Showing posts with label New orleans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New orleans. Show all posts

Get the Real Story about Mary Oneida Toups in the Special Edition Issue of Hoodoo and Conjure New Orleans!


The first issue of the acclaimed magazine journal under the new name of simply Hoodoo and Conjure, formerly Hoodoo and Conjure Quarterly, is here!

In all its gloriousness and fabulous writ, Hoodoo and Conjure: New Orleans brings to you a fantastic collection of articles from a variety of notable as well as up and coming authors. The majority of the articles center on New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo, however, we also include some fantastic articles about southern conjure traditions in general. Here we go...are you ready?

Get the original story about Mary Oneida Toups by the original author, 6th generation New Orleans born Alyne Pustanio! News flash, American Horror Story: Coven is not the first to tell her story! Our very own Alyne Pustanio is!

Here are some of the articles jam packed in this issue of Hoodoo and Conjure New Orleans:

FEATURE STORIES

  • New Orleans-Style Day of the Dead with Sallie Ann Glassman by Alyne Pustanio
  • In Memorium: Coco Robicheaux by Alyne Pustanio
  • Digging in the Dirt by Dorothy Morrison
  • The Wishing Tomb of Marie Laveaux by Denise Alvarado
  • The Story about Mary Oneida Toups by Alyne Pustanio
  • Tituba, the Voodoo Girl of Salem by Witchdoctor Utu
  • Food as Medzin by Madrina Angelique
  • The Graveyard Snake and the Ancestors by Dr. Snake
  • Holy Death and the Seven Insights: A Gay Man’s Story of Self-Transformation and his Search for Love by Carolina Dean
  • Adventures in Ghost Hunting by Carolina Dean
  • It Might be a Sign of Things to Come by H. Byron Ballard
  • Wicca and Voodoo: Bringing the Two Together by Nish Perez
  • Wicca and Voodoo: Rhythms by Louis Martinie
  • Crimson Light through Muddy Water: Southern Goth as an Occult Reality by Tim Broussard

And more!!!


APPLIED CONJURE

  • Spell Work with the Dead by Madrina Angelique
  • How to Bury an Enemy by Madrina Angelique
  • Uncrossing Land by Aaron Leitch

And more!


PHOTO ESSAY

  • Herein lies the Poor and the Indigent: A Photo Essay of Holt Cemetery by Denise Alvarado and Alyne Pustanio 


INTERNATIONAL CONJURE

  • Mystery Of a Sacred Sastun and The Trinity of Stones: An Interview with Winsom Winsom by Rev.Roots

TUTORIAL

  • Tutorial: How to Make a New Orleans Style Rope Doll by Denise Alvarado 



BOOK REVIEW

  • Talking to God with Food: Questioning Animal Sacrifice by Louis Martinie, Review by Denise Alvarado


This magazine journal is an 8 X 10 special edition, full color bleed, 125 pages, of the highest quality and bound like a book. A true collector's item and must have for any student of conjure and lover of New Orleans and Southern folk magic traditions. 

To purchase, please visit Creole Moon.


Hoodoo and Conjure New Orleans. It's for real, y'all.






Open Letter to Cat Yronwode and Lucky Mojo Regarding the Accusation of New Orleans Voodoo as a Faux Religion Perpetuated by Fakers


This blog will address a very serious matter. It will likely offend some people, enrage others, and amuse those with no vested interest in the issue. Frankly, I don't care what people think. This is something I need to say for me and for my ancestors whose voices are the ones to whom we should be paying attention.

As some of you know, over the past 2 years I have been the subject of much gossip. You would think people had better things to do than talk about me and my life, but some folks thrive on making themselves look better by deliberately attempting to discredit others.

I was informed this morning about an article on the Lucky Mojo website that has made stunningly inaccurate statements about New Orleans Voodoo as a religion. It is called "Hoodoo is not New Orleans Voodoo." Here is a portion of the article, followed by my response.

In recent years, contact between Americans and Haitians, an influx of Haitian immigrants to the USA, and the popularity of Voodoo among interested white practitioners with backgrounds in Paganism and/or Hermetic magic have led to the creation of a form of the ritualized practice hat goes under the name New Orleans Voodoo.

New Orleans Voodoo is a newly constructed faux-religion which has no cultural, family, liturgical, or social roots in traditional African, African-American, or Haitian religions, but traces back to literary sources instead. Since the mid 20th century it has evolved under the hands of four major promoters, none of whom had direct lineage transmission from the previous ones and each of whom accreted a small following which took no part in the major social life of New Orleans.

Each of these promoters was or is an author and/or the owner of a tourist venue or a store. Each of these promoters and their followers drew or draw upon a handful of 20th century anthropological and popular works describing Haitian Voodoo, which they use as source-books for their performances. These source-books include the works of authors such as Zora Neale Hurston (1938), Maya Deren (1953), Alfred Metraux (1958), Milo Rigaud (1969), and Wade Davis (1985). At best the fabrications of these promoters can be said to be historical fantasy recreations in the style of the Renaissance Faire venues in the USA, and at worst they have been a means to part sincere seekers from their money under the guise of offering exotic initiations or ecstatic worship services that are spurious at their root.

The four major promoters of the faux-religion of New Orleans Voodoo have been Robert Tallant (1940s), Charles Gandolfo (1960s-1990s), Sallie Ann Glassmann (1990s), and Denise Alvarado (2000s). Other, less well-known, promoters have included the author and publisher Raymond J. Martinez (1950s), the dancer Ava Kay Jones (1980s-1990s), the author and store owner Sharon Caulder (1990s), the store owner Miriam Chemani (1990s - present), the author John Shrieve, and the paranormal / haunted tour organizer "Bloody Mary."

New Orleans Voodoo has historically had no community membership base, in Louisiana other than as a source of employment for shop employees, dancers, authors, and publishers. These faux-religionists write books, compose music, sell Voodoo-themed goods in their shops, hold Voodoo-themed festivals and workshops, and put on Voodoo-themed dance and drumming performances for tourists. The latter events were especially popular under the direction of Charles Gandolfo and Ava Kay Jones.

New Orleans Voodoo has been promoted to the outside world by small independent coteries of less than ten or twenty core participants who charge money for their literature, workshops, museums, tours, and/or performances. Its wider range of participants are tourists and spiritual seekers; there is a notable and significant lack of community participation from the environs of New Orleans. None of its leaders or followers can demonstrate that its practices spring from a local community base.

Having been repeatedly accused of fakery, some of the promoters of New Orleans Voodoo have belatedly sought initiations in Africa or Haiti to add gravitas to their literary mining expeditions through well-known works describing Haitian Voodoo. Others have gone out of their way to acquire actual African artifacts to display in their museums, or to purchase Brazilian Quimbanda statuary to resell as spurious Voodoo goods. At least one made a point of importing Haitian art for sale -- some of which, it turned ut, was manufactured for her by a movie-prop maker in Hollywood California. And always among the expensive and exotic faux-Voodoo religious goods are salted a dizzying variety of small, cheap faux-Voodoo trinkets made in China, often decorated in Mardi Gras style, as if Mardi Gras were an alternative form of Voodoo. And, of course, when they wish to promote "magick" or "spell-casting", they turn to traditional African American hoodoo, which they re-brand as Voodoo.

First, before my response, I have a couple comments. Where is your source of information coming from? Have you not read any of the historical records or literature that clearly indicate Voodoo arrived in the 1700s when the first Bambarans set foot in New Orleans? Who happened to have also brought the gris gris tradition with them which remains, since the 1700s, an integral part of New Orleans Voodoo?

More importantly, how many New Orleans Voodoo or Hoodoo practitioners have you spoken to? Anyone over the age of 30? Have you ever heard of the term oral tradition, the hallmark of the transmission of knowledge for virtually all indigenous traditions? How about institutionalized colonization? Cultural appropriation? Cultural hegemony?

How is it that a white Jewish woman from California, who has never spent a significant amount of time in New Orleans, if any at all,  has claimed the narrative of  New Orleans Voodoo and Southern Hoodoo?

Let me just speak from an academic standpoint, since everyone seems to thinks of Ms. Yronwode as a scholarly writer. If indeed it is Catherine Yronwode who authored the article, and since it is on the website I assume it is and if not, then it is approved by her to be there, the very premise for the argument is flawed. First, you are using French Quarter Voodoo as the context of comparison. French Quarter Voodoo is geared towards tourists. It does not define the tradition, which is very idiosyncratic given the social and historical conditions that have influenced its evolution. Secondly, your facts are just wrong, period. Show me some scholarly sources that back up your statements. Third, this kind of article is a prime example of the insidious nature of colonization and its wonderful counterpart hegemony, which in essence means that you have used one cultural platform of comparison as the legitimate one (your opinion), to judge another, usually indigenous one, in this case  New Orleans Voodoo. Cultural hegemony occurs when a dominant culture (European American) manipulates and dominates another, typically minority, typically indigenous, culture. In laymen's terms, you have presented your opinion as the legitimate one, "my way is the right way," without any kind of productive discourse with anyone intimately involved. This is just wrong. It is something indigenous (African and Native American) people of the Americas have endure for over 500 years and frankly, I'm sick of it.

Here is my response to Ms. Yronwode. Knowing how she operates, it will be posted by her somewhere anyway, so I want people to see it from me first.


Greetings Catherine,

As you and I have never had a real conversation other than one concerning mutual plagiarism, and with the unfortunate exception of our initial "introduction" to each other where I was falsely accused of being the editor for a document that someone on my forum had written, I had hope we remained on at least cordial grounds as I continued to look out for your work being lifted, etc. and shared with you instances of the misuse of your online presence by unscrupulous others, simply out of common professional courtesy and an effort to demonstrate good will and character.
It is evident we don't see eye to eye on things in terms of our mutual experiences and knowledge about Southern hoodoo and especially New Orleans Voodoo. Yet, I have never publicly named you as a major hoodoo marketeer or accused you of anything other than offering an alternate point of view from my own. Any personal thoughts or feelings remain my own.
Imagine my surprise to find this in my inbox. "The four major promoters of the faux-religion of New Orleans Voodoo have been Robert Tallant (1940s), Charles Gandolfo (1960s-1990s), Sallie Ann Glassmann (1990s), and Denise Alvarado (2000s). Other, less well-known, promoters have included the author and publisher Raymond J. Martinez (1950s), the dancer Ava Kay Jones (1980s-1990s), the author and store owner Sharon Caulder (1990s), the store owner Miriam Chemani (1990s - present), the author John Shrieve, and the paranormal / haunted tour organizer "Bloody Mary."
And of course, I was provided a link where i got to read the whole sordid story.
Now this could get really ugly, as I feel as though the respect I have shown for you has not been reciprocated, given past experiences and this current article on your website.  And nothing gets in my craw worse than someone who shows me one face and behind my back shows their true character. With the numerous times in which we have emailed back and forth and the many times Nagasiva has written and asked questions about things he said he wanted to know my opinion about, it would seem to me we could have had some very constructive conversations about your thoughts and opinions about New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo, or your concerns about me as a person or my qualifications. But no, you had to make it personal by jumping on the discredit Denise bandwagon. Okay, let's go there.
You have a right to your opinion, as do I. But let me ask you this, could it be possible that you are wrong? Could it be possible that what you know about New Orleans Voodoo and the role of Hoodoo in the tradition is not what you think it is? Could it be that you don't know me at all except for what others who don't know me have stated, and our limited email conversations? 
Let me be clear about a few things. One, I was born and raised in New Orleans, and my experience with Hoodoo and Voodoo never did and never has come from the French Quarter Voodoo variety. Nor has it come from literary sources about Haitian Vodou. And this is why everything you have stated and all of the haters fail; the platform of comparison is not qualified as such. That is tourist Voodoo, that is not the Voodoo that has survived along the bayous in its many variations and handed down through families and by virtue of being in the culture. You also have not recognized the small group of people in the French Quarter who are actually doing great things with regards to the preservation of the religion and who have worked hard in the community to preserve things like the sacred cultural geography intimately related to Voodoo in New Orleans. Voodoo in New Orleans began as a bunch of different African religions forced together, where slaves and Natives found common themes, and it is through those common themes where New Orleans Voodoo comes from. It has come to embrace the influences of many cultures as you are aware. While there was a period of time when there were community ceremonies and celebrations, these were not the actual rituals taking place, only parts and representations of it. The real stuff was and always has been until recently behind the scenes, in secret. Unless you grew up as a person of color in the South, which you are not,  and experienced the necessity of remaining underground, which you have not, then it would be hard to understand.

New Orleans Voodoo practitioners do not deny that the religion lacks the formalized rites of Haitian Vodou. That doesn't mean it is not a religion. It doesn't mean that it is not a religion because much of the tradition for many, looks a whole lot like Hoodoo. That's not something I, or Mambo Sallie Ann, or Charles Gandolfo, or Zora Neale Hurston, for that matter, made up. That is the way it is and has been. Tallant, on the other hand, definitely fabricated quite a bit, much of which I have attempted to clarify over the years. I can understand the confusion, however, if you were never immersed in New Orleans culture or the traditions of the Louisiana swamps. Trust me, there's a whole lot more to the story than you will ever have the privilege of knowing or seeing.

Those who have accused me of "fakery" as whoever authored the article wrote, and I assume it is you, are at least half my age, not from New Orleans, never spent any significant time there or in Louisiana, and have never provided any sources for their accusations. They wouldn't know "real" New Orleans Voodoo if it stared them in the face. That is because the platform from which they are judging the religion is not the religion; it is French Quarter tourism. Of course it doesn't match up. But instead of taking me up on offers for productive discourse, they, as have you, have made assumptions about me and some very well respected individuals in New Orleans that is simply founded on ignorance. Instead they, as have you, have taken it to the public. This will not sit will with many of those whom you accuse to be fakers of a "faux" religion. 
In everything I have written, I have never claimed to be the last word on New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo, only to say that it is my experience. The reason for that disclaimer is because anyone from my generation, and anyone who has done their research (not just reading books, but actually talking to people who are actually from Louisiana and actual practitioners) will know that the manner in which it has been passed down was through individual families and thus there is variation. There is as much variation in the manner in which Christians may express their devotion to God,  some may actually do unto others while others could care less and still other fall somewhere in between. The variations do not disqualify it as a religion. There are still unifying beliefs and practices that make it what it is. New Orleans Voodoo is a living, breathing, fluid tradition and this is part of its beauty and its appeal to believers. 
It is true that some New Orleans Voodooists have sought initiations in related traditions. Some have clung to vestiges of the religion by continuing in the practice of New Orleans style Hoodoo and rootwork and no longer claim the religious aspects of it. Some are Christian, quite a few are not. Many have developed unique yet recognizable rites of their own. Some folks belong to temples and houses, most do not. New Orleans Voodoo has long been known to be an individual religion, having been made so due to sociohistorical circumstances like the Louisiana Black Code, and as I mentioned earlier, the rampant and pervasive racism that has characterized the South for so long. 
You may not wish to know the truth behind your accusations or have any interest in exploring preconceived notions based on outsider and fledgling opinions or blues songs. You may not have any interest in actually speaking with some of the people you have accused of fakery or perpetuating a "faux" religion. That is your choice. However, I find it deeply offensive what you have written, and a deliberate attempt at claiming a cultural narrative that is not yours to claim. Indeed you have a right to your opinion, but unless you have walked in my shoes, Priestess Miriam's shoes, Mambo Ava Kay Jones, and the many others whom you did not acknowledge in your misguided article, you will never know the truth. Instead, it appears this is more of the case of wanting to be "right," instead of really wanting to be right, and that is just unfortunate. 
You have not been, nor will you be the only narrative on the indigenous traditions of the South. More folks, and more folks of color, and more scholars of color, are speaking up. I strongly encourage you to do as our Cherokee elders say, "listen or your tongue will make you deaf."
Blessings,
Denise Alvarado


As I have always said, my door is open to discussion. We can use this as a learning opportunity for everyone concerned. I want to be clear I am not engaging in a drama warfare; however, because I am publicly implicated and deeply offended by the utter disrespect shown in the article, I felt compelled to go public with a statement.

Comments welcome, haters, don't waste your time.



Working with St. Anthony of Padua



St. Anthony of Padua is one of the Catholic Church’s most popular saints, as well as one of New Orleans’ most popular saints. He was a powerful Franciscan preacher and teacher and is widely recognized as a miracle worker.  He is usually depicted holding a lily, a book and/or the baby Jesus in his arms.  Nearly everywhere, St. Anthony is asked to intercede with God for the return of things lost or stolen. Those who feel very familiar with him may pray, "Tony, Tony, turn around. Something's lost and must be found."

Saint Anthony of Padua lived from 1195 until 1231 AD. His feast day is June 13, which is the anniversary of his death. His color is brown and because he was buried on a Tuesday and many miracles occurred at that time, Tuesday is his celebrated day. It is customary to pray a Novena to him on thirteen consecutive Tuesdays.

In New Orleans, it is said that Marie Laveaux always kept a statue of St. Anthony in her front yard and when she was “doing a work” she would turn the statue upside down. The upside down position of the statue of St. Anthony let people know she should not be disturbed at that point in time. When she was done with her work, she would turn him right side up again and availed herself to visitors.

St. Anthony is well known for his numerous miracles. His most famous miracle could well be his sermon to the fishes. When a crowd refused to listen to him, he apparently turned his back on them and standing on the shore, began preaching to the fish in the lake. It is said that the fish responded by lifting up their heads from the water so they could hear him better. This event no doubt caught people’s attention.


Patronage


Saint Anthony of Padua is the Patron Saint of lost things, as well as against shipwrecks, poor and oppressed people, barren women, starvation, American Indians, boatmen, elderly people, expectant mothers, fishermen, harvests, horses, mail, mariners, pregnant women, sailors, swineherds, travel hostesses, travelers and watermen.

In some countries, Saint Anthony is prayed to by travelers and vacationers for a safe journey, particularly over the seas. Thus, he is the patron saint of sailors and fisherman in Spain, Italy, France and Portugal. According to some stories, sailors keep a statue of Saint Anthony on the mast of the ship, and appeal to him for safety while at sea.

St. Anthony is traditionally invoked for help with finding lost things because of an incident that occurred in his own life. According to legend, Anthony had a book of psalms (Psalter) that was very important to him. The Psalter had the notes and comments he had made to use in teaching students in his Franciscan Order. A novice who had grown tired of living a religious life decided to leave the community. In addition to going AWOL, he took Anthony's Psalter! When Anthony realized his Psalter was missing, he prayed for its safe return. Soon after Anthony's prayer, the thief felt compelled to return the Psalter to Anthony, as well as return to the Order which accepted him back.

Oral tradition has a much more colorful version of this story. In this version, the novice was stopped in his tracks by a ghastly devil wielding an ax and threatening to crush him if he did not return the book immediately. According to AmericanCatholic.org, “in Christian tradition a devil would hardly command anyone to do something good. But the core of the story would seem to be true. And the stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna.”

St Anthony is best known among conjurers as the patron of lost things, as well. He is invoked when a person is lost. Many people call upon him to help them reconcile with a lost lover and to help find a mate. Because Saint Anthony finds lost people, his aid can also be requested when praying for someone who is severely struggling, and who seems to be a lost soul. Call his name, visualize your lost item and explain to him how important it is for you to find it, and sincerely ask for his aid. You will find your missing object, especially when reciting the following prayer.


Prayer to Find What Is Lost


St. Anthony, when you prayed, your stolen book of prayers was given back to you. Pray now for all of us who have lost things precious and dear. Pray for all who have lost faith, hope or the friendship of God. Pray for us who have lost friends or relatives by death. Pray for all who have lost peace of mind or spirit. Pray that we may be given new hope, new faith, new love. Pray that lost things, needful and helpful to us, may be returned to our keeping. Or, if we must continue in our loss, pray that we may be given Christ’s comfort and peace. Amen.



Offerings

  • Cigar  
  • Whiskey and white rum
  • White candles
  • Brown candles
  • Red Candles
  • Lilies

Yo git St. Anthony, yeah a brown candle…
Yo git a cigar – see lak dat you got  [I was smoking a cigar]
Yo git ‘bout a little whiskey glass of whiskey see ‘cause St. Anthony
He’s a saint he laks cigahs and he was a good-time man…
An yo wake up de nex mawnin’ an yo’ see de glass dry an’ de cigah half smoked.

 (Algiers, Louisiana) Hyatt, Hoodoo-Conjure-Witchcraft-Rootwork, Vol 2.

Work 1

If there is someone who is angry with you or who does not trust you and you wish to heal that relationship, you can appeal to St. Anthony to help.  Hang an image of St. Anthony on the wall and directly underneath it, set a brown candle in a white saucer. Write a petition on a piece of plain brown that has your name and the target’s name written three times underneath yours. As you write the names, say “I desire you (state the person’s name) to come to me in peace.” Place the petition under the saucer and light the candle. Knock three times before his image and tell St Anthony to find that person and bring them to you in peaceful, reconciliatory state of mind. When he answers your petition, be sure to thank him publicly for his help.

Work 2


St. Anthony can also be invoked for cases of justice. Use a red candle for this work and offer him some red flowers, a cigar and a glass of white rum. Write your petition to St. Anthony and set it before an image of him. Knock three times and call out his name, and tell him what you want. Then take the petition and wrap one of the red flowers and a piece of camphor in it and tie it closed with a red string. Take the paket along with some white rum and bury it in your front yard. Pour some rum on the ground over the burial spot. When he answers your petition, be sure to thank him publicly for his help.


Article Copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide.
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How to Make and Use a Business Success Gris Gris

It's the beginning of the year and a time for a 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 from Africa directly to New Orleans by Bambaran African slaves during the African diaspora. 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 a while 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 Madame 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
  • Lodestone
  • Dried toadstool
  • Small piece of pound cake offered to St. Expedite

Light a green, yellow or gold candle and hold your bag while focusing on the need or desire you have. Say Psalm 8 twenty-seven times while imagining yourself accomplishing your goal. Once you can say the prayer and have a clear vision of your goal in mind (this does take practice), your gris gris will begin to attract the changes you seek. Do this exercise daily, first thing in the morning or right before bedtime. Feed your gris gris every Friday evening by placing it on a dish of sugar and pouring a few drops of Crown of Success conjure oil onto the ingredients inside the bag. Leave it to sit overnight. It’s okay for the oil to leech into the sugar. In the morning, put the sugar in a bucket of soapy water and wash down the entrance of your business. Keep your gris gris with you if at all possible; women keep it on the left side while men keep them on the right. Anytime you need extra blessings, hold the gris gris in your hands and breathe into it while reciting the prayer.


Psalm 8(KJV)

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!


Find a complete selection of authentic New Orleans Gris Gris at Creole Moon.
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All text, images and graphics Copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide. Do not copy without my express permission.

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.
 

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

There is No Such Thing as War Water

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.

Marie Laveau was well versed in the art of gris gris, as was Dr. John. Some venture to say Dr. John was an even better gris gris doctor than she and that he taught her about gris gris. My guess is that if Marie Laveau’s  Peace Water is actually her formula, she would have used it to cool down conditions or used it to bless people, places, and things. It would not have been used as an antidote to War Water because there was no War Water during her time.

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.

Reference

Diouf, S. A.  (1998). Servants of Allah: African Muslims enslaved in the Americas.  New York: NYU Press

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

In the Company of Black Hawk

We all know that Black Hawk is an important figure in many spiritualist churches. He is not found in all churches, which is evidence of the independent nature of the various congregations. Typically, it is the spirits that follow the reverend mothers and bishops of the churches that dictate which spirits are emphasized in worship.

The emergence of Black Hawk among spiritualists can be traced to Leafy Anderson, who, according to some reports, was half Mohawk Indian and the assumed founder of the spiritualist church in New Orleans. She is reported to have said Black Hawk was the saint of the south while White Hawk was the saint of the north. I don't remember anything about White Hawk in New Orleans; what I know of him is from an indigenous perspective and from study of the spiritualist church doctrine and manual for reverend mothers.

Though spiritualists will often deny any association with Voodoo or hoodoo, there are a number of similarities and correspondences. The emphatic public dissociation with Voodoo and hoodoo makes sense given the sociopolitical climate in the early twentieth century when African Americans were routinely hassled for their religious beliefs and often imprisoned.

There are a few major spirit guides that are emphasized among spiritualists in New Orleans. Among them are St. Patrick, not surprising given the importance of Damballah Wedo in the New Orleans Voodoo pantheon and the subsequent syncretization of the two. Queen Esther is another major Spirit guide, though she did not take off in popularity like Black Hawk or St. Patrick. This is curious given her worship is focused on the empowerment of women and breaking the confines of socially determined gender roles. The spiritualist church is clearly a female dominated tradition.

Father John is another of the popular spirits of devotion in the Church. It is difficult to determine his origin and it seems to depend on who you talk to. He is affectionately referred to as Cousin John, Father John and some say Father Jones, though it is not clear whether or not Father John and Father Jones are the same spirit. Father John is reputed to be a great doctor and healer and guiding force among the spirits themselves. For this reason, he is often said to be the spirit of Dr. John, the famous gris gris doctor in New Orleans during the time of Marie Laveau. His energy feels consistent with this theory to me.

In addition to these popular spirit guides that appear among spiritualist circles, it is interesting to note that Black Hawk sometimes appears with two other spirits on his altar. This is something that you may not be aware of unless you are from New Orleans and have ever peered into a church yourself. I call them the Holy Trinity of Spiritualism, though not everyone will share this perspective since there is great variation in the spirit guides among churches themselves. However, they appear frequently enough that I believe it is a fitting description.

There is the common depiction of Black Hawk's altar consisting of his statue sitting in a bucket of sand. Yes, this is one way of creating his altar, but is by no means the only way, nor is it the manner in which he is situated in the Spiritualist Churches themselves. The "Black Hawk in a bucket" scenario is often promoted by those with no real ties to the Spiritualist Churches of New Orleans or with New Orleans Voodoo and hoodoo. Alternately, it is a tradition practiced by some elders in the Hoodoo tradition who maintain an altar in this manner in the privacy of their homes. I personally have Black Hawk sitting in a metal galvanized bucket that is filled with a mixture of different earths; some from the land of his birthplace, some from a crossroads, some from a graveyard, etc. The earth blend that he sits on is a very powerful blend that can be used in other works pertaining to him and in starting buckets for others who tutelage under me. Having Black Hawk sit on a blend of earths such as I have described is an old tradition that seems to have been whitewashed in the bucket of sand scenario.


There are many other nuances about Black Hawk that I may eventually share as someone who is an insider looking out as opposed to an outsider looking in. What I want to focus on and stimulate discussion about is his relationship with two other spirits that sometimes appear on his altar in what I call  the Holy Trinity of Spiritualism. These two other Spirit Guides are St. Michael the Archangel and Dr. Martin Luther King.

There are numerous cultural and religious implications with this trinity of spirits, and close examination of the three reveals a lot about the collective psyche of the people who follow this tradition. New Orleans is a wonderful city in many ways but it has an awful, dark history of discrimination and oppression of people of color, particularly Africans and Indians. This fact is one common ground that unites the two populations. From this perspective, it is not surprising to see Black Hawk and Dr. Martin Luther King gracing the same altar.

It is also not surprising to see St. Michael share the same altar. St. Michael is said to be the defender and Guardian of Israel. He also is a protector and defender of an oppressed people. An altar to Black Hawk will many times have one or two statues of St. Michael flanking the statue of Black Hawk with a photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King hanging on the wall behind or standing in a frame behind Black Hawk.

But what do Jewish people have to do with New Orleans, you may ask? Well, the Jews were right up there with Africans in the Code Noir (Black Code) set forth and implemented by King Louis of France, which called for the forced religious conversion of all Africans to Catholicism and the expulsion of Jews from the city. The first three articles of the Code speak for themselves:

Article I. We desire and we expect that the Edict of 23 April 1615 of the late King, our most honored lord and father who remains glorious in our memory, be executed in our islands. This accomplished, we enjoin all of our officers to chase from our islands all the Jews who have established residence there. As with all declared enemies of Christianity, we command them to be gone within three months of the day of issuance of the present [order], at the risk of confiscation of their persons and their goods.

Article II. All slaves that shall be in our islands shall be baptized and instructed in the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith. We enjoin the inhabitants who shall purchase newly-arrived Negroes to inform the Governor and Intendant of said islands of this fact within no more that eight days, or risk being fined an arbitrary amount. They shall give the necessary orders to have them instructed and baptized within a suitable amount of time.

Article III. We forbid any religion other than the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith from being practiced in public. We desire that offenders be punished as rebels disobedient of our orders. We forbid any gathering to that end, which we declare to be conventicle, illegal, and seditious, and subject to the same punishment as would be applicable to the masters who permit it or accept it from their slaves.(Édit du Roi, Touchant la Police des Isles de l'Amérique Française (Paris, 1687), 28–58).

Given the eventual syncretization of Catholic saints into the New Orleans Voodoo pantheon, it is logical and clear as to how St. Michael found his way on the altar beside Black Hawk and Dr. Martin Luther King.

Black Hawk is referred to as the "Watchman on the Wall" who will "fight your battles for you". He is the guardian of a combined Indian nation, the Sauc and Fox (together referred to as Meskwaki). St Michael is the Guardian of the nation of Israel and her people, and Dr. Martin Luther king is the champion of the Civil Rights movement and representative of freedom from bondage and great leadership. All three of these spirits convey a message of strength, victory, and militancy.


References

Édit du Roi, Touchant la Police des Isles de l'Amérique Française (Paris, 1687), 28–58

Painting of St. Michael by Erzengel Michael, circa 1636, p.d.

Photo of Black Hawk Bust copyright 2009 by Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved.

Photo of Dr. Martin Luther King from the Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, p.d.
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Copyright 2010-2013 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide. Please ask if you would like to repost this article.

Who Skinned the Black Cat? Online Botanica sells the Face of a Black Cat as Good Luck Curio




I want to know, since when was a black cat face used for good luck?

I don't quite remember how I stumbled upon this page the other day, all I know is that I did.  I normally like to peruse Papa Jim's Botanica site because he carries stuff I don't carry. However, this is one item I won't be purchasing from him or anyone else, and I certainly won't be aspiring to carry it.

The website says "Black Cat Face. Place in your home or business for Good Luck, Protection From Evil."

"This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 24 February, 2011."

Now, I am all for  the rare and hard to find curios and I will climb a mountain or mountains (literally) to get them. But a black cat face?

I don't even know where to begin with this one.

Well, I posted a link to it on my Facebook page and got a lot of responses, which is why I thought I would blog about it and do a little scientific examination of the evidence. And, being the scientist that I am, I have an inquiring mind and I want to know, who skinned the black cat?

Any research begins with a question. We want to find out something, so we research it. We form a hypothesis and develop a theory, collect our data and then methodically go about proving or disproving the hypothesis. The results may or may not support the hypothesis. Either way, if we can confirm one way or another it's good research, even if we don't confirm the initial hypothesis because at least we have accurate information about the issue at hand and draw a conclusion or conclusions based on facts. We end up with more information than we had in the beginning of the research so we add to a specific body of knowledge that everyone can draw from. Not only do we benefit the scientific community with new found knowledge, we also benefit society at large.

Research also begins with something the researcher is passionate about. When I saw this image and the accompanying advertisement, I was appalled. And I am  not alone. Here are a couple of the comments that supported my initial reaction:

Sorcha Puridai Isn't there some law against that? It should be reported. If it originates from outside the country, it's illegal to import - or export if its inside. There should be a way to shut this down. More education is needed because there are superstitious and impressionable people out there who support this kind of trade ...

Fred Cislo Jr Okay that is just wrong! I would be pissed if somebody told me they bought that!

And there were more. but then, there was this post:

Willa Wylde im betting its not a cat face at all but a fox, you can buy them from various leather places like Tandy, i used to use them to make dream catches and such it even looks like the fox shape...just saying

It's always good to have different opinions about things. Sometimes we can't see the other side of Exu's hat because we can't stand on both sides of the street at one time. But, if we are open-minded and don't jump to conclusions, we can discover the truth based on the evidence at hand.

After reading Willa's comment, I questioned whether or not it was in fact a fox and not a cat. I am not convinced either way...yet.

Now I am writing an article about black cat sacrifice in Volume 2 of Hoodoo and Conjure Quarterly so I don't want to repeat that here, but I do want to give a little contextual background for our informal study of this alleged black cat face. There is no doubt that the use of black cats in magick has a long history in Europe and in hoodoo. Cats played a large role in ancient Egyptian society, for example, as they were used for pest control and were deified (i.e. Bast, Mafdet). In fact, cats  were afforded the same mummification and burial as people were. In ancient Greece, cats were revered and if one was found hurting or killing a cat, even accidentally, the punishment was death.

In New Orleans Voodoo, black cats have been the subject of controversial sacrifice  in the past, particularly with regards to finding the one bone in the body that is all powerful.

Thanks to Robert Tallant and other writers who focused on specific excerpts of his mostly inaccurate and sensationalized account of New Orleans Voodoo, the urban legend of the black cat as THE sacrificial lamb of New Orleans Voodoo has become an undisputed historical fact. He even has a chapter in his book Voodoo in New Orleans called Skin a Black Cat with your Teeth. According to Tallant, “ Sacrifice and the drinking of blood were integral parts of all Voodoo ceremonies. Usually it was the blood of a kid that was used, but often it was that of a black cat”(Tallant, p. 15). The prevalence and inaccuracy of such accounts is something I discuss in the article in HCQ. One thing I have not been able to find, whether truth or fiction, is the use of a black cat face specifically, for good luck.

In at least 20 articles I researched for the article in HCQ, absolute statements are made about the orgiastic parties led by Marie Laveau where the Voodoo worshippers danced around a cauldron filled with frogs and into which snakes and a black cat was tossed. Where did they get their information? Tallant of course, typically the only source cited for these statements. Since the sacred serpent, Li Grande Zombi, is our major Spirit in New Orleans, I hardly doubt anyone was throwing snakes into a cauldron. With such proliferation of unsubstantiated claims, it has become an almost iconic representation of New Orleans Voodoo, albeit completely biased and unfounded. It reminds me of a similar phenomenon that is prevalent on the internet today where people take one source, usually Wikipedia, and regurgitate the information without any critical analysis of the information and without any original authorship that contributes to the body of knowledge. YAWN....

Now the black cat bone is another issue, and it is seemingly supported by local lore and in various blues songs such as the one I have in this post. The truth is, however, the use of black cats in sacrifice didn't start with New Orleans Voodoo or hoodoo. For example, here is a description of the gruesome black cat bone ritual found in the book of St. Cyprian (O Antigo Livro de São Cipriano: Capa de Aço) first published in 1849:


Cook the body of a black cat in boiling water witH white seeds and wood from the willow until the meat is loosened from the bones. Strain the bones in a linen cloth and, in front of the mirror, place the bones, one by one in your mouth, until you find that you have the magic to make you become invisible. Keep the bone with the magic property and, if you want to go somewhere without being seen, place the bone in your mouth."


Do I have to say that a black cat bone, even the "one" alleged special bone will not make you invisible? Admittedly I have not tried it, but I would bet it just ain't so.

During the 17th century, a cat boiled in oil was believed to be excellent for dressing wounds (Russell, 1972). While the mental picture of this is reprehensible, there may have been some (unknown at the time) scientific merit to this, if it was a black cat that was used.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health discovered the gene mutations associated with a black coat in three types of black cats: the domestic cat, jaguar and South American jaguarundi. Apparently, the mutations affect a gene in the same family as one that causes a resistance to HIV in humans. "There is a mutation in humans that knocks this gene out and causes complete resistance to HIV," O'Brien said. So it may be that the same gene responsible for a black coat may also provide resistance to diseases. You can read the whole article here.

In hoodoo and in New Orleans Voodoo, black cats are associated with good luck and have been advertised as such since the late 1930s. They are particularly good luck in sports and games of chance. The tail of a black cat when pointing upward was considered lucky, and if you stroke a cat's tail nine times before playing cards, it is said to give you a winning edge in card games.

There are many references to the various mystical attributes of black cats from numerous cultures - some positive and some negative. Most "superstitions" about black cats are positive, up until the Middle Ages, that is.

I was born and raised in New Orleans and lived there over thirty years, and I never heard of using the face of a black cat for good luck or anything else. That doesn't mean it never was, just that I never heard of it anecdotally. Even the folks I knew who practiced the darker arts never used the skin of black cats. And try as I might, I can't find reference to the use of a black cat face specifically as a good luck curio in any of the folkloric or anthropological literature. I searched the entire database of literature available through the American Anthropological Association, as well as the library at Walden University, through which I have access to hundreds of academic journals. Nothing...not even a hint. If anyone knows of a reference, please post it in the comments section because I would really love to know if I missed something.

However, my question, who skinned the black cat? is jumping the gun. I have to first prove there is indeed a black cat face on Papa Jim's website.

Research Question: Is Papa Jim's Botanica really selling a skinned black cat face on their website?

Or, is it the face of a fox? Let's examine the evidence, beginning with the obvious. Papa Jim's Botanica states: "BLACK CAT FACE... Place in your home or business for good luck, protection from evil."

Of course, you can't believe everything you read or see, so let's check out the photos and and see if we can differentiate the alleged black cat face from a black fox face.

The first aspect of the images to compare is the shape of the faces. I found a couple of photos of black fox faces and compared them against the black cat face found on Papa Jim's Botanica website. To do this, I used Photoshop to remove the backgrounds of both photos and placed them side by side for comparison. And to be completely fair, I am aware of the variations of pelts and there are some fox faces that appear more rounded than pointed, so I did a side by side comparison of those  as well.

Sample 1:



Sample 2:




Next, I took the individual photos and superimposed them on top of each other, taking care to size them to equal sizes without distorting the ratio. Note that in the images, I made the cat face image into a colored graphic in order to clearly see any similarities or differences in the overall shape of the faces.

Sample 1: Cat face superimposed on fox face

 
Sample 2: Cat face superimposed on rounded fox face


Next, I examined the details of the photos, starting with the noses. The alleged cat face appears to have a smaller nose than the fox face, which appears to be a bit square. In addition, in both of the fox photos, the snouts are narrower than the alleged black cat photo, although the fox face with a rounded nose is not as elongated.

Another detail I noticed is the fur. The fur on the fox appears a bit coarser than the fur on the alleged black cat. And the ears...it looks as if the ears of the alleged black cat face are smaller  and more centrally located than the fox ears, which appear to be larger and laying to the sides.

So far, it's not looking good.

That said, my observations are extremely limited in both the photos and the lack of an ability to hold and feel both specimens firsthand. Further, it is difficult to see the details of either picture clearly.

Even if it is not a real black cat, shouldn't the consumer be told? Why would they say it is a black cat if it is not? It's not like they are asking hundreds of dollars for it. Is it worth selling a black cat face for $22.00?

What do you think?

I have chosen not to link to the site because I am already giving them free advertising as the subject of this blog post. No doubt, some freak will read this and want to buy it. That is on them, not me. If you want to see the ad, just google the words "black cat face" and it will come right up (unfortunately).

My first cat was a black cat named Moses. He was so sweet and I really miss him even though it has been over thirty years since he has passed. I can't imagine someone skinning a black cat and saving the face to sell on a website for good luck. That just can't be good karma.







Black Cat Ju Ju at Creole Moon
 

References

Tallant, R. (1946). Voodoo in New Orleans
California Folklore Society (1964). Western Folklore, Vol 23.



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

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