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About the Author
Stephanie Rose Bird is a hereditary intuitive, contemporary rootworker, solitary green witch and visionary. She has been involved with mysticism, symbology, spiritualism and the occult for thirty years. Bird is inspired by her ancestors, in particular her grandmothers, one of which was a psychic and the other a spiritualist minister and herbal healer. Her uncle, a Santeria priest, Babalawo of Shango, taught her the Ifa traditions of the Yoruba people. Bird studies healing, magical and divination traditions of indigenous people around the world with a focus on Africa. Her passions include keeping the ancient traditions alive and updating them so that they evolve with us, suiting our current environment and lifestyles. She is a member of the American Folklore Soceity, the Herb Research Foundation and the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild. Bird holds a BFA cum laude from Temple University, Tyler School of Art, and an MFA from University of California at San Diego, and has received multiple academic awards. Bird was an assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1987-2002. Bird offers healing workshops, rituals, retreats, and classes across the country. Bird is an active arts educator, teaching undergraduate art appreciation and art history in Chicago, giving lectures, conducting goddess rituals, and writing for numerous publications. Visit Stephanie's webpage at http://www.stephanierosebird.com/.
Read an Excerpt
IntroductionOnce upon a time, we were Africans involved in a unique lexicon of beliefs, lore, stories, and customs that were designed to help integrate us into an environment filled with plants, animals, elements, and a complex array of spirits. With the advent of slavery (see Figure 1), the physical bond with the motherland was broken, but like seeds lifted from a ripe plant by wind, we found fertile ground in distant lands elsewhere.
Our beliefs took root in the Americas in slightly altered forms. The freshly sown seedlings took hold strongest in sunny climates reminiscent of the fair conditions in Africa. The various hybrids of African-based religion are now thriving in coastal Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba in the form of Candomble, Shango, and Santeria, and in Louisiana and Haiti in the form of Vodoun. In the southern United States, Hoodoo took root in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, and North and South Carolina. Hoodoo was established during slavery times using the available plants in the United States and borrowing from the ancient wisdom of the Native Americans.
With immigration and migrations of freed slaves in North and South America, the growth of African-based religions spread from the older cultural centers of Bahia (Brazil), Havana (Cuba), and Yorubaland (Africa) to dynamic industrial centers such as New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, and Chicago (see Figure 2). Some of our traditional practices were transformed into systems that strongly incorporated Catholicism. For example, the elaborate system of saints, priests, priestesses, deities, and ceremonies honored by Catholics is included in Santeria of Spanish-speaking countries and Vodoun of French-speaking areas. Santeria, Shango, and Vodoun are unique blends of Western and non-Western religious rituals, ceremonies, prayers, invocations, and blessings, but they are also open to include the darker side of the spiritual world: jinxes, curses, and hexes.
On the other hand, Hoodoo and Candomble are distinctly American (North and South). Therefore, they are multicultural and reflect strong links between various indigenous groups, Judeo-Christian faiths of the dominant cultures, and West African magickal and medicinal herbalism. They are primarily healing traditions that involve the use of herbs, plants, roots, trees, animals, magnets, minerals, and natural waters combined with magickal amulets, chants, ceremonies, rituals, and handmade power objects. (Handmade power objects empower the practitioner to take control of his or her own fate, rather than place power in the hands of synchronized deities or religious leaders.)
Since Hoodoo is an American tradition that is widely practiced in the areas my kin are from, it is the primary Africanism that was passed down to me. The word "Hoodoo," however, was seldom spoken by African Americans. They did not really want to name or recognize this eclectic collection of African holdovers that endured and reminded us of the Middle Passage and slavery. Popularly called both "Hoodoo" and "Voodoo" by the uninformed, the term is of dubious origins and is most likely the creation of the media as an adulteration of Vodoun . The word "Hoodoo" was never spoken in my home, yet its tenets were evident in my upbringing. The term is a useful way to give form to the colorful and specific folkloric beliefs practiced by a wide range of believers, including the Gullah people of Georgia and the Carolinas, Black folk in major metropolitan areas, White folk of the Appalachians, and Native Americans.
Since it is not a religion, Hoodoo has always been practiced by a wide variety of people, regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation. Its attractiveness lies in the fact that it is natural, nondogmatic, and practical. Primary concerns of hoodoos include blessing the home and keeping the domestic environment peaceful and free of unwanted intrusions, whether they are bad vibes brought about by humans, animals, or spirits. Other concerns are gaining a life mate who is loving and doesn't cheat or abandon his or her spouse, general health and happiness in life, predicting the future, controlling people when necessary and freeing oneself or others from undesired control, using hexing and unhexing, and drawing luck in seeking employment, career advancement, good grades in school, winning money, lucky breaks, or the good fortune of success. In short, Hoodoo is concerned with health, wealth, love, luck, and happinessconcerns to which many people can relate.
The means used to achieve the desired situation is called the laying of tricks and fixing tricks, which are kin to European witchcraft spells and Gypsy charms. These objects are reminiscent of African herbal bundles. The most common form is a bag of tricks, also called a nation sack, gris-gris, hand, mojo, trick bag, luck ball, or flannel, which employs herbs and other magickal ingredients.
The use of the terms my mojo and his (or her) bag of tricks are often included in the lyrics of traditional African American blues songs, particularly those of the legendary Muddy Waters, who is also called the "Hoodoo Man." Unfortunately, the lyrics have been misinterpreted.
Mojo was interpreted as a metaphysical aura of sexual power or prowess, and the trick bag was interpreted as a metaphor for various forms of misleading behaviors. In reality, a mojo and a bag of tricks are one and the same: a bag of charms that serves as an amulet for purposes ranging from attracting a lover and maintaining a relationship to drawing luck or attracting money. These bags are carried close to the personusually on the thigh, in the bra, or in a special pouch under one's clothing. If someone "steals your mojo," they have stolen your special amulet that holds your hopes and dreams. The mojo is a personalized item that carries your personal energy. Therefore, it is very dangerouspossibly fatalif it falls into the hands of another, especially if that person is a hoodoo, witch, or conjurer.
In addition to the mojos, a wide variety of herb-based scented oils and incenses are employed in Hoodoo. Oils can be applied to the person, diffused in the air, set out in significant areas of the home, and used to dress candles. Whimsical names abound, such as "Van Van Oil," "Black Cat Oil," "Fast Luck Oil," and "Bend Over Oil." Numerous types of herbal incenses are used with equally intriguing names. The incense is burned while chanting, singing, or praying.
Salts have been used for cleansing and healing for thousands of years. They are enjoying a renewed interest by adherents to feng shui philosophy who use it in the same way as Hoodoo practitioners. In these disparate practices, salt is placed on the floor and in corners during spiritual cleansing, and the crystals are used during bathing for curative and restorative purposes. In Hoodoo, sweet waters are also applied to the body and left in bowls to deter or attract spirits and humans. In Hoodoo, divination is achieved using other natural materials (such as crystals, tea leaves, coffee grounds, animal bones, water gazing, crystal gazing, and seashells) as oracles to predict the future. Dream interpretation, controlling dreams through lucid dreaming, and astral projection are also important activities. Ancestral and natural spirits are acknowledged, invoked, and utilized for protection, predictions, healing, curses, and blessings.
he most striking features of African-based belief systems have been passed down through the generations. They shape Hoodoo and are shared in this book for the development and affirmation of personal strength, self-determination, connection to nature, awareness of the environment, and connection to our past.
Television, movies, and commerce tend to sap the vibrancy out of authentic experience. Sadly, the practice of Hoodoo went out of favor after it was commercialized and trivialized by the media and nonbelievers, but this creative practice of African American folklore deserves to be preserved and continued. During the earlier half of the twentieth century, Hollywood and unscrupulous businesses were captivated by the commercial and lucrative possibilities of Hoodoo and Vodoun. Today, there are precious few suppliers of truly herbal Hoodoo products and supplies. There are fewer still who will openly admit to practicing these beliefs, owing in large part to the "pagan" stigma that might be attached to it by fundamentalist Christians. Ingredients can be store bought (I have listed some suppliers and practitioners in appendix B), but for true authenticity, create as many of the recipes and formulas by hand as possible. Doing it yourself lets you add your own finesse, personal touches, and unique cultural traditions as you lay your tricks. Remember, Hoodoo is based on self-determination and independence, not commerce. Take advantage of the recipes for fixin' your tricks. Through practice and dedication, you will become a true root doctor, conjurer, or hoodoo in your own right.
This book is your practical guide to gaining greater control of the aspects of your life that need attention. Below is a full explanation of the meaning of the title that builds a framework for the rest of the book. The following chapters explain Hoodoo candle rituals, spiritual cleansings, ways to draw luck, dreaming, rituals for love, blessings, altars, psychic warfare, peace, and important rites of passage.
As a contemporary Hoodoo practitioner, I, like my ancestors, am fully aware of the magickal potential of neighboring systems. This book revolves around traditional West African magickal paths, yet in it there is an eclectic collage of wisdom and lore from around the world.
Reading this book is an important step in the spiritual journey to a magickal life. If you need additional help, you will find it at the back of the book where product suppliers, practitioners, sourcebooks, organizations, and a bibliography are listed for further studies.
A Word About Nature Sticks, stones, roots, and bonesthese are the basic ingredients found in any good hoodoo's mojo bag. As we utilize the essential tools for Hoodoo, we must always stay aware of their source: Mother Nature. Being considerate and respectful is key. To enlist her help we need to work closely with the Earth Mother in her various manifestations. To do this we shall endeavor to do the following:
- Listen to her whispers late at night under the light of the moon.
- Hear her calls early in the morning.
- Watch her sigh and undulate with the ebb and flow of the currents.
- Seek out her advice in working our roots.
- Stay mindful of the limitations and gifts when tapping her resources.
Most importantly we need to make sure we work with nature and not just use what she has to offer us. An easy way to accomplish this is to assure a proper balance of give and take in the relationship. We may utilize the earth's resources, but we should not overuse, cause pain, or destroy her in the process. We must approach the Earth Mother as she exists today, rather than doggedly aligning ourselves with traditions that contribute to the abuse or neglect of naturethis includes animals, the oceans, and fragile plants. By opening our eyes and seeing her in the manner that she exists today, we are working with her and not against her. An important aspect of this book is to help the contemporary conjurer practice as a hoodoo of the twenty-first century.
It is critical that we take into consideration the large population of humans that reside on earth and the effects these numbers have on the Earth Mother's reserves. We need to own up to the urban nature of our existence. Moreover, we must stay mindful of the recent developments in our culture. To stay true to the origins of Hoodoo, we will attempt to incorporate as much of the tradition as possible. As we create this blend, we seek a balance between the old ways, new issues, and technologies. Our goal is to honor the Earth Mother and our ancestors as we work our roots.
In appendix A, you will find lists of endangered species of plants and animals. Please heed this information as you perform your work.
Sticks, Stones, Roots & BonesSo what is the meaning behind the title Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones?
SticksTrees are tremendously important to Africans, thus they play an important role in Hoodoo. Trees are the primary teachers of the hoodoo and the hunters, herbalists, and warriors of Africa, as you will learn in chapter 2. Similar to a West African hunter or warrior, a good hoodoo must spend a great deal of time alone with trees in order to learn the secrets and wisdom they wish to share with us.
Tree bark, tree branches, and their leaves and flowers are essential tools of Hoodoo. Metaphorically, trees represent the relationship between the living and the dead (this is true in Africa as well as many other parts of the world). Trees are intricately linked with death, burial, and spiritual connection, as you will see in chapter 14.
There are additional ways in which sticks are important in Hoodoo: the practical and metaphoric senses of sticking. Sticking is an adaptation of piercing and scarification rituals. It is the activating motion performed on poppets (sometimes referred to as "Voodoo dolls"), stuffed fabric, or vegetables or fruits that represent humans. (Sometimes even the stick-like herb devil's shoestring is used to represent the limbs of a human on a poppet.) Sticking and knotting in prescribed amounts on certain days fixes magickal bundles and mojo bags. Hoodoo jobs and tricks often involve sticking in one way or anotherwhether it be sticking a poppet, sticking thread into a bundle or piece of fabric ritualistically, or sticking by our magick until our tricks work.
StonesStones are often taken for granted. The role of minerals and stones in African and African American magickal systems has been severely underestimated. In the book From My People: 400 Years of African American Folklore by Daryl Cumber Dance, the carrying of a beauty pebble (quartz crystal) is indicated in a firsthand account as the primary way of identifying a hoodoo or conjurer.
Stones seem to be inert, yet they are actually reservoirs of history, karma, and energy. Each type of stone has its own frequency and unique ability to aid conjur craft. First of all, however, the rock needs to be charged.
There are several ways to charge a rock. Some people bury them and dig them up repeatedly until they feel a noticeable change in the energy of the stone. Others simply place the stone out in the sun for three to seven days, again checking periodically for changes. Still others use special water soaks combined with sun. They place the stone out in the sun for three to seven days and then soak it in saltwater for another few days. Whichever method you choose, once the stone is charged, it is under your control. You should wrap it in a piece of silk and keep it near your person so it understands your energy flow and desires. Charged stones are essential conjuring tools with unique applications and functions. In the following chapters you will encounter ways of using many different types of stones in mojo bags, potions, rituals, and for tricks.
FossilsFossils are some of the most sacred gifts of the Great Mother. Fossils are bones of sorts, remnants of life in times that we can only read about. To charge these, hold them in your hands or put them on your altar to give a very special energy to your work. Try to use a selection from places of importance to you. I have some wonderful specimens from the Mississippi riverbed that are the frozen image of a primeval palm leaf.
AmberAmber seems rocklike, but it is actually fossilized tree resin. With its golden tone and sunny appearance, it is likened to Sun Ra, the Egyptian sun god. This resin often has insects trapped inside of it, giving us a brief glimpse of ancient life frozen in time. Amber is always warm to the touch and is good for warming medicine.
RootsRootwork is another name for Hoodoo. Rootwork consists of understanding herbalism and then incorporating indigenous wisdom regarding nature. My approach draws heavily upon the herbal wisdom of Africa and Native America. In later chapters you will learn how various societies and groups embody and inspire the hoodoo's rootworking system. Roots are a vital tool to traditional hoodoos. Roots contain potent juju or good medicineeverything a conjurer desires. Yet many different types of plants are either extinct, endangered, or on an "at risk" list. This must not be underestimated. Plants, like all life on earth, are fragile. They help us, and it is only natural that we should, in turn, look out for them and help maintain their existence in any way possible. Roots are the life source of a plant. Taking the root is not like harvesting berries, flowers, or leaves. Most often roots don't grow back. Whenever possible, we need to use roots sparingly and judiciouslyespecially if they come from an endangered plant. Once we tap the root, we have taken a life off this earth; this is a grave responsibility. Find substitutes for roots whenever possible. John the Conqueror root, angelica root, Queen Elizabeth root, and Adam and Eve root are central ingredients in the hoodoo's medicine bag. It is possible to use these gifts sparingly by using chips from the roots, releasing their magickal ingredients into an oil, or pulverizing them into a powder form. Once the roots are extracted into oil or powdered form, other magickal ingredients can be added to accentuate the desired effects. We will learn to do these things and more. Just remember that in order for roots to be our assistants, we must look after them in return for their help. Making sure the necessary plants for our craft are not made extinct is a responsibility that goes along with being an adept conjurer.
Another important aspect of the word roots in the title has to do with the orientation of this book. Many books I have read have overt Eurocentric approaches, especially in relation to magickal paths. I have even noticed a tendency within research on Hoodoo by non-Africans to constantly default back to Europe when there isn't an easy answer for the root of a tradition or practice. I seek to present Hoodoo from an African American perspective and trace the roots of this particular magickal path to West Africa and ancient Khemet (Black Egypt).
Now I know some people will scratch their heads in wonder that I would find a connection in what is largely known as Egyptology and Hoodoo, but the commonalities in perspective, orientation, and even ingredients used are astonishing. Furthermore, many West African and African American scholars firmly believe that sub-Saharan peoples migrated to where they now live from Khemet. Judging from their findings and the links between the two cultures, I agree. I am certain from my research that if a default key has to be hit regarding a practice, name, formula, or bit of oral folklore, most certainly the root can be found still intact in either Khemetian beliefs, Ifa practices (of the Yoruba people of Nigeria), or other traditions from the diverse peoples of West Africathe root and homeland of African Americans and Hoodoo.
BonesIn days of old, bones and animal parts were widely used in conjur craft. And why not? They were plentiful. People hunted regularly and used every part of the animal for food, shelter, warmth, medicine, and magick. Today many animals and plants face extinction. Their habitats are threatened by our continued growth. It would be irresponsible of me to give out recipes and formulas that inspired hundreds or even thousands of people to seek out various animal parts, tradition or not. There is no magick in harming others, human or animal. I do include a few recipes calling for feathers, which should be found or ascertained from a pet store. Some recipes also call for chicken bones or bone meal, but millions of people do still eat chicken and chickens are important sacrificial animals to the hoodoo. Having said that, I highly recommend using only what you need, and moreover, what you have to spare from your meals. If a friend or family member hunts raccoon or rabbits, then you will have ample raccoon parts for your love potions and rabbit's feet for luck draw. Certain regions of the country have desolate locations that are littered with snakeskins, animal horns, and skulls. Plus, people still do farm and slaughter their own animals. If you need chicken blood, you should consider visiting a chicken farm, because there have been gruesome reports of laypeople fudging the job and causing great harm to the animal. What I am saying is, if you harvest these things ethically, great. If you know someone who harvests ethically, that's cool too. If not, use safe substitutes.
Negative energy is extremely counterproductive to Hoodoo work. Trust me, in a heartbeat things that you send out into the world can get botched up and come riding on the wings of the wind or even a bird and land right back on your doorstep. Of course, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you will want to pass on these traditions altogether.
Metal According to author Scott Cunningham, metal is another type of bone. Consider incorporating metal magick more forcefully into your practices. After all, it is a highly important part of Hoodoo.
SilverFrom an African perspective, silver represents the sea, the Great Mothers, and the moon. It is helpful for intuitive work, dream quests, and fertility and love tricks. Songhai wisemen believe that the third finger of the left hand is our conduit for spirit power, so a silver ring is placed on this finger to enhance this capacity.
CopperCopper is a healing metal and a conduit of spiritual healing energy. It is also associated with the goddesses Ishtar, Astarte, Inanna, and Isis. Copper works especially well combined with quartz crystals. Copper pennies are revered in Hoodoo as charms for luck- and money-draw magick. Black folk from the Caribbean and South America are especially fond of copper bracelets and anklets as tools for healing.
BrassBrass is widely used in Africa. The magickal qualities of brass are similar to gold, but without the vanity. Brass is a good metal for candleholders and for using in love-draw magick.
IronBlack folks in the Americas have been cooking in seasoned cast-iron skillets for hundreds of years. Iron represents the orisha Ogun, the warrior protector. Since iron is connected to Ogun, it carries some of his fiercely protective characteristics. Nails, rust, and metal filings are several ways that iron is utilized in Hoodoo. Metalsmithing wasand in some cases still isa highly honored traditional craft in Africa. It was also revered in early African American culture.
LeadLead is used for its ability to hold and deliver intent. Graphite pencils, which are reminiscent of lead pencils, are often used in specific written jobs and tricks. Thankfully, graphite pencils are easily available and inexpensive.
LodestoneLodestone is central to love, luck, and prosperity work. It is a stone made from magnetite. Similarly, fool's gold or pyrite chips are used in drawing magick, mojos, spiritual baths, and on altars.
QuicksilverQuicksilver, or mercury, was once widely used for luck spells, but since it is extremely toxic, it is best to avoid it.
This book, then, is a compilation of songs, recipes, tricks, jobs, rituals, spells, stories, recollections, and folklore that revolve around the eclectic magickal path called Hoodoo. This book gives practical, hands-on ways to denote important rites of passage and cycles of life using magickal herbalism and African traditions that are at the very crux of Hoodoo. The chapters contained herein present information, spells, charms, and amulets to deal with the common, everyday concerns and preoccupations of most folk: drawing love, prosperity, and luck.
Hoodoo was almost ridiculed out of existence by those who had no idea what they had stumbled across. Capitalism and commerce also made a huge dent, as the crafting of formulas and recipes require two essential ingredients to work: the TLC (tender loving care) and ashe (magickal forces and energies of the universe) that come from personal, at-home brewing.
Recently, there has been a renewal of interest, study, and practice of conjuration and Hoodoo, largely due to a few excellent sites on the Internet. I am grateful that the ancestor and nature spirits found me to be a suitable conduit to contribute to the renaissance of this significant path. I hope reading this book will leave you inspired and well-equipped to become involved in continuing the tradition.
Table of Contents
A Word About Nature 8
Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones 9
1 Fixin' to Work Roots 15
Time and Space 15
Equipment and Tools 16
Gathering and Drying Herbs 21
Extraction Techniques 24
A Note About Animism 25
2 It's in the Bag 27
African Concepts 28
Nation Sacks 39
3 The Broom in Hoodoo 43
Brooms and Africans 43
Brooms and African Americans 49
Chinese Wash 58
A Spontaneous Broom Ritual 59
4 Cleaning Rituals and Spirit Washes 63
Spiritually Cleansing the Home 66
Spiritually Cleansing the Body 72
Body Oil 79
Body Powders 80
Sweet Waters 82
Fragrant Waters 83
5 Harvesting the Gifts of Fire 85
Autumn Holidays, American Style 85
Harvesting the Gifts of Fire 88
Candle Colors 89
Anointin' and Dressin' Candles 91
The Conjuring Altar 93
Disposal of Candle Wax 94
6 The Elements of War 101
Power of the Universe 104
Ogun, Orisha of the Warriors 105
Oya, Orisha of the Wind 107
Shango the Alchemist 108
Foot Track Magick 108
Protection Rings 112
War Water Bottles 113
Graveyard Dirt 114
The Crossroads 116
7 Keepin' the Peace 119
Waters of Peace 120
Dirt and Minerals 126
8 Prosperity 129
Growin' Green 130
Amulets from Ancient Egypt 134
Charming Gifts of the Sea 135
Irish Moss 136
Use the Element of Fire 139
Horseshoes and Nails 140
Lucky Hand Washes 141
Money Jars 143
9 Gettin' Some Love & Keepin' It Close 145
Making and Maintaining a Love Mojo 145
History and Traditions of Hoodoo Love Magick 148
Aromatherapy for Hoodoo Love Draw 151
Sunkissed Love Draw Tips 156
The Rose 157
10 Fertility 165
Goddesses of Fertility 168
Makela, Queen of Sheba 169
11 Sacred Rites of Commitment 175
The Language of Flowers 176
More Floral Ideas 178
Hoodoo in Shower Gifts, Wedding Accents, and Home Decor 184
The Book of Days 186
After the Ceremony 187
The Honey Moon 188
12 Hoodoo Child 189
The Blessed Event 201
A Room of One's Own 205
Menarche and Manhood 206
13 The Conjurer's Dream 209
Protective Amulets 214
Divination and Prophetic Dreams 215
The Spirits Who Ride 221
Mythic Goddesses Who Inform Our Dreams 222
The Dreamer's Charms 226
14 Passin' On 229
Traditional Burial Customs 237
Hoodoo for the Terminally Ill 241
Rituals and Ceremonies 244
Appendix A: At-Risk and Endangered Materials 247
Appendix B: Resources 253
Appendix C: Organizations 257
Bibliography and Recommended Reading 267