Sunday, June 22, 2014
I have never shown this to anyone, but I decided to share it along with a little story in an effort to dispel the myths about crystals and indigenous religions. There was the questioned asked in my Facebook group whether or not crystals are used in Voudou and Hoodoo, and I responded by expanding the answer to include the African Diaspora religions as well as Native American traditional religions - all of which I include under the umbrella term indigenous traditions. I have been criticized before as adding Wicca or new age elements to New Orleans Voudou, which I have not. What HAS happened, is that those who have made the accusations are uninformed and assume that because they have not ever heard of it before, then I must be making it up. It's an old dynamic I am used to dealing with. I have even had people from other countries, less than half my age telling me what my tradition is and is not, which I find frankly, humorous at best.
Anyway, my response was this: Working with stones is not a new concept,,,it is as ancient as humankind. There is a similar misconception as it pertains to Native American traditions. For example, crystal scrying is an extremely old and traditional means of divination among the Cherokee and the Navajo among many other tribes. Different stones have different meanings and purposes ascribed to them according to culture. The use of crystals have been used in the African Diaspora traditions for eons...but because there has been a disconnect from Africa and the US due to the slave trade, and because of the disconnect from elders and the internet, people who learn primarily from online sources (which is a large driving force behind the renewed interest of the various traditions) this portion of the body of knowledge is not commonly known. The reclamation or reintroduction of them seems like it is new. But it is not. it is as old as the religions themselves.
Now, the crystal in the photograph was given to me by a medicine man who was 78 years old at the time. He used crystals similar to this one to divine events and inquiries, and interestingly to find lost things. At a particular hospital where I worked as a traditional counselor, we had elders on staff for the express purpose of passing on the traditional ways to the youngsters who were our patients. At the time i worked in the adolescent behavioral health unit. Because many of the children were frankly outcasts and throwaways, we were often crossed. Grandpa would consult the crystal to find out whether or not there was something buried in the ground, who buried it and where it was buried. Then he would go outside and dig it up. This medicine man did not speak English - not a word of English. He was Navajo. he did not really come to respect me until he knew I could speak at least some of my native language, and once he hear me speak and sing songs, then he shared some things with me. Then he showed me how to use the crystal.
He was around 78 years old at the time and this was nearly 18 years ago. That means he was born around 1918 or earlier. His teacher, another medicine man who also volunteered at the hospital was older than him, though I don't know how old he was.
Now there are many things we can take away from this story, but two things are important. One is that, even at 78 years old, he still had a teacher. In the Indian way, the medicine is not bought and paid for. It is not a destination. It is a journey. We spend our entire lives learning and honing our skills. Some medicine people spend their entire lives learning just one ceremony because of the complexities involved. They are specialists.
Second, do you think he got his knowledge from a new age book or course?
Third, in the South, Africans and Indians exchanged many ideas and practices. The use of rocks and crystals were common between them, and the practice continued among the elder folks. I happened to be lucky enough to have several elders in my life along the way that were willing to share the practice with me. And, this is what I share with you today, and this is what I share in my writings. Not something made up. Not something Wiccan. On the contrary, something real, something authentic and something not written about because it is passed down via oral tradition. That is why so many have not heard of it. It is something much older than Wicca, and something much older than New Age. This is the tradition of our ancestors, our elders. And I for one, honor them.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
It's the beginning of the year and a time for reevaluation of things. Many folks continue to struggle and look to all sorts of ways to increase their chances of business success. One of the ways this can be done in the realm of New Orleans Hoodoo is by making a gris gris bag for your business or job. Before you do this you should perform a house, shop and office cleansing for the New Year. You can find an example in my blog post How to Perform a House Cleansing. In addition, you can try Marie Laveau's Floor Wash for Business Success shown in the image below from the Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook that appeared in Hoodoo and Conjure Quarterly #2.
Making Your Business Success Gris Gris
Gris gris is a system of magic brought over form Africa by the traditional Bambaran Africans as well as the Muslim marabouts. Jean Montenet, aka Dr. John, himself a Bambaran, utilized gris gris in his healing practice and was considered a master at his craft. Some speculate Marie Laveau was an apprentice of sorts to Dr. John for awhile and learned the art of gris gris from him. It has also been suggested that her mother was from the Congo, and so she likely learned the art from her mother, as well. Wherever she learned it, and however it ended up in New Orleans is secondary to the influence it continues to have on New Orleans Voodoo today, thanks to Marie Laveau's business savvy. And all of us professional rootworkers owe a debt to the Mother and Father of New Orleans Voodoo - Dr. John Montenet and Mamz'elle Laveau - for making a business out of Hoodoo in New Orleans and all along the Southern Bayous.
If you haven't seen my other blog Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook, you should take a look at the excerpt on gris gris there for a more in depth background of the practice. You should also refer to the article How to Make a Gris Gris Bag for details on the process that I won't repeat here because I have already written about it in the other article.
So let's make a business gris gris in the Marie Laveau tradition for the New Year. You will need yellow or green flannel or a piece of leather and the following items:
- Solomon's Seal
- High John the Conqueror Root
- Devil's Shoestring
- Silver mercury dime
- Black eyed pea
- Palm ashes
- Dragon's Blood
- Personal effect of your own such as fingernail clippings or hair
- Material effect from your business like a business card or receipt
- Dried toadstool
- Small piece of pound cake offered to St. Expedite
|Copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado|
God's Glory and Man's Honor
To the chief Musician upon Git'tith, A Psalm of David.
O LORD our Lord,
how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength
because of thine enemies,
that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
what is man, that thou art mindful of him?
and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,
and hast crowned him with glory and honor.
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands;
thou hast put all things under his feet:
all sheep and oxen,
yea, and the beasts of the field;
the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea,
and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
O LORD our Lord,
how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
All text, images and graphics Copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide. Do not copy without my express permission.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Did I get your attention? Good, because I want to talk about what is tradition and what is not tradition.
Here’s the great debate: War Water is rusty water that may contain cut nails, rusty nails, or coffin nails. The nails may come from different places in order to take advantage of their magical correspondences and amplify the formula. In Louisiana, war water was often oil of tar in swamp water with a little Spanish moss thrown in. The latter is the formula I am most familiar with as a New Orleans native, though I make a nice rusty water too. Nails may or may not be an addition to this basic recipe. Though, as with anything hoodoo, formulas vary between families and practitioners.
I can hear it now...some folks reading this are throwing a fit...you can’t have war water without rust! You have to have nails in the water! The nails have to be cut so they can oxidize in the water! War Water has to have rust because rust is a by product of iron and iron is associated with Mars, the god of war and ...wait, what does Mars have to do with hoodoo? (Okay, don't answer that one because I know about European influences).
So this is where I am going with this article...the arguments about “my war water is more authentic than your war water” is a moot point if we really want to talk authentic, traditional formulas. War Water shouldn’t even be in the same sentence because it is not a traditional formula or hoodoo weapon. Africans used other methods of warfare, as did the Indians. And when they were forced together through the slave trade, if they compared notes, I'm pretty sure war water wasn’t in those notes.
The preferred weapon of war was gris gris, which was reconstructed through the diaspora. Gris gris was brought to these shores via the marabouts and their occult skills and military traditions. It was used in numerous slave revolts as well as in the Haitian revolution. On the other hand, War Water was the creation of the hoodoo marketeers, white folks who looked to make a buck off of the black folk. Then there are the well-meaning white folks who started serving the black communities because there was a need as many stopped preparing their own remedies and so the hoodoo drugstore was one place to go for these remedies. There are many such creations that we tend to call traditional or authentic, when in reality, they do not originate in African or indigenous spirituality, religion, or folk magic. Things like War Water and the fictional antidote Peace Water is not an African product; it is the result of commercialized hoodoo.
And if that isn’t enough to get you going, here is something that might. Where I come from, hoodoo is Voodoo (I can hear it again, folks going off on me ...how dare I say they are one and the same? hoodoo is the magic, Voodoo is the religion...blah, blah, blah). The magic is PART of the religion, not separate from it. Those who separate it and those who practice hoodoo as “African American folk magic” are only “using” part of the actual tradition, which has become an American tradition. And while I am at it (oh, this is good!), Christianity was NOT one of the original religions- Voudon, Orisha, Ifa, Mami Wata, Islam and others were among the traditional religions brought to the Americas via the slave trade. Africans were not even allowed to worship as Christians during slavery. Then later, Christianity was imposed on Africans as part of the Code Noir and if they did not conform they were tortured or even killed. But the Africans knew who they were praying to, and it wasn’t Saint Peter.
So, to show you I am not a fool with my head in the sand, I am quite aware that many folks believe Christianity is what makes hoodoo authentic. Moving forward in time, we see many of the colonized folks adopting aspects of Christianity and eventually completely converting. And likewise, we see many descendents of the colonizers defining Hoodoo as a Christian tradition. But hoodoo did not start on these shores. It is not a “later” development. Its origin comes straight from Africa, and is a complete magicospiritual tradition that is intimately connected to the spirits of Voudon (that’s right, the religion).
In my opinion, it is tragic why Christianity is such a big part of American hoodoo. It is the direct result of colonization, a process that interrupted the transmission of the religious aspects of Voudon to subsequent generations and that caused folks to fear their own cultures of origin to the point of rejecting their ancestry.
As I always say when I make such controversial statements, not everyone in New Orleans sees it the way I do. Not everyone uses the power of the spirits to energize their magic and gris gris. But many do. However, it has remained underground for a long time and there are those who still will not come out publicly. I have been taken by my elders to secret locations for ceremonies heretofore undisclosed for fear of intrusion and harassment by outsiders. I am still sworn to secrecy. So I understand. One day, perhaps we won’t have to fear being open about our true religious preferences.
What I have presented is food for thought. Whether you agree with this article or not does not matter to me. I am telling it the way I see it, it’s my opinion, and I am not going to argue about it, though I am happy to have lively discussions.
Diouf, S. A. (1998). Servants of Allah: African Muslims enslaved in the Americas. New York: NYU Press