Category:The Crossroads

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The Crossroads where the blues musician Tommy Johnson supposedly made his deal with "the devil"

The crossroads or the “forks of the road” is a place where two roads cross at or about at right angles. The crossroads is land that belongs to no one, a place outside the borders of town, which is a suitable site to perform traditional hoodoo magical rituals or cast spells. Like the cemetery, the crossroads may also serve as an altar where offerings can be laid or as a place for the disposal of finished works.

American beliefs about the crossroads are numerous, and they come in many variations. There are two major themes regarding crossroads in the African-American hoodoo tradition: the performance of the crossroads ritual to gain skill and the use of the crossroads as place to perform magical spells of disposal and dispersal. While these customs may contain an admixture of European folklore, they are primarily derived from African antecedents for working with spirits.

Conjure doctors who assist clients may perform crossroaads work in matters of career success, personal power, mastery, wisdom, love drawing, romance, marriage, fidelity, reconciliation, money, business, luck, protection, safe travel, cleansing, uncrossing, road opening, court cases, legal matters, spirituality, blessings, healing, crossing, jinxing, or cursing. In addition, when rootworkers take on jobs for clients, they may send the clients prepared herbal or mineral baths for their work, with instructions to dispose of a token amount of the bathwater in the home yard or at a crossroads.

A rural railroad crossing, where a country road crosses over a railroad line, is also a crossroads; both the black-and-white "cross-buck" sign and the circular yellow-and-black "RR" sign indicate the crossing of the roads
A variety of crossroads: dirt roads crossing in the woods, a cloverleaf highway interchange, an urban street crossing for vehicles, a pedestrians-only crossing in a city
A crossroads need not be located in a public space; a quiet crossraods in a rural setting or a wooded park may provide the privacy required for ritual workings
A hand-coloured copy of E. W. Kembles' black-and-white pen sketch "The Hoodoo Dance" from 1885; drawn from life, probably in New Orleans, it shows a portable crossroads or five-spot laid on a white table-cloth on the floor, with four candles marking the corners and a floral, herbal, or food offering placed at the center
A large home altar in the tradition of an African diasporic religion; note the symbolic crossroads painted on the wall, where photos of clients are mounted
Ancestor work using ancestor spirit offerings and graveyard dirt laid out in a crossroads pattern


The Crossroads Ritual

The crossroads is where the famous hoodoo ritual to learn a skill, to play a musical instrument, to become talented at dice throwing, dancing, public speaking, or whatever one chooses, is performed. This African-derived crossroads ritual is one of the most widely dispersed beliefs in African-American folklore and is practiced throughout the South. Crossroads work of this type is probably the most well known aspect of hoodoo and the least understood by those who stand outside the tradition.

In performing the crossroads ritual to gain skills, you bring an item that you wish to master: a banjo, guitar, fiddle, deck of cards, pair of dice, or the tools of your trade, to the crossroads and wait there for a specified number of nights or mornings. During your visits you may encounter a mysterious series of black-hued animals, and on your last visit a figure will arrive. This is the man who meets people at the crossroads and teaches them skills. He is called “the devil”, "the rider," the "li'l ol’ funny boy" or "the big black man." (In this situation "black" means the actual colour black and not a person of colour who is dark brown-skinned.) If you show no fear and stand your ground, "the devil" will take up the item you have brought with you and show you how to use it properly by using it himself. When "the devil" returns your item to you, you will possess the gift for excelling with that item.

Those who wish guidance in performing a crossroads ritual of this type may gain confidence and some measure of preparedness for the ordeal by scheduling a spiritual consultation or magical coaching session with a hoodoo rootdoctor who has done the work for him or herself.

How Conjure Doctors Work for Clients at a Crossroads

A root doctor or conjure worker may go down to the crossroads for clients to help them dispose of ongoing negative situations and conditions in their lives. Hoodoo rootworkers also call upon the spirits of the crossroads on behalf of their clients, gather crossroads stones or dirt for spell work, and dispose of, bury, or disperse items used in rituals and altar work.

The root doctor or conjure worker may also disperse work out into the crossroads on behalf of clients to help spread magical spells such as money drawing and attracting a new lover out into the world to help call the desired effects back to their clients from the four corners of the world.

Road opening spells performed for clients may be conducted at a crossroads, as may road closings or blockages conducted against the clients' enemies or opponents.

Temporary burial of items at the crossroads and their retrieval after a set period of time (often three days) for use in further spell work is also common.

The rootworker or conjure doctor will also cast completed spell remains and prepared break-up work out at the crossroads to scatter people apart, to break up couples, and banish or hot foot bad neighbors, hostile co-workers, or outright enemies of their clients, to set them roaming and make them wander out through the crossroads and out into the world.

The Portable Crossroads

Not all rituals that use the crossroads need to take place at an actual crossroads. When laying tricks or casting magical spells some hoodoo practitioners use what is known as a “portable crossroads” or a circle with a cross inside, also called an “X” or “cross-mark”.

This portable crossroads or cross-mark can be drawn on the ground with a stick or on a home altar with sachet powders. It may be painted on a wall or laid out on a blanket.

A symbolic crossroads may also be created with five dots rather than with two crossing lines. The dots go at the four points and the center of the area, in the same shape as seen on the five-side of a die or on a five of any suit of playing cards. When drawn this way, the pattern is not called a cross-mark or crossroads, but a “five-spot.” Its meaning remains the same, however.

A five-spot may be laid at the four corners of a bed, the four corners of a room, the four corners of a house or the four corners of a property, placing the space thus delineated at a metaphorical intersection between the world of spirit and the world of materiality.

The Three-Way Crossroads or Whye

The three-way crossroads, called a whye in English, is a place where three roads or three rivers meet. It is also called a Trivium, the Latin word for “the place where three roads meet.” The three-way crossroads we will focus on here is not the “dead-end” energy of the T-shaped crossroad, but rather the powerful energy of the “Y” or whye.

Less common than the four-way crossroads, the whye is a landscape feature that is often found on lightly sloping land, when two paths join as they meander downhill, or two rivers meet and pool into one. Like any crossroad featuring a “fork” in life’s pathway, it is a liminal space where one can connect with spirits, perform divinations, and cast spells. But just as the triple crossroad differs in physical layout from the four-way crossroad, it also differs in magical applications.

What makes this three-way crossroad so extraordinary? It is a place of connection between the three realms of existence: the underworld, our physical world, and the upper world. The place where the three roads meet carries within it an ancient and powerful manifestation of the energy of these three levels of existence, and it acts as a gateway between the realms. In ancient Greek religion and for many modern Neo-Pagans, the triple goddess Hekate holds the keys to these three realms and is venerated at the whye crossroads.

The Crossroads in Other Cultures

Many of the spirits and deities from the African Traditional and African Diasporic religions are associated with the crossroads. In Lukumi and Santeria, the orisha associated with the crossroads is Eleggua. In the Congolese religion and its diasporic counterpart in the Americas, Palo Monte or Palo Mayombe, the mpungo associated with the crossroads is Nkuyu. In Voodoo (Vodou), there are several lwa associated with the crossroads including Papa Legba and Met Carrefour.

In India, the Hindu deities associated with the crossroads are Ganesha, the opener of the way, and Bhairava, an aspect of Shiva who protects the boundaries of villages which are delimited by crossroads.

In the Catholic Tradition the Catholic Church Saint, Saint Peter, is associated with the crossroads through his iconography showing the crossed keys of heaven. Saint Expedite is also associated with the crossroads because he holds a cross with the word "hodie" inscribed on it ("today" in Latin), and works quickly to make thing happen for those who petition him. There are also several Catholic Folk Saints who are venerated at the crossroads including Maximon (San Simon-Judas) and Santisima Muerte.


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See Also


  • How Hoodoo Root Doctors Cast Spells at the Crossroads

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