“Stir the fire till it low
How like a queen comes forth the lonely Moon
From the slow opening curtains of the clouds
Walking in beauty to her midnight throne!”
The Woman, the Legend, the Queen (excerpt from Spirits of New Orleans: Voodoo Curses, Vampire Legends and Cities of the Dead by Kala Ambrose)
Ask anyone who has ever paid the slightest attention to the world of Voodoo what they know about the subject and chances are that the name Marie Laveau will be the main topic of discussion. Regarded as the Queen High Priestess of Voodoo in New Orleans, Marie was respected by all who knew her. Her reputation was so revered that even her enemies thought twice before taking her on in any manner. Marie was also regarded as one of the best hair stylists in town and the majority of her clients were the wealthy French women in the city who were said to adore her. She quickly gained their trust and confidence by making poultices and spells that helped with the pain of childbirth, as well as making women more fertile so that they could conceive more children. On the flip side, when some women came to her no longer desiring to have children, she provided contraception methods that helped them achieve these goals as well. Her reputation grew quickly throughout the city and women sought her services for love, health, children and protection. This allowed Marie along with other female Voodoo practitioners to build up a strong and extremely valuable network through the city, bringing clients to her on a daily basis and allowing her to make a comfortable living as an entrepreneur.
While Marie and other practitioners like her provided the mundane practices of Voodoo to clients, delivering potions and gris-gris bags as needed, the more elaborate rituals were held in the swamps outside the city as well as at Bayou St. John where spiritual ceremonies were conducted including the High Priestesses dancing naked to a powerful rhythm of drums while handling large serpents.
One of the most famous Voodoo festivals held each year is during Summer Solstice, which is also referred to as St. John’s Festival. Many times, these festivals are open to the public to attend and observe. During the time that Marie Laveau reigned as the Queen of Voodoo, she often invited reporters and the public to attend and witness the festivities on Bayou St. John and on Lake Pontchartrain. It was said in the early 1870’s over twelve thousand people attended these rituals each year.
As the legendary Voodoo Queen of Louisiana, Marie Laveau was known for her physical beauty, her skill as a hairdresser and as a priestess who walked the gray line of magic where she overwhelmingly produced results for her clients. These talents put her in the good graces and confidences of almost everyone in New Orleans as well earning the respect of her peers. Her legendary skills grew as a Voodoo Queen and as her reputation spread, she was called in to service all over the city.
One day she was asked to visit the office of very wealthy and established man in New Orleans who asked for her assistance. His son had been arrested for a crime, which the father knew he was innocent of, but the police claimed they had enough evidence to prove his guilt. The man felt that his son had been set up for a variety of political and economic reasons and that he had no other discourse available than to result to Voodoo in order to help the situation or see his son go to prison. Marie agreed to assist the man with the matter and it is said that she spent three days in preparation, becoming deeply involved in an intense series of rituals, incantations, spells and charms. On the third day of her ritual, just hours before the trial was set to be held, Marie placed three hot peppers in her mouth and walked through the French Quarter to the St. Louis Cathedral. When she arrived in the church, she knelt and prayed in the church for an hour, while keeping the hot peppers burning inside her mouth, asking for divine intervention for the plight of this man’s son.
She left the church and through her elaborate system of connections throughout the city, she was able to gain entrance undetected inside the courtroom where the judge would sit to preside over the case. Marie was able to place the hot peppers along with other magical items she had prepared directly under his chair. She then exited the courtroom and reportedly returned home to continue her prayers to the gods to correct the situation now occurring at the courthouse.
The trial began and against the overwhelming amount of evidence produced by the police towards the young man, the Judge ruled in the young man’s favor and pronounced him not guilty. The legend around this event says that the father was so elated by Marie’s magic that he not only paid her more for her work than the price she had asked, he also bought her a small cottage home in appreciation. Other historians dispute this part of this legend, stating that Marie already owned this cottage, which had been handed down from her grandmother. Records during this time were spotty at best and it has never been fully confirmed exactly when Marie became the owner of this cottage on St. Ann Street. Some historians speculate that the man may have paid off what was still owed on the cottage or contributed financially to Marie in other manners.
Regardless of how she was paid for her work, word of Marie’s tremendous abilities to sway the minds of the judicial system quickly began to spread through New Orleans from one wealthy family to another. The opportunities for power and persuasion were very attractive and other families began to share their experiences of the magical abilities that Marie Laveau had produced for them. From this moment, her reputation soared to an even greater height, as she became feared as well as respected and thus was treated well by all people she encountered throughout the city. It was also reported that she possessed psychic abilities and could offer counsel at the levels once reported by the Oracles of Greece. It was said that Marie was able to communicate with the spirit world and could both deliver and receive messages from the dead.
Queen Marie was also highly respected for her charitable works and she joined forces with Pere Antoine at the Catholic St. Louis Cathedral to feed, clothe and help the poor, homeless and ill. She spiritually counseled prisoners and offered comfort to them in their times of despair and worked tirelessly as a nurse during many of the plagues to hit New Orleans including yellow fever. Her legacy of compassion and care for the misfortunate is as great as her work as a Voodoo Queen, though most remember her for her supernatural abilities over her human ones. There is a growing movement to have her canonized as a Saint for all of the charitable work and good deeds that she did throughout her lifetime. Like many situations where people fear what they don’t understand, some idolized Marie while others despised her. She was called a Saint by some and a witch by others, depending upon whether the person was in her good graces.
What happened next to Marie? Read the rest of the story in my book Spirits of New Orleans: Voodoo Curses, Vampire Legends and Cities of the Dead.
Award winning author, national columnist, inspirational speaker, and host of the Explore Your Spirit with Kala Radio and TV Show, Kala Ambrose’s teachings are described as discerning, empowering and inspiring. Whether she’s speaking with world-renowned experts on the Explore Your Spirit with Kala Show, writing about empowering lifestyle choices or teaching to groups around the country, fans around the world tune in daily for her inspirational musings and lively thought-provoking conversations.
A highly interactive teacher on a mission to educate, entertain and inspire, Kala teaches and writes about ancient wisdom teachings and how their techniques can be used in modern day living. Her books, The Awakened Aura: Experiencing the Evolution of Your Energy Body and 9 Life Altering Lessons: Secrets of the Mystery Schools Unveiled both cover these topics. In addition, Kala shares her love of history, travel and the spirit world in her books Spirits of New Orleans and Ghosthunting North Carolina. Her books are designed to explore the history of cities in an entertaining manner while sharing haunted stories and offering travel tips on how to best see the cities to shop, dine, stay, and visit the haunted sites.
Kala writes for the Huffington Post, the Examiner, AOL, Yahoo and Fate Magazine and presents workshops nationally on the Mind/Body/Spirit connection including Auras and Energy Fields, Developing Entrepreneur Intuition, Haunted History, and Wisdom Teachings at the Omega Institute, John Edward Presents Infinite Quest, Edgar Cayce’s ARE, the Learning Annex, LilyDale Assembly, Daily Om and her school, the Academy of Mystical Arts & Spiritual Sciences. More about Kala at http://www.ExploreYourSpirit.com