Blog Post 38 – High John

Howdy all!

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!

-Cory

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3 Comments on “Blog Post 38 – High John”

  1. Anica Says:

    Convolvulus is a huge group, i used the old term here just because its still in use, interchangeable with the current Ipomopea genus name. Quite a few of Convolvulus are on the noxious weeds and invasive plants list in the U.S – they are usually called bind weeds in the plains, and maybe moonflowers elsewhere (thats what i called them anyway).

    But Im still unsure about the scientific name – is it Ipomopea purga jalapa? Ipomopea purga? I can hardly find any info on it for range maps and such

    At any rate, though im not sure ive seen High John myself , i would think it would be easy to find and cultivate like any other of the family (if you wanted to deal with it) even better, you could relieve a neighbour’s yard of it for free!


    • Oh yes, I completely forgot to mention the Convolvulus name, so thank you for bringing that up! I believe that the “jalapa” is the most common root identified as High John (there was a discussion to that effect in a hoodoo forum recently), but my guess is that there are probably a few different species that would fit the magical bill.

      Lol, I like the way you think, by the way (though of course I’m not officially condoning theft of someone’s native plant life…though I will point out the precedent in folk lore and fairy tales for gathering plants from lands that are not one’s own…but I digress). Hopefully I’ll be able to find photos at some point I can post of the actual High John plant and flower so people can identify it more easily, wherever they find and harvest it.

      All the best!

      -Cory

  2. Vivienne Grainger Says:

    I’ve attempted a half-dozen times to sign up for your blog RSS feed, but that link seems to be broken. I normally wouldn’t do anything so idiotic as to use a post to communicate this information, but I can’t seem to find any other link to writing you.


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