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Spiritual Merchants: Religion, Magic and Commerce / Edition 1

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Overview

They can be found along the side streets of many American cities: herb or candle shops catering to practitioners of Voodoo, hoodoo, Santería, and similar beliefs. Here one can purchase ritual items and raw materials for the fabrication of traditional charms, plus a variety of soaps, powders, and aromatic goods known in the trade as “spiritual products.” For those seeking health or success, love or protection, these potions offer the power of the saints and the authority of the African gods.
In Spiritual Merchants, Carolyn Morrow Long provides an inside look at the followers of African-based belief systems and the retailers and manufacturers who supply them. Traveling from New Orleans to New York, from Charleston to Los Angeles, she takes readers on a tour of these shops, examines the origins of the products, and profiles the merchants who sell them.
Long describes the principles by which charms are thought to operate, how ingredients are chosen, and the uses to which they are put. She then explores the commodification of traditional charms and the evolution of the spiritual products industry—from small-scale mail order "doctors" and hoodoo drugstores to major manufacturers who market their products worldwide. She also offers an eye-opening look at how merchants who are not members of the culture entered the business through the manufacture of other goods such as toiletries, incense, and pharmaceuticals. Her narrative includes previously unpublished information on legendary Voodoo queens and hoodoo workers, as well as a case study of John the Conqueror root and its metamorphosis from spirit-embodying charm to commercial spiritual product.
No other book deals in such detail with both the history and current practices of African-based belief systems in the United States and the evolution of the spiritual products industry. For students of folklore or anyone intrigued by the world of charms and candle shops, Spiritual Merchants examines the confluence of African and European religion in the Americas and provides a colorful introduction to a vibrant aspect of contemporary culture.
The Author: Carolyn Morrow Long is a preservation specialist and conservator at the the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Several years ago, Wade Davis's The Serpent and the Rainbow (LJ 3/1/86) was popular reading among anthropologists, ethnobotanists, and anyone interested in the culture of the Caribbean. This new book will find favor among a similar audience. Long (preservation specialist and conservator, Smithsonian Museum of American History) quite thoroughly recounts the history and origins of African religion in the New World, going beyond well-known voodoo practices in the Caribbean to include U.S. practice as well. She then concentrates on the development and evolution of the "spiritual products industry." Most voodoo texts mention very little about those shops and merchants that provide supplies for charms and potions, but this book even contains lists of stores and web sites where voodoo supplies can be purchased. A wonderful complement to books on the history and anthropology of voodoo, including the aforementioned Davis book and books of recipes for spells and charms. Recommended for college libraries and public libraries in areas where African American history and anthropology are popular.--Jay Stephens, Roanoke Cty. P.L., VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781572331105
  • Publisher: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

The Author: Carolyn Morrow Long is a preservation specialist and conservator at the the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Pt. I Historical Antecedents and Traditional Practices
1 African Origins and European Influences 3
2 African-Based Religions in the Latin-Catholic Colonies 17
3 New Orleans Voodoo 37
4 Conjure, Hoodoo, and Rootwork in the Anglo-Protestant South 71
Pt. II Sold as a Curio Only: The Evolution of the Spiritual Products Industry
5 The Commodification of Traditional Charms 99
6 Mail-Order Doctors and Hoodoo Drugstores 127
7 Candle Shops, Botanicas, Yerberias, and Web Sites 159
8 The Manufacturers 187
9 John the Conqueror: From Magical Root to Manufactured Product 221
Conclusion 247
Appendix 253
Notes 265
Bibliography 293
Index 303
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