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From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Gris-Gris (was: Come to Me Oil) 
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 13:25:58 -0700

Cat ( wrote:
> I have a question...a friend 
> wants to attract a lover/love and insists she heard of using a powder 
> called Gris-Gris in an amulet bag to procure results.  I thought Gris 
> Gris was used in banishing rituals...(?)  What do you recommend?  
> Thanks again!

Gris-gris is a term i have only encountered among the Frech-Creole and
Caribbean people. It crops up in the U.S.A. in New Orleans, where
Haitian refugees settled after the slave revolt in Haiti in the early
19th century. Until recently, when it was popularlized through music and
other mass-media, the term gris-gris was not encountered in the general
practice of conjure or hoodoo among African-Americans in the U.S.A.  

I have been told that gris-gris means "grey-grey" in French, although i
suspect it may derive from a sound-alike word in some African language,
for there is nothing about it that is "grey." Perhaps a scholar of
African languaes has an opinion????

As for what the word refers to -- modern French-Creole wannabes
sometimes use the phrase "gris-gris bag" to refer to a mojo hand,
conjure bag, toby, or the like. This would imply that it could be used
for luck-drawing or for protection, because hands like those can work
either way, depending on the contents -- but this usage is new and not
encountered in older folkloric tradition. 

Actually, as described by one of Harry Hyatt's 1930s informants (from
New Orleans, of course) gris-gris is a FOOD MIXTURE that was served as
part of a possibly Haitian Vodoun initiation rite!  Hyatt transcribes
the term phonetically as "gree-gree" and it appears in a lengthy attempt
on his part to learn about the putative survival of Voodoun rituals in
New Orleans during the 1930s, a time when the religion had almost
entirely died out there.  


From interview with "Cousin of Julius P. Caesar," New Orleans, Lousiana,
pages 1640-1650 [on cylinders A356:1-A361:2 = 1172-1177]

page 1643:

(Now, you learned your work from your cousin?)

From my cousin.

(Well, now, after you learned your work, did he initiate you in any
particular way? Was there any sort of ceremony or initiation or what?)

Oh, yeah -- oh, yeah. 

(What did they do when they performed the ceremony? They don't do that
any more, do they?)

[The second question is leading, but it did not matter -- I was being a
little uncertain about some of his testimony.]

Well, no. That's the last hoodoo of all our old people. Me and Miss
Murray was talking about it yesterday. That the last hoodoo of all our
old [something?]. Now, when the firm is agreed upon one of the
co-workers, why they'll have a chicken, what you might call gree-gree
out of -- fixed up with tomatoes, macaroni, raisins. You know these
raisin what you eat, kind of a raisin-like, a little small thing comes
from Central America. 

(From grapes?)

Yeah, looks like a grape, yeah. 

(Dried grapes?)

Yeah, yeah. And they take that and they mix all that. That's gree-gree
-- you know, it's a mixture and they mix all that up together. Mix all
that up together and they'll put that table -- set that table right out
there. Then whensomeever that person -- he takes a book and he reads a
ceremony to 'em, and when she swears that she'll never divulge any
secret of the hoodooism, why then they swears her in. And sometimes they
ask them this question -- whether they want the good side or the bad
side {rada loa or petra loa? -- cat}, whether they want to deal with the
astral plane or deal with Lucifer work. There's two sides to everything.
Well, you'll find a good deal of 'em will say, "Well, I want to do the
devil's work." Well, after they start to marching around, they call

(And he comes?)

Yeah. Now, whensomever he comes, he comes with a chain. You can hear
that chain -- look like he's coming -- I don't know where [whther] he's
coming, but you hear that chain. When that chain come, well, then they
all sit right down there and eat {they eat the "gree-gree" --cat} and
drink and have a good time, sing these different hoodoo songs, and eat
and drink. 

{end of excerpt} 


So, according to this informant, gree-gree is a mixture -- a special
food mixture consisting of chicken cooked up with tomatoes, macaroni,
and raisins -- that was formerly served at Vodoun ceremonies when an
initiate was asked whether she wished to follow the "good" path or the
"bad" path. 

What i am driving at here is that, through ignorance and possibly a
venal desire to exploit "exotic" religions, the term gris-gris, which
possibly means "mixture" in an African language, has become a brand
name  for all sorts of inappropriate things, and it would seem that
Gris-Gris Love Powder would be one such. That is, unless the idea is to
gain the love of a man by serving him tomato-raisin-macaroni-chicken
stew! :-) 
Comments on this from Vodoun practiioners and folklore scholars would be
GREATLY appreciated, and thus this has been cross-posted to

catherine yronwode 
Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
Lucky W Amulet Archive ---------
news:alt.lucky.w --- discussions on folk magic, luck, amulets, charms

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