a cache of usenet and other text files pertaining
to occult, mystical, and spiritual subjects.


Marie Laveau, Voodoo, and Hoodoo

To: alt.religion.orisha,alt.lucky.w,alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Marie Laveau, Voodoo, and Hoodoo 
Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 19:30:23 GMT

I am bringing this to usenet from an e-list in mid-stream because i
would like more input... in what follows i outline my theory about the
"authenticity" of Marie Laveau's claim to being a Voodoo Queen, and
ponder the relations between hoodoo and Voodoo. 

In earlier posts in this thread, i had quoted Lucky Hoodoo's statement
that Voodoo rites usually involve food offerings, and had posted the
entirety of Mambo Racine's Voodoo "money wanga" rite for non-initiates
in confirmation of what he said. 

Jo wrote:

> I have seen spells thought to be authentic from Marie Laveau herself 
> that did not involve an offering of food, yet she is referred to as 
> the Queen of Vodou is she not?

This is an IMMENSE topic, Jo! I shall attempt to briefly do it justice,
but it would require about 25,000 words to truly document and explicate.
I'm just gonna hit the high spots here... 

First, Marie Laveau lived during the mid 19th century, but the spells
"thought to be authentic from Marie Laveau" are usually constructed
according to typical urban New Orleans hoodoo paradigms, much like any
other spell Harry M. Hyatt collected there during the 1930s. That is,
among other things, many of the supposedly authentic Laveau spells
require the use of free-standing paraffin candles (household candles, 6"
offertory candles, tapers, etc.), which were not available in commerce
until after the Civil War. Those candles alone mark the spells as
adaptations from Laveau at best -- and fabrications in her name at
worst. Cf. "Black and White Magic of Marie Laveau" by the pseudonymous
author "Bivens, N.P." 

Sure, there are some spells attributed to Laveau that do not require
candles -- but ascribing those to Laveau still begs the question of
whether any of spells in question really ARE similar to what Marie
Laveau taught, because no true chain of provenance has been established
by Bivens or others. 

But let's say, just for the sake of argument, that Bivens' spells really
do acurately echo Laveau's spell-work of the mid 19th century, okay? 

The Bivens spells are hoodoo, much like the spells that Harry M. Hyatt
collected in New Orleans in the 1930s. They do not look like Voodoo
rituals at all. If they actually came from Laveau, then she was working
hoodoo, not Voodoo, and her claim to being the Queen of Voodoo is false. 

On the other hand, let's assume that the hoodoo spells ascribed to
Laveau by Bivens are modern constructions written by Bivens, not by
Laveau -- and that Laveau herself actually taught material that truly
WAS Voodoo. 

If that were the case, we could look also to Laveau's RELIGIOUS rites
and expect to see echoes of authentic Dahomeyan or Haitian Voodoo in
them. But instead we see a lot of inaccuracies. For instance, Laveau is
well known to have had a snake that she called "Zombi," but the name of
the snake-god in Voodoo is Damballah, not Zombi -- and Zombi means "a
corpse reanimated for the purpose of doing day-labour." So Laveau seems
to have actually known VERY little about Voodoo -- probably just a few
African words that she gleaned from slaves who came to New Orleans in
the wake of the Haitian slave rebellion -- and which she applied almost
at random to the props she used in her dances and performances. 

Let us look more deeply the things that characterize Voodoo rites --
those food offerings LuckyH mentioned and which we saw in Mambo Racine's
post of a Voodoo money-drawing ritual suitable for non-initiates to
perform -- and the use of praise-songs to the deities, which also
appeared in Mambo Racine's post. 

If Voodoo survided in New Orleans in any coherent form, we would expect
to see remnants of food offerings in New Orleans hoodoo, whether or not
we saw them in the writings attributed to Marie Laveau. Food offerings
do not appear in the texts ascribed to Laveau by Bivens but, in fact, we
DO see remnants of food offerings in spells that Hyatt collected from
New Orleans -- and from Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida as well. The
food offerings in hoodoo are not organized or liturgically ordered, as
in true Voodoo, but they show up over and over, in little hints and
flashes. Setting candles into saucers of Karo syrup and rock candy ...
killing a rooster and taking his leg to a crossroads ... pinning a
name-paper into a beef tongue and setting it up in a bucket of vinegar
with candles on it ... these ALL are obvious African Traditional
Religion survivals in hoodoo. But they are remnants, not the religions
per se. 

Another reason we can say that hoodoo spells lack religious coherence is
because the other major liturgical activity that characterizes Voodoo
rites -- praise songs and dance (with or without trance possession) --
is lacking almost entirely in hoodoo root work. The use of brief spoken
exhortations -- especially "In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy

Ghost," found in many hoodoo spells -- is formulaic and is a direct
borrowing from European spell-books such as "Pow Wows or the Long-Lost
Friend" by John George Hohman. Such formulaic invocations bear little or
no resemblance to the leborate dancing, praise singing, and
trance-possession that charcterizes ATRs. 

So on the whole, it seems that Marie Laveau was not an initiated Voodoo
Mambo and that the form of New Orleans paraffin-candle-centered hoodoo
practiced today in Laveau's name developed in its present form after the
Civil War (and thus after her death), and, like hoodoo elsewhere in the
South, contains African religious remnants mingled with elements of
European folk magic. 

Okay, that's enough for now -- like i said, this topic could
legitimately fill a book or a PhD dissertation. All i am trying to do
here is to get people to apply critical thinking to what they are told
rather than to accept it unexamined, not to nail down a thesis. 

cat yronwode 

Hoodoo in Theory and Practice --
Lucky W Amulet Archive ---------
Lucky Mojo Spells Archive ------
Hoodoo and Blues Lyrics ---------

No personal e-mail, please; just catch me in usenet; i read it daily. 

Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
   Send e-mail with your street address to
and receive our free 32 page catalogue of hoodoo supplies and amulets

     Copyright (c) 2001 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.

The Arcane Archive is copyright by the authors cited.
Send comments to the Arcane Archivist:

Did you like what you read here? Find it useful?
Then please click on the Paypal Secure Server logo and make a small
donation to the site maintainer for the creation and upkeep of this site.

The ARCANE ARCHIVE is a large domain,
organized into a number of sub-directories,
each dealing with a different branch of
religion, mysticism, occultism, or esoteric knowledge.
Here are the major ARCANE ARCHIVE directories you can visit:
interdisciplinary: geometry, natural proportion, ratio, archaeoastronomy
mysticism: enlightenment, self-realization, trance, meditation, consciousness
occultism: divination, hermeticism, amulets, sigils, magick, witchcraft, spells
religion: buddhism, christianity, hinduism, islam, judaism, taoism, wicca, voodoo
societies and fraternal orders: freemasonry, golden dawn, rosicrucians, etc.


There are thousands of web pages at the ARCANE ARCHIVE. You can use ATOMZ.COM
to search for a single word (like witchcraft, hoodoo, pagan, or magic) or an
exact phrase (like Kwan Yin, golden ratio, or book of shadows):

Search For:
Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase


Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy, sacred architecture, and sacred geometry
Lucky Mojo Forum: practitioners answer queries on conjure; sponsored by the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
Herb Magic: illustrated descriptions of magic herbs with free spells, recipes, and an ordering option
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: ethical diviners and hoodoo spell-casters
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith, the Smallest Church in the World
Satan Service Org: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century ceremonial occultist
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective
The Mystic Tea Room: divination by reading tea-leaves, with a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, etc.
      Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
      Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
      Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
      Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races