Read an Excerpt
Pagan Portals Hoodoo
By Rachel Patterson
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2012 Rachel Patterson
All rights reserved.
What is Hoodoo?
Hoodoo in the form that we know it can be traced back to the early 19th Century, and possibly earlier. Hoodoo is the American name for African American folk magic.
Many religions sprang from the African traditions, such as Yoruba, Santeria, Vodoun and Candomblé. Hoodoo came out of those beliefs and is the magical practice, not an actual religion. It is definitely not Voodoo, as it is commonly called by mistake. Voodoo, or Vodou, is a Haitian African religion, while Vodoun is West African.
Hoodoo as we recognise it was established during the times of slavery in America using the native plants and items available to the people at the time and probably taking a little knowledge from the Native Americans too, with definitely some European folk magic thrown in to the mix as well. I do believe a good amount of the Hoodoo magical practices were brought by slaves; they didn't arrive as slaves with no beliefs or practices at all!
A lot of the slaves at the time were forced to follow the Catholic religion. What they did was to incorporate the saints, deities and rituals into their own religion. Santeria is a good example of this, although they also included the darker side of magic such as curses and hexes as well.
If you take a look into the blues music from the times of slavery you will find a huge amount of references to Hoodoo in the lyrics.
Hoodoo is a practice of magic which is based on surviving and the need for things such as healing using herbs, plants, roots, stones, minerals and the like, combined with chants, rituals and handmade items. It is based around a main framework of intents – love, success, luck, happiness, health and wealth. It is also a form of magic that works with one's own personal power.
However, I suspect that those practitioners of Hoodoo in America rarely call it by a name, it is just what they do, what they grew up doing, what their mothers and grandmothers did. Hoodoo is often referred to by other names such as 'conjure' or 'root work' in fact a practitioner of this magical practice is often called a root worker or conjurer and sometimes referred to as a Hoodoo Doctor.
Like a lot of magical practices, Hoodoo uses the magical properties of natural items including traditional herbs, roots and minerals, but it also makes use of animal parts and bodily fluids. (No, don't worry you won't have to bash any wild animals, but you will be able to use bones from your Sunday lunch roast chicken or, if you aren't too squeamish, road kill!)
The practice includes such things as jinxing, foot track magic, crossroads magic and laying tricks. Foot track magic works with the essence of the person by using their footprints. Crossroads magic works by leaving magical items at a crossroads (no surprise there!) or a place where two roads intersect. Crossroads are magical places and always have been. Probably the most well known item for a Hoodoo practitioner to use is a mojo bag, but in Hoodoo the use of candles, incense, oils, powders, talismans and spiritual washes is also common.
Originally those who worked with Hoodoo would probably have used whatever they could get their hands on, using lamps and plain white candles for spell work, dressing them only with blessed olive oil and using basic items and ingredients that they had to hand.
At some point in the history of Hoodoo, which my research seems to suggest having been about the time of the American Civil War, people started to 'market' oils, coloured candles and vinegars; giving them the fantastic names that we now associate with Hoodoo products. But as with most magical practices my advice would be, use what seems right to you and use what you have to hand and what your intuition and instinct tell you is right. You don't need to splash out huge amounts of cash on branded products; you can make most things you need yourself. If you do purchase items from a shop or online I would just suggest you check out their credentials first and what ingredients they use; there are some wonderful retailers out there, but there are some bad ones too.
Come take a walk with me through the magical art of Hoodoo ...
Root work is another name for Hoodoo; its practitioners are often referred to as root workers. It refers to the understanding of herbs and nature and, in particular, the belief that the root of a plant holds its power and spirit; plant roots being an important part of Hoodoo magical practice.
What is Used?
The practice of Hoodoo uses many things, some natural items that the Earth provides and some that are not so natural! Basically, a Hoodoo practitioner will use what they have to hand. If they have natural items such as twigs and bones they will use them, but if they need to they will also use items such as bleach and ammonia.
Ashe is the magical element, the spirit, the power that is inside all natural things – stones, herbs, bones etc. Even when we speak a chant the words contains ashe. It is a power.
Don't be afraid of going into a graveyard, they are usually beautiful, peaceful and spiritual places.
Graveyard dirt is used a lot in Hoodoo. It is a connection to the dead and a link to our ancestors. To obtain it there is an accepted process of events. First you must connect with the spirit of the person whose grave you would like to take the dirt from and then you must very respectfully ask their permission. You will also need to leave some sort of offering in payment for the dirt you take. You also need to check whose grave you are taking dirt from as well. Dirt from the grave of a soldier who died in battle will work differently from that of someone who died at the age of 90 peacefully in their sleep.
Offerings you might like to leave on the grave would be small coins, flowers or maybe alcohol depending again on the person who lies therein. Leaving a tot of whiskey for a teetotal school ma'am probably wouldn't go down so well ...
Get to know your local graveyard, get the feel of it, make several visits there and see who you can connect with first before you even attempt to take graveyard dirt. Have a wander around the place and see what graves reach out to you (hopefully not literally). You may find that you are subconsciously pulled towards certain graves. Connect with the ancestors there. Always be respectful and always ask first. The spirits will most likely tell you what they want.
Graveyard dirt is particularly useful in protection and love spells, but is also used in binding spells as well. The dirt can be used for harmful tricks, the graveyard dirt signifying in this case – death.
Graveyard dirt has power because it is so directly linked with the spirits of the dead, those of our ancestors.
What I would say as a caution, especially for those new to Hoodoo, is to avoid collecting dirt from graves that contain murder victims and those who died unjustly. These spirits may harbour unhealthy vengeful energies.
On the same theme as graveyard dirt there is also the use of coffin nails. Originally coffins would be dug up in order to retrieve the nails from them, but I would advise against this, not only because it is illegal and I would hate for you to be sent to jail and because coffins don't tend to have proper nails in any more, but also because I feel it is incredibly disrespectful to the person lying within the coffin! A good substitute is to use rusty nails.
Rusty nails can be used in spells against your enemies, but also for protection.
If you are a bit squeamish this section probably isn't for you and it is possible to work incredibly powerful Hoodoo magic without these items, but it is a part of the magical practice so I have included it here for reference and just in case you want to give it a try ...
Bodily fluids, hair, nail clippings and the like have been used in magical practices, not just Hoodoo, for centuries. It is a very definite way of connecting your spell or trick to a particular person. Witch bottles found in the UK lodged into walls or buried under the doorsteps of old buildings were found to contain human hair, nail clippings and urine.
Think about fluids such as menstrual blood and semen – both of these link directly to sex and fertility so logic says that they would make excellent ingredients in love or fertility tricks.
You may never drink another cup of coffee after this information but ... menstrual blood is used to gain sexual attraction from a man, just pop a drop or two into his morning cuppa and the trick is worked. If you have a willing and adventurous partner, in Hoodoo the practice of feeding him your menstrual blood with his knowledge is a way of binding him to you and keeping him faithful.
Equally a man can use his semen in a similar fashion. By placing some of his semen in a drink given to his chosen woman, the man is setting a trick in motion to capture her sexual attraction to him. On the flipside of this, if a woman captures some of a man's semen she can then use it in spell working to bind him, keep him faithful and control him.
And then we have urine; used for centuries in European folk magic and also used in Hoodoo. It makes a good substitute if you don't have menstrual blood or semen as it is a very personal fluid and links directly to its owner. In Hoodoo urine is often referred to as 'chamber lye' or just simply 'water' – be wary next time someone offers you a glass of 'water'! The word 'chamber' originates from the old chamber pot that was kept under the bed for people to relieve themselves in during the night and 'lye' is an old Anglo Saxon word meaning a strong liquid with high alkaline content.
Chamber lye (doesn't that sound nicer than urine?) is often used for luck. A person who needs some fast luck, maybe for some quick money or in a card game, will ask a willing female to add their chamber lye to their mojo bag. This is in essence 'feeding' the mojo bag with luck. It seems to only be a female's chamber lye that is lucky though ...
What you don't want though is an enemy to get hold of any of your bodily fluids. They can then use these to lay tricks against you, causing you all sorts of grief and harm.
If all the above leaves you feeling a bit wary, how about using something like leftover bath water? Or even a half-drunk cup of coffee? These liquids will hold a connection to the person who used them.
There are many items that can be used if you don't want to go down the 'bodily fluid' road, such as locks of hair, nail clippings, a used piece of clothing, handwriting on a piece of paper, an item the person has worn or touched, cigarette butts, photographs or even their business card.
Herbs and Roots
All sorts of herbs are used in Hoodoo magic, all of the usual household ones along with a few more unusual ones. I haven't included a complete list here as it would go on forever, but here are some of the more popular ones used in Hoodoo.
Adam and Eve Root (Putty Root/Aplectrum)
This root was used a lot in Adam and Eve magic, believed to promote true love and a good strong equal partnership between a couple. It was also used for sexual problems within a relationship. However, Adam and Eve root is now endangered and should no longer be harvested from the wild. Unfortunately, there isn't a substitute for the root either, so be aware if you purchase 'Adam and Eve' products because they probably won't have the true ingredients.
This is a herb used for prosperity and money draw spells. It can be sprinkled into your purse, kept in your money box or used as a powder.
Angelica Root (Holy Ghost/Archangel Root)
This has many uses within Hoodoo – warding off evil, boosting luck, health, family matters, peace, strength (especially for women), uncrossing, jinx breaking and as a powerful guardian.
Useful for gamblers, luck and sexual power. (In the UK you could substitute a conker).
Clover is probably used all over the world for luck! Within Hoodoo it is also used for prosperity and money draw spells. It is also considered sacred in that having three leaves it represents the trinity.
Coconut is used for domination within Hoodoo, a whole coconut often being used to represent the victim's head and mind.
Devil's Dung (Asafoetida)
You've got to love the folk name for this one! It is a very strong smelling powder (hence the name) and is used in Hoodoo for protection, banishing, curses and working against your enemies. (When handling asafoetida I recommend wearing gloves ... otherwise you will carry the scent on your hands for ages!)
Devil's Shoestring (Viburnum Alnifolium, Opulus, Prunifolium)
These 'shoestrings' are roots from the plant and are used for protection, luck, job seeking and keeping out the devil – the 'shoestring' is meant to trip him up!
Five-Finger Grass (Cinquefoil/Potentilla)
The plant has five leaves that are segmented and look a bit like a hand – hence the name five-finger grass. It is used for luck, gambling, money drawing, employment and favours.
High John the Conqueror Root (Ipomoea Jalapa, Purge, Pandurata)
High John the Conqueror root is one of the main herbs used in Hoodoo magic.
The story goes that John was a prince, son of an African king, and that he dedicated himself to helping others, those who were tricked by their white masters. He is a trickster spirit and also a hero of folklore.
The roots that carry his name are: High John, Dixie John and Little John. High John is said to carry the trickster's spirit within it.
High John the Conqueror root brings with it the magical properties of power, prosperity, strength, luck, love and the ability to conquer all within its path.
Lettuce is used mainly in money draw spells. You can use any type of lettuce, but make sure the leaves are fresh; the best ones are the darker outside leaves. Greens can be used in the same way.
This is used mainly for money drawing, prosperity, uncrossing or to cool and calm a situation or person.
Orris Root (Queen Elizabeth Root)
Used in Hoodoo by women and men to attract and control a man.
All sorts of pepper varieties are used in Hoodoo magic. Black pepper is good for protection, banishing, curses and enemy spells; red pepper (cayenne) is good for protection, banishing, curses, enemy spells and also to add heat (and therefore power) to spells too.
Used mainly in protection spells, but also for love. Wearing a sprig of rue will ward off the 'evil eye'.
Used in spells working against your enemy and revenge spells. Also often used to stuff doll babies (poppets).
Used in powders, incense and foot track magic for innocence, purity, chastity, feminine issues and concerns of a sexual nature.
This is a good all-round herb. The leaves of the willow are used for love, luck, health and protection.
Witch Grass (Dog Grass/Devil's Grass/Couch Grass/Twitch Grass)
Used for love, break-up and enemy spells and also good for stuffing doll babies (poppets).
Animal parts are used quite often in Hoodoo magic, but I think it is an area that is quite often misunderstood or misinterpreted or just plain hyped up by the media because it makes a good story.
Some practitioners would never harm an animal (I am one of them). However, I don't see a problem with working with animal parts that have either died a natural death, were killed for food or were the unfortunate victims of a fatal road accident. Others may never harm an animal even for food, nor use any animal parts – it is a personal choice.
Some practitioners may feel OK with killing such things as insects, spiders and snails for instance, but would never harm anything larger.
Excerpted from Pagan Portals Hoodoo by Rachel Patterson. Copyright © 2012 Rachel Patterson. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.