The Magic of Marie Laveau
Embracing the Spiritual Legacy
of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans
by Denise Alvarado
The legendary former Voodoo Queen is the most anticipated stop on ghost tours, has had books written about her, is the subject of songs and is a character in “American Horror Story.” Although Marie Laveau (1801-1881) shaped New Orleans Voudou as well as Hoodoo and Conjure practices internationally, there is not one photograph of her.
While much has been written, Denise Alvarado chose to focus on Laveau’s magical and spiritual legacy. Alvarado is “a born and bred in New Orleans Creole, a cultural anthropologist as well as a life-long NewOrleans Voudou insider. This book contains her practitioner-scholar knowledge as she makes “a case for a specific form of New Orleans Voudou called ‘Laveau Voudou.’”
Research is based on legal notices in newspapers, and interviews conducted with elderly folks by the Louisiana writers’ Project between 1936-1941, and carefully selected texts to break what Alvarado calls “a seemingly endless cycle of myths and misunderstandings.” Complementing this foundation are personal experience, understanding and testimony of practitioners of New Orleans Voudou.
The book is divided into three parts. The first details Laveau’s linage, life, death and the religion she began. The second and shortest section talks about becoming a devotee, while the last part is The Laveau Magicospiritual Legacy of the twelve categories of conjure in her tradition, along with spells, conjure and magic.
Beginning with Laveau’s great-grandmother who came to America aboard a slave ship, Alvarado tells the story of Laveau’s life as a woman of color and the challenges she faced with details and antidotes. For instance, an article from the New Orleans Day Picayune in 1871 stated, “For more than twenty years, whenever a human being has suffered the final penalty [death] in the Parish Prison, an old colored woman has come to their cell and prepared an altar for them.” It went on to describe the many features of the three-tier altar draped in white. Creolization, Voudou verses Hoodoo, and Laveau’s spiritual court – which included Catholic icons representing African deities – were also covered.
Those who wish to become a respectful servant of Madame Marie’s work will be guided in the second part of this book.
“Find your skills, your creativity, and your passion, and volunteer in ways that show it,” Alvarado writes.
Other ways include blessing money and secretly leaving it where people will find it and leaving pieces of paper with magickal affirmations written in first person in random places. Creating a parterre, table altar and three-tier altar are explained, and a table of correspondences is provided, with such information as Laveau’s feast days, favorite colors, suitable offerings and subjects for which to petition. Prayers and a basic ritual round out that section.
Part three covers the dozen different categories of conjure found in Laveau’s work over time and offers spells for each. Little did I know that the mojo and spell bags and charms I make are not all that different from gris gris. I don’t expect to use the rite to silence someone that requires a large beef tongue and a pound of yard dirt from the grave of an evil person, nor do I expect to place a doll in a coffin with the intention of causing death to an enemy. I do, however, expect to make a sweet jar and perhaps even a vinegar, along with incorporating some of her devotional practices such as blessing money and leaving it to be found by others.
This book was thorough without being dense, and I felt it gave me a good understanding of Marie Laveau, the work she did, the religion named after her, and why she is still revered after her death.
About Author Denis Alvarado
Denise Alvarado was born in 1960 and raised with French, Spanish, and Native Americans family roots. For more than 40 years, she has studied indigenous healing traditions from a personal and academic perspective. She is the author of numerous books about Southern folk traditions, including “The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook,” “The Conjurer’s Guide to St. Expedite,” “Workin’ in da Boneyard,” “The Voodoo Doll Spellbook: A Compendium of Ancient and Contemporary Spells and Rituals” and “Fortune-Telling with Playing Cards.” Her provocative artwork has been featured on several television shows including National Geographic’s “Taboo,” “The Originals” and “Blue Bloods.” She is a rootworker in the Louisiana folk magic tradition, a spiritual artist, and teacher of southern conjure at Crossroads University. Visit her websites: creolemoon.com and patreon.com/denisealvarado for a little sweet tea and conjure.
About the Author:
All my life I have known magic was real. As a child, I played with the fae, established relationships with trees and “just knew things.” In my maiden years I discovered witchcraft and dabbled in the black-candles-and-cemeteries-at-midnight-on-a-fullmoon magick just enough to realize I did not understand its power. I went on to explore many practices including Zen, astrology, color therapy, native traditions, tarot, herbs, candle magic, gems, and, as I moved into my mother years, Buddhism, the Kabbalah and Reiki. The first man I dated after my divorce was a witch who reintroduced me to the Craft, this time by way of the Goddess. For 11 years I was in a coven, but with retirement, I have returned to an eclectic solitary practice. When accepting the mantle of crone, I pledged to serve and teach. This is what I do from my skoolie – a 30-year-old school bus converted into a tiny house on wheels that I am driving around the country, following 72-degree weather, emerging myself into nature, and sharing magic with those I meet. Find me at thewitchonwheels.com, Facebook and Instagram.