Marie Laveau: New Orleans Voodoo Queen

Marie Laveau the first was born in New Orleans in 1794. Her father is believed to be a wealthy white planter and her mother a free woman of color. Her reputation as a voodoo practitioner is well known legend. She was thought to be able to manipulate and control people in matters of love, war and sex. Her life is shrouded in mystery and is a particularly enticing tale. She managed to bring voodoo into the lives of every day people in the 19th and 20th centuries and remains a formidable figure even today.

Marie LaveauEarly Life

Marie was born illegitimately to Charles Laveau, a wealthy land owner and Margurite Darcantrel a free woman of color. As a grown woman Marie was considered handsome with features that were described as ‘good’ which at the time meant white.

In 1819 she was married to a free man of color from Haiti. His name was Jacques Paris. As part of Marie’s dowry the couple received a fine house on Rampart Street in New Orleans. Not long after the marriage Jacques mysteriously disappeared. Some thought he returned to Haiti, but a death certificate was issued for him five years later. At this time Marie began to refer to herself as the widow Paris. In 1826 she publicly took up with Louis Christopher Duminy de Clapion. Marie’s new lover was also from Haiti. Together they had 15 children.


After Jacques Paris went missing and then was declared dead, Marie found employment as a hairdresser. Her clients were the wealthy, white and Creole women of the community. It was during this time as a hairdresser to the polite society that Marie began her real career as a voodoo practitioner. As a hairdresser Marie was privy to the secrets of the upper classes. She was a confidant to many of the most prominent of families. She discovered information about spouses and lovers, business matters and the fears of all her clients. When Marie stopped hairdressing she turned to a career in the occult arts.

New Orleans Voodoo

Voodoo was by no means a stranger to New Orleans when Marie Laveau’s sensational entry brought it to the public eye. The first blacks were slaves that had been brought over from Africa and put to work on plantations in the Caribbean. When independence came to Haiti in 1804, land owners moved to Louisiana from places like Saint Dominique and the West Indian islands taking their slaves along with them. These slaves were well versed in ancient voodoo practices. Accounts of secret occult ceremonies taking place in the bayous were surfacing. Worshipers were idolizing a snake called Zombi and partaking in lascivious ritual dances, drinking and sex. The worshipers were almost exclusively wealthy whites seeking to gain the powers to destroy their enemies, control lovers and attract new ones. By the 1830’s there were a number of voodoo queens practicing in New Orleans. They fought to gain leadership of the Sunday Congo dances. Other demonstrations of voodoo practice had been outlawed and were not allowed to take place any time but on Sundays.

Voodoo Queen Mamzelle Laveau

When Marie Laveau decided to become the premier queen of voodoo, she didn’t take the task lightly. She was believed to have used powerful talismans and charms called ‘gris-gris’ to control and destroy the other queens.

Gris-gris can be any number of items including dolls resembling the intended victim, small bags containing stones, bones, hair or nails that have been soaked with the bodily fluids of the victim. The voodoo queens who didn’t fall to these gris-gris charms were bullied out of the racket with sheer brute force. Since Marie was a serious Catholic she added elements from Catholicism to her Voodoo Practices. Holy water, likenesses of saints and even Christian prayers were combined into her ceremonies.

A woman with no lack of sensationalism, Mamzelle Laveau would take the voodoo community by storm. She was aware of the rituals taking place at Lake Pontchartain and she used them to her advantage. Marie attracted the attention of the press, police and public and invited them to come see the goings on. In a brilliant streak of genius, Marie charged admission to the ceremonies. Charging admission she became the first voodoo entrepreneur. Knowing her audience, Marie also began to organize orgies in which affluent white men could meet mulatto, quadroon and black women to take as sex partners or mistresses. With all the knowledge Marie had gained in the homes of her hairdressing clients and her vast occult powers she became the most powerful voodoo queen of New Orleans.

Marie Laveau II – Daughter Of Marie Laveau

Now the most renowned voodoo queen in New Orleans, Marie Laveau was sought out by people of all classes who were in need of her special talents. Politicians paid large sums to have Marie use her magic to win elections and it became chic to visit the Mamzelle’s home for a reading. Many people purchased love potions which became Marie’s most popular product. Despite the success the voodoo queen of New Orleans was getting on in years. In 1869 Marie Laveau retired and another woman emerged to take her place.

Marie had a daughter of the same name who is said to have been strikingly similar in appearance. When Marie I retired a new queen came to power. The new Marie would later be called Marie Laveau II. It’s not clear if Marie II was groomed to take over her mother’s position or if she simply felt up to the task. While the new Marie supposedly had all of her mother’s powers, she lacked the kindness and compassion and instead inspired fear in the people. Marie II was ambitious and during her life she acted not only as a hairdresser as her mother had done, but operated a bar and brothel as well. Unfortunately for Marie II, when her mother died in 1869 the press made a huge to-do that effectively ended the Mamzelle Laveau craze. Marie II still managed to keep hold over black voodoo rituals and ceremonies, but she never re-attained the high standing her mother had glorified. Marie II is said to have died during a storm at Lake Ponchartrain some time in the 1890’s.

Laveau Legacy

The most well known of the Laveau inspired rituals occurred at a Saint John’s Day ceremony. A crowd singing occult songs mixed with Christian prayers appeared at the lake. A cauldron was set to boil and added to it were many arcane items. Salt, black pepper, various potions as well as a black cat, black rooster and a large snake cut into three parts to symbolize the holy trinity were added. During this time the voodoo participants ate. It is unclear whether they consumed what was in the cauldron. The crowd sang to Mamzelle Marie’s glory and then stripped naked and swam in the lake. Following this, participants listened to a sermon given by Marie and then took a time of rest or orgiastic sex.

Marie Laveau is entombed in two places. It can’t be said which is the true resting place, but both crypts still have visitors who come to seek favor in their love endeavors.

The life of Mamzelle Marie Laveau is sensational and inspirational. That a woman of color gained such power and influence over the masses, most notably wealthy whites is remarkable for the time. Her ambitions and entrepreneurial spirit changed the voodoo community in New Orleans and brought the secretive ancient religion into the light of day. She is remembered as a strong and independent woman who knew how to get what she wanted and use what she had.

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