Marie Laveau

Marie Laveau
Marie Laveau

Portrait after a painting by Frank Schneider, in turn after George Catlin; original in the Cabildo in New Orleans.
Born September 10, 1782(1782-09-10)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Died June 16, 1881(1881-06-16) (aged 98)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Known for Voodoo practitioner

Marie Laveau (September 10, 1782 – June 16, 1881[1]) was a Louisiana Creole practitioner of Voodoo renown in New Orleans. She was born free in New Orleans.

Her daughter Marie Laveau II (1827 — c. 1895) also practiced Voodoo, and historical accounts often confuse the two. She and her mother had great influence over their multiracial following. "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)."[2]


Early life

Marie was believed to have been born free in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, about 1794, the daughter of a white planter and a free Creole woman of color. On August 4, 1819, she married Jacques (or Santiago, in other records) Paris, a free person of color who had emigrated from Haiti.[2] Their marriage certificate is preserved in Saint Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. The marriage mass was performed by Father Antonio de Sedella, the Capuchin priest known as Pere Antoine.[3]

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 Voodoo and other African-based cultural practices in the New Orleans community, and the Creole of color community increased markedly.


After Paris's 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 until his death in 1835. They were reported to have had 15 children including Marie Laveau II, born c. 1827, who sometimes used the surname "Paris" after her mother's first husband.[4]

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 done more to establish the voodoo queen reputation.[5]

Of Laveau's magical career there is little that can be substantiated. 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 of divination were actually based on her network of informants which she developed while working as a hairdresser in households of the prominent. As she visited her clients (mostly white) she listened closely to their gossip. Some assert that she ran her own brothel and cultivated informants in that way as well. She appeared to excel at obtaining inside information on her wealthy patrons by instilling fear in their servants whom she either paid or "cured" of mysterious ailments.[5]

On June 16, 1881 the New Orleans newspapers announced that Marie Laveau had died peacefully in her home. This is noteworthy if only because people claimed to have seen 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 soon before 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.[6] The different spelling of the last name as well as the age at death may result from the casual 19th Century approach to spelling as well as 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.[7] 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. Some self-styled researchers claim that Laveau is buried in other tombs, but they may be confusing the resting places of other voodoo priestesses of New Orleans.

Although some references to Marie Laveau in popular culture refer to her as a "witch", she is properly described as a 'Voodoo priestess'.

The French Quarter hotel The Historic French Market Inn has a bar named the 'Marie Laveau Lounge' on Decatur Street.

The mausoleum where Marie Laveau is buried, in Saint Louis Cemetery #1.

In modern fiction

  • A character in the short story "One Night in New Orleans," by Scott A. Johnson, published in Horror Author's United magazine in January, 2008, urinates on Marie Laveau's grave, unleashing the wrath of a Vodoun demon called a Sousson Pannon. The character has to wash the tomb and appease her spirit with rum and cigars.
  • 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 a fictionalized biography: The Voodoo Queen: A Novel and in his nonfiction book Voodoo In New Orleans.
  • She is the main character in novels Marie Laveau (1977) by Francine Prose and Voodoo Dreams (1993) by Jewell Parker Rhodes, and is mentioned in Isabel Allende's Zorro (2005).
  • Laveau figures in works of science fiction including Kathleen Ann Goonan's Crescent City Rhapsody, Neil Gaiman's American Gods, The Arcanum by Thomas Wheeler, and Midnight Moon by Lori Handeland,among others.
  • She appears in Eric Flint's alternate history novel 1824: The Arkansas War. (2006) She relocates to the Arkansas Confederacy (an amalgamation of voluntarily relocated Indian tribes as well as freed blacks and runaway slaves independent from the United States) and marries Henry Crowell, a black former teamster turned banker who was castrated by a mob in the Algiers incident five years before the events of the novel.
  • 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 Nico Minoru in Marvel Comics.
  • In the Italian comic book Zagor, Marie Laveau is a powerful voodoo witch, and former member of Jean Lafitte's pirate crew.
  • In The Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris, a late-night visit to the mausoleum of Marie Laveau plays a part in a vampire's murder. This tale is featured in the novel Definitely Dead as well as in the short story "One Word Answer," published in the anthology A Touch of Dead.
  • 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.
  • In the book by Seth Grahame-Smith titled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter the character Abe stays at Marie Laveau's boarding house in New Orleans
  • In the book by Neil Gaiman titled American Gods the character Mama Zouzou teaches Marie Laveau African magic.
  • Marie Laveau is spoken of at length in Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, a 1993 PC game developed by Sierra On-Line and designed by game designer Jane Jensen.
  • Marie Laveau appears as the ghoul queen in the Night Huntress Novels of Jeaniene Frost having her quarters underneath the tomb in New Orleans.
  • Marie Laveau is a minor character in several books of the "Benjamin January"-series by Barbara Hambly.
  • Marie Laveau's mausoleum is mentioned in the fourth installment of the Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole.
  • Laveau is mentioned in the Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, being that Blake, a necromancer, is often referred to by other characters as a practitioner of vaudun/voodoo because of her ability to raise the dead.
  • On the Syfy show Warehouse 13, a crucifix belonging to Laveau is mentioned as being stored in the Warehouse. Its exact properties are never discussed, but it is referred to as a "living death artifact."


  • Long, Carolyn Morrow. A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau, Gainesville: University Press of Florida (2006), (ISBN 9780813029740).
  • Ward, Martha. Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau, Oxford: University of Mississippi Press (2004) (ISBN 1578066298).

In music

  • "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.
  • She is the subject of the 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 Le Veaux" is the title and subject of a song performed by Cathy Winter on her 1984 album, Breath On My Fire.
  • "Marie Laveaux" is the title and subject of a song by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show.
  • Laveau is the subject of "Voodoo Queen Marie" by the Holy Modal Rounders.
  • She is the subject of "Like A Hurricane (Ghost of Marie Laveau)" by Chris Thomas King.
  • "Dixie Drug Store" by Grant Lee Buffalo uses Laveau's ghost as the subject matter of the song.
  • "Poison" by Grayson Capps contain lyrics about Marie Laveau.
  • "Marie Laveau" is the title of an instrumental track of the album Boogie with Canned Heat, by Canned Heat.
  • "Marie Laveaux" by the Swedish band Taiwaz.
  • Laveau is mentioned in Jimmy Buffett's song "I Will Play for Gumbo."
  • "Gris Gris Satchel" by The Band of Heathens is inspired by Marie Laveau.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Haitian Immigration: 18th & 19th Centuries", In Motion: African American Migration Experience, New York Public Library,, retrieved 7 May 2008 .
  3. ^ Tallent, Robert (1971). Voodoo In New Orleans Collier Books, New York. ISBN 978-0882893365
  4. ^ "Haitian Immigration: 18th & 19th Centuries", In Motion: African American Migration Experience, New York Public Library. accessed 7 May 2008
  5. ^ a b Tallent, Robert (1946), Vodoo In New Orleans, New York: Collier Books, ISBN 978-0882893365 .
  6. ^ New Orleans Vital Records Death Index, RootsWeb, .
  7. ^ Tallant, Robert (1990) [1946] (Voodoo in New Orleans), Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, p. 129, ISBN 088289336X .

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Marie Laveau —  Pour les articles homophones, voir Lavaud, Lavaux, Laveau et Laveaux.  Pour l’article homonyme, voir Laveau.  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Marie Laveau — Porträt von George Catlin nach einem Gemälde von Frank Schneider Marie Laveau (* um 1794; † 16. Juni 1881 in New Orleans) war eine Voodoo Priesterin und wandte unter dem Namen Voodoo Techniken an, die auch als Magie bezeichnet werden. Sie galt im …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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