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Martha Ward

Martha Ward
Voodoo Queen:
The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau


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About the Author

Martha Ward is the author of Nest in the Wind, A World Full of Women, and A Sounding of Women: Autobiographies from Unexpected Places, among other books. She is University Research Professor of Anthropology, Urban Studies, and Women's Studies at the University of New Orleans.

About the Book

Each year, thousands of pilgrims visit the tomb of Marie Laveau in New Orleans. In this old city she and her curse long have ruled the imagination. She has been conjured in dance, drumming, song, and necromancy. With dread and fierce affection, her celebrants ask for her favors and fearfully revere her enduring authority as "the Voodoo Queen." Who was Marie Laveau? This book about her mysterious life, magical deeds, and pervasive power recounts that there were two historical figures by this name, a mother and a daughter. They were free women of color, prominent French-speaking Catholic Creoles, and legendary leaders of a religious and spiritual tradition that orthodox faiths label as evil. From the 1820s until the 1880s, when one Marie died and the other disappeared, a mixture of gossip and devotion swirled about them. With an uncommon business sense the two Maries applied their magic in shifting the course of love, luck, and the law. Both pitted their voodoo might against slavery and its forces. Moses-like, they led their people out of bondage and offered protection and freedom to a strange and assorted community composed of blacks, rich white women, enslaved families, and men condemned to hanging.

The curse of the Laveau family, however, followed them. Both Maries loved men they could never marry. Both countered the relentless whispers about evil spirits, murders, and infant sacrifice with acts of benevolence. Both confronted the press and the police who stalked them. In telling the story of Marie Laveau, this book is a masterstroke of detective work. Who is really buried in the famous tomb? What scandals did the Laveau family intend to keep there forever? How did free people of color lose their cultural identity when the United States purchased Louisiana? In portraying the two Marie Laveaus Voodoo Queen brings together the improbable testimonies of saints, spirits, and never-before-printed eyewitness accounts of magical rites.

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