Voodoo Queens of New Orleans
New Orleans Voodoo traditions have their mystic Voodoo Queens, as did Africa. In New Orleans they held many roles: Sisters, mothers, mediums, teachers and traiteurs. In other places they may be called Mambos, Mamalois and Mamaissis. The Voodoo Queens here are a mixture of all these things and more. They are tasked as keepers of the old traditions and priestess mothers to spirits here. New Orleans Voodoo has been this rich Creole gumbo for over 200 years; our Voodoo Queens are assigned many roles and come in many hues.
Even during the heavy nineteenth century Voodoo days of the quintessential Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, there were known white Voodoo Queens and practitioners in this predominantly female religion. Because women are women, they shared some of the same plights and joys so their powers joined force to lift and overcome. Voodoo embraced the local Native American spirits and beliefs, blending with them. Our people blended, our customs blended and the Queens: they blended too. Everything together in this savory brew known as New Orleans Voodoo is held in place with a swamp magic base. The local Native American spirits met the African Voodoo spirits who came straight from their homeland with the slave trade. They blended not only with one another, but also with the Saints and ritual beliefs that were here in this Latin-Catholic society. These herbal healers and spirit walkers were hard working women from all strata of society. There were also some men, the Doctors and a few Kings, but it is the Voodoo Queens who hold it together.
It can be hard to shake the “Hollywood” visual of the big, scary Voodoo Queen. Old hags in the swamp, rocking in their rocking chairs, listening to the song of the cicada, echoed by a choir of frogs and the back beat splish-splash of the gator near. We also have that vision of the aged bitter voodoo queen stuck in our head from the voodoo character known as Julia Brown. She sang on her porch about taking her whole town with her when she died. She did. It really happened. Just a few miles out of the city proper where the town of Frenier once stood. The woman, Priestess Brown went down with the town and had predicted it in a song that her ghost still sings to this day. Did this Voodoo Queen simply prophecize that devastating hurricane? Or did she invite it as a guest to her funeral? You can guess which the way Hollywood re-wrote her character, the dark way of course. I have a full chapter and investigation into her spirit in my upcoming book: Swamp Magic Swamp Monsters coming out in 2019, but as to The other Voodoo Queens, Marie Laveau all the way to yours truly, they still talk about us- dead or alive...
All the countless, and even the faceless, Voodoo Queens still exist and work right alongside those (in)famous ones. There is a whole line of queens which stretches back to Africa. A line still moving forward. I am one Queen, here, to ground it in the now, and there are others. You are passed the title of Queen and there are apprenticeship years. They (the Queens) sent that dream vision of initiation my way over a decade in advance. Then it was formally passed to me from the Voodoo Queen Margaret and she got it from Queen Rose before. (Neither had their own daughters, so mote it be.) You are “passed” the title of queen, you are initiated as Mambo and you are called by the river to be Mamaissi. I am all three. But when you are the Queen you are the Queens. We are one.
The New Orleans Voodoo Queens all have a touch of green. The green thumb of the swamp-witch traiteur. It goes deep to the root, vibrant with fertility of budding transformative power. She is the churner of spirits, the keeper of the old ways written on the winds and is the wise crone of the deep river heart. These sweetwater sisters three of mud, moss and clay don’t have to be old or young. They don’t have to be rocking on their porch a singing a song but they can be. They can also be these creatures of allure and fecundity. Her swamp secrets are the base of New Orleans Voodoo, painted red with Native Americans pride who devoted themselves to protecting this spirit of place: The River maiden. I bow to thee.