Folklore

Marie Laveau: The Life of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans

Marie Laveau was a well-known magical woman who lived in New Orleans in the 1800’s. Known as the Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau is legendary in the state of Louisiana and the world. Read on to learn more about the lore and life of Marie Laveau.

Marie Laveau’s Early Years

With no legitimate documentation, scholars debate Marie’s birth-year with calculations anywhere from 1794 to 1806. Born to Charles Laveaux (a wealthy Creole plantation owner) and his mistress, Marie was of mixed descent: white, Native American and African. Marie grew up in the city of New Orleans and was brought up in the Voodoo tradition by a local Voodoo priest. She was considered a “free woman of color” in a time when they were few and far between.

Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo Today
Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo Today

The Young “Widow Paris”

When Marie was twenty-five, she married a man named Jacques Paris. Soon after, her husband disappeared and Marie Laveau was nicknamed the “Widow Paris”. Rumors spread that Jacques Paris was abusive and so Marie used Voodoo to get rid of him for good. No body was every found and Marie Laveau went on to garner a mystical reputation for herself.

Haircuts, Spells, and Secrets

With her husband gone, Marie had to make a living for herself and began cutting hair. Through her occupation, the Voodoo Queen built relationships with the wealthy folk of New Orleans. Some say she learned secrets from her hairdressing clients…secrets that she twisted and used against the wealthy to attain her own wealth. For example, a rich woman came to her and asked her for a spell to keep her husband faithful. Marie was paid a hefty fee and learned of the husband’s mistress through another client. No spell was performed, but Marie threatened or paid off the mistress to leave the husband alone.

Newspaper clipping 1848 detailing the "dances" at Congo Square.
1848 Newspaper clipping about Congo Square

Catholic Ties That Bind

Being a pillar of the community, Marie practiced Voodoo but also religiously attended Catholic Mass. She built a relationship with the priest of St. Louis Catholic Church, Pere Antoine, who went on to baptize her. It’s even rumored Father Pere Antoine allowed Marie Laveau to perform Voodoo rituals at the Church’s altar. To many citizens of New Orleans, this was pure blasphemy but others considered the Voodoo Queen’s practice special and necessary.

Marie’s Infamous Voodoo Circles

In addition to cutting hair and providing magical services to the community, she led Voodoo circles in Congo Square. Eyewitness accounts tell of huge bonfires and African men and women dancing wildly around the fire. The women “wriggled and writhed” like the snakes they wore on their shoulders. Marie Laveau herself was accompanied by her own pet snake – Zombi.

Congo Square: location of Marie Laveau's Voodoo circles.
Dancing in Congo Square: where Marie held the Voodoo circles.

Fascinating Stories of the Voodoo Queen

A few times the police were called in to break up the wild Voodoo circles but Marie Laveau was said to use her magic to keep the police at bay – in one famous story “entrancing” law enforcement away. Another particularly popular story tells of a rich man gentleman whose son was on trial for “something he didn’t do.” He consulted the powerful Marie for help in his son’s acquittal. Legend has it the Voodoo Queen herself went to St. Louis Church, and prayed for three days with three hot peppers in her mouth. The man was acquitted following. Theories abound as to whether Marie made a deal with the judge for the man’s acquittal or if her magic was that powerful.

Marie’s Second Marriage

Marie Laveau was married a second time to a man named Louis Christophe Dumesnil de Glapion. Unlike many “free women of color” in New Orleans at the time, Marie Laveau refused to marry any of the rich white men and be hidden away like a secret. Most free women of color in those days were courted, sometimes married, and impregnated by the rich white men then hidden from society. Marie Laveau refused this type of life. She had fifteen children with her second husband with a daughter who would be come to be known as Marie Laveau the Second. Marie Laveau the Second had her own mysteries.

The voodoo queen's tomb.

Marie Laveau’s Grave

Since Marie’s death in the 1860’s, people visit New Orleans to see the grave of the Voodoo Queen. One particular above-ground grave in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 is thought to be the Queen’s grave, though there’s argument whether it’s Marie Laveau the first or her daughter buried there. An old legend says if you mark three X’s on Marie Laveau’s grave, she will grant your desires. The Voodoo Queen’s grave is always decorated with flowers, cigars, alcohol, pictures, and more which are undoubtedly offerings.

Marie Laveau’s Impact & Her Ghost

Marie Laveau made a significant impact on the history of New Orleans, but she probably had no idea she’d one day be considered one of the Voodoo Loa. Some people claim Marie Laveau was actually a saint. She aided the poor and needy and her community as a whole. She also fueled and kept the Voodoo tradition alive in a time when African slaves were prohibited from practicing their people’s native religions. In the 1930s and 40s, the writer Nora Zeale Hurston claimed to have been initiated into the Voodoo tradition by Marie Laveau’s great nephew. And today, in addition to practitioners honoring her spirit all over the world, NOLA locals claim her ghost haunts Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1. Visitors are known to mark 3 X’s on her grave and leave offerings in hopes Marie will grant them their desires.

Read More About Marie and Voodoo:

Marie Laveau: The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans' Life & Lore

5 Comments

  1. Tour Creole

    June 25, 2021 at 2:45 am

    Marie Laveau’s House Of Voodoo has NO connection to Marie Laveau at all. That was originally the home and the shop of Fred Staten – a voodoo practitioner and musician known as Chicken Man. That shop was originally Chicken Man’s House of Voodoo but when he died and the family sold the business, they did not sell the rights to the name “Chicken Man” – so it became Marie Laveau’s House Of Voodoo.

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