9/11-THE ROYAL PAGES OF THE ACT OF ST. THOMAS-SMITH ACT:Information about Malvina La Tour, Voodoo Queen
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Malvina La Tour, Voodoo Queen
|VOODOO KING DOLL|
Malvina La Tour, Voodoo Queen (daughter of Moise (Bailard) Balard dit La Tour and Marcelline Blais).She married Louis Patenaude on January 28, 1884.
Notes for Malvina La Tour, Voodoo Queen:
The Power Divided
"MARIE LAVEAU is dead! Malvina Latour is queen!"
That was the announcement made by all the New Orleans newspapers when the Widow
Paris died in 1881. Marie II remained the leading Voodoo figure, but it was
Malvina Latour who reigned as official ruler of the St. John's Eve celebrations
for the next decade.
We do not actually know a great deal about Malvina Latour. There is a physical
description of a heavy-set woman in her forties. She was much darker than either
of the Laveaus. It has been said that she was the daughter of Marie II, probably
by a Negro man. This is without evidence. When he saw her Cable wrote of "a
bright mulattress of about forty-eight, of extremely handsome figure, dignified
bearing, and a face indicative of a comparatively high order of intelligence."
It has been said that her brother was a member of the infamous black-and-tan
Legislature. She was at times confused with the Laveaus and was frequently
referred to as "Marie Laveau," thus becoming in a sense a sort of Marie III,
though Probably with no intention of doing so.
Despite the Marie Laveau still living, Malvina seems to
have had a strong will and a mind of her own. She held the St. John's Eve
gatherings in the traditional fashion and is said to have been a striking figure
in dresses of blue calico with white dots and handsome scarlet and orange
tignons. One of her first acts was an attempt to remove Catholicism and Catholic
practices from Voodoo, though, since the two are still mingled today, she was
evidently not very successful. She was a Catholic, herself, and said she
practiced Voodooism as a profession, not as a religion, and, inconsistent as it
seems, was given to expressing the opinion that such misuse of the Roman
Catholic ritual and symbols was sacrilegious.
She had been a part of the Voodoo world for many years, had substituted for
Marie II at many ceremonies and was building a clientele of her own even before
her appointment as ruler. In 1870, in a crowded Negro church, she is reported to
have performed a miraculous cure upon the preacher, a Reverend Turner, who was
suffering from an incurable ailment. Seekers after health and money and love
came to her home just as they had come to the Laveaus, though she was never
anywhere near as well known.
But in general her practices duplicated the Laveaus', and it is doubtful that
she created any new gris-gris of importance. She inspired the same fears, to a
lesser degree. Numerous persons who remember her tell of wrecked homes and
Voodoo murders. "Malvina Latour was the worst of them all," said Irma Lee
Richards. She was not that. She was only an imitator. New Orleans knew the end
of a colorful era was signaled by the death of the Widow Paris. The Times
Democrat had said then: "Much evil dies with her, but should we not add, a
little poetry?" Perhaps that is the reason Malvina Latour did not rise to the
heights of the Laveaus. She did not have the poetry.
As the years passed Madame Legendre fought with increasing vigor to remove the
Voodoo stigma from the Laveau mTnage. Years after the death of the Widow Paris,
Mrs. Walter Saxon called on Madame and asked permission to do a
painting of the house. This was granted, and Madame Legendre seems to have
treated her quite graciously. "It is such a relief to have someone here who
doesn't ask questions and make rude remarks," said Madame. "So many people come
here and ask if this is where 'that awful old Voodoo lived'! Do you realize they
are speaking of my mother? My mother was a saint--a most devout Catholic; all of
us are good Catholics."
In 1903 the little cottage was razed. Today nothing remains but that small
painting of it which is now the property of Mrs. Helen Pitkin Schertz, author of
a novel with a Voodoo background and entitled An Angel By Brevet.
It is fairly certain that there are no authentic portraits of either of the
Laveaus, though there are several that are claimed as such. The most notable of
these is the George W. Catlin portrait, formerly in the Louisiana State Museum
at the Cabildo in New Orleans. As the picture is dated 1835 the woman could be
the Widow Paris, but this is extremely doubtful. Madame Legendre and other
members of the family always insisted that no painting or photograph had ever
been made of the mother. In 1942 whispers spread through the Voodoo grapevine
that Father Divine had offered to pay $5,000 for the Catlin portrait. He wanted
to hang Marie Laveau in "Heaven."
After the passing of the Laveaus, Voodoo in New Orleans split into many parts
and there were even more leaders than there had ever been before Marie I had
bound them together under her powerful direction. Malvina Latour did not succeed
in keeping the cult intact, and by the 1890's she was not ruling all the Voodoos
in the city, but only a sect of her own, though it probably remained the largest
and most important of them all.
Marie II had allowed many persons to work with her and had taught many of them
her secrets, and some of the surviving associates formed their own groups and
set themselves up in their own businesses.
A Negro named LTon Janpier is well remembered. He had lived in the Laveau
cottage for a time and was rumored to have been a lover of Marie II. Each day,
for years, LTon Janpier went to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and "made the four
corners." This is a curious rite still practiced, The person performing it
enters the cemetery and goes to each corner in turn, bowing as he reaches each
one and making a wish. Then he departs hurriedly and walks two blocks to the
Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe on North Rampart Street and says a prayer before
the statue of St. ExpTdite.
"LTon Janpier was the best graveyard worker Marie Laveau had," said Octave
Labeau, who claimed to be a relative of the great Maries, despite the difference
in the spelling of their names. This he explained by saying that "sometimes
names gits mixed up. The old people didn't know how to spell and parts of the
family spelled it different from other parts. But Marie Laveau was my great-aunt
and she was a wonderful woman. I used to see her every day when she and LTon
Janpier would go to the graveyard.
"I remember Miss Jackson, too. She was sure good. She learned her stuff workin'
wit' Marie Laveau and Janpier. She was a big black woman and she used to give
hoodoo dances at her house on Roman Street. She would stand in the middle of the
floor and clap her hands while the people danced around her. They killed a
rooster and drank blood and everything. She had her a snake and she sold liquor
to the people what came. Nobody couldn't bring in no liquor from outside. They
had to buy hers. She knew how to run a Voodoo business." Octave Labeau also
recalled Madame Joyeau, Madame Titite and a white queen known as Madame Auguste.
Madame Auguste is supposed to have been very tall and beautiful when young and
to have danced at the Laveau meetings. After Marie II was gone she held together
a large cult of her own, drawing to it many white persons who preferred working
under a white queen rather than a colored one. About 1895 she vanished into
obscurity. In her old age she lost all her former beauty and is said to have
terrifying in appearance and to have lost an eye. The latter greatly increased
her prestige for people credited the one fierce orb with supernatural powers.
Another Voodooienne, AngFle Levasseur, apparently went too far in imitating
Marie Laveau. While she was holding a meeting in her cabin near Lake
Pontchartrain in 1894 a storm swept the shack away with AngFle inside. She was
found three days later, sitting on the limb of a tree floating on the surface of
the water. On the other hand, perhaps this was not an imitation of Marie, but
the real origin of the Laveau story of drowning. In any case it is AngFle's only
claim to distinction and all we know about her.
For some unknown reason all the Voodoo queens seem to be given to floating
around on lakes, canals and bayous for days on end. Clare Scott told the story
of Mamie Hughes, who was, according to Clare, "the worst damn old hoodoo what
"She killed her own sister's baby and kept its skeleton in her house," Clare
said, shivering and rolling her black eyes dramatically. "She ate little
children and played with turtles and rattlesnakes that still had poison in 'em.
"One day old Mamie fell in the Orleans Canal and floated around for nearly a
week. She was almost passing out when Chinee Frank came along and dragged her
in. Chinee Frank was a good man what lived on VillerT Street. He took her home
and rolled the water out of her. The poor man brought evil back into the world
without knowing what he was doing. But she never got out of her bed again. Her
heart was so hard the water had started to rot it away. I went to see her and
there was polices all over the place. They was gonna hang her as soon as she was
strong enough to stand it. A thousand people stood day and night around that
house, waiting and hoping she'd get well enough to hang. It was too late. Her
heart was all rotted and she was dying. She done broke down and confessed all
her sins, and the polices found skeletons of babies all over the house and
buried in the back yard. One woman was standing by her bed and all of a
sudden she say, 'What's them two lumps on her head?' Everybody look and sure
enough there was two horns starting to grow out of her. She belonged to the
devil. Everybody's done heard how she screamed and hollered when she heard the
chariots coming from hell. Next thing she know she was dead."
Clare also remembered Marie Comtesse, who was, apparently, an entirely different
type. She was of the opinion that it was "La Comtesse," as she called her, who
was buried in the Wishing Vault in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2.
"La Comtesse was a big black woman and she was married to a nice-looking, light
fellow," Clare said. "She had two daughters. I'm sure she is the one buried in
the Wishing Vault, not Marie Laveau. Peoples get all mixed up. I knows all about
it--even how she died. She was standing on her gallery, leaning against a post,
and the post give way and she fell and broke her neck. Poor La Comtesse! I tell
you the truth, I sure loved her. I goes to her place in the graveyard and I
brings her apples. She always liked apples."
Clare gave a detailed description of La Comtesse, who she said was five feet,
three inches tall and weighed about two hundred pounds. "She had the biggest
eyes I ever seen. You keep looking at 'em a few minutes and you is hoodooed. She
had a crowded house and she made lots of money."
Marie Comtesse went about the city a great deal and she had many contacts inside
the homes of white people. Unlike Marie Laveau, she often went to a client's
home to render certain services. Her costume for what Clare called her
"traveling trade" was quite different from that which she wore at her meetings.
To bless homes and rid them of evil she wore a long purple dress with a red
headdress, She carried a small leather satchel that contained her gris-gris and
other paraphernalia. Sometimes she carried a white velvet bag instead of the
While conducting her services she wore many gowns, changing them often during
the same night, as an actress changes costumes in a play. She would, for
the ceremonies in a black velvet robe, change to one of scarlet satin, then
close the ceremonies wearing a gown of white chiffon with voluminous sleeves. An
excellent show-woman, but lacking the personal appeal of the Laveaus, she
invented numerous stunts to add to the interest of her gatherings. One trick was
to fill her rooms with shapely young mulatto girls, who danced and sang in very
brief costumes, and sometimes, Clare said, entirely without clothing.
"The mens loved her services," Clare said. "They'd whirl the womens on their
backs the way hoodoos always do and everybody whoop and holler and have a fine
"There's one thing always bothers me. La Comtesse made plenty of money, but
nobody has ever knowed what she done with it. Now it was different with Marie
Laveau. I been told she left two million dollars buried out in the swamps around
Bayou St. John; I can remember one time when Doctor Alexander went out there and
tried to find it. But all that ain't true. Marie Laveau was a awful gambler.
It's true she gived a lot away, but most of it she lost gambling. It was
different with La Comtesse. She didn't gamble. She might have gived it all away.
She was that good."
Clare was slow to admit it, but at last she confessed she had used young girls
as bait when she was conducting her own Voodoo business, some twenty years ago.
"I learned that from La Comtesse," she said, "but I had to give it up. It sure
did draw the trade, but it drawed the polices, too, and that don't do you no
Marie Brown is the great-granddaughter of a Voodoo queen of the Widow Paris
period. Marie at first refused to discuss Queen Eliza at all. "I ain't tellin'
my secrets to nobody," she said. However, a little later she began to boast of
her ancestress and was soon enjoying herself tremendously.
"My great-grandma was named by Marie SaloppT," she said. "Her own mother had
come from Santo Domingo and they was all hoodoo people. When my great-grandma
was horned Marie SaloppT called her 'Eliza,' and she grew up to be a big hoodoo
queen herself and was known as 'Queen
Eliza of the Dance.' She danced at all the Marie Laveau meetin's on St. John's
Eve. One thing she could do was to put a glass of water on her head and dance
wit'out spillin' a drop. Sometimes she would dance wit' a lighted candle on her
"She used to wrap her legs wit' ribbons and she'd have a big red bow on each
knee. Madras handkerchiefs used to cost five dollars each then, but that wasn't
nothing to Queen Eliza of the Dance. She wore ten of 'em. for a skirt.
"Besides the hoodoo dances, the firemans always had her at their balls and one
time when she couldn't go they called off a big hall just on her account. She
was wonderful, my grandma always told me. You know what she called my grandma
when she was borned? She called her 'Three Cents! That was a hoodoo name. My
grandma went by that name all her life. She was named like that 'cause when
Queen Eliza was gonna have her she was always eatin' ginger cake, and ginger
cake cost three cents. My grandma sure was proud of that name--Three Cents
Wilden. But I'll tell. you a funny thing: my grandma never was a hoodoo. Her and
my mamma was Catholic to the backbone." Marie said that she was a Baptist
herself, but that in her younger days she had "messed wit' hoodoo, a little, but
then I turned against it."
"Queen Eliza didn't do any real evil work," Marie contended, "but she sure had
people scared of her. She used to drink black cat's blood and that give her lots
of power. She was wild."
Marie had known some of the later queens, who were important in her own
lifetime. She had known both Marie Comtesse and Mamie Hughes.
"Right now there is more hoodoo around this town than there ever was," said
Marie. "But it sure has changed. I'll say this, though: it's a good thing to
keep away from. It has just as much power over the people now as it ever did,
and it can do some funny things. Hoodoo is somethin' people shouldn't even talk
about. It might be changed, but it's just as bad as it ever was."
Marie was at least partially right. After the turn of the century Voodoo had
changed and had fallen into segments. In a way it resembled the fragments of a
wineglass that had been smashed into many pieces. But there was just as much
More About Malvina La Tour, Voodoo Queen and Louis Patenaude:
Marriage: January 28, 1884
Children of Malvina La Tour, Voodoo Queen and Louis Patenaude are:
- Wilfrid (Wilfred) Patenaude.
- Dawn Patenaude, b. June 05, 1892.
- Elphege Alfred Patenaude, b. April 29, 1894.
- Roseanna Patenaude.
- Gildred Patenaude, b. June 28, 1897.