Saturday, August 9, 2014

Conjuring the Pink Elephant

“Ego Integrity vs Despair.” There is an inherent human need to be able to reflect back on life and feel as if we made a difference and to feel fulfilled with our lives. To be successful is to feel wise; to be unsuccessful is to feel regret, bitterness and despair.

Human Behavioral Observation


High school


Multiple teenagers and adults

Incident #1

A teacher posted a mean note on the bulletin board outside of the school office aimed at a failed student and texted the same note along with a photo to whom the note was written to all the students in the school. The teacher also posted it on a public forum on the internet for the world to see. This teacher was surrounded by a group of mostly silent supporters, more accurately described as “followers” in that they did not question the teachers’ motive or actions. Upon discovery, the children and other teachers seemed shocked and offended (except the few who sent the note) evidenced by mouths agape, gasping, posturing and sudden and persistent incessant chatter about the incident on the school grounds.

The target of the hateful letter told the principle and teacher. They told all of their friends what happened. Many of the other students and teachers rallied around the victim, but only a handful of them dared speak openly about it, for fear they would be the next target, evidenced by statements to that effect in personal and public conversations. When confronted with the behavior, the teacher blamed the victim for causing their reaction that prompted the writing of the letter and public posting of same.

Incident #2

On the same day as Incident #1, a teacher wrote an assignment for a class that was directly in opposition of the school mandated curriculum. When the other teachers became aware, many became angry, evidenced by loud voices and arguing and declaring war on the opposition, others were glad, evidenced by smiling, and patting each other on the back. A third group questioned the mandated curriculum and the agenda behind the school for choosing said mandated curriculum. These individuals exhibited furrowed brows and asked questions not normally asked, such as “why?” and “how?” This small group appeared to agitate both of the other groups as their questions were met with sarcastic comments, condescension, and were told to stop creating conflict (in essence, told to be quiet). It is significant to note that this third group did not acquiesce to the demands of the other groups and maintained their stance, questioning the status quo.

Incident #3

Another student was angry at someone else for cheating on a test. This student decided to emulate the first scenario exhibited by the teacher and send their own hate-filled letter, posting it on the same bulletin board for the whole school to see, as well as on a similar forum on the internet where it became visible to the general public. This student belonged to the same group as the second group in Incident #2. When confronted by individuals belonging to group 3 (incident #2), this student became angry and defensive, evidenced by the tone of their voice and the words spoken (i.e. “step off,” “you wouldn’t understand,” “stop causing trouble”). This student claimed to be “bullied” when it was pointed out to them (by members of group 3 in Incident #2) that their behavior mirrored the behavior of the first scenario.


Conflict resolution does not appear to be a strength amongst the individuals observed. As is often the case with adolescents, they are impressionable and tend emulate the behaviors of those they look up to, even if the behavior is self-destructive. According to Erikson's stages of psychosocial development, it appears many among the observed groups are emotionally stunted at most, and emotionally regressed at least, across the board. The age group spans several generations, beginning with teenagers who normally experience what Erikson coins "identity vs role confusion," to older adults whose normal psychological development is at a stage called "ego integrity vs despair." The identity vs role confusion stage is characterized by a normal struggle with the individual figuring out a sense of personal identity, who they are and what they stand for. When this is accomplished, they feel success, a sense of accomplishment, and are able to stand up for what they believe in, even if the peer group is engaging in oppositional behavior. When they are unsuccessful, it results in a poor sense of self, a lack of self-worth and a lack of personal identity.

Some of the older teens would be expected to be in Erikson’s “intimacy versus isolation stage.” This is the stage where people are normally developing loving, intimate relationships with each other. When they are successful, they feel a sense of belonging and purpose. When unsuccessful, they feel a sense of loneliness and isolation.

The teachers in the above scenarios are from middle adulthood in the stage Erikson coins “Generative vs Stagnation.”  At this stage in life, the well-adjusted adult seeks to engage in activities that will leave a legacy, something that will represent their deeds in life. They nurture and create things that will outlast them often for the benefit of others. When successful, they experience a sense of accomplishment and usefulness. When unsuccessful, they experience nothing more than feeling stuck and a shallow involvement with the world. 

The oldest members in the above scenarios belong to the stage Erikson calls “Ego Integrity vs Despair.” There is an inherent human need to be able to reflect back on life and feel as if they made a difference and to feel fulfilled with their lives. To be successful is to feel wise; to be unsuccessful is to feel regret, bitterness and despair.

According to Erikson’s theory, when individuals do not develop within normal psychological parameters, crisis occurs.

With the exception of group three as described in Incident #2, the group as a whole appears to display various forms of ego regression. According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, ego regression, which is a form of coping defense mechanism, occurs when faced with a threat to one’s personal sense of self or schema. The anxiety that results is too great to bear psychologically and emotionally. Therefore, the mind being the wonderful thing that it is, unconsciously brings into play a variety of strategies aimed at lessening and eliminating the anxiety. Some of these defense mechanisms include manipulation (i.e. sending letters, using public display as humiliation, intimidation and fear tactics; garnering peer group sympathy), rationalization (blaming someone else for one’s behavior; feeling justified to attack another because they cheated on a test;  minimizing the severity of their behavior), distorting reality (i.e. taking on the role of “victim” instead of taking responsibility as perpetrator; telling lies), expressing anger as the motivation for one’s actions, and denial, which isn’t a river in Egypt.

In the context of Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development, we see regression going back to infantile and toddler emotional and psychological stages of trust vs mistrust and autonomy vs shame and doubt. Is there consistent care by the school (archetypal Mother)? Are students adequately self-sufficient to survive betrayal of trust? And as to the psychological developmental stage of the 3 to 6 year old, initiative vs guilt; are students able to overstep the boundaries of the Mother without feeling guilty? Can they, and are they willing to, stand on their own two feet, express their own opinions without fear of reprisal? 

Psychological defense mechanisms are part of a healthy psyche. We all have them, and we all use them thank Buddha. They only become pathological when used persistently to such a degree that they have an adverse effect on one’s mental health.

In addition to the above observations, there also appears to be an element of antisocial behavior amongst some of the subjects. I’ll let the reader decide whether this rings true for them or not. But, just for shits and giggles, here are 16 characteristics of sociopathy described by Cleckley (1941) as cited in Thomas (2013):

  • Superficial charm and good intelligence
  • Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
  • Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations
  • Unreliability
  • Untruthfulness and insincerity
  • Lack of remorse and shame
  • Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
  • Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
  • Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
  • General poverty in major affective reactions
  • Specific loss of insight
  • Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
  • Fantastic and uninviting behavior with alcohol and sometimes without
  • Suicide threats rarely carried out
  • Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
  • Failure to follow any life plan

In many aspects, both groups 1 & 2 resemble a dysfunctional family unit with group members taking on roles of parents and children, brothers and sisters. Take a look at the top image and the chart below to get an idea of what I am referring to. These roles develop within alcoholic and abusive family systems.

What is your role in your conjure family?



In all three observed scenarios, the pink elephant in the living room has yet to be acknowledged and agreed upon between all members of the groups. Unfortunately, this will likely leave them divided as individuals as well as amongst themselves. Group three will continue normal psychosocial development, while groups 1 and 2 will likely continue to deteriorate psychically, emotionally and communally until they accept personal responsibility for their role in keeping the pink elephant hidden in plain sight.


Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and Society. New York: Norton.

Freud, S. (1923). The ego and the id. SE, 19: 1-66

Thomas, M. E. (2013.) How to Spot a Sociopath. Psychology Today. Retrieved from:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lessons from Our Elders Part 2

To follow up the story about the use of Crystals in indigenous traditions, I wanted to share another lesson taught to me from a Grandmother. This involves the horned toad, a lizard that lives in the Southwestern United States. Called "Chei Yaazh" in Navajo, meaning "Little Grandfather," these little guys are sacred creatures. The ones in the photo are just little babies and just cute as can be. The photo is of my son holding them, we had found them while going on a walk. This is how we teach our children. he knows about Chei medicine because I taught him. He holds it in his hand, on that day and many other days. He knows how to use the medicine, he knows who they are. He knows because I know. I know because Grandma taught me. And no, this is not another "grandmother story." This is the truth, a real grandmother story, knowledge passed down the old way, via oral tradition.

One day, I was standing outside with grandma, we were enjoying the beautiful day. This grandmother did speak a little English. All of a sudden she said look ! Chei Yaazh naagha! meaning look, there goes Little Grandfather! I have always loved horned toads, lizards, snakes and reptiles in general, so I bent down and picked him up. he was an adult, bigger than the ones in the photograph. She told me to give him to her so I did. She whispered something to the little Chei and held him to her heart. Then she pulled out her medicine bag that contained corn pollen and she sprinkled a tiny amount onto the back of the little Chei set him on the ground and told him in Indian to go in beauty...hozhoogo nanina.

In the Indian way, we have to be careful about asking things of our elders. We are taught to observe, observe and you will learn. Speak and you only hear your own voice. Or as the Cherokee saying goes, "Listen or your tongue will make you deaf." I learned about that saying in a not very pleasant way at all, but I'll save that story for another time. Anyway, I looked at grandma with the question, i wanted to know what did she just do? what did she say to Little Chei?

She told me.

Horned toads, Little Grandfathers, are wish takers basically. Whenever you see one, you can pick it up and whisper your wish to it, say a prayer, give it an offering of corn pollen and send it on its way with blessings. Blessings to carry your wish to the Creator and make it manifest, and blessings for it for a safe journey in life.

How cool is that?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lessons from Our Elders Part 1

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.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Get Rid of Enemies and Restore Justice

"The so-called dark side is not wholly an evil or negative place or force; after all, some things remain in the shadows because we've placed them there out of fear or squeamishness." -- Jay Kinney

Banishment and Equalizer Spell

This spell asks God to be the mediator between you and your enemy by protecting you and punishing the person who hurt you.

This spell can be used as a means to settle the score with an enemy, by causing them to be ostracized, resulting in mental anguish, and eventually going away. Since you are asking God to intervene for you, you are not subject to any ill effects or bad karma.

You will need:

  • Piece of parchment paper 
  • Black Arts Oil 
  • General purpose Voodoo doll 
  • Black pin 
  • Black cloth


Write the name of your target on the parchment paper and anoint with Black Arts oil. Tuck the paper into the Voodoo doll. Recite Psalm 55 nine times over the doll, and stick one pin through the parchment paper and into the doll. Wrap the doll in a black cloth and hide in a dark place, careful to choose a place where no one can find it and handle it.

Each day for eight more days (for a total of nine days), take out the doll and recite Psalm 55 nine times over it and stick a pin through the parchment paper and into the doll. Wrap the doll in a black cloth and hide away in a dark place, away from prying eyes.

On the ninth day, take the doll and the black cloth and bury it near a cemetery. Alternately, you can burn the doll and throw the ashes in a cemetery.  Or, you may keep the doll and remove the parchment paper and nine pins from the doll and either bury them in or near a cemetery or burn and throw the ashes in or near a cemetery. If you keep the doll for future use, you may only use it for the same person, and you must keep it wrapped up and away from view, except when you wish to speak to your enemy through it.

Psalm 55

Have mercy on me, O God, for man hath trodden me under foot; all the day long he hath afflicted me fighting against me.

My enemies have trodden on me all the day long; for they are many that make war against me.

From the height of the day I shall fear: but I will trust in thee. The height of the day... That is, even at noonday, when the sun is the highest, I am still in danger.

In God I will praise my words, in God I have put my trust: I will not fear what flesh can do against me. My words... The words or promises God has made in my favour.

All the day long they detested my words: all their thoughts were against me unto evil.

They will dwell and hide themselves: they will watch my heel. As they have waited for my soul,

For nothing shalt thou save them: in thy anger thou shalt break the people in pieces. O God, For nothing shalt thou save them... That is, since they lie in wait to ruin my soul, thou shalt for no consideration favour or assist them, but execute thy justice upon them.

I have declared to thee my life: thou hast set me tears in thy sight, As also in thy promise.

Then shall my enemies be turned back. In what day soever I shall call upon thee, behold I know thou art my God.

In God will I praise the word, in the Lord will I praise his speech. In God have I hoped, I will not fear what man can do to me.

In me, O God, are vows to thee, which I will pay, praises to thee:

Because thou hast delivered my soul from death, my feet from falling: that I may please in the sight of God, in the light of the living.

Whoop Ass Conjure

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

St. Nicolas the Wonderworker and Bringer of Gifts

IT sounds like a nightmare straight out of American Horror Story, and certainly not what we would typically imagine when thinking of jolly ole St. Nick. It was during a time of great famine, and the people were hungry—so hungry, in fact, that some resorted to the most desperate of actions in order to quell their hunger pangs. For example, one person—a butcher—lured three innocent children into his shop, proceeded to chop them up and began preparations for selling them as packaged meat. But first, the bodies had to be placed in brine and cured.  Nicolas was in the area at the time, busy doing what he usually does, caring for the less fortunate and feeding the hungry. He realized what had happened when he saw the butchered bodies of the three children curing in barrels.. Horrified and determined to right the wrong, Nicolas performed his first miracle by resurrecting the three children from the barrels through his powerful prayers. Needless to say, the butcher was on the naughty list that year.
In a different version of this story, the slaughtered victims were three clerks as opposed to children. The three clerks needed a place to stay the evening and asked to spend the night at the butcher’s home. He agreed, and then promptly murdered all three. The butcher’s wife—clearly a sociopath—suggested her husband turn the dead bodies into meat pies. Nicolas saw through this evil crime and through his powerful prayers, brought the men back to life.  

As with any legend, there are naysayers who do not believe either of the aforementioned stories. To them, the story of St. Nicolas’s ability to raise the dead is considered absurd and can be attributed to a simple matter of mistaken identity. The real story, according to the doubting Thomases, begins with a man with three daughters who were unable to find husbands because they were dirt poor. The man’s solution to the problem was to turn out his daughters to the streets and into a life of prostitution. Now, St. Nicolas’s parents died when he was a young boy and as his folks were well off, he inherited an obscene amount of money with which he pledged to utilize for charitable work. He took the opportunity with the man and his three daughters to act upon his pledge.
St. Nicolas, however, was a very humble person and was not into doing charitable work for public recognition. So, true to his reputation of performing acts of kindness on the downlow, he took a bag of gold coins and tossed it into a window of the man’s home in the dead of night so he couldn't be seen. There was enough money for a nice dowry for the eldest daughter, and she was married soon thereafter. St. Nicolas did the same thing for the second and third daughters, all of whom were subsequently married. During his third attempt, however, the man actually saw St. Nicolas toss the bag of gold into the window. Now, the man was able to express his deep gratitude to St. Nicolas for the kindness he had shown his family.
And, this is the part of the story where the mistaken identity comes into play. Paintings and artistic renderings of St. Nicolas and his iconography sometimes feature three bags of gold. According to this explanation, the three bags of gold have been mistaken for the heads of three children, giving rise to the murder by dismemberment tale. Personally, I’m not sure which of the stories are more absurd, raising the dead and reassembling chopped up bodies or mistaking three bags of gold for the heads of three children. In my opinion, the latter seems as much of a stretch as the reanimation story. But whose to say? It is supposed to be a miracle, after all.
Whatever may be the case, it is not putting dismembered bodies back together, fighting cannibalism, or reanimating corpses that put St. Nicolas on the world map. Before he was a saint, Nicolas (270 – 6 December 343) was well-known for his generosity and gift giving. It is said he would secretly put coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and he would routinely help the hungry and the needy. He was a true philanthropist. Because of his generous nature and penchant for giving gifts, he became the role model for the modern day Santa Claus.
Indeed, St. Nicolas is arguably the most popular saint in all the world—second only to the Virgin Mary. He is known by different names depending on the country and region in which he is venerated. Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, Odin the Wanderer, Jule Nisse and Jouluppukki, are but a few names he goes by.  In Louisiana, he is known as Papa Noel.   

As with most legendary characters of New Orleans, Papa Noel is surrounded by a fog of mystery and myth.
He doesn't own a sleigh as it wouldn't be practical traversing the swamps and bayous of Louisiana, and he has no need of reindeer because it is said the Creole food would make them too fat to fly. Instead he moves about in a pirogue, a narrow, flat-bottomed boat that can penetrate the 
deepest swamp. Some say he has 8 fat alligators and a red-nosed loup garou to pull his pirogue. Others say no, the alligators are just close friends, the loup garou is a distant cousin, and it's Papa Noel who has the red nose (he is particularly fond of Ponche au Lait - Creole Milk Punch, reindeer beer and crawdads). The bon fires are lit all down the levees to help guide Papa Noel to the children in the area. 

Papa Noel's Ponche au Lait (Creole Milk Punch)

· A glass of whole milk
· 1 tablespoon of sugar
· 1 tablespoon brandy or whiskey
· Crushed ice

Dissolve the sugar in the Brandy or Whiskey. Pour chilled milk into a glass about halfway to three quarters of the way full. Pour the sweetened Brandy or Whiskey over the milk and add crushed ice. Put on St. Nicolas’s altar for him to enjoy.

Read more about St. Nicolas including recipes and working with him from a conjure perspective in Gumbo Ya Ya #4.

And now a little lagniappe...

Cajun Night Before Christmas 

Twas the night before Christmas an' all t'ru de house,
Dey don't a ting pass Not even a mouse.
De chirren been nezzle good snug on de flo',
An' Mama pass de pepper t'ru de crack on de do'.

De Mama in de fireplace done roas' up de ham,
Stir up de gumbo an' make de bake yam.
Den out on de by-you dey got such a clatter,
Make soun' like old Boudreau done fall off his ladder.

I run like a rabbit to got to de do',
Trip over de dorg an' fall on de flo'.
As I look out de do'in de light o' de moon,
I t'ink, "Mahn, you crazy or got ol' too soon."

Cuz dere on de by-you w'en I stretch ma'neck stiff,
Dere's eight alligator a pullin' de skiff.
An' a little fat drover wit' a long pole-ing stick,
I know r'at away got to be ole St.Nick.

Mo' fas'er an' fas'er de' gator dey came
He whistle an' holler an' call dem by name:
"Ha, Gaston! Ha, Tiboy! Ha, Pierre an' Alcee'!
Gee, Ninette! Gee, Suzette! Celeste an' Renee'!

To de top o' de porch to de top o' de wall,
Make crawl, alligator, an' be sho' you don' fall."
Like Tante Flo's cat t'ru de treetop he fly,
W'en de big ole houn' dorg come a run hisse'sef by.

Like dat up de porch dem ole 'gator clim!
Wit' de skiff full o' toy an' St. Nick behin'.
Den on top de porch roof it soun' like de hail,
W'en all dem big gator, done sot down dey tail.

Den down de chimney I yell wit' a bam,
An' St.Nicklus fall an' sit on de yam.
"Sacre!" he axclaim, "Ma pant got a hole
I done sot ma'se'f on dem red hot coal."

He got on his foots an' jump like a cat
Out to de flo' where he lan' wit' a SPLAT!
He was dress in muskrat from his head to his foot,
An' his clothes is all dirty wit' ashes an' soot.

A sack full o' playt'ing he t'row on his back,
He look like a burglar an' dass fo' a fack.
His eyes how dey shine his dimple, how merry!
Maybe he been drink de wine from de blackberry.

His cheek was like a rose his nose a cherry,
On secon' t'ought maybe he lap up de sherry.
Wit' snow-white chin whisker an' quiverin' belly,
He shook w'en he laugh like de stromberry jelly!

But a wink in his eye an' a shook o' his head,
Make my confidence dat I don't got to be scared.
He don' do no talkin' gone strit to hi work,
Put a playt'ing in sock an' den turn wit' a jerk.

He put bot' his han' dere on top o' his head,
Cas' an eye on de chimney an' den he done said:
"Wit' all o' dat fire an' dem burnin' hot flame,
Me I ain' goin' back by de way dat I came."

So he run out de do' an, he clim' to de roof,
He ain' no fool, him for to make one more goof.
He jump in his skiff an' crack his big whip,
De' gator move down, An don' make one slip.

An' I hear him shout loud as a splashin' he go,
"Merry Christmas to all 'til I saw you some mo'!"


From  "Cajun Night before Chrismas"
By "Trosclair"
Edited by Howard Jacobs
Illustrated by James Rice
Pelican Publishing 1992
Copyright 1973