Link to this Article: http://www.llewellyn.com/journal/article/635
The Nature of Hoodoo
This article was written by Stephanie Rose Bird
posted under Pagan
Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones: Hoodoo, Mojo and Conjuring with Herbs is a compilation of songs, recipes, tricks (spells), rituals, art, and folklore inspired by the magical path of Hoodoo. This innovative guide provides readers with ways to mark important rites of passage including puberty, pregnancy, weddings, childbirth, motherhood, menopause, and the afterlife. Some of the recipes and rituals are traditional while others are creative adaptations from my personal Book of Shadows. Readers explore the numerous possibilities for conjuring with herbs, whether used as tea, healing balms, wreaths, in mojo bags, on candles, or at the altar. Hoodoo herbalism assists readers as they conjure love, prosperity, luck, employment, relationships, abundance, and blessings. Information is also provided on dream divination, spiritual cleansing, floor washes, invocation, ancestor veneration, multicultural gods and goddesses, and elemental magic.
The title, Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones, captures the essence of the book:
- Sticks: Sticks are important to Hoodoo in both a practical and a metaphoric sense. Trees are tremendously important to Africans, thus they play an important role in Hoodoo. An effective Hoodoo spends ample time alone amidst trees, in order to learn the secrets they share. Trees represent the relationship between the living and the dead, and thus they are linked with cleansing, healing, burial, ancestors, and spirits.
Sticking is an adaptation of piercing and scarification rituals. Sticking is the activating motion performed on poppets, stuffed fabric, vegetables, or fruits that represent humans. Sticking and knotting in prescribed amounts on certain days charges magical bundles and mojo bags. Hoodoo involves sticking an object ritualistically—a certain amount of touches by a needle (usually an odd number 3, 7, 9, or 11).
- Stones: Minerals and stones are also essential to African magical systems. Carrying a “beauty pebble” (quartz crystal) is indicated by an informant as the primary way of identifying a Hoodoo. Stones seem to be inert, yet Hoodoos realize they are reservoirs of history and energy. Each type of stone discussed in this book has the ability to facilitate magic and conjuration.
- Roots: Roots are a vital tool of Hoodoos; “rootwork” is another name for Hoodoo. Roots contain potent juju (good medicine), everything a conjurer desires. Rootwork consists of understanding magical herbalism and then incorporating indigenous wisdom regarding nature and the spirit realm. In my book, I examine the various ways societies in Africa embody and inspire Hoodoo and rootwork.
Another important aspect of the word “roots” is that it indicates the orientation of Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones. Some books present Eurocentric approaches, especially in relation to magical paths; those approaches are not as inclusive of people of color as we would like. I have even noticed a tendency within some Hoodoo books to refer to Europe when there isn’t an easy answer for the root of a Hoodoo tradition or practice. My book helps readers trace the roots of Hoodoo back to Egypt and other countries in the Motherland. There are historical connections between Hoodoo and Egyptian beliefs, traceable through both the names of Hoodoo recipes and the gods and goddesses to which we refer. My book demonstrates the relationship between Hoodoo as a spiritual practice and the traditions of ancient Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa.
The cultural exchanges between Native Americans and African Americans are also significant. Native Americans taught African freedmen and escaped slaves to use indigenous herbs. Enslaved Africans also escaped into Native American communities. Today, many African Americans have Native American ancestry and our magical traditions reflect our heritage. The unique ways Native Americans honor nature are also explored. African and Native Americans share a belief in animism, the belief that nature is imbued with spirits. Hoodoo is one of few practices that has something to offer to everyone; many cultural traditions are embraced in Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones.
- Bones: In the olden days, bones and animal parts were widely used in Hoodoo. They were plentiful, and we were basically a rural, agrarian people. Today, many animals and plants face extinction, their habitats threatened by our continuous growth and expansion. It would be irresponsible for me to give out recipes and formulas that inspired hundreds or even thousands of people to seek out various animals parts—tradition or not. There is nothing magical about harming others, humans or animals—this is a value shared with the Wiccan Rede (‘and harm none’). What I am seeking to do is to keep our oral and magical traditions alive. Hoodoo needs to evolve just as we have to survive and grow stronger. In Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones, I share useful tips for harnessing animal energy without causing harm. Another unique aspect of the book is the emphasis on holistic health, sustainability, and environmental awareness—topics seldom considered, but nevertheless important to Hoodoo and other magical paths.
If you’re looking for dark magic, keep on looking. There is no dark magic in my book. Negative energy is dangerous. Negative energy and evil deeds sent out into the world can easily reverse, taking roost on your doorstep. If you are seeking abundance, ancient wisdom, healing, or ways to celebrate life, pick up Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones—you are in for a good read.
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