Voodoo Queen: the Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau.

Author:Okorafor-Mbachu, Nnedi
Position::Book Review

Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau by Martha Ward University Press of Mississippi, March 2004 $26., ISBN 1-578-06629-8

If you've been to New Orleans's French Quarter you've most likely heard of Marie Laveau. You've probably seen the Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo on 739 Bourbon Street, where all sorts of weird and frightening items are on display and sold. You may have walked to 509 Decatur Street and had a drink at the Marie Laveau Voodoo Bar. You might have heard her name included in the same category as ghosts, witches and vampires during a tour of the city's "darker places."

Marie Laveau, the famous Voodoo Queen who made Congo Square famous, is a New Orleans icon. Nevertheless, most of what a person learns of her in the touristy parts of the French Quarter are myths, twisted truths and lies--as is often the case with most things voodoo. Uncovering Laveau's story has stumped even the most experienced researchers. However, Martha Ward, a professor at the University of New Orleans, managed to reveal much with her book Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau.

In the Introduction, Ward says people kept telling her that no reliable sources of information about Marie Laveau were available. She was told that either they never existed, or they had been "stolen, destroyed or spirited away." One thing was certainly true--it was not easy investigating Laveau.

Ward wrote that along with her painstaking research, "I have relied on dreams, intuition, a hyperactive imagination, and funky Voodoo luck. From time to time, I have stood in front of the Laveau tomb in St. Louis Cemetery One and talked with her. Marie laughs when I ask, 'What really happened?' 'Who knows the whole story,' she says, 'and maybe it's better that way.'"

Nonetheless, Ward uses her best abilities as a researcher to add a giant piece to the puzzle. On the first page, Ward dispels one of the most common misconceptions about...

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