Title: Blood in the Bayou: A Record of the Operations and Blessed Techniques of a Doctor of Conjure-Work.
Author: Docteur Sureaux.
Genre: Non-fiction, occult.
Publication Date: 2015
Summary: The book treats its readers to the dark and illuminating recollections of a life lived in the heartland of Hoodoo. But it is also a clear, practical guide to every aspect of Southern folk-sorcery, throwing a rare light on the obscure aspects of Hoodoo that are native to the dark soil and mud of the Louisiana swamplands. In a unique firsthand account of this subject, the author carries the reader into an understanding of the entangling, serpentine spirit of life and the natural organic metaphysics that underlie the basic precepts of Hoodoo. His words are an accessible and instructive celebration of the soul in the land, the timeless power in the substances used in root-working, the spirits that inhabit this world, and the intricacies of their interactions with the conjure-worker. Sureaux's intimate teachings, and the places they lead the soul of the reader, not only render the magic of Hoodoo possible, but also enable the realization of the ancient vision of life that gave birth to this folk-sorcery in the first place.
My rating: 7.5/10.
♥ If it turned out that the saints weren't listening when you had an especially pressing need, you could always take the laminated image of them, or the small card bearing their image (which was normally prominently displayed) and turn it backwards, hiding it behind books or candles or the pictures of other saints. This shaming would certainly get the attention of the Saint and give him some motivation to help you out. Most people might find that an odd practice, but I read some years later that Catholics in Italy have gone further, in some small villages: they would take the statue of their patron saint out of the village and put him upside down in the mud of a river only restoring him to his church or shrine when he helped them to resolve their situation.
Most Christians (and perhaps even some Catholics from other parts of the world) might think this presumptuous on the parts of men and women, but another author I read pointed out that in the rudest most ancient forms of spirit-worship, spirits are often menaced by shamans to get their obedience or help. The author believed (and I am inclined to agree) that some vestigial aspect of this ancient sort of spirit-cajoling remains operative in the souls of these Heathen Catholics.
Those Heathen Catholics are my roots and origins. I am still technically a member of the Holy Roman Church. I do not consider myself a member, but Mother Church doesn't release people who are united to her, ever. There is no form to fill out requesting a release. To them I'm a fallen away Catholic, an apostate Catholic, corrupted an eaten up with heresy, apostasy, and sorcery. And that's fine. In some parts of the world - like the one that I came from - that makes me a better Catholic, in a way. I do not attend masses nor believe in the myths and stories of the bible or the church, but I respect its aesthetic and its more celebratory traditions. I lament the lame social doctrines promulgated by the leadership of the Catholic church, but then so do most of my Catholic relatives, so I'm clean on that point again.
♥ Without realizing it the Catholic Church was responsible for the spread of one of the world's most ancient religions: the animistic and polytheistic religions of West Africa. If you look at it from another angle, whatever was Catholic changed forever when slaves arrived in the New World aboard Portuguese, French, and Spanish ships; these slaves carried with them the essence of the spirit-worship of their homelands, and the names and rituals of those great powers, and they didn't give them up. At the hands of priests and European slave-owners living on plantations along the Mississippi, they were "converted" to Catholicism, but the conversion wasn't a one-way road. Ironically, the conversion was backwards.
The slaves looked upon the icons of saints and heard their holy stories, and they looked upon the icons of the Virgin Mother, and saw their own spirits and Gods gazing back at them. By necessity, the ancient powers were gradually worshiped through the saints and the Mother of God, and the syncretism that we today call Voodou was born. Also born from this strange coterie was Santeria and other faiths. Those old blacks knew something that their owners and the priests couldn't begin to fathom - that the Lwa, the ancient and ever-living powers, didn't care what image or name their worshipers were using to call them. Spirits see deeper than that. They see better than that. Spirits are shape-shifters, after all. They change their skins like we change our clothes.
And spirits have long memories, and they have powers of far, far hearing. Once Old Man Legba hears that "Saint Peter" is what his children are calling him, Old Man Legba will be happy to become a new sort of key-holder. And forever after that when he hears Peter's name being called anywhere, he might be paying attention.
Catholicism was changed forever. It was, as I say, "spiritized"; the church is now haunted by powers it never had before - and perhaps because of that it has gained new powers to help people (or harm them) that it never had before.
♥ In the quicksilver mystery of spirit, there's nothing to hold onto. But there is power to be obtained.
When you stop trying to make it all make sense, and you just accept whatever comes, you start to gain power, start to gain insight. We don't have to "figure it all out" for it to have power or to work. Our job isn't to take on more than we can; our job is to be present with what we have to be attentive, respectful, and even brave sometimes. Trust in the sacred powers comes from that healthy attitude of humility for what we can't understand.
♥ The earth opens up and takes back everything that falls dead or is left out long enough and unattended, even mighty cities. The earth is what we're made of - this flesh of ours, in all its different shades of clay, can be found reflected back from the ground, somewhere; there is darkest mud, whitest dirt and sand, reddish clay, and yellowish clay. The elements of these bodies are all right there in the ground under our feet. We've gotten loose for a while, but we'll all go back down, one day.
♥ Nowhere else parties like New Orleans - welcome to flesh and farewell to flesh! No other city has weekend long block-parties every weekend in an entire district. To see Bourbon street and Decatur street and Frenchman's filled with the wandering drunks, old and young, ugly and pretty, to hear the music emanating from every club-door, to smell the nauseating smells emanating from narrow alleys - it's the Elysium of the depraved and the home of countless spirits who get riled up and party with the human beings. They party at funerals; they love life and they raise life-force up so high that it rains down from the sky and becomes part of the mud of the river. The savage and wild religions of Africa never vanished off anywhere; their spirit is evergreen, right here. The animism of the natives is alive. Old Europe is alive, too.
Nowhere else drinks as much, pukes as much, feels the shrieking spirit of life as much as New Orleans. In her heights are the best of souls, in her depths the very darkest and most degraded. On her streets, the remains of the past are still alive and walking along with the present living.
♥ It's a logic every Conjure Man knows - to keep something near you, bury it on your property. To destroy something, commit it to flames. To attract something into your life, bury it under your front doorstep. To get something to leave you and vanish into the deep, toss it at a crossroads and walk away without looking back. To get a message to spirits, bury it in a graveyard. To get it to secretly work on someone, hide it in their food or drink. To toss something into still water sinks it and rots it, eventually, but disperses it well, slowly, over time. Tossing something east makes it start or get strong; to make something end to waste away, toss it to the west.
♥ Anger, or any strong emotion, focuses us in strange ways if we're aware enough to notice. Strong emotions are doors of trance.
♥ Our own wickedness - and our lack of recognition and respect for the basic sacred things in this world - become the barbs that our souls get tangled in, and sometimes, a higher cost is paid. If there's a universal justice out there, which I sometimes think there is. I've seen it working out in its quiet, mysterious way.
♥ Things cycle towards in growth, or downwards in diminishment. At some point, for what seems to be a while, things are in fullness, in a breathing space of completion, before starting the downward spiral. After it's waned away totally, but before it begins again to grow in some new way, it's not one thing or the other. That precious and mysterious time is when the real truth of the situation of any creature or spirit is known. That "gap" is the open gap of mystery. the roots of a thing. Waxing and waning moons are like this, as well as full ones and dark ones.
A human life is like this in youth and adulthood and aging and the condition after what we describe as "death". When the sun is dawning or setting, it's not one way or the other, not previous night nor coming day. At this time, that power fills you up and makes you not who you were the time before, nor who you're going to be in the time to come. A person can, if they are inclined, walk off with a penny or a silver dime under their tongue, and arrive at a place where two roads cross - or any road, in a pinch - and, if they arrive at dawn or at twilight, they can speak the ill deeds they've done, or the ones they're ashamed of, and then spit that coin out, walking quickly away from it.
♥ Identity is such a crisis and a quest for nearly everyone. The biggest selling cults, religions, and fashion brands all have two things in common: quick and easy identity, and quick and easy answers to life's questions tied to those identities. I've known a lot of people who belong to alternative spiritual paths, a lot of people who self-identify as Pagans, witches, and what have you. The most educated and motivated of this lot are the people who spend a lot of time and energy reconstructing Pagan cultures and religions from the past to fill the spiritual void they feel left over from the sudden and ugly transition away from wiser, older religions into the new brands we have around.
Even though the conversion from genuine Pagan religions to Christianity happened quite a long time ago in Europe, it still haunts some people, and they feel the call, the need to worship the natural powers and to honor their non-Christian ancestors.
I consider myself quite the ancestor-worshiper. Nothing could be wrong with wisely honoring the old powers of your Ancestors, whoever they were. But to take it too far, and begin ignoring who you are now, and what land is below your feet, and grasping at an identity born in a culture that has largely passed away and transformed, like many have, is counterproductive. I've known people who got lost in that.
..Real identity starts in the ground and the blood. Your homeland, and the land upon which you lived and experienced powerful life-transitions and experiences, is a large basis for who you are. Most people don't grasp this fully, but it's vital. Louisiana shaped the "human event" that is me; nearly everything about me that is powerful, useful, or precious is there because of where I come from. My blood, the culture of my people and the heritage passed on to me from them, also shapes me.
..They have that impact on me.
They were around me all my life and spirits and powers of these places chiseled me out of flesh.
♥ Get it straight, and don't forget it: how we see and feel co-creates (in tandem with incomprehensible forces that surround us) a world or reality that we have to live in, and we can scarce understand the worlds of others. A cunning man or woman has to understand this, because they can understand the worlds of others better if they know how the construction's being done, at every moment. Flexibility of mind is about understanding and accepting that "how it is" for you isn't "how it is" for others, and knowing that the shape of things right now in your world is going to be different from the shape of things to come.
The cunning mind slips free of the nets of rigidity and finds the fluid undercurrent of things. When you feel it for yourself, you can induce it, to an extent, in others. This strange mystery can be transmitted, in various ways. When a cunning mind is free enough, it exudes some strange presence - a weird presence - which bothers rigid minds. But it seeps into some like moisture, and causes some puddles and rot. A conjure man or woman has to be able to channel some change, has to have a faith in the malleability of things, has to know how insubstantial things are.
♥ Get uncomfortable with uncertainty, and you'll always be ready for what comes next.
♥ A dead hero of mine - a wise woman by the name of Val Plumwood - wrote a superb scholarly essay (in my opinion it was the entire reason she ever existed) entitled "Tasteless: Towards a Food-Based Approach to Death." This essay propelled me out of my skin and into the great web-work that is life, with every form flowing into every other. I'm living here now, in this flesh, but it is not my real home, my true home is inside of trees, birds, alligators, snakes, other humans, and in the ground.
I'm tense, at times. I know that I'm perched in a human shape like a toad, bundled up like an owl in a tree, waiting to leap or fly out suddenly. The power out there is calling to everyone and everything, calling at any time to yank it and change it. There is no stability except to prepare for the call at any moment, and be comfortable with that. It's not such a bad thing; we leap out into greater power.
♥ I've eaten cream of wheat tonight. I like to boil up that stuff with some brown sugar or honey, or sometimes salt, pepper, and butter. It's good either way. I ate it, and down my central body hole it went. It got to my calves and tubes, and met up with some other powers that live in me - corrosive, horrid powers. They split the skulls of those little wheat bits into a million pieces, and stole their power, and began carrying them off. The hard parts that the corrosive powers couldn't make heads or tails of, they banished to lower, swampy and dark chambers, where watery horrors will eventually eject these remnants from my body (and hopefully) into a cool body of water. From that body of water, they'll go deep into the earth and into other tanks and dark places.
As for the other stolen power - the kind that wasn't turned to shit - it will be carried about, and fed to great and hidden furnaces all over my being, used by living powers that carry my very life and consciousness to create the life-force. In flashes of fire they are consumed and a spark of life released.
It's mixing into me, making me who I am, this moment. I live, and that life isn't separate from the wheat itself. Brother wheat - before it was ground down and packed into a box of Cream of Wheat mix, it was hidden deep down in the earth, dragging the warmth of the sun from the surface into itself, along with waters in the dirt. Miraculous transformations happened; the seed broke and tendrils ran out, and they found the sun. A pulsing tower of green life force, it rose higher, taking wind and sun and soil-force into itself, a non-human person's house and personal feast of energy.
It turned more rigid and blonde, and was cut down by the cutting power of some harsh steel. It was lifted by human hands, blown, cut further, stacked, packed, sold, moved by the will of many beings across many lands, collecting so many strands of power. It was processed, and it came into my hands, and was consumed.
The effort of other humans, the heat of hissing serpent-filled water and flame, the sun, the wind, water from rain and the sky and the ocean, the mingling of other plants (like sugar cane) the manure and waste of animals in the fertile ground feeding the roots of the wheat-snake along with me through the mandala of countless powers that were all packed into that spoon of cream of wheat before it went into my mouthy, to be subjected too the collection of countless powers that is called (temporarily) "me."
Snake through the cracks, my friends - when you see all of the powers collected into the mosaic of life, you can see through them. Don't hang on to reason in this matter; just go through the cracks like a snake. Eating is a point where we consume power, and countless lives and other powers, and make them part of us, before they move on beyond us, and we into others. I say "eating" but consumption is a better word. All of the parts of this kaleidoscope of powers are consuming something.
♥ Since then it has seemed to me that our worldview denies the most basic feature of animal existence on planet earth - that we are good and that through death we nourish others.
The food/death perspective, so familiar to our ancestors, is something the human exceptionalism of western modernity has structured out of serious comment. Attention to human foodiness is tasteless. Of course we are all routinely nibbled both during and after life by all sorts of very small creatures, but in the microscopic context our essential foodiness is much easier to ignore than in one where we are munched by a noticeably large predator.
Modernist liberal individualism teaches us that we own our lives and bodies, politically as an enterprise we are running, experientially as a drama we are variously narrating, writing, and/or reading. As hyper-individuals, we owe nothing to nobody, not to our mothers, let alone to any nebulous earth community. Exceptionalised as both species and individuals, we humans cannot be positioned in the food chain in the same way as other animals. Predation on humans is monstrous, exceptionalised and subject to extreme retaliation.
Horror movies, stories and jokes reflect our deep-seated dread of becoming food for other forms of life: horror is the wormy corpse, vampires sucking blood and sci-fi monsters trying to eat humans ("Alien 1 and 2"). Horror and outrage greet stories of other-species eating live or dead human, various levels of hysteria our nibbling by leeches, sandflies, mosquitoes and worms. Dominant concepts of human identity position humans outside and above the food chain, not as part of the feast in a chain of reciprocity. Animals can be our food, but we can never be their food. Human Exceptionalism positions us as the eaters of others who are never themselves eaten.
♥ You'll feel that damn snake the next time the life force tickles at the bottom of your spine, when a sufficiently attractive man or woman comes your way. The snake wants to come up then, flow up and into them, and take them into you, and mingle and spit out a new kaleidoscope of life.
♥ Things connect to each other, and until you learn to see the serpent-weave, the tails and heads all touching, you won't get hoodoo or conjury. Why do you think this plant or that coin or that root or that color or that bone is associated with this or that charm? Because in the serpent-net of reality, they touch, they are one. They look quite different, seem far apart, but we're all coiled up in the power of it all. Catch the snake's wholeness, and you can do sorcery, because the powers can fill you and make it work.
This is how the sorcerer sees. This drunken stupor is full of fire and the light of understanding, unlike the prison for drunks that the rest of the world lives in. And quite suddenly, it changes.
♥ Yes, I'll even eat dead people, and so will you. And one day, something's going to eat you. If you come down and die in the Atchafalaya, I might get to directly eat some of you when I buy crawfish one day in the future. I don't want to eat any of you in particular, but the idea of doing so really isn't so shocking. Life power consuming life power is the way of things. Some of my vegetarian friends can't handle this idea.
I say some because some of them only do the vegetarian thing for reasons of personal health. Others have their own brand of "big brown eye syndrome", which I assure you can be cured by seeing the big brown eyes of a lion bearing down on them as they try to run away across the savanna. Persist in denial and die confused! Vegetarians that hate people for eating crawfish need to understand that crawfish eat us, too. It's the way of things.
Our disgusting factory farms that torment animals and keep them packed together in painful, unhealthy ways, are abominations. I agree with the vegetarians on this point, and strongly suggest that everyone who is interested in being a spirit-worker try their best to get meat and animal products from sources that are local, organic, and not factory farmed, to the best of their ability. Just don't get carried away; shit happens to animals and to humans alike. A good heart is a good heart, regardless.
♥ Dark mud in the swamp is black. Night is black, darkness, darkness underground, earth, the grave, nighttime, unconsciousness, many associations with the planet Saturn. But earth is also fertile, giving plants, homes to snakes, emerging life, hidden potential. Red is the color of fresh blood - shed in violence, but also in menstrual flow, which is a sign of fertile potential. When people are hurt, they bleed and get red. When they are angry, they flush red and warm. Anger, violence, fertility, life power; blood, heat, warmth, intense emotion... these things are all facets of a common reality, a common serpent-weave. And you can start anywhere in nature or in your life and build associations like this. You can begin to walk the weave with your mind and find familiars of power.
♥ Life is a kaleidoscope of powers, and death is a name we give to the constant shifting of the lens.
♥ I drew his sign on the ground at the foot of a tree in flour. All good signs for spirits - which are just representations of those spirits - need to be simple enough to be drawn with flour or some powder. My rattle, hung with its Owl feather, was used to catch the attention of the Hibou, the owl, and both the owl and the rattle-chitter were used to catch the attention of Gran Bois. When you assemble the powers, the work becomes powerful, and you can feel it. The colors, gifts, signs, powers, locations, sounds, intentions - they come together. It is majestic!
♥ I was a knob. But I am a knob no longer! Except on occasions when it suits me to be a knob. This fine and wise woman shocked me back. We all have to get shocked from time to time, and we have to shock others from time to time.
♥ ..asking powers what they want with you or what they have come to show you is only one of the best things you can do, if you can gather your with enough to do it.
And I mean that. Always ask if you can.
♥ Owls are already night birds, and they can move through darkness and obscurity easily due to their great hearing - not sight, as most people think. They can guide themselves through the darkest of places with ease, and they fly silently, as they alone have a natural flight-noise dampening system on their wing feathers. Where they go, they go in silence and stealth, usually surprising those prey theny strike, when they strike. Like death, which slips along quietly and unexpected, and strikes suddenly.
Because they are at home in the dark, and can move about so easy in it. Owls are associated with finding lost things. And, of course, occult wisdom and mysticism and sorcery.
♥ Now, become a snake again. Be all things again. Be a person and a snake. Each person is standing at a crossroads, and in fact, each person is a crossroads. In us, many powers from every direction meet, come together.
Many different cultures, religions, families (seen and unseen) races of man, times of man, places of man, all meet in us, and everyone is like that. You become a serpent-person, a two-headed entity, a Master of Crossroads, when you believe that, know it, and feel it.
♥ Recursion with respect to conjury is simple: Conjury does you as much as you do conjury. At the same time you're apparently changing things through laying tricks, packing mojo bags, and talking to spirits, you're being changed, too. Some don't see this, some won't see it; but the profession of the conjure man or woman, the real sorcerer, is transformative on every level. Once you're involved, you aren't the same ever again. Nietzsche famous said "when you gaze into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
The transforming power if real conjury is deeply rooted in all places, because it takes its power from the most essential sacred force that underlies and animates reality. The fact that you can't get involved without being so radically changed leads to a lot of folklore about losing one's soul, mind, or sanity to the weird powers. But the reality is both more tame and more astounding than any folklore. The sorcerer's mind comes to be of practically alien character compared to others.
♥ The less you settle on "knowledge" about the outside world or yourself, and the more you let the world be as weird and unpredictable as it truly is, the stronger a channel you'll be. You'll be what they call a "hollow bone", a channel that doesn't obstruct spiritual force.
You'll also be better equipped, mentally, to deal with this world and all its savagery and uncertainty. There is a double blessing here. The less you "know", the more you gain, in a sense. The less you try to build up, the stronger and more stable you become; an old saying states "you can't fall off the floor." This isn't to suggest that an informational base about things like arts or sciences or even the occult arts can't be built up and tapped for use; but this is to say that you shouldn't let the lore you collect restrict you or convince you that it can't be any other way.
♥ But at this point it is important to note that Hoodoo or southern folk-magic (like many other forms of natural magic) does not require an ally in the spirit-world to work. Hoodoo posits the truth that natural objects, forces, and substances have their own innate power. This is beyond a doubt; without the aid of any spirit certain stones, herbs, candles, prayers, and intentions will exert an influence on the world, and that influence will play a role in how events come to pass in this world.
But beyond simple influence lies real sorcery - if one were to bring the attentions and activities of a powerful spirits or spirits to join with the influence of substance, a great wall of force and power is added to the work. For most people, hoodoo spells and charms work through influence only. And that is fine; it's better to have knowledge of subtle influences and to bring them into your life, than to not have them. It is still a worthy art and collection of lore. It is very much a part of the south, and the swamps and woods.
♥ When you make the leap to connect the earth of your flesh to the earth under your feet, you slide into an "open space" where you aren't so separate anymore. If you let yourself go, you can "fall" into the earth, really experience yourself as part of it. This is true for any power.
The last element is, of course, sorcerous excitement and a touch of love for the art, and affection for the powers that make up the totality of our world and your true body. If you aren't excited by this art you won't go far.
♥ It is very important that you do your best to let the non-human person be a non-human person. This is what most today don't do; especially the youthful new-age sector. They want spirits to be very human-like, but spirits are not human. You have to extend both respect to the spirit, by letting it be as strange-seeming or unpredictable as it will be, and you have to extend flexibility. Don't try to imagine what the spirit is or what it will be like at the time of your work.
More respect must be extended, thirdly; you must always bring a heart of real respect for the personhood of the spirit.
..To this final step, something crucial must be added: spirits may not come and talk to you or join with you at all, no matter how well your rite for them was, or how excited or hopeful you are. That is their right; you must accord them the right to not speak to you on any given occasion. They have that right, as they are sovereign beings all on their own. Most people get upset when their attempts at spirit-contact don't "work" - but this is the most disrespectful thing of all. You must not be obsessed with any certain outcome and you must always be respectful.
♥ To "get over there", one has to find a way "down". If you live in swampy land, you're surrounded by nothing but massive ways "down" - any marshy, swampy land is a natural entrance into the unseen. There is always a sense of going down - of sinking down to a deep place - when you want to go over to the unseen. Some people imagine that it will be a "going sideways" - like through a door on the same horizontal plane - or going up, even; but in my practice, and in keeping with the work of years of anthropological research regarding the use of lower world passages by shamans in various societies, I always end up "slithering down", to a perceptual layer of reality that appears to be below this world. It is a complete other reality, every bit as real as this one, and related to this one, tied together with this one, in many ways.
One of the ways it ties into this one is through the human mind. Another way is through tunnels, caves, wells, animal dens, natural deep holes in the ground, marshes, swamps, lakes, rivers, trees with big root-systems, and bogs. The act of going low forces the mind into a new mode of perception; this is the key to the entire sorcerous act.
♥ Most people today who undergo this "lower world regression" use drums - and there is a reason, at 180 beats per minute, the deep sound of a drum (and it has to be a lower sounding drum) matches the song that the ground or earth itself is making at all times.
♥ Scarecrows are objects that scare away evil or harmful spirits. They can be anything, but in South Louisiana, Alligator heads are common. I use the skulls of antlered or horned animals, because antlers and horns are signs of attack and threat in the animal world, signs of might. And, let's face it - skulls are scary, in a way. And this is important. But a scarecrow can be anything; a literal "doll" stuffed with Spanish moss and painted with a terrifying face will do the trick, too. The secret is to make them powerful with either a spirit you attract to empower them in their scarecrow-force, or to gain a power through spirit-stepping, and pass that power into the scarecrow.
♥ You can belong to a place, be as much a part of it as local trees or rivers. You learn this through trance, through having a mystical open heart, or through something as mundane as moving far away from the place that "has" you. One day, after your move, you'll begin in feeling the tug of your parent-land, and dreams will come. Urges below the surface will move you; this can sometimes be mistaken for "homesickness", but for those sufficiently aware, it is more: it is part of a living system of communication and power-sharing.
Being a part of your land means being a part of a greater whole, and it means being part of a broad family of living beings, of human and non-human persons. The rivers, lakes, swamps, flowers, herbs, and animals of your land are the non-human persons that join you in existing there. Sometimes your power helps them or harms them; sometimes, their powers help you or harm you. There is a spiritual ecology here that can never be ignited by a root-worker or a conjure-man. There is also a need to know where the land "has" you, because this is no trap; this is the land telling you where your real power is.
♥ Herbal lore, wortcunning, and the craft of extracting the medicinal and sorcerous constituents of herbs and preserving them in oil or fluid form is needed, the knowledge of drying herbs, of storing them, of growing them and collecting them, of identifying them and their many uses in alleviating human sickness and discomfort, is all necessary. This is likely the oldest of sorcerous arts, after the art of spirit-talking, and it was spirits that taught the first human herbalists and healers their craft. Not all conjure folk will be healers with herbs, but most will have some knowledge of uses for herbs beyond that of just sorcery.
♥ A person should learn from the book sources, learn from practice, learn from people you meet, learn from informants. Collect power, collect substances, collect knowledge. Hoodoo and Conjury draw from many sources, Native American, European, and African.
♥ The list continues, along traditional lines: we have the wrathful-curse creating, strength-increasing, evil-spirit exorcising and masculine martial herbs like onion, pine, wormwood, rue, black and red peppers, ginger, peppercorns, holly, and garlic; the authoritative, fertile, wealth-increasing, protective jupiterian herbs like houseleek, hyssop, oak, borage, figs, cloves, nutmeg, maple, and sagebrush; and the cold-curse creating, deathly, will-binding, occult-knowledge increasing saturnian herbs - saturnian herbs which also see to the well-being of home and land - like nightshade, datura, foxglove, elder, cypress, mullein, juniper, hemp, hellebore, and valerian.
..Some of the traditional and very useful roots and herbs of Hoodoo are not on that list, but surely you know them by now - Hyssop, which purifies you if you bathe in it; High John the Conquer root, which gives luck in games of chance and business, but also makes sure that you're never long without money, a lover, or personal strength; Low John or Little John to Chew, which gives you luck in court, but can be chewed and spit out to break curses and jinxes, or turn away enemies; Dixie John, for luck, sex appeal, and protection of relationships; Salep Root, for making love and gambling spells stronger; and Buckeye Nuts, to ward off headaches and make a man virile - to name a few.
♥ Crossing oil is essentially one, two, or three actual infused or essential oils of plants that are traditionally associated with jinxing or hexing, combined with other baneful ingredients. Most good herbals will give a list of plants and substances associated with jinxing for you to create your own recipe out of it. A typical and simple one (though no less powerful) would be to mix the infused oil of red pepper and peppercorns with a pinch of sulphur, a pinch of graveyard dust from a proper grave and properly paid for (described soon) and a pinch of powdered rattlesnake skin or bones, or some powdered dead and dried spiders, particularly of a poisonous variety. Some powder some of an eggshell from a black hen's egg and add it, too.
Anytime I say "a pinch", I mean in proportion to the container size - a vial of oil always take a pinch, but a jar or larger bottle would take more in proportion. All oils should be shaken well before they are used.
Uncrossing oils are the inverse of crossing oils; they start based on oils of plants that are traditionally associated with cleansing and purification and un-jinxing or warding away curses and hexing. An oil of rue and angelica, or an oil of bay and ginger or rosemary, with a pinch of salt added to it, and some powdered High John and/or powdered garlic, makes a suitable "uncrosser". A few drops of ammonia can be added to it, as well. Sandalwood and patchouli essential oils can be added, in small amounts, to any uncrossing oil; and lastly, an oil of five-finger grass is always a help in these.
The famous Van Van oil needs a mention. Van Van is an old hoodoo oil, but I've heard that it can be made into incense, or powders, that can clear out evil, magically protect people or places, open the way to new opportunities, change one's luck for the better, and empower gris-gris or charms. It is also the oil used to anoint the famous lodestone that is so popular in hoodoo. Van van oil is so called because the Cajun and Creole French pronunciation of "vervain" is something like "vah-vahn." While I can hardly resist putting some oil of vervain into my Van Van oil, the real main oil constituent is lemon grass. Other citrus-like oils are good in it, and a pinch of salt into each dose made is good.
♥ Graveyard, cemeteries, and all places of burial are powerful places.
The power of any field or stretch of land is already profound, to place the remains of the dead in the ground, and create places of memory and spirit-contact on top of the earth and within it, only adds to the power, exponentially increasing it. The soil of burial grounds is infused with the power of life in an intense manner - the sacred vessels of life decay in it, and something of the essence of the dead become resident in it. Burial sites become doorways of a kind between the seen and the unseen.
Hoodoo is filled with references to the magical uses of graveyard dirt, dust, or earth; despite what some new-agers have tried to say, graveyard earth is precisely that - earth taken from graveyards in a certain manner, paid for in a certain way. It is not a "code name" for a powdered herb of any sort. Cemeteries and graveyards in the modern day have taken the place of the more ancient ancestral burial grounds that ancient cultures and societies of then bonded with on a profound level - the sacred earth was not just the giver of life, bur the taker of life and taker of the dead; the buried dead are merged with the ground physically and on the level of soul and spirit, integrated in a new manner, and they empower their burial sites and the ground as a whole.
Traditional spiritual beliefs from many places deal with the dreaded topic of "necromancy" more than most people realize. For most, "necromancy" is the art of divining the future from the spirits of the dead, bur I use it here, as other have used it, to refer to any and all sorcerous workings that integrate the spirits of the dead or things relating to them. As the cults of the dead are so naturally combined with land-veneration, crop-cults, and other land and earth-based workings, it is not so off to comprehend a "necromantic" element seeping through these ancient natural institutions.
The animistic-necromantic view takes one to deep places. When a body and a soul go to integrate with the land, and the spirit goes to take up residence in deeper, stranger places, the body of the living being eventually fades and rots, but the life-force (and spirit) diffuse and travel - all of nature broadly, but the land of interment especially, becomes the new "body" of the deceased, and all things that grow out of that land become new extensions of the dead. Animals and even people that depend on that land for life become new extensions of the dead. All is shrouded in a sacredness through transformation and integration. The soil itself is the medium of this transmission; swamp water or a lake's water can be the same if a dead person were to fall beneath it and decay there.
Graveyard earth become a powerful substance and symbol of two worlds overlapping. Work that requires the help of spirits generally, or of specific dead persons, can call for graveyard earth to be obtained. Graveyard earth is a major constituent of Goofer Dust, (Goofer coming from the African word "Kufwa", meaning "to kill") a very baneful substance used in many jinxes and hexes, but graveyard earth can be used for many workings with many different goals, even positive ones.
The ancient idea of the ancestral cult comes through strongest in hoodoo when we discuss the collecting and use of graveyard earth and the metaphysics behind it - and the ancestors tend to be concerned with the well-being of their kin "above ground". The ritual of "hammering down", used to stake a claim to land and be prosperous in that land and in a home on that land, (which I will discuss soon) utilizes the blessings of ancestors obtained through graveyard earth.
You don't just go and take graveyard earth; you buy it. It is normally paid for with a silver dime, three copper pennies (pennies minted in 1981 or before) or a glass of rum or whiskey - sometimes just one of these things, or all three together, depending on what you have or what you feel inspired to give. It can't be taken without some sort of payment and then used with any effectiveness. The payment can be offered to the spirits of the entire graveyard, or to the spirit of the person whose grave you'll be taking dirt from, and this brings up another axis of understanding this process.
Before you can take earth from someone's grave, you have to do a minor form of spirit-talking which really boils down to asking politely for their help, and then really listening within to see how you immediately feel, or if you "hear" them communicate back within. Pay attention to your feelings on this point, and don't take something if you "hear" or feel that you shouldn't. Who lies in the grave is important, and where you take the dirt from is also important.
Of course, you always have to be respectful. But you have to consider what you want the earth for. Taking it from the graves of relatives is excellent and easier, as they loved you in life (in theory) so still probably want to help you in some way. But stranger dead persons can become "known" by you and you by them, if you spend time visiting them and giving gifts. Who they were and how they died matters. If you needed help getting a man to fall in love with you, and your mother (who passed away a few years before) always hoped to see you get married and have her grandkids, paying her for some graveyard earth and digging it from her heart-level is ideal: she'll certainly help, and this is a matter of emotional importance to her and you.
I've heard it said that grave dirt from the graves of soldiers is potent because in life they were strong people who had obedient spirits (taking orders a lot) and tended to be duty-oriented and honorable. You'd take from the head if you needed their knowledge or help with your own "mental" duties or tasks; you'd take from their feet if you needed their physical strength. I personally would take from the feet for curses, or possibly from the heart if the person in the grave shared some hatred with me for the target of the curse. Taking from the head was apparently also used for charms involving the gaining of money and wealth.
You can enter a graveyard where you know no one, and wait to "feel" where you are being led, to what grave and to whom, and try to gather from that grave, but I always feel it is best to know the persons from whom you are digging earth, at least somewhat - a little research can go a long way. A person who "died badly", i.e. a murder victim or someone who died tragically through a violent accident, is good for gathering graveyard dirt for cursing or jinxing.
But there is even another layer of detail here - a person wrongly executed can help you if you need justice, for the logic runs that they understand what it means to want justice and have trouble getting it. But at the same time, their spirits or even ghosts may have become bitter and malevolent, and they may seek vengeance against the people behind their deaths, or entire classes of people associated.
A black man, wrongly convicted and executed, may hate all white people (to make an example) if the entire prosecution team was white. A mother who had to lose all of her children to an epidemic sickness may now exist to try and help save as many sick children as possible. A friend or relative or stranger who died tragically in a car wreck while traveling may help you to be safe in travel with your family. These are all things to consider.
If you want simple, general graveyard earth, and if you understand that it isn't nearly as strong as properly discovered and taken earth, pay the entire cemetery and take some from the gates of the place. It's much weaker, but it serves its purpose. Graveyard dirt has an inseparable link to death, and one charm I've heard of requires a black candle, representing an enemy, to be turned upside down and snuffed out in graveyard earth, representing their death.
♥ One of my favorite aspects of the use of graveyard earth is the ritual of "nailing down" one's own claim and well-being on a piece of property that one has inherited or purchased. You can even do it if you're renting land and a home, though it is stronger if you're dealing with something more "yours". "Nailing down" is not just for protection, but to stop you from being forcefully evicted, or having your presence there forced away fore any reason. You;ll need four railroad spikes, one for each corner of the property, or four small nails if you're nailing yourself down in an apartment. Dress the spikes or nails with a peace-oil or a protection oil, and pray over them earnestly, asking that you be kept solidly and safely in this place "like a tree planted before water" - and that you not be moved.
Then drive the spikes or nails into the corners of the property with a hammer. Put a silver dime on top of each spike, some graveyard earth taken from an ancestor or caring relative's grave, and then "set the spikes in place" by urinating on top of each of them - like a wolf marking territory. The addition of ancestral grave earth elevated this charm to the level of staking a claim on ancestral turf, of bonding with the land in which (in theory) you have loved ones buried in.
♥ Earth doesn't have to be taken only from graveyards. Earth from banks, especially banks that are doing well in the current economic climate, is great for charms designed to get you money of financial stability. Earth from churches is great for protection from wicked or malevolent spirits. Earth from a courthouse is good for success at legal matters. A garden where fragrant, beautiful (and hopefully traditionally venusian) plants grow is wonderful for love charms. Earth from a hospital can be used to help heal the sick. Earth from a jail or prison is good for keeping the law away. If you need protection from enemies, earth from a police station is good. If you need a job, or money, or success in your business, earth from a busy thriving marketplace is great.
♥ Now, to the topic of foot-track magic and other methodologies of sorcery. Anytime someone sinks a footprint into the ground, the earth within the print has some relationship to them personally. If you can obtain earth from someone's print, you gain a measure of sympathetic power over them. You always scrape the earth towards you, not away from you, and directly into the packet of paper or the little vial or bottle you'll be catching it in. You can use a knife, or some wooden instrument, but I try not to touch it with my bare flesh.
This foot-track earth can be used as though it were a material link to the person, and it makes a fine mixer-in with goofer dust. This sort of magic also deals with places that a person walks often, including their front door or back door, or a trail they like to jog on, or the like. Placing jinxing charms or any charm intended to affect them under a place where their feet touch the ground often is a powerful way of influencing them, and goofer dust, or the famous "hot foot powder" is sometimes scattered onto the bare earth, so that they'll step in it.
Sorcerous methodologies always follow this sort of "connectivity logic" - the serpent that entwined through all collects all, and everything that touches remains connected in a sense even after physical contact is broken. When you lay down dust of any kind, don't walk forward while doing it, walk backwards. This is a rule from tradition. How things are done, in what direction, at what time, in what manner - it all matters if you pay attention to the sympathy of things.
When you fold paper, with written requests on them or with people's names on them, if it's about something you want brought to you, fold it towards you, or alternatively, fold it clockwise. If you're trying to jinx it or get rid of the subject of the paper, fold it away from you or counterclockwise. Do whatever you're doing at dawn if it's about starting new; do it at dusk if you're trying to end something. Do it at midnight if you want something dead or jinxed. Most people consider the stabbing of doll-babies that are bound to an enemy with sharp objects like thorns, nails, needles, bird talons, or the like, to be the worst curse imaginable, but in truth, burying the doll-baby in a small coffin in a graveyard is the deadliest, carrying out a mock funeral.
Color matters. You want a guy? Write his name on a piece of brown paper, (like a paper bag) and write it nine times. Write it in pencil - all requests or commands that are written in pencil have more power because the lead "grounds" the request in its heavy power. Write your name over each of the nine, blending the names together, and fold the paper toward you three, five, seven, or nine rimes. If he's black, or of dark complexion, put it in a bottle of dark syrup. If he's white or of light complexion, put it in a bottle of light syrup.
To those syrups, attraction or lust oils can be added, made from venusian herbs or other herbs associated with getting love. Graveyard earth from a helpful relative or friend can be added in pinches, if you paid for it and asked them to help get this love. You can keep the bottle in a certain place that has sympathy with attracting things to you - like by your front porch or under your porch or steps, under the door of your home. Do this on a waxing or full moon, a traditional time for increasing and gaining things. If you were me, spirits would be conjured to empower this charm.
♥ I thought I should mention something about numbers in hoodoo and sorcery. Threes and Nines have more than just the associations I gave them a few essays back; they are also odd numbers, and odd numbers are energetic numbers, dynamic numbers. They aren't stable, so they add power to things, get things moving. Even numbers are stable and square. Few people use them in charms that need a lot of power, but I am told that some prefer to use even numbers in curses, especially binding curses. That makes sense to me, but I'd go by intuiting before any work.
♥ Nails are the last issue I need to cover. Nails have a long history in hoodoo and root work, and even though they are often used for hexing and the like, they can be used for other things. Nails have connections with the places they are used and where they remain for a long time. Finding a rusty old nail in the dirt of a graveyard is like finding a grand treasure - those old graveyard nails are impregnated with grave spiritual power, and can be used for the most baneful and deadly works imaginable. They go best in hexing bottles or war water.
Nails are a touch martial in nature, regardless, for they represent intruding force, and nails taken from certain places are, like earth taken from places, "tuned" into certain sorcerous acts. Nails from hospitals can help get enemies injured. Nails from courthouses can make someone have a bad day in court; nails from a jail can help to get someone arrested, and nails from a person's job site can help them get fired. Rusty nails and older nails are always worse, always more baneful.
♥ Hoodoo is not a very abstract sorcery, and nor should it be. It is part of the world and part of people and above all it is practical; it has a natural logic to go alongside its mystery. Putting a trick in a building - especially by hiding it in the building, either while it is being constructed, or somewhere in it later - keeps the trick operating for the whole life of the building, and the trick is, of course, influenced by the nature of the building.
Dripping anything at a crossroads will disperse its power, but disposing of a trick by burying it (or its remains in the case of candles or burned or spent things, see below) in a graveyard sends its power to the spirit world and gives it a kick in effectiveness and strength. Burying or hiding a trick done to help you somehow, or you and your home situation in your actual yard or in your house is good; it keeps the influences operating right there in your living area. I have discussed dispersal of power before in my first essay in this work.
Hiding mojos or tricks in the clothes of a victim, so that they touch the flesh every time that person wears the clothes, is powerful; your town tricks or conjure-bags or the like made for your friends or yourself can be sewn into clothes or incorporated into clothing so that they touch you all the time, but I'd hate to wash clothes with conjure-bags in them, as the water would alter it, no doubt, or destroy it.
Making people eat your conjury is another way of influencing them; putting powders or oils or waters or other preparations into their food or drink is both an ancient and powerful form of influence. Bodily fluids can be used directly as influence; women would put some of their menstrual blood into stews or gravies or other food to pass their power into men over whom they wanted influence, and men could do the same, using their own special additives. Burying tricks at the roots of trees is thought to disperse them, but hanging them from branches is a way of giving them a place to rest and spread their power.
Fecal matter, however, is never used for anything except the most horrid of curses.
♥ Water collecting during a thunderstorm is "storm water" - one of the most potent talismananic waters in all of hoodoo. Storm water is a good basis for War Water, which we will discuss in a moment; but storm water full of furious force, can be used to "wake up" mojo bags, or other charms, buy sprinkling it on them. It "strengthens" per-existing mojo or talismans, adds more power to them, or gets them "going" when they appear to have slowed down a bit.
You can sprinkle storm water around your house if you need a change, but I tend to be shy about that. Add brown sugar to it, and you can use it in money charms. Ocean water is great for both cleansing (it has salt in it) or for charms to help a woman conceive.
Moon water, water created by leaving a bowl out all night during a calm, clear full moon night, is good for washing the head and neck nine times over nine days to strengthen psychism. It's good water for deception or illusion charms. Washing the hair with it is said to encourage hair growth, but I think it's safe to say that something further needs to be added to the mix to get any luck on that front, but who knows? Enough odd things surround conjury to make me reserve judgment in most cases.
River water is potent for a change, as it is full of dynamism. Stagnant water and water full of rot is good for cursing and killing or stopping something. Water melted off from snow, in my personal arsenal, is "freeze water" or "hindrance water" - used for influencing the stopping or binding of things. In my experience, nothing stops or hinders things like cold does.
There are three well-known "waters" in hoodoo, which deserve their own mention: war water, peace water, and Florida water. War water, as mentioned before, is a baneful water made to harm or kill foes. It is made with either storm water, or swampy, stagnant water, and then mixed with rust-dust, to make a reddish martial suspension, and to that is added some rusty nails, some graveyard dust or sulphur, and some Spanish moss, to help with that rot appearance and smell. You can further personalize it, by adding some of your foe's personal concerns (like hair or nails) to it, and the bottle of war water is used by hurling it at your foe's front steps or porch, shattering it, like some sort of evil psychic Molotov cocktail, forcing your foe to walk over it or touch it, and blighting their home.
Peace water is precisely the opposite of war water, of course; it is used for bringing peace and spiritual cleansing to the home. It is made (in its basic form) of pure blessed spring water mixed with some Florida water, basil leaves, and some crushed eggshell. You add peace water to the mop water that will be used to mop the floors of the house, and wash the steps with it, and the windowsills and other major features of the house.
Florida water is a perfume or cologne water that can be purchased, even today, in drugstores all over the south and perhaps other parts of the country. It is a citrus-like, alcohol based cologne that was very popular in the first half of the last century, and it has dozens of uses in hoodoo. You can buy it on or offline, or make your own. There are many recipes; this is a famous recipe:
oil of bergamot 3 fluid ounces
oil of lavender 1 fluid ounce
oil of lemon 1 fluid ounce
oil of cloves 1 1/4 fluid drachms
oil of cinnamon 2 1/2 fluid drachms
oil of neroli 1/2 fluid drachms
essence of jasmine 6 fluid ounces
essence of musk 2 fluid ounces
alcohol 8 pints
rose water 1 pint
..Florida water is most often used sorcerously for cleansing and purification purposes, but also as an offering to the dead.
♥ You should always dress candles, at least, with an oil created in sympathy with your work. I dress them in four different ways: I take the oil and rub it from the top of the candle to the bottom, if I want to attract something to me or someone else; I rub it from the bottom to the top if I want something to go away from me or someone else; I start in the middle and rub to the top, then go back to the middle and rub to the bottom if I want to separate two persons or powers; or, I start at the top and rub to the middle, the go to the bottom and rub to the middle, if I want to bring two powers or persons together.
It always helps to carve words or names onto candles, using needles or nails. I find that for longer statements of intention or longer names, it's better to use a word-sigil to carve the message on. You create a sigil by taking the phrase or name you want to work for or upon, and writing it on a piece of paper. Then, go through the name or phrase and remove all redundant letters, and then take those letters and combine them into a sigil-symbol. The combined letters should make a finished sigil that cannot be "read" by looking at it, but your deep mind will know what it stands for, what it means.
If you want to make a sigil for a phrase outlining an outcome you wish for, don't ever us a phrase like "I want money" - all that will do is summon a condition in which you find yourself wanting money a lot. Instead, say "plenty of money" or something like that - use the present tense, as though what you had was there.
Carving someone's name (or your own) on a candle should be done three or nine times. The same goes with a name-sigil. The same goes with a phrase or phrase sigil; and again, direction matters. Carve them towards you if you're drawing towards you, or away if you're desiring to get rid of something. You can carve just one name, phrase or sigil if you're not working for any of those things, or just to "name" a candle after someone.
I like to put a piece of paper under the candle with the intention written on it, and let the candle burn down onto that. You always have to let the candle burn down all the way in one go if you can manage it; if not (if you're using a seven-day candle, for instance) then you can extinguish it and re-light it again later, but don't blow it out; snuff it out each time.
..The final "result" of a candle burning is a melted down bit of wax, and whatever you might have put under the candle, if anything. This needs to be disposed of in one of the usual manners - the remains have power.
♥ One of Hyatt's formulas for "getting un-hoodooed" always stuck in my head, so I feel the need to repeat it now:
"If you think you are hoodooed, take one pint of salt, one pint of corn meal, one pint of your urine. Put that in a can on the stove at twelve o'clock at night and cook until it burns. Then throw the can and all away and your hoodoo spell will be off."
♥ Hyssop is one of the prime (maybe THE prime) "cleansing off the sin" herbs. And, of course, wiping an egg over every part of your body and breaking it into a toilet and flushing it, or casting that egg into a crossroads or at a tree is also suggested. "Giving away the sin", using one or three copper pennies, held under the tongue as you walk to a crossroads is powerful; speak your wicked deeds as you walk, and when you reach the crossroads, spit the pennies - and the sins - out, and walk away without looking back.