Friday, May 04, 2007

The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau

Martha Ward, Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau (2004).

Ward weaves an intricate account of the New Orleans Voodoo queens and their family connections amid shifting 19th century racial mores. She craftily sifts through public records, Work Projects Administration (WPA) interviews, and other extant evidence. Her analysis is admirable, for reimagining the secret lives of powerful (and subversive) Creole women practicing Voodoo more than a century ago is an inherently difficult challenge. Ward’s interpretations are plausible and in many cases even probable. That said, I suppose there will still always be an air of mystery accompanying New Orleans Voodoo. Ideally, new researchers will trace through Ward’s meticulous documentation and test her conclusions, looking for new evidence.

There were two Marie Laveaus – Marie Laveau (ca. 1801-1881) and her daughter, Marie Heloise Eucharist Glapion (1827-18??), also known as Marie Laveau. They were both free “women of color.” They were Catholic and spoke French. Folk Catholicism and Voodoo were and are perfectly compatible. Marie Laveau I worked effectively with Father Père Antoine (Padre Antonio de Sedella) in and around the St. Louis Cathedral. Ward demonstrates how their association was mutually beneficial – they both worked with the sick and poor and indirectly subverted the slave system and race codes.

One of the spookier notions in Voodoo Queen is that the Superdome was built over the Girod Cemetery, possible last resting place for Marie Laveau II. Because the burial grounds were not properly treated or relocated, the Superdome is cursed. Voodoo Queen was published in 2004 – a year before Hurricane Katrina.

Birthdays: Abu Ismaïl Abdullah ibn Abi-Mansour Mohammad, Horace Mann, Muhammad Hosni Said Mubarak, Audrey Hepburn, Ron Carter, Dick Dale, Tyrone Davis, Pia Zador.

Adieu -- so be it.


the walking man said...

Very interesting post. I am no scholar but I have looked into some of the Creole voodoo as it mixed with Catholicism and found it to be an interesting search topic.

But what I want to say is if the Dome was in fact built over any cemetery of any kind it should be removed and the remains given the proper respect of the New Orleans 7 year above ground burial.

I don't believe in sanctified ground at all,dirt is dirt nothing makes it holy or unholy but respect for the remains of what were once human beings is of paramount importance to every culture in the world.

Bubs said...

Very cool post Erik. What caused you to write about Marie Laveau today? I ask because my daughters just brought home a comic book based on the legend of the Lalaurie house in New Orleans, and we were just talking about New Orleans about an hour ago.

Danny Tagalog said...

Interesting - again you educate us about that damn fine land of yours. Cheers!

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks all for the comments --
Walking Man, I agree completely. Bubs, it must be Voodoo in the air ;) Danny, it'll be finer when Bush goes away. Wicked!