With them came their spirituality, belief in spirits. And not too long after this culture arose from la Coeur da Bayou (the heart of the bayou), catholic beliefs were thrown into the mix and created Louisiana Voodoo.
The invisible mysterious force than can intervene in human affairs from the Dahomean's gives us the word "VUDU" on which the modern day term "Voodoo" is based. Followers of Louisiana Voodoo believe in one God who have lesser 'helper spirits" to preside over daily matter of life, love, success and all human matters.
Why did Voodoo mix with Catholic customs? Initially, Voodoo was not allowed to be practiced and was punishable by death in the cruelest of fashions. A big social event of the times was to go to Jackson Square which was the site of many executions during this time. The hanging tree still stands today. It’s the big oak tree in the rear left side just in front of the cathedral. The weekly executions were held each Saturday and was a family event including a picnic lunch. So the Voodoo beliefs were merged with the catholic religion as a disguise to continue practice.
In addition, the preservation of this African culture was extraordinary. Africans outnumbered Europeans two to one which fostered a prominent and an exuberant African community. Only a few extremely wealthy Europeans owned slaves at the time which impacted and created a very strong, independent, self-confident free African community.
And then... along comes a hairdresser turned Voodoo High Preistess named Marie LeVeau.
Marie LeVeau was born in 1782 to a white planter and a Creole woman of color. She was believed to be born a free woman and was not entrapped into a life of slavery. When she was 37, she married a Free man who emingrated from Haiti. His name was Jacque Paris. Just one year after their marriage, Jacque left Marie a very young widow. Marie took a lover, Louis Christophe Dumensil de Glapion) and they had 15 children together.
Soon after, Marie became a hairdresser for wealthy white families. In those days hairdresser did alot more than just cut hair. They stitched wounds, lanced boils, delivered babies, pulled teeth and many things that would require a doctor today. One specialty was preparing potions: potions to cure or aid body functions such as willow bark for headaches, a pinch of this or that for a backache and sometimes a potion to heal emotional distraught.
Later she became skilled in medicine as a nurse practitioner during the yellow fever epidemic. She studied hard and learned the healing qualities of indigenous herbs, spices, and the effects it had on the body.
Before long, Marie conducted private rituals behind her house on St. Ann's street near the French Quarter in New Orleans. Marie started her ascension as the most powerful Voodoo Queen and Priestess to ever live and concoct a spell. She was the queen of them all and at one point, appointed herself the Pope of Voodoo. Folks of all creeds used to go to her. She would mix potions, create spells (called mojo) and could keep anybody from harming you and could DO anything that you wanted done to someone else. She used to say prayers, mix dfferent things together, use rubs, incorporate cats and their entrails, throw things over her shoulder or ask you to jump into a river! In an uncanny fashion everything would happen just as she would predict, pray about, or cast a spell upon.
Marie's name became feared and well respected. You wouldn't want to cross her or get too close to her. Dare you be her friend, for if you did, would she turn you into a Loup-garou? An owl, or send you into eternal damanation???
Marie LeVeau's grave is visited more times per year than Elvis Presley's grave! It is believed that you can come to Marie's tomb and ask for something. She accepts money, cigars, white rum and candy as offerings during her time with the living as well as during her time in the adjacent realm in which she supposedly presides now. Appeals must be made 3 times with full concentration.
In voodoo it is believed that when a Voodoo Queen dies her spirit re-enters the river of life and moves to the next realm, adjacent to this one. Her spirit will always be here, close at hand in and around New Orleands. To this day, people still visit her tomb with the hope that she will grant their wishes." (1) Listen to what Crazy Horse Ghost writes about Marie LeVeau:
"Grass grows out of the top of the tomb of Marie Laveau but tens of thousands visit her tomb every year. In fact more people visit the tomb of Marie Laveau each year than visit the grave site of Elvis Presley. People leave offerings , voodoo statues , and more at the tomb of Marie Laveau and some people claim Marie Laveau will never be truly dead. Over the years since her death many people have claimed to see her. Voodoo practitioners often claim that Marie Laveau appears at their voodoo celebrations. Many people place three crosses on the tomb of Marie Laveau for luck or to ask that she grant their wish from the dead.
Many people especially those in New Orleans will tell you that Voodoo is very real. It is up to you to believe what you will believe. And also up to you whether you believe the ghost of Marie Laveau still walks the streets of the French Quarter. What I can tell you is that Marie Laveau had more influence on Louisiana Voodoo than anyone else in history. Other Legends have it she cured the curse of a Loup-garou by chaining it up to a crypt for three nights on a full moon. Some say she is not a ghost or a vampire, but a Loup-garou and uses the curse to stay alive. Do you know that their have even been claims made by some people that Marie Laveau is a vampire and that she still lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans today.Thousands of times after the reported death of Marie Laveau there have been reported sightings of her. Most people who see her say that she is solid and that she disappears with a quickness."
(1) Chambers, Wendy. Voodoo on the Bayou, 2001
(2) Louisiana Voodoo Wiki