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A Marie Laveau Mystery Solved ? New Discoveries by LSU Student Kenetha Harrington

A Marie Laveau Mystery Solved ? New Discoveries by LSU Student Kenetha Harrington May 23, 2021

Marie Laveau Tomb
Marie Laveau’s Tomb, 2015, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.

So much of what we know about Marie Laveau is shrouded in mystery. For over a hundred years scholars and practitioners alike have delved deep to separate the myth from reality and uncover the real truth. For more than half her life Laveau was also referred to as the Widow Paris. The archival record of the time first mentions the famous Voodoo Queen registering her marriage to Jacques Paris in 1819.  Jacques was recorded as being a quadroon from Saint Domingue, the name given to Haiti before the revolution. However, the marriage didn’t last and local obituaries at the time of her death said that Paris disappeared just a year after their marriage with no trace. In the book A New Orleans Voudou Priestess author Carolyn Long writes ” The fate of Jacques Paris remains a mystery; no documentation of his death has been discovered.”

Thankfully that may not be true anymore, last week Kenetha Harrington, an LSU doctoral student in anthropology and archaeology revealed she may have solved the age old mystery. In an interview with Nola.com she said ” she started hunting through historic archives to find out what happened to a free man of color named Jacques Paris. Harrington said she had two strategies that eventually paid off. First, she figured that scholars had certainly scoured the records in New Orleans, searching for Paris’ passing. Instead, she began her search in the neighboring city of Baton Rouge. Plus, she didn’t just search for Jacques Paris, she searched for Santiago Paris, an alternative version of his name. Though Harrington didn’t find either Jacques or Santiago, in 2019 she came upon the record of an 1823 succession, a list of earthly possessions compiled after a death, for a man named St. Yago Paris, a phonetic spelling of Santiago. He was a free man of color and a carpenter, which is a more generic description of a cabinet maker. “The chances that there was another free man of color in West Baton Rouge Parish with that name, who was also a carpenter, living around that time, are unlikely,” Harrington said. “The dots line up. I’d welcome arguments against, but that is my theory.”

Sounds like a good theory to me, and as a fellow anthropologist and also a Voodoo Priestess I want to thank Ms. Harrington for bringing this to light. I sincerely hope she continues her research on this topic.

As always if you have enjoyed what you read here please explore our other posts about Marie Laveau, and don’t forget to like, comment, and share !

About Lilith Dorsey
Lilith Dorsey M.A., resides in New Orleans, a city known worldwide for Voodoo and Hoodoo. They have a rich background in Afro-Caribbean and Native American spirituality. Lilith edited and published the Oshun-African Magickal Quarterly, filmed and produced the documentary Bodies of Water: Voodoo Identity and Tranceformation, and co-hosted the YouTube show Witchcraft & Voodoo. They were also both choreographer and performer for jazz legend Dr. John‘s Night Tripper Voodoo Show. Their traditional education focused on plant science, anthropology, and film at the University of Rhode Island, New York University, and the University of London, and their magickal training includes numerous initiations into Santería—also known as Lucumí, Haitian Vodoun, and New Orleans Voodoo. They have been a professional psychic and teacher for over three decades and are a frequent presenter at festivals and gatherings, including HexFest, Sirius Rising, WitchsFest USA, New York City Pagan Pride Day, and the Earth Warriors Festival. Lilith is the author of the bestselling Orishas, Goddesses, and Voodoo Queens (Weiser, 2020), Voodoo and African Traditional Religion (Warlock Press, 2021) Water Magic (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2020), and The African-American Ritual Cookbook (Kindle, 2012). You can read more about the author here.
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