of old plaster and the latex paint would seal in moisture that would destroy the plaster. Some historical preservation experts criticized the decision by officials of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, who maintain the cemetery, for their decision to use pressure washing rather than paint stripper to remove it.
As of March 1, 2015, there is no longer public access to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Entry with a tour guide is required because of continued vandalism and destruction of tombs. This change was made by the Archdiocese of New Orleans to protect the tombs of the Laveau family as well as those of the many other dead interred there.
Because of her prominence within the history of Voodoo in New Orleans, Laveau has inspired a number of artistic renditions.
Numerous songs about Marie Laveau have been recorded, including "Marie La Veau" by Papa Celestin, "Marie Laveau" written by Shel Silverstein and Baxter Taylor and recorded by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show (1972), and Bobby Bare (1974), "The Witch Queen of New Orleans" (1971) by Redbone, "Dixie Drug Store" by Grant Lee Buffalo, "X Marks the Spot (Marie Laveau)" by Joe Sample, "Marie Laveau" by Dr. John, "Marie Laveau" (2013) by Tao Of Sound, "Voodoo Queen Marie" to the minstrel tune "Colored Aristocracy" by The Holy Modal Rounders, "The Witch Queen of New Orleans" by Total Toly, and "The Widow Paris" by The Get Up Kids. Most recently the Danish metal band Volbeat released an album with a song entitled "Marie Laveau" (Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie, 2016). Marie Laveau is mentioned in the song "I Will Play for Gumbo" (1999) by Jimmy Buffett and “Clare” by The Fairground Attraction. Two of Laveau's nephews, banjoist Raymond Glapion and bassist Alcide "Slow Drag" Pavageau, became prominent New Orleans jazz musicians.
Laveau has offered inspiration for a number of fictional characters as well.
She is the protagonist of such novels as Robert Tallant's The Voodoo Queen (1956), Francine Prose's eponymous Marie Laveau (1977), and Jewell Parker Rhodes' Voodoo Dreams: A Novel of Marie Laveau (1993). Laveau appears as a supporting character in the Night Huntress novels by Jeaniene Frost, as a powerful ghoul still living in New Orleans in the 21st century. She also appears as a background character in Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January mystery series, set in New Orleans. Marie Laveau appears in Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods, under her married name, Marie Paris. Marie Laveau's tomb is the site of a secret, fictional underground Voodoo workshop in the Caster Chronicles novel Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Laveau's grave site is the setting of a pivotal scene in Robert J. Randisi's short story, "Cold As The Gun," from Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero. The mother of Hazel Levesque, one of the characters from Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus book series, was known as "Queen Marie," a famous fortune teller who lived in New Orleans. In Charlaine Harris' True Blood (Sookie Stackhouse novels) book series, the character Hadley is lured to her death at the site of Marie Laveau's tomb.
A character named Marie Laveau, based loosely on the real Marie Laveau, appears in Marvel Comics. She first appeared in Dracula Lives #2 in 1973. She is depicted as a powerful sorceress and Voodoo priestess with great magical powers and knowledge of arcane lore, including the creation of a potion made from vampire's blood that keeps her eternally youthful and beautiful. A character named Marie Laveau also appears in the Italian comic book Zagor.
In television, a heavily fictionalized Marie Laveau (portrayed by Angela Bassett) appears as a character in American Horror Story: Coven and American Horror Story: Apocalypse. She also appears in the Canadian television series Lost Girl (portrayed by Marci T. House) in episode 11 of season 4, Young Sheldon (portrayed by Sharon Ferguson) in episode 7 of season 1, and Legends of Tomorrow (portrayed by Joyce Guy) in episode 7 of season 4.
Angie Green, executive director of Save Our Cemeteries, a non-profit that works to preserve historic cemeteries throughout the city, said she doesn't know "for sure" who is responsible for painting the vault but has a prime suspect in mind. Two weeks earlier, Green said she caught a young, clean-cut man in his early 20s painting a tomb in the back of the cemetery a "creamish, yellowish, beige." The tomb, like Laveau's, was covered in hundreds of Xs drawn on its surface by tourists. Decades ago, someone started a rumor that if people wanted Laveau to grant them a wish, they had to draw an X on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and if it was granted, come back, circle their X, and leave Laveau an offering, said tour guide Renee Dodge. Over the years the practice spread to several other tombs in the cemetery including the one the young man was attempting to paint over two weeks before Laveau's tomb was vandalized. Green said she called the police but declined to press charges. "I didn't think he was a threat. I spoke with him and it seemed he thought he was trying to do the right thing (by covering up the Xs)," Green said. "The police said he was someone they knew, a homeless, mentally unstable kid. So we are pretty sure it was him (who painted Laveau's tomb) but no one knows for sure." .... There are even questions whether the now pink tomb in St. Louis No. 1 is actually the burial site of Laveau. The person who married into the Glapion family that owns the tomb but there is no hard evidence that is where she was buried, Green said. "I've heard strong arguments for the tomb in (St. Louis) No. 1 or multiple tombs in (St. Louis) No 2," she said.
But when Angie Green, executive director of Save Our Cemeteries, a nonprofit group that works to preserve historic cemeteries throughout the city, saw someone blasting Laveau's tomb with a high-pressure water gun she said she immediately called the Archdiocese. "Pressure washing is terrible for any old building," Green said. "When I first saw them doing it they had two sides done and there were chips of brick and plaster from the tomb all over the ground. I asked them to stop and everyone (at the Archdiocese) said they would stop but they are still doing it." [Sarah McDonald, director of communications for the Archdiocese,] said Green's allegation that the pressure washing is inflicting significant damage is "inaccurate."
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