The Widow Paris 

  
An aging demonologist once told me, that women will always be far more dangerous to the heart of a man, than Devils could ever be. Indeed, a sociologist might speculate that there was a good reason for six thousand years of patriarchy, the fear inspired by the love of a woman. When Rome earned Queen Boudica’s scorn, thousands of men died. When Cleopatra seduced Mark Antony, the Republic was reduced to Civil War. Emperor Sigismund was tempted to give up one of the greatest nations in Europe, all for his love of Barbara. It is not hard stretch of the imagination to see then why when persecutions of witches and witchcraft broke out, it was often the helpless or downtrodden that were the target, the women of the community, and rarely if ever those in power.
The dark arts used by sorcerers through the ages was often an amalgamation of ancient wisdom mixed with the dominate religion of the time. Abramelin said in his own book that his magic could be practiced by anyone who believed in God, be he Christian, Muslim, or Jew. A city on the bayou stands today, as it did one hundred and fifty years ago, as a microcosm of race, religion, and politics of America. New Orleans stood at the beginning of the 19th Century as a place were strange things were told on every corner. African and European, slave with free, Catholicism with witchcraft, blended into the most eclectic communities the world has ever known. In this community, a mixing of religions also took place, spiritual folkways of the African diaspora blended and was practiced alongside traditional Christianity, Voodoo wasn’t born in New Orleans, but it certainly was defined and took root there. And among its practitioners, Queens were often looked up to as leaders of a sort. People would come to them for advice or help, weather it was a jealous lover or success of their business, to purchase gris-gris, or to attend a ritual. And among all the Queens, one name stands above the rest, Marie Laveau.

She was tall with soft mulatto skin and walked with confidence and grace to Church each Sunday morning in her best dress and stroll down to Congo Square in soft linen each evening with a large snake named Zombi wrapped around her, with which she would dance provocatively inviting the god to possess her. Upon her head was an ornate head wrap she was required by law to wear. What once was meant as a mark of subservience, Marie Laveau and those Creole women like her transformed into a symbol of defiant supremacy of the whites and men alike. Though they could not practice primogeniture, Marie was smart enough to work around the legal stature of her station to ensure that her daughters inherited her estate and of more interest, through some kind of voodoo it was assumed that at least one of her daughters inherited her spirit at well. It was said that Marie Laveau never aged though we know from legal documents that Marie’s daughter, Marie the second inherited her mother’s likeness, business acumen, and mythos that left the city gossiping to this day as to when Marie the first actually retired and Marie the second took over. 
She was born around the beginning of the 19th century and was trained in the Voodoo by the legendary Voodoo King Brother John. After the mysterious disappearance of her husband she began to call herself The Widow Paris, and out of financial necessity, started a hair salon which served the wealthy upper-class ladies of her day, and as a byproduct of this business, she trafficked in the most lucrative business of all-information. In her time, she was said to built a network of informants that would make the Stasi jealous, striking fear in the slave and servants of the wealthy and  convincing them to tell her all the gossip and roamer coming from their house. Through these connections she soon dined with judges and politicians who saw fit to do her favors from time to time. Weather through her gris-gris or by these connections high up, she soon scared off other would be Voodoo Queens, those she could not frighten she physically assaulted until all acknowledged her as Queen of Queens-a title that she holds to this day.
Legends of Marie Laveau have been only grown since her time as the Queen of New Orleans, some more outrageous than others. In the delicately stratified society of the time, Voodoo had an on again off again relationship with the Law. Raids would scour the city, shutting down ritual seances and fining those involved. Marie evaded the law dogs for most of her career, and when they did finally knock on her door, it is said that with a wave of her hand the officers tore off their clothes and started yelping like dogs. Another time it was said that she only spoke a word when they broke through the door, and instead of arresting the women, the officers took to beating each other with billy clubs. These stories, however fantastic can never be substantiated, and it is a mystery for all but the initiated what actually goes on at Voodoo rituals. Some say human sacrifice. Others whisper lewd tales of orgies, seductive dancing, and women going mad when possessed by a god. What can be substantiated is the elder Marie’s well known kindness for the hungry, the sick, and the poor. Yellow fever ran repent in the Big Easy for years, Marie herself lost several children to the disease. Which is probably why she could always be found personally nursing and feeding the sick when an outbreak happened. After her supposedly lewd dancing, she would leave the many offerings of food and money in Congo Square for beggars and widows. Perhaps her most well documented ministry was to those on death row, in the rank and disgusting cells of Parish Prison.
Few if any of us could imagine our last moments being played out before our eyes. The need for repentance. The desire for companionship, the longing for forgiveness. These are all things the Widow Paris offered of basic murders who stood to gain the gallows at the rising of the sun. After the death of her confessor she knelt to hear their confessions, would pray with them all night long, and would often cook their last meal as a last concession for a dead man. For all the black and white. The painting of the devil worshiping Queen against the tenets of the faithful commoner, the Queen of Orleans mixed not only fact with fiction, but faith with superstition, good will with divination. Myth and fact often coalesce in her life. She could sometimes save these men, as was the case with John Bazar, who was sentenced to hang until dead. Marie prayed with him in the prison chapel on the morning he was to die. She was in the crowed as the executioner placed the black hood over his face and nose secured around his neck. The warden had risen his arm to signal the trap door spring open, when at just that moment, a messenger arrived in the courtyard, bearing the pardon of the Governor. Another moment and John’s lifeless body would have been hanging from the gallows, were it not for the political machinations of the Voodoo Queen.
Her gris-gris was not all powerful though, in another instance when two white men were condemned to die after they had brutally murdered a young slave girl. They were led out to the gallows where the hangman secured the rope around his prisoners, Marie had tried to gain a pardon, or at the very least a stay of execution but to no avail, neither her magic nor her connections seemed to do the trick. But as she stood helpless in the crowd and the prisoners braced for death, the bright clear sky turned a sudden shad of iron. Just as the church bells began to sound a flash of lightening struck out, blinding the onlookers. Then another, and another, which drowned out the sound of the trap door springing open, but as the crowd’s eyes adjusted, all they could see were two empty noses swinging in the heavy rain that begun to fall. Marie Lavou had disappeared. The prisoners though were not spared their punishment, they had fallen fifteen feet from the gallows due to faulty construction. The problem was soon remedied, and the prisoner’s bodies were seen hanging from its rafters not long after. Witness openly said that the wrath of God had been born out that morning, for as soon as the hanging was done, the skies cleared, leaving a confused and bewildered crowed to disperse to tell another legend of the Widow Paris.
Marie the first lived to a ripe old age of 79 and passed away lamenting that the Voodoo in her city was not as it once was, that the power it once held had diminished. She was given a Catholic burial and laid in her family tomb in Saint Louis Cemetery no. one which is still visited by thousands of patrons every year who leave offerings in the hope that her spirit might help them with a small favor.
Her daughter, Marie the second, has a more ambiguous fate, during the time of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the authorities cracked down on Voodoo practice within the city. Many of the practitioners of moved to the shores of Lake Pontchartrain to worship in a more secluded area, Marie the Second held her rituals on those shores, living out of a small shack at the lakes edge. It was there one night while holding such a ritual that she began to sing “I want to die in the lake” And as she sung, a sudden storm kicked up, a great wave crashed against the shore which swept Marie the second and her tiny shack away into the turbulent water, her followers were moved to save her but she waved them away, continually singing “ I want to die in the lake”.
There is no record available about Marie the second on how she died and after the summer of 1874 she is never mentioned ever again by friend or family.

Marie the second though was not like her mother, she was not devout, and it is wondered if she even kept her mothers Catholic Faith. She also had a way of monetizing her Voodoo. It always had a monetary side no doubt but Marie the second seems to have focused on this to the detriment of her spiritual work. Unlike her mother she was never seen helping the poor, the sick, the downtrodden and helpless. One has to wonder then, if her mother was not the wiser Queen of the two. In Voodoo there is a popular belief, you see, much like the Indian concept of Karma, what goes around comes around. Perhaps all the good work her mother did acted as a way to insulate her soul from the wickedness around her. For Voodoo, as many know, goes far deeper than love spells or ugly dolls you stick pins into. There are dangerous and deadly curses, and if you say them enough, eventually that evil you unleash will come back to you. And maybe it found Marie the second in that storm.
One person did claim to see Marie the second, one last time. After the great storm that swept her away, a young girl decided to go fishing in the lake, after reaching her favorite fishing hole she spotted a woman floating serenely among the willow trees, a blue vail lay over her face and in her arms, she clutched a box. Mystified, the child brushed aside the vail and tried the lift the box. No sooner had she done this than the women’s eyes shot open staring through the frightened little girl.
“I love you my child, and I don’t love many people, I am Marie Laveau”
The child began to tremble “But they say you are dead” she replied
“I know” She said with a laugh. “Marie Laveau’s been dead before, I am a strong woman. Come see me sometime.”
  
Bibliography 

Voodoo Queen; The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau  by Martha Ward

Voodoo in New Orleans by Robert  Tallent