Saturday, September 15, 2012

Introducing the Voodoo Queen

Although dates as early as 1794 appear in some biographies, Marie Laveau was probably born in 1801.  She was a free woman of color, native to New Orleans, who married Jacques Paris at St. Louis Cathedral.  The famed Father Antonio de Sedella (Pere Antoine) celebrated the nuptial Mass in July 1819 but did not record the marriage in the parish records until the following month.
We know that Jacques Paris, sometimes called Santiago Paris, came to Louisiana from Haiti after the Haitian Revolution and that his marriage to Marie Laveau lasted only about a year before he died. The "Widow Paris" then became a hairdresser catering to some of the most influential French Creole women in New Orleans. She soon took up with Christophe Dumesnil de Glapion, with whom she had many children, most of whom died as children from the yellow fever and cholera epidemics that plagued New Orleans.  It is commonly believed that Marie was buried in the Glapion family tomb in St. Louis Cemetery #1, although, like most "facts" about Marie Laveau, the actual location of her tomb remains in dispute.

Her home on St. Ann Street was demolished at the beginning of the 20th Century, but a sign marks the approximate spot where it once stood.  Unfortunately, the dates on the sign are almost certainly incorrect.

She is perhaps best remembered for her snake, named Zombie, her dancing in Congo Square, her spy-network, and most of all, her Voodoo. Her St. John's Eve ceremonies at her cabin near Lake Ponchartrain continued to draw large crowds for years, with as many as 12,000 attending near the end of her life. She attended daily Mass at St. Louis Cathedral and was instrumental in introducing various elements of Catholicism to the Louisiana version of Voodoo.
One of her daughters, also named Marie, is often confused with Marie the First in many accounts of her life.  It was reported by the local press that Marie Laveau died in 1881, but many people reported seeing her in New Orleans after that date.

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