Saturday, June 16, 2012

An Issue Revisited: Is Hoodoo Still Hoodoo Without the Bible?

I have gotten quite a bit of flack for putting forth the question, Is Hoodoo still Hoodoo without the Bible? The flack comes from folks who are of the mindset that they "know" the true rootwork and Hoodoo tradition and that it MUST include the Bible in order to be "real" rootwork/conjure/Hoodoo. I reject that notion. I have always rejected that notion and I reject it more today than ever.

My point is that Africans did not come to these shores with Bibles in their hands. They came with their crude wooden fetishes, their gris gris, their bilongo. Some came with the Koran. A minority may have been converted to Christianity while still in Africa, but was the conversion natural? I mean, were Africans willing and wanting to convert from their traditional religions? Or were they, as the man in the clip below states, "converted at the end of a whip?"

Now, hear me clearly - this is my opinion based on the research I have done and based on growing up in the Hoodoo capital of the world. Hoodoo came to these shores from Africa as part of traditional religions. As a result of colonization, the practical magical aspects became separated from the religions and evolved to include cultural influences present here in the United States. In New Orleans - and this will get my haters going but that's okay cause I got a lot more where this comes from to hate on so just be patient - Hoodoo and Voodoo did not completely separate as it has in other areas of the country. That likely explains, at least in part, the origin of the colloquial terms "Hoodoo Voodoo" and "Voodoo Hoodoo" that are used to describe what it is in New Orleans and Louisiana. Contrary to what my haters will have you think, I did NOT make up that term and for those who seem to consider the Hyatt texts gospel, some of the informants from New Orleans in that work also used those terms to describe our tradition. So I guess they aren't really from New Orleans either and I guess they also don't know what they were talking about.

Recently, there was a person subscribed to the Crossroads University email list who quit that list because she interpreted my stance as being antiChristian. This is the text from the Crossroads University website from which an email was excerpted that offended the individual:

"Our curriculum does not focus on Christian aspects of Hoodoo and conjure; rather, we focus on the spiritual and healing technologies of our ancestors as they were prior to Christian influences. Christianity is explored in its appropriate cultural context as a mechanism of colonization and cultural genocide. The adaptation of Christian precepts to Southern conjure is a phenomenon that occurred as a direct result of colonization, a process deserving of much needed attention...To teach indigenous spiritual and healing technologies without examining the historical contexts in which they are situated, however, is tantamount to cultural appropriation, evidence of ongoing colonial institutionalization and the perpetuation of a current narrative that is defined by nonindigenous and non African-descended people.  We reject the notion that Hoodoo is not Hoodoo without the Bible. On the contrary, it is much, much more."

You can read more of our philosophy on our website.

This person, no doubt a Christian, was offended, apparently. Okay, that's fine, they are entitled to their feelings. I am also however, entitled to speak the truth based on historical facts and if history offends you, then well it should.

Stating the facts is not being antiChristian. It is bringing to light the historical truth. The truth is that there is an ugly history with regards to Christianity and Hoodoo and my point is that if you want to learn from Crossroads University, you will also learn about this history. Those of you who are students know that we do not bad mouth the Bible or Christianity in any of our courses and in fact, we teach about the Saints and the psalms and Catholic elements quite a bit because Catholicism is deeply intertwined with Voodoo and Hoodoo in New Orleans. A direct result of the Black Code ( a perfect example of institutionalized colonization); but deeply connected nonetheless. And yes, as a student you will also see that we explore Protestant characteristics and the presence of the prophets in present day Hoodoo as well.

Over time, many folks adapted and adopted Christian concepts to the original indigenous beliefs and practices. Many...but not all. I have mixed feelings about this; on the one hand, it speaks to the resiliency of Africans and Native Americans (who suffered similarly) which I completely honor and respect. On the other hand, it makes me very sad to know that my ancestors were forced to practice a religion they did not want to practice and many suffered and died as a result.

Ninety-eight percent of the people online who are the most vocal about the absolute role of Christianity in Hoodoo are White. Since when did White folks get the front seat on the narrative of an indigenous tradition? Well, since the advent of colonization...that's how it goes. Back then, our ancestors didn't have a choice - they had no voice. Today is different. We have a voice and it is our responsibility to give voice to our ancestors.

Some of you reading this may think I am coming across as a bit racist. I am not racist. There is the issue of race in our history and its time we talked about it since everyone and their brother is selling our tradition and taking license to redefine it for us. Some of you will no doubt say color doesn't matter, that Hoodoo is a multicultural and multiracial tradition. Tell that to the young black man walking down the street in a hoodie nowadays. Tell that to the Native American whose sacrament is still considered illegal in many respects and possession of it is considered a crime. Color does matter; why do we take great pains to describe Hoodoo as multicultural if it doesn't?

It is out of respect that I bring this discussion to the forefront yet again. I do not deny the role of Christianity in Hoodoo and rootwork as we know it today. It's time for others to quit denying the ugly truth of the historical evolution of the tradition as well.

A few months ago I saw a clip from a new documentary "Ancestral Voices" that really resonated with me. Here is a clip from that documentary that I will be reviewing in an upcoming issue of Hoodoo and Conjure Magazine that speaks to the ideas I present in this article.

Copyright 2010-2012 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide. Please ask if you would like to repost this article.







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WWW.CROSSROADSUNIVERSITY.COM


Friday, March 9, 2012

Hoodoo Charms against Evil and Negativity




To some, the belief in charms is a curious affair. But the widespread and persistent faith in the supernatural is a human tendency – it is a means of explaining the inexplicable as well as a means of organizing our experiences in the world in a way that is meaningful. As long as humans have had the ability for abstract thought they have attributed mystical powers to simple objects, transforming the most insignificant rock into a never-failing amulet.

It is a human experience we all share – being confronted with negative people, places and things. Naturally, we seek to prevent such confrontations and exposures, but nothing short of living in a bubble would alleviate the risks. The making of charms, amulets and talismans as objects of protection is not limited to the uneducated – their use can be found across cultures and across socioeconomic lines. Our grandmothers held the utmost confidence in talismans and fetishes as much as they believed in the tried and true efficacy of their home remedies.

Here are a few Hoodoo charms that have been reported to be effective wards against evil and negativity:


  • A Marie Laveaux charm to ward off bad luck consisted of a rabbit’s foot, gold ore (probably pyrite) and a magnet wrapped in a piece of chamois cloth and tied shut. This was carried on the person for protection and repelling negativity.

  • A pocket Bible or Book of Psalms held in the bra or a front shirt pocket is said to ward off negativity and evil spirits.

  • A bottle fix to repel evil and negativity consists of coarse white sand, large red ants, and 9 nails and pins placed in a bottle and covered with a bit of urine from everyone in the home and placed under the front steps is believed to be effective.

  • A knife, bow and arrow, and hatchet placed above the door are said to cut evil.

  • To remove a conjure, place 9 needles, 9 brass pins, 9 hairs from the head of the afflicted into a bottle or jar, cover with their urine and close. Set it behind the fireplace and when the bottle bursts, the conjure will be broken.

  • White mustard seeds wrapped in a red flannel bag and attached to the back of the front door are believed to prevent negative energy from entering the home.

  • Planting holly in the front garden is said to discourage evil spirits from entering the home.

  • Spreading red brick dust across thresholds (i.e. doors and windows) is said to prevent evil and negativity from entering.

  • Sprinkling grits on the front porch is said to keep bad spirits away.

  • Take a sack of salt and draw a cross on it while saying “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”. Place the sack under the front porch for an effective ward. Pour some out in the form of a cross on your front porch and moisten with Holy Water for an effective ward.

  • Black salt sprinkled on the front steps and then swept away is said to cause any negative energy to likewise be swept away.


And as a little bit of lagniappe, here are a couple of simple works to prevent and reverse curse and negative conjury.

Dragon’s Blood Floor Wash
This floor wash is used to drive away negative energy, banish evil spirits, and eliminate anger directed at you. It also creates a barrier of protection.

1 cup dragon’s blood powder
1 cup High John the Conqueror root
1 cup quinta maldicion herb
1 cup kosher rock salt
1 cup espanta muerto herb
Florida Water 

Start by scrubbing the back of the house, making your way out to the front step to drive away evil spirits, anger, or general negative energy. It is best to start before dawn. Throw the remaining water to the east at or before sunrise.

Curse Reversal Spell
Set a black and white double action reversal candle on a mirror, white side down (butt the white side and carve the black to a point, revealing the wick). Make a circle of powdered crab shells going counterclockwise around the candle. Recite Psalm 48. It is said that your enemy will be seized with fear, terror, and anxiety and will never attempt to harm you again. Place the ritual remains in a brown paper bag and leave at a crossroads.



References 

Alvarado, D. (2011). The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook. Weiser Books: San Fransisco.

Morgan, D.L.. (1886) Charms and Charm-Medicines. Catholic World, pp. 322-336.



Copyright 2010-2012 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide. Please ask if you would like to repost this article.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

About Miller's Mysteries and a Mess of Cobwebs

I have been very busy of late with several big projects which has kept me away from the Conjure Corner forum more than usual. One of those projects was finishing up on the Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook. Who knew there were to be so many reviews before the final copy is approved? I mean, just when I thought I was done I had to review it yet again. But I am glad that I did as there were those last minute changes that needed to be made. All in all, I am VERY happy with the book and the way it turned out. And I am thrilled to have endorsements from Dorothy Morrison, Ray Buckland, Aaron Leitch, and Christian Day, among others.

My only regret is that I had to cut out a lot of material to make the approved page count. But, I decided that the cut material is every bit as important as what remained, and so I will be publishing that material at some point in the future. The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook Volume 2 anyone?

Another of my big projects is the redesign of Doc Miller's hoodoo drugstore website, medicinesandcurios.com. This website is the sister site to Miller's Rexall, which is his main business located in downtown Atlanta. And let me tell you, this has been some project! With over 4000 products I am still adding pictures and descriptions, but we are happy to announce that it is live and awaiting your visit. I am not kidding when I say he has everything you ever wanted and if it is not listed, just call the store and ask and I am sure he can get it for you. You can find the contact info at the site.

Real hoodoo drugstores don't exist like they used to down south or anywhere else for that matter. Especially in New Orleans, we had plenty of them and I remember frequenting the Dixie Drugstore as a kid, but that was many moons ago. I'm talking about real pharmacies that also carry a complete inventory of hoodoo materia medica, not some website that has sprung up on the internet in the past couple of years that calls itself a hoodoo drugstore or puts itself in the class of a hoodoo drugstore. I'm talking about a hoodoo drugstore that has withstood the test of time and that persists from a bygone era. I'm talking about a hoodoo drugstore that is employed by folks from the neighborhood who know what folks from the neighborhood are looking for. And as a bonus, I am talking about a hoodoo drugstore that is owned and operated by one of the nicest people I know.

The hoodoo drugstore is Miller's Rexall, in business since 1965, and the new and improved website is medicinesandcurios.com.

Read an excerpt from Volume 2 of Hoodoo and Conjure Quarterly about Doc Miller and his historic enterprise at our blog, Miller's Mysteries.

Miller's Mysteries: A MESS OF COBWEBS MAKES A BELIEVER OUT OF DOC MILLER...: OVER 45 YEARS AGO, Richard "Doc" Miller was just 12 years old when he started working with his uncle Dr. (Doc) Donald Miller at Miller's Rexall in downtown Atlanta...

 
Copyright 2010-2012 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide. Please ask if you would like to repost this article.
 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Curse, Paranoia, or Psychology?

Okay, I think we need to talk about this one because it is an issue I am perpetually hearing. Life is going to hell in a hand basket, relationships are going sour, finances suck, health is going bad, interpersonal conflicts, bill collectors, can't find a job, your Facebook page has been hacked, you are the victim of identity theft, your best friend sleeps with your husband or wife, and the list goes on and on.

You must be cursed, right? Surely, this can't be a natural phenomenon, it MUST be the result of someone throwing some left-handed conjure your way, right?

WRONG.

98% of the time this is the result of life folks, not a curse, not some enemy throwing down at you. It is the result of choices YOU make and beliefs you have that cause you to continue to make choices that result in a state of living that is less than your desired life.

Sometimes it all starts with a significant event that occurs at some point in your life, maybe in childhood or maybe in adulthood. Maybe you were abused as a child and internalized those events so that your core belief about yourself is that you do not deserve to have an easy, free living life. You believe you don't deserve happiness because that is what you were told when you were little. Everything that happens to us when we are 5 to 6 years old shapes our personality and life perception for the rest of our lives. If you were beaten or sexually abused when you were so little, the messages that go along with that kind of treatment are:

*You aren't worthy of respect.
*Your body does not belong to you.
*You are less than everyone else.
*You better not say anything or you will suffer more atrocities.
*You can't trust anyone.
*You have no control over your life.
*Life is not safe.
*No one will come to your rescue because you aren't worthy, your body doesn't belong to you, you are less than everyone else and you better not say anything because you will be hurt again or someone else will be hurt and it will be your fault, life is not safe, you have no control, and you DEFINITELY cant trust anyone.

These are the messages you carry with you into your adulthood, and these are the messages that guide your decision making. Often, as adults, we will recreate the same abuse we suffered as children as a subconscious means of resolving and working through the trauma. But it doesn't work, does it? You continue to get in one abusive relationship after another, you continue to be attracted to the same kinds of people who treat you disrespectfully, constantly invade your boundaries, treat you like you are less than everyone else. You settle for a man or a woman who is unfaithful, a drunk or drug addict, won't work, or in some way closely resembles the person who abused you as a child.

No wonder you think it has always been that way! No wonder you come to the conclusion that you must have been born with a curse!

But you weren't born with a curse. You may have been born into a fucked up situation, treated badly and learned insecurity and low self esteem, but you have not been cursed.

What about those of you for whom you were not abused as children? What about the chain of bad luck that has happened ever since the death of your mother, father, best friend? Ever since you got married or into a relationship with a certain partner?

Everything we experience comes with a set of beliefs we form as a result of those experiences. If for example, you are sad and do not allow yourself to grieve, you can become emotionally stuck. It can become hard to make even the smallest of decisions. You just don't have the energy to fight for yourself anymore. The bills have piled up and you are so overwhelmed you can't DO anything except wonder, why me? What did I do to deserve this? Surely this isn't normal? It must be a curse!

There's an old saying "life is hard and then you die" (and several variations on that theme). The fact of the matter is that life IS hard. People die. People are not perfect. People will betray us, not everyone will treat us the way we deserve to be treated. We get sick. People we love get sick. Our animals die. We will always have bills and most of us will never be wealthy. OMG, I am exhausted just thinking about it! Why bother, right?

Now, let's think about the saying from a different perspective. Life is hard and then you die. What does that mean?

The fact of the matter is that life IS hard, but there is also joy if we look for it.

People die, but people live longer than they die.

People are not perfect, thank Buddha! Could you imagine if you had to live up to the standard of perfection?

People will betray us, but people will also be loyal to us. We will have friends along the way if we are open to receiving them.

Not everyone will treat us the way we deserve to be treated...IF YOU ALLOW IT. We train people how to treat us. If we allow people to treat us like shit then guess what? We will be treated like shit.

We get sick but we also have periods of good health. And along this line of thinking, what have you done today to ensure you have good health? Are you smoking, drinking excessively, eating junk food, smoking pot, doing drugs and sitting on the couch all day? or are you making a conscious decision about everything that goes into your body? Are you treating your body like the temple it is?

People we love die. Yes, but they also live, usually a lot longer than the process of death. Are you appreciating everyone who means something to you on a daily basis? Or are you taking them for granted? And guess what? The longer we live, the more people we know will die. That is a fact of life...death is a fact of life. Death is part of the life-death-life cycle. Without death, there is no life.

Our animals die. Our animals live...longer than they die. Are you loving your animal companion to the best of your ability today?

We will always have bills. Yes, but we can learn how to pay them off. We can understand that some things we will always have to pay for and then there are those things we never had to buy in the first place.

Most of us will never be wealthy. If we are talking about money, this is true. Can you be happy without being wealthy? What is wealth? What is happiness?

Is the glass half empty or half full? If it is my tendency to believe the glass is half empty, then I will be more inclined to believe that life happens TO me. I am more inclined to believe I must be crossed. If I believe the glass is half full, I will find the joy in each day, turn problems into challenges, and reclaim my life. I am empowered to change the things I can and find serenity in knowing there are things I simply cannot.

There is a concept in psychology of the self-fulfilling prophecy. This is what I am talking about. If I believe it to be, so it will be. This can work for the positive and for the negative, equally.

Life happens. This doesn't mean a curse has been laid on you. It means if life sucks for you, then guess what? You can change it! And how freeing and empowering it is when you come to that realization. This is why magick is so powerful; it gives us tools we can use to make the changes we need. Just know that magick is a cocreative process. Waving a magic wand only has its place in Harry Potter movies, not real life. In real life we have to align our thoughts and behaviors to be consistent with our vision for ourselves and consistent with the work we do.

Here is the basic truth: we were all born sacred and divine human beings, perfect just as we are. No matter what has ever happened, this is the truth. We grow to be adults with the POWER to change. We can co create our lives in partnership with universal forces to be the lives we always wanted to live. Remember this and you will no longer have the need to believe you are cursed.


Copyright 2010-2012 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide. Please ask if you would like to repost this article.
 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Casey Anthony Voodoo Dolls: Profit from Murder or Justified Revenge?



When the whole country first became aware of the murder of little Caylee Anthony, the media latched on to the story like no other. And after the arrest of her mother Casey Anthony on July 16, 2008, people with a macabre perception of  free enterprise clamored to make a buck off of  what panned out to be one of the most notable cases of this century for the murder of a child.

It wasn't long before someone claiming to be from my hometown of New Orleans created a voodoo doll representing Casey and put it on eBay for sale. What that person did with the money, I don't know. In fact, for the longest time I tried to find out who was making these dolls, but never did find out. It certainly got more than the appropriate share of press which I am certain spawned further sales. And of course, others jumped on the bandwagon with their attempt to make a more "palatable" doll in the eyes of the general public when the Caylee Anthony Sunshine Doll was created in 2009. Fortunately, this distasteful product launch was not met with the public's embrace and the Anthony family attorney demanded it to be taken off the shelf, which it ultimately was.

Now, I am getting Google feeds daily about the demand for Casey and Cindy Anthony voodoo dolls. I have even been approached about making these dolls. After all, I have written articles and have several mini sites dedicated to predators and child sexual abuse AND I make Voodoo dolls. But here is a big difference: I make Voodoo dolls and these other folks make voodoo dolls. Furthermore, my websites that are geared towards predators and child abuse are all not for profit with 100% of the proceeds going to the Polly Klass Foundation.


Casey Anthony Voodoo Doll
http://www.theweeklyvice.com/2009/01/casey-anthony-voo-doo-doll-for-those.html

This whole issue of people profiting off of the murder of others spawns many discussions, the least of which is the question of morality. Is it right to profit from other people's pain? This is a complicated question in the world of hoodoo if one is a two headed practitioner. And the answer would be "yes", if we are to be completely honest. People come to practitioners because they are hurting, desperate, tired, and sick and tired of some person, place or situation. We do what we can to help them change it, whatever it is. But, there is a big difference in this kind of profit as opposed to profiting off of the murder of a child, or any murdered person for that matter.

Many folks will say there is no moral code in hoodoo, usually in reference to the concepts of karma and the Wiccan rede that are not part of the African-derived traditions. But I disagree with this. Of course there is a moral code in hoodoo, and it is as individual as the practitioners themselves. We are all guided by our own set of morals, shaped by our upbringings, beliefs, and life experiences. To say otherwise is just ignorant.


http://www.babble.com/mom/selling-casey-anthony-25-weird-wacky-items-from-etsy-ebay/


Yet, the whole discussion of "hoodoo morals" is, in my opinion,  a good one. All religions and spiritual practices have a set of guidelines governing moral behavior. The idea that in hoodoo or the public concept of voodoo one can do whatever they want because there is not a written or universally determined body that regulates behavior is ludicrous. Typically, this stance is defended because hoodoo is a "magickal system" and the general public has no real understanding of the Voodoo/Vodou religions. If this is true, then why do we always say to perform cleansings after doing such work? Because we aren't worried there will be negative side effects? Because we want to separate our energy from the energy that we have manipulated? Because we don't want to be attached to whatever situation it is we are working? Because we don't want our families and pets to suffer as a result of putting the mojo on someone? Or all of the above? The World of Spirit has its own set of rules, and if you are going to be a player in that world, you had best be ready to deal with the consequences of your choices within that world.

But is revenge ever justified? And is it ever justified to do Voodoo or hoodoo on a perpetrator? Of course it is. Particularly in cases of child abuse, sexual abuse, rape, and murder of a child it is justified and we have specific spirits that are more than willing to take on these cases upon request. The best discussion I have ever read to date on this issue is in Luisah Teish's book Jambalaya; The Natural Woman's Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals. In that book, Chief Luisah Teish discusses the case of rape and how one might going about seeking revenge in a manner that has the desired outcome in terms of punishing the offender and keeping oneself safe from negative consequences of initiating such revenge. If this book is not a part of your library, whether you are a man or a woman, I highly recommend it.

Casey Anthony and Cindy Anthony Voodoo dolls are wrong and I will not be among those people who make them and sell them on eBay. Not only do I hate eBay, I hate the very idea of profiting off of a child's murder. There is nothing in that scenario that I can see to make it a good idea, unless one is doing it for the express purpose of raising money for an appropriate, related organization with the power to do a lot of good in this world. Otherwise, these folks are creating their own bad mojo. Whether you believe in karma or not, or Newton's Law that states all actions have an opposite and equal reaction, or that the actions of a hoodoo has no consequences, none of us live in a vacuum in this world. We are all connected,and as such, we all effect one another.

If you are outraged by the release of Casey Anthony and want to honor Caylee's memory, and the memory of all murdered children, check out the Polly Klass Foundation as a start. There are many things we can do on a personal and social level to make a difference in the prevention of violence against children and to help in finding missing and exploited children. I have listed a few links below for your convenience.

Finally, there is power in numbers. Whether it is a social cause or spiritual cause, when a group of people focus their energy to a desired end, there is a greater chance of seeing the change you want to see. If you wish to effect change on a spiritual level, work in tandem with the people in your magickal circle towards a specific purpose. Help to send light and protection to the children in the world who need it. Bind the perpetrators. Do whatever you feel is within your power to do. The important thing is to take action. Sitting idly by without doing anything is complacency, and that has its own set of consequences.


Never doubt that a small group of thoughful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
(Margaret Mead 1901-1978)

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Image Credit: (Top) http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/crime/orl-casey-voodoo-doll-photo-photo.html