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home > articles > The voodoo queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau

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The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans

Marie Laveau

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3

The streets of the New Orleans French Quarter hold the tales of dark history the likes us Canadians cannot know. Many of the stories belong to the Voodoo Queen of Louisiana, a woman so shrouded in mystery that facts of her life are now lost forever.

Mansfield Reformatory
Portrait, 1920 by Franck Schneider
On display at the Louisiana Museum

Marie Laveau was born on Wednesday September 10th, 1794 to plantation owner Charles Laveaux and his love, a free Creole woman of color named Marguerite Darcantel.

The Creole’s were Louisiana natives of French and Spanish decent. This gave even a woman of African lineage respect. Then being a free person of color gave you the same freedoms as the white’s.

“Free people of color” pre-date slavery in the United States and was used only in Louisiana by Creole men who fell in love with mixed-race woman. Any children of these unions were given the best life and education New Orleans could offer.

Laveaux was so in love with Marguerite, that he wanted the world to know about their first-born daughter Marie. He had Marie declared a “natural daughter”, making her and all of her future children free.

The Laveaux plantation once existed on Love Street (now Rampart).

The house at 1020 St. Ann Street
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Not far from the former plantation on St. Ann Street was a historic cottage owned by a wealthy local man. The cottage was built in 1730 by the French, not of brick, but of clay and moss. This would become the home of Marie Laveau’s. She was given it for nothing after saving the wealthy man’s son from prison.

One night the boy was arrested and put in jail for unknown reasons. His father went straight to Marie begging for her help. She agreed and spent the next nine days going to St. Louis Cathedral. She would kneel before God and pray for the boy’s freedom, and as an offering, she held hot peppers under her tongue. The pain was her payment for the boy’s release.

Marie arranged for those peppers to be placed under the Judge’s chair as the boy’s trail commenced. The boy was set free, and his father was so impressed he gave Marie the cottage at St. Ann as payment.

This would be her home for many years, and was the location of her secret and mysterious death, believed to be on Thursday June 16th, 1881. Some say Marie Laveau died in 1897, and that she lived to be over 100 years old, but this isn’t true. See Marie the Second.

The cottage was demolished in 1903. The house that now stands at 1020 St. Ann Street marks the approximate location of Marie Laveau’s house, and is now a tourist attraction.

The Life and Death of the Voodoo Queen
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Marie Laveau wasn’t a homely girl. She was very beautiful, kind and well liked. This made her popular and she never shied away from the attention.

In 1819, at the age of 24 she married her first husband, Jacques Paris. It wouldn’t last long. Jacques disappeared in 1820. Rumours spread that Marie was involved in the disappearance, but this faded because of the respect other had for her. They would accept the idea that Jacques ran away from his responsibilities and returned to his native Haiti.

However, some held on to the idea that Marie was involved, that Jacques was an abusive and controlling husband. Marie Laveau was the furthest thing from a submissive housewife, and would never have stood for this behaviour. Jacques was never seen in New Orleans again and there are no records of a man with this name returning to Haiti.

Obviously not a broken woman, it didn’t take long for Marie to move on. Her next husband was different in a much better way. Christophe de Glapion came from one of the pioneer French family’s of New Orleans; he was a Creole and legally considered a free person of color, even though you would never know it by looking at his pale skin.

Christophe’s kind nature and endless respect for Marie made this the perfect match. This union produced five children, going against the rumour that there were fifteen kids. The number fifteen was debunked years ago, blamed on the confusion of the Laveau family generations, and with the tricks played by Marie and her daughter, Marie the Second. The fifteen children included all of the grandkids.

In 1835 Christophe died. We here at Haunted Hamilton were unable to find details of his death (if you have any information, please email danielc@hauntedhamilton.com, and we’ll update the article).

This left Marie on her own, but far from alone. She had lots of family and friends to help. Marie Laveau always surrounded by people she trusted throughout her life. Her death however, was a secret affair.

On Thursday June 16, 1881, Marie Laveau passed away secretly in her home on St. Ann Street. This was reported by a New Orleans newspaper, but the method of death was as extravagant and violent as some rumoured her life. The paper said Marie Laveau was accidentally beheaded while on the second floor of her house.

After this article, many saw Marie walking the streets of the French Quarter as she always did. What they were actually seeing was Marie the Second. Many years later, when the trick was done and Marie the Second was dead, everybody knew the Voodoo Queen was gone.

It was then that details escaped about her real death. They say Marie Laveau died of natural causes (she was 86 at the time), that she didn’t struggle, and was smiling when death took her.

This mystery was solved, but nobody knew for sure where the Queen rested. The Glapion family crypt is the official spot, within New Orleans oldest cemetery Saint Louis #1. She’s said to be in this multi-level structure with her beloved husband, but nobody knows for sure.

This didn’t stop her followers from looking to the Queen for help even after her death. Tradition has risen from this grave, steeped in Catholic and African lore, as a way to call upon the spirit of Marie Laveau.

How to summon Marie Laveau

The number three is significant to Voodoo, appearing in many spells and folklore (such as doing wrong will be visited back on you three-fold).

The letter X is an African symbol for crossing over from the living to the dead (and vice-versa).

They say if you

  1. Deface the grave of Marie Laveau by drawing three X’s in black chalk
  2. Knock three times to make your presence known
  3. You will be visited by her angry spirit that very night
It’s also rumoured that just touching the grave will bring bad luck. Stephanie of Haunted Hamilton did this when we visited New Orleans in 2007. She’s still ok!

 

Marie the Saint and Devil on the Next Page >>

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