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ZORA NEALE HURSTON
on
MARIE LAVEAU

This is a supplement to the 2018 edition of the "Genuine Magic of Marie Laveau", edted by catherine yronwode. It is provided for those whose curiosity extends beyond reading the spells in hoodoo's earliest grimoire, and into learning what the grimoire's first compiler, Zora Neale Hurston, had to say about the book's purported author, Marie Laveau. This material was originally published in the Journal of American Folk-Lore, Vol.44, Oct.-Nov. 1931, and in the article, for reasons unknown, Marie Laveau's surname was consistently misspelled as "Levea," and is left here as such.
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MARIE LEVEAU

from "Hoodoo in America" by Zora Neale Hurston

Journal of American Folk-Lore, Vol.44, Oct.-Nov. 1931

Marie Leveau is the great name of Negro conjure in America. There were three Marie Leveaux, of whom the last, the daughter and grand- daughter of the other two, was the most renowned.

The first one is said to have been a small black Congo woman. The daughter was a mulatto of very handsome body and face. The granddaughter was an octoroon of great beauty. Her curly head is described as bandeaued with bright tignons clasped with expensive jewels.

This granddaughter became the greatest hoodoo queen of America. She was born February 2, 1827, according to the birth records in St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans and studied hoodoo with one Alexander. She was the natural daughter of Marie Laveau and Christophe Glapion. She lived on St. Anne Street, between North Rampart and Burgundy, in the French Quarter, but also kept a home on Bayou St. John near Lake Pontchartrain. There is very little contemporary record of her, but her glory has not suffered with the passing of time. She is traditionally said to have been consulted by Queen Victoria, who was so pleased with the results that she sent her a shawl and a large sum of money. An oil painting of her hangs in the Cabildo, the Museum of the State of Louisiana, and her fame extends far beyond the borders of hoodoo. She is supposed to have been attended by a huge rattlesnake. The morning after her death he was seen crawling away to the woods about Lake Pontchartrain and was never seen again.

There is the story of the storm when she was at her home on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. She refused to flee, in spite of urging. Finally the storm swept the cabin into the lake. She resisted rescue, saying that she wished to die there in the lake in the storm. She was always the magnificent savage, and she perhaps felt that, being old, her end was near. She preferred an exit with nature itself playing its most magnificent music than dry rotting in a bed. She was forcibly rescued, but it is said that neither wind, water nor thunder ceased until she had set foot on land.

She held a dance the first Friday night in each month and a annual dance on the eve of St. John's, June 24. The dance drums were made by stretching cow-hide over a halfbarrel.

They were beaten the jaw-bone or leg-bone of a jackass or some other large animal. People called the dance the can-can. It is said that when she held dances on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, every St. John's Eve she used to rise out of the lake with a huge communion candle burning atop of her head and one in each hand, all lighted and burning brightly as she rose from the bosom of the lake and walked to the shore upon water. When the ceremony was over, she would go back upon the as she had come and disappear in the lake.

People feared hoodoo in general and Marie Leveau in particular such an extent that one day some one saw a sizeable cloth package in the mud in the street. No one would touch it. It lay there so long the cloth rotted and a buggy driving over it tore it open and revealed gold coins.

When she lived in St. Anne Street the police tried to raid her place. One came and she confounded him. Two were sent and she put them to running and barking like dogs. Four came and she put them to beating each other over the head with their night sticks. The whole station force came at last. They knocked at her door. She knew who they were before she even went to the door. So she did some work at her altar and put the whole force to sleep on her steps.

It is difficult to say how much of hoodoo in Lousiana today stems from Marie Leveau. Both Samuel Thompson and Albert Frechard told me in all seriousness that they were her grandnephews, which, however unlikely in a physical sense, indicates that they count themselves spiritually affiliated with her "works."

It is probable that she sums up traditionally a whole era of hoodoo; she was the great name in its Golden Age. There is one body of lore that seems to be in comparative disuse, but which is always associated with her "works". This is a ritual consisting of a series of formal petitions with answering directions. These formulas were taught me by Samuel Thompson, one of those who claim to be her grandnephew.

In his own practice he relies upon his own specialties instead of these traditional routines. But he taught me the whole of what follows. They were also quoted to me fragmentarily by a doctor named Caldwell, and imperfectly by Barnes.

I found them in Bogalusa, La., and again in Shreveport I discovered a doctor who depended to a large extent upon the traditional "works" of Marie Leveau.

In fact I came to know that practically all of the hoodoo doctors of Louisiana know the Leveau routines, though most of them have developed also techniques of their own.



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