In African-American hoodoo practice, working a spell in which materials such as powders, roots, or herbs are deployed in specific locations where they will be touched by the victim is called laying down a trick, tricking, or throwing down for someone (as in "he throwed down for her"). One of the basic aphorisms passed along from teachers to students is, "Lay your trick, walk away, and don't look back." Looking back can have the effect of undermining the careful deployment of curios meant to set the trick to working. It demonstrates as lack of faith or will.
Because hoodoo is a form of "natural magic," one of its axioms is that the herbs, roots, minerals, and other items used in root-work are themselves inherently powerful, rather than having to be "consecrated," "empowered" or "charged" with energy in the neo-pagan manner. For this reason it is also very important in the hoodoo tradition to properly dispose of any material remnants that are left over after a spell has been cast, a mojo hand has been created, or a trick has been laid.
Space forbids the listing of every known way for deploying items when laying down a trick or disposing of discarded ritual materials after using them, but generally speaking,
If you want to keep something close, bury it in your back yard.
If you want to attract something, bury it under the front door step
If you want to destroy its influence, burn it.
If you want it to move away and sink, throw it in running water
If you want to disperse it to a distance, throw it into a crossroads
If you want to fix its influence, inter it in a five-spot pattern
If you want it to work by means of spirits, bury it in a graveyard
If you want to hide its point of origin, conceal it in a tree
If you want it to work in secret, give it in food or drink
If you want it to work by stealth, hide it in clothing or on objects
If you want its influence to begin or strengthen, throw it East
If you want its influence to end or weaken, throw it West
If you want its influence to rise and fall cyclicly, float it in a tidal estuary
In the broadest terms, traditional hoodoo methods for accomplishing these goals generally fall into nine basic patterns, which are identified and described in detail below:
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DEPLOYMENT AND DISPOSAL
BURIAL IN EARTH IN THE HOME YARD
BURIAL UNDER THE ENEMY'S DOORSTEP
DEPLOYMENT IN FOOD OR DRINK
DEPLOYMENT IN CLOTHING, ON OBJECTS, and VIA PETS
DEPLOYMENT OR DISPOSAL AT A CROSSROADS
DEPLOYMENT IN A QUINCUNX PATTERN IN A BUILDING OR AT A CROSSROADS
BURIAL OR DISPOSAL IN A GRAVEYARD
DEPLOYMENT IN A TREE
DEPLOYMENT OR DISPOSAL IN RUNNING WATER
DISPOSAL IN FIRE
DISPOSAL VERSUS STORAGE OF SUPPLIES
WHEN LAYING TRICKS IS JUST TOO DIFFICULT
Note: The illustrations throughout this article depict packaging and advertisements for hoodoo spiritual supplies marketed to the African-American community during the 1930s and 1940s. They are no longer being manufactured, but similar items made according to old-time formulas and packaged with vintage-look labels can be found at the Lucky Mojo Curio Co. online catalogue.
Over the years, i have learned that many home practitioners, not having received training from a professional rootworker, do not fully realize that there is a difference between deployment and disposal. I have added this description of the difference in response to a question i received at the Lucky Mojo Forum. A person was planning to burn a black cursing candle on a "wrong-doer" in a justified spell of revenge, and asked if it was okay to hide the wax and herb remains in a supply closet at the person's place of work rather than to carry the material to a graveyard for burial. This was my reply:
Deployment is setting a spell to working "in the field," so to speak, as a commander would deploy troops during a war.
Disposal is bringing the work to a conclusion with a final and forceful push for the desired outcome.
Taking the material to the graveyard is a disposal -- and it represents the death and burial of the relationship or the subject of the spell, depending on how you word your petition.
Placing the material along a path, under a house, in a place of employment, in the trunk of a car, under a seat cushion, and so forth is deployment -- and the idea is to keep it as near to physical contact with the subject as possible.
So, from my point of view, you seemed to be asking me, "Is it okay if i deploy it rather than dispose of it?" and of course, my answer is, "Yes, if you wish the work to be ongoing."
But there is an implied premise in your question that leads me to make this very clear to you: Choosing between deployment and disposal is not -- and should never be -- a matter of convenience (digging a hole in a graveyard versus hiding something in a closet). It should always be, first and foremost, a choice of methodology, based on the results you desire to bring about.
This fundamental distinction between deployment and disposal is one of the most important concepts you must integrate into your plans when laying out the scope of your spell work. It is fully as important as selecting the best herbal, mineral, or manufactured supplies, knowing how to word or recite a petition or prayer, and knowing how to focus your energy during the work.
Grasping the implications of this distinction will have an effect on all of your work in the conjure and rootwork tradition, and utillizing your understanding of the distinction will help you immensely.
Burial in earth is a common way to fix a trick or seal the results of a spell to keep it working. Earth burial is also, in some instances, the prescribed way to dispose of left-over ritual items after a spell has been performed. Objects buried in earth as part of a trick are usually wrapped up and tied in a packet or placed in a drawstring bag before deployment to maintain the integrity and duration of their influence -- unless the trick itself is a bottle spell, in which case the bottle does double-duty as the container. Wrapping them in aluminum foil is a modern variation of these older customs; i have even known a few contemporary root workers to use plastic Tupperware to enclose items destined for burial in earth. Spell remnants need not be treated so carefully; they nay be wrapped in plain cloth or brown paper before disposal.
If the intention of a spell you have worked is good and it involves matters around your own home or business, like blessing, love-drawing, money-drawing, or magical protection, you can fix the trick by means of earth burial in the yard. For instance, when two lodestones are used to draw a lover to you, they may be wrapped in cloth, tied into a packet, and buried near the front door to keep drawing the person to enter your home. (Alternatively, they may be kept working under the bed in a quincunx.) A money-drawing lodestone can be buried in front of a business in much the same way; it is usually accompanied by a "seed offering" of coins or other lucky tokens and dollar bills -- and then "fed" with magnetic sand before it is wrapped.
Some spells that are worked for love-magic involve burying the personal concerns of your mate in the back yard. In these cases the trick itself is worked by means of earth burial, so you are not disposing of spell remains but rather deploying the items that comprise the spell. The most well-known earth burial trick performed for the sake of love is probably the one in which a man or woman steals the dirty underwear of his or her spouse, ties it in a knot, and buries it in the back yard to ensure marital fidelity. This is a form of "tying the nature" or limiting a spouse's ability to commit adultery.
After working a spell that concerns your own home or business, you can dispose of any remnant materials such as left-over powders, puddles of candle wax, or ashes from burned-up incense by wrapping them in a cloth or paper packet and burying them in your yard. A mojo bag that is being discarded because it is worn out or its help is no longer needed can also be buried in the yard. Finally, bath-water and floor wash used in ritual cleanings are often thrown toward the East at sunrise in the front yard. Although this is not a "burial" per se, the liquids do soak into the ground and keep working for you around the house.
Do not EVER bury or throw out the remains from negative spells in your own yard!
A trick laid with an evil intention -- to cause discord among the members of a hated family or to jinx an enemy, for instance -- can be prepared in the form of a bottle spell or box spell and then buried in the earth at their doorstep, under their front porch, or along their front path where they will cross over it whenever they enter or leave their home. (Alternatively, bottle spells may be kept working by deployment in a tree or placement in a quincunx.)
Doorstep, pathway, and other earth burials for enemy tricks must be done clandestinely, and the understanding is that as long as the spell remains fixed in place, the jinx will continue to work on its victims. Because the victims are expected to step on or over the items, just as they would if you had put down powders or some other mess, a bottle spell buried in a pathway or under the doorstep is considered to be a form of foot-track magic.
Digging up a spell bottle that has been buried at your doorstep will not break the jinx, by the way -- the trick must be broken or returned to the sender through a special rite of disposal -- either in running water or in fire, depending on the proclivities of the root-doctor who performs the work.
It is very common, both in love work and enemy work, to lay a trick in food or drink.
If the trick is laid as part of a love spell, either for initial attraction or to ensure marital fidelity, the items may be edible magic love herbs (like basil, cardamom, or rosemary) or bodily fluids (like menstrual blood, urine, or semen). The former may be used in cooking; the latter are most commonly stirred into dark-coloured liquids, such as coffee or tea, or red-coloured foods like spaghetti sauce or lasagna.
Edible herbs --- most notably Red Pepper and Black Pepper -- may also be used in foods when the plan is to harm or drive away someone who is not wanted around. One common technique is to mix a little of Four Thieves Vinegar into salad dressing, cursing the intended party. It is said that such tricks will not affect those for whom they were not laid, so other family members and friends may eat the cursed foods and will not be driven off, since their names were not called.
Another class of tricks laid in foods makes use of ground up body parts of insects, reptiles, and spiders. The classic example is to feed a victim spider eggs -- typically in dumplings -- to cause the esoteric illness called "Live Things In You." A horsehair in drinking water or a Rattlesnake rattle waved over the water before it is served are said to cause snakes to develop in the body of the victim.
The most famous example of this form of laying a trick was brought to public attention in 1991, when the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas was accused of "sexual harassment" by his former employee, Professor Anita Hill. Hill alleged that Thomas had harassed her by claiming to have found a pubic hair on an unopened can of Coke in their office. As a sexual harassment charge, the "pubic hair on a Coke can" incident made no sense to the mainstream European-American press, where Hill's account of Thomas' remark was characterized as "meaningless" and "bizarre." However, because both parties were African-American, it seems obvious to me that Thomas was accusing Hill of trying to hoodoo him by a well-known love spell -- passing the unopened drink bottle between her legs and rubbing it on her pussy, which resulted in a public hair being inadvertently stuck to it. It is highly likely that Thomas did not actually find a pubic hair -- he may have just been "signifying" with the remarkably unhumourous Professor Hill, who decided to have the last word by taking their little "dozens" session to Congress!
Many traditional love spells, money spells, protection spells, and court case spells call upon the practitioner to lay tricks in the clothing of the beloved.
Among the things that may be utilized are goofer dust, crossed pins, or a pubic hair secreted in a person's hatband; sachet powders sprinkled on the self or the person one is working on, or dusted into their socks, shoes, clothing or bedding; mineral crystals added to the rinse water while doing their laundry to dress their clothes; and anointing oils smeared on door handles or other objects they will touch.
Perhaps the best-known example of deployment in clothing or bedding is the sprinkling of goofer dust around a person's bed, but other, more pleasant things may be hidden in the bedding as well, including packets of love herbs, or amulets for health, which are sometimes slipped between the box springs and mattress, or actually sewn into the mattress itself.
Equally often employed is the very old trick of threading a pubic hair into a needle, then running it into the seam of a fly of a man's pants, pulling the needle out and leaving the hair in the seam. This is done to make a man always want sex with one.
To draw buyers to items you have for sale in a shop or at a flea market or trade show, you may -- depending on what they are made from -- rub them lightly with a combination of Look Me Over and Money Drawing oils, dust them lightly with the same formulas in sachet powder form, or smoke them with a combination conjure incense comprised of those two titles.
A lover's pet dogs or cats may be utilized as conveyors or carriers of a spell back to your lover.
You can love up the pet with kisses and hugs and have it convey your love spiritually and mentally. This is such an old trick that it is described in the ancient Indian "Kama Sutra" and has been used throughout history in most parts of the world.
I have also had people tell me that they successfully used physical hoodoo tricks involving pets as carriers. For instance, they might rub a little Love Me conjure oil or Look Me Over powder on their hands and pet the animal, or waft a bit of Return to Me incense smoke across the pet, or even perform a sexual ritual and then use their sexual fluids diluted in Peace Water as a spritzer-spray on the pet (!!!), to carry their love back to the pet's guardian. These acts are accompanied by petitions and prayers, as is usual in such work. When the lover pets the pet, he or she gets in contact with what they sent.
This pet trick is also used by those who wish to get child support payments on time from an ex: They dress not only the pet, but also their childrens' hair and/or clothing with Pay Me products.
This same sort of trick can also be used to harm a recipient, by using Goofer Dust or Damnation powder, for instance, but be careful if you do such an evil work not to harm the pet, because, as the old song goes, "God don't like it and i don't neither" when an innocent animal suffers collateral damage through the agency of warring human beings.
And, as a last caution, be sure that no matter what form of conveyed elements you employ on clothing, objects, or pets, you do not use enough to mess up the item or the pet's fur or cause it to carry a very strong odor, or your trick may be discovered.
The crossroads -- any place where two roads cross -- is both an area where certain spells (called crossroads rituals) are performed and it is also a neutral ground where remnant objects and their influences can be carried away safely and dispersed by passersby. Crossroads disposal is easy to perform: you simply throw the materials into the center of the crossroads over your left shoulder, walk away, and don't look back. Words spoken, if any, are brief and related to the job at hand -- often a simple "In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" suffices.
The crossroads is the preferred place to throw your used bath-water after the ritual cleansing preparatory to beginning work on a complex spell: Most folks throw their bath-water -- or a small and symbolic portion thereof -- to the East at a crossroads just before sunrise, in which case the disposal amounts to a form of ceremonial offering, especially if an invocation is made to "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." (Alternatively, bath-water may be thrown to the East at sunrise in your own yard, but this is most common when the entire job consists of personal cleansing or clearing away messes in the home.)
Crossroads disposal is also used for throwing out the remains of candle wax, ashes from burned out incense, and remnant powders left over from any spell that was negative in intent or did not involve you personally. It is the safely neutral alternative to disposing of such items in your home yard or in a graveyard. The one remnant from a positive spell that is customarily carried to a crossroad and thrown into it is a whole raw egg used in a rite of personal cleansing. Because the egg contains all the negative influences that were removed from the subject of the spell, it should not be buried in the front yard; breaking it at a crossroads allows the bad forces to dissipate harmlessly among passing strangers. (Alternatively, the egg may be broken by throwing it against a tree, which then absorbs the negativity.)
When working a spell to separate two people, one traditional method of disposal is to toss the ashes and leftover material into a crossroads. After doing so, it is customary to say something along the lines of, "As the people and cars drive through these crossed roads scattering dust in every direction, so let the connection between Name and Name be broken and scattered to the four corners of the world."
Crossroads disposal can also be used to increase the harshness of a reversing spell performed with a double action or reversible jumbo candle dressed with Reversing Oil and crab shell powder and burned on a mirror. Instead of cleansing and keeping the mirror after the work is finished, start with a plain mirror that you do not mind destroying. On the back side of the mirror, write the name of the person against whom you are working, lettering it backwards (in reverse lettering, just like you see on the label of the Reversing Oil we sell to dress the double action or reversible jumbo candle). Dress and prepare the candle the usual way, by butting the light, dressing it, and burning it upside down.
Then, when you are done with the candle, get a hammer and pick up the mirror, with all the left-over crab shell powder and wax on it, and take it to a crossroads at night. Place it in the middle of the crossroads upside down (with the reverse-written name up) and call 7 years bad luck onto the person and smash the mirror with the hammer. Walk away and don't look back.
Note that when you break the mirror you should be careful to avoid flying glass and also note that this form of disposal should be done at a place where you will not get caught doing it, as you are creating a bit of a broken glass hazard in the middle of the crossroads.
Disposal at a series of crossroads can also be used to seal or fix a trick. For instance, if the intention of the spell is specifically to get someone to leave town or leave you alone, you can divide the materials you used (e.g. 9 needles used in a spell and 9 pieces of wax from a candle) into 9 packets and add Hot Foot Powder (or Drive Away Powder) to each packet. Start at a crossroads near to where the person you are tricking lives and throw out the first packet. Then go in a direction away from their home, toward where you want them to move, and drop a packet at each crossroads you pass until all 9 packets are gone. In the country this might carry you several miles. In the city it would only be 9 blocks, so city folks generally only count major intersections (with a stop-light) when they do this, or they may count freeway interchanges to get some distance worked up between the packets.
A sort of "artificial crossroads" can be created inside a room in the house. Some folklorists call this pattern a quincunx and others a cosmogram -- hoodoo root workers themselves generally give no special name for it, but some call it a "five spot," because it looks like the five-spot on playing cards or dice. More often, they simply describe it functionally or sketch it out when giving instructions to a client. It looks like this:
The quincunx or five-spot is not generally used for disposing of the left-overs from spell-work; rather it is for sealing and fixing spells in place. Deposits are made at the four corners and also in the center, where the five 0s appear in the diagram. The nature of these deposits varies based on the elements used in the spell and the type of floor in the building. Wooden floor boards or bricks may be lifted and bulky elements such as bundles or bottles laid beneath them. If the floor cannot be disturbed, items may be hidden at floor-level behind furniture. Alternatively, small piles of graveyard dirt, perfumed sachet powders, or powdered minerals such as bluestone, common table salt, or saltpeter may be laid down in inconspicuous piles directly on the floor or carpet.
0-------------0 |\ /| | \ / | | \ / | | \ / | | \ / | | \ / | | 0 | | / \ | | / \ | | / \ | | / \ | | / \ | |/ \| 0-------------0
Ritual interment of a single curio-bundle in the floor can be made without reference to the five-spot pattern, as for instance when a bottle spell is laid in a chimney corner at the back of a fireplace under a loose brick, or a small cloth bag of salt with an X drawn on it is placed under the doorstep for magical protection -- but in its most ideal and perfect form, fixing a trick by floor interment requires depositing five items or bundles of items (roots, stones, personal concerns of the person being tricked, etc.) under the floor boards or brick floor of a building.
One allowable exception to the basic rule of floor interment is that spells of magical protection employing dangerous chemicals may be worked by burying the five deposits outside the building rather than inside. In this case, you fix the outer points of the quincunx in the earth at the four outside corners of the building and then crawl under the house to make a center-point burial as close to the center of the quincunx as possible. Unopened boxes of Red Devil brand lye can be used this way -- the sealed boxes are buried at the four outside corners, with the devil images facing outward, and a small cloth bag of salt with an X drawn on it is placed under the center of the house.
Traditional floor interment of bundles or packets cannot always be performed nowadays, due to root workers having to adapt themselves to newer methods of floor construction (plywood sheets topped by wall-to-wall carpet instead of plain boards over joists). Under such circumstances, you can create the five-spot pattern by using furniture to conceal the objects placed at the corner-points and conceal the central bundle in a fifth piece of furniture (in a vase on a table, for instance) or reduce its size to a flattened packet such as a piece of paper and a pinch of powders -- and hide it under an area rug. Alternatively, you can perform what i call "carpet interment" by lifting the corners of wall-to-wall carpeting to fix small items in the corners of the room and then making an inconspicuous slit in the carpet at the center of the five-spot under which to slip some powders and a flat object such as a paper, a button, a coin, or a lucky token.
Another technique for forming a quincunx when the floor cannot be disturbed is to sprinkle a pinch of salt (for magical protection) on top of the carpet at each of the four corners and a specific condition powder (for power in getting the job done) under a rug at the center-point. Ritual liquids such as Peace Water, Florida Water, or diluted Chinese Wash can also be sprinkled at the four corners and center point of a quincunx pattern in a carpeted room. However, it should be noted that liquids are considered to be a temporary measure, because they soon evaporate, leaving no trace. Even powders have a limited life-span, usually being cleaned out and replaced with new supplies once a week or once a month.
When working elaborate candle-burning rituals that take several days, some people like to lay out specific condition sachet powders to fix the four corners of the quincunx before beginning, and then perform the job itself at the central point, sometimes on a table that doubles as a makeshift altar. Even if the work is performed off to one side of the room, elements from the spell may be deposited at the center-point to fix the trick in place while the candle-burning is in progress.
One practical exception to the perfect placement of the five-spot pattern is often seen in love-drawing, sex-enhancing, or nature-tying tricks that are laid down in a bedroom. The corners are set out as usual, but the fifth point becomes "under the bed," even if the bed is placed off-center with respect to the pattern. Still, in most small bedrooms you will be able to place a deposit (such as a pair of mated lodestones or some periwinkle leaves) both "under the bed" AND at the quincunx-point -- and if interment in the floor is inconvenient, you can slip the central deposit between the box springs and the mattress or slit the mattress cover and sew your packet inside, where it will not be disturbed by house-cleaning. It was the custom of jinxing a person with a trick laid in his or her mattress that Frank Stokes sang about in his 1928 recording "Bedtime Blues."
The quincunx pattern -- and other designs as well -- are employed when drawing so-called crossing marks with chalk on the sidewalk or in a crossroads or city crosswalk to harm a passing enemy or jinx random strangers. Back in Oakland, California, during the 1960s i saw hoodoo crossing spells laid on the sidewalk several times. The first time, i saw one, i thought it was a strange hop-scotch marking in the middle of the crosswalk, but the lady i was walking with told me better and we went around three sides of the crosswalk to avoid it, as it was laid in our direct path in the middle of the white safety lines, straight ahead of us. She spat in its general direction as we passed by it on the opposite side of the crosswalk and right before she spat, she clearly said, "God damn the Devil and his evil works to Hell," which was the ONLY time i ever heard her curse. She also told me, "Hold your head up high and don't look back at it," and i did just as she said.
It is important to note that crossing marks that are made on the sidewalk are not always evil-intentioned. They may be part of a protection spell to keep an area free of bad influences, such as corner drug dealers. However, if you see one and don't know what it is for, i recommend that you avoid stepping in or over it.
Burial in a graveyard is a form of deployment customarily performed to fix a trick that is seriously, irreparably harmful, such as one designed to cause another person dangerous illness or death. For example, in enemy work, a person's captured foot-track, mixed with Goofer Dust or a mixture of sulphur powder, red pepper, and salt may be placed in a stoppered bottle, a small pasteboard box, or a miniature coffin made of pasteboard or wood. You carry the container to the graveyard, bury it, and mark the grave site with a miniature pasteboard or wood shingle headstone on which you have written or carved your enemy's name. Curse your enemy as you cover the grave with dirt and put the headstone in place, then walk home, and don't look back.
A simple rite to dispose of spell materials used to cause a break-up between two people may include burial of the remains in a graveyard. Dig a small grave and prepare a chipboard or wood shingle headstone with the date the relationship began and the date you want it to end. Bury the remains and say something to the effect that, "As death comes to all things, let death come to the relationship between Name and Name." Plant the headstone, sprinkle vinegar on the grave, walk away, and do not look back.
When burying ritual remains in a grave or laying them on a headstone, it is the usual practice to pay the spirits of the dead for their help. You may read more about this custom, as well as learn some of the traditional forms of payment offered, at the page on Graveyard Dirt.
In some cases, graveyard disposal may be conducted by throwing items rather than by burial. This seems to function as an extension of crossroads disposal, as for instance when left-over powders from a break-up spell are thrown at nine consecutive crossroads that lead to a cemetery and the remainder is thrown against a grave stone while you curse the intended victims' names.
Another example of cemetery disposal without payment to the spirits of the dead or burial of the items is found on the page of Fiery Wall of Protection spells. The spell itself is fairly complex, but the disposal instructions as simply as follows: "Take the left-over materials (melted wax, nail, and so forth) and the saucer of Graveyard Dirt containing the perpetrator's ashes and his extinguished Candle and carry them to a graveyard and throw them against a grave stone, being sure to break the saucer as you throw this mess. Don't say a word; just turn and walk away home and don't look back."
If you perform a candle-burning ritual at your own home with the intention of harming someone, you should never bury the left-over materials in your own yard. Instead, dispose of them in a graveyard or, if you are feeling fairly neutral, throw the remnants into a crossroads.
Certain specific tricks are customarily laid down by deploying objects in a tree. The most common placements are burial at the roots of a tree, interment in a hollow tree, concealment in the crotch of a tree, and suspension by a string from the branches of a tree. Trees are also use to disperse evil elements.
Placing items at a tree's roots or in the hollow or the crotch of a tree all have the effect of hiding them and thus these locations are most often called for when the trick is laid down with evil intent. For example, to work a well-known bottle spell jinx that "stops up" the vital organs of an enemy, you obtain the menstrual blood, urine, or feces of your victim through subterfuge and pack them into a small bottle or a blown-out black hen's egg along with additional objects symbolizing pain or discomfort, such as pins, needles, rusty nails, plus powders like Goofer Dust, Graveyard Dirt, or Crossing Powder. The bottle is interred at a tree's roots or -- more often -- hidden in its hollow or crotch -- and as long as it remains hidden and undiscovered your enemy will not be able to properly evacuate any further menstrual blood, urine, or feces. Depending on how "hard" the trick is -- that is, how many additional evil items and condition powders you add to the bottle -- the result may be anything from pain to acute inflammation to a complete stoppage of the organs, which eventually results in death.
In contrast to concealed bottle-spells meant to harm or kill an enemy, bottle spells suspended by strings from the branches of a tree are often part of a wish-making rite. Making these bottle spells can be an artistic effort, as personal concerns, wish-granting herbs and roots, and sometimes "pretties" such as glitter or beads are arrayed in a bottle which is hung from the tree where passersby can see it. In addition to wish-granting, unconcealed bottle-spells hung in trees may also function as apotropaic charms, similar to the "witch-bottles" of rural England, which are said to fascinate witches and keep them off one's property. In some regions, certain individual trees become known for their powerful aid in granting wishes and keeping off jinxes and so they become "bottle-trees," continually hung and decorated with dozens of bottle spells placed there by one or several individuals.
When bad influences or magically-induced illnesses have been collected in an egg -- for instance, by rolling an uncooked whole black hen's egg over an afflicted person's to "catch the poison" -- the egg is usually broken in a ritual manner to send the evil away. The two most popular deployment methods are to throw the egg into a crossroads or to throw it against a tree. In the former case, passersby absorb the evil in small doses; in the latter case the affliction is transferred to the tree.
Running water not only bears left-over items away, it is also seen as a purifying and holy substance in its own right. Bad spirits cannot cross running water, which makes it an excellent medium for disposing of materials used in spells that involve the invocation and aid of supernatural entities. In addition to these uses, water -- especially fresh, natural water -- is also a major component in the creation of spiritual baths and ritual floor-washes undertaken for healing, personal purification, removal of jinxes, uncrossing, and generally getting right.
The instruction to "lay your trick in running water" is quite wide-spread in wish-making spells, particularly the Job's Tears and Mojo Beans spells that use 7 seeds or beans: You carry the items in your pocket for 7 days (many people start with one seed or bean on the first day and add another each day until they are carrying all 7 of them). On the 7th day, you walk to a river, spring, or creek and make your wish "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost," then you throw the seeds or beans over your left shoulder into the running water, walk away and don't look back.
Running river water also appears in "moving" or "drive away" spells which are undertaken to get someone to leave town. When used this way, deployment of the trick in a moving stream functions much like laying a trick at a crossroads.
For instance, if you are performing a break-up spell and you wish the parties to leave town and move away, you may place the remnants in a small bottle, with a tiny hole in its cap or lid (usually made by hammering a fine nail into the cap or lid from inside-out) and throwing it into a stream of naturally running water, such as a river or an agricultural ditch. When doing this, it is the custom to call out the proper name of the body of water, saying something like, "Russian River, as you run and run until you reach the sea, carry these troublesome people, Name and Name, from my life so that they will be seen no more." If you only want one of the two parties to leave, only call that person's name.
Tidal waters are also considered as "running." For example, a person's foot track dirt can be thrown into the ocean as the tide rises, to draw them back toward you -- or as the tide runs out, to send them away. Depending on whether one throws the dirt into the rising tide or the falling tide, the foot track will either come back in to shore and disperse (drawing back) or go out to sea and disperse (sending away).
In areas near tidal estuaries or along the sea shore, spells of destructive intent that employ a floating bottle spell or a pegged floating hat-bow, are deployed. These floating objects harness the cyclical movement of the tides to produce a long-term cyclical effect. For instance, the enemy's personal concerns are put in a bottle with typically harmful curios such as needles, pins, and nails. The floating bottle is thrown into the tidal waters at the ocean or a river mouth where they ebb and flow twice in every twenty four hours, and thus will your enemy's fortunes or health ebb and flow. If the intent is to drive an enemy crazy, for instance, he or she will experience times of depressed calm alternating with raging mania. If the intent involves finances, the enemy will suffer continual ups and downs of monetary fortune and misfortune.
To bring the work of a floating bottle spell to a conclusion, you may ensure the sinking of the bottle by piercing a tiny hole in the bottle cap before you throw it in; as the bottle gradually takes on water and sinks, so will your enemy sink and die.
When the object that has been thrown into a tide -- loose foot track dirt, foot track dirt in a packet, a bottle with a punctured lid -- sinks, the spell is completed in the direction of the final movement taken by the object as it sinks, regardless of whether that movement is toward the land (drawing) or toward the sea (sending away). In the case of foot track dirt, the sinking is very rapid and the tide can be considered to unction as "one-way" running water (running either in or out), but in the case of a floating bottle spell, the size of hole punctured in the bottle's lid will govern the rate at which the bottle sinks; therefore, a study of the tides, accompanied by fervent prayer will, hopefully, produce the result desired.
Sinking bottle spells may also be employed as get-away tricks in inland rivers, if the flow is great enough to ensure that the bottle will be carried far downstream on the current as it sinks.
Water disposal is quite simple: It doesn't matter whether the intention of the spell is good (like helping someone) or bad (harming someone), you simply wrap the materials in a cloth or paper packet and throw them in running water over your left shoulder and walk away. Obviously one should keep toxic items (such as those notorious Lucky Nutmegs prepared with liquid mercury!!!) out of running water.
Although it could be argued that the ritual burning of candles and incense powders constitutes laying a trick in fire, for all practical purposes fires are only used to deploy the items in a spell when something flammable and small, like a name-paper or photograph, is burned up rapidly.
Because such spells are quite often intended to harm the victim whose name or picture is being burned, in these cases the fire is used not as a location for deployment, like earth or running water, but as a symbolic form of torture, similar to sticking a doll-baby with pins and needles. Singing a picture, a little bit at a time, is considered a strong method to "light a fire" under a person to get them to obey your commands.
Fire can be used to dispose of the remains of spells, but generally speaking, because fire is seen as completely terminating the object that is burned, disposal by fire is not performed on remnant materials you may have laid down yourself, whether for good or for ill, either on your own behalf or as work for a client -- unless you are well and truly finished with that piece of work.
Rather, fire -- especially an open-air bonfire -- is considered a sovereign vehicle for disposal of the dangerous remains of an enemy trick that someone else has laid down for you or for a client. A suspicious gift that might have been fixed to harm you or a letter that you suspect was dressed with coercive powders are prime candidates for disposal by fire.
Root workers who are helping a client take off a jinx or break up crossed conditions often dig around the victim's doorstep, porch, fireplace chimney, or house corners until they find a bottle or box spell -- and this item becomes a prime candidate for disposal in a fire. If it explodes as it burns, that is seen as a highly satisfactory sign that the jinx was successfully removed and sent back to its maker.
Disposing of a petition paper in fire after burning a candle is an old traditional practice and may have entered African American hoodoo through contact with Chinese folk magic, where it is an essential ritual act. Not everyone does it the same wa,y, but in my youth, the most popular method was to burn the paper in the candle flame right before it went out. However, as conjure practices have evolved, this method has not always been seen as practical, due to changes in the types of candles that peopleemploy in their work. .
In the old days, most folks used free-standing candles in their spell-casting rites. If you are burning a free-standing offertory, jumbo, or figural candle, then setting the petition paper alight at the end is a great conclusion to the ritual. All it requires is having a brass dish on the alter in which to drop the burning paper, lest you scorch your fingers. The ashes from the petition paper can be mixed with sachet powder and used to further the intention of the spell, according to the many ways in which powders are customarily employed.
However, during the late 1970s, glass-encased candles were introduced into rootwork practices. Their long burning times and relative safety when left unattended made them quite popular and to some extent they have replaced the old-style free-standing candles once so common in our work. This change in candle usage has also brought about a change in the disposal of the petition paper after the candle is done.
if you are burning a glass-encased vigil light or a religious novena candle and wish to perform a divination on the candle glass after the candle is finished, either via ceromancy (wax reading) or capnomancy (smoke reading), then burning your petition paper inside the candle glass will definitely smoke the glass up and change the signs you would have seen if you had left the glass alone. Because a clear, clean candle glass portends success, it would seem counter-productive to smoke up a clear glass at the end of the rite, by tossing the petition paper into it and setting it alight. Thus it would behoove you to invest in a small brash dish to catch the ashes from your burning petition paper, and not to drop the smoking paper into the glass.
Finally, regardless of the kind of candles you set on your altar, you may not want to dispose of the petition paper in fire, and you should not feel bound to do so. There are cases in which you might find it a good idea to save the petition paper for further use rather than to dispose of it. Depending on the kind of spell work you are performing, you may wish to wear the petition paper in your shoe, carry it in your wallet, hide it over a door-frame, set it loose in running water, or save it for a continuation of the candle rite at a future date. The latter is especially the case if the petition has taken the form of a packet rather than a mere paper and contains personal concerns or herbs that would be difficult to replace if it were burned.
Many people prefer to dispose of all unused or left-over ritual incense, conjure oils, and spiritual powders after they have completed a spell. Other find the partially used contents of a packet or bottle useful to keep, in case further work is to be done. Very few people would object to keeping a supply of love spell supplies under the altar, and some will even use such items to decorate a permanent altar established for money drawing conjure works or to bring good luck in gambling.
When storing unused hoodoo oils, all that is required is a cool, dark cupboard such as one might use to store cooking oils and sauces. Storage of self-lighting incense powders; spiritual bath crystals, washes, and cleaning supplies; sachet powders; and dried magical herbs, roots, and animal curios, is best done not in the orignal packaging, but in air-tight glass containers.
Because the labels from the Lucky Mojo Curio Company give the name of each herb and a short description of its magical uses in spell-casting, they are useful, and if they are carefully cut off the original packaging, they can be taped to the sides of glass one-pint canning jars or cork-stoppered jars, and the goods arrayed on an altar shelf in the same way that folks keep their cooking herbs in a kitchen cupboard. The one-pint glass canning jars shown here are labelled in just this way, and contain magical roots and herbs arrayed in alphabetical order in a large apothecary cupboard at the Lucky Mojo Curio Company shop in Forestville, California, where they are used daily in the making of lucky mojo bags and protective conjure hands.
When it comes to keeping curios and spiritual supplies used in negative or coercive spells such as reversing evil, breaking up a love affair, or goofering an enemy, many people are afraid that the ingredients are inherently toxic, and they will not keep them in the home. A question i am often asked, is "What will happen to me if i touch left-over Crossing supplies after i finish rootworking against an enemy? Will i get crossed conditions myself?"
The ingredients in Goofer Dust, War Water, and condition formulas such as the conjure oils, spiritual sachet powders, hoodoo incense, and spiritual bath crystals for Break Up, Damnation, Destruction, DUME, Revenge, and so forth are not highly toxic in and of themselves, although some do contain hot Red Pepper, Black Pepper, Sulphur powder, and certain herbs and zoological essences that are not pleasant to smell or touch. Unless one is allergic to the ingredients, one need not wear gloves or masks -- but it is the custom to not burn the hoodoo incense of these formulas inside one's own house, for spiritual as well as olfactory reasons.
If you intend to continue or renew an enemy work from time to time, or wish to save money by keeping such supplies around for possible future use, i recommend that you store them in a container that will close tightly, and put them away in a low, dark area of the house, or in a garage or an outdoor shed. This is done not because the items are harmful physically, but because it is spiritually distracting to keep negative energies "loose" in the home, especially around an altar that is used primarily for the attraction of good luck and happiness. If you maintain a special "dark" altar or "altar of removal," then the negatively-themed goods can be stored under that altar, where they will spiritually energize the work for which they are intended.
If you have completely finished working with a given assortment of harming supplies and do not want them on your property at all, you may remove any left-over materials through disposal in a crossroads or at a cemetery.
After casting a spell or laying a jinx with negative energies that have been directed against an enemy, it is the custom to cleanse oneself. A Hyssop bath and recital of the 51st Psalm ("Purge me with Hyssop") is recommended. The Hyssop bath is brewed into a bath-tea. Many people will then light two small white candles dressed with Blessing Oil in the bathroom (a pair of 4" altar lights in star candle holders would be the most economical way to go). They then perform the spiritual bath, recite Psalms 51, and step out between the two white candles, cleansed.
Another question i am often asked is, "What shalli do with the glass containers left over after i have finished burning glass-encased hoodoo vigil lights or novena lights for Catholic Saints?" The answer is simple: If your petition was granted and you like the image on the candle label, you may carefully clean out the glass tube and use it as a flower vase on the altar. You can also use it for storage, placing cling-wrap or aluminum foil over the top and securing it with a rubber band in the groove at the top of the glass. But if you burn a lot of lights, you will eventually run out of the need for glass flower vases and storage containers, and then the best thing you can do -- for yourself and for the environment -- it to clean the candle glasses out and recycle the glass.
Most folks just put the candle glasses into the regular recycling with their glass bottles and jars, but if you do not like the idea of people knowing your business with respect to the types of candles you are burning, you may soak the candle-glasses in hot water and peel the labels off. Depending on what brand of candles you buy, the glue will vary: Some companies apply their labels with an almost waterproof glue that will require laborious scraping with a single-edge razor blade to remove, but Lucky Mojo brand glass-encased hoodoo candle labels are applied with water-soluble glue, which means the labels will peel off cleanly in hot water.
If i had a dollar for every time a reader of my books or a customer in my shop told me that they'd really like to perform a traditional hoodoo spell but "it's impossible for me to lay the trick," or "it's not feasible for me to dispose of the remains," i'd be rich.
I have no idea why people are interested in undertaking magical spells that are obviously so far beyond their ability, but not only are they intrigued, they often then come to me to ask for some kind of authoritarian "permission" whereby i am supposed to "allow" them to totally ignore the African American conjure tradition and to "play-act" at the work through their imaginations.
"Can i just visualize burying the bottle-spell but actually throw it in a dumpster?" is a question i have actually been asked! My reply, in a nutshell: "No."
Probably the one thing that most bothers hoodoo spell-casting wannabes is their cultural fear of graveyards. Their usual complaint is something like, "I can't go to a graveyard to bury this thing because [choose one]: the graveyard is locked at night, someone might see me, i'm afraid of ghosts, i might get caught, it's in a bad neighborhood."
For these folks, i would like to issue a swift wake-up call:
Just take the item to the graveyard during the day-time!
Pick or buy a bunch of flowers and put them in a small paper-cup container with water. Do not use plastic; use paper; it will biodegrade and not wreck the natural beauty of the graveyard.
Select three dimes and put them in your pocket.
Take a strong spoon or dirt trowel with you, also in a pocket.
Proceed to a grave site. Lay down the flowers. Talk to the spirit. Pay with the money. Dig a hole in which to place the paper cup with the flowers. In the bottom of the hole, place the item. Put the cup of flowers in next. Smooth the dirt. Say a thank you prayer. Walk away.
In the end, you will either be able to do that -- or you won't. If you can't, there is no further advice i can give you, really, because when it comes to laying tricks and disposing of ritual remains, it is my experience that folks who make a big deal out of how they "can't do this" or "can't do that," or "this is not feasible" or "that is out of the qustion," are generally not going to succeed at the work anyway, either because hoodoo magic is not their path or because the spell itself is troubling them.
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