The purists will tell you that Hoodoo has always been a living tradition practiced by predominantly Christian adherents of some African descent. The statement is for the most part true.
Unlike most magickal traditions which have required a bit of reconstructing, Hoodoo has had the living, traceable familial and communal lineage even the most experienced witches and traditions can only lie about. Recall, for instance, the insistence by some followers of Gerald Gardner that he learned Wicca and witchcraft at his grandmother’s knee. This is perhaps why so many witches feel drawn to explore the Hoodoo path. Hoodoo offers the real McCoy, while the rest of us sitting under the wide Pagan umbrella have what scholars and laymen could piece together from some not-so-concerned-with-authentic historical sources and a hefty dash of “made up on the spot.”
Yet, as the more traditional Pagan or Wiccan witch reaches further and further into the world of Hoodoo, the traditional practitioners seem to want to keep them out. The accusation of cultural misappropriation is the typical initial broom to the face the average witch receives. Those wielding the broom are not motivated by a selfish need to keep the goods to themselves, but by a need to protect their craft and keep their traditions whole and unchanged. To them, this is not just a matter of faith but a way of life that they’d prefer not to be twisted into another NeoPagan tradition diluted of its deeper meaning by predominantly white teenagers rebelling against their parents. Meanwhile, those on the other side of the argument (who are not always the aforementioned white teenagers) don’t understand the chiding they get in seeking knowledge about another culture.
What both sides neglect to understand is the inevitable syncretism that is not just the source of Hoodoo (and all magickal traditions) but its eventual end. Syncretism, or the blending and amalgamation of cultures, is an inevitable byproduct of the interaction between cultures. Its effects can be seen heavily in the ancient tombs of Alexandria, Eygpt, where representations of Greek, Egyptian, and Roman Gods can be found coexisting in the same rooms. Despite the heretical mishmash we would view it as today, there was no ill intent, no collusion to steal culture or beliefs happening during the ancient times, only cultures coming together in one of the first major cities and exchanging ideas and incorporating faiths.
Hoodoo itself came from an African tradition without the Christian God, yet when its practitioners came into contact (albeit violently and under the infernal auspice of slavery) with the Christian faith, the old gods of Hoodoo were changed to incorporate these new beliefs. Even after the diaspora of Africa were freed, they did not immediately seek to cull Hoodoo of its Christian influence.
Similarly, though with almost infinite less violence and blood, Wicca came out of weak remnants of what was once before, was fortified with new beliefs, and then was diluted and restructured into many different traditions. Despite the assimilation of new beliefs, the core of Gardnerian Wicca did not die, but its tenants enriched and left fingerprints on many different paths.
Despite Hoodoo practitioners trying to section off and protect their faith, keeping it pure and preventing it from influencing the similar faiths around it is like trying to carry water cupped in your hands without spilling a drop. Syncretism is a natural and inevitable force, and thanks to it, the genetics of future paths magickal paths will certainly carry markers of the Hoodoo faith.
Author: Susan Brooke
Susan Brooke is a writer, pagan, and witch. She runs a blog in her own little corner of the internet called Along Came a Spider. You can read more of her work by visiting http://along-came-a-spider.blogspot.com/.