Posted in Abandoned, African American, Black, Christianity, Conjure, Control, Culture, Divination, faith, forgotten, God, History, Hoodoo, magical, origin, Prayer, Readings, Religion and Spirituality, Rootwork, spell, Spirituality

You Simply Were Not Paying Attention

People are always asking about “learning Rootwork the ‘Old School’ way” from someone who grew up in the tradition. You are going to be hard pressed to find those people. The problem is that our generation (I am 47.) missed out because of the abundance of Black people who became hard core Christians. These people were primarily in the generation before us. The early Black church was full of Rootwork/Conjure in the North and South, but when the Great Migration occurred, you saw Black people abandon the “Old Ways” which were considered country.

One way to really tap into the history and the culture is to read narratives, folk tales, almanacs, and believe it or not, works of fiction/literature (e.g. Charles Chestnut’s “The Conjure Woman” and “The Book of Negro Folklore” by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps.) They were collecting stories when people were still actively practicing and only a generation out of slavery. My masters degree is in literature with a concentration in Black Literature. None of the works I studied (with the exception of Hurston) dwell on the word “Hoodoo.” Instead, they present Rootwork as a way of LIFE. Gloria Naylor’s “Mama Day” is a prime example. So, finding someone who learned old school is a challenge, but reading the works of our own artists and historians is not. They will lead you to information that you never imagined, and Spirit will do the rest.

That is another thing, from the people who grew up in Rootwork, it was not something that was “taught.” For example, I throw down in the kitchen, but nobody ever “taught” me to cook. I watched my grandmother and mother, and I eventually assisted them in the kitchen. From the people I speak to who’ve grown up in the tradition, it was the same way for them when they learned Rootwork.

Rootwork was part of LIFE, and it should be if you are a worker today. You learned through observation. Remember, in the old days, children should be “seen and not heard,” so we picked up a lot of things by observation. My grandmother was not a worker, but she went to one. I sat quietly while she got readings and things to take home with her. Other than a candle or some incense, I never saw what she did with the things she was given by her worker, and I knew better than to ask about them. One thing is for sure, my grandparents NEVER went to church.

I had a client bring her mother for a reading. The mother and I got to chatting, and she knew about EVERYTHING I was talking to her about. (I felt kinda good too because she did not have to correct me about any of it.) Her daughter asked, “how come you didn’t teach me any of this?”

The mother said, “you simply were not paying attention.”

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Posted in African American, Black, Conjure, Control, Divination, Hoodoo, magical, Readings, Religion and Spirituality, Rootwork, spell, Spirituality, Tarot, traditional, work

In Defense of Online Stores

Since my journey back into the land of Tumblr, I’ve seen a lot of bashing of people who sell magical items online. If someone is NOT scamming people, charging outrageous amounts of money for an item that does not merit the price, or attributes illegitimate items to practice, I just don’t get it.

While I am a Diviner/Rootworker, and I do take clients, most of my Rootworking clients are people with whom I have a face-to-face relationship. The only exception to this is Light Setting/Candle Divination. There is something intimate about doing spiritual work for people that I often find real physical contact necessary.  Other workers feel differently, and that is their option.

But often, I find that most of my Divination clients don’t need a working at all, or they need the combination of a mundane and spiritual solution. I also encourage people to do work for themselves. If they don’t have a stockpile of products, they have to get them from somewhere.

As a merchant of these types of products, I strive to create natural products that are true to the tradition. I also infuse my own creativity with names from the Black vernacular and new ingredients, but I never would use an herb/root/curio that does not work for the condition.

I’ve actually seen people say they use Goofer Dust for “healing,” and I have seen products advertised as “Wicca/Hoodoo/Voodoo.” That is a big no.

Yes, as much as people would like to have storefront locations, often the demand for these products does not merit the risk of going into that type of debt. What I hate to see are people discounting what we do who do not know us, or people who never tried our products.

The lesson is, stay away from the scam artists, get a divination to see what you need, see if you can do it yourself, and work with people with solid reputations for their work and their products.

Posted in Card, Conjure, Culture, Divination, Hoodoo, magical, Readings, Religion and Spirituality, Reversed, Spirituality, system, Tarot, teach

Tarot Card of the Day: The Magician

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

The Magician
Image retrieved from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/de/RWS_Tarot_01_Magician.jpg

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.

Posted in Divination, Evocation, faith, God, Hoodoo, magical, Merriam Webster, New Age, Prayer, Religion and Spirituality, Rootwork, Saints, Spirituality, traditional

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.

Posted in Abandoned, African American, Black, cassas, Central African, Chaos, Christianity, Conjure, Culture, Divination, Doctrine of Signatures, faith, Folks, forgotten, History, Hoodoo, Law of Contagion, magical, observe, origin, Rootwork, spell, Spirituality, system, teach, traditional, West African, work, yronwode

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

Posted in Card, Chaos, Conjure, Control, Divination, Readings, Tarot, Tower

Card of the Day – The Tower

The Tower Image
Image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:RWS_Tarot_16_Tower.jpg

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.

Posted in Card, Conjure, Divination, King, Readings, Reversed, Tarot, Wands

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.