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Published:October 31st, 2013 08:20 EST
Will We Ever Know the True Story of The Legendary Voodoo Queen from New Orleans, Marie Laveau?

Will We Ever Know the True Story of The Legendary Voodoo Queen from New Orleans, Marie Laveau?

By John G. Kays

Who was Marie Laveau (1794-1881), the legendary Voodoo Queen from New Orleans? Why do we have so little verifiable biographical data on the fascinating Voodoo priestess? Did she practice the Black Arts of Magical Ritual, or was it rather Positive Magic? Did she maybe practice a combination of both? Where did she acquire her body of knowledge? Was it from Haiti, which experienced a tremendous slave rebellion in 1804? Are there any records that remain of what she believed, or remnants of her incantations utilized for healing her clients? What about the casting of spells that tend to undue those who had done some wrong to others?

I`ve done a bit of research on the internet, but not a great deal, I must confess. Well, in my own defense, there`s not so much you can find that reads like a history; most of it is semi-fictionalized, I will (confidently) assert. The Wikipedia entry has listed two biographies, which you (and I) may want to check out: A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau, by Carolyn Morrow Long (2006), and Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau, by Martha Ward (2004). And the one book most often cited on things I`ve seen on the internet is: Robert Tallent`s Voodoo In New Orleans (1971).

I have a great paperback book (with a green cover) on the history of the French Quarter in New Orleans, which I purchased at a small book store (run by the late & great Richard Dorsett), many years ago here in Austin; but I can`t find it right now. It`s probably still in storage, stashed away in a box; I haven`t unpacked all my books just yet, from when I closed out my account with Public Storage (about six months ago). Come to think of it, I`m probably ripe for a visit to New Orleans, since I want to soak up some of its history (which has been largely buried beneath hearsay, superstition, or by stories, we shall say). 

It would be nice to try and untangle some of this mess, but I know that others have tried to do it before, and I`m just another fool who will fail to shed any new light on a situation that`s been mulled over thousands and thousands of times before, rendering it as something it`s not, which would be an accurate historical account of an attractive, sagacious Creole woman, who used her resources (available to her) to survive in a world, probably wrought with considerable hostility towards her. Perhaps Marie used Voodoo (or Voudou) as a defense mechanism to neutralize her enemies, I don`t know?

My obsession with Marie Laveau is primarily traceable to an early jazz (or jass) recording I heard many years ago (1997?) on Big Band & Classic Jazz`s annual Halloween show (on KOOP 91.7 Community Radio here in Austin), hosted by Thomas Durnin. Well, with my sterling abilities in archive science and in depth knowledge of categorical procedures (I could use a workshop or two on music archiving), I can`t get my hands on the cassette which has a recording of this cool song, Marie Laveau the Voodoo Queen, way down yonder in New Orleans...I don`t know who the artists are either (YouTube doesn`t have it)!

This is perhaps fitting for Madam Laveau; we don`t even know for sure that`s her in that grave, purportedly Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 (vital records say it`s Marie Glapion Lavau, who died on June 15, 1881). People frequently visit this site asking for favors from the gifted spirit, leaving votive offerings, yet marking (or defiling) her headstone or crypt with Xs. I would think this might entice Marie`s curse rather than a blessing. Our best way of appeasing this powerful poltergeist, would be to render her chronicle with lucidity and sound, factual accuracy; don`t know that I`m the right one for that task, but someone please step up to the plate?