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 Abandoned, African American, Black, Christianity, Conjure, Control, Culture, faith, fluffies, Folks, forgotten, God, History, Hoodoo, magical, observe, origin, Prayer, Religion and Spirituality, Rootwork, Spirituality, system, teach, traditional, work, yronwode

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.

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.