Was Marie Laveau a witch or a saint? No one will ever know. The clouded history of the infamous New Orleans Voodoo Queen has been clouded by time, leaving us with an ambiguous legend that is part truth, part myth and mysteriously compelling. Because of that, Marie Laveau clocks into the Top Ten Witches of All-Time at number 6.
A Creole woman of color, Marie was freeborn in New Orleans sometime between 1794 and 1801 to free mulatto parents. Married at a young age to Jacques Paris, a Haitian immigrant, she bore two children, neither of which survived childhood. Her husband died of mysterious circumstances and the Voodoo Queen’s legacy was born.
She later bore several children with her long time lover, Louis Christophe Dumesnil de Glapio, one of which grew up to follow her mother’s footsteps and became known as Marie Laveau II. Whether she was a witch, voodoo priestess or just an adventurous Catholic, does nothing to take away from this woman’s true legacy. Heck, being born free in a land of slavery was astounding enough for a woman of color. The fact that she owned her own land, her own business as a liquor importer, was a slave owner herself and served as a faith healer only serves to make her more hyped accomplishments, real or imagined, even more impressive.
There are many legends about Marie. Supposedly she served as a nurse during the yellow fever epidemic of the 1830’s, using her spiritual healing powers to heal many of the afflicted. She was also claimed to be a hair dresser for the affluent, a blackmailer, a snake handler, the leader of blood drenched voodoo rituals, and a brothel owner. But above all she will be remembered as a voodoo queen, though what she practiced was most likely a clever mix of Catholicism and Voodoo. Her mystical powers were said to include fixing court cases, and being a witch so powerful she killed a sitting governor and lieutenant governor with nothing more than a magick spell and voodoo ritual.
It is also claimed that Marie Laveau is immortal. Whether that is true or not cannot be proven, however, her legend has truly become immortalized. Even today, at the place of her reputed tomb, curiosity brings tourists who draw ‘X’s’ on her mausoleum, in hopes of being blessed, while also praying not to be cursed.
In popular culture, Marie Laveau’s legend has been kept alive by many sources. There are novels about her, her likeness has appeared in Marvel Comics, there are pop songs about her, including one by Dr. Hook and another by Jazz pianist Joe Sample. There are also biographies based on her life and times. She even has a part in one of my favorite shows, American Horror Story, whose portrayal of her by Angela Bassett is spot on!
No other witch on this list, or any other for that matter, can claim the staying power achieved by Marie Laveau. I hope I haven’t insulted her greatness by listing her at only number 6. That being said, the next five witches on the list are very strong. Be sure to check back Thursday, April 4, for the number 5Witch of All-Time: Hermione Granger from Harry Potter.
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