Blog Post 33 – A Hoodoo Starter Kit (Intro, Part V)

For my final post this week, I’m putting up my idea of what a beginning rootworker might want to have on hand.  Think of it as a sort of “first aid kit” for getting your hands dirty in hoodoo.  This is only my opinion, by the way, so your mileage may vary according to different conjure practices.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or to add a comment to this blog page and I’ll do my best to answer them.  Now, onto the kit!

Candles – I keep lots of these on hand, in several different sizes.  They’re good for doing most types of simple jobs where all that’s required is a quick dressing and a little time to burn them.  You can use color correspondences, if you like, but I find plain white (or beeswax candles with a  golden tint to them) work just fine for me.

Candlesticks/Holders (at least two) – I say at least two because you never know when you’ll need to burn for two things at the same time (say a separation working and then a protection one to help a woman in a bad relationship get out safely and stay safe).  There are some candle burnings, too, where progressively moving the candles closer together or further apart is part of the job being done.

High John root(s) and/or oil – This is the quintessential hoodoo root.  It’s small, brown, and not very impressive to look at, but man it packs a punch.  Anything that needs extra potency can benefit from High John.  There are plenty of folks who simply carry one in their pocket, feeding it regularly with whiskey or oil, to help them always be performing at their best, whatever they do.

Small assortment of condition oils – If I’m being really 100% honest, you don’t need these the way you might need other things on this list.  And you can certainly make your own versions of them rather than buying them from a store.  I like to have some of the basics on hand (especially Van Van and Fiery Wall) because it’s easy to dress a candle with them and do a quick burning, or to dress a mojo bag with them quickly.

Uncrossing – This one’s great for removing hexes and jinxes.
Attraction – Can draw love, money, luck, and other positive things into your life.
Van Van – This oil is a general use oil, good at removing obstacles, increasing luck, finding love, and many other things.
Compelling/Commanding – If you intend to do this kind of work, these are good to have. Compelling makes your target do what they say they will do, and Commanding makes them do what you want.
Blessing – This one is important for cleansing and blessing homes, marriages, children, etc.
Fiery Wall of Protection – A vital oil if you want really good protection for a person or place.

Whiskey (or other alcohol) – When you feed your mojos or other work, the typical offering is whiskey.  It’s also a good offering for working with ancestors and spirits (though some Native American spirits do NOT like it, apparently).  Some who do not use alcohol in their magic will use oils or holy water instead.

Salt – Good for setting protective barriers, for use in spiritual baths (especially to remove harmful influences), and adding to certain jobs where you are trying to neutralize someone else’s work.

Pepper (black and red) – Both are used to make things “hot” for a target, and also in the Hot Foot jobs a rootworker may be called upon to do.  They can be used in other work, as well, particularly if you’re trying to make things “fiery” for any reason (protection, sex, etc.).

Four Theives Vinegar – This is a centuries-old formula and there’s no need to buy it.  Just take good quality cider vinegar (or wine vinegar if you prefer) and add black and red pepper, garlic, and mustard seeds, then let it sit in a dark place, shaking it daily.  After about two weeks, voila!, Four Thieves Vinegar.  There are variations on the recipe (I use rue in mine), so find one that works for you.  It’s good for protection and hexing jobs, and it tastes delicious on a salad!

Honey/Molasses/Sugar/etc. – This is for any kind of sweetening work you do.  You can also add it to certain spiritual baths to help make things sweeter for you in general.  Choose a sweetener that is regionally appropriate—molasses is good in the South, while in Vermont maple syrup would be good.

Red cloth squares – For making mojo hands.  This doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  Flannel and linen are fairly traditional, but whatever is available in your local fabric store’s remnant bin will probably be just fine.  Or cut up an old red t-shirt.  In a pinch, white cloth can be used for most jobs, too.

Bottles/jars – Keep these on hand for doing Honey Jars or Vinegar Jars, as well as making protective bottle spells (like Witch Bottles) or even just as a back-up candle holder.  I save old baby food jars for this kind of work.  If you have a Sharpie, you can even draw or write on the glass, if you feel so inclined.

Envelopes/plastic baggies/etc. – For collecting ingredients or gathering spent spell materials for proper deployment (at a crossroads, in running water, etc.).  I will also confess I usually keep little paper envelopes on hand so that if I’m visiting someone that will be a target for a job and I use their bathroom…well, let’s just say most people leave things like hairbrushes pretty much out in the open…

Bible or other holy book – I’m not saying you have to thump it, sell it, buy it, preach it, or even believe in all of it, but the precedent for using Scripture in hoodoo is long-standing.  I’m not Christian but I use the Psalms in my work fairly often.  If you have a vehement dislike of Christian religion, and the Bible in particular, find another holy book that does work for you, such as the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, or the poems of Rumi.  My only admonition here is that if the book isn’t spiritual in nature, I would avoid using it in rootwork.  There seems to be something very profoundly sacred about the relationship between a holy book and a magic spell, something that the spirits on the other side respond to.  That’s just my opinion, of course, so if you don’t believe me, I can live with that.

So that’s it for this week’s Introduction to Hoodoo!  I hope you’ve been enjoying this series.  We’ll be doing plenty more with rootwork in the future, including having a guest on our next podcast  who is a professional rootworker!   That episode should be out next week, and hopefully we’ll have a couple of other neat treats for you then, too.
Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 32 – Hoodoo You Do (Intro, Part IV)

This blog post will primarily deal with types of hoodoo spells, or “tricks.”  It’s not a complete list of all types of hoodoo magic by any stretch of the imagination, but for someone just getting into it, this should give you an idea of what a conjure man/woman does, and give you some places to start if you want to do hoodoo for you.

Mojo Bags – Probably the best known of the hoodoo magical charms, mojos go by many names:  hands, tobys, jomos, etc.  These small talismans are little bags designed to be worn out of sight and usually close to the skin.  A particular type of mojo worn only by women is the “nation sack” of Memphis, TN.  The way these charms are made may vary a bit from place to place or worker to worker, but the general idea is that a small flannel sack, usually red but sometimes other colors, is filled with magical ingredients—usually an odd number of them.  It’s then closed up, and often anointed or “fed” with some offering on a regular basis (whiskey, rum, or other alcohol is a common food for a mojo hand; some of the condition oils found in hoodoo are also appropriate).  I recently heard these bags described as little spirit houses, and to my mind, that’s a perfect description.  The herbs, oils, curios, and other elements of hoodoo are matched together to make a little home for a spirit who can aid the worker in getting what he or she wants.  I often include a written charm in mine (being inclined towards the written word as I am), and usually I make my mojos as part of a larger working, such as a Candle Burning.

Candle Burnings – Also commonly called “setting lights,” candle burnings in hoodoo are similar to candle burnings in any other magical system.  The only real difference is the method (or methods) of dressing the candles.  In hoodoo, when a worker is dressing a candle to draw something (like money, love, health, etc.), he or she will cover the candle in herbs and oils from the bottom-up.  To rid oneself of something (like a jinx), candles are dressed top-down.  Personal concerns, such as a target’s hair or fingernails, are usually incorporated in the dressing, or may be placed beneath an inverted saucer upon which the candle is burned.  Name-papers with written charms may also be used in this manner.  Henri Gamache’s Master Book of Candle Burning is an excellent resource for this type of magic.

Readings – Most rootworkers begin with a reading of some kind.  Whether its tarot cards, palm reading, or just a sort of psychic once-over with second sight, the conjure person will need to get a good idea of what the client needs—not just what he or she wants.  Often, readings are done as part of a larger interview process to really hone in on what kind of work the rootworker will need to do.  I like to use playing cards to read before doing most magical workings, even ones for myself.

Honey Jars – We covered them a bit in our Special Episode recently, but I love these things, so I’ll mention them again here.  Basically, a honey jar is exactly what it sounds like:  a jar full of honey.  Into this sweet-and-sticky pot you place the names (and personal concerns in some cases) of those you wish to “sweeten up.”  These jars are also known as “sweetening jars,” and can actually contain almost any kind of pure sweetener, such as brown or white sugar, molasses, or syrup.  This is a good way to start doing hoodoo, because it is a very positive type of magic (you’re only making your relationships with those you sweeten better, after all) and it also teaches you to get your hands a little dirty (because you must push the names into the jar with your fingers, and then lick them clean…a nice reward for your efforts!).  You can make jars for each person you want to sweeten if you’re working more elaborate spells on them, or keep one jar with lots of names in it for general sweetening.  You can also make vinegar or “souring” jars, which is a form of Hexing.  I’d generally wait to do a souring jar until after you’ve tried a few sweetening ones, though.

Foot-track Magic – This type of magic stems from African Traditional practices, in which the footprint of a person could be used magically against them (or to help them, but usually harmful magic is associated with foot tracks).  The basic idea behind this kind of spell is that the feet come in contact with a magical potion, powder, or other ingredient and draw the psychic contagion up into the body.  One of the most famous examples of foot-track magic is the use of goofer dust on someone.  The hexing dust is sprinkled somewhere where the target will walk over it, and the poisonous influence of the powder will cause the target’s body to swell and fill with pain, and possibly even die.  Of course, it’s possible to do helpful spells with foot-track work, like laying a prosperity blend in someone’s path to ensure they have good luck, but this is a less common use of this magic.

Washing/Bathing – While I love the fact that hoodoo gets down and dirty, I also really like the emphasis it puts on cleanliness.  There are lots of formulae designed exclusively for things like washing one’s floors to banish harmful things and/or draw beneficial ones.  For example, you can wash your business doorstep or the sidewalk in front of your shop with a money drawing blend (such as bayberry, cinnamon, and rose-of-jericho water) from the outside-in to draw customers to you.  Bathing is also important in hoodoo, particularly ritual bathing performed over a series of 3, 5, 7, or 9 days.  Much like in Candle Burning, if you take a hoodoo bath, you’ll want to stand in the tub and wash up to draw something (like money) and down to get rid of something (like a bad habit).  Prayers, psalms, and other magical phrases may be recited while bathing, and usually at least some of the bath water is saved and later disposed of ritually (by pouring at a crossroads, for example).   I highly recommend Draja Mickaharic’s Spiritual Cleansing if you want to learn more on this subject.

Cleansings/Uncrossing Work – Related to Washing/Bathing is the concept of a Cleansing or an Uncrossing.  These workings are usually done to remove the effects of harmful witchcraft or hexing, and can be done by a rootworker or by a client under a worker’s direction.  Some common methods of uncrossing involve the aforementioned ritual bathing while using downward motion and uncrossing herbs (like rue, hyssop, and salt), marking the client with the “five-spot” or quincunx pattern using an uncrossing oil, or even running a raw egg around the client’s body to absorb negative spiritual energies (this is similar to cleansings found in other systems, like curanderismo).  A rootworker may also smoke or fumigate a client, using a sheet to tent the seated client from the shoulders down and burning incense beneath the chair to fill the tent with sacred smoke.  There are related areas of hoodoo spellwork which are more protective than cleansing which involve putting down salt, chalk, or brick dust lines around a person’s home to prevent harm from reaching them, but these are usually done after a cleansing has been performed on both the client and his/her house.

Jinxing/Hexing – So I know it seems backwards to discuss this after Cleansing/Uncrossing, but I generally feel like it’s better to know how to stop a harmful spell before you get started, so that’s why I mentioned the other first.  However, Jinxing/Hexing is a big part of hoodoo.  From the harmful forms of Foot-track Magic mentioned earlier to more fearsome curses (such as the disgusting but terrifying “Live Things in You” curse, in which a target is tricked into swallowing powdered snake skin, spider eggs, or other unsavory items so that they begin to feel like things are literally crawling around inside them).  Learning to hex someone with hoodoo isn’t hard, though it often requires a strong stomach.  One simple and quite grave curse is to make a doll-baby (stuffed poppet) with the person’s name paper or personal concerns inside of it, then put that into a small coffin and bury it in a graveyard.  The victim should feel their own life-force fading as long as the buried doll remains in the cemetery (a word of warning, though—in most places digging so much as a single spoonful of dirt is considered vandalism and is quite illegal, therefore I do not advocate it).  A simpler and much tamer curse is the vinegar jar I mentioned in our Witch Bottle Special.  By simply placing someone’s name into a jar of vinegar, along with things like red pepper flakes, black pepper, and garlic, you can sour their life pretty effectively.  Shaking the jar every time you think about it can help “stir up” more trouble for them.  Cursing someone for fun, by the way, is always a bad idea.  You never know when it might backfire and wind up dragging you right into trouble, so make sure you’re working “justified,” perhaps by doing a Reading first.

Love Spells – The simplest of these is a type of Honey Jar in which two people’s names are kept and a candle burned over the top of it.  This sweetens them to each other and helps set magic in motion to keep them sweet on one another.  Love spells in hoodoo, though, are not always so nice.  There are plenty of spells aimed at separating lovers (candles are even sold which look like married couples and which, when burned, come apart and lead to divorce or estrangement).  There are also more intense love spells aimed less at finding that one true love than at exercising power over the target (see Controlling Spells for more on that).  Many love spells, though, are more like the sweetening spells, and simply help a person find or catch that perfect mate.  There are some extremely simple love spells in hoodoo which involve little more than tying two dirty socks—one from each mate—together and hiding them away so that love will remain forever “bound” between them.  Of course, for those coming from a background where this sort of manipulation is a magical no-no, even a fairly benign hoodoo love spell can seem a little sinister.  But then, no one says you have to do every spell in the hoodoo spellbook, right?

Controlling/”Bend Over” Spells – I saved these spells for last because I find them incredibly interesting.  They are so antithetical to the kind of magic I did for years, because they completely ignore the idea of non-manipulation.  These spells are all about manipulation, in fact.  Controlling spells (and their sister workings, “Compelling” and “Bend Over” spells) usually involve forcing another person to do what you want them to do.  Sometimes, as in the case of Compelling or Pay Me Now! spells, the force is simply making the target fulfill a promise they’ve already made.  But often these tricks are laid in order to keep an errant spouse from philandering about, or to make a boss give you that raise you’ve been after.  Using roots like licorice and calamus, as well as personal effects from the target (name papers are much less effective in this kind of work, in my experience), a rootworker can do a heckuva number on someone.  One of the most famous methods of using this kind of magic involves a woman putting a bit of her menstrual blood in her husband or lover’s food, thereby making him remain faithful to her.  She can also “tie his nature” by measuring his penis with a string, then soaking it in his semen and tying knots in it.  That way, he will find himself useless unless she releases him, which presumably will only happen when he’s with her.  It’s intense stuff!  But it also makes sense.  For many folks, these workings are last-resort measures.  In some cases—such as using Courtcase formulae or spitting galangal root juice on a courthouse floor—they are the only methods available to poor folks being ground down by the gears of the legal system.  Who wouldn’t want magical reassurance that the judge was on their side?  While I don’t recommend starting with these kinds of spells, I will say I’ve gotten to really like them over time.  They’ve proven useful, and a good rootworker knows how to set limits when using Controlling magic.

Like I said, this isn’t an exhaustive list of all hoodoo techniques and spells, but it should at least give you an idea what kinds of magic are available in the rootworking system.  As always, I recommend checking out the Lucky Mojo site for more info on many of these methods, and if you have any comments or questions, you can email us or leave a comment and I’ll be happy to respond!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 26 – Gravel Root/Joe Pye Weed

Today I’d like to discuss an ingredient found in both Native American medicinal practices and Southern conjure and root work.  The flowering herb known as both Gravel Root and Joe Pye Weed can be found throughout most of the eastern half of North America, including portions of Canada, Texas, and Florida.  Its botanical name is Eupatorium purpureum, and it is also sometimes known as Purple Boneset or Queen of the Meadow.

The story behind Joe Pye Weed stems back to a Native American named, aptly enough, Joe Pye, who used the root to heal typhus.  It’s been used in tisane form—both root and flower—to help with kidney problems (though I will recommend here that if you are considering drinking ANY tea made from an herb to consult with a health professional and be SURE you know what you’re drinking).  Foxfire 11 gives some good information on the traditional medicinal use of this wild herb.

The plant itself is often found as a wildflower in fields and “waste” spaces like construction zones (though it doesn’t last as long here).  It’s a perennial so if you cultivate it instead of wildcrafting you should see it coming back regularly.  Joe Pye can reach heights around four feet, so take that into account when planting it.  It can also reseed, so you might want to thin them occasionally.  It has flowers which range from white to pinkish to lavender and purple, and butterflies love it.

Its magical uses tend to be split depending on what part of the plant you’re using.  The leaves and flowers are considered “Queen of the Meadow,” and are not particularly used in traditional hoodoo, though I’ve seen it show up in a spell for success.  Catherine Yronwode mentions putting the flowers in a glass of water next to a burning candle to attract spirits and visions.  The root, which is often the most sought-after part of the plant, is a fantastic help in job-search, success, and luck magic.  I recently used a bit of Gravel Root in a mojo hand along with High John and a copy of Psalm 65 in order to help procure some magical aid with an academic pursuit, which turned out very well.

Joe Pye Root

You can find more on this herb/root in Catherine Yronwode’s Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic, as well as the websites listed below.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

More information:

Medicinal and identification information – http://www.altnature.com/gallery/joe_pye_weed.htm

Cultivation and propagation information – http://oldfashionedliving.com/joe-pye-weed.html

Folklore and Appalachian history – http://appalachianhistory.blogspot.com/2007/08/queen-of-meadow-cures-all.html

Blog Post 20 – Planting by the Signs, Practicum

Thank you for your patience, dear readers.  Today, we have a practical walkthrough for planting by the signs.

The crops: Potatoes, tomatoes, and beans
Starting date: 1 March 2010
Planting zone: 6

I include the planting zone because this version of planting by the signs will depend a little on frost-free dates.  Whatever the last frost free date is for your zone, you’ll want to use that as your guideline.  Everything I am about to explain is based on my area’s frost-free date around the 1st of April.

And we’re off!

Date(s): March 18-19, 23-24
Action(s): Plant sprouting seeds (tomatoes and beans) indoors in greenhouse, or sunny window pots.
Why: Taurus, Cancer, and Pisces are three of the best signs for planting, particularly above-ground crops.  While March 13-14th does have the moon entering Pisces, it’s also the tail end of a waning moon, which can inhibit growth.  Instead, the waxing first quarter on the 18-19th when the moon enters Taurus ensures sprouting in a fruitful, moist sign with a healthy increasing moon to encourage growth.  The 23-24th would also be reasonable for a later start to planting, when the moon is in Cancer and a waxing 3rd quarter.

Date(s): March 20-21, 27-28
Action(s): Cultivate, till, clear weeds.
Why?: The barren signs—Aries, Gemini, Leo, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Aquarius—are best for cultivating the soil, as planting during these times leads to less fruitful yields or no growth at all.  Because I will likely be sprouting seeds on the 18-19th, I like to prep the soil soon afterwards. True, the moon is waxing and almost full, so it might be better to wait until a dark moon/new moon to do so, but that would lead to a later planting, which I don’t want.   Cultivating the soil is less affected by the moon than planting is, so it’s less of a worry to me what phase the moon is in.

Date(s): April 5-6, 10-11
Action(s): Plant potatoes.
Why?:  The best sign for planting potatoes is Capricorn, a dry, productive Earth sign.  The moon enters Capricorn on the 5-6th, so that is a good time to plant them, but it is also worth paying attention to the moon phase here.  It’s only in its 3rd quarter, which isn’t the best for potatoes.  The “old” moon, or fourth quarter right before the new moon, is a great time for planting root crops (and also for gathering them, but we’ll get to that).  On the 10-11th, the moon is “old” and the sign is Pisces, which is good for planting in general, and especially for root growth.  Yes, I know I said a waning moon in Pisces was not great for growth just a bit ago, but that was for my sprouting crops.  My root crops should do just fine.

Date(s): April 15-16, 20-21, 28
Action(s): Transplant sprouts (if big enough) into garden bed.  Make sure you are past your frost-free date for this, and if your sprouts aren’t big enough, wait a few weeks before transplanting.  Check root growth before planting, too.  Beans will likely be ready by now, but tomatoes may have to wait a while.
Why?: The best signs for planting and transplanting are Taurus, Pisces, Cancer, and Scorpio.  Pisces, as we noted with potatoes, is in a waning moon however, so I ruled those dates out for planting.  Taurus is a great sign for planting and comes right as the moon begins waxing on the 15-16th, so that’s a great time to plant.  The 20-21st is ruled by Cancer, and is another good planting time with a waxing moon.  The 28th is a full moon in Scorpio, and probably the best day for transplanting tomatoes (sturdy vines like Scorpio for some reason).

Date(s): May 13-14, 17-18, 26-27
Action(s): Transplant sprouts if they weren’t big enough in April.
Why?: This is the same progression of signs (Taurus, Cancer, Scorpio) from April, with the same waxing-to-full moon phase pattern.

From here, it could get a bit tangled if I tried to keep explaining individual plantings the way I have been, because germination times are going to vary.  Most plants will be fruiting between 60-90 days, but that’s still a big window, and you will likely continue to have growth after the initial fruiting (if you live in a zone with 200+ growing days like me, you hopefully will get at least two good harvests).   So what I’m going to do next is describe a specific activity (such as pruning, harvesting fruit, harvesting roots, etc.) and give you a date along with the sign.  If you want a good description of each of the signs individually and why I’ve selected the dates I have, a concise description of moon signs and their properties can be found here.  I put information on New and Full Moons where I can, but you may need to look up at the sky a few times before making decisions about harvesting.

Weeding (Aries, Gemini, Leo, Aquarius)
June – 2-3 (Aquarius), 6-7 (Aries), 11-12 (Gemini), 15-17 (Leo), 28-29 (Aquarius)
July – 3-4 (Aries), 8-9 (Gemini), 12-13 (Leo), 25-27 (Aquarius)
August – 1 (Aries), 4-5 (Gemini), 8-9 (Leo), 21-23 (Aquarius), 27-28 (Aries)
September – 1-2(Gemini), 5-6 (Leo), 18-9 (Aquarius), 23-24 (Aries), 28-29 (Gemini)

Fertilizing (Capricorn)
June – 25-27 (Full Moon on 26th)
July – 23-24
August – 19-20

Harvesting Fruit (Aries, Gemini, Leo, Aquarius) (Full-to-Waning Moons are best for harvesting)
June – 2-3 (Aquarius), 6-7 (Aries), 11-12 (Gemini), 15-17 (Leo), 28-29 (Aquarius)
July – 3-4 (Aries), 8-9 (Gemini), 12-13 (Leo), 25-27 (Aquarius, Full Moon on 25th)
August – 1 (Aries), 4-5 (Gemini), 8-9 (Leo), 21-23 (Aquarius), 27-28 (Aries)
September – 1-2(Gemini), 5-6 (Leo), 18-9 (Aquarius), 23-24 (Aries, Full Moon on 24th), 28-29 (Gemini)

Harvesting Roots/Tubers (Aries, Gemini, Leo, Aquarius) (Waning-to-New Moons are best for harvesting)
June – 2-3 (Aquarius), 6-7 (Aries), 11-12 (Gemini), 15-17 (Leo), 28-29 (Aquarius)
July – 3-4 (Aries), 8-9 (Gemini), 12-13 (Leo), 25-27 (Aquarius)
August – 1 (Aries), 4-5 (Gemini), 8-9 (Leo, New Moon on 9th), 21-23 (Aquarius), 27-28 (Aries)
September – 1-2(Gemini), 5-6 (Leo), 18-19 (Aquarius), 23-24 (Aries), 28-29 (Gemini)

There are all sorts of other aspects of this that I could go into, such as when to can, when to plant herbs, etc.  If there’s enough interest in this topic, I might do more on it, but for now, this should give you a fairly solid overview of the process as it would happen this year.

The signs don’t just affect planting and harvesting, by the way.  Seasonal hunting, fishing, and building projects can be coordinated astrologically, and there are lots of healing techniques and beliefs associated with specific signs.  Maybe someday I’ll get around to writing about those, but for now I hope you’ve enjoyed this little discourse on planting by the signs.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 18 – Planting by the Signs, an Introduction

What makes the cornfields glad; beneath what star it befits to upturn the ground…and clasp the vine to her elm; the tending of oxen and the charge of the keeper of a flock; and all the skill of thrifty bees; of this will I begin to sing.

-Virgil, Georgics, Book I

Spring is just around the corner, and so my mind naturally turns to gardening.  I love the process of gardening—planting, harvesting, & canning and freezing everything from my vegetable and fruit garden; seeing my herbs grow from seed and sprout into gorgeous greenery; and seeing and smelling flowers as they bloom through the warm days and nights of the year.

There’s a long-standing relationship between magic and gardening.  One need only look to texts like Culpepper’s Herbal or the Anglo-Saxon poem of the nine sacred herbs to see that.  I think it’s something about the alchemy of turning seeds and dirt into food and flowers that seems like the simplest and purest kind of magic.

At any rate, I’m waxing poetic here, and I’m sure you’re wondering just what I’m getting at.  Well, today (and this week) I’m going to be exploring the phenomenon of “planting by the signs.”  This astro-agricultural practice is not unique to the New World, true.  Even the great Roman poet, Virgil, devoted an entire text to it, the Georgics, quoted at the beginning of this post.  But it was a tremendously important way of life for people from the Appalachians to the Mississippi, and really throughout most of North America.

The basic process of this practice involves calculating planetary hours and moon phases, and then using those as guidelines regarding which plants to put in the ground and at what time and day.  Each day of the month is ruled by a specific zodiac sign, and falls within a waxing, waning, new, full, or old moon.  Some signs are considered “fruitful” and others “barren.”  There’s an excellent overview of these characteristics and their daily correspondences at http://www.thealmanack.com/moonsign.htm.   The first book in the Foxfire series has a great article on this topic, as well as a great chart for understanding planting signs.

Some of the rules governing sign-based planting are as follows:

  • Planting is best done in the fruitful signs of Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, or Cancer
  • Plow, till, and cultivate in Aries
  • Never plant anything in one of the barren signs.  They are good only for trimming, deadening, and destroying.
  • Gather root crops in the last quarter of the moon
  • Harvest most crops when the moon is growing old.
  • Dig root crops for seed in the third quarter of the moon

(Examples taken from Foxfire 1)

There are other astrological correspondences as well, governing things like weaning children, hatching eggs, slaughtering livestock, etc.  But for the time being, I’m just going to focus on the vegetative side of this phenomenon.

The one tool (other than a plow, shovel, etc.) that a witch planting by the signs would need is a good almanac.  The one linked above (and also here) is a good one, though many prefer to get an almanac they can hold in their hands.  Some of the recommended almanacs are:
Grier’s Almanac – Continuously published since 1807, this one is very useful for Southerners.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac – A little harder to read and stuffed with ads, but it has some good info and it’s easy to find.
The Waterman & Hill-Traveler’s Companion, a Natural Almanac – Anything with a title this long is going to be full of interesting tidbits.  Sadly, it seems to have ceased production in 2007 due to the death of its founder, but it’s possible it may yet come back someday.

Another great resource for this is your local co-op.  A lot of times they will have local almanacs, or at least fliers and leaflets about regional planting practices, often related to sign-based planting.  Check out  your area feed store or co-op for more information.

If you want to refine your planting even further, you can determine the correct hour for planting by determining the ruling sign of that part of the day or night.  I’m borrowing from my friend Oraia here and recommending the Renaissance Astrology Page for determining that information.

I’ll try to put together a nice, detailed walkthrough example of this type of planting for later in the week, but for now this should give you a good starting point.  If you have any stories of planting by the signs, I’d love to hear them!

Be well, and thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 16 – An Introduction to Pow-wow, Part III

Hi folks!  Here is the final installment in my introductory Pow-wow series.  I hope you’re enjoying them!  Now, on to the magic!

Where can I find out more about Pow-wow?

There are many phenomenal resources on this subject.  Here are some of the books I like:

The Red Church, by Chris Bilardi
American Shamans, by Jack Montgomery
Signs, Cures, & Witchery, by Gerald C. Milne
Buying the Wind, by Richard M. Dorson (chapter on “Pennsylvania Dutchmen”)

And, of course, Pow-wows; or The Long Lost Friend, by John George Hohman (also available free at sacred-texts.com).

Additionally, I like this website and its accompanying newsletter:
Three Sisters Center for the Healing Arts

There are other books and resources which I’ve encountered either by proxy or by reputation which I’d also recommend seeking out, though I cannot give a strong opinion on their validity myself, yet:

Strange Experience: The Autobiography of a Hexenmeister, by Lee R. Gandee
Hex and Spellwork, by Karl Herr
The Pennsylvania German Broadside, by Don Yoder
The Pennsylvania German Society

Some Pow-wow Charms & Proverbs

Finally, as promised, here are some Pow-wow charms you can try out yourself.  I’d love to hear how they work for you, so please feel free to leave comments or email us about your results!  Please also note that I provide these for cultural, spiritual, and magical value.  They do not replace conventional medical or legal advice; please see a professional if you have needs in those areas.

First, a few from Hohman’s book:

HOW TO BANISH THE FEVER.

Write the following words upon a paper and wrap it up in knot-grass, and then tie it upon the body of the person who has the fever:

Potmat sineat,
Potmat sineat,
Potmat sineat.

TO STOP BLEEDING.

I walk through a green forest;
There I find three wells, cool and cold;
The first is called courage,
The second is called good,
And the third is called stop the blood

TO REMOVE BRUISES AND PAINS.

Bruise, thou shalt not heat;
Bruise, thou shalt not sweat;
Bruise, thou shalt not run,
No-more than Virgin Mary shall bring forth another son.
+ + +

(The three “+” signs at the end indicate making three crosses in the air over the patient or afflicted area, also sometimes saying the three High Names of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost)

ANOTHER WAY TO STILL-BIND THIEVES.

Ye thieves, I conjure you, to be obedient like Jesus Christ, who obeyed his Heavenly Father unto the cross, and to stand without moving out of my sight, in the name of the Trinity. I command you by the power of God and the incarnation of Jesus Christ, not to move out of my sight, + + + like Jesus Christ was standing on Jordan’s stormy banks to be baptized by John. And furthermore, I conjure you, horse and rider, to stand still and not to move out of my sight, like Jesus Christ did stand when he was about to be nailed to the cross to release the fathers of the church from the bonds of hell.. Ye thieves, I bind you with the same bonds with which Jesus our Lord has bound hell; and thus ye shall be bound; + + + and the same words that bind you shall also release you.

(The conventional wisdom on releasing the thief is that the entire spell must be read backwards.  It’s nice to hold all the cards sometimes.  This charm is almost entirely lifted from entry #22 of the Romanus Buchlein, or Little Book of the Roma, a late 18th century grimoire and prayer book).

Here is a pair of charms which I am citing from Jack Montgomery’s American Shamans, but which he cites from an article entitled “Magical Medical Practice in South Carolina,” from Popular Science Monthly, 1907:

TO HEAL A SPRAIN

Christian Version

“Our Lord rode, his foal’s foot slade [slid],
Down he lighted, his foal’s foot righted,
Bone to bone,
Sinew to sinew,
Flesh to flesh,
Heal, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  Amen”

Pagan Version

“Phol and Woden went to the wood, there was Balder’s colt his foot wrenched,
Then Sinthgunt charmed it and Sunna her sister,
Then Frua charmed it and Volla her sister, then Woden charmed it as he well could,
As well the bone-wrench,
As the blood-wrench,
Bone to bone,
Blood to blood,
Joint to joint,
As if they were glued together.”

(Montgomery, American Shamans, p. 102)

A classic Pow-wow blood-stopping charm, also from Jack Montgomery (and derived from a passage in Ezekiel, I believe):

And when I passed by thee and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. (p. 253)

Here’s a more modern charm for protection during automobile travel:

“This is a written prayer that is used for protecting cars and other vehicles.  It can be simply folded and placed in the glovebox.

Our Heavenly Father, we ask this day a particular blessing.  As we take the wheel of our car, grant us safe passage through all the perils of trouble.  Shelter those who accompany us and provide us from harm by Thy mercy.  Steady our hands and quicken our eyes that we may never take another’s life.  Guide us to our destination safely, confident in the knowledge that Thy blessing be with us through darkness and light, sunshine and showers, forever and ever.  Amen.” (Bilardi, The Red Church, p. 284)

And I’ll conclude with a few proverbs from the Pennsylvania Dutch, as recorded in Buying the Wind, by Richard M. Dorson (pp.138-141).  Note that “German” here connotes the Pennsylvania-German dialect, not necessarily European German.

-German:  D’r hammer wert aus faerm ambos.
-English:  The anvil outlasts the hammer.

-German:  Waers erscht in di mil kummt grikt’s erscht gimale.
-English:  He that cometh first to the mill, grindeth first.

-German:  En blini sau finnt a alsemol en echel.
-English:  Even a blind pig will sometimes find an acorn.

I hope this series has been informative to you!  This won’t be the last time Pow-wow comes up here, of course, but I think it may be enough to get your feet wet on the subject.  If you try out any of these charms and have results to report or have any thoughts on the different folklore and opinions recorded here, I hope you will leave a comment or send an email and share them with us.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 13 – Crown of Success

One of the things I hope to do on this blog is provide information on specific tools, formulae, ingredients, and objects used in American folk magic.  I hope that these blogs and podcasts will help the eager American witch to develop his or her practice by incorporating these components, or at the very least educate him or her about the different products available in the folk magic marketplace.

Today, I thought I’d focus on the hoodoo formula known as Crown of Success.  I’ve been using that one a lot lately, and it’s one of the ones I almost always have on hand or steeping in my pantry.  I’m sure many people could use a bit more success in their lives, so it’s a good one to have around for quick spellwork.

The recipe varies a bit from maker to maker, but almost all have a few ingredients in common:

  • Bay (as in bay laurel, not the bay which provides Jamaican bay rum)
  • Frankincense
  • Iron pyrite (“fool’s gold”)

There are several ingredients I’ve seen used interchangeably with key ingredients; lodestone can be used instead of pyrite, for example, since it acts as an “attractant” curio.  Likewise, some folks add gold flakes or glitter to the formula because of the association between gold and money/glory/success.  Additional herbs, roots, and curios can include things like master-of-the-woods, deer’s tongue, cinquefoil (also known as five-finger grass), sandalwood, vetiver, dragon’s-blood, etc.

Harry M. Hyatt records an informant in his Hoodoo – Conjuration – Witchcraft – Rootwork compendium who describes a mojo bag for success containing a lodestone, liquid mercury/quicksilver, iron filings, and a black cat bone (Volume 2, p. 1506).  WARNING!  Do NOT use liquid mercury under any circumstances—it is highly toxic and will cause damage or death if handled.  The black cat bone referred to is likely the magical talisman obtained (rather cruelly) by boiling a black cat alive in a magical ceremony and then collecting the bone in a special ritual.  I do NOT advise this, merely present it as a piece of folklore.  The modern formulae for Crown of Success do not depend on either deadly mercury or ritualized animal slaughter.

As far as how to use this particular formula, Lucky Mojo has an excellent page on Crown of Success formula at their site so I won’t go into much detail here.  Very generally, anything that involves gaining favor or accomplishing a goal—things like acing job interviews, applying for loans or grants, or mastering a new skill—can benefit from the inclusion of this product.

My own personal formulation of this recipe (for the oil version of it)  includes the following:

  • Bay leaves & oil
  • Cinquefoil
  • Frankincense tears & oil
  • Sandalwood chips & oil
  • Vetivert (herb & oil, if available)

In the master jar I also keep a rolled piece of paper with this line from Psalm 65 on it:

“Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; And thy paths drop fatness.” (Ps. 65:11)

There are several reliable sources for this oil out there.  I have to plug our shop, Compass & Key Apothecary, of course (forgive the rather paltry site, we’ll be revamping it soon, but you can certainly order any of our oils there).  But I would also heartily recommend Lucky Mojo’s Crown of Success products and Music City Mojo’s oils or mojo hands.  Based on the reputation of the root workers (as opposed to the individual products which I’ve used in the previous two examples), I would also go out on a limb and say that Toad’s Bone Apotheca and Forest Grove Botanica could both mix up a good blend of success formula if you ask them nicely.

One product I will recommend avoiding is Anna Riva’s Crown of Success.  It doesn’t smell “right,” and I’ve never had much luck using her oils in general.  Your mileage may vary, of course, and if you’ve had good luck with her products, I’d love to know about it.

That’s about it for this root work formula.  If you’d like to share your stories about working with it, we’re always happy to hear them.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory