It is difficult when you know so little, to know what might be right and what might be wrong, but from your other posts and zipping around the net, I can now start to put the pieces together properly -for example, what you told us about the mis-leading 15 children. Thanks.
Robert Tallant was a hack journalist in the middle of the last century, his work on Marie Laveau has started many falsehoods as well as bold-faced lies about Marie. I blame him for most of the misinformation we see on Marie today. This, coupled with Marie's children's (mostly Philomene) propensity to hide their parents' identities by spreading more falsehoods means that information on Marie Laveau is tricky.
I would very much like to read your magazine article. I was going to pm you about that. Is it online? Do you have a link?
I worked heavily from Martha Ward's book on Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen
which I recommend for folks who want to read at length about Marie, and about voodoo.
I was going to ask as well - even though you do not have the deck, is there any ways in which you feel Marie fits in with the traditional characteristics and symbolism of the High Priestess?
Marie certainly was known as a Voodoo priestess, so immediately, the moniker "priestess" would seem very appropo. Marie spent her life doing the work of "Big John" or "High John the Conquerer" - this is considered a mystical spirit man, as recorded by Zora Neale Huston (who wrote and researched Laveau as well, and whose works are far more reliable than Tallant's).
It would be easier to cut and paste an article quote....
Marie’s reputation as a Voodoo priestess has its own air of mystery. Researchers often point to a man variously known as Doctor John, or John Bayou, as the instructor of Marie’s Voodoo powers, however, others recall her lifelong connection to Pere Antoine, a local Catholic priest known to assist and accompany Marie when tending the locally infirm. So, who exactly was this “John” who gave Marie her powers?
Zora Neale Hurston, who extensively researched and wrote on Voodoo as well as on Marie Laveau’s life, tells of “Big John,” or High John the Conqueror, a supernatural man who could magically intercede with the spiritual plane to make miracles manifest in the material realm. Big John’s stories are sprinkled throughout the South, a mystical man and conjurer from Africa, whose work wouldn’t be done until emancipation came to his people, Hurston records.
Marie the Second commonly used the name “John” as her spiritual intermediary in her Voodoo incantations that others witnessed, but was John a symbol, or a spirit? Perhaps the source of Marie’s Voodoo training matters less upon inspection – what remains indisputable is her reputation of great power in assisting the common folk with Big John’s work.
The ability to assist those in need was what Marie was quite well known for, and at times she was rewarded generously for her efforts.
If the truth about Marie eludes us, her legends certainly do not; the story of Marie’s ownership of the St. Ann’s house is still one of her most-repeated, and most-embellished upon, tales. It begins when a wealthy white man’s son was arrested and the distraught father turned to the Voodoo priestess for help, begging her to secure his son’s freedom. Despite the compelling evidence against the accused, Marie promised the father she would help.
At dawn, Marie walked to the end of her block to visit the St. Louis Cathedral… some say for three days, or seven, or even nine. Kneeling in prayer, she placed three hot peppers in her mouth, holding them for hours, offering her pain has a token of her devotion and her prayers’ sincerity. The peppers she left beneath the judge’s chair, in the government offices conveniently located next door to the cathedral.
When the judge later dismissed the case, Marie was awarded with the St. Ann’s property as payment for her services. Few can agree on exactly what took place to secure this young man’s freedom – was it Marie’s Voodoo at work, or was it, as some have guessed, the fact that she had privileged information from the police, as well as personal contact with the judge himself? Regardless, the young man walked away free, and Marie moved from Love Street into her new home on St. Ann’s in the fall of 1832, where she lived until her dying day. After the move, the Love Street property from her father Marie immediately deeded to her first-born, Marie the Second, who was then only five years old.
This is one of the most well-known stories about Marie and her ability to help others. It is told time and again, with variations on the tale, as all good folk tales are spread.
Lastly, Marie's tomb, aka "The Wishing Tomb," remains a place of pilgrimage or Voodoo's followers, as well as a destination for others seeking Marie's help.
The Laveau tomb goes by another name when the tour guides shepherd the curious here; called “The Wishing Tomb,” for years it has been scarred with numerous X’s that others inscribe upon its sepulchral walls. The practice of defiling Marie’s gravesite comes from the belief that to do so is to call on Marie herself, summoning her spirit into attendance so one may petition the Voodoo priestess of a favor. Regardless, whether the X’s are made with chalk or charcoal, it is a practice that is sternly frowned upon by city locals, although it may be the strength of Marie’s legend that perpetuates the unwanted behavior.
And, why an X, or as often seen, three X’s in a row? The symbol of the X, long an ancient African symbol denoting the crossroads between the worlds of the living and the dead, was also the same mark Marie Laveau used on legal documents as her personal signature. The power of Voodoo is potently understood by examining its use of esoteric symbols – anything belonging to a person retains their essence.
Here, to inscribe the X is to symbolically call out Marie’s name in a way she is sure to recognize, and doing so at the crossroads of mortality, where she is sure to receive the message. Three X’s might better insure a spirit hears the petitioner; there are Voodoo rituals that incorporate the number three, or repeat actions and words three times, in order to invoke and imbue the most power during an incantation.
So, to answer your question... how would Marie Laveau represent the archetypal Tarot High Priestess?
Marie was a female figure of benign wisdom and great supernatural power.
Marie was a personage known to use her powers to help others but only those who came to her, those who actively sought her assistance.
Marie is believed to have the ability to spiritually intercede for others - she is seen as a figure who holds the folk and spiritual wisdom
of her people. If you consider the High Priestess' scroll (words, secrets of life, the Great Mysteries) and compare it to Marie's incantations (spiritual words of power), this connection may seem clearer.
Hope these ideas help! I do so love Marie, and love to talk of her....
Good luck and if I pick up a NOVT I'll be sure to jump in!!!