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Harry Hyatt

To: alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,alt,magick.tyagi,alt.lucky.w,alt.religion.orisha
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Harry Hyatt (was Re: Book of formulas ?)
Date: Wed, 15 Sep 1999 12:14:47 -0700

New Moon wrote:
> Jo wrote:

> > Hyatt (Harry M.) has some wonderful books I have heard ,as well, in 
> > the hoodoo tradition but they are even harder to find than Slater or 
> > more expensive. The Lucky MoJo website has the set listed at $500. 
> > If I win the lottery,I'm snatching them up!
> How long has that author been dead?  Could there possibly be more
> books?  What are they about?  I'm always looking for new recipes to
> add to my collection.  I was recently handed a formulary that was full
> of goodies plus some excellent teas!

Harry M. Hyatt died in the late 1970s. He published two books on
folk-magic. The first was "Folklore From Adams County, Illinois," which
came out in 1935 in one volume. The next year he began a massive
project, travelling through the southern USA for 4 years interviewing
African-American root doctors and conjure-workers about their spells,
formulas, beliefs, and techniques. This was  a "hobby" project -- he was
actually an Anglican minister in "real life" -- and after collecting the
material, he put it on hold until after his wife died and he was alone
and retired. 

Eventually, he began sorting through the mountians of field notes and
Edison cylinder recordings he had made in the 1930s. In 1970 he issued
two voluimes of spells and interviews with root doctors, privately
printed, under the ungaily title "Hoodoo - Conjuration - Witchcraft -
Rootwork." Then, as he felt his life was drawing to a close, he decided
to go back into the field; in 1970 he travelled through Florida
interviewing the current generation of root doctors. He released 3 more
volumes of "Hoodoo - Conjuration - Witchcraft - Rootwork." -- two
consisting of additional spells and interviews from the 1930s field work
and one consisting of the 1970 Florida interviews. He also reprinted his
earlier volume on Illinois folk-magic. He hired a student to prepare an
index to the five volumes (which are roughly sorted by the major
ingredient in each spell rather than by what purpose the spell is for),
but he died before that work was completed. The index was never issued. 

As i noted before, a more detailed account of Hyatt's work on hoodoo is
found at my web page 

Since some folks read newsgroups without a browser, i'll include the
text of that page here. It contains many links that cannot be followed
by reading this mere ASCII version, but you'll get the idea, anyway: 

-----------beginning of transcription---------

"Hoodoo - Conjuration - Witchcraft - Rootwork" 

"Hoodoo - Conjuration - Witchcraft - Rootwork" is a
5-volume, 4766-page collection of folkloric material
gathered by Harry Middleton Hyatt, in Alabama,
Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland,
Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee,
and Virginia between 1936 and 1940. Supplementary
interviews were conducted in Florida in 1970. 

The Hyatt collection consists of 13,458 separate magic
spells and folkloric beliefs, plus lengthy interviews with
professional root doctors, conjures, and hoodoos. All but
one of Hyatt's 1600 informants were African-Americans,
but several narrations by European-Americans (collected
for his earlier book, "Folklore From Adams County,
Illinois") were also included. Hyatt recorded the material
on Edison cylinders and a device called a Telediphone,
often without the full knowledge of the participants. He then
transcribed and annotated it for publication. Occasionally his equipment
failed or was not available and he took hand-written notes
instead. The 1930s field recordings have since been destroyed, with the
exception of a few cylinders that Hyatt had pressed onto 78 rpm records.
The Florida interviews of 1970, recorded on cassette tapes, have

The publication of this material was accomplished between 1970 and 1978.
The first two volumes were issued as a set in 1970, and said to be
complete, but then, after a few years, three more volumes were
released. Hyatt published the books himself -- that is, they were
released under the imprint "Memoirs of the Alma C. Hyatt Foundation."
Alma C. Hyatt was his wife. The contents are about as follows: 

Volume One: 
      spells and mojo hands grouped somewhat alphabetically according to 
      their major ingredient (e.g. buckeye nuts, needles, black cat 
      bone. salt, sulphur) 
Volume Two: 
      interviews with professional conjures, root doctors and hoodoos; 
Volume Three: 
      more interviews; conjure work utilising human body parts and 
Volume Four: 
      more conjure work utlising human body parts and waste; foot track 
      magic; folk medicine; spells involving murder, death, and 
      graveyards; substitutions for the human body (photos, names, and 
      hand-written letters); spells involving theft and court cases; 
      chicken eggs; 
Volume Five: 
      more salt; more nails, needles, pins, and tacks; more frogs and 
      toads; more black cat bone material (all continued from Volume 
      One); one interview; the Florida spells of 1970, again grouped 
      more-or-less alphabetically by major ingredient; "odds and ends" 
      (mostly procedural); 
Volume Six: 
      the index, was in preparation when Hyatt died and it was never 
      released, leading to the frustrating condition of the material as 
      it now stands. 

Hyatt, who was a white man from the North, transcribed the speech of his
informants semi-phonetically. What may look to modern eyes like "racial
stereotyping" or making fun of Southerners was actually his sincere
attempt to catalogue variant regional pronunciations. If you read
several spells, you will see that he did NOT impose upon his informants
one single stereotyped "black dialect" or "Southern dialect" but in fact
conveyed, as accurately as he could, the true sound of each person's
speech. Reading the spells aloud and noting the location where each
informant lived will help you comprehend this. I do not intend to
apologize for Hyatt's technique, and i hope that future scholars will
not do so either. 

The bulk of the Hyatt collection is currently archived at the UCLA
Center for the Comparative Study of Folklore and Mythology. 

Lucky W Amulet Archive pages that contain quoted passages from Harry
Hyatt's research into hoodoo include: 

Bluestone and Mexican Blue Anil Balls 
Crossroads Rituals 
Devil's Shoestring 
Goofer Dust 
Hoyt's Cologne 
Nation Sack 
Secrets of the Psalms 
Silver Dimes 

As you run across Hyatt material at this site, please note: 

      1) All the transcibed spells quoted in the Lucky W Amulet Archive  
         are from the 1936-1940 sessions unless otherwise noted. 

      2) The number at the beginning, if any, is Hyatt's spell
         (Interviews were not numbered.) 

      3) Code numbers at the end of a spell are Hyatt's identification 
         of the informant and the number of the recording cylnder 

      4) Any words in (parentheses) in the text were spoken aloud by 
         Hyatt during the interviews and any words in [brackets] were 
         his written commentary to the publication. MY OWN further 
         comments, if any, appear in {italics in curly brackets}, and 
         most of them consist of additional information or corrections 
         to Hyatt's characteristic transcription errors (e.g. his 
         invariable mis-transcription of Hoyt's Cologne as "Hearts
         Cologne" or "herts perfume"). 

      5) I have occasionaly broken some of the book's run-on paragraphs 
         into shorter chunks, for easier reading. 

 1996-1999 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved. 
Send your comments to: 

-----------end of transcription---------

You know, with all this Wicca talk of fam-trads (so often poorly
authenticated and almost invariably bolstered by a lot of pre-Raphaelite
Celtic imagery), it is important to note that Hyatt's work documents a
number of real, living, long-standing family traditions of magical work.
No matter how many cultural appropriators and fabulizers of exotica try
to sell books on the spuriously spooky doings of so-called "Voodoo
Queens" in New Orleans, they can't wipe out the true history of
African-American folk-magic and substitute for it their fictions --
because Hyatt's monumental collection of African-American folk-magic
stands out bright and clear, a beacon of honest information and a guide
to authentic workings.

To give you a flavour of this material, herewith is a bonus: three
spells previously untranscribed by me. I opened Volume One at random and
found these spells involving the use of salt for breaking enemy tricks
(especially "live things" or tricks under the skin) and for protection
from evil (the spell titles have been added by me):



A person dat been tricked in de skin it's something dat is buried for
'em or laid down on de steps for 'em -- de house been dressed. You take
nine teaspoonful of cooking salt, you take one dime ['s worth] of
saltpeter, use dat, and eight quarts of water, hot water -- just like
water for a bath. You pulll off all of your clothes, ever'thing you got
on, you get in there and take a bath in dat same water nine times.

(What do you mean nine times? All at once or different times?)

Dat same water -- don't throw dat water away, you keep it in something
like you take a bath in. Never rub upwards -- always rub from here down

(From your face right down.)

>From there down. A person whut's been tricked in de skin, rub from here
down and use dat water nine times, and de last time you use dat water,
take it and throw it towards de sunrise, soon in the morning before the
sun rise, so you get rid of dat complaint. Ah'm telling you whut's done
happened to me.

[Mobile, Ala., (679), 905:2.]



Now, if -- when yo' wanta be lucky an' stay lucky so yo' kin jest -- yo'
know, thrive and have prosperity, yo' git chew a nickel worth of
saltpeter an' a tablespoonful of that and put it into yore water, five
quarts of water an' take a tablespoonful of table salt an' mix with that
an' let it boil down. 

An' after yo' gets dat five quarts of water, yo' heat it. Whenever it
start tuh, look like it gon'a boil, yo' jest stir this salt an'
brimstone together an' then when yo' begin tuh lie down {at night}, yo'
take yore bath with it. An' when yo take yore bath with it, yo' save dat
water an' throw it east. An' every time yo' throw yo' explain lak dis --
say, "Lord, moves thine evil influence." An' that [is called] puttin' de
enemies under yore feet.

[Waycross, Ga., (1118, small-time root woman), 1796:1]



The best thing you do, when you go out early in the morning, if you got
-- before you leve your home, if you feel that such as that is carrying
on around you, you take such an ordinary thing as -- take slat, black
pepper, and mix that together in a bottlle, and scrub your place out. 

Don't scrub it inward, see. Always scrub out from your place. 

And with that water you mix salt and black pepper and scrub every
morning before the sun rise. Make that a habitual habit to scrub in the
morning before the sun rise -- every morningscrub out your door before
de sun rise, and that will give you a natural protection against
anything that's evil. Somebody's put something against you, down for
you, that will give you protection against that. 

[New Orleans, La., (828), 1214:4.]


And that is your lesson in "kitchen magic" for today! 

catherine yronwode 
Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
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Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
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