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Details of Hoodoo

From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Re: Details of Hoodoo (was Cultural Appropriation...)
Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2000 13:38:03 GMT

blackman99 wrote:
> 50000124 IVom
> sri catyananda  wrote 
> (in opposition to a previous post on mojo hands, 
> which she considered ill-informed):
> > > mojo bag ... shaman's bag
> > 
> > the mojo bag is not ever called a shaman's bag.
> > It is called a mojo hand, toby, jomo, nation sack, conjure hand,
> > conjure bag, and so forth.
> where does the term 'toby' come from?

Hyatt identifies the word "toby" regionally as epicentered in Maryland,
but he gives no etymological hints as to its origin. I have heard it
spoken mostly from clients and customers who call from Maryland and
Washington DC. It was known in Memphis at one time, though, because "The
Nation Sack Woman" -- one of Hyatt's 1930s-era informants -- identifies
a nation sack as a kind of toby and also Hattie Hart, who recorded with
Will Shade's Memphis Jug Band during the 1920s sang in one song, "I'm
goin' down to New Orleans to get this toby fixed up right."
> > ...they are almost always made of flannel, and very rarely of silk.
> > Please see Harry M. Hyatt's lengthy oral histories collected from 
> > 1,600 African-American root workers in the late 1930s. They refer 
> > constantly and consistently to mojos made of red cotton flannel or 
> > "flannen" (a regional dialect term).
> why flannel? why red? wouldn't this colour attract attention?
> why not of some other colour and fabric for camouflage? or
> was this a camouflage on account of being mistaken for flannel
> underwear?

Red is an important ceremonial colour in Africa, as well as among many
neolithic and historical pagan cultures in which menstrual blood is
thought to be of significance. From the "Red Ochre People" to those who
carry various species of red legumes (huyruru, ormosia, etc.) for luck,
red has always been seen as magical. 

Why cotton flannel? Because it was the cheapest sturdy cloth given to
slaves -- they were supplied with bolts of it each year to sew their
underwear of it; the masters wore silk and linen. Scraps left over from
sewing are all that is needed to make a mojo hand. 

> > > Consecreation and Charging
> >
> > The terms "consecration" and "charging" do not appear
> > anywhere in African-American hoodoo and hence have nothing
> > to do with the making of a mojo hand.
> though "dressing" is similar to "charging" as would be the
> passing of the bag through smoke. depends on the usage. the
> dressing of the bag with oil appears to be very important.

Or with whiskey, or urine. 

But that was my point -- the author didn't even know ebough about hoodoo
to USE the words "dressing" or "fixing" -- which are the two word smost
commonly used to describe preparing a mpojo bag! 

> > There are no six-foot diameter circles or altars set up to
> > or for the "elements" in hoodoo....
> perhaps this measure comes from the same source in grimoires,
> however. there are magical circles of protection sometimes
> described or depicted in books recommended by hoodoo folks
> or products associated with conjure, so perhaps it isn't
> wholly unknown (especially to those who work with spirits
> and in the black arts).

I agree. Once European-style grimoires entered the hoodoo market ot did
change hoodoo practices. For further details on the historical impact
this had, see my pages on 
    the history of hoodoo:
    Pow Wows (the book):
But i did not say that six-foot-diamer circles were inauthentic (at
least not in contemporary hoodoo), but i wrote, "There are no six-foot
diameter circles or altars set up to or for the 'elements' in
hoodoo...." -- by which i mean that the contemporary neo-pagan fixation
on the "quarters" and/or "four elements" is entirely alien to hoodoo

> > One does not "dedicate" anything to "elements" in hoodoo....
> closest I can think of is Blessed in the Name of the Father,
> Son and Holy Spirit.

That's formulaically given as "Holy Ghost" usually, not "Holy Spirit." 

But they are not the same as Earth, Air, Fire, and Water or such
neo-pagan "elemental" entities as Gnomes, Sylphs, Salamanders, and
Undines or whatever the heck such sprites are called. 

> > ...A couple of Hyatt's informants used Bull Durham tobabcco
> > sacks rather than red flannel for their mojo bags, by the way.
> what are these alternatives made of? it makes sense that these
> would also not attract notice if seen in a pocket, especially
> if the individual smoked or chewed tobacco.

Bull Durham sacks -- made of unbleached muslin (coarse off-white cotton
cloth) were FREE with the pruchase of the tobacco, and when it comes to
someone using a Bull Durham sack, i tend to credit economic reasons more
than  their desire to conceal the mojo. After all, ALL mojos are to be
"kept hid" (see multiple song references on my mojo page
for confirmation of this) so concealment is a moot point. 

> > The mojo is generally  carried in a pocket, pinned to a skirt or 
> > slip, or placed in a purse, not around the neck. It is true that due 
> > to intermarriage, some African-Americans with Native American 
> > ancestry do wear the mojo around their neck, but this is not very 
> > common.
> why wasn't it worn in the sock or boot? one would think that
> footprint magic danger being what it is the closer the bag could
> be to the point of entry the better.

Too bulky. Also, few mojos were a=or are apotropaic -- they are mostly
luck-bringers, not protectants. However, the wearing of silver dimes in
the shoe, or tied around the ankle, was and is common as an apotropaic
charm oin the hoodoo tradition. Less favoured in today's urabn
environment is the old hoodoo custom of wearing devil's shoestring root
twigs around the ankle as a protectant. 

> >   Mojo: http:/
> > (This page includes documentation on the wearing of the mojo below 
> > the waist, on sewing it of flannel, on colours, contents of bags, 
> > etc.)
> re the colours, do these roughly correspond to the colours of
> candles? did the candles or the bags come in colours first?
> do these colours originate with "Master Book of Candleburning"
> or some other authority/ies?

It is my belief that Gamache's book influenced the making of mojo bags
tremendously. His introduction of a colour scheme to hoodoo in 1942
changed the way a lot o folks make mojo bags. Prior to Gamache, most
bags were made of red flannel. Now one sees money-drawing bags in green
flannel, prtotection bags in white flannel, and so forth. Also, it is
not impossible to discount cross-cultural influences from Mexico, where
the colour-symbolism of amuleto bags seems to derive from the same
European / Catholic roots that influenced Gamache.

> > I usually cite Harry Hyatt's 4,600 page collection of interviews as
> > evidence of how hoodoo workers operate, just because it is so 
> > fucking MASSIVE, but i wish to make it very clear that although 
> > those histories are from the past, you can read THE SAME STUFF in 
> > Jim Haskins' more recent book "Voodoo and Hoodoo."
> yes, but it is more direct and concrete (down to phonetics) in Hyatt.

Sure, but for many people there is the problem is the cost -- $500.00
for 5 volumes of Hyatt versus $12.00 for Haskins in paperback.

> I would think that Wiccans and New Agers would wish to avoid like
> the plague traditions of magic which include such things as the
> Black Cat Bone and the slaying of chickens and other animals
> for the purposes of spellcasting. I think items like these are
> to be found occasionally also in grimoires and therefore have
> scared the bejeezus out of many, branding "ceremonial" magic
> as evil and untrustworthy.

Oh, you demon, you. Are you hinting that if we folk-magicians spread
fearsome tales about our boiling cats alive at midnight we can keep the
new age fluff-bunnies out of our hair? What a great idea!

Hey, you white-lighters -- we kill chickens! 

Now (channelling Josh Geller) "shut up and go away." 

cat yronwode 

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