Posted tagged ‘lucky mojo’

Podcast 13 – Lucky 13

August 13, 2010

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 13-

Summary
On this, our Lucky 13th episode, released on Friday the 13th, we’re looking at luck charms and where they come from.  We’ve also got a money bowl spell in WitchCraft, and Van Van oil in Spelled Out.

Play:

Download:  New World Witchery – Episode 13

-Sources-
We reference lots of sources, including:
-Cat Yronwode’s Lucky W Amulet Archive
-The Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris
-Harry M. Hyatt’s Hoodoo – Conjuration – Witchcraft – Rootwork
-The article “Charles Chestnutt & the Doctrine of Conjuration”) by Bettye Jo Crissler Carr
-Judika Illes’s book Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells
Ozark Magic & Folklore by Vance Randolph
-The Chan Chu money frog of Chinese lore
-Richard Dorson’s Buying the Wind

Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
Promo 1- Witchery of One
Promo 2- Media Astra ac Terra
Promo 3- Borealis Meditation
Promo 4 – Iron Powaqa

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Blog Post 79 – Lucky Rabbit’s Foot

August 11, 2010

For today’s post, I’m looking at the folklore and magic surrounding one of the most ubiquitous pieces of conjure paraphernalia, the rabbit’s foot.  There are plenty of theories about this particular luck charm, but not much that can be definitely put down regarding its origin or provenance.  Rabbit foot charms have been around since at least the mid-to-late 19th century in North America, and likely predate the Civil War.  They are used for general luck, gambling aids, love enhancers, and other areas where a bit of extra luck might help.

A quick word of warning, however.  Many of the sources I’ll be citing in this post also date from earlier eras, and thus have a great deal of offensive material in them.  There are words that appear here which would likely incite violence if used lightly today, so please understand that I present them here as a piece of the folklore to which they belong.  Just as a smart modern magician finds a reasonable substitution for liquid quicksilver/mercury (and thus avoids madness and poisoning), a wise student of folklore and folk magic remembers that just because a sentiment appears in print doesn’t make it right or appropriate.

There, now let’s move on to some of the good stuff about rabbits’ feet.

Catherine Yronwode provides information on the rabbit’s foot on her Lucky W Amulet Archive, describing  the foot as catalogue offerings from the early-to-mid twentieth century:

As for the foot itself, a circa-1940 mail order catalogue from the Standard O and B Supply Company, a Chicago-based distributor of African-American hoodoo material, offered undyed rabbit foot charms “made with a metal band and a link to attach on chain.” The Johnson-Smith Novelty Company offered identical charms in its 1941 catalogue. The advertisement shown here goes these one better and promises a free vial of Van Van oil with each rabbit’s foot; the formula is a Louisiana hoodoo favourite that “clears away that evil mess” and increases the strength of any good luck charm to which it is applied. Since none of the older catalogues or ads mention any colour when describing rabbit’s foot charms, it can be assumed that the items were undyed and came only in natural tan or white.

She goes on to talk about her uncertainty regarding why a rabbit’s foot might be so lucky:

Why is the rabbit foot lucky? I am not sure. Rabbits are swift and they reproduce prolifically, but the luck of the rabbit foot is monetary and sexual; as far as i know, it is not related to swiftness or fertility. There is considerable evidence that the lucky rabbit foot is a remnant of an African clan totem, an importation related somehow to Br’er Rabbit, the famous protagonist of an African trickster-god myth-cycle.

Yronwode points out that the rabbit’s foot appears in the famous Uncle Remus stories, written by Joel Chandler Harris in 1881.  In a tale entitled “Brother Rabbit and his Famous Foot,” Uncle Remus describes the tricky Br’er (or Brother) Rabbit’s prosperity-drawing mojo bag (which he refers to as a money purse, or dialectically a “money-pus”):

Brer Wolf look at de money-pus, en see w’at in it. Hit ‘uz one er deze yer kinder money-pus wid tossle on de een’ en shiny rings in de middle. Brer Wolf look in afar fer ter see w’at he kin see. In one een’ dey wuz a piece er calamus-root en some collard-seeds, en in de tier een’ dey wuz a great big rabbit foot (Harris p. 223)

So even a rabbit carries a rabbit’s foot for luck and money.  How’s that for strange?  But why is it so lucky?  In a 1973 thesis on conjuration in the works of African-American author (and somewhat accidental folklorist) Charles Chestnutt, Bettye Jo Crisler Carr uncovers some possible reasons behind this talisman:

One might have expected Chesnutt to refer to ghosts who haunt graves, to witches ‘riding’ their hapless victims by night, to conjurers tying bits of roots in tiny bags to ward off evil. But surely his reference to the efficacy of ‘de lef hin’ foot er a graveya’d rabbit, killt by a cross-eyed nigger on a da’k night in de full er de moon’—surely that is something Chesnutt (or Uncle Julius, who seems equally real) has made out of whole cloth.

An examination of folklore sources, however, justifies Chesnutt’s requirements for the rabbit-foot good-luck charm. An informant from Atlanta states that the talisman must, indeed, be the ‘left hind foot of a graveyard rabbit.  Mary Owen, recording her collected tales prior to 1893, adds to the requirement that it must be ‘de lef hine-foot ob er grabe-yahd rabbit kilt in de dahk o’ de moon.’ A Memphis informant states further that the graveyard rabbit must have been killed by a cross-eyed person. Louise Pendleton, also writing before the publication of Chesnutt’s stories, comments that the use of the rabbit foot for good luck ‘may be traced to the fetishism, or worship of guardian spirits dwelling in inanimate objects, of their African ancestors.’ (Carr,  “Charles Chestnutt & the Doctrine of Conjuration”)

So now we can see the process of making the charm has something to do with its luck associations.  If a cross-eyed person could catch a rabbit in a graveyard in the dark, he would indeed have to be very lucky, and thus his luck might transfer to the animal’s foot (this is a bit of a stretch for a reason, in my opinion, but there certainly seems to be a specific tradition involved in collecting this talisman).  Much of this lore is corroborated by Harry M. Hyatt in his five-volume compendium on African-American folk magic, Hoodoo – Conjuration – Witchcraft – Rootwork.   Two prime examples are included here:

Vol.2,p.1541

A RABBIT’S LEFT HIND LEG, TAKEN WHILE THE ANIMAL IS STILL WARM
AND SEWN INTO A BAG, SHOULD BE CARRIED WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES,
AND KEPT UNDER YOUR PILLOW AT NIGHT FOR LUCK.

If yo’ wanta go git a job agin, yo’ could use a rabit’s foot – yo’ use a rabbit’s left foot. Ketch a rabbit, if yo’ kin kill him; if yo’ can’t ketch it, kill it. Well, befo’ he gits cold, take de left laig of dis rabbit off. (Front or back?) De back laig. Take de back laig off while it’s warm an’ yo’ sew it up in some cloth an’ when yo’ go tuh bed at night, yo’ jes’ carry it an’ push it in yore pillah. If yo’ git up tuh go in de daytime, wear it in yore pocket or either yo’ could have it in yore stockin’. Put it in yore hat or shoe or anything an’ jes’ keep it wit chew all de time. Yo’ll have good luck wit de rabbit’s left hind laig. (When you are going out to get a job?) Yes sir.

[Savannah, GA; Madam Pauline; Informant #1274. C575:1-C586:10 = 2136-2167.]

Vol.2,pp.1486-7

A CHARM TO CARRY

BURY THE RIGHT FRONT FOOT OF A RABBIT IN THE CEMETERY.
AFTER NINE DAYS AND NINE NIGHTS, DISINTER IT.
WEAR IT ON A CHAIN OR FASHION IT INTO SOMETHING SIMILAR TO WEAR
AND CARRY IT WITH YOU.

You take off his right feet, yo’ bury it in de cemetery – let it stay dere fo’ nine days an’ nights. Yo’ go an’ git it out from under dere an’ make yo’ a chain an’ put it on yo’ fo’ a locket or either, yo’ know, yo’ kin jes’ have it made into somethin’ den – yo’ know, somethin’-like. Dat’s de rabbit foot. [She laughs.] Den y’ jis’
tote it wit yo’ or either place it fo’ a watch charm or anythin’ like dat – right feet, jes’ one, de front.

[Waycross, GA; Informant # 1125 (Contact man Edwards’s landlady); Cylinder C235:4-C250: 1 = 1816-1831, and C384:1-C392: 5 = 1965-1973]

One of the common threads to the rabbit’s foot seems to be an intimacy with death or the dead.  The rabbit must be freshly killed (or “warm”) or found in a cemetery.  This may have something to do with its luck.  The dead are able to provide luck to the living in some folkloric accounts, and a magical animal like a rabbit which becomes tied to the dead may well be “running” luck back and forth from them to you.  If you are interested in more spells like the two immediately above, by the way, you can find many of Hyatt’s spells transcribed in the Hyatt Spells Yahoo! Group.  If you manage to find actual text volumes of his work and you have an interest in folk magic, buy them.  They will be worth it.

Finally, Ozark folklorist Vance Randolph records a couple of uses of the rabbit’s foot charm in his Ozark Magic & Folklore:

  • Some healers claim to cure hiccoughs by rubbing a rabbit’s foot on the back of the patient’s neck unexpectedly.
  • I recall a girl near Lanagan, Missouri, who wore a peach stone love-charm on one garter and a rabbit’s foot fastened to the other.

This particular lucky charm can be found throughout North America, often sold in roadside stores, children’s candy-and-prize machines, and even gas stations.   It’s commonly rubbed to actually activate the luck, and “fed” with an oil like Fast Luck or Van Van on a regular basis.  If you happen to have one of these in keychain or charm form, I’d love to hear your experiences with it.  Have rabbit’s feet ever brought you extra luck?  Or, as the joke is often made, is it just “unlucky for the rabbit”?

Thanks for reading (and reading and reading)!

-Cory

Podcast 12 – Spell Failures

August 2, 2010

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 12-

Summary
This episode is a follow-up to our recent special on spell successes.  We look at spells that have not ended successfully, and discuss how we reacted to these failures.  In WitchCraft, Laine looks at the magic of calligraphy, and in Spelled Out, Cory examines the Green Devil Pay Me Now Spell.

Play:

Download:  New World Witchery – Episode 12

-Sources-
Our own experiences, of course!

We also mentioned the book Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells by Judika Illes again.
Laine mentioned the book Learn Calligraphy, by Margaret Shepherd in the WitchCraft segment.
Cory referenced the Lucky Mojo site as a source for things like the green devil figural candles and Pay Me incense in the Spelled Out segment.
Other sites to find Pay Me-type products (many don’t have “Pay Me Now” oil, but various kinds of commanding and money-drawing incenses and oils, which can be used in a similar way):  Queen of Pentacles Conjure, Music City Mojo, Forest Grove Botanica, Toads Bone Apotheca, and The Conjure Doctor.

Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
Promo 1 – Inciting a Riot
Promo 2-  Pennies in the Well

Podcast 11 – Magical Tools

June 3, 2010

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 11-

Summary
Today we announce the upcoming break due to Cory’s grad school (don’t worry, we’ll be back sooner than you think!).  Then we talk about magical tools in American witchcraft, and we have our WitchCraft and Spelled Out segments.

Play:

Download:  New World Witchery – Episode 11

-Sources-
Mules & Men, by Zora Neale Hurston – mentioned in the show
Lucky Mojo site – particularly rabbits’ feet, gator parts, and raccoon bones
Hoodoo Root & Herb Magic, by Catherine Yronwode – lots of info on magical curios
Mojo:  Conjure Stories, by Nalo Hopkinson – the book I’m reading now which I mentioned when discussing gator heads

Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
Promo 1 – Iron Powaqa
Promo 2-  Witches’ Brewhaha

Blog Post 31 – Who’s Who in Hoodoo, part deux (Intro, Part III)

March 17, 2010

Today, I’m going to tackle of few of the modern rootworkers I know and/or admire.  This is most certainly is not a comprehensive list of professional hoodoo practitioners in North America, so please don’t start throwing rotten vegetables at me for not listing one of your favorite rootworkers.  But DO feel free to leave a comment on this post with the name/contact info of any professional hoodoo you think the world should know about!

Okay, on with the show!

Modern Rootworkers

Catherine Yronwode – I believe she actually prefers “catherine yronwode,” without capitalization.  If you are reading about hoodoo on the web and you don’t know who she is yet, you should immediately head over to the Lucky Mojo page and read her online text on the history and practice of hoodoo.  She is probably one of the most prominent profiles in modern conjure work, and she runs one of the biggest supply houses for magical and occult goods specializing in traditional hoodoo recipes and formulae.  Yronwode was featured in Christine Wicker’s Not in Kansas Anymore, which profiled magical practitioners across the United States.  She was also a famous comic book artist back in the 1970’s, and judging by the colorful designs on her wares, I’d say she still has an eye for a good picture.  She’s also been instrumental in keeping hoodoo a vital, living tradition rooted in history but adapting to modern times.  Her course for prospective students of hoodoo is almost a pre-requisite for any rootworker, and her Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers provides a stamp of quality which ensures that those seeking magical help don’t get ripped off.   Seriously, if you’re reading this and don’t know who she is, go to Lucky Mojo right now!

Dr. Christos KioniThis Florida-based rootworker is host of the Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour.  He is also one of the best known professional conjure men working today, and the active owner of the MyHoodooSpace website.  Dr. K also works very hard to preserve the African Diasporic traditions (such as the ATR practices discussed in the introductory post on hoodoo earlier this week.  I think he works both with the left hand and the right (meaning he will curse if he sees a need for it), though I’m basing that on some of the discussions from his radio show and he may well have changed ideologies since then.  He was also mentioned in Not in Kansas Anymore, and actually knows where to find the grave of Zora Neale Hurston (which very few folks do).  He is definitely a big personality, but he has a friendly and warm demeanor about him, and I believe he’s got a fairly high rate of success with his work, too.  He also happens to be friends with cat yronwode (if you didn’t guess that from the name of his radio program).  As he says of himself “I can hit a straight lick with a crooked stick!”

Michaele Maurer – Miss Michaele (pronounced mi-KAY-luh, I believe) is the owner of the Hoodoo Foundry, a site dedicated to traditional rootwork.  One of the reasons I really like her practice is that she focuses on Southern-style rootwork, including a lot of Bibliomancy and using Biblical prayers and magic to accomplish her goals (not that I think all great rootworkers are Bible-thumping Christians, mind you…see Karma Zain or Papa Toad Bone for contrast).  I really value her deeply traditionalist approach, however, and I also like that she has a broad range of reading styles, including tarot, pendulum, and ceromancy (reading candle wax).  She’s not one who does jinxing or crossing work, but she does at least acknowledge that sometimes it is justified and she helps clients needing those services to find a root worker who will attempt those tricks.   She seems to be very tender-hearted and kind, and works for the good of her clients with deep sincerity.

Starr – An old-fashioned Southern hoodoo woman from Texas, Starr has been steeped in conjure work for most of her life.  She’s quite sassy and funny, and also very straightforward.  She’s another traditionalist who works closely with Christian religious figures, including Saints.  While much of her work is focused on things like spiritual cleansing, sweetening, and healing, she also does vinegar jars, hot foot workings, and as she puts it, “I will do separation and break up work on a case by case basis if so guided by the spirit.”  She also runs the Old Style Conjure site, and offers mini-courses which compliment a broader study of hoodoo quite nicely.

Karma Zain – Ms. Zain is not only a great rootworker, she’s also a bishop in the Franco-Haitian Gnostic Vodoun tradition.  I know, I’ve said I really like old-style conjurers who stick to certain historical precepts regarding the incorporation of Biblical elements, but that doesn’t mean I think all good hoodoo men and women must be Judeo-Christian.   Karma Zain proves that point, because besides being a Vodoun bishop, she’s an honest, straightforward worker who isn’t afraid to say “no” to a client if she doesn’t feel their cause warrants the action they ask for.  She’s the kind of rootworker who isn’t afraid to dig in the dirt and use the less savory curios like bone fragments and fur.  She seems like an incredibly down-to-earth and sensible woman, and one I wouldn’t want t cross!

Papa Toad Bone – This Mississippi based conjure man is the proprietor of the Toad’s Bone Apotheca, one of the funkiest and witchiest sites I’ve seen.  Just looking at his webpage makes me want to lay a trick or two or take a walk to the crossroads.  He’s also Pagan, and very much a non-Christian kind of Pagan, again proving that great conjurers needn’t be entirely wrapped up in the Biblical worldview.  I’ve known him through several different avenues over the last couple of years, and he’s always struck me as someone who really spends time with spirits and understands them incredibly well (I think he even found a great way to play card games with them, but hopefully I’ll get him to tell about that at some point).  He’s also a nitty-gritty sort of worker, spending a good deal of time out in the swamps and wild places gathering materials for his shop and clients.  Again, someone I wouldn’t want to cross, and a rootworker who gets things done.

Carolina Gonzalez – Another Pagan rootworker, Ms. Gonzalez incorporates her Latin roots into her magic, offering a particularly unique blend of brujeria, hoodoo, and witchcraft to her clients.  She runs The Hoodoo Shop on Etsy, and she’s the resident hoodoo expert for sites like The Noble Pagan and The Modern Pagan.  She’s located in the Canary Islands, proof that hoodoo is a worldwide phenomenon at this point.  Her site offers her products as well as courses and LOTS of great information from her many different areas of expertise.

Sarah Lawless – I certainly can’t leave out Sarah, a friend to New World Witchery and a heckuva witch and conjure woman in her own right.  She practices her root work out in the wilds of British Columbia, carefully adapting the fundamental practices of traditional Southern rootwork to her immediate environment.  We’ve talked to and about her a lot on this blog, so rather than sound like a rampaging fan boy, I will simply suggest you go check out her blog and store and see how magical she is for yourself.

Stephanie Palm – The wonderful proprietress of Music City Mojo, and my personal hoodoo teacher.  She is not one to pull punches or sugar-coat things, though she is also incredibly warm and friendly.  Stephanie is the High Priestess of a Traditional Witchcraft coven, as well as a devotee of Vodoun.  She’s a gifted teacher, as well as a gifted conjure woman, and she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty in a graveyard or to lay down a jinx if the situation calls for it.  More importantly, she isn’t afraid to let someone know that the situation DOESN’T call for a jinx.  I really could go on and on about how much I adore her and how thankful I am to her for all she’s taught me, but for now I’ll just say that if you’re looking for someone who knows their stuff, she’s one to talk to.

I know there are lots more rootworkers out there, and I’d love to hear about them from all of you, so please feel free to post a comment on this blog about your favorite hoodoo men and women.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 29 – An Introduction to Hoodoo, Part I

March 15, 2010

This week I’ll be focusing on something that seems to generate a lot of interest:  hoodoo.  This is one of my personal favorites when it comes to magical systems, because it is incredibly practical and anyone can do it.  Plus, it doesn’t shy away from the less savory side of magic, but fully acknowledges that curses exist and must be dealt with (and sometimes dealt out when other attempts at justice have failed).

A (VERY Brief) History
Let’s start by getting the confusing terminology out of the way.  Often, the terms “hoodoo,” “conjure,” and “root work” or “rootwork” will appear as synonyms.  Adding to the confusion, most people also mix “voodoo” into this lexical stewpot.  Hoodoo, however, is NOT Voodoo/Vodoun—the former is a magical system not particularly affiliated with any specific religion, and the latter is a very distinct religion.  The confusion between the two stems from the fact that both are outgrowths of something called African Traditional Religion (or ATR for short).  There are other ATR’s which exist, primarily in South America and the Caribbean, but I’ll leave a discussion of those to someone more knowledgeable than myself.  When African slaves were brought to the West Indies, their native religion mixed with the folk practices of the indigenous tribes on the islands and the Christianity of their European captors.  Vodoun evolved over time, primarily in places like Haiti, as well as coming onto American soil through places like New Orleans.

Many modern Vodoun practitioners are very committed to the ATR religious powers, such as Legba, Oshun, and Yemaya (variants on spelling and pronunciation occur depending on where you are and to whom you’re speaking).  The Voodoo which grew up in New Orleans is quite different from the Vodoun in Haiti, though they do share many common elements.  Zora Neale Hurston’s excellent book Mules and Men details much of this overlap (though I advise readers to take this book with a grain of salt, as some of her folklore is a bit embellished and may not present an accurate picture of her subjects).

A big part of Voodoo, though, was a belief in magic and animism.  While Catholicism (dominant in the islands and French-and-Spanish-influenced Southern coastal regions) was fairly adoptive of these ideas so long as they were couched in terminology like “miracles” and “Saints,” slaves transplanted to Protestant-dominated areas found the religious side of Voodoo quashed.  The numerous spirits and beings found in Voodoo’s pantheon were stripped away, and what was left was a magical system detached from its religious side.  Other ATR’s also met the same fate as they moved into the white, Protestant-dominated sections of the United States.  Beliefs in “witchcrafting” and other magical practices go back to at least the beginning of the 19th century among African-American populations, completely removed from any ATR associations, or any deeply religious connection at all.  Only the practical side of the work was still available to the slaves brutally oppressed in Colonial America, as it was often their only real recourse to justice in any way.

Once this practical magic started working its mojo, so to speak, it began to grow in new ways.  It encountered new herbs via contact with another overrun people, the Native Americans.  European folklore, especially German and Anglo-Irish tales, provided new fodder for the developing system.  And the availability of particular regional curios and ingredients shaped the evolving practice.

So is it Hoodoo, Conjure, or Root Work?
In general, the terms “hoodoo,” “conjure,” and “root  work” still get used interchangeably.  “Hoodoo” is common in the gulf coastal regions, “conjure” in places like Memphis and the mid-South, and “root work” in the Atlantic coastal regions.  All terms, however, can be generally found in all places, so don’t be surprised at the overlap.  Additionally, spelling may vary (I’ve seen at least one WPA folklore collection from Tennessee showing this practice called “cunjur” instead of “conjure”).

In my own mind, I do see a slight difference in the three terms:

  • Hoodoo is the general name for the system of African-American and Southern magic using herbs, roots, and everyday objects to influence people and events in one’s life.
  • Conjure is more specifically related to working with spirits, but also uses much of the same magic hoodoo does.  It also relates to faith-healing (to me, anyway).
  • Root work has to do with the crafting of herbal and curio-filled spell objects, or with the use of such things to heal or harm a target.

There’s not a single consensus on where the actual term “hoodoo” comes from.  Some think it is a corruption of “Voodoo,” but this is not a majority opinion.  Catherine Yronwode has a great discussion of this topic on her website, outlining much of this history in more detail.

Hoodoo Now
During the early-to-mid twentieth century, hoodoo underwent another evolution.  It moved, along with Southern blacks, into cities and became urbanized.  Many merchants began to supply hoodoo practitioners with the oils, herbs, candles and other items they needed to do their work.  A number of these suppliers were Jewish, and a strong Jewish presence can still be seen in hoodoo, mostly in the use of talismans and charms imported from European grimoires like The Black Pullet.  Some, such as scholar Eoghan Ballard, have even made convincing arguments that the word “hoodoo” comes from a particular pronunciation of the word “Jewish.”

The terms Voodoo and hoodoo are still confused, even by those who are in the know.  The very reputable and knowledgeable author Jim Haskins even titled his book about hoodoo Voodoo and Hoodoo.

Modern hoodoo is still growing and changing.  Some of the major centers of hoodoo are Forestville, CA (where Cat Yronwode runs her Lucky Mojo Curio Co.), the Gullah region of South Carolina (discussed in Jack Montgomery’s American Shamans in the section on Sheriff McTeer), cities like Memphis and Savannah, and of course New Orleans.  It is also present in rural areas, like the swamps of Mississippi.  And the general practice of root work seems to have spread to other countries as well, as Sarah from the Forest Grove Botanica in Canada uses many root working techniques in her magic.

As this week goes on, we’ll get into more on those techniques, as well as the specific herbs, roots, and curios found in hoodoo.  For now, though, I think I’ll stop before I write a whole book here.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory


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