When a devout Catholic becomes history’s most infamous practitioner of Voodoo, where does fact slip away and fiction reign? The life and legacy of Marie Laveau, immortalized as “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans,” is shrouded in mystery.
Portrait of Marie Laveau, Frank Schneider (after George Catlin), Louisiana State Museum
A skeptical Bill Murphy, writer for The Maroon Vol. 42 No. 11 (1966), briefly discusses Marie Laveau as both a historical figure and legendary character of New Orleans. The few known facts about Marie Laveau as provided by Murphy are as follows:
1. Marie Lavoux (as it was then written) was a free mulatto, born to the family of Charles Lavoux, at New Orleans, in 1794.
2. At the age of 15, she married a free mulatto carpenter named Jacques Paris. The marriage was preformed by the famous Pere Antoine on August 4, 1819.
3. The couple resided at a house in the 1900 block of North Rampart Street until the death of Paris in 1822.
4. Widowed, Laveau became a hairdresser to the wealthy women of New Orleans as a means of support.
5. In 1826 Laveau became the common-law wife of Captain Christopher Duminy Glapion, a free person of color and an officer in the Company of Men of San Domingo.
6. At the beginning of her second marriage, Laveau entered the Voodoo cult which already existed in New Orleans. By the time she was 32, she had assumed both the title and power of the city’s Voodoo Queen.
7. Laveau bore 15 children from her second marriage and lived with Glapion at their home on Saint Ann Street until his death in 1855.
For an in-depth look at Voodoo culture in New Orleans, peruse Robert Tallant’s Voodoo in New Orleans. Tallant, an author not swayed by outlandish rumors, dedicates a full 100 pages to Marie Laveau (and Marie Laveau II) in chapters as fantastically titled as “She Brought Them Gumbo and a Coffin” and “They All Danced Naked as Jaybirds.”
Voodoo in New Orleans endpaper
Marie Laveau has simultaneously terrified, inspired awe, and generally fascinated the public for nearly 2 centuries. Now 134 years after her death, the Voodoo practitioner holds a firm place in popular culture as the topic of chart-topping songs and basis of numerous fictional characters appearing in print and film, alike (most recently on American Horror Story: Coven).
Watch “Marie Laveau” by Bobby Bare on Youtube
Watch “Witch Queen of New Orleans” by Redbone on Youtube
Special Collections & Archives, located on the third floor of Monroe Library, is open for research and quiet study Monday-Friday, 9:00-4:30.
Found in the Archives is a recurring series of crazy cool stuff found in the Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives.