One of the most interesting things my ancestors showed me on their ghost tour of New Orleans was the cleaning of Voodoo Queen Marie Leveau’s tomb.
I spotted the volunteers setting up and receiving instructions when we first entered St. Louis Cemtery No. 1, but I thought they were relatives tending a family plot. (I didn’t pay enough attention. If I had, I might’ve realized they were all wearing the same uniform. Ah well…I figured it out eventually.)
After we walked through the entire cemetery, we came back near the entrance. That’s when I heard a man instruct the tomb cleaners, “There’ll be a tour coming through soon. And we can expect random tourists wanting photo ops. We’ll need to stop work and let them take their pictures.”
Hmmm…was there another famous grave that might draw such attention, or were these people cleaning the one I sought?
“Excuse me,” I asked the man. “We’re looking for Marie Leveau’s tomb.”
He chuckled and said to the crew as he swept his hand to gesture at the white tomb, “As if on cue. Here’s what I was talking about.”
They ended up not being family members of the deceased interred within the vault, but volunteers there to clean the graffiti Xs from the Voodoo Queen’s death chambers.
After they graciously stepped aside and let me take my picture, they resumed work. The man explained just how fast the Xs multiply. We were there on February 20, 2011. I took video (posted below) as he explained the tomb had been freshly painted on November 1, 2010, All Saints Day. It didn’t take long for it to once again be covered in Xs.
Sadly, people flock to the tomb mistakenly thinking leaving three Xs will bring them luck or that a wish will be fulfilled. They think they’re practicing voodoo.
They’re not. They’re leaving graffiti and engaging in defiling and disrespecting a resting place which may or may not be Marie Leveau’s. As described on TravelNOLA.com’s article about the Tomb of Marie Leveau:
…much confusion surrounds her life, and this tomb. For example, the commemorative plaque states that this is the “reputed” burial place of this woman.
Here’s another snippet from that article I found enlightening:
Although more Voodoo is practiced at this one tomb than any single tomb in the United States, many people who worship through Voodoo and genuinely live it as a lifestyle have never left a mark on the structures of the City of the Dead.
But the most disheartening information was this:
Editor’s Note: In recent days a controversy has arisen regarding the legend and practice of marking the alleged final resting place of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau with X’s in the infamous “wish spell” ritual popularized throughout the past several decades by certain companies, groups and individuals working in the New Orleans tourism industry.
Tour companies promoting vandalism (in the name of practicing Voodoo) are responsible for some of the Xs placed on that tomb? For shame!
If you ever find yourself in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 standing before Marie Leveau’s grave, don’t buy into the temptation to leave Xs. It’s not good Voodoo. It’s not a sign of respect. It’s vandalism, pure and simple.