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Marie Laveau
Painting by C.M. Gandolfo New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

Marie Laveau lived in New Orleans and became the Queen of the Voodoos.

"The beautiful Marie Laveau, and yes she was beautiful, was born a Free Woman of Color in 1794 and died an old woman in 1881. She became the most famous and powerful Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. She was respected and feared by all. Voodoo in New Orleans was a blend of West African religion and Catholicism. Voodoo deities are called Loahs and they are closely paired with the Catholic Saints. All people in New Orleans were Catholic and slaves were baptized. Marie was a devout Catholic and attended Mass daily. Marie began as a hairdresser and later became a nurse during the Yellow Fever epidemics. She was skilled in the practice of medicine and knew the healing qualities of indigenous herbs. Concerned about the soul too, she would sit with the condemned in their last moments sometimes serving them their last meal. She was the first commercial Voodoo Queen and she specialized in romance and finance. She was an astute business woman. Marie was all-knowing and all-powerful. She could easily help you get a lover, keep a lover or get rid of a lover. Marie married Jacques Paris at St. Louis Cathedral when she was 25. He disappeared 6 months later and from then on she became known as "The Widow Paris". A year later she became the common law wife of Christopher Glapion and had some 15 children by him. The youngest of these, also Marie, followed in her mother's footsteps and succeeded her. It is believed that you can come to Marie's tomb and ask for something. She accepts money, cigars, white rum and candy as offerings. Appeals must be made 3 times with full concentration. In voodoo it is believed that when a Voodoo Queen dies her spirit re-enters the river of life and moves to the next realm, adjacent to this one. Her spirit will always be here, close at hand, in New Orleans. To this day, people still visit her tomb with the hope that she will grant their wishes." Midge, tour guide for Hoodoo Tours, LTD in Voodoo on the Bayou

"Marie Laveau was a voodooienne. She was the queen of them all. White and colored folks used to go to her. She could keep anybody from harming you and she could do anything you wanted done to anybody. How she used to do it, I don't know. She used to say prayers and mix different things to give people to drink, to rub with, to throw over your shoulder, to throw in the river. Oh! She had a million things to do but everything would happen just like she would say. She used to get a lot of money and gifts from rich white folks. Marie Laveau is a name that was respected by everybody and dreaded by a lot of people. When she died she had a big funeral with white and black paying their respect. For years after she died people used to go put money (silver) on her grave in the St. Louis Cemetery. Up until now some people goes there and put their hand on her grave and makes a wish and their wish is granted. I don't recollect exactly where it is because I'm getting along in years now and the name is worn off the tombstone but it's in the St. Louis Cemetery." Aileen Eugene, 1919 N. Priour St., April 27, 1930

by C.M. Gandolfo



Those who have passed by the quaint old house on St. Ann, between Rampart and Burgundy streets with the high frail looking fence in front over which a tree or two is visible, have been within the last few years, noticed through the open gateway a decrepid old lady with snow white hair, and a smile of peace and contentment lighting up her golden features. For a few years past she has been missed from her accustomed place. The feeble old lady lay upon her bed with her daughter and grand children around her ministering to her wants.

On Wednesday the invalid sank into the sleep, which knows no waking. Those whom she had befriended crowded into the little room where she was exposed, in order to obtain a last look at the features, smiling even in death, of her who had been so kind to them.

At 5 o'clock yesterday evening Marie Laveau was buried in her family tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Her remains were followed to the grave by a large concourse of people, the most prominent and the most humble joining in paying their last respects to the dead. Father Mignot conducted the funeral services.

Marie Laveau was born ninety-eight years ago. Her father was a rich planter, who was prominent in all public affairs, and served in the Legislature of this State. Her mother was Marguerite Henry, and her grandmother was Marguerite Semard. All were beautiful women of color. The gift of beauty was hereditary in the family, and Marie inherited it in the fullest degree. When she was twenty-five years old she was led to the altar by Jacques Paris, a carpenter. This marriage took place at the St. Louis Cathedral. Pere Antoine, of beloved memory, conducting the service, and Mr. Mazureau the famous lawyer, acting as witness. A year afterwards Mr. Paris disappeared, and no one knows to this day what became of him. After waiting a year for his return she married Capt. Christophe Glapion. The latter was also very prominent here, and served with distinction in the battalion of men of San Domingo, under D'Aquin, with Jackson in the war of 1815.

Fifteen children were the result of their marriage. Only one of these is now alive. Capt. Glapion died greatly registered, on the 26th of June, 1855. Five years afterwards Marie Laveau, became ill, and has been sick ever since, her indisposition becoming more pronounced and painful within the last ten years.

Besides being very beautiful Marie also was very wise. She was skillful in the practice of medicine and was acquainted with the valuable healing qualities of indigenous herbs.

She was very successful as a nurse, wonderful stories being told of her exploits at the sick bed. In yellow fever and cholera epidemics she was always called upon to nurse the sick, and always responded promptly. Her skill and knowledge earned her the friendship and approbation, of those sufficiently cultivated, but the ignorant attributed her success to unnatural means and held her in constant dread.

Notably in 1853 a committee of gentlemen, appointed at a mass meeting held at Globe Hall, waited on Marie and requested her on behalf of the people to minister to the fever stricken. She went out and fought the pestilence where it was thickest and many alive today owe their salvation to her devotion.

Not alone to the sick man was Marie Laveau a blessing. To help a fellow citizen in distress she considered a priceless privilege. She was born in the house where she died. Her mother lived and died there before her. The unassuming cottage has stood for a century and a half. It was built by the first French settlers of adobe and not a brick was employed in its construction. When it was erected it was considered the handsomest building in the neighborhood. Rampart street was not then in existence, being the skirt of a wilderness and latterly a line of entrenchment. Notwithstanding the decay of her little mansion, Marie made the sight of it pleasant to the unfortunate. At anytime of night or day any one was welcome to food and lodging.

Those in trouble had but to come to her and she would make their cause her own after undergoing great sacrifices in order to assist them.

Besides being charitable, Marie was also very pious and took delight in strengthening the allegiance of souls to the church. She would sit with the condemned in their last moments and endeavor to turn their last thoughts to Jesus. Whenever a prisoner excited her pity Marie would labor incessantly to obtain his pardon, or at least a commutation of sentence, and she generally succeeded.

A few years ago, before she lost control of her memory, she was rich in interesting reminiscences of the early history of this city. She spoke often of the young American Governor Claiborne, and told how the child-wife he brought with him from Tennessee died of the yellow fever shortly after his arrival with the dead babe upon her bosom was buried in a corner of the old American Cemetery. She spoke sometimes of the strange little man with the wonderful bright eyes Aaron Burr, who was so polite and so dangerous. She loved to talk of Lafayette, who visited New Orleans over half a century ago. The great Frenchman came to see her at her house, and kissed her on the forehead at parting.

She remembered the old French General, Humbert, and was one of the few colored people who escorted to the tomb long since dismantled in the catholic Cemetery, the withered and grizzly remains of the hero of Castelbar. Probably she knew Father Antoine better than any living in those days - for he the priest and she the nurse met at the dying bedside of hundreds of people - she to close the faded eyes in death, and he, to waft the soul over the river to the realms of eternal joy.

All in all Marie Laveau was a most wonderful woman. Doing good for the sake of doing good alone, she obtained no reward, oft times meeting with prejudice and loathing, she was nevertheless contented and did not lag in her work. She always had the cause of the people at heart and was with them in all things. During the late rebellion she proved her loyalty to the South at every opportunity and fully dispensed help to those who suffered in defense of the "lost cause." Her last days were spent surrounded by sacred pictures and other evidences of religion, and she died with a firm trust in heaven. While God's sunshine plays around the little tomb where her remains are buried, by the side of her second husband, and her sons and daughters, Marie Laveau's name will not be forgotten in New Orleans. Daily Picayune - June 18, 1881

Queen of the Voodoos
Marie Lavaux

Death of the Queen of the Voudous
Just Before St. John's Eve.

"On the eve of St. John
I must wander alone,
In thy bower, I may not be!"

" Marie Glassion, nee Lavaux, was buried yesterdy evening, and her funeral was attended by large numbers of the colored population. Marie Lavaux, as is well-known by all the old residents of the city, was the queen of the Voudous, that curious sect of superstitious darkies that combined the hard traditions of African Legends with the fetich worship of our Creole Negroes.

She was a woman of some presence and considerable conversational powers. Somewhat bent with years when she last officiated as regnant mistress of her weird domain, she yet retained a remarkable control over her whilom subjects and impressed them with her sovereignty. As a rule reticent on subjects other than fetich worship, she was somewhat loquacious and quite a spirited talker.

Her eyes were peculiar in their look and had considerable magnetism about them. Her face was of the old Negro type, expressionless except when highly animated, wrinkled from forehead to chin and with a skin not unlike parchment.

She was a peculiar character, and one which essentially belongs to an era of Louisiana long since passed away. That remarkable woman died at the advanced age of ninety-eight years, and it is curious that her demise should have happened within a few days of the "eve of good St. John," which is the anniversary of the Voudous, and which has been commemorated by the sect under her regency, for the last forty years, on the twenty-fourth of June of each year. When the next celebration comes, the Voudous will have no queen and on the eve of St. John Marie Lavaux will be voudouing with the ghosts of the past and her charms and incantations, will be of no avail. For she had love charms that brought lovers together and fearful drugs that sundered loving souls. Among her people her incantations, fetiches and charms were supposed to be without fail, and thousands crowded around her to obtain relief, fortune or revenge. How they were satisfied is neither here nor there, but they believed in the dark superstition, and faith covered all the faults and lies that made her a sorceress and a queen. With Marie Lavaux dies the last of these old Negro Creole characters that had almost risen in New Orleans up to the standard illustrations.

First went old Zabette, the celebrated cake woman of the St. Louis Cathedral, who in old times delighted the children and even some of the grown folks with her home-made pastry and delicious "boiere du pays," always kept cool in a bucket of clearest water. Of early mornings Zabette gave out choice black coffee in tiny cups to her clients, and we remember an old song composed ex tempore by a representative Creole on a certain morning succeeding a sleepless night, which she took as the price of a cup of coffee, and which began in this wise:

"Piti fille, piti fille, piti fille,
Piti fille qui couri dan de lo."

Then went Rose, the coffee woman of the French Market, one of the comeliest of her race, black as Erebus, but smiling always and amicable as dawn. Her coffee was the essence of the fragrant bean, and since her death the lovers of that divine beverage wander listlessly around the stalls of Sunday mornings with a pining at the bosom which cannot be satisfied.

Now Marie Lavaux is gone, the least graceful or poetic of these strange personations of the past, but undoubtedly the most powerful, and we can say that with her vanishes the embodiment of the fetich superstition and the last representative of that class whose peculiar idiosyncracies were derived from the habits and customs of old Louisiana. Much evil dies with her, but should we not add, a little poetry?" New Orleans Democrat - June 17, 1881


"Who has been stuffing our contemporaries in the matter of the defunct voudou queen, Marie Lavoux? For they have undoubtedly been stuffed, nay crammed, by some huge practical joker. The informant for all is evidently the same, as the stories of the Picayune, Item and States consist admirably in their uniform departure from historical fact. According to the accounts of these esteemed but deluded contemporaries, Marie Lavoux was a saint, who had spent a life of self-sacrifice and abnegation in doing good to her fellow-mortals, and whose immaculate spirit was all but too pure for this world.

One of them even so far in his enthusiasm as to publish a touching interview with the sainted woman, in which the reporter boasts of having deposited a chaste kiss on her holy forehead. We are sorry for that reporter if his story is true, for if he really believes it all, his only consolation is in the fact that greenness is the color of hope. These fictions had one good result, for they created a vast amount of merriment among the old Creole residents, and in fact among all men of mature age who knew the social history of their time in New Orleans.

The fact is that the least said about Marie Lavoux's sainted life, etc., the better. She was, up to an advanced age, the prime mover and soul of the indecent orgies of the ignoble Voudous; and to her influence may be attributed the fall of many a virtuous woman. It is true that she had redeeming traits. It is a peculiar quality of the old race of Creole Negroes that they are invariably kind-hearted and charitable. Marie Lavoux made no exception. But talk about her morality and kiss her sainted brow - pouah!!! The New Orleans Democrat, June 18, 1881

Wendy Mae Chambers
(609) 207-3264