Guest Author - Vance Rowe
The first white settlers of Louisiana were French aristocrats who left their home country in search of adventures in the New World. They would go on to be known as Creole. These Creole Frenchmen were the upper class, the elite of New Orleans. The word Creole would later describe not only the white Frenchmen, but the people of color, as well. Arguably, the most famous Creole person in New Orleans would be the “Voodoo Queen”, Marie Laveau.
Marie Laveau was born in the French Quarter of New Orleans on September 10, 1794. She was the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy Creole plantation owner in Charles Laveau and his mistress, a black and Choctaw Indian woman named Marguerite Darcantrel. Marie grew up on her father’s plantation where she was educated and raised to be a devout Catholic and went to Catholic mass everyday of her life. Marie Laveau had also studied to be a hairdresser. Marie had been described as a tall, statuesque and beautiful woman with curly black hair, golden skin and “good” features, meaning she was more white than Negro.
When Marie was 25, she married a carpenter named Jacques Paris. Jacques was a free person of color from Haiti and they had two children together. In 1824, Jacques Paris went missing and was presumed dead. Although Marie insisted that her husband did indeed die, there was evidence that he deserted her. Going along with the custom of the time, Marie Laveau began referring to herself as the Widow Paris. After her husband’s death, Laveau began working as a hairdresser to the wealthy white and Creole women of New Orleans. Many of these women looked to Marie as an adviser and confided in her with their most intimate secrets. It was around this time that she decided to become a Voodoo Queen. She studied under a Voodoo doctor named Doctor John, also known as John Bayou.
In 1826 Marie entered into a common law marriage with a member of a prominent family. His name was Louis Christophe Dumesnil de Glapion. Together they had about fifteen children and she lived with him until his death in 1855. In 1830, Marie Laveau had become one of several Voodoo queens in Louisiana. It didn’t take her long to become the most prominent Voodoo queen in New Orleans and is said that her powers of divination came from her hair dressing days. She listened closely to the gossip of the clients she had visited and also had a network of “spies” in servants that she paid for information or “cured” them of their illnesses. She combined Catholic theology with her Voodoo practice, which made it more acceptable to people in New Orleans. The rich and poor alike sought Marie to help them get pregnant, get revenge, find love and cure them of illnesses.
In 1881, at the age of 86 years old Marie Laveau died peacefully in her home and was interred in St. Louis cemetery #1. Her tomb is a tourist attraction as people go there and leave silver coins, rum and other trinkets and ask for her help. When they felt that she had helped them, they would return to her gravestone and mark 3 X’s on it to thank her.