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[Research unearths black history]

To: alt.lucky.w,alt.religion.orisha,alt.magick.folk,alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: (News article) [Research unearths black history]
Date: Sat, 26 Feb 2000 10:38:34 GMT

Here is a second artcle on the large find of 19th and early 20th century
hoodoo artifacts at the Brice house in Annapolis, MD. My thanks to
Michele for forwarding it to me. I am posting it to alt.lucky.w,
alt.religion.orisha, alt.magick.folk, alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,
alt.magick, and alt.magick.tyagi (the latter in the hope that siva will
archive it in the Esoteric Archive, huh, pretty please?); followups set
to alt.religion.orisha and alt.lucky.w.


Subject: FWD: Research unearths black history
Date: Sat, 26 Feb 2000 04:26:30 -0500 (EST)

Michele forwarded this story to you from,
Maryland's Online Community.

 To view this story on the web go to

It was sent with the following comments:
     "Thought youmight find this interesting"


Headline: Research unearths black history
Subhead: Evidence of African rituals discovered in Annapolis house

By TaNoah Morgan


Matches, peach pits, bottles and buttons found beneath the 
kitchen floor of the John Brice II House in Annapolis have proved 
to be more than randomly buried ancient trash.

 The 130-year-old artifacts, found dry and mostly intact, are 
enticements, traps and petitions to spirits. They were created 
by free African-Americans practicing Hoodoo, a religion passed 
down from its West African roots, archaeologists say.

 Researchers concluded the items and their positioning beneath 
the house formed a cosmogram -- a West African symbol of the 
circle of life that is similar to a cross in shape. This one 
was unusual for its size -- it is composed of more than 300 artifacts 
-- and for its location on the Chesapeake Bay.

Hoodoo sought to control spirits through the use of objects.

The discovery, researchers said last week, offers a glimpse into 
the culture and practices of post-Civil War African-Americans. 
It is significant in that it shows how culture, passed down through 
generations, was Americanized as the tradition was handed down.

"As op-

posed to Afro-Caribbean, this is African-American," said 
Mark Leone, chairman of the University of Maryland Anthropology 
department and director of the Brice house project.

 "It's an adaptation by people of African descent in 
North America," he said. "What we're looking at 
is Victorian-era African-American traditions that are the product 
of 200 years of North American exposure."

 A cosmogram has four points that represent birth, life's 
peak and descent, death and afterlife or rebirth, according to 
art historian Robert Farris Thompson, whose book "Flash 
of the Spirit" explores the continuation of African traditions 
among members of the African diaspora.

 The points also represent a connection between this life and 
the afterlife, and served as a means of communicating with the 

 Archaeologists have discovered that African slaves and their 
ancestors used the cosmogram shape -- usually mapped out on a 
floor -- to establish a point through which roaming spirits had 
to pass.

 Everyday items were then buried at the four points and in the 
center of the symbol to attract, direct, capture and manipulate 
spirits that were believed to protect or act on behalf of the 
living. Some items were used as symbols of a problem or person 
who needed to be controlled, Leone said.

 For example, bent nails found among the artifacts at the house 
might have symbolized rheumatism. Doll parts could symbolize 
a part of the body with which one was having trouble. Feathers 
symbolized the ability or wish to fly away.

 An item such as a button marked with someone's initials 
or a person's hair could be a symbol of that person. Buttons 
pierced four times also represented the cosmogram itself. Mirrors 
and glass were used to attract spirits, red pieces of cloth made 
conjuring more powerful, and bottles could be used to capture 
the spirit so it could be controlled, Leone said.

 Once the items were buried -- in the house beneath wooden floorboards 
and bricks -- a ritualistic dance was performed over the cosmogram 
to call the spirits, scholars say.

 "It was a deliberate effort to repaint a connection to 
this belief system," said Gladys-Marie Fry, a retired professor 
who also helped interpret the artifacts.

 Students and archaeologists working on the University of Maryland's 
Archaeology in Annapolis project discovered the items between 
1998 and 1999 while unearthing the 50-by-30-foot kitchen and 
laundry area in the east wing of the historic house. Matthew 
D. Cochran, an anthropology graduate student, and Jessica Neuwirth 
of the Historic Annapolis Foundation determined that the items 
were parts of a cosmogram.

 Other students and professionals had found similar items, buried 
in a similar pattern, during digs at the Charles Carroll house 
and the Slayton house as early as 1991. Those finds showed that 
African religious practices had been alive among slaves in the 
1700s and flourished into the late 1800s.

 But the number of items found at the Brice house proved a much 
more extensively used and well-established practice. In the center 
of the room, deposits were laid in a circle 10 feet wide, and 
the items were layered, showing the cosmogram was used from about 
1870 to 1910. A possible source of the cosmogram is Brice house 
servant Sarah Watkins, who served in the house during that time. 
It is also possible that the cosmogram was created by a community 
of Hoodoo practitioners.

 It wasn't until last month, when Cochran and Neuwirth analyzed 
the artifacts used and the pattern in which the objects had been 
placed, that they decided it was a cosmogram.

 Fry said last week that the discovery, especially in the less-populated 
Chesapeake region, shows that such religious practices were coherent 
and widespread. That is important because symbols associated 
with the cosmogram might also have been used on African-American-made 
textiles, furniture and pottery as a way of communicating, similar 
to the way Negro spirituals, drawn from religious practices, 
were used to send covert messages.

 "It helps us to understand a widespread practice of slave 
coding," Fry said. "It didn't just concern trying 
to communicate with the spirits, but also to communicate with 
each other."


To view this story on the web go to


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