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Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by catherine yronwode
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Magic oils, generally called conjure oils, ritual oils, hoodoo oil, dressing oils, and anointing oils, have been a part of hoodoo rootwork practice for as far back as oral histories and written records exist. It is very likely that their use combines African traditions of healing, Native American plant lore, and information derived from medieval European herbals, grimoires, and "books of wonders" such as those attributed to Albertus Magnus.
Some of the occult symbolism in the old herbals is based on the so-called doctrine of signatures, whereby the shape, texture, or colour of a plant is a sign of its occult uses. Other magical ascriptions are extensions of the ways that certain herbs are used in folk medicine. Thus Violet Leaves, which look like hearts, are worn in the shoe because they are alleged to attract a new lover, while Angelica Root, which contains phyto-estrogens and is a standard folk remedy for women's reproductive health problems, is carried in a conjure bag or woman's nation sack to protect mother and child from harm.
Hoodoo root doctors traditionally name magical oil compounds for the conditions they are believed to cause or to cure. Thus Crossing Oil is thought to bring about crossed conditions and Uncrossing Oil to set matters right again. Likewise, Essence of Bend-Over bends someone to the will of another, while Reconciliation heals rifts between estranged lovers. This is quite unlike the naming conventions followed by potion-makers in the European-American tradition. Among ceremonial magicians and neo-pagans, ritual oils are often given Zodiacal and celestial titles such as Scorpio Oil and Moon Drops, or they bear the names of deities like Artemis, Jupiter, and Pan. Yet despite the differences in terminology, the intentions behind ritual oils and conjure oils are similar in both traditions. Jupiter, for instance, is said to grant wealth, as is Money Drawing Oil, while Pan promotes lust, just like Kiss Me Now!. In many cases, the herbs and scents in a hoodoo oils are similar to those in neo-pagan potions created for the same purpose; in other cases, such as Hot Foot, which drives away enemies by "poisoning them in the feet," the African origins of the formula are so dominant that there are no corresponding European-style formula.
In hoodoo terminology, touching a drop of oil to your finger and then placing it on yourself or another person is called "anointing." Drizzling oil, rubbing it, or touching a drop of it onto an inanimate object is called "dressing." (Other old synonyms for dressing are "preparing" and "fixing.") When a man rubs John the Conqueror Root Oil on his penis, he is anointing himself; when he rubs it on a red penis-shaped candle or a John the Conqueror Root, he is dressing them.
A "Dressing oil" (the term comes from the leather goods trade) refers to any oil used in dressing or fixing candles, mojo hands, leather, furniture, money, and other such items, while an "anointing oil" (a term that comes from the Bible) refers primarily to use on the body.
An "anointing oil" is definitely intended to be skin-safe for people (barring allergies), because the term is taken from the Bible. For instance, in Exodus 25, it is said in verse 6 that the Lord requires: "Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense" -- with the implication that the anointing oil is not the same as lamp oil or oil for the lights. This is further underscored in Exodus Chapter 29, verse 7, where the manner of using anointing oil is clearly stated: "Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him." That 7th verse is about as clear as it gets: the anointing oil of the Lord was safe enough to pour on the heads of old bald-headed Moses and Aaron.
"Condition oil" is a term found only in hoodoo and conjure practice; it refers collectively to all anointing and dressing oils that are utilized in rites, rituals, or spell-craft to address or remediate an unwanted condition or to bring about a desired condition.
"Formula oil" is another way of saying "condition oil" -- that is, a conjure oil, hoodoo oil, anointing oil, or dressing oil made according to a conjure doctor's proprietary formula.
Now, why are some hoodoo condition oils traditionally called "dressing oils" and others traditionally called "anointing oils"?
Well, it is my understanding that those conjure oils and hoodoo oils specifically intended to be used on the body or which are derived from or have analogues among the alcohol-based perfumes (e.g. Jockey Club Oil, which derives from Jockey Club perfume, or Cleo May oil, which has as an analogue Cleo May perfume) are generally referred to as "anointing oils" or "perfume oils," while conjure condition oils that do not have such analogues or are not thus derived, but which have specific uses in candle rituals for certain conditions and are not worn on the body of the practitioner (e.g. D.U.M.E. oil or Hot Foot Oil or Crossing Oil, tend to be called "dressing oils." The distinction is a fluid one, however (pun intended!) and you will find people referring to the condition oils collectively as "dressing and anointing oils" or, more simply, as "condition oils."
In hoodoo practice, dressing oils are often used as anointing oils and vice versa because most folks don't have the money to spend on TWO oils for the same purpose -- and so all such conjure condition oils are made skin-safe. This does not mean that dressing oils or anointing oils are diluted to the level of massage oils, however. Massage oils are much lighter in fragrance and therefore only lightly touched with essential oils. Incidentally, you can cut any dressing or anointing oil to massage oil strength just by adding sweet Almond oil or Jojoba oil. This will save a bit of money for you, because you'll get three uses (dressing, anointing, and massage) from the same oil) and it will result in your having the ability to work sneaky tricks by giving massages with condition oils as you silently call your desires into the person whom you are massaging.
Many folks who use conjure oils that are reputed to improve personal conditions or bring about spiritual improvements prefer to anoint with them. Thus, Psychic Vision is primarily an anointing oil, as are Blessing and 7-11 Holy Type Oil.
Conjure oils alleged to attract good fortune are used primarily for dressing objects. For instance, among gamblers, the money set aside to play is often dressed with Money Drawing, Money Stay With Me, Three Jacks and a King, Lady Luck, or Fast Luck Oil prior to betting. People who are working love-drawing spells burn candles dressed with Come To Me, Love Me, Attraction, or Follow Me Boy oil. Van Van Oil is by far the most popular all-purpose dressing oil. It is especially linked in folkloric practice with the lucky rabbit foot charm. And, of course, mojo bags and their contents are usually dressed with a condition oil or with alcohol, or both.
In actual practice, most hoodoo oils are used both for anointing the person and for dressing charms, candles, or mojo bags. Since many of them have very pleasant scents, they can even be treated as a form of perfume. Thus, a person who feels under slanderous attack from an enemy may dress his doorstep with Fiery Wall of Protection and also wear the oil as a personal scent if he has to meet with the gossiping enemy in a social situation. Conjure oils commonly used for dressing as well as anointing include Crown of Success, King Solomon Wisdom, Cast Off Evil, John the Conqueror Root Oil, and the various formulas used in love spells, like Come To Me, Kiss Me Now!, and Lavender Love Drops. Even Money Drawing and Lucky Hand Oil are used for personal anointment by players who feel that this will give them a winning edge.
Methods of anointing and dressing the body with hoodoo oils vary from one practitioner to another, and certain forms are only used with certain named types of oil. Here are just a few of the methods i know -- but please understand that none of these are hard and fast rules; rather they merely reflect instructions given to me over the years by various root workers with whom i have conversed:
When using an anointing oil for Uncrossing or jinx-breaking, rub the body downward from head to feet. Expel bad tricks put on the person by rubbing them down the legs and out the feet and toes. The same is done when bathing someone for Uncrossing.
When anointing oneself in love spells or money spells to draw luck to you, rub the entire body upward from soles of feet to armpits, then from palms of hands to armpits, then up over the head to the mould of the head. This may be administered to the self but is more often a treatment given by a root worker.
When using King Solomon Wisdom or Crown of Success oils, anoint the head only: place oil on thumb, index, and middle fingers of dominant hand. Starting at the bridge of the nose, brush outward, above and parallel to the eyebrows, with thumb and middle finger, then brush upward from the bridge of the nose along midline of scalp with index finger. This form of anointing is accompanied by appropriate magic spells.
Anoint the mould of the head (the under-side of the back of the head, where the skull joins the spinal column) with Blessing Oil for healing, power-enhancing, and other life-changing magic spells; use your palm and make a massage-like squeezing-rubbing motion, end with an upward brush of the palm.
When dressing the genitals with an oil such as Come to Me, Follow Me Boy, Love Me, Stay With Me, or other named formula intended to draw, keep, or enforce faithfulness in a lover, anoint the penis from tip to root, or anoint the vulva from perineum to clitoris; this draws the person closer.
When dressing the genitals with oil such as Cast Off Evil, Break-Up, Get Away, or any other named formula intended to break up with a lover, anoint the penis from root to tip, or anoint the vulva from clitoris to perineum; this sends the person away.
Anoint the palms of both hands right before you go to play, when using money-drawing or gambling oils such as Lady Luck, Fast Luck, Money Drawing Three Jacks and a King, or Special Dice Oil.
There are hundreds of named conjure oil formulas and they address hundreds of named conditions -- but sometimes the condition or situation with which you are dealing is not quite covered by one oil.
Let's say, for instance, that you are seeking regular employment at good wages. You'd probably select Steady Work oil ... and if you were a lawyer hoping to do well in court, you'd probably choose Court Case oil. So, if you were a lawyer hoping to get a job at a big firm, where you'd have regular employment AND be expected to do well in court, you could mix up a custom blend of Steady Work oil, Court Case oil, and a dash of Crown of Success oil to aid in your long-term career goals of fame and recognition.
Likewise, if you owned a small business and wanted more customers, you might choose Money Drawing oil, and if you were an exotic dancer hoping to get noticed, you'd do well with Look Me Over oil ... or, since an exotic dancer relies on men for money, you could also choose Cleo May oil, a favourite among working women who make their money from men. But if you were really clever, you could mix up your own custom blend of all three ritual oils: Money Drawing for good business in the bar itself (even though you don't own the establishment), Look Me Over for having attention directed toward you personally, and Cleo May for getting male customers to give you big tips.
No matter what kind of job you have, if you want your boss to treat you better, you can use Boss Fix oil, and if you want the other folks at your workplace to stop backbiting you, you will find an ideal formula in Stop Gossip oil -- so if you have both a tough boss and a bunch of squabbling hens for fellow workers, and you want to be made a manager and get a year-end bonus as well, then try mixing up a special batch of Boss Fix, Stop Gossip, Commanding, and Pay Me -- and let the chips fall where they may, asking in prayer that no one will oppose you, hold you down, or stand in your way.
When it comes to mixing and blending conjure oils, feel free to try as many combinations as you like. You may create a wonderful and new oil -- and one that is all your own -- as a result of your experimentation.
Over the years, as urbanization has driven people farther from the sources of natural magic in their lives, manufacturers of hoodoo products have slowly begun to leave the roots and herbs out of the old root doctors' formulas. Today, few companies sell hoodoo oils made with actual botanical ingredients. In my opinion, dressing and anointing oils, if they are made the old, traditional Southern way, should consist of more than just time-honoured names on bottles of coloured oil. They should contain -- they MUST contain -- real herbs, roots, and minerals.
Because hoodoo oils were developed by local practitioners rather than by multi-national corporations, they are in no way standardized. Rather, they as individualistic as different peoples' recipes for, say, chocolate chip cookies, or chicken tacos. Not every conjure oil with the same name will have the same aroma. Some makers may use only synthetic fragrances while others use natural ingredients -- and those ingredients will naturally vary a bit from maker to maker.
copyright © 1995-2010 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.
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