When I decided to write this article, I thought it would be a straight forward synopsis of the Voodoo Queen’s life and ending with with what is believed to her ghost. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. While doing my research I learned that this lady is wrapped in mystery and the truth is hard to pull out.
The first mystery is her actual birth year. Everything that I found leads to the month and date of September 10, but this is where the variances begin. I first found the date of 1784 and began to write this article. While checking sources I began to find a few other dates as well. I came to the conclusion that she was born somewhere between 1783 and 1801. Okay, no big deal as for that time records were probably poorly kept or possibly got lost/destroyed along the way.
The next thing that stumped me was the actual birthplace as well as to who her parents were. The mother wasn’t too hard to find as all the reference material I found stated that her mother was Marguerite Darcantel. The father on the other hand wasn’t as easy as I kept finding two different possibilities of a father. The first was Charles Laveau, a wealthy white creole plantation owner. The second was a free man of color who had the last name of Laveaux, sometimes cited as Charles also. Her birthplace went along with the differences of the father. While most things cited she was born in New Orleans, a couple stated she was born Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
The mystery doesn’t stop there. Some say that she was brought up as an educated woman that learned the art of hairdressing which was very prestigious at the time.
Other sources say that she never learned to read or write. All do say however that she was brought up as a devout catholic, which would lead one to believe that she could actually read and possibly write.
The story starts to even out a little about these aspects of her life. On August 4, 1819 she married a free person of color of Haiti, by the name of Jacques Paris. The couple then moved to the French Quarter of New Orleans. The couple was together until he went missing and presumed to be dead in 1824.(Although there is some evidence that he deserted her). Presumably she was left with two children as well.
After the disappearance she is believed to have become a hairdresser to many prominent women in New Orleans. Some say this lead to part of her fame. She also would go to the prisons and minister to the ones on death row, as well as care for sick people in her home.
Somewhere around 1826 she entered into a common law marriage with Louis Christophe Dumesnil de Glapion. This fellow was a very prominent member of the New Orleans society. There is a little discrepancy as to how many children they had. It’s just safer to say that they had anywhere from five to fifteen kids. They remained together until his death in 1855. At this time she stopped hairdressing and raising her family was one of full time jobs.
Most feel that it was at this point she began to infuse her Catholic upbringing with her voodoo roots to make it more acceptable to upper class of clients that she would soon take on. She would go on to making a very comfortable living selling gris-gris, magical items, and spells as well as telling fortunes and curing ailments. One articles I read suggested this: “Some scholars believe that Laveau’s feared magical powers of divination were actually based on her network of informants which she developed while working as a hairdresser in households of the prominent. As she visited her clients (mostly white) she listened closely to their gossip. She also 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.” -womenhistoryblog
The same article also had this to say:
“Once the news of Laveau’s powers spread, she overthrew the other voodoo queens of New Orleans. She acted as an oracle (a person who predicts the future), conducted private rituals behind her cottage on St. Ann Street in the French Quarter, performed exorcisms and offered sacrifices to spirits. Oral traditions suggested that the occult part of her magic mixed Roman Catholic beliefs, including saints, with African spirits and religious concepts.” -womenhistoryblog
She continued her legacy up until she died in 1881. Or did she? She has been spotted outside of home on St.Anne St numerous times. After hurricane Katrina it is said that she was seen on her front porch weeping because of the state the city she loved was in at the time. It also said that a thick black mass has been seen above her home accompanied with the smell of sulfur. She has also been spotted outside of her supposed tomb in St. Louis Cemetery #1.
Many feel that she is still at work. Visitors to her tomb draw three X’s on it’s wall and make their wishes known to her believing that she will still carry on her life’s work. Whether true or not she remains as one of New Orleans most famous and powerful women.
I hope you have enjoyed this and it inspires you to go out and do your own research on this remarkable woman.