Over the last few years it has become more and more common to see groups holding discussions about Hoodoo and Conjure. A practice that was once never considered by witches to be associated with witchcraft of any kind has can now be seen on witchcraft forums, in witchcraft shops, and even in books on witchcraft and magic. The thirst for knowledge of more practical and indepth traditions has brought this tradition out of the shadows and into the public eye. Even shows like Supernatural show elements of the Hoodoo work in their show.
This new popularity has come with its fair share of problems. One of the main ones being racism and accusations of cultural appropriation by non blacks who study,practice, or are interested in Hoodoo and Conjure work. It is not uncommon to hear and see people on forums discuss how only Blacks or those who have African American heritage should be allowed to practice. Other people believe that it is the last part of the African American identity to be appropriated into white culture. In order to understand why this is a problem you need to understand the history of Hoodoo and Conjure.
Hoodoo and Conjure were founded by slaves during slavery. It was created to keep them alive and hold on to their identity and ancestral heritage. It was their only tie to their African heritage. Hoodoo is a combination of the African traditional beliefs concerning Animisim and Herbalism, Native American Herbalism, and Christianity. The slaves hid their use of ancestral wisdom through the use of bible verses, prayers, and Saint work.
This is the main reason why there are so many domination works as well as keep away the law spells. It isn’t because Hoodoo workers are dominant people. No. It is because when a slave felt abused their only way to get back was through the practice of conjure work. The law keep away work is traceable to protecting slaves that ran away from their owners. Hoodoo and Conjure are all about survival plain and simple. It is easy to see why people argue that Hoodoo and Conjure belong only to African American’s. Yet this ignores a key component: what happened after slavery was abolished?
As the slaves became free and moved they were able to interact with other people and other areas. This is why in some areas you find elements of Hex signs (Pennsylvanian Dutch folk magic), Quabblah, Strega, and more. These were all poor minority communities. They worked together to be able to survive. They depended on each other and the practical use of magic when needed. For years Hoodoo was only practiced in these small communities and passed down through family lines. Hoodoo has always adapted to the world and cultures to survive.
As Hoodoo has become more popular in the magical and spiritual communities more and more non African Americans are looking to learn about the practice. It is not common to find that there are those who feel Hoodoo and Conjure work should only be practiced by African Americans. Those same people often accuse those interested in Hoodoo and Conjure of cultural misappropriation. If you take the fact that historically white people have romanticized and cherry picked aspects of cultures and magical practices that appeal to their desires it makes sense that there are those within the practice of Conjure that feel it should be kept within the culture and within family lines as it has been traditionally
It is not racist for those within the practice and culture to say that no they do no want to teach or share this information. People within a tradition or style of working have the right to tell people that they do not want to teach them. Hoodoo for a long time was the only thing that belonged to the Black Americans. It is their right to protect and preserve the tradition as they see fit. If an individual doesn’t want to teach or share information that is completely up to them.
Many of the issues around racism and cultural appropriation within the practice of Hoodoo or Conjure revolves around protection work and the use of hexes or curses. Many of those who are starting to have an interest in folk magic traditions come from a Wiccan or Wiccan influenced background in magic. This transition is often difficult because of the vastly different approach to ethics between Wicca and Hoodoo and Conjure work hold very different sets of ethics. Wicca and many forms of modern witchcraft the ethical practices revolve around the concept or practice of harming none. Hoodoo and conjure however do not hold that same stance.
So how does one who is interested in Hoodoo and conjure work go about learning the practice without being accused of Cultural Appropriation?
There are few things that a person can do. The first thing is to be respectful and understand the Hoodoo and Conjure is not witchcraft. You also have to understand that the Bible and the God of Christianity are central to the practice of Hoodoo and Conjure. Often times you see that the main issue is that witches will work spells they find on Hoodoo websites but remove the references to God or Jesus and substitute one of the many Pagan Gods to suit their specific needs. This is not respectful. That is cultural misappropriation.
If you remove the Bible and God from Conjure the work is no longer Hoodoo and Conjure. The work becomes something else. While you may be able to call it based on or inspired by Hoodoo and conjure it is not Hoodoo or Conjure. You don’t have to be Christian to be a Conjure worker. You just have to be willing to work with the powers of Conjure which include the Bible, Jesus, God, and the Holy spirit. If you can not respect that part of the tradition and practice then you should find a different practice.
It is not racist for Conjure workers to say that anything without the Bible or God is not Conjure. It is racist to remove those aspects. It is not problem to work conjure if you are white or a witch. It is a problem if you decide to start removing key components of the practice to make it more sanitized for your practice. Conjure workers don’t care who you worship. They do care that the practice is preserved. To do that people need to learn Conjure and Hoodoo as it is practiced and not make modifications.
If a person can be respectful of the history of conjure, honor the ancestors of conjure, and work the spells using the Bible and God then they are more likely to get information and possibly find a teacher. The best way to find a teacher and learn this culture and practice is to join those discussion groups on Facebook and other websites and prove that you are true to your desire to learn Hoodoo and Conjure. Respect that Conjure work is as much a way of life as it is a system for working magic. If you can manage to respect those facts about Conjure work then you are not racist nor appropriating the culture.
There are those who feel that anyone not Black can never understand or appreciate the pain and sorrow of the ancestors of Hoodoo and conjure. That they have no idea about the hardships of slavery or the life that Black American’s may face. While there are things that white men and women might not fully understand, they can show empathy and sympathy. One way that healing over the past of slavery can continue is for white men and women to practice Conjure and set up altars to honor the ancestors of conjure. Show respect to those who have come before you and show that you are remorseful for the actions of the past. By taking those actions you not only align yourself with that culture but you also are showing the spiritual force behind conjure that you respect everything they went through and honor their sacrifices.
Only through acknowledgement of the horrors of the past can racism be eliminated. Only by respecting the differences in the paths out there can we really understand our own path. By respecting Hoodoo and Conjure as their own unique paths and not a part of Western Occultism or witchcraft we can establish dialogs between practices, share information and preserve the knowledge of many paths.