In 1801 a black girl is born free during slavery, racism and fear. Charles Laveaux and his love Marguerite D’Arcantel named her Marie Laveaux (later spelled Laveau).
Marie was born to free people of color. Charles was high society. He owned a New Orleans grocery store. His father (Marie’s grandfather) was the surveyor Charles Trudeau, credited with designing Lafayette Park and serving as interim mayor of New Orleans in 1812.
Not much is known about Marguerite. Once a “domestic partner” to Frenchman Henri D’Arcantel. Meaning a relationship of convenience. Many women of color would use white men for their freedom.
Marie was born out of an “affair” between Marguerite and Charles. She was still married to Henri. Possible truth, Henri didn’t care.
Legend states Marguerite was a spiritualist. It fits considering what her daughter would become.
“Free people of color” pre-date slavery in the United States. This law used in Louisiana by Creole men (original French settlers) who fell in love with mixed-race women.
The Voodoo Queen
Unlike the feared stereotype created by the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau herself… the real woman was beautiful, kind and adored. This gave her attention. She never shied away.
At a young age in 1819, Marie Laveau married Jacques Paris. Ended quickly in 1820 when Jacques mysteriously vanished. No body found. Some say he ran away to his home in Haiti.
Jacques was declared dead and Marie called herself the “Widow Paris”. Then 6 years later Marie Laveau met Christophe de Glapion.
Christophe was from a French family, a Creole and free person of color. His pale skin tricked many into thinking he was white. Christophe’s kind nature and endless respect for Marie made him a perfect match.
They had 5 kids together… not the rumored 15. Confusion was common because of tricks played by Marie and her daughter (also Marie). The truth was 15 total, kids and grand kids
Christophe died in 1855, and just like ex-husband Jacques Paris it was in mystery. No details, just that his death left Marie and the kids in debt.
She was kicked out of her beloved home on St. Ann Street. Depressing because Marie owned that house.
The Cottage on St. Ann —
The cottage on St. Ann Street was once owned by a rich local man who had it built from clay and moss in the 1700’s. One day the rich man’s son was arrested and put in jail for unknown reasons.
He went to Marie Laveau. She agreed to help, spending 9 days inside St. Louis Cathedral. She spoke for the boy while kneeling in prayer with an offering of pain. Hot peppers burning under her tongue.
Pain was penance and the peppers soaked up the magic. Then arranging for those same peppers to be placed under the judge’s chair before the son’s trial. The boy was freed that same day.
The grateful man gave Marie Laveau the cottage on St. Ann as a gift.
Christophe’s death caused debt and the house to be taken away, but her deeds gave it right back.
A “friend” purchased the cottage and allowed Marie and the family to remain forever, rent free.
The St. Ann cottage was demolished in 1903. The house at 1020 St. Ann Street marks the approximate location. Now a tourist attraction.
The Many “Friends” of Marie Laveau – –
Friend means “one beholden to the Voodoo Queen” for different reasons.
She kept their secrets. Marie knew them all from slave quarters to high society.
Many said it was Voodoo, but most likely gossip. Marie Laveau was a hairdresser for high-society women who gossiped all the time. They’d forget she was listening. The women spilled secrets about friends and family, all the powerful of New Orleans.
And there was Marie’s network of slaves and servants in every household. She offered rewards for information.
It’s said Marie Laveau knew more about the people of New Orleans than the government.
When did Marie die – –
On Thursday June 16th, 1881, Marie died peacefully in bed inside the St. Ann Cottage… or was she accidentally beheaded as some newspapers reported… or maybe she’s not dead and walks the streets to this day.
Marie Laveau did walk the streets of the French Quarter for years after her death. They said was her. It was actually Marie Leavau the 2nd (or Marie II), her daughter with Christophe.
A perfect example of the many tricks pulled on New Orleans to show her powers.
Marie did die in 1881 but where are her remains? Believed to be inside the de Glapion family crypt in Saint Louis #1, but no one knows for sure.
This doesn’t stop fans. With tradition steeped in Catholic and African lore, followers pay homage to the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans by raising her ghost.
How to Raise the Ghost of Marie Laveau
With the number 3 and the letter X.
Both significant to Voodoo, appearing in spells and folklore. For example, do wrong and it’s visited back on you 3-fold. And X is an African symbol for dying and coming back.
- Deface the grave of Marie Laveau with X X X in black chalk
- Knock three times to show your presence
It’s said that same night Marie’s angry ghost will visit you.
Even touching the grave is bad luck. A friend and local paranormal investigator tried this on a visit to New Orleans. She’s okay!
Marie the Saint
Confusion follows Marie Laveau to this day.
We know she was connected to Voodoo, the hacked magic from different traditions coming to Louisiana via the Haitian slave population.
Marie was demonized by organized religion as a living example of how Voodoo can be good. She was the center of attention, this beautiful woman with “powers”. Citizens turned to her for help.
In 1853 Yellow Fever hit New Orleans. Marie Laveau saved lives and helped others die comfortably. She was always around. In hospital wards and the streets, using her knowledge of herbs and Voodoo prayer.
The church hated how people loved her. They propagated rumors of evil. So ironic considering Marie Laveau was very religious, turning to the church after Christophe died and converting many as a Christian advocate.
But she was a rebel. Marie Laveau turned away from the day’s “religious morality”, like their acceptance of slavery. Christianity in 1800’s New Orleans supported slavery because of multiple passages in the Bible.
She was free and an advocate for those who were not. So why did Marie Laveau own slaves? To free them.
A slave named Alexandrine – –
Alexandrine came to the Laveau household after being purchased by Jean Jacques Christophe Paris.
Recognize the names? All fake, combining Marie’s two husbands and acting as an identity used to secure secured ownership of Alexandrine for 10 days. Marie sold Alexandrine to a plantation owner named Mr. Dumartrait. In return she got 1000 Spanish Piasters.
Not nefarious at all. Piasters didn’t exist in 1800’s New Orleans. No money was passed. This created a legal loophole and Alexandrine was now free.
Mr. Dumartrait was real. A white man in love with Alexandrine. And since both were now free, any children they have would also be free, as would their grand kids and so on. All thanks to Marie Laveau.
Marie Laveau the Devil
The dark council of Marie Laveau was sought by powerful men. They’d sit with her in the St. Ann cottage and discuss business matters. Marie gave advice and she was always right.
Many questioned how a free woman of color could know the business of powerful men. So they called it Voodoo. Said these men sold their souls to the devil and her name was Marie Laveau.
Many would be insulted by such a reputation. Not Marie. She welcomed the fear in a very superstitious French Quarter. Fear began her reign as a Voodoo Queen.
Doctor John – –
Marie Laveau disappeared for a time. Legend says she went to train with a famous Voodoo priest named Doctor John.
Rumored to be a free man of color with experience in dark magic. He stayed out of the public eye.
If Doctor John did existed, many believed he was Jean Montanet (or Montanee), an African man born in Senegal in 1785. A Voodoo priest practicing in the slave gatherings of Congo Square (now Louis Armstrong Park).
Years after Marie Laveau’s death, her daughter referred to Doctor John not as a person but an African ghost who assisted with rituals.
Living the image – –
In 1830 Marie returned from Doctor John as a Voodoo Queen. She loved the publicity.
Playing her part in public rituals with her pet snake draped over her shoulders. Snakes are important to Voodoo. Li Grand Zombi (Zombi to his friends) was seen with Marie a lot.
Marie Laveau’s eternal youth – –
Marie Laveau II was Marie’s daughter. Confusing for a reason. It remains one of the greatest tricks she ever played. Making people think she was immortal and eternally young.
Marie II looked just like her mother. When Marie got old, Marie II appeared at all public gatherings. She told people she was her mother. They’d ask, “how do you look so young?” She’d only smile.
They all believed Marie Laveau found youth through Voodoo. An easy thought as Marie II was a brilliant Voodoo priestess.
Marie Laveau did die peacefully in her bed at the St. Ann Cottage in 1881. Her daughter would die in 1897 while crossing Lake Pontchartrain. In a small boat during a flood. She fell in and drowned.
The Fiction of Marie Laveau
She’s “evil” because many writers say so. This included Robert Tallant, a columnist for a New Orleans’ newspaper. In 1946 he released a book called “The Voodoo Queen: A Novel”.
Reported that Marie conducted violent and bloody rituals. Said she was leader of a satanic cult.
In 1957 he died. It was strange, and if happening to someone else Robert would have believed it the work of Marie Laveau’s ghost.
Was only 48 years old when he dropped dead in his apartment while drinking a glass of tap water. Deemed natural causes. No explanation given.
The Legend & Ghost of the Voodoo Queen
Marie Laveau lives on through tales of her ghost. Locals of New Orleans think she walks around the French Quarter as the reanimated dead.
What the vagrant saw – –
During the Great Depression a homeless man passed through New Orleans. Finding a comfortable place to sleep inside Saint Louis #1 Cemetery, he laid down by the de Glapion crypt.
Near the witching hour of 3am. He woke to sounds of chanting and drums. Looked up to see naked people. They danced around a beautiful black woman who stood still. A large snake wrapped around her shoulders.
The ghost of Marie – –
People claim to see Marie Laveau near the house that stands where her beloved St. Ann Cottage once was. Dressed in white with a handkerchief around her neck and iconic wrap over her head.
Marie was known for this fashion it in the 1800’s. It would stand out today.
Others say Marie Laveau transforms into a black crow and flies into Saint Louis #1. Speaking of crows in that cemetery…
Daniel of the Ghost Walks’ experience in Saint Louis #1 – –
“On a visit to New Orleans, we took an early tour of the cemetery as people are only allowed in before 3pm in the very bad neighborhood.
“About to enter and I noticed a man sneak through the gates. He looked suspicious but we had nothing to fear in such a large group. I soon forgot about the man, until finding what he left behind.
“Down an aisle near Marie Laveau’s crypt, a large black crow lay dead on the ground. Its head removed and placed an inch from severed neck neck, and its wings spread out.
“This disgusting act was done moments earlier. I believe the man did it to represent dark Voodoo… or probably the act of a disturbed mind.”
Elmore Lee Banks – –
This story comes from the book Voodoo Queen by Robert Tallant (see above)… means take it with a grain of salt.
In the 1930’s Elmore Lee Banks walked into a local drug store. While browsing he heard the front door bell.
From the aisle he saw the cashier’s face frozen in fear. Elmore thought it was a robbery. Standing quiet, he nervously waited for the cashier’s yell, or maybe see him duck. Nothing.
Elmore walked up. An elderly black woman turned towards him. “Don’t you know me?”
“No”, and she slapped Elmore across the face.
The woman went out the door with speed not fitting her feeble look. Elmore running out onto an empty street. She was gone. He looked up and watched in shocked silence as the old woman flew up and over the wall of Saint Louis #1 Cemetery.
Inside the store Elmore found the cashier passed out in the backroom. He shook the man who woke and yelled, “That was Marie Laveau!”
Marie’s mercy – –
When Marie was still alive two men were convicted for killing a slave girl. Their hanging was set days later and drew a large crowd. Everyone gathered around a double gallows to see justice be done.
All was calm until the executioner arrived. Rust colored clouds filled the once blue sky. Thunder exploded and lightning split them as some women screamed.
Then as quick as it came, the storm was gone.
The executioner gained his wits and pulled that lever. The trap door released and the condemned men fell… right through their tight and proper nooses. Landing safely on the ground.
The men were hanged successfully on the second try but the message was clear.
Marie Laveau wasn’t happy about the violent display. She felt justice is decided by nature, not people.
The great Voodoo Queen’s power is respected today as much as it was back then. Something that would make Marie Laveau very happy.