This web page is a supplement to my research into the folk-lore fieldwork conducted among African-Americans by Harry M. Hyatt in the late 1930s. For a description of his work, see my introduction to Harry M. Hyatt's five-volume collection of oral histories.
Hyatt did not attach the names of his informants to their statements, but some information about their identities and where they lived can be gleaned from his introduction and reminiscences in Volume One, and supplemented by internal references throughout the five massive and unindexed volumes of "Hoodoo - Conjuration - Witchcraft - Rootwork." .
The information on this page is a supplement to my web page about my attempts to identify Harry M. Hyatt's African-American rootwork informants. On that page you will see these two entries for Madam Collins:
Memphis, TN May 24 or May 25, 1938 (Tuesday?) #926 - Mrs. Myrtle Collins / Madam Collins of 651 Stephens St. (now Stephens Pl.), a professional root worker, was interviewed here for the first time, cylinders [B45:19 - B51:1 = 1503 - 1509]; she was the only person interviewed twice. Her later interview was as informant #1538 on cylinders [D96:1 - D110-2 = 2779 - 2793]. See Volume Two, pages 992-1024. Her business card appears in the unnumbered pages at the end of Volume Two. Madam Collins told Hyatt that she had studied spiritual work by mail order and had received a diploma from the Rociscricians (AMORC) in San Jose, California ("de White Brothers"). She also offered to teach rootwork for a fee and described paying for teachings and buying formulas from other root doctors (including Doctor Cicero Reed, a white doctor of San Jose, California (deceased by 1938), to whom she had paid $25.00 for the recipe for a three-ingredient bath to restore men's lost nature.) Memphis, TN (second trip) Interviews were conducted at the home of Mrs. [-] Jones. Edward Bufford, Jr. stayed at her house too. October 24, 1939 #1538 - Mrs. Myrtle Collins / Madam Collins of 651 Stephens St. (now Stephens Pl.), a professional root worker, was interviewed here for the second time (cylinders [D96:1 - D110-2 = 2779 - 2793) She was the only person interviewed twice and given two informant #s. Her earlier interview was as informant #926; (cylinders B45:19 - B51:1 = 1503 - 1509]) See the entry at #926 for further details. See Volume Two, pages 992-1024.
The question of where Madam Collins got her diploma was engendered by these passages in her interview:
Harry M. Hyatt:Culture clash! She may have thought Hyatt was asking her if she was called a brothel-keeper -- "a madam." She says she is "not called a madam," but goes by her name "as Madam Collins." However, note below that her business card reads "Mrs. Myrtle Collins," not "Madam Collins." Due to the racial caste system in place at the time of these interviews, we will often hear people trying to be "agreeable" to Mr. Hyatt, with consequent confusion as to what they really meant.
(Have you any special name by which you are known? Your name may be Mary Jones. Are you known as Mary Jones, your real name, or are you called Madam So-and-So?)
No, ah'm not called a madam. Ah go by mah name as Madam Collins. That's whut's on mah license an' diploma. [...] Any time yo' have yore diploma an' yore degrees why yo' kin teach anybody. Yo' have a diploma tuh teach anybody whut chew want to because yo' paid fo' yore license on yore diploma.
Harry M. Hyatt:
(You paid for your license. To this firm?)
Yes sir, ah have paid fo' mah license outa St. Joe's [San Jose], California, an' ah have a diploma on it from de White Brothers from St. Joe's, California.
Correspondence classes in occultism, mysticism, and allied arts go back to the 19th century. Among the outfits that granted diplomas and certificates by mail order prior to World War Two there were several competing groups known Rosicrucians and Brotherhoods (The Rosicrucian Fellowship, The Rosicrucian Order AMORC, The Rosicrucian Brotherhood, The Triplicate Order a.k.a. the Brotherhood of Eulis, The Brotherhood of Light a.k.a. the Church of Light, and The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor). In addition, there were many other mail-order teaching groups and individuals with their own unique names, such as The Ordo Templi Orientis, The Crystal League a.k.a. The League of Silence, Guidance House, Mazdaznan, and L. W. DeLawrence.
It has been suggested that Collins may have gotten a diploma from a pair of white men, from a pair of brothers named White, or from a spiritual supply house in San Jose called "White Bros." I think that all three of these explanations are highly unlikely.
Hyatt spelled the words as he believed Collins said them, "the White Brothers," with a capital W and a capital B. If he had thought Collins meant that the men were generically "white" in skin colour, he would have spelled it "the white brothers." If he had thought that she meant a pair of brothers surnamed "White," he would have capitalized the W but not the B. Also, while White Bros. (spelled like that) was once the name of a small chain of gasoline stations in the West, it was not the name of a 1930s spiritual supply company in San Jose, to the best of my knowledge, nor, more to the point, did Hyatt spell the name White Bros., as if he thought it was a commercial concern.
The number of African Americans in San Jose prior to the migration of dock workers to the Bay Area during World War Two was small and the town itself was small, being just a rail center for shipping locally grown plums, prunes, cherries, and other stone fruit. Even if there had been enough black people to support a conjure shop in San Jose in 1938, the shop would not likely have sold nationwide like the large Chicago and Memphis order houses did -- and there is no reason to think it would have granted diplomas to customers.
To my mind it is 100% clear that Madam Collins is referring to receiving a diploma from a particular Rosicrucian Brotherhood long located in San Jose, California, and legally known as The Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis or AMORC. This group's leaders claim to be lineage-holders in the White Brotherhood, a term popularized by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, originator of the Theosophical Society, to describe secret organizations that teach magic to a selected few students and work behind the scene for the social and political good of humanity. The fact that Hyatt capitalized the "White Brothers" and corrected Collin's "St. Joe's" to "San Jose" indicates to me that he was familiar with the organization, as well he should have been, being an Anglican minister and thus aware of spiritual trends in the nation at the time.
The AMORC was founded in 1909. It is located at 1342 Naglee Avenue, San Jose, CA 95191, USA. There are other Rosicrucian orders worldwide, but the AMORC is by far the largest in terms of membership and outreach through mail-order correspondence courses. As a public face for the mystical White Brotherhood, AMORC has conducted correspondence courses and granted mail-order diplomas in spiritual degrees since before World War One. The order advertises in magazines and newspapers to this day, all over the country. You may recognize their ads by the cool 1930s-era art deco artwork and headlines like "A Split Second in Time" and "Mysteries of the Ancients." In addition to the Supreme Grand Lodge of the AMORC, the San Jose headquarters of the organization also houses the largest privately owned museum of Egyptian antiquities that is open to the public in the USA, and possibly in the world.
Here is a relevant passage from the AMORC web site at www.amorc.com, regarding their correspondence courses; the language is virtually identical to that in use for the past 50 years:
"Since 1915, hundreds of thousands of Rosicrucian students throughout the world have enriched their lives and learned to access their own inner wisdom through our home study course in mysticism, metaphysics, and philosophy. Our time-tested system reveals the underlying principles of the universe, and teaches you how to apply these principles in practical ways in your everyday life. This ancient wisdom is centuries old, but presented in modern, easy-to-understand language that guides you step-by-step through the process of mystical development. Through study and practice of the Rosicrucian teachings, you can learn to master your life, experience inner peace, and make a difference in the world. To request a FREE introductory booklet about the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC [see the web site]."In 1938, at the time that Myrtle Collins was being interviewed by Harry Hyatt, the founder of the San Jose AMORC, H. Lewis Spence (1874-1955), was alive and thriving -- and had written prolifically on subjects as diverse as clairvoyance, hypnotism, psychism, occultism, Celtic magic, Egyptian magic and religion, lost civilizations, and so forth. All of his books and his correspondence courses were then in print and were advertised nationwide through magazines. There is no doubt in my mind that Collins took one of Spence's correspondence courses and received a diploma for her work.
The people interviewed in Volume Two were not uneducated country folks of the type who might give Hyatt a recipe for a cleansing bath and tell him how to perform a crossroads ritual. Rather, these were professional spiritual workers, many of whom lived in sophisticated urban areas. Madam Collins, for instance, lived in metropolitan Memphis, Tennessee (a city far larger than San Jose at that time).
A number of professional conjures gave Hyatt their business cards, which he reproduced in his books. Madam Collins' business card can be found in the unnumbered pages at the close of Volume Two. It reads:
------------------------------------ | | | Mrs. Myrtle Collins | | | | Spiritual Doctor | | | | ---O--- | | | | 651 Stephens St. Memphis, Tenn. | | | ------------------------------------A computer generated map shows 651 Stephens to be located in the heart of Memphis' African American district of the time.
Such comments are important indicators of how, in the early 20th century, urban hoodoo was evolving from a compendium of surviving African magical beliefs and practices to the multi-cultural magical and metaphysical system it is today.
Search All Lucky Mojo and Affiliated Sites!
You can search our sites for a single word (like archaeoastronomy, hoodoo, conjure, or clitoris), an exact phrase contained within quote marks (like "love spells", "spiritual supplies", "occult shop", "gambling luck", "Lucky Mojo bag", or "guardian angel"), or a name within quote marks (like "Blind Willie McTell", "Black Hawk", "Hoyt's Cologne", or "Frank Stokes"):
copyright © 1994-2014 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.
Send your comments to: cat yronwode.
|Did you like what you read here? Find it useful?
Then please click on the Paypal Secure Server logo and make a small
donation to catherine yronwode for the creation and maintenance of this site.
LUCKY MOJO is a large domain that is organized into a number of
interlinked web sites, each with its own distinctive theme and look.
You are currently reading
HOODOO IN THEORY AND PRACTICE by cat yronwode.
Here are some other LUCKY MOJO web sites you can visit:
OCCULTISM, MAGIC SPELLS, MYSTICISM, RELIGION, SYMBOLISM
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
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy and sacred geometry
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
The Lucky Mojo Esoteric Archive: captured internet text files on occult and spiritual topics
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century occultist
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, and more
Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
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
EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course with cat yronwode: 52 weekly lessons by email
Hoodoo Conjure Training Workshops: hands-on rootwork classes, lectures, and seminars
Lucky Mojo Community Forum: an online message board for our occult spiritual shop customers
Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour Radio Show: learn free magic spells via podcast download
Lucky Mojo Newsletter Archive: subscribe and receive discount coupons and free magick spells
Follow Us on Facebook: get company news and product updates as a Lucky Mojo Facebook Fan
The Lucky Mojo Curio Co.: spiritual supplies for hoodoo, magick, witchcraft, and conjure
Lucky Mojo Publishing: books on magic with herbs, roots and candles, sugar spells, bone divination, and more!
Herb Magic: complete line of Lucky Mojo Herbs, Minerals, and Zoological Curios, with sample spells
Mystic Tea Room Gift Shop: antique, vintage, and contemporary fortune telling tea cups
catherine yronwode: the eclectic and eccentric author of many of the above web pages
nagasiva yronwode: tyaginator, nigris (333), nocTifer, lorax666, boboroshi, Troll, !
Garden of Joy Blues: former 80 acre hippie commune near Birch Tree in the Missouri Ozarks
Liselotte Erlanger Glozer: illustrated articles on collectible vintage postcards
Jackie Payne: Shades of Blues: a San Francisco Bay Area blues singer
Lucky Mojo Site Map: the home page for the whole Lucky Mojo electron-pile
All the Pages: descriptive named links to about 1,000 top-level Lucky Mojo web pages
How to Contact Us: we welcome feedback and suggestions regarding maintenance of this site
Make a Donation: please send us a small Paypal donation to keep us in bandwidth and macs!
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
Candle Ministry: Missionary Independent Spiritual Church deacons will set lights for your petitions and prayers
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic, plus shopping
Crystal Silence League: online prayer request network; upload your prayers here and pray for the welfare of others
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 1-888-4-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
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