Blog Post 38 – High John
I hope you had a great weekend! This week, I’m going to be focusing on herbs, roots, and curios used in various American magical practices. I’m starting with one of the most common and most important roots in hoodoo: High John the Conqueror.
This shriveled root is part of the Ipomoea genus, and is a relative of the Morning Glory. Its resemblance to a shrunken testicle has made it a powerful symbol of potency and virility. I consider it to be one of the quintessential hoodoo herbs (which is the reason I included it in my “hoodoo kit” post). Catherine Yronwode says of the root in her Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic book, “ A person possessing a John the Conqueror Root will never be long without money or a lover and will be extremely lucky in games of chance and business” (HHRM p. 111).
Some of the most common ways to use this root are to put it into a jar of neutral oil (such as safflower or olive) and let it sit for a few weeks, occasionally shaking the jar. The resulting oil (which will have little to no smell and to which you should add some vitamin E or tincture of benzoin to prevent rancidity) can be used to anoint anything that needs more power. Rubbed on your hands and feet, it adds personal power to everything you do. Rubbed on money kept in your wallet, it helps you be more successful in luck and business endeavors. Rubbed (very lightly) on the penis, it restores male virility and enhances sexual prowess.
Another key way to use this root is to keep a whole root in your pocket, either by itself or wrapped in a red cloth bag as a mojo hand. Fed regularly (once a week at least) with whiskey or the High John Oil I just described, it keeps you empowered and potent at all times. According to the lore, money comes easier, luck favors you, love finds you, and sex is better than ever.
You can also add John the Conqueror (by the way, you say it “John the Con-ker”) chips or oil to other mojo hands to increase their potency as well. I like to add them to success and business workings, because they tend to work faster and require less finagling on my part after my initial efforts.
The High John root has appeared in pop culture several times, too. Whenever hoodoo comes up in songs, a mention of this root is seldom far behind. For example, in the Allman Brothers Band remake of Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man,” radio audiences of the 70’s heard the lyrics:
“Got a John the Conquerer root and got some mojo too,
We got a black cat bone, we’re gonna slip it to you.”
Considering the libertine behavior the singer boasts of elsewhere in the song, having a little magic keeping his virility charged certainly seems like a good idea (I’ll address the black cat bone reference in another post). Muddy Waters (who worked with Willie Dixon quite a lot) also recorded a blues song featuring the hoodoo charm, entitled (appropriately) “My John the Conqueror Root.”
There are lots of places to find this root on the web, and if you have a local botanica of some kind, they will also likely carry this curio. I highly recommend anyone looking into American magic familiarize him/herself with High John. Who couldn’t use a magical boost from such a potent little root?
Thanks for reading!