The Queen of Voodoo: The Legend of Marie Laveau
Anyone interested in New Orleans and its history of voodoo is bound to come across the name “Marie Laveau.” Considered a voodoo queen, you might be wondering if she is as mystical as she is typically portrayed. New Orleans is a city that perfectly mixes the Old World with the New. Most of its residents believe in the supernatural. The legend of Marie Laveau is a popular one. She was a black priestess who possessed breathtaking beauty.
Marie Laveau held great power in her community. There are countless rumors of her magical abilities. People visit her grave even today in exchange for a small request and leave tokens. It is impossible to overlook voodoo when we talk about New Orleans. Most people are influenced by the pop-culture perception of voodoo which holds that dolls and zombies are at the heart of voodoo beliefs. However, it is essential to understand that voodoo is a compilation of various West African religions. Religions brought to the Americas by slaves with traditions of indigenous people and the Christianity they adopted. There is more to Marie Laveau than the legend might make you believe.
Born in 1801 to a wealthy mulatto businessman by Charles Laveau and a freed slave by the name of Marguerite, Marie Laveau was the first free person in her family. Her great-grandmother had arrived in New Orleans in 1743 as a slave. Eventually, her grandmother, Catherine, was bought by Francoise Pomet, a successful entrepreneur of color and free woman. She managed to buy her own freedom and established a small home where she went on to have Marie, her granddaughter.
During the 1800s, it was common for free blacks to buy slaves. Laveau even had a few slaves despite being an important figure in the black community and a rather charitable woman. She had a brief marriage with a free mixed black man, after which she had had a relationship with Cristophe Glapion, a noble, white Louisianian man for thirty years. Interracial relationships were a thing in New Orleans during the time, even though there were forbidden to marry by law.
For most of her life, Marie remained a Catholic, and voodoo had no place. Nevertheless, she accepted voodoo, and her front room was filled with offerings, holy images, and candles. She held weekly meetings where the participants were only allowed to wear white. Liquor and food were left as an offering to the spirits. Marie gave advice to her clients on just about everything. Racism and the need for newspapers to publish sensational stories led to most descriptions describing Marie’s ceremonies as drunken orgies. Marie became a prominent position in New Orleans due to her natural theatrics, charitable work, and strong personality. She bailed free women of color, nursed yellow fever patients, and visited prisoners to pray for them.
Marie Laveau died in 1881. However, her popularity only continues to grow. She has been a fantastic inspirational figure for black women in the Deep South. Her rise would have been impossible if it had not been for New Orleans.