Marie Laveau, the undisputed queen of Voodoo in New Orleans, is a famous Voodoo believer whose story remains a mystery to date. Originally from Africa, Marie Laveau found her way to America courtesy of the slave trade, which was a lucrative venture in early 1800.
Her early years were spent with her grandmother (a former slave) before marrying a Haiti immigrant, Jacques Paris, who reportedly disappeared days after the wedding. Marie would later marry Christophe Glapion a French man, and they had two children before Glapion died. Historical records indicate that Marie Laveau had 15 children, but only two survived to adulthood.
Marie Laveau House of Voodoo
Marie lived in a small cottage located at St. Ann 152 Rue, whose current address is marked as 1020 St.Ann Street. Historical records indicate that Marie acquired the home after helping a prominent politician free his son from murder charges. Allegedly, Marie used Voodoo to confuse the judge and the prosecutor, impairing their judgment during the case, hence declaring the boy innocent. After winning the case, Marie received the house as a gift from the politician.
News about her magical powers spread fast and wildly throughout New Orleans. After helping the prominent politician beat the justice system, Marie became the queen of Voodoo in the region. People came from far to consult her on matters regarding marriage, witchcraft, finance, and business success. She attended to her guests from her home, offering sacrifices, cleansing the quests, performing rituals, and offering prayers meant to help her guests overcome the challenges they were facing.
Selling gris-gris was one of the most profitable income-generating activities that Laveau conducted from the historic house. The oil amulet which originated from West Africa was believed to protect any wearer from evil spirits, bring desires, destroy enemies, and bring forth good luck. Laveau performed every ritual using gris-gris and applied it on her quests as a way to ‘cure’ them. Marie learned the art of preparing the oil ointment from Dr.John, a famous witchdoctor from West Africa. She understood which herbs could cure and which could bring death, diseases, or hallucinations. Marie used this skill to convince people that she had mystical powers to kill, heal, curse, or cure diseases.
St. John’s Eve Celebration
One of the most popular events that Laveau conducted in her backyard is St. John’s celebration. St. John’s Eve is a global Christian event celebrated to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist. In Europe, it is known as the Day of St. John the Baptist, in Russia it is known as Ivan Kupala Day, and in France it is known as the feast of St. John.
In New Orleans, St. Johns gets a unique Voodoo twist thanks to Marie Laveau. The event involved singing, dancing, drumming, bonfires, and communal feasting. Ritual bathing was the epitome of St. John’s Eve. Marie Laveau conducted ritual bathing, and she washed the participant’s heads using symbolic water from Lake Ponchartrain.
Historically, St. Johns is a biblical event held six months before the birth of Christ (Christmas). Marie combined Voodoo and catholic traditions like holy water, Christian prayers, and association with the Saints to appeal to the middle class in the area. This integration of Catholic Beliefs, and Voodoo led to the establishment of a new religion in New Orleans known as Voodoo-Catholicism or the New-Orleans Voodoo. Marie would also sell her gris-gris during the event.
Marie Laveau operated a hairdressing enterprise specializing in the prominent clients in New Orleans from her house. It is believed that Marie used the hairdressing business to gather intelligence regarding the notable people in New Orleans. She would then use the information collected to purport to “foresee” the future. Marie obtained confidential information about the rich and mighty by instilling fear in the servants. Other times, Marie would pay her informants or offer free cleansing sessions using her powerful ointment grit-grit. This way, she developed a strong network of informants who keep her on toes regarding the lives of the powerful white households. Marie also owned a prominent brothel in her house. She used the brothel to gather intelligence. It is believed that Marie passed on the Voodoo skills and practices to her daughter, who succeeded her when she died. The lessons were conducted in the famous house.
This is the revelation that has cast doubt on Marie’s powers. Previously, many Voodoo followers believed that Marie possessed special powers to predict the future. However, her network of informants discredited her powers.
Ghosts in Marie Laveau Voodoo house
There is a controversy regarding the death of Marie Laveau, with some people believing she died peacefully in her home, while others believe she died in Lake Ponchartrain.
The original house was demolished in 1903, and a new one built on the same foundation. Today, the building serves as a vocational rental home with a voodoo museum in the neighborhood. Marie’s ghost is believed to reside in the building and haunt those who visit. Several visitors have reported seeing an old lady with snow white hair, a golden smile, and wearing the famous white dress. The ghost is believed to be Marie’s ghost. Also, the visitors would find white feathers in the living room. Traditionally, white feathers are associated with Voodoo, and to many, this was an indication of Marie’s presence.
Museum, Store and Rental House
Today, Marie Laveau’s house serves as a museum, store and rental house. The controversy regarding her life and powers continues to interest many Voodoo lovers. Inside the house, one can find Voodoo related items, including branded dolls, branded mugs, and books. Also, the house has a Voodoo alter, spiritual items, spiritual readings, Tarot card readings, spells, and Voodoo-themed books.
The house has inspired the establishment of many Voodoo related businesses including hotels, Voodoo’s Shops, Voodoo religious stores, and rental homes. Due to her influence, New Orleans has become a business hub for Voodoo. Though Voodoo practice was predominantly African, white people have started embracing the culture with many visiting the area to feed their curiosity.