Understanding Hoodoo

I’m going to uncover some myths and home truths about Hoodoo. This blog is aimed at those who are unfamiliar with the practice and have had very little exposure to it. So to start with I will have a list of things to keep in mind;

  1. Hoodoo and Voodoo are separate. Hoodoo is the practice of African American folk magic, while Voodoo (also called Voudou or Voudun) is the religious practice.
  2. Hoodoo IS African American. Slavery and the history of oppression of the African American people is quintessential to the practice of Hoodoo. In short, you cannot be an “All Lives Matter” person to respectfully practice Hoodoo.
  3. Hoodoo and Catholicism are entwined. A cover of Catholicism allowed practitioners to practice Hoodoo and conjure without attracting the wrath of slave Masters and other powerful whites within the community.
  4. Churches often allowed known practitioners to practice conjure in the church yards.
  5. The Psalms and the saints are used in conjure and Hoodoo. While you don’t have to use them, disregarding them from the practice entirely means that you overlook the importance of Hoodoo’s history.
  6. Hoodoo is often and intergenerational practice. This means that some of the bonds between First Nations tribes and African American families are still intact and the communities share their sacred practices respectfully to this day.
  7. Initiated leaders don’t call themselves “priests” or “priestesses”. The correct terms are Mambo (female) or Houngan (male). you can expect to pay a fee for their services as they are not kept by an organisation the way the Church pays and houses their Priests.
  8. Ancestor veneration is essential to Hoodoo.
  9. Divination is an essential part of the practice. Divination must be performed before any workings, this is the ancestors only way to guide you to what you need to do. While shells and bones are the traditional divination methods used, any form of divination is fine with many practitioners using a pendulum.
  10. Hoodoo is a practice that works with both hands (healing and hexing).

Now that you have the rough basics of Hoodoo, I’m going to list some books that are suitable reading, either for a deeper understanding of the Hoodoo practice, or for those who want to incorporate Hoodoo into their practice.

Silva, MariHoodoo and Voodoo
Dorsey, LilithOrishas, Goddesses and Voodoo Queens
Alvarado, DeniseVoodoo Hoodoo Spellbook
The Magic of Marie Laveau
Bird, Stephanie RoseSticks, Stones, Roots and Bones
Foxwood, OrionMountain Conjure and Southern Rootwork
Patterson, RachelHoodoo Folk Magic (Pagan Portals)
Morrow Long, CarolynA New Orleans Voudou Priestess
Waddell Chestnut, CharlesThe Conjure Woman
Sen MoiseWorking Conjure
Casas, StarrOld Style Conjure
Hazzard-Donald, KatrinaMojo Workin’
These are books from my own personal collection which are available to purchase readily.

I also strongly recommend further reading into history and African American literature to further broaden your education, scope, and understanding. A fantastic movie to watch is Freedom Writers which presents a window into how the education system of the US is geared against people of colour and who are from low income areas and families.

I suggest reading about Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X, The Black Panther Party, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Frederick Douglass and more. I also suggest listening to music such as Beyonce’s Lemonade and Homecoming, Rage Against The Machine, NWA etc. These artists and writers provide emotion and texture to the horrific history of slavery and oppression, but also show how a culture and community has blossomed.

In the least, researching Hoodoo will open your eyes to the systematic oppression of coloured people, as well as how our own privileges as white people has spring boarded off the backs of those who suffered before us.

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