This web site helps fans and performers of African American blues understand what the lyrics to the songs are about. Blues fans who listen closely to song lyrics often wonder what a "mojo" is or why one would carry a "John da Conqueroo." Most people know these terms have something to do with African American folk magic, and they may even have run across interviews or songs in which a musician uses the word "hoodoo," but many incorrectly assume that the terms come from the Haitian religion known as Voodoo or Vodoun. By reading "Blues Lyrics and Hoodoo," fans and performers will the true roots of these lyrics.
This site also helps practitoners of African American folk magic, hoodoo, rootwork, and conjure, as well as academic students of folklore, ethnography, ethnomusicology, and ethnomagicology. By using the terminology found in songs, it proves that African American hoodoo is an independent form of folk magic in its own right, and not modified form of European American folk magic, and it demonstrates historically documented beliefs and practices concerning luck and magic, divination and fortune-telling, spell-casting, and the removal of spells.
My online book about 20th century African-American folk-magic, Hoodoo in Theory and Practice, will conveniently answer most questions that blues fans have about these lyrics, but i have created this sub-site on "Blues Lyrics and Hoodoo" because in gathering information on hoodoo, i have found that some of the clearest descriptions of magical materials and their methods of employment can be found in acoustic blues of the period between the two World Wars. In other words, blues lyrics themselves form a primary source of oral history and shed light on little known by-ways in folk custom. From the blues we can learn or receive independent confirmation about such things as how Goofer Dust was used in Memphis in the 1920s or the mechanisms of dream divination systems employed to obtain lucky numbers for lottery gambling. Thus these pages not only serve to "explain" obscure lyrics to fans, they use the blues to demonstrate rural folk-magic to contemporary practitioners.
I use blues lyrics to exemplify specific magical concepts in "Hoodoo in Theory and Practice" because the 1920s - 30s was a period during which mainstream folklorists, scholars, and book publishers paid scant attention to cultural contributions by African-Americans. Hoodoo, a beautifully coherent system of practical folk magic, was for the most part dismissed as "superstition" and went unrecorded by scholars or occultists. But these same two decades coincidentally marked the time of the greatest development of recorded rural acoustic blues, and hoodoo was a prominent topic addressed in the lyrics to these songs,. Thus, blues lyrics of the 1920s - 30s often provide our best glimpse of how hoodoo was practiced in the decade preceeding Harry M. Hyatt's compilation of oral histories from root workers from 1936 - 1940.
Here is a convenient quick-list of Lucky Mojo Pages that quote or allude to blues songs.
[--] (field transcription, uncredited) Cotton-Eyed Joe (hoodoo) pre-1925 Alexander, Texas Tell Me Woman Blues (mojo hand) 1928 Arnold, (James) Kokomo Old Black Cat Blues (Jinx Blues) (black cat, jinx) 1935 Arnold, (James) Kokomo Policy Wheel Blues (Jinx Blues) (policy dream books) 1935 Batts, WIll Country Woman Blues (goofer dust) 1933 Black Spider Dumpling (John D. Twitty) Sold It to the Devil (crossroads ritual, spider dumpling 1937 Blake, Blind (Arthur) Policy Blues (policy dream books) Blake, Blind (Arthur) Panther Squall Blues (jinx) 1928 Bogan, Lucille (with Spoken parts by Papa Charlie Jackson) Jim Tampa Blues (jomo, black cat bone) 1927 Brown, Bessie Hoodoo Blues (goofer, gris-gris, spider dumpling, black cat bone, shoes) 1924 Brown, Gabriel Jinx Is On Me (jinx, gypsy, card reading, numbers) 1945 Burleson, Hattie Superstitious Blues (mojo, fortune teller) 1928-1930 Carter, Bo (Armentier Chatmon) The Ins and Outs of My Girl (jinx) 1936 Carter, Big Lucky (Levester Carter) Goofer Dust (goofer dust, dragon's blood, etc.) 1968 Chatmon, Harry Hoo Doo Blues (hoodoo, palmistry, horseshoe) 1935 Chicago String Band Hoodoo Blues (hoodoo, gambling) Clayton, Dr. (Peter) Root Doctor Blues (double entendre on root work) 1946 Cole, Ann Got My Mo-Jo Working (mojo) Cox, Ida Fogyism (black cat, etc.) 1928 Cox, Ida Gypsy Glass Blues (Gypsy) 1927 Cox, Ida Mojo Hand Blues (mojo) 1927 Crudup, Arthur "Big Boy" Hoodoo Lady (hoodoo lady, hoodoo hand) 1947 Diddley, Bo (Elias MacDaniel) Who Do You Love (many hoodoo beliefs) 1956 Dixon, Willie I Ain't Superstitious (bad luck omen list) 1962 Dixon, Willie The Seventh Son (seventh son) Dixon, Willie Hootchie Cootchie Man (lucky number seven) Gibson, Clifford Don't Put That Thing On Me (conjure, hoodooing male nature) 1929 Gillum, Jazz The Blues What Am (bad luck omen list) 1947 Gillum, Jazz Hand Reader Blues (fortune teller, herb tea, good luck pills) 1947 Grant, Coot (Leola B. WIlson) and Wilson, Wesley (Kid Sox) Keep Your Hand Off Of My Mojo (mojo) Harlem Hamfats Hoodooin' Woman (hoodoo, fix, spread stuff) 1937 Harris, Wynonie Conjured (foot-track magic, graveyard dirt, etc.) 1964 Henry, Waymon "Sloppy" Jomo Man Blues (jomo, lodestone, john the conquer, goofer dust) 1928 Hogg, Andrew "Smokey" I Bleed Through My Soul (black cat bone) c.1950 Hopkins, Lightning Mojo Hand (mojo) 1960; also a later version, undated House, Son The Jinx Blues [No. 1 and No. 2] (jinx, Gypsy) 1942 Hudson, Hattie Doggone My Good Luck Soul (black cat, horseshoe, rabbit foot) 1927 Hunter, Ivory Joe I Almost Lost My Mind (Gypsy) 1950 Jackson, Papa Charlie Bad Luck Woman Blues (jinx, rat's [?] foot) 1924 Jackson, Papa Charlie Salt Lake City Blues (jinx) 1924 Jefferson, Blind Lemon Bad Luck Blues 1926 Jefferson, Blind Lemon Broke and Hungry Blues (black cat bone) 19-- (INCOMPLETE) Jefferson, Blind Lemon Dry Southern Blues (implied menstrual blood in coffee) 1926 Jefferson, Blind Lemon Low Down Mojo Blues (mojo) Jefferson, Blind Lemon Rambler Blues (jinx) 1927 Johnson, Merline Black Gypsy Blues (Black Gypsy) Johnson, Merline Sold It to the Devil (crossroads ritual) 1937 Johnson, Robert Come On In My Kitchen (mation sack) Johnson, Robert Little Queen of Spades (mojo) 1937 Johnson, Robert Hellhound on My Trail (Hot Foot Powder) Johnson, Robert Stones In My Passway (foot-track magic) 1938 Jones, Curtis Black Gipsy Blues (Black Gypsy) 1938 Jones, Curtis Black Magic Blues (hoodoo) Jordan, Charley (with Charlie Manson) I Couldn't Stay Here (jinx) 1936 Jordan, Louis Somebody Done Hoodooed the Hoodoo Man (hoodoo) 1939 Lenoir, J. B. The Mojo, a.k.a. Mojo Boogie, Voodoo Boogie (jack ball) 1953, etc. Lewis, Furry Black Gypsy Blues (Black Gypsy) 1929 Lightnin' Slim (Otis Hicks) Hoo Doo Blues (hoodoo) 1957 Lincoln, Charlie (Charlie Hicks, Laughing Charley) Mojoe Blues (mojo, hoodoo) 1927 Lofton, Cripple Clarence I Don't Know (goofer dust) 1939 Lofton, Cripple Clarence Strut That Thing (goofer dust) 1935 Lonesome Sundown (Cornelius Green) I'm a Mojo Man (mojo) 1957 Mabon, Willie I Don't Know (goofer dust) 1952 / 1953 McGhee, Brownie Secret Mojo Blues (mojo, black cat bone) 1947 McTell, Blind Willie Drive Away Blues (hot foot work, Lookout Mountain) McTell, Blind Willie Scary Day Blues (mojo) McTell, Blind Willie Talkin' to Myself (same verse as Scary Day Blues) 1930 McTell, Blind Willie Ticket Agent Blues (same verse as Scary Day Blues) 1935 Memphis Jug Band (with Will Shade) Aunt Caroline Dyer Blues (Aunt Caroline Dye, mojo) 1930 Memphis Jug Band (with Will Shade) I Whipped My Woman With A Singletree (Black Gypsy) 1930 Memphis Jug Band (with Hattie Hart) Spider's Nest Blues (spider, toby) 1930 Memphis Minnie (Lizzie Douglas) Hoodoo Lady (hoodoo woman) 1936 Moore, Alice S.O.S. Blues (Distress Blues) (Black Gypsy, hoodoo) 1935 Buddy Moss Jinks Man Blues (jinx) Nelson, Romeo Gettin' Dirty Just Shakin' That Thing (goofer dust) 1929 Otis, Johnny Castin' My Spell (mentions many hoodoo beliefs) 1950s Patton, Charlie Revenue Man Blues (jinx) 1934 Patton, Charlie Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues (jinx) 1929 Rainey, Ma Black Cat Hoot Owl Blues (bad luck beliefs) 1927 Rainey, Ma Black Dust Blues (goofer dust) 1928 Rainey, Ma Louisiana Hoo Doo Blues (Algiers, hand, hoodoo, goofer) 1925 Rainey, Ma Screech Owl Blues (bad luck beliefs) 1928 Red, Tampa (Hudson Whittaker) and Georgia Tom Dorsey The Duck Yas-Yas-Yas (hoodoo women) 1929 Ross, Dolly Hootin' Owl Blues (bad luck beliefs) 1927 Shade, Will (Memphis Jug Band) I Whipped My Woman with a Singletree (gypsy) 1929 Shines, Johnny Hoodoo Snake Doctor Blues (hoodoo doctor) 1970 Short, J. D. (Jelly Jaw Short) Snake Doctor Blues (roots and herbs) Smith, Bessie Lady Luck Blues (horseshoe, goofer dust) 1923 Smith, Elizabeth Gwine To Have Bad Luck Seven Years (bad luck women list) Smith, J. T. "Funny Papa" / "Funny Paper" Seven Sisters Blues (Seven Sisters of New Orleans) Spand, Charlie Big Fat Mama Blues (goofer dust) 1930 Spand, Charlie Evil Woman Spell (hoodoo woman) 1931 Spand, Charlie Hoodoo Woman Blues (hoodoo woman) 1940 Spivey, Victoria Hoodoo Man Blues (hoodoo man) 1926 Stokes, Frank Bedtime Blues (Goofer Dust) 1928 Tampa Red (Hudson Woodbridge / Hudson Whittaker) Anna Lou Blues (mojo hand) Tampa Red (Hudson Woodbridge / Hudson Whittaker) When Bad Luck Is On You (jinx) Temple, Johnnie Hoodoo Women (Aunt Caroline Dye, hoodoo) 1937 Torey, George Lonesome Man Blues (jinx) 1937 Towel, Jim I've Been Hoodooed (hoodoo, rabbit foot, foot track) 1928 Twitty, John D. (Black Spider Dumpling) Sold It to the Devil (crossroads ritual) 1937 Washboard Sam Hand Reader Blues (fortune teller, herb tea, good luck pills) 1938 Washboard Sam Suspicious Blues (many bad-luck beliefs) 1938 Waters, Muddy (McKinley Morganfield) Got My Mojo Working (mojo) Waters, Muddy (McKinley Morganfield) Louisiana Blues (mojo) 1950 Weldon, Casey Bill (Casey Will Weldon) Jinx Blues (jinx) Wells, Junior Hoodoo Man Blues (reworking of SBW's "Hoodoo Hoodoo") 1953 & 1965 Wells, Junior Two-Headed Woman (two-headed woman, Seven Sisters of NOLA) 1957 Wheatstraw, Peetie Last Week Blues (jinx) 1934 Wheatstraw, Peetie Cut Out Blues (policy, jinx) 1936 (INCOMPLETE) Wiley, Arnold Spider in Your Dumpling (spider dumpling, live things) 1920s Williams, Albert Hoodoo Man (Memphis Al) (hoodoo man) 1963 Williams, Big Joe Jinx Blues (jinx) 1963 Williams, Robert Pete Black Cat Bone (black cat bone) 1961 Wiliamson, John Lee "Sonny Boy" (I) Hoodoo Hoodoo (hoodoo, mojo) 1946These songs are already transcribed on my hard-drive and/or online:
I want to thank the many folks who have responded with kind encouragement to my research on the folklore of hoodoo in the blues. Those who have supplied transcriptions and discographical information belong in a category all their own and have my deepest gratitude. They are fully acknowledged by name on the respective pages bearing their contributions.
"Hoodoo in Theory and Practice" is an ongoing book-in-progress, hundreds of web-pages long, and i want to expand the use of blues lyrics a great deal. For this purpose, i am asking blues fans to take a moment to transcribe song lyrics for me, if they can -- or to tape songs that i can transcribe, if that is easier for them.
Before you submit songs, you ought to know three things:
1) This is not merely a compilation of blues containing a keyword like hoodoo or mojo in the TITLE, because with a title-list, important songs like Robert Johnson's "Hell Hound on My Trail" and "Little Queen of Spades" would be excluded, even though the former mentions Hot Foot Powder and the latter mentions a mojo hand, both staples of hoodoo practice.
2) I am not interested in non-relevant rock-blues and white-blues-band lyrics. I am using this material as a folkloric research tool, not as an index of how popular the idea of voodoo is with modern performers. In order to eliminate non-"authentic" references, i have eliminated any song by a performer whom i know to be "white" (Johnny Otis excepted) or whom i think has too much of a "modern urban rock band" style to supply basic folkloric information about hoodoo practices in the South. This elimination is based on what i know of the performers, not necessarily the songs. In other words: no Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, or Aerosmith.
3) Voodoo (a religion) is not the same as hoodoo (a system of folk magic). I am not very interested at this time in songs about voodoo. However, because in New Orleans and vicinity the terms have been used interchangeably (they are NOT used so in any other area of the South), i will not discard songs with "voodoo" in the title until i can hear them and eliminate them on the basis of their being of no value to my hoodoo project. So far, however, i have found only one song with "voodoo" in the title that was relevant to my research -- and it was merely a modern remake of an older song with a different title.
I will send a free Lucky Mojo Curio. Co. rabbit foot charm with genuine New Orleans Style Van Van dressing oil to anyone who transcribes a complete song lyric or provides me a song tape to transcribe -- plus, you will be credited on that song's web page. If you have missing data to supply, hear a substantially different take on a transcription, or want to let me know about a song that has been overlooked in these pages, please contact me through the prewar blues e-list: pre-war-blues at yahoo groups.
Songs for which i have titles and performers, but no lyrics or incomplete lyrics. Baker, Mickey The Hoodoo Woman (hoodoo) Bradshaw, TIny The Gypsy (1954) Cephas & Wiggins Hoodoo Woman (hoodoo) Cockrell, Matt Gypsy Blues (1954) Dixon, Willie Hoo Doo Doctor (hoodoo) Fuller, Blind Boy Mojo Hiding Woman (mojo) Fuller, Johnny Bad Luck Overtook Me (black cat) - Rhythm 1773 - San Francisco 1954 Fulson, Lowell Black Cat Blues (black cat) - Downbeat 121 - San Francisco 1948 Harris, Peppermint Black Cat Bone (black cat) - Modern 936 Los Angeles 1954 Hooker, John Lee Black Cat Blues (black cat) - Specialty unissued LP 2125 Detroit 1948 Hopkins, Lightnin' Black Cat (black cat) - RPM 388, Ken t LP 9 008 - Houston 1949/50 Hopkins, Lightnin' Black Cat Bone (black cat) - Specialty unissued LP 2149 - Houston 1950/1 Hopkins, Lightnin' Black Cat -(black cat) Candid LP 8019 - New York City, 15 Nov 1960 Jackson, Papa Charlie The Cats Got the Measles (???) Jefferson, Blind Lemon Broke and Hungry Blues (black cat bone) 19-- (INCOMPLETE) Johnson, Jimmy and Band with Hank Alexander (Vocal) Black Cat Bone Pt. 1 & Pt. 2 - Magnum 724 - Los Angeles, c. Aug 1964 Johnson, Joshua Gypsy Blues (gypsy) (1947) Kitrell, Christine Black Cat Crossed My Trail (black cat) - Republic 7125 - Nashville 1954 Lewis, Johnie My Little Girl (done stole a black cat bone) - Arhoolie CD 9007 - Chicago, 13 Aug 1970 Lewis, Pete Goofy Dust Blues (goofer dust) (c. 1950s) Lewis, Smiley Gypsy Woman (gypsy) - 1952 Lightnin' Slim (Otis Hicks) Black Cat Blues (black cat) - Excello unissued on Flyright CD 47 - Crowley, La, c. 15 Sep 1959 Memphis Slim I Wonder What's the Matter (black cat crossed my trail) - Cobra unissued on Flyright LP 577 - Chicago c. 1957 McDowell, Mississippi Fred Mojo Hand (mojo) - from 'MFMcDIL Volume One' (TRA 194) McGhee, Brownie & Sonny Terry Black Cat Bone (black cat bone) Model 'T' Slim Somebody Voodooed The Hoodoo Man (hoodoo) - 1966/67 Muddy Waters Gypsy Woman (gypsy) - 1947 Mystery Man I Got A Hoodoo Woman (post-war) Nixon, Elmore I Went To See A Gypsy (1950) Otis, Johnny Gypsy Blues (1952) Stone, Bobby Hoodoo Man, part 1 and part 2 (1960s) Tampa Red [Hudson Whittaker] Dark and Stormy Night [but is it about hoodoo?] Thomas, Tabby Hoodoo Party (1961) Wayne, James Gypsy Blues (I'm A Real Gypsy Fellow) (c.1951) Wheatstraw, Peetie Cut Out Blues (policy, jinx) 1936 (INCOMPLETE) Williams, Robert Pete Hoodoo Blues (1961) Willis, Ralph Hoodoo Man (1951) Wilson, Hop My Woman Has a Black Cat Bone - Ivory 127 - Houston, 27 Oct 1960
Cat Yronwode's Hoodoo Jukebox - The Lucky Mojo Conjure Toolbox, 2-CD Set
Based on material developed for her famous Blues Lyrics and Hoodoo web site, Cat Yronwode's Hoodoo Jukebox is a set of 26 songs by African American musicians of the early 20th century that mention and describe the many facets of hoodoo. These authentic acoustic blues sources provide insights into candle magic, hot footing, mojo hands, black cat bone spells, spiritual shop culture, jinxing, the role of professional readers and root workers in hoodoo, and how to divine from omens and signs. Performers include Arnold Wiley, Jim Towel, Sara Martin, Leola "Coot" Grant and "Kid" Wesley Wilson, Blind Willie McTell, Clifford Gibson, Margaret Whitmire, J. T. "Funny Papa" Smith, Bill "Jazz" Gillum, Johnnie Temple, Waymon "Sloppy" Henry, the Memphis Jug Band, and more.
The Lucky Mojo Conjure Toolbox will provide you with an amazing arsenal of 89 digital images to incorporate into your personal magical spell-work. These images are sized just right to be printed out as candle labels, carried as talismans, personalized as petition-papers, or adapted for use in the construction of multi-media hypersigils. Enhance them with photo-editing software -- or collage them on the fly with simple scissors-and-glue techniques. Your capacity for innovation is limited only by your imagination! Custom Conjure Art compiled, designed, and edited by Dr. E., Deacon Millett,nagasiva yronwode, Professor Ames, Kast Excelsior, and catherine yronwode.
2-CD set, 26 audio tracks, 89 graphic images, 8-panel digi-pak.
Hold On to What You Got by Joe Tex (1964)
and Buying a Book by Joe Tex (1969)
with a short musico-historical commentary by cat yronwode
Rev. Edward W. Clayborn (The Guitar Evangelist): Your Enemy Cannot Harm You, But Watch Your Close Friend (1926)
Rev. Dr. J. Gordon McPherson ("Black Billy Sunday"): Will You Spend Your Eternity in Hell? (1931)
Rev. J. M. Gates: Hitler and Hell (1941)
Percy Sledge: Take Time to Know Her
You can use GOOGLE.COM to SEARCH THIS SITE for a song title (like Ticket Agent Blues or Jim Tampa Blues), for the name of a performer (like Texas Alexander or Charley Patton), or for lyrics containing a keyword (like hoodoo or mojo or coffee). Because this site contains so many pages on a variety of non-blues topics, if you only want blues lyrics, you might want to add some limiting keywords to your search, words that will only turn up in the blues lyrics pages. I suggest the words "transcription" and "matrix."
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