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Ritual Cleaning and the "Indian Spirit" in Hoodoo

An important part of African-American hoodoo tradition concerns itself with the undoing of "tricks," jinxes, or "crossed conditions" -- and one of the standard ways to do this is through ritual house cleaning, which may include sweeping, floor washing, burning incense, sprinkling sachet powders, and using spiritual air fresheners. From apotropaic cleaning has developed the concept of "lucky" cleaning, and since the 1930s, the two types of cleaning products, "uncrossing" and "luck drawing," have existed side by side.

"Money House Blessing" is a popular brand name for floor wash, air freshener, hand soap, anointing oil, and sachet powder. It seems to combine the characteristics of two other well-known brand names, "Peaceful Home" and "Money Drawing." The idea is that with a steady income, peace will reign in the home. This example of Money House Blessing Air Freshener is from the E. Davis line, and like many of that company's spiritual cleaning products, its label reveals several layers of conflated imagery from diverse sources. In this case, the already conflated "Money House" name is given the additional power of "Indian Fruit Oil," "Nine Indian Fruit[s]" and "Indian Spirit."

The inclusion of Native American imagery is an old hoodoo tradition that seems to date back to the early days of slavery, when Africans first met and admired Indians for their independence and herb lore. Remnants of such cross-cultural goodwill abound to this day. For instance, in New Orleans, a famous black Mardi Gras Krewe dresses as Wild Tchiapatoulas Indians. Likewise, the Sonny Boy Products line of religious supplies contains several "Alleged Indian Grandma" and "Old Indian" brands.

The "Indian Fruit Oil" mentioned on the label is Indian by courtesy only, for the fruits depicted are a lemon, a bunch of grapes, and some strawberries, emerging from a cornucopia. The number nine in the "Nine Indian Fruit[s] designation is a significator of spirituality and completion, a number believed to evoke peace in the home.

Related to admiration of Native American herb-lore, but distinct from it, is the concept of the Indian warrior as a "Spirit" or "Spirit Guide." This imagery harkens back to the spiritualist movement of the 19th century, an era during which trance mediums reported their conversations with deceased Native Americans and hoodoo practitioners were actively incorporating European influences into their syncretistic system. The most notable example of this cross-cultural trend is the 175-year popularity of John George Hohman's "Pow-Wows or The Long Lost Friend", which, despite its spiritualist-sounding title, was a compilation of German-Catholic folk magic marketed to the Protestant African-American community by Jewish spiritual supply vendors.

E. Davis products are not unique in their use of the Indian Spirit image as a brand logo or name; among the many Lama Temple hoodoo candles are several that refer to an "Indian Spirit Guide" and are illustrated with an image of a Sioux warrior. There is also an entire line of spiritual cleaning products called Powerful Indian which is cross-marketed to the Latin-American community under the name Indio Poderoso. The company logo for this line is also a Sioux warrior in a feathered headdress.

For another E. Davis spiritual cleaning formula, see Double Fast Luck Soap. The E. Davis line is carried by Aunt Agatha's Occult Emporium and by Ancient Ways.


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