The Fool

The Fool

The Fool

Do you remember when you were young and in love for the first time? What about when you started that first job that gave you a “real” paycheck. You know, the one that you could actually pay your rent with? I think about those feelings every time I look at The Fool card.

The number of this card is 0. It is a perfect circle of a complete cycle. This is just one of the reasons why I love this card. On The Fool card is a young man, fresh, and full of vitality. He is ready to take on the world! The sun warms him at his back, he’s got a faithful companion to help protect him, and there are mountains, yes mountains, on the horizon! If this was a more modern deck, he might have on shades because his future is so bright. He’s got a new back of tricks, and he is ready to ROLL! Like Kanye, you can’t tell him NOTHIN’! His clothes are “casket sharp,” and you get the feeling that he thinks there is nothing he can’t do.

The type of excitement that this young man has is what drives me. People are always teasing me because I am always working on a new project. That is one of the reasons why this blog has not been updated lately. I’ve really been trying all kinds of new things Conjure that are related and that are not. I find when something new that interests me, it excites me. I can go at it for hours and hours. I am a writer, photographer, a miniature enthusiast, and I really have a jones for interior design. I pride myself in dedicating hour upon hour to my work. But then something happens – I burn out.

Often I wonder why I burn out when I was so passionate about something just a short while ago. What happened to my drive? Why do I want to pick something else up, and put this recently new passion down? I think the answer lies in this card when it is upright, and most certainly when it is reversed. Don’t get me wrong, upright it is still a positive card to get in a reading, but there are a few things you should take special notice of when you are talking about The Fool.

He might be just a little too carefree. Have you ever begun a project because you were in love with the idea of the project, but you really did not take the time to completely think it out? Well, you can see this in The Fool card. The background of the card is yellow, the color of caution. His little dog looks like he is trying to warn him about something. Take a look at his feet; look where he is walking. This (quite literally) Fool is about to step right off a cliff! The cliff is a rocky one at that!

He will not make it to those mountains in the horizon if he is dead. My grandparents always cautioned me to look before I leapt – well because often I did not. All the energy, youth, and excitement in the world will not help you much when you have a severe injury from falling off a cliff. I think a cliff is a great equalizer. So the caution I give to a client when I see the card upright is that is it wonderful to be an open and unpredictable person. I let them know that most of us do not like restrictions, but some of us dislike them more than others. I caution them to stay the wonderful person they are, but not to disregard advice or authority that may be in their best interest. If this card represents the querent’s lover, I let them know that their relationship may not be a stable or permanent one, as The Fool does not like to be tried down by anyone.

And then this song pops into my head…

But I digress. What about when this card is reversed? Some readers do not read reversals as such, but I do. I figure the cards fall the way they do for a reason, and I read them the way they fall. If this card is reversed, it indicates a lack a maturity and fear of the unknown. If this card represents the querent, then they are probably their own greatest enemy. They are holding themselves back from taking risks because of fear. This person may not take heed of the things more experienced people have to say, are they are causing real damage to their lives, and possibly the lives of others. They make unbalanced, irrational, poorly thought out decisions that have the potential to really ruin their lives. Their bad choices and reckless behavior is really causing problems in their life. This is also applicable if the card represents someone that the querent is inquiring about.

It is very interesting, The Fool reversed could also mean that you are making poor, ill-informed choices because someone in your life, who you trust, is giving you bad information, and you believe them. When I am reading, and I get this card reversed, I want to scream “stop it! Stop it right now!” But for the sake of professionalism, I don’t. I do, however, let them know that they really need to take a step back, think about the consequences of the decisions they are making, and try to assemble a plan that works to their benefit rather than their detriment.

So being carefree and spontaneous is not a bad thing. Just make sure that your free spirit does not cause issues in your life. It is always good to mix a little structure and temperance in with your inspired, creative, and wild ideas.

Still Taking the High Road

For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved. But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought in God. ~ John 3:20-21

I was sent a video of a “Worker” who is a known fraud by someone who has insulted my character and badmouthed me as a worker to anyone who will listen online. This was done to slow down and prevent my studies and spiritual growth. There are more than few people who used to be my friends who have made it their personal mission to discredit me with other Workers and fellow merchants. I tried to take the high road and not specifically address it online. Because of this, lies and slander quickly raged out of control, and I had to finally address the situation. When I first saw this video, I thought, “leave it alone. People will see it for what it is.” But sometimes folks get me twisted, and I have to just say my peace and move on. I actually hate having to devote time to this, but I just want to post my record of where I stand regarding all this hate that has been thrown my way. I am sure it will not end. As they say, “when you have haters, it means that you are doing something right.” I don’t plan to stop the Work, so I need to let people know where I stand with all of this and who I am.

For the record, I have never claimed to be an “expert” Conjurer with years of experience. I never said my family was Conjure Workers, and I have never defrauded a person in my life. I have worked with experienced mentors who recognized my gift, and they help me to cultivate it by guiding me to the proper learning tools and teaching me from their experience. My clients have experienced positive results from their consultations with me, and I will not allow the ratings of a known anti-Semitic, racist, chauvinist to deter me from my calling. That being said, here is the email I sent as my reply.

“Dear Former Friend,

I thought about this last night. I also went and read the string from Lucky Mojo that Docteur replied to you with concerning this man. (Please see: http://forum.luckymojo.com/forum-members-beware-fraud-and-spam-pm-messages-t9721.html.) Upon watching this man’s vile attempt to discredit me, something really stuck me as funny. A man who does not know me at all knows the month (which he was a little off on) that I started practicing Conjure. (I think he shortened it to use his “not enough time to have a baby” insult.) He also knows what my first deck of Tarot cards looked like when I was learning (and NOT charging clients) how to read them.

(Author’s Note that was not part of my original reply to her email: These cards have the basic meanings of the cards on each one. I used them when I first started studying Tarot used them to learn the cards. My former friends have used this knowledge to mock me and discredit me as a reader. Because of my studies, I know how to read Tarot cards, and my clients tell me my readings are spot on. The cards are simply the medium for the message. Before I read a single card, I have a consultation with my clients. I tell them what I think about the situation, and the cards back up what I’ve assessed and advised. Sometimes people need a more tangible explanation that comes directly from our Ancestors, Spirits and our God(s), and cards are just one divination tool that Workers use to do that. People also know that your cards become an extension of you. Do I still use them at times? Yes? Does that change what the cards mean or how they fell? No. They are my cards, my first deck, I love them, and I have never had a client complain because I used them.)

Every insult and lie (I have NEVER said I was an expert among other things.) he threw at me were identical to the ones you spread about me when you were angry with me. (His insults about my product were all his own.) So, even though you said you do not know him, you gave him the ammunition for the assault. This man is an anti-Semite who says the Holocaust never occurred. He hates homosexuals, women, and Black people (see the Lucky Mojo link above). This is the type of person who took your words and mocked me. I am not going to sit here and thank you for sharing this information with me. Trust, I’ve had more than one email in my inbox about this video.

Please think about that the next time you cannot contain your anger, and you feel the need to discredit someone to anyone who will listen. His lies about my “racial” posts shows that he knows nothing about me (I work with an Irishman and a Peruvian for goodness sake!) and that he has very little reading comprehension. He obviously has not read my blog. But the fact is, you don’t need any of those things to be a Worker. You don’t even need to be Black. All you have to do is be called to do the Work, love God, and have the faith that what you do can make a difference in someone’s life.

After that, it is just learning to use the tools at your disposal. Conjure is a life-long learning process, but I have been a “Worker” for people all of my adult life. I have always been the one my friends turn to for advice, prayer and assistance. Now I just have a bigger tool-set. The day you say you are an “expert,” means that you are an expert on God and His will. I doubt very seriously anyone could say that. Bigger than that, this is not a Mojo Hand. It is a Bosom Sachet. It does not need to be pinned. I am yet to see an example where you are instructed to do so.

There are so many things that I could say about this video, but I know I have never lied about my background. I never said I came from a long line of Conjurers, and I have never made myself out to be more than I am. I am who I am, and who I am is a woman who has been called to do my God’s work. If you told me this time last year that I would be doing this right now, I would look amazed. I did not jump up one day and decide I was going to be a Worker.

People who I trust (not just Docteur and Hellfurrian [my mentors at The Vodou Store], although they said it too), advised me that this is what I was being called to do. I never planned to make money or be famous. That is not my desire. My desire has always been just to make this life better for the people I connect with. Witnessing this constant internet Conjure “thugging” by so-called Workers who claim they are working in the traditional ways and in the will God can be disheartening, but it will not deter me from what my God has called me to do.

People act like Workers need a college degree to practice Conjure these days. If that were the case, I can show them my degrees (Bachelors and Masters) with concentrations in African American Studies (that include culture, literature, and religion). (And I do happen to be Black you know. I might have got some of these traditions just from my growing up in the culture attributed to Hoodoo, ya know.) But the reality is, you don’t even need roots. All you really need are the gifts that Spiritual Workers must possess and prayer.

Rootwork and any other form of worship adds power and is a demonstration of your faith. True, not everyone can, or should be a Rootworker, just as I will never be a ballet dancer. I simply do not have that talent. So, I’ve asked you before not to email me at my work address. I have also requested that you go your way, and I go mine. I don’t know, maybe you thought you were being helpful in sharing this with me. But, remember, you are the one who put all this nonsense out there about me to begin with, and therefore, you are partially responsible for what people have to say as a result of it. The owners of The Vodou Store have to protect their brand and their integrity. Feel free to communicate with them, but I am respectfully asking you not to email me anymore.”

So yeah y’all here it is. When this all started months ago, I thought I was taking the high road by only consult with my mentors and my Mambo about what to do. I have found when you do not address lies and ignorance, they can continue to swell and grow. So, I am putting this, as Hellfurian says, “to bed.” I love being a Worker, I love being a lifelong student of religion and Conjure. If you come to me for help, I will never attempt to lie to you, ask for ridiculous amounts of money for rituals, or take on work that is not within my path or knowledge base. I stay in my lane, and it would be nice if others started to do so too. I started this in my mid-40s. I am not a child. I am hoping I can live 40 more years, grow in the Lord, and keep helping to heal the people who come to me. I know that there are lots of workers my clients could go to. I understand my tremendous responsibility to them when I do, and I am humbled by the service I provide.

Today, I Cried

We were in the altar room at The Vodou Store preparing for PantheaCon when we got the news. Docteur Cæli D’Anto is the trickster of our establishment. He’s always good for scaring me silly when I am in the stockroom, throwing things at me, or handing me something that scares the wits out of me. Strangely, my daughter was in the altar room the evening of July 14. She’s usually hiding somewhere trying to get out of work. But that night, she was there with Hellfurian Liontari and I when we got the news.

“Eddy is dead.”

Radio silence. Disbelief. I looked at him and said, “I am waiting for you to tell me that you are joking.”

To which he replied, “have you ever heard me joke about death?”

And then the shock set in. When your brain cannot reconcile reality. When something hurts you so badly, and you cannot manage the words or the rationalization to make things right. I’ve been like this since we found out, but today…today I cried. I just watched a slideshow Catherine Yronwode shared that demonstrates just who Eddy Gutiérrez was, how much he meant to so many people, and how much of an influence he will continue to be in our lives.

It is true that people will talk any old way about someone when they were alive, but when they die? Well, sometimes that is what it takes for a lot of people to appreciate someone.

I am relieved to say that I admired and liked Eddy when he was alive. That is not to say that I never disagreed or received any level of correction from him. I did, and I was glad he did so. He cared enough to tell me when I was mistaken. We are foolish to rebuff instruction.

33 Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.
34 Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
35 For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.
~ Proverbs 8:33-35 King James Version (KJV) ~

Sometimes Eddy would school someone when they were incorrect, and go in hard. I actually talked to him about that. But what I can say is that Eddy was fair, he was knowledgeable, and he always took the time to help someone in need and to teach those who were willing to learn. We have lost a valuable teacher, guide, and friend. It is up to all of us to honor his memory and be responsible in our actions and deeds.

As an online community, often we have seen examples where there is no community. Back biting and bitterness seems to be the soup du jour now. But Eddy was different. He told it like it was, but he also supported legitimate practitioners with the same tenacity that he sought to expose illegitimate ones. Eddy leaves a loving legacy and huge shoes to fill.

Eddy, I have no words to describe how much you will be missed. God’s love and light to you, brother. See you on the other side.

Tarot Card of the Day: The Magician

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Note: I’ve been a busy, but I am going to try to feature a card more often.

This Tarot card, in all of its splendor, shows a magician with a single cup. Above him is the sign of infinity. This card was pulled at the right time in my life when I needed some direction. It is a card of creativity. With his right hand, he holds a wand pointed towards heaven, and his left hand pointed towards Earth, he stands here by himself. His cloak is red and represents wisdom and experience. He stands in roses and white lilies. This symbolizes that sometimes results will be good, and others with be difficult and painful. It is a card that speaks to me because it is all about living up to your potential and achieving your goals. It tells me that everything between Heaven and Earth is attainable if I reach for it!

Many of us fail to realize all of the untapped power we hold within ourselves. We are missing out on so much in life because we often underestimate what we are capable of, and how all of us have it in us to achieve our goals. I have several Conjure projects going on right now (one of the reasons why you have not seen a blog post from me in a bit). For me, it is telling me that I am going in the right direction. That if I just stay committed, I can achieve all of my goals and live life to its fullest. We all have the ability to create and achieve new things. The question is, are you doing those things, or are you going to just thinking about them? I am always full of new ideas, but sometimes these ideas do not see the light of day because I am not actively pursuing their competition.

This card is a reminder of my abilities. How often are we swayed from doing what we really want to do because we lack the faith and/or dedication to make things happen in our lives? I find that the more I tell myself that I can do something, rather than when I tell myself I cannot, I can accomplish my goals. People often say to me that I am a renaissance woman, and they ask me is there anything I cannot do. It always makes me think when they say something like that to me. I’ve always been a big believer that I can do whatever I put my mind to it. If I do not accomplish my goals, it is because of limitations that I’ve put on myself.

If this card is reversed in a reading, it is highly likely that you are in a situation where you are being lied to, or quite possibly, you are lying to yourself. It could indicate that you have the lack of ability to follow through with your plans. Often people come to me for readings, and they refuse to take into account their own culpability for their problems. Divination is not mumbo-jumbo. It is used to give clients practical insight to their concerns and often provides productive next steps to resolve a particular issue.

It could also mean that there are spiritual gifts that you have not tapped into. It’s taken me a few weeks to bring this simple blog post to completion. (I started it on October 24th.) The cards are usually very on the money with what is going on in life. I know I pulled this card at a time when I was overwhelmed with work, and not getting to the Conjure projects I know are going to take me to the next level. So, I set this post aside for a bit, and I started working on getting things done. In the online world, I found myself spending more time debating the issues in Hoodoo than participating in the Work itself. I realized I had to step back. In order to be a better worker, I realized that I needed to disconnect and get to my own spiritual development. It’s been working wonderfully, and I am completing things I need to finish. I encourage others to do it as well.

In keeping with the theme of the card, I am posting this, moving on, and working to complete my projects. More posts about the cards will come, but maybe not a card every day. I am finding that other things need my attention, and I plan to follow the advice of this card.

In Defense of Tradition

We’ve had a crazy week in the Conjure world. If you don’t know what I am talking about, and you are online to read this blog, then you are probably not part most of the online Conjure/Hoodoo or NOLA Voodoo communities. (And no, Haitian Vodou is not these things and has nothing to do at all with this post.)

If you are unaware, this might just be a good thing because the disenchantment I felt this week was similar to the way I felt when I realized I could never go to my church again. You see people you hold in high esteem (and not so high esteem) have words (some very old words) about what constitutes Traditional African American Magic, who is legitimate, and who is not.

It’s kind of hard to watch, but it is not without reason. I have taken the heat recently for my assertions about what is, and is not, Traditional Conjure.

Wow, all of these names for the same thing. Something that really has not had a name for most Black people. It was just “what we do.” I didn’t know why my aunt did not want me to wash my hands in the kitchen sink – over dishes that were going to be washed with soap and water. At best, I thought it was because of a sanitation issue. All I have to say is, the more you study, the more you find out.

I’m an admin of a group that is dedicated to preserve this important part of Black culture in this country. I am happy that this group is comprised of people of all races from all over the world. Traditional Conjure is Christian based, and even though we don’t see it often from the people who claim they are the most Christian, we are supposed to be open, welcoming, and forgiving. From my experience talking to many, many Black folks, most just want to really want to forgive and move on. We just want the madness to stop. If you don’t see it, you most likely are not Black, and it is an unexplainable phenomena.

But it takes no genius to see that Black folks in America have been in crisis mode since we got here. Contrary to what many people may think, the core of us is rotting. Just when you think we should be doing better these centuries after slavery, it seems the curse of violence (because for a long time here it was all we knew) gets deeper the longer and longer we are here. Conjure was created as a way to preserve our ways of faith and worship, and help us sort through the madness, but the more “Christian” we got, the more we got away from our belief systems. We thought we evolved through assimilation, but we keep leaving really important pieces behind. We don’t even know who we are anymore. It is an identity crisis that is hard to describe. This is why I call myself Black. Biologically and culturally, I am so far away from Africa; I find it almost laughable nonsense to be called an African American. I plan to research more it one day, but I really don’t know all of where I come from. I cannot get past my daddy’s parents before I hit a brick wall in his side of the family tree.

With integration brought educational and economical improvements, we lost a lot. Another strange phenomenon is that like what happened with the Blues and Jazz, white people have helped us preserve Traditional Conjure. When I first found out, I was quizzical at first, and then just glad they preserved the tradition. Hyatt, and the work yronwode has done, really gave access to people who had none before. I am not saying that there are no other, accurate works, but most people I talk to say those were the game changers.

It has changed the lives of so many people. I am one of those people. It was like coming back into myself; what I feel I need to know about myself. Now there will be a lot of Black folks that will never embrace Conjure, and that is fine too. Conjure is not for everyone. That’s why Conjure workers have clients that come to them. In that vein, people of all races saw that Traditional Conjure was worth saving. The primary rule of any spiritual practice, and the dogma of MOST religions, is that there is a STRUCTURE. THERE ARE RULES.  There is some to, “don’t hate the player, hate the game.” If you don’t like what a tradition does, why are you so stuck on trying to be part of tradition?

I wrote a blog about what Hoodoo is, and what it is not, but I was further inspired to share a link that Bozanfè Bon Oungan shared with his group. I think that lots of people think of these options as a hardline approach, but I encourage you to read yronwode’s article below. (Please read it ALL before continuing.)

HOODOO, CONJURE, and ROOTWORK

Just in case you chose to skip this link, I need to inform you that I am not going to quote the whole article here (that’s what the link is for), but she makes some valid points. The most important one being is that you cannot say you are cooking Italian food when you aren’t. She gave many examples of things that would stop traditional Italian Food from being TRADITIONAL ITALIAN FOOD.

Seriously, here we have many scholars TELLING you what the tradition is, have historical records to back it up, and you still have people protecting their homes with Goofer Dust because they read it somewhere and did not examine a number of sources to see if that is what they advise. I asked my mentor, Docteur Cæli D’Anto, the best way to know if something is legit, and he reminded me of consistent scholarship. And fluffies may scoff at this if you will, but then that just simply means you are not following the tradition. And that is COOL for YOU. I have no problem with you not following the same traditions as I do. This diversity keeps the world interesting. What kills me, and defies logic, is then someone says what they are doing is TRADITIONAL CONJURE, and get mad and have fits online when we tell them that it is not.

The really sad thing is, many of us who want to uphold our tradition 1) have some of their own personal practices that fall outside the tradition, and 2) don’t care what you do in your private practice, but just have a distaste for people sharing those ideas and selling products in the name of the tradition when nothing can be further from the truth about said tradition. I simply do. not. get. it.

I never will say whether one religion/practice is real or not. All I know what is real to ME and others like me. You cannot make the Bible and the Qur’an trade places between religions (that are also parts of different traditions). No one is trying to, and for the world of me, I wonder why people get so mad when we are telling them what they are doing is not within the tradition; when we are telling them that they are not respecting the tradition. Why must people insist on putting a square peg in a round hole? There are so many other traditions out there that might suit their needs. Why don’t they find them? It’s as ridiculous as me continuing to attend that church when I no longer wanted to follow what the church was telling me was the right thing for me to do.

So, I will leave everyone to what their tradition is. I promise not to come into an ATR, other religion or practice, and try to be a vanguard and mix things up within the tradition. I am going to continue the lifelong study of what makes me me, and I will keep up that exploration until the day my mind no longer functions properly. I don’t want to see Black folks lose everything about our culture when we have already lost so much, and I would love if more people of every race embraced its traditional form. Maybe if more people tapped into (or helped others) their spiritual strengths, the world, especially for Black people, would be a better place.

But, no, people who are devoted to Traditional Conjure, its Black roots, steeped in the Black Christian Church, are not going to take very kindly to people trying to change it. If I see someone that is purporting a divergence (not a regional difference) from tradition, I am going to make sure what I am talking about and ask them questions. Asking these questions is more research to help me solidify my assertions. This is the way you keep a tradition intact.

Different people have different motivations for trying to stir things up. Don’t get disenchanted. Remember, these are mere humans we are dealing with. Just because they are part of the magical community, they are not shielded to the flaws we all have. What we all must pay attention to is that those people really don’t matter. Our faith is not in men or women is it? What matters is your relationship to God, your knowledge and application of Traditional Conjure, believing in is what is just, and depending on our God to order our steps.

In this section of yronwode’s article the following statement struck a chord with me,

 In my opinion, any practitioner of conjure who did not grow up within African American culture is either a guest and should have the good manners of a guest, or has joined into the culture in some way and to some extent and should therefore be ready to defend African American culture, including hoodoo, against the redefinitions, reworkings, and appropriations that outsiders continually seek to inflict upon it.

In other words, if you cannot respect hoodoo as it is and for what it is, then please, do not mess with it at all.

Sorry, it’s Not All Love and Light

I’m sorry, but all the love and light stuff, as New Age and Neo-Pagan beliefs infiltrate Hoodoo, is really starting to bother me. There are books, blogs, and online groups promoting the philosophy that there is nothing negative in Hoodoo. That Hoodoo is it all about cleansing, blessings, healing, and protection. There can be nothing further from the truth. It defies logic. Life simply does not work that way. In order to have good, you have to have bad. How else would you have a reference point for good? It spans all religions and philosophies, and I am growing weary of people wanting to turn our practice (and life in general) into an unrealistic fairy tale.

To say there is nothing negative in Hoodoo is a very lose and dangerous oversimplification. When someone comes to you so they can be blessed because someone is making their life a living hell, not only do you have to cleanse and work for that person’s blessing, but you have to STOP whoever is after them! Unfortunately, stopping someone (or something) usually involves having the offender experience something negative or some type of binding. The phrase “kill them with kindness” does not apply. This is just reality, and as much as all of us hate negativity, we have to fight it, and most times is not pretty. Remember, for every action, there is a reaction. For all deeds, there are consequences. That is reality.

Hoodoo is about dealing with, and getting through, this life in the best way possible despite seemingly unsurpassible odds with the assistance of supernatural forces. God, and his army of Angels, Ancestors, and Spirits, is the biggest supernatural force of all. Once someone told me that prayer is a spell. I paused for a moment, thought about it, and realized they were right.

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines the word spell in several ways:

To find out by study: come to understand — often used with “out” (“It requires some pains to spell out those decorations.”)

But more importantly…

A spoken word or form of words held to have magic power.

Our prayers are magic. They make miracles happen. Don’t forget that.

Every time you pray on something, you are casting a spell. You are asking the Universe to work in your favor. As life has its light and dark forces, so does Hoodoo. We pray for justice when people have done us wrong. Sometimes that justice produces very negative consequence on the person who deserves it. Sometimes we have to throw back to protect ourselves when things are thrown at us.

I love to bless and protect as much as the next worker. Usually, when people seek help in an emergency, it’s because some bad shit has happened to them, and they need help. Just like prayer, there are lots of people who call on the Lord with Hoodoo ONLY when they are in trouble, but they are not thinking about Him, prayer, or Hoodoo when times are good. All people, no matter what faith you are, have to remember to honor our God(s) when things are good. It will give us power receive justice when times are bad.

Remember, our work is a testament of our faith. Nothing happens outside of the will of God. He sends the Ancestors, Spirits, and Saints to help us in this battle. If you do work seeking justice against someone who has wronged you, if you are righteous, you know that God has your back, and the work WILL WORK. It will be very effective, and you will receive the justice you rightfully deserve. That being said, I strongly advise people to be honest when seeking the services of a Conjurer. If you are lying, the very trick you may be trying to throw might boomerang right back to you. God makes it very plain how this works in Romans 12:19:

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

As we can see, this is not love and light, and there is no sugar coating here. Hoodoo enables us to “give place unto wrath.” Our God speaks of wrath and vengeance. Those are not “positive” words.

There is NOTHING wrong with petitioning God to provide swift justice when we’ve been wronged. We do the Holy work in God’s name. Don’t forget that.

Do the righteous work, and let God take care of the rest.

Postscript:
If you still think it is all love and light, please see the highly applicable verse Psalms 109.

It illustrates my point to a “T.”

1      Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise;
2      for the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
3      They compassed me about also with words of hatred;
and fought against me without a cause.
4      For my love they are my adversaries:
but I give myself unto prayer.
5      And they have rewarded me evil for good,
and hatred for my love.
6      Set thou a wicked man over him:
and let Satan stand at his right hand.
7      When he shall be judged, let him be condemned:
and let his prayer become sin.
8      Let his days be few;
and let another take his office. Acts 1.20
9      Let his children be fatherless,
and his wife a widow.
10      Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg:
let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
11      Let the extortioner catch all that he hath;
and let the strangers spoil his labor.
12      Let there be none to extend mercy unto him:
neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children.
13      Let his posterity be cut off;
and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
14      Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD;
and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.
15      Let them be before the LORD continually,
that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.
16      Because that he remembered not to show mercy,
but persecuted the poor and needy man,
that he might even slay the broken in heart.
17      As he loved cursing,
so let it come unto him:
as he delighted not in blessing,
so let it be far from him.
18      As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment,
so let it come into his bowels like water,
and like oil into his bones.
19      Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him,
and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually.
20     Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the LORD,
and of them that speak evil against my soul.
21      But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name’s sake:
because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me.
22      For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is wounded within me.
23      I am gone like the shadow when it declineth:
I am tossed up and down as the locust.
24      My knees are weak through fasting;
and my flesh faileth of fatness.
25      I became also a reproach unto them:
when they looked upon me they shook their heads.
26      Help me, O LORD my God:
O save me according to thy mercy:
27      that they may know that this is thy hand;
that thou, LORD, hast done it.
28      Let them curse, but bless thou:
when they arise, let them be ashamed;
but let thy servant rejoice.
29      Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame;
and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.
30      I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth;
yea, I will praise him among the multitude.
31      For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor,
to save him from those that condemn his soul.

Traditional Conjure – What it IS and what it is NOT

What is Traditional Conjure?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines Hoodoo (henceforth in this document referred to as Traditional Conjure) as,

A body of practices of sympathetic magic traditional especially among blacks in the southern United States.1

The first and foremost thing to understand about Traditional Conjure is that it is an African American magical system in its origin, and over time it has been influenced by Native American and European practices and folklore. However, it is important to restate that it is an African American traditional magic practice.

catherine yronwode writes that the actual term Hoodoo came into use possibly in “the 19th century or earlier.” 2 It is important to note that Traditional Conjure is a direct descendent of Western and Central African magical practices brought to the United States with the slave trade (several hundred years prior). Often, my enslaved ancestors had to keep these practices secret or risk death. We were forced to convert to Christianity upon our arrival in the United States, and when finally allowed to make religious choices, many of us stayed in the Christian faith. Some of us continued the magical practices of our African ancestors in conjunction with Christianity. As a result, Traditional Conjure goes hand in hand with the Christian faith.

This is not to say that non-Christians cannot practice Traditional Conjure, but understand that the spell work (henceforth referred to as “work”), the use of the Psalms and the rest of the Bible, the Saints (introduced by Catholic practitioners), the prayers, and even many of the roots/herbs are based in the Christian religion. If you are using other sacred texts, prayers, and God(s) in your work, please keep in mind that while your work may be influenced by Traditional Conjure, you cannot really call it Traditional Conjure.3

That being said, there has been a lot of appropriation in Traditional Conjure. People who have not been properly informed, or choose not to take heed when informed, tend to do what they want to do as “the Spirit(s) lead them.” That is a personal choice, but it is to be understood that Traditional Conjure is NOT Wicca, Pagan, Witchcraft, Santeria, Haitian Vodou, New Orleans Voodoo (although NOLA Voodoo practitioners incorporate many elements of Traditional Conjure in their work), any New Age Religion, etc. Traditional Conjure is a practice within the African American Christian tradition. It is important that people understand that before diving into this work too deeply. It is often a deciding factor as to whether or not to pursue this path, and it is an extremely personal decision.

In my community (the Black community), the word “Hoodoo” is rarely used. Often Traditional Conjure is just something that we “do.” If we refer to it at all, they discuss “throwing a root” on someone, or simply refer to it as “throwing.” In the past, it was not taught in classroom or online. Often, you observed your elders practicing it in the home to remedy life’s situations. You were (especially if you were a child) to quietly observe and learn the practice. Often, the elders would figure you would pick it up by watching. Following a reading, one my clients expressed her dismay to her mother because she did not “teach” her how to do The Work. Her mother’s reply? “Well you were there watching me, weren’t you?”

As more people were more formally educated, they did not see this informal observance as teaching, and many Blacks lost the lessons of Conjure and how it relates to everyday Black life. As Starr Cassas has often said, “it was just what my mama did. We did not know it was Conjure.” She has also advised that it is a way of life. Once you are familiar with the rituals in the practice, you will see that Conjure finds its way into your housekeeping, cooking, how you treat illness, deal with relationships, and entertain people in your home.

Before the days of websites and online groups, there was Traditional Conjure. Most people heard about local workers via word of mouth, and if you employed the services of a worker, it was deeply personal and kept private. It is not a surprise that within the tradition, workings are not put on public display, and if they are, their meanings are not freely discussed. It has been so integrated into the lives of my people so much, that it was assimilated into the culture, whether we are consciously practicing Traditional Conjure or not. Many Blacks still do not know that there is scholarly study devoted to the subject and online groups and classes devoted to practice. This is not to say that Traditional Conjure was/is not practiced by non-Blacks. That is simply not true. It has been, and always will be a practice that is open to anyone that believes in the power of God’s Roots.  

The following sections provide the two basic magical principles that guide the practice of Traditional Conjure.

The Law of Contagion

“The law of contagion is a folk belief described axiom found in magical thinking which suggests that once two people or objects have been in contact, that a magical link persists between unless or until a formal exorcism or other act of banishing breaks the non-material bond.” 4

In Traditional Conjure, you see this in the use of Personal Concerns in the work. When you have something like a person’s hair, fingernails, spit, dirt from foot tracks, name, picture, etc. employed and included in work, your spell for or against them is much more powerful. It may happen faster, last longer, or have more intense effects on the subject. There is a hierarchy in The Law of Contagion. A working with someone’s hair is most likely to be more powerful than a working with simply a person’s name. The work becomes an extension of the person who is the rightful owner of their personal concern. This, while most likely the case, is not always the case. Remember the workers faith and magical abilities AND the faith and execution of the person requesting the work are also highly influential in the results. Based on this principle, work is practiced on a person, it takes uncrossing magic to undo the work.

The Doctrine of Signatures

The doctrine of signatures is a philosophy shared by herbalists from the time of Dioscurides and Galen. This doctrine states that herbs that resemble various parts of the body can be used to treat ailments of that part of the body. Although the doctrine of signatures was formalized in early modern times, the theme of natural objects’ shapes having significance is a very old one and is not confined to Western thought.5

That’s the basic definition of The Doctrine of Signatures, but it goes a bit deeper in Traditional Conjure. It stems from the belief system that every root/herb has a spirit and a purpose. It may be the way the root/herb looks, smells, tastes, or the traditional use of it (e.g., roses for love, salt for cleansing) that creates its definition for use in Traditional Conjure. This practice also is not limited to roots/herbs. There are many curios used in Traditional Conjure that remain in the practice that are not roots/herbs, and some have even found their way into popular culture (e.g. the lucky rabbit’s foot or penny).

The common names (or Latin translations) of the root/herb also have a big influence on how The Doctrine of Signatures was applied and implemented in Traditional Conjure. Often the names of the root had something to do with the smell or appearance root/herb. It is not hard to see how Wormwood, Devil’s Dung, Vandal Root are often used in jinxing workings in Traditional Conjure. It is VERY important that you apply The Doctrine of Signatures in your workings. You want to avoid using roots, herbs, and curios in ways in which they were NOT INTENDED in the practice.

For example, Van Van conditioning oil is used for luck and blessings. Many people use it in candle work, mojo hands/bags, and floor washes. It’s most important herb in Van Van Oil is Lemongrass. Lemongrass is used for cleansing. You should NOT add something like Black Dog’s Hair (used in jinxing) to Van Van Oil. If things unrelated with luck and blessings are added, it is no longer Van Van Oil. Without Lemongrass, it is not Van Van Oil. This is not to say that another practice may not find these examples useful for blessing, but this is not so in Traditional Conjure.

What you will find is that this makes Traditional Conjure easy to understand at its simplest level. As you delve into spiritual work, you will find that it gets a bit more complicated. That is why it is called work. Some baths take days and days. Some rituals require you to do things at sunrise or midnight. You may have to go to the graveyard to work with an ancestor. When you work with Ancestors and Saints, you will be setting up altars. There are many things about Traditional Conjure that cannot be condensed into a simple definition, but it is being Soon I will be creating a Getting Started Reading List to help you find more resources for Traditional Conjure.

Works Cited

1 www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hoodoo

2 http://www.luckymojo.com/hoodoohistory.html

3 http://www.oldstyleconjure.com/what-is-hoodoo-conjure-rootwork.php

4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_contagion

5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctrine_of_signatures

Card of the Day – The Tower

When this card is revealed in a reading, it is really a call to action. It signifies chaos, and your world be turned upside down. All the things you thought were true are challenged. Your principles and what defines you are in question. This time of year, the people jumping to escape from the tower is sober reminder of the people who lost their lives in The World Trade Center. The world is going to hell, and people are trying to escape and survive.

The card represents things more in the physical realm. You may have found out that a person (or people) around you may have deceived you, and the relationship you thought was on solid ground is now falling apart. You may be running for your life. It may be a situation that completely blindsides you and sends your life spinning out of control.

Reversed, this card means that you feel like your life is not in your control, and you may create unnecessary drama in your life. You will feel like your hands are tied in a specific situation. What is going on in your life was most likely avoidable.

As with all cards, do not give up hope when you see it in a reading! It is a call to ACTION! Unlike all of the innocent souls lost on 911, we still have our lives! You still have the ability to take control of yours! Find the things that are taking control of your life, and FIGHT BACK. Regain your power, and get your house in order. Be proactive about your issues, not reactive.

It is time to put on the Big Girl/Boy draws and take the reins of your life. Remember, most of the time your choices = your destiny.

Card of the Day – The Knight of Wands (Reversed)

This card is indicative of a younger man, or masculine individual who is under 40. A lack of maturity, or emotional issues, may be at the root of this person’s problems. This is card is often seen as a warning about an encounter with someone who lacks discipline, gets angry quickly, and has a chip on their shoulder. This person is often seen as arrogant or cocky.

knight-of-wands

Knight of Wands ~ Image courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wands12.jpg

When I see this in a relationship reading, I often counsel my client against trying to make a relationship work with someone who is abusive, cruel, or simply not right for them. Usually these types of people have commitment issues and rarely stick around. They “hit it and they quit it,” if you know what I mean. This person can be a con-man, and they are usually pretty shallow and really don’t care about how anyone feels but themselves. I advise clients not to ask me to do Love Work on these types of individuals. You may get temporary results from Rootworking, but it cannot change the core of who this person is. Eventually, their behavior will make the client’s life miserable again. Besides, who wants to be with someone cruel and abusive? Many people stay in abusive relationships thinking something is going to change, and it rarely does.

Every card has a meaning. This one was pulled today because one or more of us need a word about how to handle these types of people. Are you dealing with a person like this in your life? Or worse yet, are you this kind of person? Once you gain insight and knowledge, you are responsible for it. If you seek happiness and peace in your life, you should sever ties with people like this at all costs. If this you, take heed, and work on yourself so that you too can have happiness and peace.

Rootwork: Where have all the Black Folks Gone?

As I considered topics for my inaugural blog post, a topic presented itself today in a Rootworking group I belong to. The poster, being white himself, wondered about why many of the big names in Rootworking/Hoodoo (two terms I that I will use interchangeably in my blog) appeared to be almost exclusively white. He was wondering about the lack of Black practitioners in the public eye and was concerned about Hoodoo “loosing it’s connection to its origins.” This was my reply.

Unfortunately there are a few things going on here. The first problem is the commercialization of Hoodoo. There is money to be made, and money is and remains “the root of all evil” and corruption. Hoodoo is no exception. In this country, the scale of financial resources to commercialize something has, and has always been, in favor of white men. So that is why you are seeing the proliferation of it online. Secondly, many Blacks have forgotten their own history. In the rush to assimilate into mainstream culture, many subscribed to the idea that “white is right,” and anything associated with Africa was wicked and against God. I witnessed it in my own family.

My mother’s generation was the last generation that even spoke of the old ways, and they ignored many of the things my grandmother (pictured) tried to tell them. They either believed in the evangelical practices of their churches that told them that Rootwork was “evil,” or they gave up on the concepts of God and spirituality entirely. As a result, I learned very little from my grandmother and nothing from my mother. My mother’s generation paid the price for it dearly. You cannot un-know who you are. This can also be seen in almost EVERY aspect of Black culture. White people own the Jazz and Blues clubs. Most of our children cannot even name a Blues artist if you asked them too. We’ve avoided all things considered “country,” and unsophisticated and pray to a white God who tells us the very fiber of our being is wrong. It’s gonna take a hell of a lot to undo that.

The last part of this equation is that more Black folks practice Hoodoo than most people think. Even when they have tried so hard to distance themselves from the old ways, I’ve seen my very “saved” relatives cuss you out if you put your purse on the floor. They still live in fear of being “crossed up.” I heard about “throwing a root” on a man by putting menstrual blood in his spaghetti long before I knew what Hoodoo really was. My friend is taking Papa Matt’s class with me. When she and her mother came to me for a reading, she discussed just how much her mother knew. She asked her, “why didn’t you teach me?” her mother replied, “teach you? You were RIGHT THERE WITH ME. You should have PAID attention!”

You see, Black folks do not shout their involvement with magic from the rooftops. It was mostly because they would be condemned by their churches. Black folks respected the practice so much, that it was advertised ONLY word of mouth, least people learn the secrets of our culture that we hold dear. Why did they want to keep them secret? For the very reasons we are seeing today. People are doing all kinds of things in the name of Hoodoo, and most of them are not good. Trust me, I feel some kind of way about websites, groups and associations that put all of our “business,” (so to say) in the streets. Old school Black people never would put anyone’s personal business on front street for any reason. Those types of things were reserved for personal conversations in whispers. You can see it when Black people refuse speak ill of politicians (Obama), leaders (Jessie Jackson) and celebrities (OJ Simpson). We all know they are less than stellar individuals, but I will deny that I ever said that in public. Travis Smiley and Cornell West have been largely ostracized by Black folks because of the hateraid and venom they shoot Obama’s way. LOL! We all know OJ’s ass was guilty. It was not about that. It was the fact that a Black man beat the system of oppression. Right? No. Reality? Yes.

But then white scholars came in and found out our traditions. Now it is out there. And as with everything, people are trying to bastardize it and make it what it is not. For Black people who know the history of the tradition, it is not really an issue what color you are, as long as you honor the tradition and not try to make shit up as you go along. That may be permissible when there is no documented research on a practice. Such is not the case with Rootwork. Valid, historically backed information is there. As a Black woman, I feel it is my birthright to practice. Can I say that it is not for other races/cultures/religions? No I cannot. But what I can say is that ALL people of all races owe the tradition the responsibility to keep it going and properly teach it.

More Black folks are coming “out of the shadows” and reclaiming their traditions. To practice Rootwork,  no matter who you are, it should be done in the proper manner in which it has been documented. There is enough consensus, even with all of the denominational variations, to have certain universal rules and elements that separate it from other traditions/paths and define what Rootwork/Hoodoo is and what it is not. It is now up to ANYONE, but especially Black people, to defend it against people who try to make it what it is not.

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