There are several locales in America that have well-earned reputations as hotbeds of psychic activity. Sedona, Arizona, for example, is renowned for both the majestic beauty and spiritual mysticism emanating from its breathtaking Red Rock landscape. Lily Dale, New York, has been a focal center for psychic activity since the 1800s, and boasts 45 certified psychics amongst its tiny population of less than 300 registered residents.
But of all the psychic polestars that dot the U.S. map, the place that tops nearly every list of psychic places is New Orleans, Louisiana, and much of The Big Easy’s notoriety as a metaphysical Mecca is thanks in large part to its most legendary psychic citizen, the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau.
Long before the phenomenon of instant celebrity afforded by the modern Internet, Marie Laveau was known far and wide for her prowess in the arts of magic and healing. In 1874, when she officiated over the St. John’s Eve rites on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, the crowd numbered nearly 12,000. Laveau’s acolytes spanned the gamut from slaves and free blacks to middle class and even the wealthiest members of elite New Orleans society.
While some of the tall tales surrounding her supernatural feats were likely not true, Laveau was particularly adept at promulgating her own PR, and was known to both embrace and aggrandize accounts of her powers. One such belief was that Laveau had found a way to restore her youth. First-person accounts arose of a young Laveau seen traversing the city streets of New Orleans, when only weeks before, visitors left her ailing, bedridden, and well past her prime.
Most likely, the spritely woman witnesses saw out and about was Laveau’s daughter, another Voodoo priestess also named Marie, who was said to have been a dead ringer for her famous mama. Even though that’s the most plausible scenario, there were still folks who believed that it was Laveau herself, having turned back the clock–at least temporarily–enjoying an evening promenade.
Who Was Marie Laveau?
Though the date of her birth is disputed as either 1794 or 1801, Marie Catherine Laveau was a Creole woman born in the Free French Quarter of New Orleans to bi-racial parents. She married her first husband, Jacques Paris, in 1819. Paris disappeared mysteriously about a year later, and from that point on, while Laveau was known by many as “The Widow Paris,” she soon took up with a man named Christopher Glapion, and by some reports, had as many as 15 children by him, though they were never officially married.
Laveau was a practitioner of New Orleans Voodoo, which encompasses a canon of folk beliefs, celebrations and ceremonies involving magic charms and amulets that rely on the use of herbs and poisons, combined with specific rituals and prayer to take effect. The traditions were originally brought to the area by West African slaves during Colonial times, and evolved as the burgeoning population of free people of color escaped to New Orleans during the slave revolt of the Haitian Revolution from 1794 and 1801.
During her heyday, there were as many as 15 Voodoo Queens in New Orleans, but by all accounts, Marie Laveau was deemed the most powerful. It’s likely that Laveau learned her craft from her mentor, Doctor John (who also went by the names Bayou John and Prince John), one of the most powerful Voodoo Kings in New Orleans.
A hairdresser by trade, Laveau was on intimate terms with some of New Orleans’ most influential citizens, and certainly profited from the insider knowledge she gleaned from them. In addition to coiffure, Laveau’s clientele came to her for magical charms, including gris-gris bags and a variety of potions to elicit love, wealth, health, and other forms of happiness, as well as voodoo dolls and amulets with which to dispatch one’s enemies.
As strange as it may sound, along with her Voodoo beliefs, Laveau was also a devout Catholic, who regularly attended mass, and encouraged others to do the same. While the practice was in part motivated as a means to keep their true beliefs under the radar, for devotees of Voodoo, the two religions became inexorably intertwined, even now sharing a variety of saints and celebrations.
The Legend Continues
When Marie Laveau died in June 1881, her funeral was attended by a massive crowd. She was laid to rest in the family tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Though dead, there were those who still believed that they could appeal to Laveau’s spirit to grant them earthly requests, and over time, the Tomb of Marie Laveau became on of New Orleans’ most popular tourist destinations.
As with many places of historic spiritual significance, such as Ireland’s World Heritage Site, Newgrange (Brú na Bóinne), damage from the excesses of tourism eventually forced New Orleans’ authorities to close public access to Laveau’s tomb. However, travelers seeking her favors still make the pilgrimage to the cemetery wall and lay down their offerings to the Voodoo Queen in hopes she will intervene on their behalf. In New Orleans today, there are still a variety of venues and tours that cater to those seeking spiritual guidance or who just want to learn more about the city’s fascinating psychic heritage.
Looking to put a little voodoo in the things you do, but a trip to the Big Easy isn’t in the cards? Why not let a KEEN psychic advisor help you get your gris-gris on?