Historical records surmise that Marie Laveau was born free in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, Thursday September 10th, 1801. She was the natural daughter of two free persons of color, both biracial, one of whom was Creole.4 On August 4, 1819, she married Jacques (or Santiago, in other records) Paris, a free person of color who had emigrated from Haiti.3 Their marriage certificate is preserved in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. The wedding mass was performed by Father Antonio de Sedella, the Capuchin priest known as Pere Antoine.5
The death of Jacques Paris was recorded in 1820.2 He was part of a large Haitian immigration to New Orleans in 1809, after the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804. New immigrants consisted of French-speaking white planters and thousands of slaves as well as free people of color. Those with African ancestry helped revive Voodoo and other African-based cultural practices in the New Orleans community, and the Creole of color community increased markedly.
Very little is known with any certainty about the life of Marie Laveau. It is believed Laveau and her surviving daughter had the same name, her daughter being named Marie Laveau II.6 Scholars[who?] believe that the mother was more powerful[vague] while the daughter arranged more elaborate public events (including inviting attendees to St. John’s Eve rituals on Bayou St. John). They received varying amounts of financial support. It is not known which (if either) had done more to establish the voodoo queen reputation.5 Marie Laveau ll was believed to have three children whom she sent to the Dominican Republic after threats were made to burn them alive. Marie’s husband, Jose Huerta, raised the children on his own to keep the voodoo tradition within his family. The last recorded descendents of this family are Victor Delgado-Huerta (born 1999) and Melenie Delgado-Huerta (born 2003). The families that are believed to be in direct relation with the Laveau blood line are that of the Gauthier and Quebedeaux. Both still practice vodoun but have not been given higher titles by the International Voodoo Society. One of the sons of Marie I and Christophe Duminy de Glapion was Alexis Celestin Glapion born 1834. He stayed in New Orleans where he and his wife Emma Vicknaire had 11 children. The last recorded descendants of this line of the family live in Detroit, MI and Boston, MA.
“The only evidence that exist(s) of any sort of occupation she had was (as) a liquor importer (in 1832) on Dauphine Street in the Faubourg Marigny (in New Orleans).”7 Folklore says at one time she also became a hairdresser, to high standing locals of New Orleans and gained profitable information from working in her clientele’s homes.68 She took a lover, Christophe Dominick Duminy de Glapion, with whom she lived until his death in 1835. They were reported to have had 15 children, including Marie Laveau II, born c. 1827, who sometimes used the surname “Paris” after her mother’s first husband.3
Of Laveau’s magical career, there is little that can be substantiated, including whether she had a snake she named Zombi after an African god, whether the occult part of her magic mixed Roman Catholic saints with African spirits, or whether her divinations were supported by a network of informants she developed while working as a hairdresser in prominent white households and in a brothel she ran. She 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.5
Plaque at the grave of Louisiana Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau
On June 16, 1881, the New Orleans newspapers, the Daily Picayune posted her obituary, which, according to “Voodoo in New Orleans” by Robert Tallant, announced that Marie Laveau had died peacefully in her home. This is noteworthy if only because people claimed[clarification needed] to have seen her in town after her supposed demise. Again, some claimed[clarification needed] that one of her daughters also named Marie (many of the daughters had Marie within their names due to Catholic naming practices) assumed her name and carried on her magical practice, taking over as the queen soon before or after the first Marie’s death.
According to official New Orleans vital records, Marie Glapion Laveau died on June 15, 1881, aged 86.9 The different spellings of her surname may result from a casual approach to spelling, and her age at death from conflicting accounts of her birthdate.
Marie Laveau is generally believed to have been buried in plot 347, the Glapion family crypt, in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans, but this has been disputed10 by at least Robert Tallant, a journalist who used her as a character in historical novels.5 Tourists continue to visit and some draw “X” marks in accordance with a decades-old rumor 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.10 The tomb in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 was vandalized on December 17, 2013, by being painted over with pink latex paint, likely in an attempt by a “homeless, mentally unstable kid” to cover up the “X” mark graffiti.10 The paint must be removed because the structure is made of old plaster and the latex paint would seal in moisture that would destroy the plaster, but some historical preservation experts have criticized the decision by the Archdiocese of New Orleans, who maintain the cemetery, for their decision to use pressure washing rather than paint stripper to remove it.1112
As of March 1st 2015 there is no longer public access to St. Louis #1 cemetery. Entry with a tour guide is required. This was done by the Archdiocese of New Orleans to protect the tombs of not only the Laveau family but the many other notable dead residing there. Continued vandalism and destruction of tombs forced them to do so. The Laveau Family tomb has just undergone extensive restoration. The practice of marking an X on any tomb is a federal crime and disrespect to the dead.
Although some references to Marie Laveau in popular culture refer to her as a “witch”, she is properly described as a ‘Voodoo priestess’.