Ok, at the risk of everyone I know thinking I'm weird (too late, lol!), I am in seminary, but that doesn't mean I'm not culturally curious about Hoodoo and Voodoo, the Louisiana Bayou folk culture, Lowcountry (SC) Gullah and Geechee cultures, and their connections. I always have been interested in reading fairy tales and legends about magic, spells, other lands, amazing scifi and psychic tales / powers, and mystical lands etc. I completely love the Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Star Trek, Merlin, Edgar Cayce, ESP, EVP, Camelot, Atlantis, and Norse, Celtic, and Greek mythology. I also love the mysticism found in many mainstream religions and especially since I am an Episcopalian, Episcopalianism. I mostly like that they are open to things lately and our denomination actually talks / discusses / argues etc. about things rather than just condemning them or ignoring them and thus being narrowminded. I love this quote from one of my favorite movies, Contact, that says "well, if we are the only ones (in the universe), then it would be a waste of space" and I use that here to say that if everyone thought and acted the exact same way, what would life be like? In my opinion - BORING!
Where do Hoodoo and Voodoo fit in? WELL, I currently live in Sewanee, Tennessee, I did live in New Orleans and it has its fair share of each folk culture, old school belief in magic traditions (as well as stereotypical use of the "mystique" and exoticism of each). I also grew up in Charleston and Gullah folk attended my Episcopal church regularly. I remember people outside of the church making a huge deal of that. Later, I became interested in the Gullah culture of the South Carolina sea islands, folk magic, haunted places, ghost tales, etc. Our family spent two weeks in Jamaica when I was seven and we visited Rose Hall and the Great House where the White Witch was supposed to roam. This was after being in a car and passing people along the roadside in large groups. It was during that trip that I learned that people with red hair were deemed witches and that Black Magic existed. I just didn't know what it was at that time.
Enough of my musings!!! The point of this page is to highlight a tiny bit of information on Hoodoo, Voodoo, Bayou folklore, Gullah folklore, and African Diasporic religions - all in one place and to offer resources for anyone wanting to delve further into a subject. I have not found a main site for Hoodoo or Voodoo, but simply random sites by practitioners, herbalists, and some sites explaining what a few things mean or selling products to be used in practice. I HEAR on the streets that actual Hoodoo places exist, but mostly sight-unseen in the backs of buildings and behind beaded curtains... Interesting.
I learned when I moved to New Orleans that Hoodoo is NOT Voodoo, but its own brand of American / African / Creole folk magic and beliefs. It is also sometimes known as conjure or just plain old witchcraft (is that plain?) It is also connected to American Indian and European folklore and magic. It has to do with spells, omens, amulets, potions and protective or hexing powers as well as religious practices. Hoodoo is not a religion itself, but Vodoun (Voodoo) is. I've been told by a few locals that Hoodoo is mostly used for beneficiary and positive things or for healing. Teachings and practices are handed down from person to person. There is no specific deity associated with Hoodoo, but in some of my reading, I have noticed that it sometimes has a reference or association to an African trickster type of deity known as Eshu or Nbumba. I have to look up more on this. Interestingly, in more of my reading - specifically The Prose Edda (Norse mythological resource) by Snorri Sturluson, I learned of the same type of trickster and cunning being named Loki. The Norse also believed in shape shifting gods, as did some of the Celts. In Hoodoo, I have heard of shamanistic / Indian rituals of healing, but not specifically shape shifting. I have read of spirit transfer or "inhabitation" or possession. CREEPY! An example of the idea of Hoodoo possession is found in the movie The Skeleton Key which I think was filmed around New Orleans. I JUST saw this movie! All very interesting. It is fascinating to think that for those who believe in the power of these connections to nature and spirits - it is very real and respected. I also suppose that the fear and discomfort of some towards things like Hoodoo actually can promote a kind of belief even as they profess their unbelief. It could just be that many Hoodoo practitioners get labeled as weirdos from all the cheesy websites selling related products. As for me.....I'm relatively open-minded in spite of the cheese, but I'm not going to start my own practice if you get my drift! Curiosity, that's me : ) I also feel that unless we keep knowing something about these rare and fascinating traditions, religions, cultures - they will fade and we will have lost a bit of our selves and our souls in the process.
Spice for mojo bags Red brick dust Sable palmettos den
Hoodoo – African-American folk magic. Close to Haitian Vodun. It seems to be a confusing blend of Central Congo, West African, Palo, American, Indian, Haitian, and Catholicism practices. Relies on the use of magic, usually from botanical concoctions or protective amulets, casting spells, and calling on the aid of spirits. Stories and documented accounts of possession, trances, predictions, and healing have been cited in various books and by different people. Practices are passed down from person to person and vary by region. Occasionally involves a trickster type of personality.
Voodoo - comes from the terms Vodoun, Voudun, or Vodún. Primarily from West African nations, it has adapted to different world areas and blends elements of West African, Cuban, Haitian folk magic. There are larger groups of Voodoo practices and traditions and they lie around the world in places such as West Africa, Haiti, New Orleans, and Brazil (called CandombléJejé or Vodum or Umbanda). It is considered a polytheistic religion. It is used mostly for good, but contains Black Magic which is known in Jamaica as Obeah. In general, Voodoo worship calls upon spirits called the Loa to interact and ask things of the divine God. In some cultures, it can have people called Botano to use Voodoo for negative things involving the use of outright witchcraft, folk magic, incantation, dolls, spells, hexes, and sacrifices. Altars are set up and sacrifices, or trinkets, and objects are set upon them.
I have found that almost any culture has "root workers", medicine men or women, or folk magic practitioners. Sometimes, these folks are know as "Hoodoos", witches, or gurus. A root doctor is known as someone who is both a conjurer and an herbalist. Sickness caused by non-magical things is supposed to be healed by herbal remedies and possibly folk magic, but sickness caused by a hex or spell is suppsed to only be curable by magic.
Gullah Hoodoo - Medicinal and Magical Healing - I noticed several references to Gullah culture from the South Carolina barrier islands and lowcountry sea island areas while exploring the Hoodoo and Voodoo of Louisiana. Gullah is the only English-derived Creole language used in the US and is not a dialect. West African (mostly Sierra Leone) peoples were brought to the US just as they were brought to Haiti - as slaves. They managed to keep parts of their cultures alive while keeping the front of the religion of their owners. Then, I started noticing that this culture contained Hoodoo, though it was not always referenced as the specific term. Medicinal remedies and protective powers were also in both cultures. One of the most referenced root doctors is "Dr. Buzzard" of Beaufort, SC. My mother tells me that he was very famous and MANY people went to him from all over the state for requests or healing etc. "Everybody knew about him". He was known nationally as a Hoodoo and also as a witch doctor and known to have practiced folk magic and root work. Two other famous rootworkers / conjuring men were "Domingo" the Black Constable from the Charleston area and Gullah Jack the Conjurer, also from the Charleston area.
A few terms are defined below using web sources. Some have more than one web link for information. My descriptions are not academic and you should bear in mind that I am not an expert and this info is simply summarized from several other internet sources. In the US, these are African diasporic religions and practices which developed from groups of transplanted slaves and their descendants. Some terms I came across when looking for Hoodoo, Voodoo, Candomblé etc.
Animism - religious practice based on living things & objects having essence or spirit.
Banshee - am uncontrollable female spirit foretelling death by screaming and wailing
Redding or Reddening - using red brick dust or red ochre clay to protect an area. Example: adding it to a bucket of water and mopping a porch with it or lining a windowsill, doorframe, or house with it for supernatural protection.
West African Vodoun - The word vodún means spirit. Spirits of divine beings roam the earth, but in this type of Voodoo there is only one main higher being called Mawu or Nana Buluku. All things are considered to be divine and this factors into healing rituals, songs, and practices. I've noticed that there is a power associated with being connected to one's ancestors and in the documentary DVD listed below, I discovered that conjuring rituals might be held to speak to the ancestors just like psychic seances or to connect and pay homage to a spirit for special favors. Details are different, but the concept is the same. There are good and evil spirits, but Vodún is mostly used for good. Casting hexes is considered bad and people called the Botano were considered sorcerers or witches and able to bring about bad spirits. LINK to WIKI
Haitian Voodoo / Vodou - Vodou is different from Vodún. It is closely associated with the Bakongo region in Central Africa. Slaves were brought to Haiti in the 16th century and forced to convert to their owners religions. They managed to retain their own beliefs and practices on the down-low and ended up blending Catholicism, Kongo, and West African ritualistic Vodún practices. Individuals worship and make sacrifices and petitions to lesser spirits / deities called the Loa in order to reach the higher all-powerful deity Bondyè. In Haitian Vodou, there appears to be ancestor worship and also outright witchcraft. More people practice the witchcraft than just a few medicine men / women types. There are Haitian Créole forms which exist in several areas of the US today. WIKI
New Orleans Hoodoo and Voodoo - This is more related to Haitian Vodou and herbal / botanical folk magic. It has blended roots from African and American backgrounds, ties to Indian folk magic and ties to everyday life. It is confusing to me because of the blends. Hoodoo is not a religion, but a practice of controlling what happens in different aspects of one's own life through folk magic and advisings.