As luck would have it, Marie Laveau soon after met the love of her life, Christophe Duminy de Glapion. She would never marry him, for the simple reason that he was white and that the law of the time forbade such an union, but they had many children – fifteen according to legend! In any case, five were registered at the parish, and two survived, one of which a little girl bearing the same first name as her mother. Marie and Christophe lived true love, until death separated them. This love, this warmth, this humanity was the center of Marie’s life and the essence of her phenomenal success.
Voodoo had become all the rage in New Orleans. From the most humble slave, to the richest Creole to the highest White nobility, all practiced it with no restrain, and the Church had no choice but to tolerate it. Before, three hundred voodoo chapels, each presided by a priestess, competed. It took Marie Laveau many years to supplant her three hundred rivals, but she eventually succeeded. To achieve that, she had used the most recommendable means as well as the vilest strategies when her adversaries wished her harm. From that moment on, the other priestesses became her disciples. Marie had hired many a young woman and a young man as assistants. Queen, she presided over a true court.
Each day new clients came to her, and she was making a lot of money, as voodoo could also be a rather lucrative enterprise. In her living room stood a magnificent vase: a gift, she maintained, from the duke of Orleans, the future Louis-Phillipe, who, when passing through New Orleans, had come to consult her. She even implied that La Fayette himself had sought her counsel. Her numerous patrons made her reputation, as all sang the praises of her amazing powers. The entire town used to recount this last anecdote concerning the queen of voodoo:
One of New Orleans’s most prominent citizens happened to be an old billionaire, still rather handsome and in good health. He was desperately in love with a young woman, very beautiful and very poor. The father of the young girl kept imploring her to accept the old beau, but she would have none of it! The spurned suitor became so frustrated that he sought out Marie Laveau. He started by piling up golden coins upon golden coins, and then confided the cause of his despair. The witch’s first intervention was fruitless: the beautiful girl, once again pressured by her father, threatened to commit suicide rather than yield. The old billionaire, not yet discouraged, returned to Marie Laveau and offered her an even greater sum of money.
After many month at this little game, the young girl sent the old man a note: “Come see me at once!”. Trembling with apprehension, he came running. “I say yes” she announced. He could not believe his luck. He organised a magnificent reception and all of New Orleans high society was invited. After the banquet, the groom’s friends opened the ball. Although he was a little tired, he felt obliged to honour his reputation as a distinguished dancer. He launched towards the lucky bride, swept her into his arms and started spinning to the music of the orchestra. But soon he turned purple, staggered and fell to the ground, struck by a heart attack. The young widow, who had inherited his immense fortune, soon remarried a young and dashing officer…
When another day two Frenchmen were condemned to hanging, a few of their close friends came to beg Marie to save them…
–I swear they will not be hanged! She answered.
Come the day of the execution – as the crowd, having gotten wind of Marie Laveau’s promise, was gathered on the public square to watch the show and as that the two men were led to the gallows – the sky, which had so far been unclouded and sunny, suddenly darkened. As the nooses were passed around the condemned men’s necks, a violent storm erupted, chasing away the frightened spectators. The executioner still managed to push the fatale lever, but the wet ropes allowed the Frenchmen to fall unharmed under the gallows. Marie Laveau had kept her word: they had not been executed. As fate would have it, they were later apprehended again, thrown in jail and hastily hanged. However, all that did nothing to damage the prestige this had earned her.
Her whole existence, Marie Laveau kept the same philosophy, which could be summarized in a poem rooted in animalistic religion, one of voodoo’s origins:
Soft are the uses of adversity
Who like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Bears nonetheless a precious jewel on its forehead.
And that, our life, receded from public spaces,
Find languages in the trees,
Books in the streams that run,
Sermons in the stones,
And good in all things.
Christophe de Glapion, her loyal companion, left her in 1855, Marie would live 26 years more. She would die June 15th 1881 and be buried next to him at the Saint-Louis Cemetery.
Frank Mieres is tired of always being chased out of his makeshift shelters that he conjures to rest, whether it be the porch of a house, a public bench or the waiting room of a train station. Tonight he’s been wandering a long time. His legs hurt from having walked so much; he is exhausted from hunger. He thinks he has finally found the pillow he so desired in the form of a doorstep, but as soon as he drifts into a feverish slumber, policemen shake him awake and send him looking elsewhere. And so he resumes his desperate quest.
Suddenly an idea hits him: the quietest place in New Orleans is of course the Saint-Louis cemetery, the oldest in town…First of all, policemen don’t patrol in a cemetery, secondly, it has the solid reputation of being haunted to the point of deterring the most reckless adventurers. Ghosts – Frank doesn’t care much about them in the state he’s in. They will never be as disagreeable as the policemen. At the thought of finally spending a peaceful night, he recovers a sliver of courage and energy.
TO BE CONTINUED …