I was listening to a podcast with Bloody Mary yesterday and I chuckled to myself by her ability to fool and entrance people. I can see why she is a successful paranormal tour guide. After all, let's face it. She's not a historical tour guide. She deals with the paranormal, the world of myths and legends. About 95% of what she spoke about Marie Laveau and New Orleans Voodoo is pure mythology, folklore and legend. If Bloody Mary was actually honest with folks then this is what she would have said:
"We know little to nothing about Marie Laveau I. We know slightly more about her daughter, Marie Laveau II. The End."
Of course, Bloody Mary can't be honest because honesty doesn't attract tourism. Here's what we do know about Marie Laveau.
1. She was born into a relatively wealthy family in the latter 1700s.
2. She married a man named Paris who died long before she did.
3. She had a daughter who took her own name and practice after she died.
4. She was a conjure woman, a hoodoo woman, a root worker.
5. It is said that one Dr. John taught her how to make mojo bags or "gris-gris". However, it's true there is little to no information on Dr. John, just like there is little to no information on Marie Laveau I.
6. Marie Laveau was a quadroon, 1/4 black, and would have been light skinned. For an example of what she might have looked like reference Wentworth Miller who is also a quadroon. Here's a pic of him: http://www.hdwpapers.com/wentworth_miller_wallpaper_16-wallpapers.html
7. There is no indication that Marie Laveau was ever initiated into any traditional African religion. One does not become a priestess without an initiation. (In fact Bloody Mary says she learned her stuff from multiple people. Again, this is not how how real African religions work.)
8. She allegedly danced with a snake she called "Le Grand Zombi". However, there is no spirit named Zombi in Voodoo, either from Haiti or African Voodoo. However, Nzambi is the name of the creator god among the Congo peoples. The creator god is far too busy to directly interact with the lives of humans, let alone dance with them during orgiastic made-up rituals. Note that Nzambi is the name of the Congo creator god. Note "Congo Square". The majority of the slaves in New Orleans came from the Congo region, a place that is not the central location where Voodoo originates. There were some Haitian slaves but there's no evidence they brought Voodoo with them or that it was ever established in New Orleans.
9. I have no idea when the practice of marking her tomb began but the family who owns the crypt wants people to stop doing it. Technically, it's against the law but this doesn't stop anyone. The marking of the tomb has nothing to do with actual Voodoo and likely sprang up as an urban legend. It's a form of working with spirits but it's just not Voodoo. The lore of what you do, as in the ritual, has changed greatly over the years. There has never been one "right way" to do it. However, the ritual does seem to get more and more elaborate over the years. Now you practically have to do the "hokey-pokey" to gain her favor.
10. Marie Laveau was never viewed as a candidate for sainthood. Instead, one of her kin was supposedly a devout nun and it was she who was up for possible sainthood. However, It's very doubtful this will ever come to pass.
11. Marie Laveau is far more popular with tourists than with actual locals. Then again, most locals will tell you the Voodoo stuff is nonsense anyway.
I think Bloody Mary is a wonderful tour guide. Even I would pay to take her tour. It's just that I wouldn't rely on her for any historical information. It's all entertainment. New Orleans Voodoo is a bull shit show put on for tourists. So view it as entertainment and you will be fine. It's only really circa 35 years old or so, when all the shops and museums exploded in the 70s and 80s. Even Wicca is older than New Orleans Voodoo. Go back before that time and the only "Voodoo" people knew about in New Orleans was magic, a.k.a. hoodoo. The "religion" is a completely modern invention with no ties to any traditional African religion or practice.
I will end on these three things:
1. Zore Neale Hurston, African-American author and folklorist, traveled to New Orleans in the 1930s to search for Voodoo. She found not a trace. She found hoodoo around every corner though.
2. Harry Middleton Hyatt traveled the South recording folk magic and "spells" in the 1930s, 1940s, and supplemental interviews in the 1970s. He spoke with many a person from New Orleans and Louisiana. Not one single person ever spoke about Voodoo or a Voodoo Queen. Not one. They all spoke about hoodoo and about root workers in New Orleans, Algiers, and other places in Louisiana.
3. Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton, Creole, New Orleans native and self-professed inventor of Jazz music said in an 1938 interview, (paraphrased), "What you (white people) call Voodoo, we call hoodoo here in New Orleans."
All three things are thorns in the side of the New Orleans Voodoo crowd as they pretty much reveal the truth that the "Voodoo as a religion in New Orleans" is bull shit. The real tradition is hoodoo, a.k.a. conjure or roots. I'm so sorry, but anyone who claims otherwise is just either horribly ignorant or a fraud.