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Dr Snake, Hoodoo and Voodoo

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,alt.lucky.w,alt.religion.voodoo,alt.religion.orisha
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Re: Dr Snake, Hoodoo and Voodoo (was Re: Doktor ...)
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 2002 08:40:03 GMT

blackman99 wrote:
> 50020626 VII om
> sri catyananda :
> > I pulled up these old posts from the google archives....
> thanks, as I don't recall them I'm responding to them as if seeing
> them for the first time (which I may be :*).
> > and thought i'd
> > repost them for those who wonder what the controversy about 
> > "Doktor Snake" is. They have been edited for brevity and [with 
> > comments finally inserted by me after a year of holding my 
> > tongue].
> admirable restraint. :>

 I have a tendency to either snap back fiercly or to brood. With him i
brooded. And if it were not for that execrable recent Gerina Dunwich
plagiarism, i'd never have gotten worked up enough to out Doktor Snake.
(Mumble mumble.) 
> > Basically, the guy who calls himself Doktor Snake is a British 
> > rock writer (and performer?) who once dabbled with Aleister 
> > Crowley's system of hermetic magic, then scouted the web, ripped 
> > off entire pages of stuff from my site, including original spells 
> > and mojo hand combinations that i had created, and called them all 
> > his own.
> within a book he published 

Correction: St. Marin's press published it. 

> whose title purports to be about voodoo.
> it isn't too difficult to rephrase or restate spells, it seems to 
> me.

 No, it isn't. But when some of the information is unique to me -- then
it stands out like a sore thumb where he got it. 

> > As it is, he stands out now as an open and unabashed plagiarist
> not the first, to be sure, some of whom are quite well-known authors
> in occult fields. I mean, Albert Pike is widely-known, especially by
> those of the Scottish Rite, and yet he plagiarized that scoundrel
> Levi straight out of Transcendental Magic, for example.

 That doesn't make it right. 

> > and a self-exposed poseur,
> s'pose so. with a dearth of information about the man, we might
> as well presume his lack of originality indicates his ignorance.

See the threads in alt.lucky.w et al, where i outed Doktor Snake as John
E. Shreeve, UK science fiction and blues wannabe and frelance ad copy

> I'm not sure that he admits his poseurness *generally*, however,
> just his reliance on his friend Dr Buzzard and perhaps one or
> two other (apparent) rootworkers for the content.

There is no Dr. Buzzard in John Shreeve's life. The guy admits he lives
in ENGLAND and has rarely been to the US! 
> > but, what the heck, poseuership is the essence of British
> > rock'n'roll, so what did we expect?
> the essence? strong criticism.

You know where i am coming from on this. John Mayall is honest, and he
never claimed to play rock'n'roll, anyway. The only other halfway decent
one is Eric Clapton because he credited and PAID Nehemiah Skip James for
"I'm So Glad." The rest of the bloody English know fuck-all about
rock'n'roll AND they think they can steal tunes from black folks and
make big bucks. Fucking George "I'm So Fucking Saintly" Harrison got
told to pay up. John "Hey, It's Only a Chuck Berry Song" Lennon didn't
fool anybody. 
> ================================================ enter Dok Snake
> Doktor Snake (
> >> The book is really about hoodoo, but you end up calling
> >> it voodoo to save long explanations.
> this is an interesting admission. following in the footsteps
> of Zora Neal Hurston?  

 No. She called it hoodoo.

> or more like Mr. Tallant? seemingly
> worse than either if he can't even write his own text.

Tallant was an exoticist working from old newspaper archives, the Graham
Hancock or Erich Von Daniken of Voodoo. 

> >> Then again, I was talking to Dr Buzzard last year ....
> is this the humour of his name: Dr Snake? isn't there some
> relation betwixt snakes and buzzards beyond the biological?

No. It's all jsut a big, fat con. There is no Dr. Buzzard in his world
-- he just ran across the name, you know because there have been about a
dozen men, mostly from the Carolinas, calling themselves that over the

Has John Shreeve EVER been to the US? Who knows?

When pressed, his "Dr. Buzzard" devolves into a purported Trinidad (not
Carolina!!!) born -- but now conveniently deceased -- blues musician
(lotsa blues in Trinidad .... uh ... RIGHT) named Earl Marlowe -- who
turns up nowhere in blues music annals on the web. 

> are there historical Dr Snakes the way there are (many!)
> Dr Buzzards? 
> I don't recall any from my exploration of Hyatt
> but it wouldn't surprise me much, 

Daddy Snakelegs in Alexandria, Virginia was a historic personage -- but
i am pretty sure that's not where John Shreeve got the reference. Being
a blues fan, he probably pulled it from the well-known song "Snake
Doctor Blues" by Jaydee (Jelly Jaw) Short, a Mississippi blues musician
of the 1920s - 30s.  

> and he may also have just
> played on his friend's name to create something novel. 

You are too gullible for your own good, Siva. 

> >> he (Shreeve's honey Dr. Buzzard)'s a veteran conjure worker - and 
> >> he just says, "Well, it's all witchcraft in the end, don't matter 
> >> what you call it."
> guess we can mix and match the words as we please, sure.

When you are making up imaginary playmates to speak on behalf of your
opinions, you can make them say anything you damn well please. 

> my only
> concern is that the significance of this word-weave may be lost
> on those who are uninformed of the biases surrounding these
> choices and the agents which tend to support them. ultimately
> we're talking about cultural and linguistic diffractions, at
> times with nasty consequences.

Naw, we're just talking about some lily-white British blues-fan and
science-fiction semi-pro who lives the hand-to-mouth life of a freelance
ad copy writer and web promoter and got a book contract. No "cultural or
linguistic diffractions," just a lot of fakery. 

> sri catyananda:
> > Well, maybe *you* do, but when you do so, you piss off a LOT
> > of people in the Vodoun religion, I would not have done it
> > if i were you, not even to get a contract with St. Martin's
> > Press. Sure, the "voodoo" concept sells, [but] the folks in
> > alt.religion.orisha, where voodoo and other African Diasporic
> > religions are the actual subject of discussion -- are most
> > definitely NOT impressed by that kind of gimmicky sales image.
> in what way, precisely, would you say it differs in content
> from Haskins, who *also* uses the term "voodoo" in his book
> "Voodoo and Hoodoo" to mean, effectively, hoodoo? 

Haskins explained his use of the term Voodoo quite clearly and i took it
to be a decision his original publisher (Scarborough House) forced upon
him -- and remember, he wrote that book in the mid 1970s -- going on 30
years ago! -- before much research had been done by English-seaking
scholars about Voodoo. He barely knew what Santeria was -- and he's
black and lived in New York City and his own grandmother was a hoodoo
root worker! 

> Haskins
> writes his own material, sure, but is Dr Snake's all swipes
> from good writers or a mix with crap sources? 

I think the entire book is cobbled together from a combination of my
site, Haskins' book, the liner ntoes to some Doctor Jon=hn (Mac
Rebennac) albums, and Zora Neale Hurston's "Mules and Men." I doubt
Shreeve had access to -- or interest in -- Hyatt's 5 volumes of
authentic 1930s hoodoo oral histories or Newbell Niles Puckett's 1920s
"Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro." 

> apparently,
> based on the JtConqueror messup, he's not particularly adept
> at source selection, but you were saying he got his stuff
> from **Haskins**, so??  perhaps his friend the good
> Dr Buzzard failed him after leading him to your text? :>).

There was no Dr. Buzzard in John Shreeve's life -- he made it all up.
It's F-I-C-T-I-O-N. 

> Voodooists can benefit from a consideration of a number of
> other communities whose names have either preceded them and
> become, through initial usage, identified with evil; or those
> whose religion and/or mysticism is turned, through fraud,
> into someone else's magic. arguably, stolen religion becomes
> magic in a sense (and the currents also run the other way too).
> no doubt Hermes has something to tell us about this on account
> of his association with both magic and theft (does thieving
> from some storm god (Zeus) excuse the theft? :>).

I agreee. This is a topic in its own right, too. 

> an example of the former are "witches" (a name with a rocky 
> history). an example of the latter is Hermetic "qabalah" (which at 
> worst turns Jewish mysticism into some kind of quaint numerology).

Note also that this is not just a simple matter of the dominant culture
(e.g. white Euros) appropriating minority cultures -- think about how
the Mexicans utilize the centuries-old Japanese-Buddhist apropriation of
the Chinese rice-god Hotei and combine it with an Egyotian pyramid and
their own tribal-psychedelic-shamanic red beans, to create the Snow
Globe Pyramid of Luck!!!

> =========================================== and later
> Doktor Snake (
> >> The bit I enjoyed was writing about the adventures I had
> >> with Earl Marlowe - a Trinidadian singer, hoodoo/voodoo chap
> >> I knew well. Most of what is in the book is what he and
> >> I discussed. But not all.
> this indicates that he did write some of it and that he has learned
> from more than one hoodoo teacher. 

Again, no references to this musician can be found by me at google,
except on John Shreeve's site. 

> what's the usage of the term 'voodoo' like in Hyatt? 

Zero. Zilch. Nada. None. 

> I don't remember much variation from the
> conventional 'conjure', 'rootwork', etc. 

"Witchcraft" also. That's why Hyatt titled his book "Hoodoo -
Conjuration - Witchcraft - Rootwork" -- because those were the four 
terms he encountered. And, he might as well have added one more term,
"using that stuff," but that is sort of a euphemisn or polite code, as
in, "I believe she's using that stuff on him." 

>  how aware is Hyatt of
> the particulars of Voodoo as an African diaspora religion that is
> not based in New Orleans?

Hyatt never mentioned Voodoo in New Orleans. He would have read the
contemporary books on Haitian Voodoo, and we know that he was aware of
Haitian Voodoo in New York City (where he lived) among the immigrsnt
community because in one interview, a man mentions some word -- i forget
what, but some Haitian word associated with the religion, like Houngan
or such -- and Hyatt responds to him with understanding of the word and
then adds an aside in his transcrition to the effect that "My use of the
proper terminology surprised him!" -- and the guy does act surprised and
then explains to Hyatt that he had lived in New York and also in Haiti.
So, for Hyatt, Voodoo was Haitian. 

> >> and later on the usage of the term "voodoo":

Like i said, no use of the word Voodoo by Hyatt or his informants
outside the one reference to Haiti. Later? Well, after Tallant, the

> >> Religion-wise - I tend to go with Doctor Buzzard on this. I use
> >> the term voodoo like he does.

Sock puppets are SO convenient!

> I notice that it is fairly wide-spread, and centered on authors
> with a flair for the sensational, or those who have been
> influenced by these to some degree. by itself, I would not
> consider the usage of 'voodoo' to be an absolute indicator of
> deception or fraudulence. 

You got THAT right!

> I'd consider it of similar usage to
> those who say 'palo' when they mean harmful or 'black' when
> they mean coercive and violating.

 And that too! 

> the speaker wants to find a word (like "sorcery!") for negative
> magic and their educational context and quality will dictate
> their selection of the term in question. this spans the GLOBE
> and is not isolated to the unfair reduction of "voodoo", though
> Voodoo does appear to be one of the few religions which has
> suffered from such misuse. (modern (religious) witches are
> too late a development and too disconnected from the herbals
> and midwives to really be comparable).

I agree. 
> we're talking about xenophobia utilized to attract attention.


> let's face it, double-consonant and two-part words from Africa
> have got a shitload of abuse by the English and others who
> sought to use 'em to their advantage (from the sacred things:
> 'mumbo-jumbo' slanted to mean 'meaningless things'(!) to
> prayer bag 'mojo's slanted to mean 'sexual power').

And juju and gri-gri (the latter corrupted to pseudo-french gris-gris,
meaning grey-grey, and explained as such by all too many "scholars"!). 

> >> But I do make clear at the outset that the book isn't about
> >> religion - but respects it.
> it could be worse. :> he could be doing a Crowley and studying
> with some rootworkers for a while and then representing himself
> as a MASTER (rather than admitting his dependence). he could be
> saying he's presenting an age-old wisdom inerrant and delivered
> as from the gods of some alien culture (like so many
> orientalists). instead he seems to be saying
>         I talked to some d00ds that I thought knew
>         rootwork, put together a book out of what
>         they said and what I could write and steal
>         from people's websites, and then published
>         my book with an attractive title that
>         coincided with my term usage. ::elfin grin::

 Yes, that's about it. But subtract the "d00ds" 'cause, frankly, i think
that both Earl Marlowe the Trinidadian blues player and Dr. Buzzard the
UK based hoodoo doctor are fiction!

> >> It chronicles what Earl and I got up to,
> >> much of which was around "magic" and "sorcery" (which I
> >> got into at about 14, came across Crowley, I think).
> it's obviously the forbidden aspects of this that draws
> Dr Snake. Crowley never used the term "sorcery", for
> example, reserving even 'black magic' (in most cases)
> for that which he opposed or suggested was not wise.

Right. Shreeve is a Brit, and for Brits, Crowley still remains the Great
Bug-Bear, "The Wickedest Man in the World," instead of the pathetic
closeted homosexual drug addict he really was. 

> ================================================ back from Snake
> sri catyananda:
> > Sorry for the rant, but i've been polite long enough, and i simply 
> > don't like what he did to me.
> no problem. you opened an avenue of discussion I've been itching
> to broaden in these usenet forums since I acquired my "Idiot's
> Guide to Voodoo" and began reading Tallant's "New Orleans Voodoo"
> rather recently. ;>

Tallant... ah, the William Seabrook of New Orleans... 

cat yronwode

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