The 1801 baptismal certificate holds long-lost truth
about legendary voodoo priestess, researcher claims
After 15 years researching the
legendary voodoo queen of New Orleans, Ina Fandrich has learned
to doubt claims about Marie Laveau. But the professor of religious
studies at Louisiana State University said she recently discovered
a document that confirms several disputed facts, including
the date and place of Laveau's birth.Laveau's power as a black spiritual
figure of the 19th century - her magic potions sought by slaves
and their master alike - has drawn strenghth from mystery
about her life.
Her mother a slave and father a French planter,
she was one of several Marie Laveaus living at the time. It's
been difficult to cull definitive documents about the self-professed
"popes of voodoo," who draws thousand to grave iste
debated by historians.Researchers, including Fandrich,
for some time have tried to verify Laveau's birth date based
on an obituary that says Laveau was 98 when she died in 1881
- something most accepted as fact."I looked for years and
years based on a fact that was wrong," Fandrich said.
"I finally can dispel all this mystery. But in a way,
I'm sad. She's now a concrete being.
"A key finding
After decades of debate about Laveau's age at the time of
her death, and whether she was born in the Crescent City or
Saint-Domingue, now Haiti, Fandrich said she's discovered
that the voodoo queen was born "a free mulatto girl child"
Sept. 10, 1801, in New Orleans.The information comes from a
baptismal certificate found in an untranslated and unpublished
book in the Archdiocese of New Orleans archives, Fandrich
said."I kept it quiet at first,"
Now, she's staking a claim Laveau researchers
have long sought, a claim to be included in a book about Laveau
to be published this spring.The baptismal certificate, written
in Spanish, provides only a first name for the baby and for
her mother, Margarita, and lists the father as unknown.
Fandrich is certain that it is the record of Laveau's baptism
on Sept.16, 1801, by Pere Antoine at St. Louis Cathedral six
days after her birth.The detail that pushes the certificate
beyond the realm of mere coincidence, in Fandrich's view,
is that the godmother is listed as Catarina, the same name
as Laveau's maternal grandmother:
Fandrich said she was led to
look at baptisms recorded around at baptisms recorded around
1801 by information from Laveau's daughter Marie Philomene's
birth certificate in 1836, which says Laveau was "about"
35 at the time, and from the marriage contract in the notary
record that says she was a minor - a month shy of 18 - when
she married Jacques Paris on Aug. 4, 1819.