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 !

June 21, 2018

Voodoo St. John Eve Altar photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.

St. John’s Eve is the holiest day of the year for practitioners of New Orleans Voodoo. It occurs on June 23rd. The day was particularly sacred for Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. Laveau performed headwashings, ceremonies, and rituals on St. John’s Eve. Fortunately, the legacy of these still live on today.

It is almost as if the soul of Marie Laveau can still be felt on this day. Feasts, rituals, and ceremonies honor her and the drummer and spiritual Dr. John Montanee on St. John’s Eve. In case you were wondering drumming and dancing are always on the menu. To find out what’s on the calendar please check out the website of the Voodoo Spiritual Temple and the upcoming events section of my page. Even if you can’t join us for the festivities, here’s a recipe you can use to celebrate on your own.

 

Marie Laveau Bourbon Bread Pudding

Marie Laveau’s tomb detail, before restoration. Photo by Lilith Dorsey.

This is one of the many ritual bread pudding recipes in the Voodoo Universe archives.

4 slices sweet bread

1/3 cup goat chevre or cream cheese

1 ¾ cup half and half

3 eggs beaten

1 egg yolk beaten

¼ cup butter

1/2 cup coconut or light brown sugar

3 tbs. Bourbon whiskey

2 tsp. Grated orange peel

1 tsp. Grated lemon peel

2 tbs. Orange juice

½ vanilla bean

2 tbs water

For the Bourbon Sauce: Melt ¼ cup butter in saucepan under low heat. Add ¼ cup sugar, vanilla bean, egg yolk, and 2 tbs. Water. Cook stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Take out vanilla bean, stir in Bourbon and orange juice. Save for later.

For the Bread Pudding: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread bread with cheese to make two sandwiches. Cut each sandwich into one inch cubes. Place in baking dish. Combine remaining ingredients together, mix well and pour over bread cubes. Bake in oven for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of dish comes out clean. Remove from oven. Serve while slightly warm, covered with Bourbon sauce and fresh whipped cream.

Have a Blessed St. John’s Eve everyone ! Get clean, stay bright, and remember the potential that this time of year holds ! As always if you have enjoy what you read here please remember to share, share, share !

January 27, 2015

 

Marie Laveau's Tomb and offerings photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.
Marie Laveau’s Tomb and offerings photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.

Marie Laveau, was a Voodoo legend and Queen of New Orleans. While she was always present in the minds of New Orleans Voodoo and Vodou worshipers, the rest of the world remembered who she was last year when Angela Basset portrayed her in the popular television series American Horror Story: Coven, and then again unfortunately when her tomb was painted pink by a vandal back in December 2013.

Most agree that the final resting place of the Voodoo Queen is St. Louis Cemetery Number One. Now the Archdiocese of New Orleans is restricting access to St. Louis Cemetery Number One in an effort to stop further vandalism of the graves there. Susan Langenhennig of Nola.com reported on the story yesterday. So How is this going to work? The ban is scheduled to go into effect on March 1st 2015 and  no surprise to anyone, money is involved. Individuals will now have to be accompanied by a licensed tour guide, the guides and tour companies will then in turn need to pay a monthly fee to gain access. The Archdiocese has given many reasons they have decided to proceed this way : vandalism, unlicensed tour guides giving damaging information, stolen security cameras, and more.

Marie Laveau candle photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.
Marie Laveau candle photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.

Restoration, preservation and protection are important, that is not up for debate. As much as we could all lament the fact that in most cases the Jackson 5 were wrong when they sang “one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch,.” a negative element has ruined it for everyone. New Orleans, like much of the U.S., is a city plagued by serious crime. With all the recent reports of violence it does not surprise me that the previous measures like security cameras and restricted hours have not protected the graves in St. Louis Cemetery Number One. But will these new measures protect the graves? No offense, but New Orleans is having serious issues protecting living people, and this measure will deny access to many who worship and revere Marie Laveau. Are there going to be guards? fines? arrests? Couldn’t they just increase security, maybe that’s naive ? Or is it? There are some well meaning and devoted tour guides out there, I am proud to even call some of them my friends. That said, I have also experienced some guides that were, for lack of a better term, some “ignorant mo-fos.” There is a test that guides must take, very extensive compared to some other cities, but nonetheless that is not an education about the practice of a religion. One of my most extreme memories was of one ritual I did at Marie Laveau’s tomb. A ritual voodoo drummer and I had traveled to the cemetery to leave offerings of flowers, music, and dance. We had just started to get the mojo going when a tour group came through, the guide loudly stated “ This is  just a supposed Voodoo ritual, because for one thing it is during the day.” In New Orleans tourism is big business, competition for resources is fierce. Everyone is an expert on Voodoo because, quite frankly, it pays. These measures implemented by the Archdiocese will limit access not only to the negative element, but also to thousands of worshipers who feel a deep connection to the Voodoo Queen. What do you think ? I would love, love, love to hear opinions from my fellow authors like Carolyn Long, Denise Alvarado, Dorothy Morrison, and others, as well as tour guides and practitioners alike.

For more information about Marie Laveau please check out –

Marie Laveau Musicology

The Real Voodoo Queen : Marie Laveau

 

And as always if this issue pushes your buttons please push those buttons below and share, share, share !

 

July 7, 2014

Marie Laveau- fire in our hearts photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.

Volumes have been written about Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. She was the most famous Voodoo practitioner of all time. Her name is synonymous with the divine magick and mystery of New Orleans. There is a huge amount of information to sort through, and I humbly recommend my book Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism as a resource. In it I mention the “mythic tales surrounding Mademoiselle Marie. They include her walking on water and her drowning and resurrection.” However, I would also like to share a few other books that are worthy of note for various reasons.

Most of what has been written on Marie Laveau has occurred in the recent past. There are but a few works from two or more decades ago: Mysterious Marie Laveau by Raymond J. Martinez; Voodoo in New Orleans by Robert Tallant; and Jambalaya by Luisah Teish. For newspaper and contemporary accounts of Marie Laveau some helpful sources are Inventing New Orleans writings by Lafcadio Hearn, and the historical accounts given in Carolyn Long’s A New Orleans Voodoo Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau.

Voodoo in New Orleans was originally published in 1946, despite it’s strong review from the New York Times, this work, while helpful falls short on many fronts. This book, written by Robert Tallant, is full of great stories. The chapters even have extreme titles like “Skin a Black Cat with Your Teeth,” “Knock on My Tombstone,” and “Snakes Jumped Out Of Her Mouth.” Now New Orleans Voodoo is an extreme religion that has survived and thrived under extreme circumstances since it’s arrival hundreds of years ago. This work however, needs a little less sensationalism and a little more substance. The reader does however get the feel that Tallant wandered from house to house in the French Quarter, Storyville and beyond collecting these colorful tales, so that’s worth the read alone.

Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau’s Tomb photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.

Folklore comes to the fore again in Mysterious Marie Laveau by Martinez. This book quotes several news sources of the time, as well as Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott. Again this is less fact than fiction, but we do get an interesting portrait of the Voodoo Queen. Martinez claims to be questioning the information that was already written on the legend that is Marie Laveau, and even takes a poke at the Times-Picayune and it’s editor over Marie’s inaccurate obituary. He then goes on, ironically, to tell us a story. A tale of an old man desirous of a young woman who does not return his advances. Martinez speaks of this man’s visit to the late, great Voodoo Queen. Laveau apparently sold him charms, and kept candles burning surrounded by his undergarments. The man was impatient, and the story tells us Marie Laveau even offered to give him his money back. He had faith however, and eventually he got what he wanted, his heart’s desire. Unfortunately, in typical Voodoo fashion he dropped dead at the wedding, leaving his young widow much better off for her trouble. The book tells us Laveau knew this was going to happen, she had promised merely a wedding, nothing more. Like most Marie Laveau stories we may never know if this really occurred, but we are definitely left smirking.

When I first began my academic study of New Orleans Voodoo, Jambalaya was “the book” to be had. I found a signed copy of it in a used bookstore of Magazine Street almost twenty years ago and it is one of my prized possessions. It has long been one of the books I recommend to Wiccan practitioners who are interested in finding out more about the tradition. Luisah Teish beautifully presents a complex religion in it’s sacred simplicity. She was born and raised up in New Orleans. Her role as Lucumi priestess of Oshun also provides the reader with a uniquely genuine perspective.

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June 27, 2014

Bourbon Bread Pudding for Marie Laveau. Photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.

There has been a recent culinary revival towards Bourbon. Those of us who are lovers of history know that Bourbon has for decades been sipped and savored throughout the Southern U.S. It’s part of the Gothic mystique of the place. Fortunately no one knows mystique better than the city of New Orleans, specifically the city’s powerful Voodoo community. As far as sacred spirits for the spirit go, New Orleans is famous for Absinthe, Sazerac and other liquid libations. The recent St. John’s Eve festivities hosted by Voodoo Priestess Sallie Ann Glassman in Nola, featured a signature cocktail designed by Alan Walter called the “John’s Way,” containing spanish moss, jasmine, aguardiente, and genapi. That sounds like an interesting offering.  Another exciting offering is our Marie Laveau inspired Bread pudding, which also highlights a favorite firewater, namely Bourbon.

Marie Laveau candle photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.

Here at Voodoo Universe we have featured recipes for cocktails like Voodoo Mojo Juice and savory delights including Sweet Potato Mash with Bourbon and Pecans. New Orleans Voodoo does an intricate and delightful dance with spirits of all kinds, and in that vein here is a variation on the recipe for Bourbon Whiskey Bread Pudding featured in my African-American Ritual Cookbook. It would make a wonderful offering for Marie Laveau, Dr. John or any of the strong spirits of the Crescent City. Food is the simplest and most vital way to connect to divinity. Enjoy this recipe, and if it makes you say “mmmmmmmmn pudding,” please like, share, and spread the bourbon!

 

Bourbon Bread Pudding

 

4 slices sweet bread

1/3 cup goat chevre or cream cheese

1 ¾ cup half and half

3 eggs beaten

1 egg yolk beaten

¼ cup butter

1/2 cup coconut or light brown sugar

3 tbs. Bourbon whiskey

2 tsp. Grated orange peel

1 tsp. Grated lemon peel

2 tbs. Orange juice

½ vanilla bean

2 tbs water

 

For the Bourbon Sauce: Melt ¼ cup butter in saucepan under low heat. Add ¼ cup sugar, vanilla bean, egg yolk, and 2 tbs. Water. Cook stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Take out vanilla bean, stir in Bourbon and orange juice. Save for later.

 

For the Bread Pudding: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread bread with cheese to make two sandwiches. Cut each sandwich into one inch cubes. Place in baking dish. Combine remaining ingredients together, mix well and pour over bread cubes. Bake in oven for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of dish comes out clean. Remove from oven. Serve while slightly warm, covered with Bourbon sauce and fresh whipped cream.

 

March 6, 2014

Stop With the X, Get with the Checks: Save Marie Laveau’s Tomb photo by Lilith Dorsey

Back in December of 2013, the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau in St. Louis Cemetery Number One was painted “Pepto dismal” pink in an act of vandalism. A strong power wash was used to remove the paint, resulting in some serious damage to the tomb. This sacred Voodoo site is the second most visited grave in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of people have made the pilgrimage to leave offerings and to salute this Voodoo legend. Much more helpful than leaving X marks on the tomb, donations are being made to support the restoration of the site. Here’s a short video I made showing the damage and pointing you to the place to donate. Thanks for your support!

March 3, 2014

Marie Laveau Painting in the Voodoo Spiritual Temple, New Orleans. Photo by Lilith Dorsey.

People have been singing about Marie Laveau probably since the time she was born. This famous Voodoo Priestess is the stuff of legend. People sing her praises, people sing to warn others of her power, people sing to remember. If you would like to know more about her legend and lore please read the Real Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau.

The most popular Marie Laveau song is probably the one written by Shel Silverstein. Mitch Myers is Silverstein’s nephew and he gives us this information about the creation, “ Marie Laveau has been described and conjured in history books and legends of voodoo women in New Orleans for decades and decades….I don’t know how far back it goes, to the early 1900s or whenever, but the legend of Marie Laveau has been repeated in books, in song, in poems, every way you can.” Silverstein’s version was first recorded by Dr. Hook

 

This particular “Marie Laveau” song however, was made most famous by Bobby Bare. Here he is doing a live version from Rotterdam.

There is no doubt that Marie Laveau was a legend, and there are quite a few New Orleans legends that have chosen to sing about her. Oscar “Papa” Celestin was a New Orleans Jazz pioneer, even Louis Armstrong was his second coronet in the early 1920’s. He died in 1954, not long after recording his “Marie Laveau ” tribute. His classic can be heard here.

The HBO show Treme even gave a shout out to Marie Laveau and Papa Celestin with actor Wendell Pierce’s character, Antoine Batiste, using it to explain traditional musical call and response.

There are a lot of traditions in New Orleans. It’s almost Mardi Gras day when I write these words, and my regular blog guests ( I love you guys) will know I’ve been writing about the history and heritage of the Mardi Gras Indians. So in the spirit of the great spirit, here is Big Chief  of the Flaming Arrow Warriors, Alfred Doucette singing his homage to Marie Laveau.

There is even an opera for this Voodoo Queen, written by John Carbone. It is clear the power of this honored Voodoo ancestor reaches far and wide. However, no musicology for Marie Laveau would be complete without a shout out to New Orleans living legend Dr. John, Mac Rebennack. His “Marie Laveau” is included on his N’Awlinz Dis Dat or D’udda. The lyrics are strong and powerful, like Marie Laveau herself.  “She made gris-gris, with an old ram horn, Stuffed with feathers, shuck from a corn. A big black candle, and a catfish fin, she make a man get religion, and give up his sin.” Marie Laveau also takes center stage in Dr. John’s song “Walk on Gilded Splinters.” Here is a beautiful live version, shot by James Demaria and featuring yours truly dancing along. Enjoy and have a Happy Mardi Gras!

 

 

 


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