The Magic of Marie Laveau: An Honest Review
The Magic of Marie Laveau is a book that I wish I had picked up a lot earlier than I actually did. In my own bias, I stubbornly let it sit on my shelf for a few weeks as I caught up on other books thinking, oh I’ll get there when I’m ready. As perhaps ignorant as it sounds, I don’t devote a whole lot of time towards reading books about voodoo/hoodoo and felt as though this book maybe wasn’t going to be for me. I was wrong.
Every notion I had about this book before reading it was wrong, quite frankly. I learned to not only put my personal bias aside, but I gained a deeper respect for voodoo than I’d had before. Knowing very little about the topic prior to reading this book, I deeply respected the authors academic and historical approach to the topic, which made the whole experience much more enjoyable for me. Some might find that type of academic writing boring, but for someone who is such an outsider to this area of witchcraft, it was much appreciated to have amazing sourcing.
I have a deep respect for the author, Denise Alvarado after reading this book. It is real, academic, and personal. As she states, “Perhaps the most important lesson in my search for reliable material is that all fingers point to myself. I learned that I am the best primary source for my book, because I am writing about my own tradition and my own culture. Marie Laveau herself pointed out to me that my life experience is as meaningful as hers. I have something to offer to this discourse, something that is legitimate and valid. And just as she brushed aside criticisms and conflict, I can do the same.”
The book is broken down into three parts. The first part is titled, “La Belle de Nouvelle Orleans” and details historical perspective and sorts through the muck of common historical inaccuracies when pitted against historical accounts. Overall I found this section the best in terms of content, research, and perspective. It was academic, but academic does not have to mean dry – in no way was this a boring read for me.
The second part is titled, “Becoming a Devotee” and brings to the front a lot of accessible ways of working with Marie Laveau outside of voodoo and catholicism. This opens the book up to a wider array of pagans and polytheists, and provides lots of useful methods of working with her as a deity. One of my favorite parts in the whole book is actually in this sections, where Alvarado talks about how to work with deities and why Marie Laveau may or may not be the deity for you to work with.
“If you are looking for a spirit you can “use” to get your man back or influence a court decision by simply lighting a candle and uttering a few words of intent, then becoming a devotee of Marie Laveau is probably not the path for you. Think of it this way: If you had a direct line to the Queen of England, would you call her up and ask her to buy you dinner for a month? Followed up with a, “Let it be so”? Probably not. You have to think of your relationship with Madame Marie as if she were a living, breathing human being and base your interactions on courtesy and common sense. Becoming a devotee is a commitment, it is a journey, and it takes time to learn and develop a relationship with not only Marie Laveau but all those in her spiritual court with whom you will want to share blessings.”
The third and final section is titled “The Laveau Magicospiritual Legacy” and is the largest section of the book. This section acts in one hand as an informational guide, and in the other as a working guide to learn the basics of Laveau influenced voodoo. This section holds a lot of value as a way to document and keep local tradition alive long after the writer herself is gone.
Overall, The Magic of Marie Laveau was a delightful surprise through New Orleans history and tradition. I think that any person who is curious about voodoo or Madame Laveau would find value in reading this book. Additionally, it is my belief that current practitioners of Voodoo would find value in the academic research and arguments that go into this book. As Alvarado states, “Many people go to Marie for their own healing. How many do you think every pray for hers?”
Temperance Alden is an Occultist, Folk Witch, and Author of Year of the Witch (2020). She is based out of South Florida.