New orleans witches history

New orleans witches history DEFAULT


Voodoo originally came to Louisiana on slave ships from West Africa and, after the 1791 slave revolt in Haiti, even more practitioners moved to New Orleans. With them came an extensive knowledge of herbs and poisons, and a belief in the power of charms, magical potions and amulets (gris-gris) to cure ailments, grant wishes, and even destroy one’s enemies. 

In the 1800s, Voodoo practitioners like Voodoo queen Marie Laveau wielded great power in New Orleans. Marie, who lived at 152 Rue St. Ann in the French Quarter, ran a beauty parlor where she learned many secrets from her wealthy Creole clients – secrets she was able to use to her advantage later on.

Still, along with practicing the dark arts, Laveau was said to be a Catholic who went to Mass daily at St Louis Cathedral. She nursed yellow fever victims with Père Antoine, the leading religious authority of the Catholic Church in New Orleans at the time. (He also baptized her and officiated at her wedding).


Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and Hoodoo Saints: A Guide to Magical New Orleans (Paperback)

Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and Hoodoo Saints: A Guide to Magical New Orleans Cover Image

By Denise Alvarado


Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order: Scroll Down to Product Details for Release Date


A magical mystery tour of the extraordinary historical characters that have defined the unique spiritual landscape of New Orleans.

New Orleans has long been America’s most magical city, inhabited by a fascinating visible and invisible world, full of mysteries, known for its decadence and haunted by its spirits. If Salem, Massachusetts, is famous for its persecution of witches, New Orleans is celebrated for its embrace of the magical, mystical, and paranormal. New Orleans is acclaimed for its witches, ghosts, and vampires. Because of its unique history, New Orleans is the historical stronghold of traditional African religions and spirituality in the US. No other city worldwide is as associated with Vodou as New Orleans.

In her new book, author and scholar Denise Alvarado takes us on a magical tour of New Orleans. There is a mysterious spiritual underbelly hiding in plain sight in New Orleans, and in this book Alvarado shows us where it is and who the characters are. She tells where they come from and how they persist and manifest today. Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and Hoodoo Saints shines a light on notable spirits and folk saints such as Papa Legba, Annie Christmas, Black Hawk, African-American culture hero Jean St. Malo, St. Expedite, plague saint Roch, and, of course, the mother and father of New Orleans Voudou, Marie Laveau and Doctor John Montenée. Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and Hoodoo Saints serves as a secret history of New Orleans, revealing details even locals may not know.

About the Author

Denise Alvarado was born and raised in the rich Creole culture of New Orleans, Louisiana. She has studied indigenous healing traditions from a personal and academic perspective for over four decades. She is the author of numerous books about Southern folk traditions. She is a rootworker in the Louisiana folk magic tradition, a spiritual artist, and a teacher of Southern conjure at Crossroads University. Learn more at

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Why Can’t Black Witches Get Some Respect in Popular Culture?

Photo-Illustration: Vulture and Photos by WGN and FX

In TV, movies, and real life, women have been at the forefront of the year’s biggest stories — so this Halloween season, we’re looking at pop culture’s most wicked depiction of female power.

You can learn a lot about the soul of a city by how it treats its dead.

New Orleans doesn’t fear death, but has it stitched into the very fabric of its identity. It’s a place where history weighs on your shoulders at every corner. It has a fatalism etched in the twilight, high-pitched revelry that defines its exuberant citizens and their fierce acknowledgment that history is not something you leave behind, but carry with you every day. It’s evident in how voodoo and folk magic aren’t just granted importance by local practitioners, but has become, for better or for worse, a valued tool to pull in tourists. In the summers I spent there as a child, I created a ritual I continue to this day: admiring the beauty and opulence of the mausoleums that pack its cemeteries. One such mausoleum was that of Marie Laveau, the famed Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, buried in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1.

Laveau is as elusive a figure as the lineage of New Orleans voodoo itself — much that is known about her is blurred by conjecture and mythology. But what can be substantiated is how Laveau’s story has become deeply interwoven with New Orleans’ identity. Laveau’s visage can be found on murals and T-shirts, the gris-gris bags sold to tourists, and in museums meant to acknowledge the city’s importance within the folk-magic community. Her influence extends beyond the brutal beauty of the city she called home, seeping into pop culture — including Marvel comics, the Neil Gaiman novel American Gods, and the TV series Lost Girl — that’s interested in giving historical heft to its supernatural explorations, most recently with Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story: Coven,in which Angela Bassett played the revered Voodoo Queen.

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Laveau encapsulates better than any other historical figure the narrow position black witches hold in the public imagination. (It’s important to note that, to examine this trend, I am using “witches” as a catch-all term for these characters, including rootworkers and voodoo priestesses.) While their practices — whether Haitian voodou or rootwork — are appropriated to add a flash of exoticism, they often remain thinly drawn figures, pushed to the margins of their respective stories. They are used to incite fear or curiosity in the white imagination, which remains deeply suspicious of black ancestral practices that don’t allow for easy translation. In pop culture, the historical underpinnings of these practices — which were brought to America by slaves trying to fiercely hold onto their own belief systems, even as colonialism tried to beat it out of them — are traded for a simpler, highly exoticized portrayal.

This is exacerbated by the fact that there is a yawning chasm in pop-culture history in which black witches are rarely explored. From Naomie Harris’s Pirates of the Caribbean character Tia Dalma to the forever-sidelined Bonnie and her brethren in The Vampire Diaries to the wry teen witch Rochelle in the beloved 1990s cult classic The Craft, the black witches we do see are predominantly sketches, not characters with interiority, despite the considerable talents of the actresses that bring them to life. Of course, it should be noted that witches need not be women: Marie Laveau was said to have studied under Dr. John, a fabled New Orleans voodoo figure; film and television history is occasionally punctuated by male practitioners, including Nelsan Ellis’s vulgar grace as Lafayette in True Blood or the folk practices exemplified by Danny Glover’s slippery performance in Charles Burnett’s To Sleep With Anger. But in real life and pop culture, witchcraft is one of the few avenues in which women are exalted and seen as powerful figures to be respected. The lack of powerful black witches in film and TV is a symptom of a larger problem that has existed in America since its very beginning: the fear of black women’s autonomy and prowess.

Nowhere are the issues with representation for black witches more stark than when considering those that practice hoodoo, voodoo, or various folk magic. Voodoo — a religion that has two primary strains in Haitian voodou and New Orleans voodoo, which melds the practice with Catholicism —has long been used in horror films to denote “the other.” Take early zombie films like White Zombie (1932), more recent fare, like the sprawling series of Chucky horror films, Lisa Bonet’s sexually overwrought turn in Angel Heart (1987), and The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988).

But despite hoodoo and voodoo’s presence in these narratives, black characters are either opaque or don’t appear at all. As Katrina Hazzard-Donald writes in her in-depth study, Mojo Workin’: The Old African Hoodoo System, “Even in the twenty-first century, unfounded prejudice, misrepresentation, and misunderstanding of traditional African religion still continue. Unfortunately, contemporary popular images, with unlimited power to capture the psyche […] have continued to be the most powerful tools in reinforcing the older misrepresentations. Where these images would be contested and challenged, the African as the human element is simply excluded from the portrayal.” In effect, the history of black witches in film and TV is less one of misrepresentation than of a stunning absence.

Of the films where black witches are actually represented, one of the earliest examples is 1934’s Drums O’ Voodoo. In it, the religion is buttressed by a primarily black cast, making it the first horror film to do so. The witch at its heart is voodoo priestess Auntie Hagar (Laura Bowman). While voodoo is somewhat criticized in the film, she proves to be the voice of reason and is blessedly not depicted as a monstrous figure. Unfortunately, since Drums O’Voodoo,voodoo priests and priestesses have mostly been evoked as figures to be scorned, or as outright villains. One of the most egregious examples of this is 2005’s The Skeleton Key.

The Skeleton Key is a deliriously ridiculous horror film that makes little use of its Louisiana setting, hoodoo, or the horror inherent to its premise. But it is a useful, modern example of how black witches are both silenced and used to exemplify the deeply white American fear of black folk magic. The Skeleton Key’s horror comes from its two hoodoo practitioners — Papa Justify (Ronald McCall) and Mama Cecile (Jeryl Prescott) — who have been using the “Conjure of Sacrifice” to possess the bodies of white people for the past 90 years in order to live eternally.  What’s frustrating about The Skeleton Key and other films that render black witches in this manner are the thorny racial dynamics the filmmakers skirt entirely. Neither Papa Justify nor Mama Cecile are seen speaking much for themselves when we see them in their original black bodies. And there is something inherently cruel, and boldly callous, about taking the black folk magic that slaves practicedto hold onto their history and twisting it into a method of horror against white people.

In American Horror Story: Coven,Bassett’s take on Marie Laveau is granted more narrative importance and deeper characterization than the hoodoo practitioners seen in The Skeleton Key, but she is ultimately a host of contradictions. She’s an immortal powerhouse, until the narrative calls for her to be easily outdone by her white counterparts. She’s respected in the community, using her abilities to fight against racist strictures, but will also sacrifice her own children and underlings if it will protect her authority. As someone who considers New Orleans my second home, there is something about the portrayal of its ancestral black folk practices, as seen through Laveau, that feels emotionally distant, like a tourist skipping through Bourbon Street at 2 a.m. and believing they have an understanding of the city in all its ragged, blistering complexity. It isn’t merely surface level, it’s a caricature. Of course, Laveau serves gumbo and speaks with an unplaceable accent. It’s an outsider’s understanding of this city and its magic — all flash and little substance.

It isn’t that reimaginings of Laveau, like the one in Coven, are bad in and of themselves. I don’t necessarily want black witches in film and TV to always cleave to realism. But what this portrayal lacks, and what ultimately undoes it, is its lack of a sense of community. Laveau’s willingness to destroy the extremely powerful “Supreme” witch Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange) and the immortal racist murderess Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates)using any means necessary, even manipulating members of her own community, makes her gestures toward black political resistance hollow. Hoodoo, voodoo, and folk magic of all sorts are deeply tied to community. Trading this dimension of these practices to depict a lone figure, who uses the cover of night to hide her horrific deeds, turns beliefs meant to celebrate our ancestors into fantastical methods, solely used to bring down white people who are deemed troublesome.

Beyond Marie Laveau, the most important historical black witch in film and TV is, undoubtedly, Tituba, an enslaved woman who was accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Tituba has appeared in both film versions of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Maid of Salem, and has been name-checked in countless works, most recently portrayed by Ashley Madekwe in the canceled WGN series Salem.

Tituba is crucial to understanding how black witches have been framed by pop culture, which makes it startling to learn she likely wasn’t actually a black woman. In reality, Tituba was a South American native who sailed from Barbados. There is no evidence that she even practiced voodoo. But in the wake of high-profile works like The Crucible,voodoo has been irrevocably tied to our understanding of both her and that point in history.

As Stacy Schiff writes for Smithsonian Magazine, “Described as Indian no fewer than 15 times in the court papers, she went on to shift-shape herself. As scholars have noted, falling prey to a multi-century game of telephone, Tituba evolved over two centuries from Indian to half-Indian to half-black to black, with assists from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (who seemed to have plucked her from Macbeth), historian George Bancroft and William Carlos Williams. By the time Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible, in 1952, Tituba was a ‘Negro slave.’” She further explains the reasoning for this dramatic shift, writing, “Her history was written by men, working when African voodoo was more electrifying than outmoded English witchcraft. All wrote after the Civil War, when a slave was understood to be black. Miller believed Tituba had actively engaged in devil worship; he read her confession — and the 20th-century sources — at face value.” Tituba has become an outsize figure in pop culture’s approach to black witches not because of a sincere interest in the interiority of these women, but a desire for sensationalism easily wrought by creating a simplistic portrayal of voodoo.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the black witches and priestesses who feel the most richly explored and understood are ones written by black women. In Queen Sugar, the television series brought to the screen by Ava DuVernay,Rutina Wesley plays Nova Bordelon, an activist based in New Orleans who also is a hoodoo rootworker respected by her community. Nova’s practices aren’t the center of her characterization, and Queen Sugar is steadfastly based in realism rather than the supernatural. But this quality adds dimension to Nova’s story; a tender ritual she does with her sister in the season-two episode “Caroling Dusk” is beautiful to behold for its simplicity and how carefully it is threaded into the scene. The ritual is used as both a cleansing and christening of Charley’s new home. Charley looks at Nova somewhat incredulously as she lights herbs and lets the smoke waft through the apartment, with Nova using feathers to guide the smoke into various corners. Then there’s Beyoncé, who, while not explicitly playing a priestess in her magnum opus Lemonade,used various Yoruba traditions and folk practices as visual inspiration. But you have to go back 20 years to find the most in-depth, authentic, and moving portrait of black witches: the 1997 independent film Eve’s Bayou.

Eve’s Bayou is a film I’ve cherished since childhood. It centers on a prosperous Creole community in 1960s rural Louisiana, seen from the perspective of 10-year old Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett) as she recounts the story of her father’s death, which she feels responsible for. The witches in the story are Eve’s aunt, Mozelle Batiste Delacroix (Debbi Morgan), and the powerful Elzora (Diahann Carroll). Eve’s Bayou gently teases the supernatural, but is remarkably accurate when it comes to its approach to rootwork. In the film, the term “voodoo” is inaccurately used, but I’ve always seen that as being due to the story being from the perspective of a 10-year-old who doesn’t know the particular grooves of these practices.

Of all the characters in the film, it’s Mozelle who proves to be the most fascinating. Mozelle is popular among locals who are looking to understand the troubles of their present or the course of their future. She advises them with various hoodoo practices and has a fascinating history of her own — every man she’s ever loved has died by violent ends. She’s quick-witted, passionate, and fiercely independent. Most importantly, she has a quality lacking in other black witches in pop culture: a sense of humanity. Mozelle’s humanity is rendered in how deeply she cares for her community and her value within it, as various people turn to her in times of need. Actress Debbi Morgan lends a quiet strength and fierce empathy to the character. But the writing also gives her great dimension: She’s witnessed watching over Eve, helping her sister-in-law, performing rootwork, and navigating the deaths of the men she’s loved.

One passage I was particularly struck by in Mojo Workin’ crystallizes what makes  Eve’s Bayou so moving compared to other depictions of black witches:

“As Hoodoo developed, it was known in all the slave community and was a part of the psychic structure of every individual enslaved there. […] It addressed the needs of the slave community and, later, the free African American community; it integrated psychological support, spiritual direction, physical strength, and medicinal treatment. It helped define the cultural uniqueness of the old black belt nation, its members, and their descendants.”

Hoodoo and (New Orleans) voodoo have been warped over time by the opportunistic confidence artists who have added it to their arsenal. But they’ve also been undermined and disrespected by one of the most powerful tools at the disposal of white patriarchal structures that continue to otherize blackness: film and TV.Writer-director Kasi Lemmons’s artistry and sincere respect for the knotted culture of black Creoles in rural Louisiana proves how rich this storytelling can be when it actually explores the interior lives of black witches in American history, rather than using them as thinly drawn vehicles for exoticism and horror.

It may very well be naïve to expect historical truths and cultural sensitivity when it comes to filmmakers approaching black witches, whether they practice Wicca, hoodoo, or New Orleans voodoo. But as black political identity has become a vital criterion for how pop culture is judged, it seems foolish to ignore this lineage. I yearn to see black witches who are bold and unyielding, venomous and tenderhearted, solemn rural practitioners and silver-tongued city dwellers. I yearn to see black witches given interiority and narrative importance like their white counterparts, whether that be in prickly dramas that acknowledge the thornyhistory of the South or archly constructed supernatural fare. I yearn to see the culture of my ancestors explored in all its vibrant complexity, not whittled down in order to find new ways to frighten white people about the cultures they’ve had a hand in demonizing since this country’s beginning.


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Marie Laveau

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

American Voodoo practitioner

Marie Laveau

MarieLaveau (Frank Schneider).png

Portrait by Frank Schneider, based on a painting by George Catlin (Louisiana State Museum)


Marie Catherine Laveau

(1801-09-10)September 10, 1801

New Orleans, Louisiana (New France)

DiedJune 15, 1881(1881-06-15) (aged 79)

New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.

Resting placeSaint Louis Cemetery No. 1
OccupationOccultist, voodoo priestess, midwife, nurse, herbalist
Known forVoodoo Queen of New Orleans
Spouse(s)Jacques Paris, Christophe Glapion
Parent(s)Charles Laveau and Marguerite Henry (known as D'Arcantel)

Marie Laveau

Born(1801-09-10)September 10, 1801
New Orleans, Louisiana (New France)
DiedJune 15, 1881(1881-06-15) (aged 79)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Venerated inLouisiana Voodoo, Folk Catholicism[1]
Major shrineInternational Shrine of Marie Laveau , New Orleans Healing Center circa 2015
FeastJune 15th, September 10th
AttributesWater, Roosters
PatronageMothers, Children, Fevers, Love, Volunteerism

Tradition or genre

Folk Catholicism[1]
Louisiana Voodoo

Marie Catherine Laveau (September 10, 1801 – June 15, 1881)[2][3][nb 1] was a Louisiana Creole practitioner of Voodoo, herbalist and midwife who was renowned in New Orleans. Her daughter, Marie Laveau II, (1827–c. 1862) also practiced rootwork, conjure, Native American and African spiritualism as well as Louisiana Voodoo.[5] An alternate spelling of her name, Laveaux, is considered by historians to be from the original French spelling.[2]

Early life[edit]

Historical records state that Marie Laveau was born a free woman of color in colonial New Orleans (today's French Quarter), Louisiana (New France), Thursday, September 10, 1801.[2] She was the biological daughter of Charles Trudeau, and her mother was Marguerite Darcantel.[6]

On August 4, 1819, she married Jacques Paris (also known as Jacques Santiago in Spanish records), a Quadroon free man of color who had fled as a refugee from the Haitian Revolution in the former French colony Saint-Domingue.[7] Their marriage certificate is preserved in the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.[1] The wedding mass was performed by Father Antonio de Sedella, the Capuchin priest known as Pere Antoine.[8] Jacques was part of large White and Creoles of Color immigration of refugees to New Orleans in 1809, after the Haitian Revolution of 1791–1804. [1] They had two daughters, Felicite in 1817 and Angele in 1820. Both disappear from the records in the 1820s. Jacques Santiago Paris worked as a carpenter. The death of Jacques Paris was recorded in 1820.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Following the reported death of her husband Jacques Paris, she entered a domestic partnership with Christophe Dominick Duminy de Glapion, a nobleman of French descent, with whom she lived until his death in 1855.[9] They were reported to have had 15 children (it is unclear if that includes children and grandchildren).[10] They had seven children according to birth and baptismal records: François-Auguste Glapion, Marie-Louise "Caroline" Glapion, Marie-Angelie Paris, Celestin Albert Glapion, Arcange Glapion, Felicite Paris, Marie-Philomene Glapion, and Marie-Heloise Eucharist Glapion.[11] The only two children to survive into adulthood were daughters: the elder named Marie Eucharist Eloise Laveau (1827–1862) and the younger named Marie Philomene Glapion (1836–1897).[11]

Marie Laveau is confirmed to have owned at least seven slaves during her lifetime.[12]

During her life Marie Laveau was known to have attended to prisoners who were sentenced to death. Rumors circulated that some prisoners would receive poisons or other substances before going to the gallows, but this was never proven.[13] A reporter from the New Orleans Republican detailed one such visit in an article published on May 14, 1871, in which he describes Marie Laveau as a “devout and acceptable member of the Catholic communion."[14] Following her death, her daughter Philomène, confirmed during an interview with a reporter from the Picayune that only Catholic traditions would take place during these visits, and that her mother would also prepare the men’s last meal and pray with them. Marie Laveau also sought pardons or commutations of sentences for those she favored and was often successful in her efforts.[15]


Marie Laveau was a dedicated practitioner of Voodoo, as well as a healer and herbalist.[16] "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.[17] Her daughter, Marie Laveau II displayed more theatrical rubrics by holding public events (including inviting attendees to St. John's Eve rituals on Bayou St. John).[3] It is not known which (if either) had done more to establish the voodoo queen reputation.[8]

Marie Laveau took a short time to dominate voodoo culture and society in the New Orleans area, then she became the queen of voodoo. During her decades as queen, she had been asked questions about her family disputes, health, finances, and more. In addition, she performed her services in three main places as queen: Her Home on St. Ann Street, Go Square, and Lake Pontchartrain. She was the third female leader of Voodoo in New Orleans(the first is Sanité Dédé, she ruled for a few years before being usurped by Marie Salopé, and she maintained her authority throughout her leadership. Although there was an attempt to challenge her in 1850. Due to her strong influence, New Orleans Voodoo lost a large number of adherents after her death.[18]

Marie Laveau I started a beauty parlor where she was a hair-dresser for the wealthier families of New Orleans.[3] Of Laveau's magical career, there is little that can be substantiated, including whether or not she had a snake she named Zombi after an African god, whether the occult part of her magic mixed Roman Catholicsaints with African spirits and Native American Spiritualism, or whether her divinations were supported by a network of informants she developed while working as a hairdresser in prominent white households. She excelled at obtaining inside information on her wealthy patrons by instilling fear in their servants whom she either paid or cured of mysterious ailments.[8]

Laveau was also known as a female religious leader and community activist.[16] Her community activities included visiting prisoners, providing lessons to women of the community, and doing rituals for those in need.[19]


Marie Catherine Laveau Paris Glapion died on June 15, 1881, aged 79.[2][20] The different spellings of her surname result from many different women with the same name in New Orleans at the time, and her age at death from conflicting accounts of her birth date.[3]

On June 17, 1881, it was announced in the Daily Picayune that Marie Laveau had died peacefully in her home.[8] According to the Louisiana Writer's Project, her funeral was lavish and attended by a diverse audience including members of the white elite.[16] Oral tradition states that she was seen by some people in town after her supposed demise.[1] News of her death was featured in a number of newspapers, including the "Stuaton spectator" in Virginia,[21] the "Omaha daily bee" in Nebraska,[22] as well as several newspapers published in Minnesota.[23]

At least two of her daughters were named Marie, following the French Catholic tradition to have the first names of daughters be Marie, and boys Joseph, then each use middle name as the common name. One of her daughters named Marie possibly assumed her position, with her name, and carried on her magical practice, taking over as the queen soon before or after the first Marie's death.[5]


Laveau's name and her history have been surrounded by legend and lore. She is generally believed to have been buried in plot 347, the Glapion family crypt in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans,[24] but this has been disputed[25] by Robert Tallant, a journalist who used her as a character in historical novels.[8] Tourists continue to visit and some draw X marks in accordance with a decades-old tradition 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.[25]

In 1982, 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 arrest took place in nearby Cemetery No. 2 and there are conflicting accounts of the incident.[26]

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 was removed because the structure is made of old plaster and the latex paint would seal in the moisture that would destroy the plaster. Some historical preservation experts criticized the decision by officials of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, who maintain the cemetery, for their decision to use pressure washing rather than paint stripper to remove it.[27][28]

As of March 1, 2015, there is no longer public access to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Entry with a tour guide is required because of continued vandalism and the destruction of tombs. 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.[5]

Although some references to Marie Laveau in popular culture refer to her as a "witch," she has also been called a "Voudou Priestess",[29] and she is frequently described as a 'Voodoo queen'.[29] At the time of her death, The New York Times, The New Orleans Daily Picayune, the Daily States and other news sources describe her as "woman of great beauty, intellect, and charisma who was also pious, charitable, and a skilled herbal healer."[16]

Artistic legacy and popular culture[edit]

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.[30]

Numerous songs about Marie Laveau have been recorded, including "Marie La Veau" by Papa Celestin;[31] "Marie Laveau" written by Shel Silverstein and Baxter Taylor and recorded by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show (1972),[32] and Bobby Bare (1974);[33] "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;[34] "Marie Laveau" (2013) by Tao Of Sound;[35] "Voodoo Queen Marie" to the minstrel tune "Colored Aristocracy" by The Holy Modal Rounders;[36] "The Witch Queen of New Orleans" by Total Toly; and "The Widow Paris" by The Get Up Kids;[37] "Marie Laveau" by the Danish metal band Volbeat.[38] Marie Laveau is mentioned in the song "I Will Play for Gumbo" (1999) by Jimmy Buffett and "Clare" by Fairground Attraction. Two of Laveau's nephews, banjo player Raymond Glapion and bassist Alcide "Slow Drag" Pavageau, became prominent New Orleans jazz musicians.[39] The Los Angeles blues band Canned Heat featured a five minute instrumental called "Marie Laveau" on their second album Boogie With Canned Heat (1968), written by and featuring their lead guitarist Henry Vestine.[40]

A musical from 1999, Marie Christine, is also based on the life of Laveau.[41]

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 gravesite 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's True Blood (Sookie Stackhouse novels) book series, the character Hadley is lured to her death at the site of Marie Laveau's tomb.[citation needed]

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.[42] 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.[43] A character named Marie Laveau also appears in the Italian comic book Zagor.[citation needed]

In television, a heavily fictionalized Marie Laveau (portrayed by Angela Bassett) appears as a character in American Horror Story: Coven and American Horror Story: Apocalypse.[44] She also appears in the Canadian television series Lost Girl (portrayed by Marci T. House) in episode 11 of season 4, Young Sheldon (portrayed by Sharon Ferguson) in episode 7 of season 1, and Legends of Tomorrow (portrayed by Joyce Guy) in episode 7 of season 4.[citation needed]

In Gothic Harvest, Marie Laveau curses a French family after their youngest daughter has an affair with her fiancé, and becomes pregnant.[citation needed]

Marie Laveau is mentioned in the youth novel Voodoo Moon by Wendy Corsi Staub, when the Halliwells visit New Orleans and check out a voodoo museum.[citation needed]

She also is mentioned in the game Gabriel Knight - Sins of the Fathers (1993). The Protagonist has the option to ask about her in conversations with NPCs to learn about her influence on Voodoo in New Orleans and her tomb is an important site where the Protagonist can find secret messages in form of red markings on the building.[citation needed]


  • Long, Carolyn Morrow. A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau, Gainesville: University Press of Florida (2006), (ISBN 9780813029740).
  • Tallant, Robert. "Voodoo in New Orleans", The MacMillan Co. (1946), (ISBN 978-0882893365)
  • Ward, Martha. Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau, Oxford: University of Mississippi Press (2004) (ISBN 1578066298).
  • Long, Carolyn Morrow "The Tomb of Marie Laveau" Left Hand Press (2016) (ISBN 9780692766866)
  • Bloody Mary "Hauntings Horrors and Dancing with the Dead. True Stories from the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" Weiser publishing (2016) (ISBN 1578635667),

See also[edit]


  1. ^As for the date of her birth, while popular sources often say 1794, the records indicate 1801.[4]


  1. ^ abcde"Marie Laveau | History of American Women". History of American Women. 2012-07-01. Retrieved 2018-07-06.
  2. ^ abcdFandrich, Ina J. (2005). "The Birth of New Orleans' Voodoo Queen: A Long-Held Mystery Resolved". Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association. 46 (3): 293–309. JSTOR 4234122.
  3. ^ abcdMarie Laveau The Mysterious Voudou Queen: A Study of Powerful Female Leadership in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans by Ina Johanna Fandrich
  4. ^ abLoustaunau, Martha, Denmke. Marie Laveau. Salem Press Enclycopedia. p. 1. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  5. ^ abc"Marie Laveau: Separating fact from fiction about New Orleans' Voodoo queen". Retrieved 2018-07-06.
  6. ^"Dictionary of Louisiana Biography - L - Louisiana Historical Association". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  7. ^Vitelli, Dr. Romeo. "The Marie Laveau Phenomenon". Retrieved 2018-07-06.
  8. ^ abcdeTallant, Robert (1946). Voodoo in New Orleans (1984 reprint). New York: Macmillan Company - reprint Pelican Publishing. ISBN .
  9. ^Vitelli, Dr. Romeo. "The Marie Laveau Phenomenon". Retrieved 2018-07-08.
  10. ^Ward, Martha. Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004).
  11. ^ abMorrow., Long, Carolyn (2006). A New Orleans voudou priestess: the legend and reality of Marie Laveau. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. ISBN . OCLC 70292161.
  12. ^Carolyn Morrow Long: A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau, 2018
  13. ^Ward, Martha. Voodoo Queen : The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau, University Press of Mississippi, 2004. ProQuest Ebook Central,
  14. ^“Death Punishment for Murder: The Execution Yesterday.” New Orleans Republican, 14 May 1871, p5.
  15. ^Ward, Martha. Voodoo Queen : The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau, University Press of Mississippi, 2004. ProQuest Ebook Central,
  16. ^ abcdLong, Carolyn Morrow (2005). "Marie Laveau: A Nineteenth-Century Voudou Priestess". Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association. 46 (3): 262–292. JSTOR 4234121.
  17. ^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.
  18. ^Lewis, Shantrelle P. "Marie Laveau". Britannica. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  19. ^"Marie Laveau". Retrieved 2021-04-12.
  20. ^Long, Carolyn Morrow. A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau, Gainesville: University Press of Florida (2006), (ISBN 9780813029740).
  21. ^
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  24. ^"Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau's tomb in New Orleans, LA (Google Maps)". Virtual Globetrotting. 2014-09-10. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  25. ^ abWebster, 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.
  26. ^"When the Misfits got arrested in a New Orleans cemetery: a 1982 story from our crypt". Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  27. ^Webster, Richard A. (January 2, 2014). "Marie Laveau's tomb suffering significant damage during the restoration process, nonprofit says". The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2014-01-05.
  28. ^"Grave disquiet; Briefs." Irish Independent. (January 29, 2015, Thursday ): 64 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2015/02/12.
  29. ^ abDessens, Nathalie (2008). "Reviewed Work: A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau by Carolyn Morrow Long". Caribbean Studies. 36 (1): 166–170. doi:10.1353/crb.0.0008. JSTOR 25613150.
  30. ^North, Bill (January 2003). build up a rich collection...:Selected Works From the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art. Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art. p. 110. ISBN .
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  39. ^Rose, Al (1987). I Remember Jazz: Six Decades Among the Great Jazzmen. Baton Rouge and London: LSU Press. p. 7. ISBN .
  40. ^Rose, Stephen. "Canned Heat – On The Beat with Totally Guitars". Totallyguitars. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  41. ^Isherwood, Charles. "Marie Christine". Variety. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  42. ^Laveau, Marie – Marvel Universe Wiki: The definitive online source for Marvel superhero bios
  43. ^"Marvel Universe Appendix - Marie Laveau".
  44. ^"FX's John Landgraf on 'American Horror Story: Coven:' 'It's really funny this year'". Retrieved 22 January 2017.

External links[edit]


Witches history orleans new

The Voodoo Queen: Marie Laveau

With Halloween around the corner, there are few better places in the world to celebrate than the hallowed and haunted streets of New Orleans.  Home to ghosts, witches, and vampires alike, New Orleans is practically the capital of spooky.  And at the heart of all our terrifying tales is the “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans” herself, the infamous Marie Laveau, voodoo priestess extraordinaire.

Portrait of Marie Laveau

The Bare Truth

           The famed evening ghost tours of the New Orleans French Quarter pitch a bit of a sensationalist view of the voodoo priestess, but the truth of Marie Laveau’s life is far more down to earth.  Daughter of freed slave Marguerite Henry and local mulatto businessman Charles Laveaux, Marie was born on September 10, 1801.  Not much is known about her youth but in 1819, at the young age of 18 years old, Marie married Hatian immigrant Jacques Paris and together the two bore two daughters.  Unfortunately this family life did not last long for Marie; both of her daughters died in infancy and Jacques mysteriously went missing in 1924.  Many believed him to have died, including Marie herself, but some speculate that he, in fact, deserted Marie after the deaths of their children.

Following Jacques disappearance, Marie became self-sufficient working as a hairdresser.  She served much of the New Orleanian elite as Widow Paris and made quite the living for herself by doing the hair of upper-class, white socialites.

Marie didn’t remain single for long, though.  In 1826 she entered into a common-law marriage with a French noble descendant, Louis Christophe Dominic Duminy de Glapion.  While she never took his name, the pair had 7 known children together.  Only two of these children are known to have survived into adulthood: daughters Heloise Euchariste and Marie Philomene.

For the majority of her life, Marie Laveau lived in the Vieux Carre, what is now known as the French Quarter, on St. Ann Street between Rampart and Burgundy.  It is from this house that she dressed hair and served patrons seeking her voodoo skills.  She ran consultations out of her living room, offering divinations, healing rituals, and small scale charm work.

Contrary to popular belief, Marie was actually a devout Roman Catholic.  She embraced her African cultural traditions and spirituality through voodoo, while simultaneously being a regular attendee of Catholic masses at St. Louis cathedral in Jackson Square.  Through both voodoo and the Catholic religion, Marie spent her life working at the aid of others, nursing the sick, comforting the emotional, and even ministering to felons on death row.

Just shy of eighty years old, Marie passed away on June 15, 1881.  Her funeral took place at the St. Louis cathedral and she was interred in the Glapion crypt in St. Louis Cemetery (Number 1).  While she has now become an exaggerated New Orleans legend, many believe that Marie should be canonized as a saint for her extensive and life-long humanitarian work.

Do You Do Voodoo?

           Marie Laveau learned voodoo beneath voodoo doctor John Bayou.  She studied for five years, officially becoming a voodoo priestess in 1830.  Her work blended her Catholic leanings with her African roots; she incorporated holy water and Christian iconography into her spell work.  By doing this, she made her practices more approachable for upper-class patrons and the religious community at large.

Much of her work included fortune telling and gris-gris (or charms).  These charms varied from love spells all the way to curses for enemies.  Marie also lead spiritual celebrations around the city, including monthly voodoo meetings in Congo Square, as well as the pre-Christian summer solstice festival called St. John’s Eve where she implored her followers to commune with spirits through dance and music.

Dis-Spelling The Myths

           It wasn’t until the 20th century that Marie Laveau gained the infamous accolades we often remember her for today.  Fear of voodoo and New Orleans’ tendency to embellish have made Marie Laveau into a snake charming voodoo witch with the powers of a god.  It’s said her voodoo magic even caused the death of a Louisiana governor.

In reality, much of her “powers” came from the vast network she had built as a hairdresser.  From her wealthy clients who saw her as a confidante, to their servants who were happy to gossip for money, Marie was constantly intaking mass amounts of intimate information.  Knowing the illicit chatter around town allowed her to develop a very convincing divination act, and having a one-up on the private lives of New Orleans’ upper-classes made it easy for Marie to instill reverence in her followers and respect amongst the community.

Even today her tomb ranks among the most visited in the United States and she remains a widely admired historical figure.  Her likeness has been adapted into countless New Orleans stories and films, not the least of which was American Horror Story’s 2014 season entitled Coven.  Fans flock to St. Louis #1 to leave trinkets for her spirit.  Perhaps the most lasting tale of all is that if you mark her tomb with a triple “X” she will grant you your greatest wishes from beyond the grave.

The Real Life of the New Orleans Voodoo Queen - Marie Laveau
The High Priestess of the French Quarter
The reference is brief enough to easily miss, but if you were listening—and knew what you were listening for—you would have been impressed with the researchers for “American Horror Story.” The first episode of the third season, “Coven,” centers part of its story on a group of young witches in present-day New Orleans. Walking to Popp Fountain in City Park, a senior witch mentions to her charges: “Back in the ’70s, Mary Oneida Toups led an alternative coven down here.”

The name-check is all the more surprising because one of the only existing public chronicles of Toups is a chapter in Dr. John’s 1994 memoir “Under A Hoodoo Moon: The Life of the Night Tripper,” which pays more attention to her husband, a lower Ninth Ward native named Albert “Boots” Toups. Boots was a Freemason of high degree who also dabbled, according to the book, in Santeria and the New Orleans spiritual churches, which combined aspects of Catholic saint worship, Christianity, vodou, rootwork and herbal medicine, and which the musician patronized himself. The Religious Order of Witchcraft, the group that Mary Oneida Toups officially chartered with the state of Louisiana in 1972, was only really “alternative” in the sense that it dealt in Western ceremonialist magic, not the African and Caribbean-rooted practices—like vodou and hoodoo folk magic—that are more commonly associated with New Orleans. Still, it was New Orleans that Toups was drawn to in 1968, when she left her birthplace in Meridian, Mississippi, to become, in fairly short order, one of the most well-regarded witches in America.

In the late sixties, interest in the occult and esoteric bloomed on a variety of levels, from superficial aesthetics to genuine spiritual engagement. The Age of Aquarius was the season of the witch; hippies in free-flowing fabrics, flowers, feathers and hair were styled like Merlin and Morgan le Fay and Marie Laveau. Real interest also abounded in nonwestern and other nontraditional beliefs and practices, from the Beat poets’ fascination with Zen Buddhism to Anton LaVey’s founding of the Church of Satan in San Francisco, the year before the Summer of Love. The Beatles followed the Maharishi; Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin dug into the imagery and mythology of Aleister Crowley and the Golden Dawn. Timothy Leary wrote “The Psychedelic Experience,” his 1964 guide to therapeutic acid trips, using “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” as a central metaphor and model. Out west, in 1968, a woman named Louise Huebner was named the Official Witch of Los Angeles County in a ceremony at the Hollywood Bowl. And Dr. John, of course, lifted the gris-gris imagery of vodou and the spiritual church for his psychedelic hoodoo-man Night Tripper persona, though he had apparently been well conversant with the practice before he adopted the image.

Courtesy of Katina Smith

Courtesy of Katina Smith

People were trying all kinds of keys on the doors of perception. It was in that climate that Toups came to New Orleans, chartered the Order and set up shop in the Quarter—at that time still cheap, hip and gritty, the Quarter of “Easy Rider.” Outside of her friendship with Dr. John, though, it seems that Toups intersected little with the city’s counterculture. Born in 1928, she was close to 40 when she got to New Orleans; she had already been married and had a child. Katina Smith, who joined the still-active Religious Order of Witchcraft at the turn of the millennium and served as its high priestess after Katrina, noted that there’s no evidence indicating Toups practiced magic before arriving in New Orleans; yet between 1970 and 1975, she opened two successive witchcraft shops in the French Quarter, organized and chartered the Order—which did, as “American Horror Story” depicted, perform rituals at a then-neglected and overgrown Pop Fountain—and most importantly, published the occult text “Magick High and Low,” which drew praise and gifts from as exalted a figure as Israel Regardie, a writer and magician who had served as Aleister Crowley’s personal secretary. On top of all that, ads in the newspaper indicate that very briefly, in the late ’60s, she and Boots ran a bar at 1141 Decatur Street, now home to Café Angeli.

Mary Oneida came to New Orleans, chartered the Order and set up shop in the Quarter — at that time still cheap, hip and gritty, the Quarter of Easy Rider.

“She was busy,” Smith said. “And if you look at how little time passed between when she started studying and when she wrote the book, she would have had to have had an extremely learned teacher.” Smith thinks it’s possible that Toups studied via correspondence. She also has a couple of ideas as to who might have taught the priestess, if she learned locally. But unfortunately, when Katrina struck, most of the Order’s paper records were in Biloxi and sat in 11 feet of water; one of the only things they salvaged was an oil painting of the high priestess, which today, after no restoration or conservation work, still looks unnervingly fresh. As in the few available photographs of her, the painted Toups looks late-sixties elegant, with arched, groomed eyebrows, long lashes and a fall of brunette hair that brings to mind Bobbie Gentry.

In “Under A Hoodoo Moon,” Dr. John writes that he and Boots ran a voodoo temple out of Toups’ second shop, at 521 St. Philip Street. As far as Smith knows, Boots and Dr. John weren’t part of the Order, and though Toups’ would have sold the regular voodoo powders and floor washes out of the store, the magical work she did was separate. Dr. John hung around the store, he wrote, but the women of the spiritual churches knew he was just a student: “In the coming and goings, a couple of the reverend mothers managed to catch me on the side and pull my coat about the real doings of gris-gris,” he wrote. “They’d tell me, ‘Mac, we got you fronting this thing, but you got to know the real deal; we got to school you about gris-gris.’” The reverend mothers of the spiritual church probably also had little to do with Toups’ work with the Religious Order of Witchcraft, but it’s reasonable to assume—through Boots and Dr. John—everyone was aware of each other.

In 1972, Toups caught the attention of Howard Jacobs, who wrote an odds-and-ends column called “Remoulade” for the Times-Picayune. There had been a murder in Opelousas that the paper reported was somehow related to witchcraft, and Toups had written to its editors in defense of the practice. Jacobs made hay out of the “officially chartered witch” for a few columns, and then appeared to lose interest. Toups only turned up in the news after that briefly, making appearances to promote “Magick High And Low” at literary events, or giving talks on witchcraft to professional organizations like the ladies’ auxiliary of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, who hosted her at a luncheon at the Court of Two Sisters. (Court judgments, which ran in the classified section at the time, also indicate that Boots and Mary Oneida married and divorced each other at least twice.)

Mary Oneida Toups died at the end of 1981. “Under A Hoodoo Moon” claims, ominously, that she was poisoned. According to Smith, it was a mass on her brain that took the priestess’s life—just over a decade after she seems to have found her true path. After her death, Toups’ colleague Russell George, who was High Priest to Smith’s High Priestess after the younger woman joined the Order, took over the shop on St. Philip Street. In 1994, he incorporated his own business there as The Witches Closet.

When she joined the Order in the early 2000s, Smith said, George was the only member left that she was sure had definitely known Toups personally, but he was reticent to answer many questions about the priestess and discouraged other witches from venerating her overmuch. He died in 2014; today, 521 St. Phillip Street is a tourist information center. Smith and a colleague are working on a book about the priestess, and they have had to dig and scramble to verify the details of Toups’ life. So far, they haven’t even been able to find an obituary or a burial site for Mary Oneida Toups or her husband.

“But look what happens at Marie Laveau’s grave,” said Smith, referring to the tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 that attracts visitors and, on occasion, vandals. “Do you think she’d want that happening to her? I think she wanted to be a mystery. Because she knew she’d be remembered.”


Alison Fensterstock writes about American culture for outlets including NPR, Pitchfork, the Oxford American and others. She has served as the music critic for both Gambit and the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and was the founding program director for the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation.


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