Marie Laveau, Woman of Mystery

She was one of the most powerful and influential women of nineteenth century New Orleans, rumored to be a great priestess of Voodoo, as well as a practicing Catholic.  She was a healer, a midwife, possibly a hairdresser and mother of at least nine children. To this day, her ghost is said to haunt the streets of the French Quarter, and people come from all over the world to pay tribute to her at her grave.

I am speaking of course, of the famous Marie Laveau.

A great deal of myths and legends have grown up around her, everything from her holding wild orgies on the Feast of Saint John, to her keeping a magical snake called Zombi. But Marie Laveau, much like William Shakespeare, is one of those historical figures of which we know very little. In fact, we do not even have any concrete evidence that she actually was a Voodoo practitioner! Like the religion of Voodoo itself, Marie’s life is shrouded in mystery, and most of what we think we know about her has been passed down by word of mouth.

“Just The Facts, Ma’am”

Marie Catherine Laveau Paris was born around September 10, 1801 in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Her birthday is confirmed by her baptismal record. Approximately one week after her birth, Marie was baptized by a priest named Pere Antoine in Saint Louis Cathedral.   Marie’s father, Charles Laveau, was a wealthy businessman, a politician, and also a “mulatto”. (Mulatto is a rather obsolete term which means ½ black and ½ white.)

 Marie’s mother, Marguerite Darcantrel, was Charles’ Laveau’s mistress. She was also a freed slave. Marie was born in a cottage on Saint Ann Street, the home of her grandmother, known as “Miss Catherine”. It was Miss Catherine who raised Marie. The cottage would stay in Marie’s possession for all her life. The location of this house is marked as a Historical Site in the French Quarter. To this day, people bring trinkets and offerings for Marie, which they leave near the building. 

At age eighteen, Marie married a free man of color named Jaque Paris. She had two daughters with him before he died in around 1824. Following her husband’s death, Marie was ever after known as “The Widow Paris.” The two daughters probably died as well, as there are no further records of them.

Portrait of Marie Laveau, copied from the original, painted in the 1800s by artist George Catlin. This is probably the best rendition we have of her.

 Marie then apparently fell in love with a white man named Christophe Dumensnil de Glapion. She lived with Christophe, and they were together for around thirty years. As a biracial couple, it was illegal for them to marry.

Marie and Christophe had at least seven children together, according to baptismal records. (It is rumored they had as many as fifteen children, although some of these may have been grandchildren.)

Marie was a free person of color, and records show that she owned at least seven slaves in her lifetime. (It was not unusual for black people to own slaves in Louisiana. More on that later.)

An article in the New Orleans Republican published on May 14, 1871,  described Marie Laveau as a “devout and acceptable member of the Catholic communion.” We know that Marie was a practicing Catholic because of her baptismal, marriage and death records in relationship to the Church.

Marie died on June 15, 1881, in the same cottage on Saint Ann Street in which she was born.

Site of the house on Sant Ann Street today.

Medical records list the cause of death as “diarrhea” (yuck, I know) which most likely means Marie had dysentery or a similar illness. She would have been almost eighty years old, which is quite a ripe old age for a woman in those days.

Records show that politicians, lawyers, congressmen, bankers, and wealthy socialites had slush funds, which they tagged as “LAVEAU EXPENSES”, apparently intended to pay The Widow Paris for her services, whatever they may be…

 When Marie died, her obituary in The New York Times claimed: “lawyers, legislators, planters, and merchants all came to pay their respects and seek her offices.”  

 New Orleans Cemetery records prove that she was interred in the “Widow Paris” tomb in St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery.

And that’s it! That is all we know to be fact.

Ahhh, but the rumors! They are infinitely more interesting.

Born Free

Marie Laveau was the first child in her family to be born free – that is, a person of color born outside the bondage of slavery. Marie’s great-grandmother was believed to have been brought to New Orleans as a slave from West Africa in 1743. Marie’s grandmother, “Miss Catherine” was born a slave and was eventually bought by a free woman of color named Francoise Pomet. During her enslaved time, Catherine gave birth to Marguerite, but in future years she was able to buy their way out of slavery as well.

The phrase “free person of color” comes up often in discussions of historical New Orleans. There are many stories of slaves “buying” their way to freedom. How, exactly, was this done? Most of us think of slavery as a complete and final institution. Once born to it you were stuck, unless you wanted to risk running away, a dangerous endeavor indeed. If you were caught, you might be whipped, get your foot cut off, or just be killed altogether.

But in the colony of Louisiana, and later the Louisiana Territory, things were a little different. Louisiana had a law called “Coartacion”, under which, slaves were given the right to own property and purchase their freedom. Slaves could earn money by selling produce in the markets, working as nurses and artisans, and hiring themselves out as laborers. When they saved enough money, they were allowed to petition to their owners to buy themselves out of bondage. If you were a “good slave” — meaning you basically kept your mouth shut and were obedient — the master was legally obligated to accept your petition.

“New Orleans Free People of Color” Painting by Augustino Brunias, 1700s.

 The law of Coartacion existed only in Louisiana. It had impressive results. By the early nineteenth century, 1,490 blacks in New Orleans had acquired their freedom by cash payments. By 1810, the territory had 7,585 free persons of color, most of them living in New Orleans. Free people of color represented 44 percent of the city’s free population. In 1860, right before the Civil War, free people of color paid taxes on property valued at 15 million dollars – the equivalent of around $400 million in today’s money! Additionally, many free people of color were highly educated and had degrees from French universities.

As free people of color became rich, they eventually purchased their own slaves. This was the sneaky catch of the law of Coartacion; it was not really a way to get more people free, but rather a way to increase slavery. It was believed that the institution of slavery would be kept stronger if free blacks began buying slaves along with white people, thus giving the institution a wider scope.

 In the end it all fell apart, but nonetheless, it was not unusual for free black people to own slaves in Louisiana. Marie Laveau herself is confirmed to have owned at least seven slaves during her lifetime.

Beauty Shop

Angela Basset as Marie in American Horror Story

It was rumored Marie worked as a hairdresser, although there are no historical records to prove this. It could very well be true. Marie was confirmed to have served politicians, and prominent people. Everyone knows beauty shop gossip runs rampant. It is therefore surmised that  while working as a hairdresser, Marie serviced elite women of the community and they opened their hearts to her. Thus Marie was privy to many secrets. It was said she had a wealth of information, and was therefore able to advise all the big shots in the community, to the point where they actually had “slush finds” to pay her! (See above.)

And, of course, along with all this juicy information, Marie’s so called psychic abilities also came in handy.

At any rate, Marie’s opinion and advice were well respected. An article in The New Orleans Times Picayune, dated April 1886 (five years after her death) described Marie as “gifted with beauty and intelligence, she ruled her own race, and made captive of many of the other.”

Regardless of what anyone believed about Marie’s “magical powers”, she definitely had a certain natural charm.

The Human Touch

Marie Laveau was known as a humanitarian and healer. She is said to have cured people of yellow fever, which ran quite rampant in New Orleans during this time. She would also go to prisons and visit inmates who had been sentenced to death. She would pray with the prisoners and serve them their last meal, employing Catholic traditions, and often helping them prepare for the afterlife.

 Marie often sought pardons and commutations of sentences for some of the prisoners. She’d wield her influence among authorities (or perhaps she’d threaten them with blackmail!) and was successful in her efforts. Some rumors (unconfirmed) claimed that Marie would give poisons to the prisoners before they went to the gallows, thus saving them the pain of the hangman’s noose.

Rumors circulated that Marie sometimes preformed Voodoo rituals in the prisons. After her death, Marie’s daughter Philomène stated during an interview with a reporter from the Picayune that “only Catholic traditions would take place during these visits.” Because Voodoo took on an undeserved “bad reputation”, it is believed Marie’s daughter may have been trying to downplay her mother’s Voodoo ties in order to keep Marie “respectable” in the public’s mind.

A Catholic, and/or Voodoo altar

That Voodoo You Do

Any report about Marie Laveau would be lacking if it did not have at least a brief analysis of Voodoo – perhaps the most exploited and misunderstood religion in American history.

Voodoo is, quite simply, a religion, just like Christianity or Judaism. Originally, it was called “Vodou” which, in its original African language means “pure light.” West African slaves brought the practice of Vodou to the Americas. They mostly practiced it in secret, and masked it with more acceptable Catholic rituals, so the slave masters did not know what they were up to.

The Voodoo religion relies largely upon communication with ancestors who have gone to the Otherworld, or Afterlife. It also centers around the worship of a variety of nature gods who represent the elements of earth, air, fire and water. Voodoo has ordained priests and priestesses who are trained in elaborate rituals.

In Louisiana, everyone spoke French. The literal translation of “Old Gods” in French is “Vieux Dieux”, pronounced voo doo.

Papa Legba, one of the Old Gods

So there you have it.

To be clear, Voodoo has NOTHING to do with killing chickens, drinking blood, creating dolls to torture people, or anything Hollywood has told you. Somewhere along the line, someone realized that the “exotic practices” said to be associated with Voodoo were a great money maker. Hence the rumors began. They persist to this day.

That being said, Marie herself may have actually been theatrical, and a great marketer, helping to spread the dark, forbidden image of Voodoo. She may very well have taken the “wilder” aspects associated with Voodoo and used them for her own gain. After all, a scary Voodoo priestess is much more likely to earn respect than a mild mannered Catholic. (Debatable, when you consider the Vatican… But that’s another topic altogether.)

Some of the rumors that circulated about Marie’s Voodoo practice involved wild orgies that took place at Saint John’s Bayou on Saint John’s Eve.

Interestingly, the Catholic Feast of Saint John takes place on June 23rd. This is around the time of the summer solstice. Every good Pagan knows the summer solstice, or Beltane, is a time for great merry making, fire festivals, and worship of the god Baal, the goddess Aine, the Oak King, or whatever tradition you happen to follow. In Catholicism, Saint John the Baptist was born around this time (six months before Jesus in December, and also six months before the winter solstice.)

John was known as a wild man. He spent a lot of time out in nature, scantily clad and baptizing naked people. He ate strange things, like locusts and honey. You can see how a tribute to Saint John might get out of hand, especially when combined with those exotic Voodoo practices.

No one knows what really went on in Saint John’s Bayou, but apparently the gossip was endless.

Marie was also rumored to have a snake named Zombi. This magical snake could do all kinds of weird stuff, including curses and blessings. SO WATCH OUT.

Sealed in a Stone-Cold Tomb

Marie’s tomb is located in Saint Louis No 1 Cemetery. Just like the house on Saint Ann Street, the gravesite has attracted numerous tourists. People believe that doing elaborate rituals around Marie’s grave will bring them luck and good fortune. Some of these rituals involve bizarre things like walking backwards around the grave, spitting on it, and drawing three X’s upon the tomb.

Before Hurricane Katrina, people were rather respectful of Marie’s grave. I know this for a fact because I was there in 2005 right before the storm. See how the grave is pristine?

New Orleans Cemetery
Me on the left, with my niece Lauren at Marie’s grave.

But after the storm folks got desperate. The grave was defaced multiple times.

The grave after Katrina. Triple Xs were thought to bring luck.

In January of 2014, someone decided it would be a good idea to paint Marie’s grave pink, the color of pepto-bismol. (The man was believed to be mentally ill.) He painted the grave, which damaged its surface. It took a lot of time and money to restore it. As a result, tourists can no longer visit Saint Louis No. 1 Cemetery, unless accompanied by a formal tour guide.

Paint it pink! Marie’s defaced grave.

Even with a tour guide, it is said you should never take anything from Marie’s grave. This includes rocks, stones and shells. A tour guide once told me that someone on his tour decided to take a stone from the land around the grave as a “souvenir”. Before the end of the tour, that person was stung by a wasp! So if you ever venture around Marie’s grave, please be respectful.

Regardless of what’s true and what’s false, it can’t be denied that Marie Laveau was an interesting woman, a force of nature, and a presence that has managed to live on for over two hundred years.

Happy Birthday Marie! I believe in you.

A Beltane Tale Podcast

Twas a time of dancing and daring and drinking of elderflower wine;
of bewitchings and hauntings and faeries and all things divine.”

With the feast of Beltane nearly upon us, I am thrilled to announce that my story “A Beltane Tale” has been featured in Housecraft – The Witching Hour’s podcast!

TUNE IN ANYWHERE YOU GET PODCASTS OR HERE:

Many thanks to the ladies of Housecraft for choosing my story, and much gratitude to producer Kate for your oh-so beautiful reading of the tale.

Beltane is an ancient Celtic fire festival, celebrated on or around May 1st. For those of you who are not familiar — fear not! The Mothers of Mayhem will take you through every aspect. (Warning: adult content. Not for kids.) This festival is all about sex and the Witchy Ladies get a bit spicy. So listen at your own risk! 🙂

Robin Hood and Maid Marian: What happens in the forest, STAYS in the forest.

Tune in anywhere you get podcasts or HERE:

Have a Blessed Beltane!

“The Maypole” 1899 by Clarence H. White

March 1692: The Salem Witch Trials

March is International Women’s History Month. It also marks the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials. Since this disturbing event in American history was centered largely around women, I thought it might be fun to explore the specifics!

Witch Trials continue to fascinate and puzzle historians. Witchcraft hysteria ran rampant throughout Europe in the 15th – 17th centuries, and carried over to the American colonies, solely driven by religious beliefs and outrageous superstition. But there was much more to the Salem Witch Trials than overactive imaginations…

Don’t Have a Hissy Fit!  But They Did…

In the winter of 1692, in Salem Village, nine year old Betty Parris and her eleven year old cousin Abigail Williams  began to have uncontrollable fits. The girls would scream, run around and throw things. They claimed they were being hit and attacked by some unknown presence. Luckily, Betty’s father Samuel Parris happened to be a Puritan Reverend and he had a perfect explanation: the Devil was afoot in New England.

Puritans had a strong belief in the Devil. He walked among men, unseen. He needed to get his bidding done, so he would recruit humans. Sometimes he chose men, but mostly he chose women — as they were weak, vulnerable and easily persuaded. You know. Like Eve.  Old Scratch would bring his book to sign – and it had to be signed in blood.  Once the transaction was complete, a woman gave away her soul and body, leaving the Devil to do with them as he pleased.

As Betty and Abigail continued to have their incurable fits, doctors were brought in. After several weeks, no one could diagnose the problem, but finally the girls blurted out that it was, in fact, the witchy spirit of Tituba, the family slave, who had been harming them.

There was a thing called ‘spectral evidence’ which became very important during the witchcraft trials. Any accuser could claim that the specter or spirit of a witch was harming them, and that claim was taken seriously.  It was not even necessary that another person actually see the specter.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, a girl named Anne Putnam was experiencing the same kinds of fits. She claimed the witches attacking her were two women – the neighborhood beggars – one Sarah Goode, and one Sarah Osborne.

Sarah Osborne was what Puritans would call a ‘loose woman’. She had lived with a man out of wedlock and did not attend church services. Osborne was elderly and also known to be argumentative.  Sarah Goode was married with a young daughter, but even her own husband suspected she was a witch. Both women were poor.

So, the first women accused were a slave and two social rejects. But the accusations didn’t stop there. They would go on to reach epic proportions. In order to understand the mentality of the trials, it is necessary to look at the outlying events which took place simultaneously.

Blame it on Politics

In 1692’s bleak winter, Salem Village was in bad shape. Fields were frozen and people were starving. Indians, wolves and other wild animals were a constant threat. To make matters worse, the territories of North America were engaged in a civil war.

In 1689, English rulers William and Mary had started a war with France in the American colonies. Known as ‘King William’s War’, or ‘The Second Indian War’, it ravaged regions of  what is now upstate New York, Massachusetts, Nova Scotia and Quebec. Homeless  refugees traipsed into the county of Essex and, specifically, into Salem Village.

The displaced people created a strain on Salem Village’s resources. The harsh terrain of New England had never been very fruitful, and there was only so much firewood and food to go around. Hunger, cold and poverty were rampant. In addition to all this trouble, the village’s two most prominent families – the Putnams and the Porters – were engaged in a power struggle.

Two Households, Both Alike in Dignity

The Putnam family had always been powerful in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  This stemmed from an English land grant given to their grandfather, way back in 1640.  The Putmans were farmers.  But in the rising change of fortune, new and lucrative opportunities were coming from the busy colony seaport. Commerce and trade, not farming, would be the business of the future.  The Putnams were losing their stronghold. The Porter family – up and coming sea merchants – were the ‘new money’ in Salem Village.

In what was perhaps a desperate attempt to use religion to gain back his influence, Thomas Putnam enlisted the services of Reverend Samuel Parris.

The Reverend Parris had not always been a reverend. He was, in fact, a struggling salesman who had lived most of his life in Barbados. He came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and took to the pulpit only after his business ventures had failed miserably.  He brought with him his wife, his daughter Betty, his niece Abigail Williams and two slaves – Tituba and John Indian.

Reverend Parris was not popular. People thought he was greedy. For example, one law was imposed requiring villagers to give up their firewood as a new taxation plan that gave the wood to the Reverend. His sermons were guilt inducing, full of fire and brimstone. He strongly warned of dealings with the Devil. Many folk opted to attend a different church in Salem Town, rather than sit through Parris’ sermons. The influential Porters went to church in Salem Town.

It was as though there were two separate cities, and two separate philosophies. Salem Village was ‘Putnam-land’ –  backwater, bumpkin, farm-bound and superstitious.  Salem Town was ‘Porter territory’ – progressive, sophisticated, merchant-driven and logical.

Lizzie and Joseph: Forbidden Love

The story gets better!

Thomas Putnam had a half brother named Joseph. Joseph was the product of his father’s second marriage to one Mary Veren. When the father died in 1686, he left a good deal of his land holdings to young Joseph. Thomas and his brother Edmund were jealous, to say the least. They challenged their father’s will in court, but to no avail. Young Joseph Putman was known as the wealthiest man in Salem Village. And who did Joseph fall in love with? You guessed it – a Porter!

Seventeen year old Lizzie was the pride of the Porter family. Her father Israel was fond of Joseph, and also eager to wed his daughter to a rich landholder.

Twenty one year old Joseph married Lizzie on April 21, 1690. Needless to say, the wedding was much frowned upon by his half brothers. Thomas Putnam now stood to lose even more of his dwindling wealth and power.

Not coincidentally, the girls that made the first witchcraft accusations all had some tie to  Thomas Putnam.  These were: Betty (the Reverend’s daughter) Abigail (the Reverend’s niece) Anne Putman Jr. (Thomas’ daughter) Anne Putnam Sr. (Thomas’ wife) and Mary Walcott (Thomas’ niece).

Similarly, many of the accused had some tie to the Porter family.  These were: Rebecca Nurse, Giles and Martha Corey,  John and Elizabeth Proctor, and George Burroughs — all neighbors and associates of the Porters.  John Proctor and Giles Corey were landholders who sat in at town council meetings and were likely to cast votes to favor Israel Porter. (Of course, once accused of witchcraft, one’s land went forfeit and they no longer held that position… ) George Burroughs had been the Reverend of the church in Salem Town.

‘Fess Up!

On March 1, 1692, Tituba, Sarah Osborne and Sarah Goode were taken for questioning. Tituba confessed, telling a wild story of how the Devil had recruited her, but now she was repentant and wished forgiveness.  Osborne and Goode insisted upon their innocence. On March 7, the three were jailed in Boston.

Astonishingly, Sarah Goode’s four year old daughter Dorothy was put in jail as a witch also, making her probably the youngest prisoner ever. Months later, the child was released on a 50 pound bond — the equivalent of around $10,000 in today’s money.  Dorothy was referred to in court records as “it” rather than “she”.

Tituba was no fool. Puritan law at the time would allow an accused person freedom ONLY if he or she confessed. Those that would not confess would be hung. (Sarah Goode was later hung and Sarah Osborne died in prison.)

The accusers may have started by singling out the lowest of society, but eventually they made their way up the ladder. On March 19, Abigail accused a woman named Rebecca Nurse. Rebecca was considered a pillar of the community. She was kind, charitable, church-going and flawless. Fear spread like wildfire. If Rebecca could be accused, anyone could.

And anyone was! Before the trials were ended, over two hundred people were accused of witchcraft and jailed. Nineteen were hung, one was pressed to death, and at least four died in the squalid conditions of prison.

The Governor, Sir William Phipps, established a Court of Oyer and Terminer to investigate the allegations. It was presided over by all the top officials: Lieutenant Gov. William Stoughton, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, Samuel Sewall, Wait Still Winthrop, John Richards, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin.

Interesting aside — John Hathorne was an ancestor of author Nathaniel Hawthorne of Scarlet Letter fame.

Nathaniel changed the spelling of his name to avoid association with the elder Hathorne, who was the only judge that never apologized for his part in the witch trials.

The accusing girls were at first revered by the community. They had rock-star status, traveling around pointing the finger at anyone they pleased, while onlookers begged to touch their garments.  However, as the accusations accumulated and crept steadily into the elites of society, folks became suspicious. Finally, the girls went too far.

One story claims that an accusation was made against the Governor’s wife, Mary Spencer Phipps.

The Governor adored and cherished his wife. The idea of her being a witch was abominable to him. Plus, by then he may have had his doubts about the accusations — as any reasoning human being would.  At any rate, in October of 1682, Governor Phipps dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer. In November he declared that spectral evidence would no longer be considered valid.  In May of the following year, Phipps pardoned all the remaining accused witches.

Fun Facts:

  • Tituba Indian was, in fact, a Native American Indian. Conquered Wampanoags from New England were often brought to Barbados as slaves. Historians believe Tituba was raised on a Barbados plantation, but was a member of the Wampanoag Tribe.

  • Although Tituba is often associated with voodoo, there is no historical evidence that she had knowledge of it. By her own confessions, any witchcraft she knew was taught to her by English mistresses.
  • Tituba even baked a ‘witch cake’ according to English traditions,  made with urine and rye, then fed to a dog who would reveal the true witches. (This tactic either did not work, or people did not believe the dog.)

  • Elizabeth Proctor was an herbal healer and may have been the only true witch in the bunch. She was pregnant at the time of her arrest and her life was spared, although her husband John was hung.
  • Giles Corey was pressed to death with boulders because he refused to declare himself innocent or guilty. Puritan laws stated that once an accused person acknowledged himself as innocent or guilty, his land would be forfeit. Not wanting to give up his land, Giles stubbornly succumbed to the crushing death, asking only for “More weight.”

  • Giles’ efforts paid off. The Corey land was kept in the family up to the 21st century!
  • Accused victims were made to pay for their own room and board in jail. The fees were collected from any savings they may have had. Freed persons usually left jail penniless, or in debt to the state for their rat infested stay.
  • Having confessed, Tituba was never put to death. However, after being released she was unable to pay her fees and was sold again into slavery.
  • Abigail Williams – portrayed as the ‘Femme Fatale’ of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, was, in fact only eleven years old. Miller recreated her as a seventeen year old who had an affair with John Proctor. Sex sells. The play was a huge hit!

  • Years after the trials, Anne Putnam Jr. admitted that she had lied about the accusations. However, she took no personal responsibility, insisting she had been under the influence of Satan. The Devil made her do it.
  • After the tragedy of the Salem Witch Trials, folk finally started to realize how ridiculous Puritanism was.  The religion was abandoned.

Happy Women’s History Month!

A Halloween Treat: Witchcraft Through the Ages

 

Happy Halloween to all you beautiful ghouls, goblins, horror fans, heretics and lovers of the macabre! Today for your viewing entertainment I have a special surprise!

Long before ‘The Witch’ and  ‘The Blair Witch Project’ terrified movie goers, there was this 1922 silent movie gem, called Haxan ( German for ‘The Witch’.)

IMDb describes it as : “Part history lesson followed by re-enactments with actors, this film takes depicts the history of witchcraft from its earliest days through to the present day (in this case,1922 or thereabouts). The result is a documentary-like film that must be among the first to use re-enactments as a visual and narrative tool. From pagan worship to satanic rites to hysteria, the film takes you on a journey through the ages with highly effective visual sequences.”

It is a thoroughly entertaining and interesting film. Luckily I found a beautifully restored version on youtube. Hope you enjoy it!  Running time is approximately 1 hour, 45 minutes. Have a delightful Halloween!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome October! Day 29

 

“October had tremendous possibility. The summer’s oppressive heat was a distant memory, and the golden leaves promised a world full of beautiful adventures. They made me believe in miracles.” 
― Sarah Guillory,  from Reclaimed

“October proved a riot to the senses and climaxed those giddy last weeks before Halloween.” 
― Keith Donohue

As we welcome in big, bold October, today we find ourselves with twenty-nine days until Halloween. Are you prepared?

Twenty-nine can be considered a sacred number, because of its reduction to eleven. Its core value is two.  Numerology always reduces numbers to the lowest value. Thus: 2 +9 = 11, and 1 +1 = 2. Eleven is a mystical number, representing the “doorway” or the pillars to enlightenment. Eleven itself even looks like a doorway!

Therefore, today (also a 2, October 2nd) is the perfect time to welcome in our new month.

The intrinsic meaning of the number 29 is a combination of 2 and 9.  The number 2 represents duality, opposites, teamwork, collaboration and cooperation. The number 9 — which is the last before 10, or 1 —  represents the “end of things”. It is care in the final stages that lead to completion and perfection. It also represents health, humanitarian interests and care for our fellow beings.  Both numbers deal with esoteric knowledge — in two, as exploring the nature of duality, and in nine as the striving for completed perfection.

Twenty nine is a combination of these two.

The essence of the number 29 is relationships, and working together as we strive to create a better world for all involved. Imagine all magick channeled into a beautiful coexistence, with its source used as the primary requirement to maintain its own existence. That, in a nutshell, is 29.

It might look something like this.

Or this:

Happy October, and Blessed be!

Circle Dancing

 

 

 

Anita Pallenberg’s Witchy Ways

She was the charming muse of the Rolling Stones, an elusive Ruby Tuesday who, with beauty and charisma, skyrocketed to It Girl fame in the 1960’s and 70’s.  She had notorious love affairs with Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and a number of women. She was a style icon and an international superstar. She was also a black magic practitioner who regularly cast spells and carried strings of garlic to ward off vampires.

“At the center, like a phoenix on her nest of flames… the wicked Anita. She was the most incredible woman I’d met in my life. Dazzling, beautiful, hypnotic and unsettling. Her smile—those carnivorous teeth!—obliterated everything. Other women evaporated next to her.”  — Marianne Faithfull

Dazzling Anita Pallenberg died one year ago today, on June 13, 2017.

She came into a chaotic world, born on April 6, 1944 in Nazi-occupied Rome. Her father was a travel agent and her mother a German embassy secretary.  A true child of war, Anita did not meet her father, then serving in the military, until she was three years old.

She was educated in Rome and  sent to boarding school in Bavaria where she was expelled at age 16. After that she traipsed around Europe and New York City where she became a fixture of Andy Warhol’s Factory and began to pursue a career in modeling and acting.

Anita first met the Rolling Stones backstage at a concert in Munich in 1965. Reportedly, the band was terrified of her.

Keith Richards said of her: “Anita Pallenberg scared the pants off me …  She knew everything and she could say it in five languages. You knew you were taking on a Valkyrie — she who decides who dies in battle.”

Mick Jagger claimed, “She nearly killed me.”  Nonetheless, they began a relationship with her.  Anita introduced them to pop culture giants like Andy Warhol and Federico Fellini, influencing their fashion trends and ushering them into the avant-garde world of swinging London.

Anita first became romantically involved with Brian Jones. They fought a lot and the relationship eventually became physically violent. Anita, however, was no victim.  According to Keith: “Every time they had a fight, Brian would come out bandaged and bruised.” Brian Jones, a famous member of the ‘27 Club’,  died at age 27 when he drowned in a swimming pool.

Anita then became involved with Keith. She and Richards had three children together and, although they never married, had a passionate, drug-addled relationship which lasted thirteen years. Anita’s appetites for sex and drugs were legendary, and V Magazine even called her “the woman who out-Keithed Keith.” However, Richards still considered her a friend when he married his wife Patty Hansen in 1983.

The flamboyant styles the Stones began to wear in the late sixties — ascots, floppy hats, jewelry — are credited to Anita’s sense of fashion.

“I started to become a fashion icon for wearing my old lady’s clothes.” — Keith Richards.

Reportedly, Anita and Keith wore the same size. Keith said he’d get up in the morning and pull on her trousers.

Pallenberg also influenced the Stones music, singing background vocals and calling for remixing when she thought the sound was not up to par. They respected her opinion and some insiders said she was as much a part of the band as Mick and Keith.

An actress in her own right, she appeared in a total of fifteen films. These included Marco Ferreri’s Dillinger is Dead, Christian Marquand’s Candy, which starred Marlon Brando and Richard Burton, and Roger Vadim’s Barbarella which starred Jane Fonda.

According to Keith, during the filming of Candy, Marlon Brando “kidnapped her one night and read her poetry and, when that failed, tried to seduce Anita and me together.”  Who knows what happened in that little threesome, but Keith did name their first son “Marlon”.  🙂

She also appeared in Donald Cammel’s Performance, which starred Mick Jagger. It was during this filming that Anita allegedly had an affair with Mick.

During this time, Keith was writing Gimme Shelter, a song rife with darkness and apocalyptic visions. He later attributed his pessimism to his own jealousy over the fact that he believed Mick, his best friend, was having an affair with Anita. In short, Keith was not convinced that the film’s sex scenes were mere acting. He called director Donald Cammel “a pimp” and said the movie itself was “third rate porn”.  Pallenberg and Jagger, it should be noted, both claimed there was never any affair. According to Anita:  “I was a one-man girl at the time and Keith was the man for me. I loved him. And anyway, Jagger was the last guy I would have done that with.”

However, when Mick began to date the Nicaraguan born Bianca Perez (who later became Mrs. Bianca Jagger) Anita had many objections.

According to Tony Sanchez, who served as Richard’s personal assistant: “Anita hated Bianca from the start. She was convinced that Bianca was a threat to the Stones and one day she announced that she had put a curse on her  –  she had long been obsessed by black magic.

“Anita carried a string of garlic everywhere, to ward off vampires, and in her bedroom kept an ornate carved chest which I found was full of bones, wrinkled skin and fur from strange animals. She also had a mysterious old shaker for holy water which she used for some of her rituals. Her ceremonies became increasingly secret, and she warned me never to interrupt her when she was working on a spell.”

Was it Anita’s witchy ways that catapulted the Stones to fame? How Satanic were Their Majesties, how Sticky were their Fingers and how much Sympathy for the Devil did they really have?

While attempting to break up with Anita in 1978, Keith Richards wrote Beast of Burden, in which a man doubts his own virility and begs for reconciliation with his lover. The Guardian calls the song “a wracked plea for mercy from a broken man.”

Maybe Keith never should have messed with her.

Tony Sanchez also wrote that Anita was “like a life-force, a woman so powerful, so full of strength and determination that men came to lean on her.”

Although Pallenberg had been solicited several times to write her own autobiography, she never agreed to any publisher’s request.  In 2008 she stated: “The publishers want to hear only about the Stones and more dirt on Mick Jagger and I’m just not interested. They all want salacious. And everybody is writing autobiographies and that’s one reason why I’m not going to do it.”

Too bad. It would have been great fun to read the story in the lady’s own words.

Anita Pallenberg Rock In Peace.

Executioner’s Song

 

 

Violets are blue my dear, roses are red

Henry loved Anne but he chopped off her head.

 

They called her a witch and a sorceress too

Her web of six fingers as proof it was true.

 

She swore her own innocence till her last breath

Yet slice of the ax brought her to bloody death.

 

Some say she still haunts us, more angry than most

All guests at the Tower, beware of Anne’s ghost!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rusalka and the Titanic

 

I boarded the ship at Southampton, on England’s southern coast, a city they called Gateway to the World.  It was appropriately named. New worlds would indeed open to those that dared sail on the Titanic’s maiden voyage.

Southampton was seafaring town of busy docks, commerce and fishermen who, given half the chance may have recognized me for what I was. Yet I went ably and quietly about my business, our custom being to operate in stealth. My disguise was well put together, a simple blue dress, lace up boots and one bag of luggage that contained only my combs, mirrors, candles and an ancient grimoire. For all the crew and passengers knew, I could have been any normal woman, a widow perhaps, traveling alone with a full purse and a certain destination.

My nature necessitated a room in first class, where I could have daily baths in the salt water swimming pool. The engineers had designed it to provide diversion for wealthy passengers with plenty of leisure time. Little did they know it was my mainstay of survival. Without it I could never have attempted my feat.

I socialized moderately, took dinner with new acquaintances, but left my comments to such mundane topics as the weather and other non-committal matters.  This was my strategy, to avoid drawing attention to myself. Until of course, the very last.

The captain, one Edward John Smith of the Royal Naval Reserve, was a stately man, well-seasoned and of good capabilities.

When I inquired of the ship’s dimensions, her tonnage and resistance, Captain Smith looked at me funny. He must have thought it strange, a woman interested in such things. Still it was important I establish this knowledge. Else all my plans could go afoul.

We traveled for four days, stopping at Cherbourg Harbor in France and Queenstown in Ireland where more passengers boarded. They were a grand sight; well-heeled women in dresses of silk and gabardine, with enormous steamer trunks that held entire wardrobes. Scruffy emigrants in fisher caps and babuskas, with only hobo sacks of clothes. Excitedly they took their bunks in steerage. No matter that the class was third, for this was an ocean voyage. Poor innocents, all of them! They had no idea of their fate. Yet they sought new lands and opportunity. Those were things I could well provide.

On the night it happened the ship rounded the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. The moon was new, providing no extra light to the blackened sky. I had planned it as such, the first new moon after the spring equinox, when my powers of sorcery were at their ripest.

Just before midnight I slid from my bed. I combed my hair carefully, leaving it loose over my shoulders, but untangled. I took one large hand-held mirror with trimmed decorations of pearl and abalone. I also took three candles and my book of spells.  Naked and in bare feet I tiptoed across the deserted deck. Facing starboard, I lit the candles, then dangled my mirror toward the rushing ocean below me. I recited these words:

“Raise me an iceberg, unbreakable and dense, 

Black as this night, an invisible fence!

Raise me an iceberg, impenetrable and true

Black as this night, unseen by the crew.

Raise me an iceberg, grown from the sea

Black as this night, to set them all free!”

I then shattered the mirror and flung it overboard, crystalline shards drifting in the wind and falling like glittering stars to the churning water.

It was done.

Black icebergs are a rare phenomenon that neither the captain nor crew were familiar with. When my mountain arose from the water none could see it at first.

By the time the watchful lookout man spotted the iceberg, it was too late. The great Titanic hit the dense rock, damaging her hull. The sea began to seep in. Soon all five of the ship’s watertight compartments were flooded. This meant certain disaster.

Or did it?

I was elated. As the water rose I could contain myself no longer. Rushing below deck, I shifted to my mermaid’s body. I swam through the hallways, through the ever-rising tide of the elegant and soon to be flooded rooms.

The passengers, already in a state of shock, saw me and turned a whiter shade of pale. They were helpless.  I tried to talk to them, to reassure them that all would be well. But they were so frenzied, in such throes of panic, they could not hear my words. One shipmate grabbed a pistol and attempted to shoot me, bludgeoning a bloody hole through my tail. However, the sea’s salt water, now slowly immersing every floor, quickly healed me. As a Rusalka, I was immortal.

I finally perched myself upon the rail of the deck, curling my tail beneath me. In amusement I watched. Crew and passengers scurried about, securing lifeboats. There would never be enough. The captain, in his foolishness of believing the Titanic was unsinkable, had only equipped her with half of what was necessary. This was all the better!

“Women and children first,” called the first mate. I smiled. Yes, they would save the women and children first, as was human protocol.

From flooding corridors and slippery decks the men ran. Handsome, swarthy sailors, savvy men of business, emigrants in rags. All unsuspecting. All clueless.

Finally the ship cracked in two, her bow submerged, her back end rising upright like a serpent in the water. The remaining passengers slid to their death.

I balanced on my tail, stretched my arms before me and called out in my voice, loud as any canon: “Undines! Rusalki! Sirenas! Come forth!” I then dove off the rails.

Down, down I plunged into the ocean’s depths. There, rising on the crests of waves, my Mer-sisters emerged.

“Make your choices ladies,” I shouted. “This cargo is ripe for the picking!”  It was a welcome gift.  We had heretofore been sadly lacking in male companionship.

I grabbed a young sailor, his skin gone translucent blue, his eyes open in the cold stare of the dead. I pulled him to my breast, kissed him boldly on the mouth. His eyes then flickered in a strange and frightened recognition. He was the one who had attempted to shoot me with a pistol. Blood rushed to his cheeks.

“I should not forgive you,” I chided. Yet he was handsome and able, and in that instant I determined to make him mine.

My Mer-sisters followed suit, awakening the sea’s dead with kisses of life. One by one, the drowned became conscious, still in shock, but alive.

“Take heart, gentleman,” I said.  “Although you will never return to your earthly homes, you will now have refuge in our sea, in the abode of the Rusalki. As time passes you will come to love us and the ocean shall provide you with grand adventure.”

The men were new in their surroundings, but, being sailors, most had immense love of the water. At the very least they were grateful for their renewed life.  I was confident they would be happy. And if not? Well — I had more mirrors and candles and more spells to cast,  didn’t I? Not the least of which might bring love.

My mission was complete.

 

** HISTORICAL NOTE: On this day, April 15, 1912, the real RMS Titanic, headed on her maiden voyage to New York City, sank off the coast of Newfoundland. She had hit a “black” iceberg which caused irreparable damage to her hull.

The massive ship was 882 feet long with a breadth of 92 feet. Her total height, measured from keel to bridge, was 104 feet.  She weighed 46,328 tons. Among her more novel features, available only to first-class passengers, was a 7 ft. deep saltwater swimming pool, a gymnasium, a squash court, and a Turkish bath.

Because of her gargantuan size, the Titanic was considered virtually unsinkable.

Whether out of carelessness or limited storage capacity, the ship only held enough lifeboats to carry about half the passengers. These were quickly depleted.

On the night the Titanic sank, conditions were calm, clear, dark and cold. The black sky held a new moon, the ocean lit only by the stars. The “invisible” iceberg, a rare phenomenon, seemed to appear out of nowhere.

Approximately 1500 passengers lost their lives. Due to the “women and children first” rule, most of the deceased were men.