Category:Hoodoo Conjure Witchcraft Rootwork
From Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers
Hoodoo is an African American folk magic tradition that was developed over several centuries in the Southern United States from the cultural convergence of African, Native American, European, and Near Eastern spiritual and magical practices. It is known by various regional names like "conjure," "rootwork," "root doctoring," "working roots," "tricking," "helping yourself," "using that stuff," and "doing the work."
With the movement of emancipated African Americans north during the late 19th and early 20th centuries -- a period known as "The Great Northern Migration" -- hoodoo practices spread throughout the United States and, through cross-cultural mixing, acquired and adapted concepts and methodologies adapted from the magical traditions of other minority cultures within America. Hoodoo is now found wherever African Americans live, and it is practiced, with a greater or lesser degree of authenticity and respect for its roots, by a variety of Americans of other ethnicities.
While strongly aligned with a number of other African diasporic traditions, hoodoo is not a religion, nor is it a purely African form of belief, but rather it is a spiritual and magical practice. Most root doctors -- like most African Americans -- follow the Protestant faith. The combination of the culturally mingled magical traditions of African Americans with Protestant Christianity leads hoodoo to be seen as a form of African American Christian spiritual practice.
Hoodoo covers a variety of divination and spell-casting practices and traditions that have been passed down through family lines and from teacher to student. Although hoodoo varies slightly in style from region to region and family to family, there are common practices among the traditions.
Tools and objects are the magical mechanisms of the folk magic of many cultures. In fact, the use of such objects in fashioning spell-work is one of the marks of traditional folkloric witchcraft almost everywhere in the world.
Natural substances, specially prepared items, common goods from farm and home, and rare curios function as arcane levers to move the mechanisms of the world.
In hoodoo, as in other forms of spiritual magic, these tools are selected on the basis of their traditional suitability to tasks such as changing luck, claiming blessings, obtaining protection, persuading God to give you your way, or granting you an edge over your opponents which will erase any previous differences of skill or will.
There are many forms of name-paper used in hoodoo. In the example shown on this page, the "base name target" was written in a 9-line set, then the whole was turned clockwise in accord with the drawing or benefic result intended and the "overlay name conjure" was written across the first 9 lines in a 9-line steering or dominion, and finally "the general intention" of the work was written around in a cursive circle to enclose the spell. Ordinarily the general intention would be something specific, and the names would be people's names.
Name papers may be used as petitions under or attached to candles; placed in one's shoe to ground the intention; buried; or inserted into bottles, amulets, or other containers to maintain a persistent influence.
Red brick dust, pyrite, sulphur, lodestone, alum, anvil dust; Minerals are used extensively in hoodoo. Those shown above are typically used alone or in combination with other objects with a complementary aim.
Red brick dust is employed in conjure work for protection, sulphur for dark arts and crossing, alum for stopping gossip, pyrite for wealth-attraction, lodestone for drawing love or money, and magnetic sand or anvil dust to feed lodestones or to blend with other powders to intensify their power.
Roots, herbs, bones, teeth, alligator feet, snake sheds, nuts, stones, beans, shells, feathers, lightning-struck and petrified wood, waters, dirts, and dusts: The natural world is suffused with spell components and allies useful for getting one's way.
Whether in combination or alone, as the basis for an amulet, doll baby, or powder, the confluence of need and regional availability has led to traditional magical uses being ascribed to specific North American materia magica found in the wild and in the garden.
Charms and Amulets
Manufactured and found objects have their use in folk magic too.
Keys to open bound or locked up situations, hands to assist in bringing life's desires within reach, coins as "Indian scouts" (watch guards) or "coppers" (police) to secure valuables and guard against encroachment, and "queer" money to throw luck our direction may be removed from their ordinary purposes and use and employed in spell-crafting toward symbolic ends in a language both amuletic and associative.
The mojo bag shown on this page is traditionally made of red flannel, strung with white cotton twine and tied around the mouth, then knotted at the ends, containing implements suitable to the purpose of the bag and relating to the target or aim. Red is a default colour for mojo hands, and may be general in purpose, though some relate it love or sex spells.
As a generic covering material, red flannel hails from old style underwear, and is potentially suffused in one's own personal concerns or those of any other target conceived. Such bags are ubiquitous in hoodoo and contain prayers, charms, amulets, or magical contents for a specific condition or achievement.
Bodily excreta such as nail pairings, hair, menstrual blood, semen, sputum, perspiration, tears, urine, feces, or saliva may be used in spells to target spell-work to a specific individual, to solidify the connection between the target of the trick and the spell's intended effect upon a portion of the target's body, or as a means of empowering a connection between the target and the spell-caster.
Personal concerns may also refer to extended or associated substances, including dust from a footprint, handwriting on paper, or clothing once worn by the target.
Doll babies may be elaborate or simple images for use in targeted spell work. This one is made from corn husks, bound together with some white cotton string. Dolls may also be made of cloth, clay, china ware, leather, rope, feathers, twine, wax, or metal.
Prior to use, the doll is magically linked with the person whom it represents.
Containers used in Spell-Casting
Magical containers such as amulet cases, picture frames, candle holders, boxes, jars, bottles, vials, clay pots, or other vessels do not arise within any particular period, are indicative of no specific tradition, and quite often serve secondary or re-use purposes.
The container which holds a spell might be buried, concealed, or disguised as something ordinary (as in the insertion of such a spell into a picture frame's interior or at the base of a candle holder). The "protective amulet gift," "nefarious buried spell," "curse set adrift in water," and the "sneaky trick disguised as a gift" are well-known and oft-utilized container spell conventions.
Goofer Dust is a mixture of minerals and herbs, dirt from a graveyard, spider webs and their remains, and dead corpses from numerous species.
This powder is used to harm or cross someone, make them confused in mind ("goofy"), even kill them ("kufwa" is the Congo word for corpse dust or a killing powder).
Spellbooks and Grimoires
Whether Psalms from the Jewish Bible, spells and lore from European hexmeisters, or classic hoodoo favourites full of tricks for protection and warnings about potential dangers, books or magical reference, instruction, and education have long been a helpful supplement in pursuit of "helping yourself."
Godfrey Selig, John Hohman, and Henri Gamache, the authors of the books shown here, are well-known names amongst conjure doctors, and many of the magical texts or the ideas which they conveyed into conjure practice have been around for centuries.
The work of the conjure doctor may be performed indoors in the living room, bedroom, kitchen, or bathroom, either on a plain work-space or at an elaborate altar. In many cases, the practitioner who is conjuring within the home will make an effort to see to it that the tricks are "hidden in plain sight" so that family members and visitors are not aware of what is being done to them, against them, or on their behalf.
Conjure work and hoodoo spell-casting may also be performed outdoors, in any number of traditionally powerful locations ranging from the front or back yard of the home to a local crossroads, graveyard, river, ocean beach, or other specially selected place.
Around the Home
Bedroom, pantry, hearth, kitchen, front entry, back yard, bathroom, or building corners; spices and food, ceilings and floors, furniture, personal effects and toiletries, laundry products and cleaning supplies: The everyday use of magic in the home is a convention for conjures by myriad means and with diverse intentions.
Whether placing items surreptitiously in food, in the bed, or in the laundry, burying spells in the yard, or "nailing down the house" to prevent its sale, there is almost no end to the types of tricks and self-help spiritual work possible in one's own or another's home sweet home.
Where the stream of human movement reaches a Y, T, or X form and multiple tributaries merge and diverge once again, this is the place for discard, communication, movement, and power.
It is said that at certain times of the day (sunrise, 3:00 AM, midnight, etc.) were one to attend to the crossroads in sufficient routine, one may take instruction from the crossroads spirit (the Black Man) who bestows upon the dedicated attendant a mastery or skill. Some associate this also with selling one's self or one's soul.
Cemeteries, churchyards, burial grounds, memorial parks, graveyards, potter's fields, charnel grounds, mortuaries, funerary grounds, and crypts: The resting places of the dead are potent places for the conjure to meet with spirits, secure an ally to help with a spell, and to bury an adversary's image or troublesome trick.
The collection of graveyard dirt is a rite with a long history, involving necromancy or communication with the dead as well as the purchase of soil from a grave selected for a particular intended ritual use. Ancestors are almost invariably said to be of assistance, and certain classes of spirits, such as soldiers or children, may be found to be cooperative or biddable in specific cases. In addition to monetary purchases of graveyard dirt, offerings to the deceased may include flowers, libations, food, toys, or candy.
Hoodoo Root Doctors
Those who practice hoodoo on behalf of clients go by a variety of names, including rootworkers, practitioners, hoodoo ladies, root doctors, conjure doctors, spiritual advisors, two-headed doctors, and conjures. Most hoodoo root doctors are also readers who perform divination prior to taking a client's case. They may take on all sorts of conjure jobs or they may specialize in certain forms of hoodoo work.
Some practitioners may work for clients on a donation basis but most professional rootworkers undertake spiritual spell-craft jobs for set fees based on the cost of materials, the time necessary to do the work, and the intensity of effort they expect to expend. Ethical two-headed doctors do not "guarantee results" and they also do not take on cases which they do not intend to perform.
- Religious Traditions
- Magical Traditions
- Divination, Fortune Telling, and Oracles
- Hoodoo, Conjure, Witchcraft, and Rootwork
- Working with Spirits
AIRR Readers & Rootworkers Who Perform This Work for Clients