From Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers
Mojo hands, trick bags, jomos, conjure sacks, tobies, jack balls, and nation sacks are charm-spells that are made, prepared, and fixed into a small bag or ball that clients can carry on their person.
From the outside, the Mojo is a small bag, often made of red flannel cloth or soft chamois leather and tied with a drawstring, but when you look inside, you will find that it is a type of contained spell or magic charm, containing botanical, zoological, and/or mineral curios, petition papers, and the like, which have been selected, hand-blended, prayed over, and set working to accomplish the type of magical task that the root doctor has prescribed for the client.
Hoodoo practitioners make mojo bags and conjure hands for clients who are in need of good luck, a happier love-life, more money, protection from evil, increased personal power, a better job, or other improvements in life. Conjure doctors and hoodoo rootworkers who craft mojos and jacks for their clients are often called "toby makers."
Regional names for mojo bags, or for specific types of mojos, include, mojo hand, conjure bag, roots bag, conjure hand, toby, trick bag, and jomo. Around Memphis, a mojo hand carried by a woman may be known as a nation sack. In some areas of the United States these spell-bags are called gree-gree or gri-gri -- a Bantu word typically spelled gris-gris (with a silent "s") by Americans of French descent.
In Haiti, the usual name for this sort of charm bag is a wanga, oanga, or wanger, and they are also called pakets.
The Covering of the Mojo
The most common covering for a mojo is red flannel, because red is considered a lucky colour for a large number of life's conditions, and in older times, red flannel was used to make underwear, hence it might be magically linked to the person whose underwear was used to make it.
In contemporary hoodoo practice, other colours of flannel or cloth may be used instead of red, including green (for money), blue (for peacefulness), or white (for blessings and safety).
Brocade drawstring bags (sometimes called "Chinese luck bags") and chamois (or "shammy") leather bags, which derive from the traditions of Native American medicine bags, are also popular with gri-gri makers.
Many spiritual practitioners sew an amulet or charm on the outside of the bag to signify its purpose; this is not necessary, but it does add a nice finish to the work.
What's inside a Mojo Bag?
In addition to herbs, roots, and minerals, some of the more common spiritual ingredients found in conjure hands include name-papers, written petitions or prayers, magical seals, talismans or charms, personal concerns such as hair or fingernail clippings, lucky coins, and lucky dice. It is a common practice to include an odd number of items in the bag, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule. A jack ball, unlike other types of mojo, is based on a personal item, typically a physical sample such as a hair from the client for whom it is made, or, in rare cases, an item from the body of a person with whom the client wishes to remain in contact.
How the Mojo Hand is Fixed and Prepared for the Client
After the mojo hand is assembled, the rootworker will fix and prepare it for you. As with all contained spells, there are many individual ways that conjure doctors perform this rite, including breathing into the mojo bag, smoking it in incense, passing it over a candle flame at an altar, and praying over it.
The tying of the bag is an important part of its making, as this keeps within it the spirit whose aid is being sought. In addition, a small talisman or charm may be sewn on the outside of the bag.
Once fixed and prepared, the toby is "fed" to keep it working, generally with a liquid, such as a perfume, an anointing oil, or whiskey.
When your rootworker fixes your conjure hand and sends it to you, you will be instructed on how to use it, how to pray over it, and how to keep it fed with a few drops of any of the above liquids, or, in some cases, a drop of your urine.
How to Use Your Mojo
Once you get your mojo, you should keep it out of sight -- and especially out of the range of touch -- of others. A mojo is typically worn by a person under the clothes, for it is said that if someone touches your mojo bag, its luckiness will be "killed." When you are not carrying your conjure bag, you can keep it hidden away somewhere safe.
In many cases, upon receiving your mojo bag you will need to personalize it -- that is, you will need to add an appropriate personal concern to the bag, dress it with oil, whisky, Hoyt's Cologne, or another appropriate liquid, and smoke it in incense. In some cases along with a personal concern the client is asked to add their petition as well. Directions for this process of personalizing your bag should be provided to you by your worker. Feeding the bag -- dabbing it with liquid and in smoke, speaking to it, and praying over it -- is a ritual that most folks do on their bags once a week to keep them working.
Mojo Hands are Made for Many Conditions and Situations
Southern-style mojo hands can be carried for a number of reasons, including to draw love or friendship, to bring good luck or success in gambling and other money matters, or to protect the bearer from evil or crossed conditions.
A jack ball can be used for luck, but also, because it is made around a personal item, it can also be employed after the manner of a Category:Pendulum Divination to study the life and emotions of a distant friend, relative, or loved one. In this way it assumes some of the functions we associate with the tools used in Dowsing, Doodlebugging, or Water Witching.
Although most conjure bags are created and utilized in spells of love, luck, health, and protection, a mojo bag can also be prepared for use in more nefarious spell-craft, such as to render a man impotent except when with his spouse by tying his nature; the nation sack is a form of mojo almost always utilized in this manner.
One fun way to understand that are made for all sorts of purposes is to check out the references to mojo bags in African American blues music:
- Good Luck: In "Spider's Nest Blues" by Hattie Hart and the Memphis Jug Band, Hart wants to go to New Orleans to get her toby (mojo) "fixed" because she is "having so much trouble" -- the mojo brought her good luck and its power is wearing off, as witnessed by the "bad luck" she is having.
- Domination in Love: In "Mojo Hand" by Sam Lightnin' Hopkins, the singer complains about a woman who is "always raising sand" (causing arguments and fights) and he wants to get a mojo hand so that the women will "come under [his] command" -- in other words, he wants to rule, control, and dominate a woman instead of being the target of her bickering.
- Protection of a Love Affair: In "Louisiana Hoo Doo Blues" by Ma Rainey, the mojo is protective of an established love relationship and the singer is going to Louisiana to get a mojo hand because she's "gotta stop these women from taking my man."
- Luck in Gambling and Games of Chance: In "Little Queen of Spades" by Robert Johnson, the woman has a mojo and uses it to gamble at cards and win and the mojo explains her otherwise inexplicable winning streak: "everybody says she's got a mojo, 'cause she's been using that stuff."
- Regaining a Lover from a Rival: In "Hoodoo Hoodoo" by John Lee Sonny Boy Williamson I, the mojo is used to break up a menage a trois: "I'm goin' down into Louisiana and buy me another mojo hand, all because I got to break up my baby from lovin' this other man."
- Raising a Fuss: In "Mojo Boogie" by J. B. Lenoir, the narrator is given a jack (mojo) by his aunt but doesn't know how to use it: "I got one jack, sure is crazy / My aunt forgot to teach me, just how to operate it / I went to a night club, I was squeezing it tight / I believe that's the cause of them people's start to fight." The mojo in this case causes people to quarrel.
- Ruling and Controlling a Lover: In "Hoodoo Lady Blues" by Arthur Crudup, the mojo is again protective of a relationship by causing a break-up with an outside lover. The narrator asks, "please give me a hoodoo hand; I wanna hoodoo this woman of mine, I believe she's got another man." As with Lightnin' Hopkins, what bothers the man is not sexual; rather it is the woman's argumentativeness: "Now, she squabbles all night long, she won't let me sleep / Lord, I wonder what in the world this woman done to me."
- Sexual Power: In several songs -- notably "Scarey Day Blues," "Talkin' to Myself," and "Ticket Agent Blues," all by Blind Willie McTell -- a woman has "got a mojo and she's tryin' to keep it hid." The hidden mojo is a metaphor for her hidden genitals and the male singer says that he's "got something to find that mojo with." The bag or purse-like mojo symbolizes female genitalia, and in this sexualized sense, mojos are more often associated with women than with men. In fact, it is interesting to note that the famous song "I've got my mojo working but it just don't work on you" was not intended by its composer, Preston Foster, as a song for Muddy Waters, who made it famous, for, in fact, the first recording of that song was by a woman, Ann Cole.
Just for Fun: Mojo Hands and Nation Sacks in Song
If you like music and want to understand the African American roots of conjure, you might enjoy going to a music-sales site like iTunes and looking up the following songs, most of which are available for purchase. Nothing will explain the importance of the mojo in conjure spell-craft better than hearing about them first hand from folks who have used them!
- "Aunt Caroline Dyer Blues" by The Memphis Jug Band (mojo)
- "Come On In My Kitchen" by Robert Johnson (nation sack)
- "Got My Mojo Working" by Muddy Waters (mojo)
- "I'm a Mojo Man" by Lonesome Sundown (Cornelius Green) (mojo)
- "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man" by Muddy Waters (mojo)
- "Jomo Blues" by Waymon "Sloppy" Henry (jomo)
- "Keep Your Hand Off Of My Mojo" by Coot Grant and Kid Sox Wesley Wilson (mojo)
- "Little Queen of Spades" by Robert Johnson (mojo)
- "Louisiana Blues" by Muddy Waters (mojo hand)
- "Louisiana Hoo Doo Blues" by Gertrude Ma Rainey (mojo hand)
- "Lowdown Mojo Blues" by Blind Lemon Jefferson (mojo)
- "The Mojo" a.k.a. "Mojo Boogie" by J. B. Lenoir (mojo)
- "Mojoe Blues" by Charlie Lincoln (Charlie Hicks) (mojo)
- "Mojo Hand" by Lightnin' Hopkins (mojo hand)
- "Mojo Hand Blues" by Ida Cox (mojo hand)
- "Scary Day Blues" by Blind Willie McTell (mojo)
- "Secret Mojo Blues" by Brownie McGhee (mojo)
- "Spider's Nest Blues" by Hattie Hart and The Memphis Jug Band (toby)
- "Tell Me Woman Blues" by Texas Alexander (mojo)
- "Ticket Agent Blues" by Blind Willie McTell (mojo)
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