– June 16
) was an Louisiana Creole
practitioner of Voudou
renowned in New Orleans. She was born free in New Orleans.
Her daughter Marie Laveau II (1827-c.1895) also practiced Voudou, and accounts confuse the two women. She and her mother had great influence over their interracial followings. "In 1874 as many as twelve thousand spectators, both black and white, swarmed to the shores of Lake Pontchartrain to catch a glimpse of Marie Laveau II performing her legendary rites on St. John's Eve (June 23-24).
Marie I was believed to have been born free in the French Quarter
of New Orleans, Louisiana
about 1801, the daughter of a white planter and a free Creole
woman of color. On August 4
she married Jacques (or Santiago, in other records) Paris, a free person of color who had emigrated from Haiti. Their marriage certificate is preserved in Saint Louis Cathedral
in New Orleans. Jacques Paris died in 1820 under unexplained circumstances. He was part of a large Haitian immigration to New Orleans in 1809 after the Haitian Revolution of 1804. New immigrants consisted of French-speaking white planters and thousands of slaves, as well as free people of color. Those with African ancestry helped revive Voudou and other African-based cultural practices in the New Orleans community, and the Creole of color community increased markedly.
After Paris' death, Marie Laveau became a hairdresser who catered to wealthy white families. She took a lover, Christophe (Louis Christophe Dumesnil de) Glapion, with whom she lived in a common-law marriage until his death in 1835. They were reported to have fifteen children, including Marie Laveau II, born c. 1827. She sometimes used the surname "Paris" after her mother's first husband.
Very little is known with any certainty about the life of Marie Laveau. Her surviving daughter had the same name and is called Marie Laveau II by some historians. Scholars believe that the mother was more powerful, while the daughter arranged more elaborate public events (including inviting attendees to St. John's Eve rituals on Bayou St. John). They received varying amounts of financial support. It is not known which (if not both) had most established the voodoo queen reputation.
Of Laveau's magical career, little definite can be said. She was said to have had a snake she named Zombi after an African god. Oral traditions suggested that the occult part of her magic mixed Roman Catholic beliefs, including saints, with African spirits and religious concepts. Some scholars believe that her feared magical powers were actually based on her network of informants in households of the prominent, which she developed while working as a hairdresser. Some assert that she owned her own brothel and also developed informants that way. She appeared to excel at obtaining inside information on her wealthy patrons by instilling fear in their servants whom she "cured" of mysterious ailments.
On June 16, 1881, the New Orleans newspapers announced that Marie Laveau had died. This is noteworthy if only because people also claimed to see her in town after her supposed demise. Again, some claimed that one of her daughters also named Marie (many of the daughters had Marie within their names due to Catholic naming practices) assumed her name and carried on her magical practice, taking over as the queen near or after the first Marie's death.
According to official New Orleans vital records, a certain Marie Glapion Lavau died on June 15, 1881, aged 98. The different spelling of the last name as well as the age at death may result from the casual 19th century approach to spelling and conflicting accounts of Laveau's birth.
Marie Laveau was reportedly buried in Saint Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans in the Glapion family crypt. (See External Links below for clickable tomb map.) This fact is in dispute, according to Robert Tallant, a journalist who has used her as a character in historical novels. The tomb continues to attract visitors who draw three x's (XXX) on its side, in the hopes that Laveau's spirit will grant them a wish. Others state Laveau is buried in other tombs, but they may be confusing the resting places of other voodoo priestesses of New Orleans.
In modern fiction
- Marie Laveau is one of the inspirations for Michael John LaChiusa's musical Marie Christine, based also on Euripides' Medea.
- Marie Laveau appears as a character in numerous novels, especially those that touch on the occult. New Orleans journalist Robert Tallant featured Laveau in two novels: The Voodoo Queen: A Novel and Voodoo in New Orleans.
- She is the main character in novels Marie Laveau (1977) by Francine Prose, Voodoo Dreams by Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Isabel Allende's Zorro (2005).
- Laveau figures in works of science fiction including Neil Gaiman's American Gods, The Arcanum by Thomas Wheeler, and Midnight Moon by Lori Handeland, among others.
- As a character, Marie Laveau appears in other genres as well, including children's literature, comic books, and short stories. She is portrayed as an enemy of both Doctor Strange and Dracula in Marvel Comics.
- In a book by Charlaine Harris titled Definitely Dead, Marie Laveau plays a part in a vampire's murder.
- In the film Cry of the Werewolf, Marie Laveau is the ancestress of a werewolf. The character of Queen Mousette in the film Blues Brothers 2000 was modeled after Laveau.
- Long, Carolyn Morrow. A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau, Gainesville: University Press of Florida (2006), (ISBN 9780813029740). Paperback (2007) (ISBN 9780813032146).
- Ward, Martha. Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau, Oxford: University of Mississippi Press (2004) (ISBN 1578066298).
- "Marie Laveau," recorded by the famous jazz coronetist Papa Celestin and his New Orleans Band in 1954.
- "Marie Laveau", song by New Orleans blues singer Dr. John.
- Marie Laveau is the subject of the country song "Marie Laveau", co-written by Baxter Taylor and Shel Silverstein and made famous by Bobby Bare.
- The group Redbone wrote their 1971 hit single "Witch Queen Of New Orleans" in her honor.
- Marie Laveau is the title, and subject of a song by "Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show".
- Marie Laveau is the subject of "Voodoo Queen Marie" by the Holy Modal Rounders.
- Marie Laveau is the subject of "Like A Hurricane (Ghost of Marie Laveau)" by Chris Thomas King.
- "Dixie Drug Store" by Grant Lee Buffalo uses Marie Laveau's ghost as the subject matter of the song.