There is a story in the Mary Ellen Pleasant lexicon put out there by Helen Holdredge, that Mary Ellen Pleasant had been acquainted with Voodoo(sic) since her childhood. Apparently, according to Holdredge, MEP was born a slave in GA and at a tender age, her mother was taken away for practicing African Religion. Later that day, Holdredge (HH) reports, MEP at about the age of 6-10, held a Voodoo(sic) ceremony in the field, with adult slaves watching . The overseer who had taken her mother died that night clutching his throat, according to HH.
This story is very improbable, to say the least. Children do not perform Voodoo curses and that story is really a fantasy that gives MEP evil, magical powers at an early age. This is fiction, or myth, maybe, but it is not the truth. It reflects a profound dishonesty in HH’s approach to MEP. But HH was not finished with that recitation; she has Americus Price of Price Landing MO, no less, show up and buy her, and take her to New Orleans to be educated at the Ursuline academy for one year, then returns and travels with her up the Mississippi river when he dies (Mammy Pleasant, pp 8-13). Somehow she gets to the home of a man with the same name as her father in the Pandex version of her birth in Cincinnati Ohio, where she is a servant to his wife until, disturbed by her evilness, he takes her to Nantucket.
According to HH, MEP isn’t able to finish her Voodoo training until many years later when she is trained by Marie LaVeaux before she goes to SF.
There is not one iota of truth to this story. While it is possible that MEP’s second husband had a distant blood relationship with Marie La Veaux’ boyfriend, there is no indication MEP ever went to New Orleans either as a child or an adult. She certainly never mentioned it in her later life, though she was known to talk about John Brown, Nantucket, and her trips to Canada.
Except for Helen Holdredge’s story, there is not one indication that MEP ever practiced Voodoo. There is no indication there was any organized Haitian religion going on in SF, only a fortune teller or two that claimed to do “Voodoo”. There was never a big drum party in the Octavia street house.
Mary Ellen Pleasant didn’t know Voodoo; she was a member of the SF AME church and that IS thoroughly documented.