Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Spellbook of Marie Laveau

I really feel like a lot of folks don't understand what I was trying to do when I created The Spellbook of Marie Laveau/Petit Albert translation. I've even been accused of doing a "bait and switch" even though Petit Albert is the subtitle. I get the impression that a lot of people imagine that I just had a full translation of the previously untranslated Petit Albert laying around and that I must have stuck Laveau's name on there to make it hep to the jive or whatever those damn kids are saying on my lawn.

As it was, I owned copies of multiple "Marie Laveau spellbooks" -- the spells in all of which were pretty distinctively of the first half of the 20th century. Maybe the people who published them truly believed they were Laveau's spellbooks, I don't know. They don't seem to match with the historical data, though.

I figured that at this point, someone finding any kind of real book of spells written by Laveau is about as likely as someone finding conclusive proof of the identity of Jack the Ripper -- that is, not at all likely. So I tried to think of it from the other direction -- is there a book maybe she didn't write, but would have used? After going over some historical data, the Petit Albert seemed a very likely piece, as it was well known in her time and well permeating into the folk magic. 

So, I sat down and translated, out of 17th century French*, the Petit Albert with the specific intention of learning more about Laveau's probable methods and about 19th century hoodoo (which definitely used the book.) 

*And if Marie Laveau could read that, then perhaps there really is something to the tradition of portraying her as talking with a really old-fashioned -- some might say Ye Olde Tyme -- sounding speech. 

Anyway... to date, folks who are interested in the Petit Albert seem more pleased with the book than anyone else. So it goes -- you can't please everyone. It contains early versions of the nature-tying spell done with a knotted cord, references to the importance of St. John's Eve, money-drawing spells using grave dirt and other relics of the dead, as well as less "fantastical" stuff like soap recipes, advice on wine making, recipes for fish bait and pigeon feed, old fashioned medicines like Hungary Water, Celestial Water and Clear Water; and some things that fall in between, like the love spell to woo someone by gazing deeply into her eyes. 

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