The Vodou Queen of New Orleans: Marie Laveau
- Pages: 8
- Word count: 2000
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An anonymous person once said, ““He who influences the thoughts of his times, influences all the times that follow. He has made his impress on eternity.” 1. In one sentence, this quote can perfectly define the life of Marie Laveau. To this day, Marie Laveau is still known as the Vodou Queen of New Orleans. Because of her, Vodou was brought out of the shadows and into popular American culture. She was able to greatly contribute to of the history of African continuities and has had a profound impact on the lives of many African Americans. Along with being a very influential Vodou priestess, she was also a humanitarian. She was a very charitable person known for working tirelessly for the welfare of others. Even though she died in 1881, the spirit of Marie Laveau is present even in this present day. In her 79 years and beyond, Marie Laveau was able to have a great influence on the lives of many through her religious practices and humanitarian efforts. 2. The Early to Mid Life of Marie Laveau
On September 10th, 1794, Marie Catherine Laveau was born free in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She was considered a mulatto, which means she was of mixed white and black blood. People described her as very tall, with black curly hair and reddish skin. She was the daughter of a free Creole woman of color named Marguerite Darcantel and a wealthy white planter named Charles Laveau. Her parents had her baptized under the Catholic faith at the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. She was baptized by Pastor Pere Antoine who is also known as Father Antonio de Sedella; a beloved catholic priest. 3. At the age of 25, she married Jacques Paris. Their wedding took place on August 4th, 1819 at the St. Louis Cathedral. The wedding ceremony was performed by Pastor Pere Antoine; the same pastor who baptized her. To this present day, their marriage certificate is still preserved in Saint Louis Cathedral. Her husband, Jacques Paris, was a free person of color who immigrated to the United States from Haiti in 1809. Paris, along with many other Haitians, immigrated to New Orleans after the Haitian Revolution of 1804. Unfortunately, Jacques Paris died recently after their marriage but not before they had two children. The cause of his death is unknown but considered to be mysterious and due to unexplainable circumstances. 4.
Shortly after the death of her first husband, Marie Laveau began a plaçage with Christophe Glapion. If a couple could not have their marriage legalized because of circumstance such as race, the plaçage system allowed interracial couples to have the equivalent of a common-law marriage. Once again, the marriage did not last long because of the death of Glapion in 1835. Before his death, the couple reportedly had 15 children, including Marie Laveau II. 5. Marie Laveau and Vodou
After the deaths of her husbands, Marie Laveau became a hairdresser for the upper-class women of New Orleans. This enabled her to listen in on gossip and collect a lot of information. Her clients confided in her and told her intimate secrets and fears about their husbands, lovers, estates, and business affairs. Scholars believe that this was the beginning of her Vodou powers. They say that her powers were based her client networks that she developed while working as a hairdresser. 6.
During the time Marie Laveau was working as a hairdresser, she was also training with the famous Dr. John. Many regarded Dr. John as the most powerful Vodou practitioner in New Orleans. With him as her teacher, she was able to learn how to make gris-gris, potions, and charms. He also spent time teaching her about natural healing remedies and herbs. 7.
After studying with Dr. John, she combined her knowledge of Vodou with her hairdressing career. She was now able to provide her wealthy clients with much more than a haircut. Her new extra services included telling fortunes, predicting the future, advising on affairs, and preparing gris-gris for clients that were in need of a cure, charm or hex. Marie Laveau’s popularity as a Vodou priestess began to rise. She decided to give up hairdressing in order to devote all of her time to becoming the most popular Vodou Queen of New Orleans. 8.
Marie Leveau’s career as the Vodou Queen of New Orleans was made possible because of the popularity of Vodou in New Orleans. Along with being a very African city, New Orleans is also a very religious city. One of New Orleans’s most popular religions is Vodou. Vodou is a complex system of myths and rituals that relates the life of the devotee to the deities that govern life. It was brought over by slaves and used as a way to spiritually interact with their African culture. Vodouists believe that through rituals, African spirits will descend and possess the bodies of the initiated Vodouists. Vodou is a way of life, a will of behaving, and an everyday affair. Its origins are in Africa; specifically from Benin (Dahomey). Originally, there was a fusion of West African and European religion that took place in the Caribbean. It then moved to Louisiana and slightly changed. Then the Haitians came up with a new aggressive, more magical type of Vodou that is not at passive. This more aggressive type of Vodou played a very important part in the Haitian slave revolt. Vodou has expanded and spread since then due to people like Marie Laveau. Vodou has always been a very important part of New Orleans’s culture, which explains why Marie Laveau was able to have such a prominent role. 9. The Spirituals: Arthur C. Jones Video
Eventually, Marie Laveau was able to take control of Congo Square. Congo Square was a designated place on North Rampart Street where people were free to gather and practice religions on Sundays. Throughout the years, many vodou queens would always fight for control of Congo Square. After the other queens mysteriously faded away, Marie Laveau took control. She entertained the crowds with by dancing with her snake named Zombi. She performed rituals consisting of dancing, singing, drinking, drumming, eating, and sacrifices animals to Loas. Marie Laveau’s performances were able to attract and fascinate hundreds of people. She began to charge admission to her shows and ended up making a huge profit. Marie Laveau’s rise to fame can be attributed to Congo Square and all of the vodou that took place in that magical meeting area. 10.
One of the most famous stories of Marie Laveau starts out with a wealthy man whose son was facing some very serious charges. The son was being charged with murder and the case seemed hopeless. In desperation, the father went to Marie Laveau. He offered her a house on St. Ann’s street if she would be able to successfully use Vodou to free his son. To accomplish this task, Marie Laveau spent weeks praying and undergoing self-torture. She placed three extremely hot peppers in her mouth and did not remove them until hours later. Because Vodouist believe that spirits take great pity in self-suffering, the spirits were able to be by her side. On the morning of the trial, she put the peppers under the judge’s chair. The spiritual explanation of this story is that the spiritual energy of the vodou infused peppers caused the judge to send the wealthy mans son free. For many people, this story confirmed their strong beliefs in Marie Laveau and helped her strengthen her reputation as the Vodou Queen of New Orleans. 11. Humanitarian Efforts
Because of her popularity as the Vodou Queen of New Orleans, people tend to forget the charitable things Marie Laveau did in her very eventful life. Most importantly, she spent many years working as a nurse and serving the ill in New Orleans. She specifically treated victims of the cholera and yellow fever epidemics. Even though these were deadly diseases and very contagious, she was fearless and stayed by her patient’s sides. Her courage during such grim times brought hope to the many people she visited. 12.
Along with being a nurse, she also spent a significant amount of time trying to free slaves. Because she was born a free woman of color, she was allowed to own property. This meant that it was legal for her to purchase her own slaves. Marie Laveau did purchase a lot of slaves, but not for common purposes. She purchased slaves because then she would have the power to set them free. This is another example of Marie Leveau’s efforts as a humanitarian. 13.
Lastly, Marie Laveau was a frequent visitor of the New Orleans’ prisons. She always made time to visit the prisoners; particularly the sick and condemned. During her visits, she spend her time just praying with the prisoners and doing what ever she could to comfort them in their last moments. In some cases, she would even go as far as petitioning the courts and judges on the prisoners’ behalf. She would do this in hopes of obtaining a pardon or having the specific prisoner’s sentence commuted. There are no records of how many times she succeeded; regardless, Marie Laveau was a true humanitarian. 14. The Death of Marie Laveau
On June 15th, 1881 Marie Laveau died at the age of 87 as a devoted catholic and vodouist. She is supposedly buried at the St. Louis Cemetery Number One in the vault of Famille Vuevee Paris nee Laveau. Marie Laveau’s funeral was attended by a large amount of people; a testament to the fact that so many people respected her. The funeral services were conducted by a catholic priest name Father Mignot. Although she may be physically gone, she certainly has not been forgotten. 15. When visiting New Orleans, many tourists take time to go to Marie Laveau’s tomb. Many believers continue to request favors from the deceased Vodou queen. For example, people place strange items at her tomb, hoping to either take a hex off or put a hex on someone. In order to make a request, the requester has to perform a certain ritual at the tomb. A common ritual includes drawing X’s, rubbing your feet three times, knocking on the tomb three times, and then finally making your wish. The spirit of Marie Laveau is able to live on even in present day society. 16. Conclusion
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