DON’T GO MESSIN’ WITH A FAUX LAVEAU

Marie Laveau is perhaps the most notable occultist in American history. Known as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Laveau spent her entire life in the city working as a voodoo priestess, midwife, herbalist and hairstylist. In addition to protection spells and gris gris, Marie was a devoted Catholic and intertwined her magical workings with her faith, which explains why she was buried at a Catholic cemetery. But if you want to visit her grave make sure you’re at the right one and not what is often referred to as a ‘Faux Laveau.’

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 opened in 1789 and is the oldest operating cemetery in New Orleans proper. It is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans. When visiting the city one of the first things you notice is all the above ground tombs. Unlike other traditional cemeteries across the United States, Nola’s graveyards are designed after the European model, namely The Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. This was done not just for aesthetics but also necessity, as the city lies below sea level. There is another major difference between the famed Parisian cemetery and the ones in New Orleans and that is the French buried their dead under the ground with the monuments on top. In New Orleans the deceased are inside the monument, many times with multiple generations residing within the walls of the large tombs.

Marie Laveau was well loved by New Orleanians for dedicating her magical resources to healing the sick, manifesting love and helping with political influences, amongst other things. That is evidenced by her obituary in The New York Times which read: “lawyers, legislators, planters, and merchants all came to pay their respects and seek her offices.” As you can see she had many supporters across all walks of life.

In the century after her death Marie Laveau’s tomb became a popular destination for visitors of the Crescent City with more than 200,000 people stopping by to pay their respects every year. I visited myself during a trip back in 1994 and observed that out-of-towners and locals alike leave offerings of all varieties. Flowers, cigarettes, rum and even a pregnancy test were among some of the unique items I spotted, as well as multiple X’s carved on the tomb. It is believed that if you mark three X’s on the momument Marie will offer you protection and good luck. Another version says you draw an X on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, yell out your wish, and if it was granted, you should return and circle your X and leave Laveau an offering.

Visits to the site were so numerous that in the past couple decades tour groups often couldn’t get near her actual crypt so a few ingenious (and perhaps a tad unscrupulous) tour guides decided that they would take unknowing visitors to an entirely different one, claiming that one belonged to Laveau. These tombs, which became known as “Faux Laveaus” were also adorned with offerings and covered in X’s.

You will find several Faux Laveaus in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 but make no mistake, according to records from the Archdiocese of New Orleans Marie Laveau is buried in the family tomb of the Widow Paris, middle vault. There she eternally rests with her common-law husband, Christophe Glapion, and is surrounded by the remains of their many children and other relatives.

In mid December 2013, under the cloak of darkness, a vandal desicrated the tomb by painting the entire crypt a shade of bubblegum pink. It had to be stripped of the paint by the Bayou Preservation crew and repairs were made to the plaster bringing it back to its original look. Every year the tomb is cleaned and covered in a protective lime wash. After it’s restoration, the newly pristine Voodoo queen’s tomb was unveiled on Halloween 2014.

As of 2015 you can no longer enter the cemetery by yourself and must take a tour with an licensed tour guide registered with the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Many visitors expect the tomb to be covered in XXX and offerings but since the restoration it is immaculate and somewhat unrecognizable. So if you find yourself in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and a tour guide takes you to a graffitied tomb covered in X’s just know you are at a Faux Laveau.

SOURCE CITATIONS

Boyd, Andrew. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1: Is Marie Laveau where they say she is? May 22, 2018. Nola.com

Webster, Richard. Repair of Marie Laveau’s tomb to take months, potential suspect attempted to paint another tomb one month ago. December 31, 2013. Nola.com

Refurbished Tomb Of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau To Be Unveiled On Halloween. October 29, 2014. New Orleans Public Radio.

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