An Aborisha from the outside in

Even before I knew what Lucumí or as it is most commonly referred to as Santeria was, I knew upon crossing the threshold of a Botanica one fall day, something steeped in deep and dark mystery was taking place behind the curtains of that back roo


m. 

My first visit to a Botanica, I walked through the doors seeking candles and incense and was instantly transported back in time to a quaint little Spanish village . The aroma of cinnamon and orange peels simmering in a pot wafted throughout the little storefront, bottles of oils and washes with a hooded skeleton figure intrigued me . My eyes taking in the varying crosses and candles of Patron Saints was reminded of The Catholic  Rectory that I spent many of my formative years attending church.

I was mesmerized by the rows and rows of jars filled with herbs and seeds while a soft music of drums and Spanish words I couldn’t make out played melodious beats in the background. I wondered around in a daze seeing but not knowing, and I came upon a back door with mysterious scents and sounds of chanting and I was drawn in. I had a paralyzing fear in the pit of my stomach, yet I was propelled forward by an incessant need to know. My hand reached out and as I grazed the lace curtain that blocked my view a small petite woman who called herself Maretza flowed out and took me by the hand inquiring what had brought me in.

I was snapped out of my trance by the appearance of this small woman who exuded so much energy and the fog that had entranced me lifted. I remember that I was looking for some incense and candles for healing for my grandma who was sick. She steered me down an aisle all the while asking me questions about my grandmas health, she picked out several candles, some oils and my incense, gave me detailed instructions and wished me a blessed day. I found myself sitting in my car holding my bag and change, and wondering in such confusion what had just taken place. 

It wasn’t until a few days had passed by and I  was sitting around talking with a friend of mine while burning my incense, that I began to recall the sheer strangeness of it all. I replayed to her how I had walked through the store hypnotized by this mysterious music with a call and answer response and drums beating in my head and discovered this back door. She sucked her teeth and drew in her breath and gasped theatrically that I was in a Voodoo shop.

She crossed herself and told me to stay my ass outta them type of places and away from those kindda people.  

I felt the sting of her words as she called into question my Christianity slap me across the face and I felt ashamed. Why had I even felt the need to seek out alternative prayers from the other realm to help heal my grandma; Wasn’t my prayers to Jesus enough? I did what she said and threw everything that I had bought at that store out, and prayed to be forgiven for tampering with the dark.

I tried to push the whole incident to the back of my mind, but that back room and those drums kept calling me. I found myself day dreaming about them at odd times of the day, I would unconsciously drive past the shop and hope to catch a glimpse of Maretza in the window. It was like I became obsessed. I spent hours on-line reading everything I could about Voodoo. Most of it contradicted itself, and what little knowledge I did find was shrouded in even more mystery.

I grew enough nerve one day to go to our local metaphysical shop. I nervously glanced around looking for signs of devil worship or voodoo sacrifices taking place. Seeing only the shop keepers, and a few people dressed in gothic attire, I relaxed some and began to enjoy my surroundings. This shop had a more commercial feel to it. They had books, and stones of all varieties, as well as candles,  herbs, and oils. I picked up a few books and some stones. I didn’t want to seem like a novice so I kept my conversation to a minimum while checking out. I hurriedly got my things and rushed to my car not wanting to be seen, that old feeling of shame returning. This time I pushed back adamant with myself that I had done nothing wrong. I went home and read my books in a frenzy for knowledge. I was floored with disbelief, every book I had read seemed to show proof that the very fiber of my being, my faith wasn’t what it appeared to be. I went back to the store for even more books, I also went to the library to try and find varying insights to balance my research. I needed as much proof as I could get before I could allow myself to recognize another faith system outside of my religion.

The realization that I wasn’t a Christian hit me like a ton of bricks a few months later.

My husband was the first person I whispered this newfound revelation to. I was so broken down and defeated. The months of seeking knowledge and searching for the truth had taken it’s toll on me. I was worn out from the spiritual battle my soul was waging against itself, and to be honest I was lost. I felt like 8 years of Parochial school and hours of prayers of thanks were all lies. How could the people who were supposed to protect me and teach me be so lost and confused themselves. This wasn’t our faith and religion, it didn’t belong to us and would never free us. The day I accepted that self truth was the saddest day of my life, it was the day I turned my back on Christianity.


Capturing time with Moma Sarah, the continuation

Today we continue our interview with Moma Sarah.  In this segment, we cover advice and the importance of education for aspiring practitioners, ethics, and professionalism.  She also lays down some heavy reality  regarding the roots of the traditions she practices.  Let us continue.

Moma Sarah - used with permission
Moma Sarah – used with permission

What would you suggest novices start with if they feel called to take up these studies?

I have a recommended reading list on my site in the “About” section and there are links to my blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel on my site as well. I post a ton of educational content on my Facebook page. Reading and beginning to make offerings is where to begin.

What teachers would you recommend? And do you teach?

I don’t know of any other teachers, personally. I’ve taken a hiatus from teaching simply due to my workload but plan to return to it this fall by teaching at our local cultural and healing center, Rootead.

What would you like to see more of in regards to the level of scholarship among the current generations of aspiring workers today?

I can not emphasize enough how important it is to educate the self on the history of a practice or religion. One can not understand WHY they are doing what they are doing without the history and traditions behind it. The traditions and esoteric science are why it works and that base knowledge and respect must be obtained. Learn the theories and science and you will be able to formulate a successful practice.

The Slave Gang (relates to David Livingstone) by The London Missionary Society - Public Domain
The Slave Gang (relates to David Livingstone) by The London Missionary Society – Public Domain

 

Any views you would like to share in the way that Hoodoo is being marketed right now?

It’s obviously becomes very popular over the last 10 years. As an American, I think it’s wonderful so long as people are willing to look at why it’s here and where it originated, which was with the Middle Passage, slavery and the Great Migration.

What do you say to the folks who feel that the practices should be less racially inclusive?

I can only speak for my practice which is hoodoo and New Orleans Vodou. I am a devotee of Marie Laveau who was an”octaroon”, meaning she was seven parts “white” and one part “black”. Our entire religion is based on creole people like me. This includes Spanish, American Indian, African, Jewish, Irish, Romany among many other races and cultures. I can only speak for my practice and religion and my practice and religion is a vivid tapestry of the people who came to this country, voluntarily or involuntarily.

Each one, and every mix in between, is valid and has a right to educate themselves on whatever religion they choose. Whether or not someone thinks I am qualified to speak on these issues because of my race is irrelevant. My race has nothing to do with my qualifications in African diaspora, Comparative Religion, Theology and Africana studies which are far more important than my genetics.

How do you address discrimination? Is there still a large amount of it?

I get a good amount of “hate mail”. Mostly due to the fact that I present as a “white” woman. This really goes back to the last question. My race has nothing to do with the fact that I have devoted my life to qualifications in these areas of education and study. The fact is that anyone is free to pay for an education in whatever subject they choose, mine is religion.

I address it by not addressing it. I have no need nor desire to correspond or involve myself with presumption, narcissism or racism. I’ve learned a great deal of diplomacy in this line of work. The best path is not to respond to the discriminator directly but to address everyone else, through venues like this, in order to dispel further discrimination and racism.

Do you feel there is an unfair amount of backlash against people who work with both hands? In other words, people who are not limited in their practice to only what can be best described as “white light mysteries”?

Fortunately, I don’t run into this. Personally, I don’t believe in the whole “black” versus “white”. When one performs a working, they set a new goal in motion, they embark on carving a new path to reach the objective. Every decision and action we make sets off a series of events. Even a positive decision on our end, let’s say to  dump a caustic friend, will cause both positive and negative effects on others and ourselves.

We will feel upset at first about the decision and confrontation-a negative. The friend will also be angry, feel betrayed and alone-another negative. Even though the end result will be positive, EVERY change, no matter how subtle, sets a ripple into effect through our lives. This means that all magic is both negative and positive.

As a  professional spiritual worker, I work between these negative and positives. I evaluate each scenario that could potentially happen and then work to navigate through these to discover the most calm and successful path to reach my client’s goal. All magic is grey. There is good and bad and light and dark in everything and
everyone on this earth.

Pennies and Prosperity Plate - Photo Kenya Davis
Pennies and Prosperity Plate – Photo Kenya Davis

Do you feel that we are losing something when we don’t embrace full knowledge of all practices?

Absolutely. I have made it my life’s work to trace the formulas and recipes I grew up with back to their roots, literally and figuratively. I have done many videos and blog entries on the mass marketing of “hoodoo” “conjure” and ” condition” formulas. Many are nothing but dyed water or oil with synthetic fragrances added. Those were once a real recipe that someone harvested the herbs for, dried them, prepared them and mixed the formula. Without going back to discover these recipes, we are fooling ourselves and loosing our own
history. A person without their roots can not grow.

When you craft your products, how does it make you feel to know that you are the sole worker of intent and focus on this?

I feel that I am delivering a small portion of history and ashe’ to
my client. They have a tool that is in its finest form. The proper
tool for the work, delivers easier and better results.

 Do you feel that people are short-changing themselves when they buy mass marketed items?

Completely. I think I’ve already addressed this in a previous question but if there are no actual herbs or essential oils in the products you are buying, then you are paying for nothing. The herbs are what the ashe’ comes from to create the tool. The herbs are what are chosen and combined to deliver the desired result, along with your devotion and focus.

You give many instructional blog posts and videos to assist people in their studies. What drives you to do this?

I want to empower and educate people. I want people to know that just as you address you health with nutrition and exercise, just as you address your mind with meditation or yoga, you can address your spirit
and spiritual avenues with spiritual work. We are complex and multi-layered and many of us have been neglecting a vital part of our body, experience and existence; our spirit.

When marketing your business, do these lessons give you a boost?

Yes, people seem to really enjoy my blog entries and videos. They often get shared which, naturally, leads to more views of my site.

You also offer spiritual consultation and divination. How important is this service?

100% vital. About 99% of my clients pursue a consultation before choosing a service. Over 15 years of doing this professionally, I have developed an approach that is successful for most clients. Just as anything else, you learn what works best over time and investment in your career. Clients often do not know were to begin or do not see the root of the issue and only want to put a band-aid over the symptoms. I don’t do that. We address and resolve the root of the issue or they are free find another worker.

What issues have you run across insofar as clients coming to you after a bad experience with other readers or workers?

I don’t get it a lot but I do have a few clients a year who claim to have paid thousands of dollars to a worker with no evidence of any work being performed at all.

Any advice for people on what to watch out for on that level?

Research is important! While no worker can help every single person. A professional worker should have a website, NOT payment through Paypal or Western Union only, testimonials or reviews you can read, actual photos of their work which are watermarked or copyrighted (not stock photos taken from the internet) and public profiles and social media sites.

The key to your success for the past 7 years would be what, if you had to narrow it down to one thing?

Keeping it real and not doing it for the money. I started Conjured Cardea on a whim so I could share my interest and hobby of making spiritual items. I was certain I’d never sell anything. I just wanted to create and share authentic items.

If you were to choose a person, real or fictional, that would be your inspiration when it comes to your life, who would it be?

Nelson Mandela. To pursue your beliefs, people, liberation, peace and justice over all else. There is nothing else in life.

For people who would like to follow you on social media, where can
they find you? 

https://www.facebook.com/conjuredcardea/
http://conjuredcardea.blogspot.com/
https://www.youtube.com/user/ladysayje/videos
https://www.instagram.com/conjuredcardea/?hl=en
http://momasarah.tumblr.com/
https://twitter.com/ConjuredCardea

We here at PBN News Network, and the Pagan Business Network, really want to thank Moma Sarah for taking the time to really talk to us and speak from the heart.  A truly inspiring business person, she is the epitome of what a Pagan business person can accomplish.  Don’t let anything stop you from pursuing your dreams.

Capturing time with Moma Sarah, in the beginning

Come with me as I enter the world of Moma Sarah. Her world of wonders and magicks is a queendom she has created called Conjured Cardea.  She is priestess, teacher, vlogger, rootworker, and more.

David Dennis Altar Candles
David Dennis
Altar Candles

For those of our readers who don’t know you yet, begin at the beginning. What makes Moma Sarah the get up in the morning and be the fabulous worker she is every day? What stokes your fire to be a one woman empire?

It’s a combination of several things.  One, a calling from about the age of 7 or 8. Two, passion and energy; I live for this work and it saturates every area of my life. I live to honor nature and the spirits around me. My family. I want to show my children that you can simultaneously do what you love, help and educate, promote passion and justice all while building a successful career and legacy to pass down.

You are a certified member of the American Rootworker Association. What does this mean?

This means that I am recognized as a professional and reputable rootworker by a group of peers and colleagues. Their careers range from anthropologists, authors, rootworkers, readers, teachers and
religious and theology experts.

Why is it important?

Reputable certifications are important when in this line of work.  It’s difficult to trust anything or anyone on the internet. By providing certifications, public profile, photographs of my work, interviews, my YouTube channel and blog, people have an actual access to me.

A window into my life and practice, I’m not some stranger practicing on the other side of the world. Accessibility is one of the main focuses of my professionalism. When you message me or email me, it is actually me you’ll be corresponding with.

What differentiates this from magickal herbalism in general?

While hoodoo could be classified as a type of herbalism, and most of certainly utilize herbalism as part of a healing/healthy lifestyle, the rich history of hoodoo is what makes it unique. The colorful tapestry of the south and the multi-cultural influences are what created hoodoo.

The correspondences and energies are vastly similar in many ways to many North American eclectic herbal magick practices. But what would you like people to understand about the issues of mixing Wicca, Granny Magick, and Hoodoo in their workings?

Hoodoo is Christian/Catholic based. While this was not an original part of the African people and traditions that brought hoodoo here, it was ingrained out of necessity for these practices to go undiscovered in order to survive. That added to and changed the original African traditions and we have to recognize that as a valid part of the history of this practice.

By David Stanley from Nanaimo, Canada - Female Dancers, CC
By David Stanley from Nanaimo, Canada – Female Dancers, CC

 

Religions and spiritual practices must evolve to survive and grow. One has to respect, understand and educate themselves about the cultural influences and African traditions that originally began this practice.

In your studies and practice, what have you found to be a common thread among your requests?

I’m assuming you’re inquiring about requests from clients. Love. Love
is all anyone really wants. To be cared for, respected, to share
life’s experiences and beauty with someone. I have a lot of requests
for prosperity as well, because that’s the real world and everyone is
just trying to survive.

Why do people come to a worker for help?

Often it’s when they feel they have exhausted all other options. I also get a lot of clients who feel too emotionally invested or drained by the situation, or lack the confidence to attack the problem themselves.

What is the difference between root work and conjure?

For me, rootwork can, but does not always, involve working with or petitioning spirits. Conjure does. It’s really a pretty fine line in my practice as I believe all roots possess an energy or spirit. Even though I may not be evoking or invoking a particular spirit or guide to help, the spirit of the roots are always there.

You work with various energies and spirits, what level of time and detail when it comes to keeping the altars and work spaces?

I perform about 6-10 rootwork appointments a week, depending on the duration of the workings. Each workings has separate altar set ups of vigils, herbs, offerings, roots, candles, grids, incense, etc. I imagine I spend about 7 hours a week on my altars. This does not include thorough cleansings and deconstructions each month.

How much of your practice is client education?

I spend a lot of my time working on my site, blog and YouTube channel to make certain people have access to information. If they have a question, they can probably find an answer on one of these venues. I
also take a lot of time with each client to make sure they understand what rootwork is, the time frame, possible outcome and how to get the most out of it. I want to be clear to them that this is spiritual
therapy, a legitimate way to heal, not a magic pill or miracle.

Mojo Ingredients - Jeff Moser
Mojo Ingredients –
Jeff Moser

Do you see your work as a calling?

Absolutely. At 7 or 8 years old I was making gris gris for my neighbor friends who also grew up in an abusive and tumultuous household.

When did you first know this was your path? What made you first lift that herb up and say, “I know what this can do?”

Around 7 or 8 years of age. People are born with propensities for certain skills and careers. Natural talents-this is mine.

What is your preferred medium for most mundane working? If you had to choose among candle work, mojo, etc?

Offerings. I give offerings daily but not to obtain a goal. They are out of love and respect for the spirits who dwell here. I believe this is the largest part in building a rapport, so when I do have a request
on behalf of a client, they are likely to help.

Make sure to return to PBN News Network for the second part of this fascinating look into the world of Moma Sarah.  Please enjoy the video below.  It is first in her series on Beginnings and Professionalism in Rootwork.