Marie Laveau

This article is about the historical New Orleans figure. For song, see Marie Laveau (song). For the American Horror Story character, see Marie Laveau (American Horror Story).
Marie Laveau

Portrait by Frank Schneider, based on a painting by George Catlin (Louisiana State Museum)
Born Marie Catherine Laveau
(1794-09-10)September 10, 1794
French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
Died June 15, 1881(1881-06-15) (aged 86)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Resting place Saint Louis Cemetery
Nationality American
Occupation Occultist, voodoo priestess
Known for Voodoo Queen of New Orleans
Religion Roman Catholic
Louisiana Voodoo
Spouse(s) Jacques Paris
Marie Laveau
Voodoo Queen of New Orleans
Born (1794-09-10)September 10, 1794
French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
Died June 15, 1881(1881-06-15) (aged 86)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Venerated in Louisiana Voodoo, Folk Catholicism

Marie Catherine Laveau (September 10, 1794 – June 15, 1881) [1] was a Louisiana Creole practitioner of Voodoo renowned in New Orleans. (As for the date of her birth, while popular sources often say 1794, the records indicate 1801.) [2] Her daughter, Marie Laveau II, (1827 — c. 1895) also practiced Haitian Voudoun, as well as Louisiana Voodoo. She and her mother had great influence over their multiracial following. "In 1874 as many as twelve thousand spectators, both black and white, swarmed to the shores of Lake Pontchartrain to catch a glimpse of Marie Laveau II performing her legendary rites on St. John's Eve (June 23–24)."[3]

Early life

Historical records surmise that Marie Laveau was born free in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, Thursday September 10, 1794. She was the natural daughter of a free creole woman and the fifth Mayor of New Orleans, Charles LaVeau .[4] On August 4, 1819, she married Jacques (or Santiago, in other records) Paris, a French Creole, who had fled as a refugee from the black Haitian massacre in the former French territory Saint-Dominque. Their marriage certificate is preserved in the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. The wedding mass was performed by Father Antonio de Sedella, the Capuchin priest known as Pere Antoine.[5]

The death of Jacques Paris was recorded in 1820.[2] He was part of a large French immigration of wealthy White and French Creoles (mulattoes, quadroons and octoroons, mustefinos) refugees to New Orleans in 1809, after the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804.

Personal life

Very little is known with any certainty about the life of Marie Laveau. It is believed Laveau and her surviving daughter had the same name, her daughter being named Marie Laveau II.[6] Marie Laveau II was believed to have three children whom she sent to the Dominican Republic after threats were made to burn them alive.The families that are believed to be in direct relation with the Laveau blood line are that of the Gauthier and Quebedeaux.

She took a lover, Christophe Dominick Duminy de Glapion, with whom she lived until his death in 1835. They were reported to have had 15 children (or, perhaps fifteen children and grandchildren),[7] including Marie Laveau II, born c. 1827, who sometimes used the surname "Paris" after her mother's first husband.[3] One of the sons of Marie I and Christophe Duminy de Glapion was Alexis Celestin Glapion born 1834. He stayed in New Orleans where he and his wife Emma Vicknaire had 11 children. The last recorded descendants of this line of the family live in Detroit, Los Angeles, and Boston.


While it is difficult to parse the histories of the two Maries, it is commonly believed that the elder Marie was a dedicated practitioner of Voodoo while the younger enjoyed being more theatrical in its use by holding public events (including inviting attendees to St. John's Eve rituals on Bayou St. John). "Laveau was said to have traveled the streets like she owned them" said one New Orleans boy who attended an event at St.John's.[8] They received varying amounts of financial support. It is not known which (if either) had done more to establish the voodoo queen reputation.[5]

"The only evidence that exist(s) of any sort of occupation she had was (as) a liquor importer (in 1832) on Dauphine Street in the Faubourg Marigny (in New Orleans)."[9] Folklore says at one time she also became a hairdresser, to high standing locals of New Orleans and gained profitable information from working in her clientèle's homes.[6][10]

Of Laveau's magical career, there is little that can be substantiated, including whether she had a snake she named Zombi after an African god, whether the occult part of her magic mixed Roman Catholic saints with African spirits, or whether her divinations were supported by a network of informants she developed while working as a hairdresser in prominent white households and in a brothel she ran. She appeared to excel at obtaining inside information on her wealthy patrons by instilling fear in their servants whom she either paid or cured of mysterious ailments.[5]


Plaque at the grave of Louisiana Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau

On June 17, 1881, the New Orleans newspaper the Daily Picayune posted her obituary, which, according to Voodoo in New Orleans by Robert Tallant, announced that Marie Laveau had died peacefully in her home. This is noteworthy if only because people claimed to have seen her in town after her supposed demise. Again, some claimed that one of her daughters also named Marie (many of the daughters had Marie within their names due to Catholic naming practices) assumed her name and carried on her magical practice, taking over as the queen soon before or after the first Marie's death.

According to official New Orleans vital records, Marie Glapion Laveau died on June 15, 1881, aged 86.[11] The different spellings of her surname may result from a casual approach to spelling, and her age at death from conflicting accounts of her birth date.


Laveau's name and her history have been surrounded by legend and lore. In 1982, The New Jersey-based punk rock group The Misfits were arrested and accused of attempting to exhume Laveau from her grave after a local concert. The details of the story[12] have been confounded by many conflicting rumors and the arrest took place in nearby Cemetery No. 2, three blocks away. Marie Laveau is generally believed to have been buried in plot 347, the Glapion family crypt in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans. But this has been disputed[13] by at least Robert Tallant, a journalist who used her as a character in historical novels.[5] Tourists continue to visit and some draw "X" marks in accordance with a decades-old rumor that if people wanted Laveau to grant them a wish, they had to draw an "X" on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and if it was granted, come back, circle their "X," and leave Laveau an offering.[13] The tomb in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 was vandalized by an unknown person on December 17, 2013, by being painted over with pink latex paint. The paint had to be removed because the structure is made of old plaster and the latex paint would seal in moisture that would destroy the plaster, but some historical preservation experts have criticized the decision by the Archdiocese of New Orleans, who maintain the cemetery, for their decision to use pressure washing rather than paint stripper to remove it.[14][15]

As of March 1, 2015 there is no longer public access to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Entry with a tour guide is required. This change was made by the Archdiocese of New Orleans to protect the tombs of the Laveau family as well as those of the many other dead interred there. Continued vandalism and destruction of tombs forced them to do so. The Laveau Family tomb has just undergone extensive restoration. The practice of marking an X on any tomb is a federal crime and an act of disrespect to the dead.

Although some references to Marie Laveau in popular culture refer to her as a "witch", she is properly described as a 'Voodoo queen'.

The mausoleum where Marie Laveau is buried, in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1

Artistic legacy

Because of her prominence within the history of Voodoo in New Orleans, Laveau has inspired a number of artistic renditions.

In visual art, the African American artist Renee Stout often uses Laveau as a visual motif.[16]

Numerous songs about Marie Laveau have been recorded, including "Marie La Veau" by Papa Celestin, "Marie Laveau" by Shel Silverstein, "The Witch Queen of New Orleans" (1971) by Redbone, "Dixie Drug Store" by Grant Lee Buffalo, "X Marks the Spot (Marie Laveau)" by Joe Sample, "Marie Laveau" by Dr. John, "Marie Laveau" (2013) by Tao Of Sound, "Marie Laveau" by Bobby Bare, "Voodoo Queen Marie" to the minstrel tune "Colored Aristocracy" by The Holy Modal Rounders, and "The Widow Paris" by The Get Up Kids. Most recently the Danish metal band Volbeat released an album with a song entitled "Marie Laveau" (Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie, 2016). Marie Laveau is mentioned in the song "I Will Play for Gumbo" (1999) by Jimmy Buffett. Two of Laveau's nephews, banjoist Raymond Glapion and bassist Alcide "Slow Drag" Pavageau, became prominent New Orleans jazz musicians.[17]

Laveau has offered inspiration for a number of fictional characters as well.

She is the protagonist of such novels as Robert Tallant's The Voodoo Queen (1956), Francine Prose's eponymous Marie Laveau (1977), and Jewell Parker Rhodes' Voodoo Dreams: A Novel of Marie Laveau (1993). Laveau appears as a supporting character in the Night Huntress novels by Jeaniene Frost, as a powerful ghoul still living in New Orleans in the 21st century. She also appears as a background character in Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January mystery series, set in New Orleans. Marie Laveau appears in Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods, under her married name, Marie Paris. Marie Laveau's tomb is the site of a secret, fictional underground voodoo workshop in The Caster Chronicles novel Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Laveau's grave site, in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, is the setting of a pivotal scene in Robert J. Randisi's short story, "Cold As The Gun", from Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero. The mother of Hazel Levesque, one of the characters from Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus book series, was known as "Queen Marie," a famous fortune teller who lived in New Orleans. In Charlaine Harris' "True Blood" (Sookie Stackhouse novels) book series, the character Hadley is lured to her death at the site of Marie Laveau's tomb.

Most prominently in comics, a character named Marie Laveau, based loosely on the real Marie Laveau, appears in Marvel Comics. She first appeared in Dracula Lives #2 in 1973.[18] She is depicted as a powerful sorceress and Voodoo priestess with great magical powers and knowledge of arcane lore, including the creation of a potion made from vampire's blood that keeps her eternally youthful and beautiful.[19] Also, a character named Marie Laveau, based loosely on the real Marie Laveau, appears in the Italian comic book Zagor.

In TV, a heavily fictionalized Marie Laveau (portrayed by Angela Bassett) appears as a character in American Horror Story: Coven[20] and appears in the Canadian television series Lost Girl in episode 11 of season 4.

Her tomb is featured prominently in the video game Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers by Jane Jensen. The game also tells her backstory as part of the overall background and context for the tale told in the game.

She inspired a Total Nonstop Action Wrestling gimmick, "The Voodoo Queen" Roxxi Laveaux.[21]


See also


  1. "CONJURE UP THE SPIRITS OF NEW ORLEANS." The Toronto Star. (October 28, 2000 , Saturday, Edition 1 ): 1479 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2015/02/12.
  2. 1 2 Loustaunau, Martha, Denmke. Marie Laveau. Salem Press Enclycopedia. p. 1. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  3. 1 2 "Haitian Immigration: 18th & 19th Centuries", In Motion: African American Migration Experience, New York Public Library, retrieved 7 May 2008.
  4. Louisiana Voodoo Museum
  5. 1 2 3 4 Tallant, Robert (1946). Voodoo in New Orleans (1984 reprint). New York: Macmillan Company - reprint Pelican Publishing. ISBN 978-0-88289-336-5.
  6. 1 2
  7. Ward, Martha. Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004).
  8. Duggal, Barbra Rosendale (2000). Creole, The History and Legacy of Louisiana's Free People of Color. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. pp. 157–178.
  10. Dalzell, Micahel D. (10/27/1996). "No Bones About It; Voodoo, Vampires and Other Slices Of Occult Life In New Orleans". The Washington Post Company. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  11. New Orleans Vital Records Death Index, RootsWeb.
  13. 1 2 Webster, Richard A. (December 30, 2013). "Repair of Marie Laveau's tomb to take months, potential suspect attempted to paint another tomb one month ago". The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2014-01-05. Angie Green, executive director of Save Our Cemeteries, a non-profit that works to preserve historic cemeteries throughout the city, said she doesn't know "for sure" who is responsible for painting the vault but has a prime suspect in mind. Two weeks earlier, Green said she caught a young, clean-cut man in his early 20s painting a tomb in the back of the cemetery a "creamish, yellowish, beige." The tomb, like Laveau's, was covered in hundreds of Xs drawn on its surface by tourists. Decades ago, someone started a rumor that if people wanted Laveau to grant them a wish, they had to draw an X on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and if it was granted, come back, circle their X, and leave Laveau an offering, said tour guide Renee Dodge. Over the years the practice spread to several other tombs in the cemetery including the one the young man was attempting to paint over two weeks before Laveau's tomb was vandalized. Green said she called the police but declined to press charges. "I didn't think he was a threat. I spoke with him and it seemed he thought he was trying to do the right thing (by covering up the Xs)," Green said. "The police said he was someone they knew, a homeless, mentally unstable kid. So we are pretty sure it was him (who painted Laveau's tomb) but no one knows for sure." .... There are even questions whether the now pink tomb in St. Louis No. 1 is actually the burial site of Laveau. The person who married into the Glapion family that owns the tomb but there is no hard evidence that is where she was buried, Green said. "I've heard strong arguments for the tomb in (St. Louis) No. 1 or multiple tombs in (St. Louis) No 2," she said.
  14. Webster, Richard A. (January 2, 2014). "Marie Laveau's tomb suffering significant damage during restoration process, nonprofit says". The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2014-01-05. But when Angie Green, executive director of Save Our Cemeteries, a nonprofit group that works to preserve historic cemeteries throughout the city, saw someone blasting Laveau's tomb with a high-pressure water gun she said she immediately called the Archdiocese. "Pressure washing is terrible for any old building," Green said. "When I first saw them doing it they had two sides done and there were chips of brick and plaster from the tomb all over the ground. I asked them to stop and everyone (at the Archdiocese) said they would stop but they are still doing it." [Sarah McDonald, director of communications for the Archdiocese,] said Green's allegation that the pressure washing is inflicting significant damage is "inaccurate."
  15. "Grave disquiet; Briefs." Irish Independent. (January 29, 2015 Thursday ): 64 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2015/02/12.
  16. North, Bill. build up a rich collection...:Selected Works From the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art. Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art. p. 110. ISBN 1-890751-11-1.
  17. Rose, Al (1987). I Remember Jazz: Six Decades Among the Great Jazzmen. Baton Rouge and London: LSU Press. p. 7. ISBN 0-8071-2571-7.
  18. Laveau, Marie – Marvel Universe Wiki: The definitive online source for Marvel super hero bios
  19. "Marvel Universe Appendix - Marie Laveau".
  21. "Roxxi Laveaux, TNA's Witchy Woman", from

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