With Courtney Mroch
How many years had it been since I’d been to New Orleans, specifically the French Quarter? It was perhaps best measured in decades and it’d been at least a few.
I’d been a pre-teen sent to stay with relatives for the summer the last time I’d been there. They lived in a small town near Lake Pontchartrain about a half an hour from New Orleans, but we’d made several trips into the city that hot, steamy summer.
And now I was back, in the land of my ancestors. My grandma and her sister had been born and raised there. They came of age there just after the turn of the twentieth century, in the early 1900s.
Gram had long since passed. Her sister had passed long before her. But I felt them as I walked the streets. It was as if their ghosts were guiding me to all the places they knew I wanted to see most.
Yes, I had been there before, but not to the places I went now. My relatives hadn’t taken me past Madame LaLaurie’s house. Discussing a serial killer wouldn’t have been age-appropriate subject matter back then. But I wanted to see it now, and with ease, no directions needed, there I was.
Same for when I wanted to visit St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in search of Marie Laveau’s grave. My relatives wouldn’t have thought to take me to a cemetery back then. If they had, I probably would’ve thought it was weird and ended up with nightmares for a week.
But now I felt my visit to NOLA wasn’t complete without seeing it. Again, I felt my ancestors with me on my quest to find the grave.
Everything was perfect until we got to Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. It was just a tiny little shop on Bourbon Street. I went in, had a look around, noted –and respected– the “no photos” sign, bought a couple postcards to send to friends, then left.
But before I did I wanted to get a photo of some kind. I turned to take a photo of the store’s facade. That’s when I was blasted, for lack of a better word, with an angry energy.
It wasn’t evil or demonic. It didn’t feel hate-filled exactly, but it sure contained animosity.
But just as soon as it hit me, it evaporated. I didn’t think any more about it other than maybe I was hot and in need of a cool drink, some A/C and a little rest. I’d hit the ground running early that morning and hadn’t stopped since.
I thought about it again later that night, though, when I had a horrible dream.
In the dream, I was still asleep in my hotel room, but as dreams do I could see multiple perspectives at once. I also saw the outside of Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo as I had that day, and I once again felt that angry energy, but this time it was accompanied by a scream. One so loud I covered my ears and closed my eyes and that’s when my mind’s eye saw the Voodoo Queen hovering horizontally against the ceilings of both the shop and my hotel room, her mouth twisted in a snarling growl from whence emerged the ear-shattering scream.
Which was bad enough, but her eyes were boring into mine…even though mine were closed. My eyelids provided no protection at all. There was nowhere to hide.
It was her eyes that told me her anger was personal. Marie Laveau hated me. She wanted me gone. Not gone as in dead, but out of her city.
When I woke up, I was glad it was just a dream, but…it didn’t feel like just a dream. The residue stayed with me the rest of the day. Even now, years later, the feeling still persists.
But what could I have done to Marie Laveau? Angered her because I was one of the tacky tourists curious to see her grave? That seemed unlikely.
Besides, as I said, the anger felt very personal and intimate. Like I’d done something very egregious to warrant her wrath.
A few years later one of my cousins emailed me excited about a discovery she’d made during genealogy research. I’d never shared the Marie Laveau incident, so she blew me away with what she had to say.
“You’re going to love this. I think I may have found a connection between our family and Marie Laveau!”
“What do you mean by connection?” Laveau
“As in we might be related to her!”
“I see,” I said doubtfully. For one, Marie Laveau was a woman of color. Where was that color in our family?
“No, I’m serious. I know what you’re thinking. I don’t have all the facts yet, but I think one of our great-great somebodies might’ve married one of her daughters or granddaughters. Big scandal. He got disowned. When I find out more, I’ll let you know.”
She still hasn’t let me know, but was that why I felt Marie Laveau’s wrath? Had my great-great somebody really married one of her offspring and perhaps caused chaos of some kind for her too? Maybe he hadn’t provided for her like he needed to because of getting disowned?
I still don’t know, and I have to admit as much as it thrilled me at first to think we may be connected to the famous Voodoo Queen, I knew it was most likely wishful thinking.
Until I decided to take a DNA test and received some surprising results: 8.1% of my ancestry hails from Sub-Saharan Africa.
Huh. Didn’t see that one coming.
But even more interesting was the timeline that detailed how many generations back my most recent ancestors came from each ancestry composition. My African ancestors were from the 1700s to the early 1800s.
Marie Laveau lived from 1801-1881. She had two daughters with her husband Jacques Paris: Felicite (born 1817) and Angele (born 1820.) It’s possible they died because there is no further record of them after the 1820s.
When Jacques died, she had formed a “domestic partnership” with Christophe Dominick Duminy de Glapion and had at least seven children with him. Some reports say they had as many as 15, but some of them could’ve been grandchildren.
However, it’s thought only two of her children survived to adulthood, Marie Euchariste Eloise Laveau (1827-1862) and Marie Philomene Glapion (1836-1897). One of these Marie’s became Marie Laveau II, but it’s not clear which one.
Marie Laveau was born in the French Quarter but her mother had Native American, African and French ancestry.
Perhaps one of my ancestors hooked up with one of hers in the 1800s? Perhaps we’re the result of their offspring?
Which would mean I have Marie Laveau blood in my veins, if only a little bit.
Before the DNA info, I doubted it was possible. Now? I’m not so sure.
I’m continuing to dig to see if I come across any connections, and I’m still hoping my cousin’s research will prove something. Either one way or the other.
Until then, the mystery of it all haunts me –both whether I’m related to Marie Laveau and if my overactive imagination dreamed up the anger I felt her directing at me.