The Mystique of the Voodoo Queen
I realized that, over the 74 blogs that I’ve written for Rathbone I’ve mentioned Marie Laveau, the so-called “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans” a number of times. But, I still don’t know very much about her. I said to myself, “This has to change.” So here goes.
MARIE LAVEAU was born in 1794 in the French Quarter and lived to the ripe old age of 87 – not bad for a lady who lived such a tumultuous life! Why do I say this? Well, for the first time I read that she had 17 children – that is pretty unbelievable – in any day and age. Even more so when you realize that she is one of the most well known historic figures in the history of New Orleans.
SHE WAS BORN FREE. Her mother was a freed slave named Marguerite Darcantrel and her father was a rich and free mulatto (a person of mixed black-and-white ancestry, especially a person with one black and one white parent) businessman named Charles Laveaux. This meant that Marie was the first generation of her family to be born free.
TAKING A LOOK BACK. The first white settlers of Louisiana were French, usually the second born sons of aristocrats who left France to seek adventure in the New World. These Frenchmen came to be called CREOLE and made up the upper crust of New Orleans. (The word was later used to refer to white Frenchmen as well as people of color.) Many CREOLES today can trace their ancestors back to that time.
MARIE GREW UP on her wealthy father’s plantation where she was educated and studied to be a hairdresser. She was also a devout Catholic and went to church every day of her life.
AT THE AGE OF 25 she married a carpenter named Jacques Paris, a free person of color from Haiti. Their marriage certificate is preserved in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. At this time Marie is described as tall, beautiful and statuesque with curly black hair, golden skin and “good” features (meaning more white than black). Five years later, her husband was missing and presumed dead – although there was evidence that he had deserted her. For whatever reason, she was left with two children to bring up. She began calling herself “The Widow Paris.” CLICK HERE for info about cemeteries in New Orleans.
WORKING AS A HAIRDRESSER and catering to the wealthy white and Creole women of New Orleans in her thirties is considered the beginning of her enduring legend. Many of these women looked upon her as a confidante and told her their most intimate secrets about their husbands and lovers. They even divulged news about their husbands’ mistresses and business affairs. Note: I have always been amazed at what women say while having their hair done.
A SECOND UNION in her thirties happened when she entered into a common law marriage (no formal ceremony or a marriage license) with Louis Christophe Dumesnil de Glapion, a member of a prominent local family and lived with him until his death in 1855. Although she and Glapion never married, she had 15 children by him in rapid succession and ultimately ended her hairdressing career to raise her family.
HER CAREER IN VOODOO began when she learned her craft from Doctor John (a voodoo doctor). By her late thirties she was a Voodoo Queen who combined Voodoo beliefs with Catholic traditions – which made it more acceptable to upper-class New Orleans society. Voodoo is practiced around the world but has no scripture. It is community-centered and supports individual experience and empowerment. CLICK HERE to read more about Halloween/voodoo.
There are tangled tales and myths about Marie Laveau’s powers that went on right into her eighties and, in fact, are alive and well today. CLICK HERE to take a look at voodoo shops in New Orleans.
Do you know that gamblers shout her name when throwing dice? That says it all.