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In teaching hoodoo, i work from a cultural immersion model, placing the student within the culture and allowing the student to experience the breadth of cultural variations on certain culture-specific magical themes. I do not work from a top-down, hierarchical model, providing rules and regulations for the work.
The cultural immersion method of teaching conjure is difficult for some students to grasp, because unless they read this, it may not be what they expected when they signed up for the course.
A student's failure to grasp the concept of cultural immersion can crop up in a number of ways. The two most common, in my experience, are these:
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- (1) The student suffers a primary failure to connect with African American culture. The simplest mark of this failure is the student who delays or is unable to complete Homework #2 -- which asks them, if they are not African American, to interview a Black American about family customs, recipes, or lore. They may fail this homework in one of two ways:
(A) They don't know any African American people. Typically, these students can't or won't meet African Americans, or are afraid to talk to them, and so they cannot complete the assignment in a timely manner or at all.
(B) They focus on skin colour instead of on culture. Typically, these students turn in an interview with an African or Caribbean immigrant rather than a Black American, which will be rejected.
In order to counter this persistent form of failure, i make the names of students available to other students, so that they may meet one another and become friends, and i supply a variety of supplementary materials describing historical and contemporary African American culture, for students who need help placing hoodoo within a broader context.
- (2) The student assumes i am teaching them "spell-craft" only. Casual readers of my web site and new students in my course often ask me for -- or assume that i have given them -- a set of magical rules and regulations or a "how to manual" for conjure. However, although the web site, the "Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic" book, and the course book do contain many spells, and do, therefore, function somewhat as a form of grimoire or spell-book, within the course itself i teach conjure the way it was taught to me, by many people, over many decades, in a cultural framework that includes conflicting viewpoints, overlapping viewpoints, reinforcing viewpoints, anomalous viewpoints, majority viewpoints, minority viewpoints, consensus viewpoints, unusual viewpoints, and unique viewpoints, clearly stated as such. The student who fails to understand the breadth of magico-spiritual practices within African American culture may also fail to graduate from the course. This form of failure generally follows one of two paths:
(A) The student willfully rejects all portions of the course that do not teach "spells" or "recipes." Choosing to focus only on the "the spells" or "the recipes" given in the course book, students may not be taking full advantage of the course material because they overlook important cultural adjuncts to the course work.
(i) They do not read and study the personal testimonies and interviews located at southern-spirits.com.
(ii) They do not read or study the blues lyrics that mention hoodoo at luckymojo.com/blues.html.
(iii) They do not view the series of videos from Youtube titled "Your African American Video of the Day."
(iv) They do not follow the links to photos, book reviews, or online texts listed at the HRC Links page.
Such students generally never turn in homework at all, because they simply wanted "the spells." Eventually, after two years of failure to turn in homework, they will be listed as "inactive" or "non-matriculating" students and then, after five years with no homework, they will be listed as "failed students" or "drop-outs."
(B) The student may misunderstand the "cultural immersion" teaching method.
(i) At the one extreme of misunderstanding, some students think that the course is a workbook for a set of African American spells and recipes that must be to followed to a "T" lest the spells not work. They may turn in homework, but they will generally do so in a rote manner, sometimes quoting verbatim from one of my books or web pages when filling out the text portion of Homeworks 6, 7, or 8.
(ii) At the other extreme of misunderstanding, some students think that because the course book mentions and explains many variations of practice within African American folk magic, and draws in occasional parallels from other forms of folk magic that have contributed to the development of hoodoo in 20th century American urban areas, i am teaching them that "hoodoo has no rules and anything goes." These students may turn in homework that is inappropriate because it incorporates too many non-hoodoo elements (such as elements from African diasporic or neo-pagan religions, or non-American cultures).
Both extremes are false positions and neither reflects my intentions nor provides an accurate description of hoodoo as an African American magical-spiritual cultural practice. Unfortunately, students who fall at either of these extremes have actually turned in all their homework successfully and graduated, and they can thus legitimately call me their "teacher," but i will always hasten to correct any false impression they later give to others of what i believe and what i teach.
Return to the Introduction to cat yronwode's Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course.
copyright © 1995-2009 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.
Send your comments to: cat yronwode.
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Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic by cat yronwode:a materia magica of African-American conjure
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
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Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races
Hoodoo and Blues Lyrics: transcriptions of blues songs about African-American folk magic
EaRhEaD!'S Syd Barrett Lyrics Site: lyrics by the founder of the Pink Floyd Sound
The Lesser Book of the Vishanti: Dr. Strange Comics as a magical system, by cat yronwode
The Spirit Checklist: a 1940s newspaper comic book by Will Eisner, indexed by cat yronwode
Fit to Print: collected weekly columns about comics and pop culture by cat yronwode
Eclipse Comics Index: a list of all Eclipse comics, albums, and trading cards
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OTHER SITES OF INTEREST
Arcane Archive: thousands of archived Usenet posts on religion, magic, spell-casting, mysticism, and spirituality
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: psychic reading, conjure, and hoodoo root doctor services
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic, plus shopping
Crystal Silence League: a non-denominational site; post your prayers; pray for others; let others pray for you
Garden of Joy Blues: former 80 acre hippie commune near Birch Tree in the Missouri Ozarks
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Hoodoo Psychics: connect online or call 1-800-4-HOODOO for instant readings now from a member of AIRR
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith; prayer-light services; Smallest Church in the World
Mystic Tea Room: tea leaf reading, teacup divination, and a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Satan Service: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including ex-slave narratives & interviews
Tiger Tiger: prayer flags, singing bowls, beads, ritual religious statues, and altar tools from Thailand and Nepal
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective, plus shopping
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Yronwode Institution: the Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology