Marie Laveau – Voudou Queen of New Orleans

“Marie Laveau at Home” – Courtesy of the Artist Bob Graham. You can visit his website at

Unraveling the life and legend of Marie Laveau inevitably spirals into mystical forces of rhythm, religion, and cultural synergy. Beautiful, regal, and self-possessed, Marie applied her full power in antebellum New Orleans in a practical and tangible way that empowered other free people of color (gens de couleur libres), especially women.

Yet one should not be seduced by modern liberal thinking into portraying Marie as a civil rights leader, which she was not as her and her white partner owned several slaves. Pegging her as a feminist likewise suffers an uneasy fit. One way to view the significance of Marie’s life is as a bridge. She linked the magical and the practical; the religions of Voudou and Catholicism; the sacred African rhythms and the poly-sounds of New Orleans; and the oppressed and the oppressor. Acutely aware of her station as a woman of color, she nevertheless pushed the limits and boundaries to create her own domain – never backing away from her gifted nature and innate strength.

Slipping in between the brutal forces of slavery and the damning shame of segregation, Marie was born on September 10, 1801. She landed in a time bubbling with an exciting blend of cultures, languages, rhythms, and religions influenced by Native Americans, French, African, Spanish, Haitian, and white Europeans – a hundred year ancestral mix of edgy chaotic gumbo. [Read more…]

Artemisia Gentileschi – Authenticity in the Face of Adversity

Aurora, 1627 - Artemisia Gentileschi

Sweeping aside the night, Artemisia and her angel paint the dawn. An alchemical turbulence turning nocturnal obscurity into the promising light of day. Stepping onto the Roman stage of the 17th century, amid great male painters, appeared an audacious woman. Through her peerless use of color, brush stroke, and luminosity, Artemisia Gentileschi created forceful and sensuous women immersed in their story. Passing through all the adversity her life served up, she rose to celebrated prominence, never forsaking her true gift, her authentic vision.

Born July 8, 1593, Artemisia was the only girl in the family and the only child with an aptitude for her father’s profession. At age twelve she lost her mother, Prudenzia, who died in childbirth. Her father, Orazio Gentileschi, already an accomplished Roman artist, began tutoring her in mixing colors, even though she could not yet read or write.

Extending out from Rome, all of Europe was at war with itself over religion – Catholics versus Protestants. It was, however, a good time for artists such as Orazio with the Roman Catholic Church richly investing in artistic renderings of biblical stories in an attempt to quicken religious fervor. This new calling, later known as Baroque, afforded artists advantageous positions and ensured their personal pathway to immortality. Most notable of the Italian Baroque artists was Caravaggio, a contemporary of, and influence on, Orazio who then instructed Artemisia in his style. [Read more…]

When a Life Pivots


Robert Frost’s, The Road Not Taken, enchants with a musing walk on the pathway of pivotal decisions. Curious about the interplay of choice, luck, and opportunity after a directional commitment, I peered into the life of Hollywood’s film goddess Lana Turner. Looking at openings, momentum, lucky breaks, pitfalls, and reflections.

A 15 year old Lana attending Hollywood High decided to skip her typing class one day. She dashed across the street to the Top Hat Café for a coke and quite by chance a well-known reporter sat watching her, approached, and asked if she wanted to be in the movies. She smartly replied, “I need to ask my mother.” The year was 1936, the country mired in the great depression, her mother widowed and barely able to support her daughter on her beautician’s salary. The choice was easy for both mother and daughter. [Read more…]

Hat and Hill

Two Women – 3500 Years -The Political Conundrum of Women Leadership


This is a comparative tale between two remarkable women leaders separated by about 3500 years: Maatkare Hatshepsut of Egypt and Hillary Rodham Clinton of the U.S. – Hat and Hill. Both women recognized as politically astute, highly intelligent, ambitious, and devoted to their beliefs.

Journeying back to 1470 B.C.E., we find a bold and impassioned woman decreeing herself King of Egypt. As one in only a handful of female pharaohs over a 3000 year period, Hat immortalized herself by claiming she was chosen by the God Amen-Ra and proceeded to rule progressively for over 20 years. [Read more…]

Fishing, Freedom, and Fate

My paternal grandmother remains a mystery to me and all I know from personal experience is she liked fishing.

During my adolescent summers, I would watch some relative drop her off at the driveway around our ranch. She arrived in long sleeves, long pants, and a scarf about her head. Fishing pole in hand, she took off on the quarter mile dirt road to the river. Small in stature, she disappeared into the tall grasses before reaching the river channel. [Read more…]

Astrology, Greek Mythology, and a Time for Healing


As a young woman I took up the art of astrology. Exploring numerous western astrology texts I came upon a unique book, whose title and author I am sorry to admit, I cannot remember and of which I have no record. The novelty of the book’s approach was the use of 13 signs, rather than the traditional 12. Identified as “Ophiuchus” and translated as “The Serpent Holder,” the 13th constellation falls across the ecliptic between Scorpio and Sagittarius. [Read more…]

The Act of Transition


At the last Holy Smoke Workshop a shared theme was transitions. The question arose as to how to move through them gracefully?

[Read more…]

Hypatia – Lover of Wisdom


Emerging out of ancient Alexandria’s cauldron of brilliant minds was the luminescent teacher, mathematician, and astronomer Hypatia (355-415 CE). Like many of her Alexandrian predecessors, Hypatia was also a philosopher, a Greek word meaning, “lover of wisdom.” Her brutal death at the hands of the Archbishop of Alexandria is legendary, but it is the breadth and depth of her inquiring mind that endures and inspires through time. [Read more…]

Qualities of Women’s Leadership for the Healthy Feminine


Sign up early as space is limited to four participants.

Our August 1st Holy Smoke Workshop magnetically drew trusting and enthusiastic players.
Calling out ancestors and historical women leaders as guides we were taken deep and high and wide. In an atmosphere aerated with sharing and fun, tendencies were challenged and expectations re-examined. [Read more…]




For the past 15 years I have been practicing law at the intersection of bioscience, law, and society. In this time, I have witnessed an astounding increase in the level of complexity and advancement in bioscience (as well as other scientific specialties), which has been unmatched and basically unmonitored by both law and society. Becoming aware of this, I have tried to understand and advance a more integrated partnership among bioscience, law, and society so as to help insure a wisdom based future for our planet and all who live here.

Nothing highlights the need to be protective of the future like witnessing the birth of a grandchild. On June 26, 2015, I was blessed with a new granddaughter, my son’s first child. She is a unique expression of coincidences occurring through genetic mingling, relationship patterns, and circumstances. The science is clearly there, but the mystery is undeniable. [Read more…]