Racism within Conjure and Hoodoo

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.

 

Knot Magick

A few years back, a member of the circle I was then a part of brought a photocopy of some info on knot magic to our ritual, and we read it, and tried it out.

It was an interesting experience, one that I want to share with you.

A yellow patterned background with a black cord on top with four knots
Knot magic at work. Photo: Janet Callahan

It turns out the copies I was given years ago are a chapter from DJ Conway’s book, Wicca: The Complete Craft.  I don’t own a copy, but Google Books has it in their library.  The internet is an amazing thing….

Knot magic has been used for hundreds (probably thousands) of years. Many of the various Goddesses of Fate are weavers, who tie  and loosen knots all the time. And there are lots of stories of sailors buying knotted cords from witches and wizards, in order to make the wind blow if their ships were stalled.

Looking back to that bit about the ships tells us something important about knot magic: more than anything, it’s something of a battery, storing energy up for when we need it. And frequently, the energy stored is something natural – wind, the full moon, the dark moon….

An organized witch might, then, prep many different cords with knots, each cord representing a specific type of energy they might need later.

Another obvious use of knot magic is to bind.  That is, after all, the definition – to tie something securely.  Equally, the untying of knots can be used to symbolize the dissolving of a problem.

Even our weddings, both Pagan and more mainstream use knot magic and knot imagery – to get married is to “tie the knot” in the mainstream world, and our handfastings typically involve an actual cord being tied around the hands of those being joined.

a person in a gray suit and a person in a wedding dress, with a third person tying their hands
Image via flickr user ms2588a, under creative commons license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

 

So, how would one use knot magic to store and use energy?  The example given in the pages I have give some good examples, and this is basically what we did that night so long ago.

For the full moon, pick a silver or dark purple cord. While the instruction say to use a 2-3 foot cord, I’d suggest 39 inches – 13 x 3 – for best effect. You want cord that is not too slippery (satin cord, for example, does not hold knots well), and not too stiff (we used 1/8″ gross-grain ribbon, which was pretty hard to tie because it was stiff).

On the full moon, cast your circle and perform any other ritual things your tradition recommends before your working.

Use a full moon incense, and cleanse the cord in the incense smoke. Stand somewhere in the moonlight, making sure the moonlight has touched all of the cord.

Now, you will tie nine knots, from one end of the cord to the other, while reciting this chant (or something like it):

Knot of one, this spell’s begun.
Knot of two, the power is true.
Knot of three, my will shall be.
Knot of four, I gather more.
Knot of five, moon power is alive.
Knot of six, the power I fix.
Knot of seven, moon magic leaven.
Knot of eight, this spell is fate.
Knot of nine, the threes are trine.
I gather moonbeams in this cord, according to my magic words.
Moon power is stored here on this night for magic good and strength so bright.
(chant from Wicca: The Complete Craft)

Then finish out your ritual and close your circle.

When you later wish to use that stored energy (for example, you need to do a spell that normally requires a full moon, but the moon is now just a tiny sliver), take your cord and your full moon incense, set up your ritual as you normally would, and during your working, you untie the knots from one end to the other, visualizing the full moon energy flowing into your hands, using the following chant:

I open the door to the power beyond,
The moon gate that has an Otherworld key.
Unending power flows into my hands.
This is my will and so shall it be.
(chant from Wicca: The Complete Craft)

Then do the rest of your working as if there is a full moon, and then close out your ritual as you typically would.

References:

Wicca: The Complete Craft, by DJ Conway, published by Crossing Press, September 9, 2001

http://realpagan.net/forum/topics/cord-or-knot-magic

http://www.magicalrecipesonline.com/2012/10/knot-magic-tie-knot-bind-magical-power.html

Cord Magic Basics

https://bytheknotofnine.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/historical-spells-cords-knots-and-magic/

Knot Magic

Knot Spells

 

 

PBN Blues Series: “Shut Down Turn Off ” – Little River Band

Clients come and go, but some of them stay with us.  The ones that are the hardest are the ones that follow us home.  Not literally a client accompanying us to our domiciles, no.  I am referring to a case that just won’t let us go on with our days without thinking back to it.  Some part of it just seems to worry at us and we cannot let it go.

Self care and the ability to shut the book on the day is a big part of what it is to be a balanced person, and a successful magickal vendor/worker.  You come into contact with hundreds of people throughout the year.  Taking home spiritual contamination, and the worries of the world, will not allow you to be healthy and whole and effective.  You must draw the line, or be drawn down into an abyss of your own making.

1024px-Langjökull_Abyss
A crevasse (moulin) in the Langjökull glacier, Iceland. – Ville Miettinen, Helsinki, Finland
As we do in this series, let us look at a scenario that speaks to this point.

The less healthy way to process this case

Ajanay W. has come to you with a serious problem.  She began a working over a month ago, under the advice of a friend with a book.  She did not do a divination, so was completely surprised that her life has now imploded.  Not only has she lost the objective she sought to keep, but she has suffered a huge personal set back.  Your heart bleeds for her and you begin to work together on her options, and select some appropriate tools and plans.

In this particular case, she decided to go for a the job position of a coworker.  She felt she was better qualified for the position.  Ajanay W.  did a petition spell and accompanied it with lamp magick.  Unfortunately for her, she did not word it correctly.  She also did not put in a way to undo what she had done.  She has now lost her job, been offered a job for half the pay at another company, and is seen as a troublemaker at her old one.

Ajanay W.  has come to you to try to fix her situation.  Not only did she not follow her friend’s advice, you strongly suspect that she will not follow yours.  You try to make sure you explain clearly what she needs to correct and wish her well.

For the next week, you find yourself thinking about Ajanay W..  You wonder if she is using the tools she purchased correctly.  You ask yourself if you could have added anything.  You replay your conversations in your mind and second guess yourself.  Even after knowing you were correct in what you did, you still keep worrying about her and her progress.  You even think of her at home.  You cannot let it go, and decide to just let it work its way out of your thoughts naturally.

A way that may be a better for your well-being

 Ajanay W. has come to you with a serious problem.  She began a working over a month ago, under the advice of a friend with a book.  She did not do a divination, so was completely surprised that her life has now imploded.  Not only has she lost the objective she sought to keep, but she has suffered a huge personal set back.  Your heart bleeds for her and you begin to work together on her options, and select some appropriate tools and plans.

In this particular case, she decided to go for a the job position of a coworker.  She felt she was better qualified for the position.  Ajanay W.  did a petition spell and accompanied it with lamp magick.  Unfortunately for her, she did not word it correctly.  She also did not put in a way to undo what she had done.  She has now lost her job, been offered a job for half the pay at another company, and is seen as a troublemaker at her old one.

Ajanay W.  has come to you to try to fix her situation.  Not only did she not follow her friend’s advice, you strongly suspect that she will not follow yours.  You try to make sure you explain clearly what she needs to correct.

Before she does anything else, you put together a clearing bath mix for her. You advise her to reconstruct her petition, and then deconstruct it according to a standard technique.  You then advise her to switch from the lamp to a candle so that she can use small incremental changes to her course.  Because they burn for a shorter time, it will be easier to spot issues with her workings more swiftly and make appropriate adjustments.

That night, you find yourself thinking a lot about Ajanay W.  You find yourself bothered by recurrent thoughts of her welfare.  You recognize this is not the way you can maintain your separation from your business life.   You decide to create an affirmation that you repeat several times that ends the day for you.

Example:   And now it comes, the end of the day.  The cares of work are put away.  – Kenya Coviak/Mistress Belladonna

Short and sweet, but it is still effective.  Yours may be a lot longer.   For people who do ongoing work for clients, it will have to be customized to suit your situation.  But the idea is the same.  You also take the added steps of using a cleansing bath and an earth jar spell to shut down the unnecessary connections between you and Ajanay W.

You cannot pour energy from an empty cup, and in order to not leak, you must hold yours upright.  This means not letting others concerns tip you off-balance.  Work time is work time.  Let the laborer rest when the work day is complete.

PBN Blues Series: “Garter Snake Blues” by Victoria Spivey

by Kenya Coviak

Sometimes as magickal/spiritual workers in the business of selling our services to clients, we find that we are helping folks who are generally not held in the best regard in society.  Cultural mores and standards can come into play when dealing with sensitive issues.  Infidelity is usually a topic that makes many people pause.  But if you are in business, and if you can separate your personal beliefs that may be opposed to the subject, then this installment of our series could be of use to you.

Various products exist to exact vengeance and the infernal fires of torment on the cheating partner and their paramour.  Gender roles do not matter, nor do sexual orientations.  Almost universally in the human condition, the heartbroken will seek compensation.

Hollywood's Greatest Year: The Best Picture Nominees of 1939
By film screenshot (RKO) [Public domain]
However, what of the cheaters?  Where do they seek protection and service?  How do they keep the affair hidden in order to not cause harm, in  their minds, more than they feel they have?  This is when your door may open one day and in walks the proverbial “other man or woman”.  Now, this will take some turns, so let’s get started.

How to lose two clients

Floyd J. and Lynn N. have come to your shop on a mission.  They are there to seek the right wares and spells that will allow them to continue a clandestine affair without any problems from their mates.  They have been very careful, but Lynn N. believes that they may be nearing the end of their luck.  So they are looking for a way to keep the heat off of both of them.

At this point, Floyd J. chimes in and adds that there is another factor to this.  You see, both couples meet every Wednesday night and play Spades at the local bar.  So they are in close proximity on a regular basis.  Suspicious glances have begun to be shot their way by both mates during the games.  While it has remained friendly to this point, they are beginning to feel that they may be about to be caught.

You decide that the best thing for them would be to cease the affair.  They tell you that is not an option.  Both of them were swingers before they got married, and have continued their relationship in spite of their vows.  They have been together for over a decade.  But both have children with their partners and do not wish to break their homes.

After listening to their story, you decide that you will lecture them on why they are selfish and wrong.  You follow this up with advising them that they should ask for forgiveness of their spouses and come clean.  You conclude with an offer to give them a marital healing package for both couples so that they can start to regain their marriages.  And then you watch them walk out of your store and slam the door.

 

How to better handle a delicate situation if you choose to take this one

 Floyd J. and Lynn N. have come to your shop on a mission.  They are there to seek the right wares and spells that will allow them to continue a clandestine affair without any problems from their mates.  They have been very careful, but Lynn N. believes that they may be nearing the end of their luck.  So they are looking for a way to keep the heat off of both of them.

The_Cheater_(1920)_-_Allison_2
By Screen Classics Inc. / Metro Pictures [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
At this point, Floyd J. chimes in and adds that there is another factor to this.  You see, both couples meet every Wednesday night and play Spades at the local bar.  So they are in close proximity on a regular basis.  Suspicious glances have begun to be shot their way by both mates during  the games.  While it has remained friendly to this point, they are beginning to feel that they may be about to be caught.

You ask them if this is a long-term situation, or if it is a fling.  This will help you determine what kind of work is needed.   They tell you that they have been together for over a decade.  They met while both were swingers.  Their only concern about being caught is to not break up their homes, as they both have children.

Because you have decided to take on this case, you have decided to caution them that no working is 100% fool-proof forever.  You make clear that they must be ready to take on the consequences of their actions if discovered.  The advice you give is that they should take all mundane precautions to guard against their exposure if they are to have a successful working.

For the secret itself, you have decided to suggest the Uranus Oil method to start.  To this you consult on how they can best avoid detection through both concealment, persuasive speech, and shut up work.  Finally, you strongly recommend components and workings to strengthen the relationships and familial bonds of both family groups.  You clients leave, and you close your till.

Because they like to play cards, you have also suggested that they might wish to reinforce their works with playing card spells.  This is a simple form of magick, and would allow you to custom design a blend of herbs to go with the spells.  No suspicion about carrying cards comes into play in this scenario, as practicing solitaire can be claimed.

In the above example, the shop keeper made a decision to provide services for persons who they may not have had an approval.  They kept it professional, and still offered counsel to the clients on responsibility and the limitations of spell working.  You might wish to consider what your personal practice will entail in regard to matters such as these before they come to your door and you find yourself unprepared with a response.

PBN Blues Series: “Manish Boy” – Muddy Waters

by Kenya Coviak

As magickal workers, it is not uncommon for us to run across every form of the human experience.  Love, money, success, sex, health, and more are equally likely to walk into our realm of client concerns.  Having a full line of product choices in stock, as well as individual tools and components, is beneficial both to us and the customer.

Today, we look at sexy times.  Dealing with sex is always fraught with emotions and esteem issues for the client.  The fact that they are coming to you is an indication that their desire has motivated them to the point of action on a potentially embarrassing situation.  Most times, they will simply grab a reference book or a kit and purchase it without commentary.  But other times, you will find yourself in the role of adviser and sex therapist (if you are unlucky).

By William Hounsom Byles (1872-c.1924 or 1940?) (Bonhams) [Public domain]
By William Hounsom Byles (1872-c.1924 or 1940?) (Bonhams) [Public domain]
So now, we look at a scenario that can go a couple of ways at least.  First we shall have a scene where it may not be the best course of action.  Then a scene where it may be a better course of action.  Here we go.

 

What may, or may not, be the best way to go about this situation

Jody D. is a regular client at your shop.  He comes in from the auto plant every other Friday with the same order for Steady Work materials, and Fast Luck.  You have a pleasant rapport with him.  However, on this day he appears nervous and fidgety.  Instead of his usual easy mannerisms, he hangs back until all the other customers have been served before speaking to you.

Jody D. explains that he is having problems with his “nature”.  He just cannot please the ladies like he used to do and feels his body has let him down.  He has seen the doctor, and has decided against the little blue miracle pill.  He has come to you for another solution in the spiritual/magickal realm.

You grab some some deer velvet, burdock, and a few other things and send him on his way, telling him to wear it around his neck.  Quick cash for you.  You also offer to sell him an oil to use to supplement the blend.  No further discussion needed.  You have made the sales, and he has gone about his way, never to speak of this between you two again.  But did you give the best service?

 

Now, let’s try this another way

Jody D. is a regular client at your shop.  He comes in from the auto plant every other Friday with the same order for Steady Work materials, and Fast Luck.  You have a pleasant rapport with him.  However, on this day he appears nervous and fidgety.  Instead of his usual easy mannerisms, he hangs back until all the other customers have been served before speaking to you.

Jody D. explains that he is having problems with his “nature”.  He just cannot please the ladies like he used to do and feels his body has let him down.  He has seen the doctor, and has decided against the little blue miracle pill.  He has come to you for another solution in the spiritual/magickal realm.

You know this is a delicate situation.  Your rapport is one you do not wish to jeopardize by being overly dismissive OR familiar with you client.  Respecting his emotional state, you come away from the front counter to another area of the store to give a greater appearance of  privacy.  You ask him how long this has been going on, and if there were any events that he can remember that happened around this time.

He does not really remember events.  But he does share how long.  You ask him to give you a moment to check on something in the back.  You do a quick divination, or intuition check, away from his presence so that you can be more objective.

After having a moment to think, you come back to Jody D.  and ask him what it is he is actually feeling he would like to do.  Would he like to burn candles, use oils, or use herbs.  If you offer the service, you may offer to do work for him, or let him burn the candles at your store altars.  You may also, if he is open, give him some affirmation, chant, or psalm, to work.  This depends on both your, and his, spiritual tradition.

Enrico_Tarenghi_Le_tre_Grazie
http://www.duesseldorfer-auktionshaus.de/ (2011/1

Under no circumstances do you guarantee results.  You tell him that he did not get this way over night, so it will not be solved overnight.  You stress that this is a continual working, and that only he can decide how effective it is, and how long it needs to be repeated.

But you also, as a practitioner, know the power of positive expectancy.  Therefore you let him know that the fact that he has chosen a course of decisive action and control will greatly boost his endeavors.  This will also restore some of his confidence.  Remind him that spiritual work also needs physical anchoring in the mundane world.  He is to make lifestyle changes that will facilitate good health.  He must research these, as this is empowering him as well.  You have also projected to him that he is strong in his conviction, and that this strength will make his work strong as well.

Jody D. leaves with his purchases that you have both agreed are within his budget and comfort zone.  You let him know that if he wishes, he can discuss this with you again in a few weeks, but you will not be prying.  He leaves feeling hopeful, and you have served your customer well.  It is hopeful that he will be successful in his quest to improve his “nature”.  A good song to play if you do a visualization for him would be “Manish Boy” by Muddy Waters.

 

(Special Notation for Blues Fans:  Some of you are doubtless familiar with the significance of the name Jody when talking about men and sexuality in the Blues music.  For those who are not, here is a bonus link to bring a smile to your face and let you in on the cultural reference that may have gone by you.  Enjoy by clicking here.)