Hoodoo & Witchcraft
Hoodoo – Witchcraft – Spellcasting
African American Hoodoo (also known as “conjure“, “rootworking“, “root doctoring“, or “working the root“) is a traditional African American folk spirituality that developed from a number of West African spiritual traditions and beliefs.
The purpose of hoodoo was to allow people access to supernatural forces to improve their lives. Hoodoo helps people attain power or success (“luck”) in many areas of life including money, love, health, and employment.
As in many other spiritual and medical folk practices, extensive use is made of herbs, minerals, parts of animals’ bodies, an individual’s possessions and bodily fluids, especially menstrual blood, urine, saliva, and semen.(2)
Contact with ancestors or other spirits of the dead is an important practice within the conjure tradition, and the recitation of Psalms from the Bible is also considered spiritually influential in hoodoo.(1)
Hoodoo as we know it today, came from Africa as a result of slavery into the Americas.
The extent to which hoodoo could be practiced varied by region and the temperament of the slave owners. Enslaved Africans of the Southeast, known as the Gullah, as well as those in Louisiana, were people who enjoyed an isolation and relative freedom that allowed for retention of the practices of their West African ancestors. Rootwork or hoodoo, in the Mississippi Delta where the concentrationof enslaved Africans was dense, was practiced but under a large cover of secrecy. Hoodoo spread throughout the United States as African Americans left the Delta during the GreatMigration.
The word hoodoo stems from Hudu
Hudu is the name of a language and a Ewe tribe in Togo and Ghana. It was first documented in American English in 1875 and was used as a noun (the practice of hoodoo) or a transitive verb, as in “I hoodoo you,” an action carried out by varying means. The hoodoo could be manifest in a healing potion, or in the exercise of a parapsychological power, or as the cause of harm which befalls the targeted victim. In African American Vernacular English (AAVE), hoodoo is often used to describe a paranormal consciousness or spiritual hypnosis, a spell. But hoodoo may also be used as an adjective for a practitioner, such as “hoodoo man”.
Regional synonyms for hoodoo include conjuration, witchcraft, or rootwork. Older sources from the 18th and 19th century sometimes use the word “Obeah” to describe equivalent folk practices. (We talk about Obeah practices late in the Hoodoo Witch Course.)
The word witch is typically associated with the European definitions of the word witch (and commonly associated with the practices of Wicca), however the word witch has been used in Africa since the very beginning.
The tagati is usually improperly translated into English as “witch”, and is a spiteful person who operates in secret to harm others.
The sangoma is a diviner, somewhere on a par with a fortune teller, and is employed in detecting illness, predicting a person’s future (or advising them on which path to take), or identifying the guilty party in a crime. She also practices some degree of medicine.
The inyanga is often translated as “witch doctor” (though many Southern Africans resent this implication, as it perpetuates the mistaken belief that a “witch doctor” is in some sense a practitioner of malicious magic). The inyanga‘s job is to heal illness and injury and provide customers with magical items for everyday use.
Of these three categories the tagati is almost exclusively female, the sangoma is usually female, and the inyanga is almost exclusively male. (1)
Over time, a few African Americans began to incorporate a few elements from the European culture, such as occultism and mysticism. The mobility of black people from the rural South, to more urban areas in the North, is characterized by the items used in hoodoo.(3)
Whites, particularly Jewish pharmacists, opened their shops in black communities and began to offer items both asked for by their black customers, as well as things they themselves felt would be of use. Examples of the adoption of occultism and mysticism may be seen in the colored wax candles in glass jars that are often labeled for specific purposes such as “Fast Luck” and “Love Drawing”. (3)
Throughout the African American community one finds Christian symbolism and prayer, which made it a natural addition to the similar symbolism of hoodoo. Mirroring the hoodoo concept of the Bible-as-talisman, the book itself proposes to be a protective amulet:
“Whoever carries this book with him is safe from all his enemies, visible or invisible; and whoever has this book with him cannot die without the holy corpse of Jesus Christ, nor drown in any water, nor burn up in any fire, nor can any unjust sentence be passed upon him. So help me.” (3)
Hoodoo is already a fusion of witchcraft and African Folk Magick.
In this day and age, with unlimited access to technology, and an ability to travel and experience different cultures, we all like to try and experiment with new and exciting magical systems. Every culture has a unique magical system that has been refined and adapted along the way. Think of the evolution of Shamanism, Hermetics, Witchcraft, Wicca, Folk Magic, Reiki, Yoga, to name but a few.
Modern day Hoodoo includes many elements of the above systems, and has elements of Voodoo/Vodun, Santeria, Palo Monte to name but a few. Modern hoodoo adapts further in each region it enters. For example, New Orleans Hoodoo practices has a different flavor from other areas in in South. Modern hoodoo, as it is practiced today has ALOT of traditional witchcraft practices introduced into the rituals and spells.
Hoodoo practice does not require a formally designated minister. Therefore both the practices of Hoodoo and Witchcraft are available for each and every person to study & practice. Everyone has the opportunity to improve the conditions of their life with a little magick and a closer connection to spirit.
The key to learning Hoodoo is understanding the journey of Hoodoo, so as to pay respects to Hoodoo’s violent history. Once you respect the foundation of Hoodoo, you can emerge yourself in the magicakal spiritual system – and then adapt the work to your own location – where ever you are in the world!
This is the type of HOODOO I teach in this course – hence why the name is HOODOO WITCHCRAFT.
Alvarado, D. The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook. San Fransisco,
Hyatt. Hoodoo. vol. I. pp. 1758–1759.