29 September 2007


I've recently reacquainted myself with the ways of hoodoo and I realized that without meaning to I've become more of a folk magic practitioner than a straight up neopagan witch. According to Catherine Yronwode hoodoo is an African-American tradition of folk magic. It is not to be confused with Voodoo or Santeria as they are specific religions. Hoodoo is quite different in that it is not a religion and thusly should not be capitalized. Hoodoo is a fascinating mix of the folk magic brought to America by African slaves, the herbal knowledge of American Indians and the folklore of European immigrants including Christian, Jewish and pagan influences. The core of hoodoo is centered on the idea of personal magic with no specialized intermediary between the individual and the magical world and no hierarchy. Thusly, it does not have a strong connection to any one religious tradition and can easily be practiced by followers of any religion. There are, however, echoes of African pantheons in the form of "the dark man" or "devil" that is not to be confused with the Judeo-Christian Satan.

As in most forms of folk magic great importance is placed on the magical uses of herbs. Also utilized are roots, minerals, animal parts, personal possessions and human bodily fluids. The one thing that really sets hoodoo apart from other forms of folk magic is the use of mojo bags, also known as mojo hands and many other names. It should be noted that the word "mojo" is a hoodoo word that has nothing to do with the libido; it is a word for magic. These items are fairly small bags made of cloth, usually flannel, filled with various items such as herbs, roots, minerals and charms related to the desired effects. Interestingly, these bags must be "fed" before they can take effect, either with whisky, perfume, smoke or human breath. They are usually kept on the person and great emphasis is placed on no one else touching them as it would spoil the magic. Practitioners of hoodoo can have several different names such as conjure worker, or conjure man/woman, root worker with "worker" sometimes replaced by "doctor", reader or sometimes simply "a hoodoo". There is much, much more that I could say about hoodoo but Yronwode's site Lucky Mojo is the ultimate source.

As I've become reacquainted with hoodoo I've realized that I am more of a folk magic practitioner than a straight up neopagan witch. For instance, I have little use for my athame, wand or chalice. In fact, even though they are still on my altar I haven't touched them in a long time except to clean them and have considered removing them altogether. Similarly, hoodoo workers don't use these neopagan tools. Instead, they focus on candles, incense and the aforementioned herbs, roots and minerals, charms and other items from nature. I think I'm a conjure worker as my sole form of spell work is the mojo bag and I've come to rely on it and have gotten very good results. And now that I've come to this conclusion I'm going to start learning more about hoodoo, especially foot track magic and honey jar magic.

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