Read LMCCo Forums
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by catherine yronwode
is sponsored by the
LUCKY MOJO CURIO CO.
Join the LMCCo Newsletter
Social conditions in the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries were such that books for, by, or about members of the African-American community were very rare. During this time period hoodoo itself was quite popular, but although a great deal of commercial activity surrounded the manufacture and distribution of so-called "spiritual supplies," few attempts were made to collect or describe hoodoo practices.
The small-time chemists who manufactured cosmetics and household cleaning products for the black community in the early 20th century were more than willing to branch out into the hoodoo curio market by adding magical perfumes, candles, and incenses to their mail order catalogues. Because such "occult" items sold well, the suppliers, most of whom were German-Jewish, soon introduced readily available Jewish religious goods to their product lines. In very short order, the syncretic African-American folk magicians of the era had incorporated culturally "exotic" items like menorahs, altar candles, and even kosher soap and mezuzahs into their work, valuing them for their genuine "Old Testament" spiritual properties.
When it came to filling the need for instruction books on hoodoo practices, the Jewish entrepreneurs who were pioneering this market turned to outside suppliers from whom they could obtain cheap pamphlets that reprinted public domain works on magic. The fact that most such booklets came from Jewish and German-Christian sources seems to have been of no consequence to either the sellers or the buyers, and as a result, American hoodoo magic, like African diaspora religions in other nations, was greatly influenced by the culture of its oppressors. But while Afro-Cubans created the syncretic religion Santeria by combining Yoruba divinities with Catholic saints, American conjure women and root doctors amplified their magical repertoire by consulting booklets like John George Hohman's "Pow-wows or the Long Lost Friend," seen here in an early 20th century reprint edition.
"The Long Lost Friend" is an English-language edition of "Der Lange Verborgene Freund," a magical receipt-book written in German by Johann Georg Hohman, and published first in Pennsylvania in 1820. Its original title would be better translated at "The Long Hidden Vade-Mecum," but since 1846, it has been known in English as "The Long Lost Friend" and the author is now "John George" Hohman to his English-language readers.
The title "Pow-Wows" -- added to the third English-language edition -- brings to mind the 19th century American spiritualist movement, a religious revival in which trance mediums consulted the ghosts of American Indians and deceased relatives for advice. Originally an Anglo-Saxon offshoot of Protestant Christianity, spiritualism found ready acceptance among African-American slaves because it accorded with African religious beliefs regarding the spirits of the dead -- called the Eggun in Yoruba -- who were honoured with food and drink at ritual ceremonies and called upon for aid. The use of "Indian Spirit Guide" imagery continues in hoodoo products to this day, and can be seen in such brand names as "Powerful Indian" products, "Old Indian Stop Evil Condition" liquid soap from Sonny Boy Products, "Indian Spirit Guide" 7-day candles from The Lama Temple, and the E. Davis Company's "Money House Blessing" room spray with "Indian Fruit Oil," "Nine Indian Fruit[s]" and "Indian Spirit." But the added title aside, there is nothing Native American about the contents of "Pow-Wows" -- every veterinary recipe and magical formula in the booklet derives from a German source, as the author himself makes clear in the text.
The subtitle of the booklet hints at the breadth of its contents. It is nothing less than
A Collection of Mysterious and Invaluable Arts and Remedies for Man as well as Animals with many proofs of their virtue and efficacy in healing diseases, etc., the greater part of which was never published until they appeared in print for the first time in the United States in the year 1820.Some of the early German-language editions of "The Long Lost Friend" ascribe Hohman's receipts to Saint Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) and other editions claim that the remedies were collected from "the Arabic writings of the wise alchemist Omar Arey, Emir Chemir Tschasmir." Both of these attributions are missing from the English-language editions of the book. But Hohman was no stranger to occultism: If the contents of three anonymous books generally credited to him are in fact his, then in addition to compiling recipes for dye-stuffs, instructions on midwifery, and veterinary medicines, he also wrote about Christian legends and "the wonders of sympathy and animal magnetism," the latter a blend of occultism and quasi-scientific theory quite popular among mid-19th century sex-magicians, including the notorious Paschal Beverly Randolph.
Hohman's "Long Lost Friend" was what in music would be called a "cross-over hit." First published in German for Pennsylvania Dutch hex-meisters, after the translation of 1846 it had a tremendous influence on the Anglo-Saxon folk magicians of the Appalachians. (For an accurate description of its use by backwoods European-American herbalists -- albeit in a fictional context -- see the "Silver John" fantasy stories of Manley Wade Wellman, who was quite a folklorist in his own right.) The 1930s edition shown here -- containing the 1828 supplement by the author -- was printed on low-grade newsprint from very worn old printing plates. It is still in print, on white paper these days, and is as valuable a reference source as it ever has been. For documentation on how this book was marketed to African-Americans during the 20th century, see the page on hoodoo.
"Pow-Wows" is by no means the only compilation of European folk magic that crossed the colour line in America. During the 1940s, cheap newsprint editions of "The Black Pullet," "The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses," and the so-called "spurious" magical writings of Albertus Magnus were typically offered through the catalogues of Jewish-owned curio companies like King Novelty and Clover Horn, right alongside an assortment of policy players' dream books and pamphlets on "The Art of Kissing" and "How to Make Love."
In "The Long Lost Friend," the general theme of Hohman's occultism was Christianity-as-magic. Again and again the practitioner is called upon to recite a psalm or cross himself at the end of an invocation. Some of the spells are given in simple rhyme, and by back-translation, it can be seen that even more of them rhymed in the original German. The booklet includes practical formulae for herbal dyestuffs and wound dressings as well as magical preventives for robbery, death by firearms, and persistent toothaches.
Among the many charms and talismans Hohman prescribes, these will serve as examples:
(Five-finger grass is a common ingredient in mojo bags, especially those for gambling luck.)
(An African slave reading this book in the mid-1800s would find the idea of putting Jesus in her head very familiar, to say the least. Yoruba and Fon religions and their diaspora equivalents such as Santeria, Vodoun, and Candomble, all speak of divine spirits -- Orisha or Loa -- residing in or ruling the head of the devotee.)
S A T O R A R E P O T E N E T O P E R A R O T A S
(The SATOR square is ancient, dating back to the late Roman era at least. I have seen this same charm in an old German book myself, but there is was said that the plate should be made of silver; a silver coin can also be used. Hohman also gives a second use for the SATOR square, as follows.)
S A T O R A R E P O T E N E T O P E R A R O T A S
This must be written on paper and the cattle made to swallow it in their feed.
(This advice was adapted freely by black root doctors: old accounts of what is found in mojo bags frequently list bat hearts, bat wings, or whole mummified bats. Even today, modern conjure bags for fast luck or gambler's luck may contain a small plastic toy bat with the same intent. In fact, here is virtually the same spell, as collectged from an unnamed African American informant by Harry Middleton Hyatt in March, 1939:
ARM - UNDER RIGHT - HEART OF LIVE BAT CARRIED - TIED IN RED FLANNEL - LUCKY 10551. An' you' could take a leather-wing bat an' kill 'im, yo' know. While he's live, take his heart out befo' he die good. An' tie it up in a red piece of flannen an' tie it undah yore right arm. An' yo'll be lucky in anything yo' wanta do. Yo'll be successful in it. [Waycross, G., (1134), 1841:3.]The only difference here is that the Georgia root doctor (probably a woman, given the context of other spells she related) has substitued the common red flannel of a mojo hand for the red silken string of Hohman.)
Because it is so rich in magical lore, "Pow-Wows or The Long Lost Friend" is in itself a magical item. The very last page of the pamphlet presents the reader with this advisory:
Whoever carries this book with him, is safe from all his enemies, visible or invisible; and whoever has this book with him cannot die without the holy corpse of Jesus Christ, nor drowned in any water, nor burn up in any fire, nor can any unjust sentence be passed upon him. So help me. + + + [make the sign of the cross three times]"
I hope that reading this page will serve you equally well!
I would like to offer my thanks to the antiquarian book dealer
Ron Lieberman for substantial help with the following list of
John George Hohman's works. Ron specializes in selling early
Pennsylvania material at his book store, The Family
Thanks also to John Mullins" (email@example.com) for the loan of both the 1846 and 1856
English-language editions. Translations of the German titles were made by Lilo Glozer
Three anonymous collections of spells and receipts are also attributed to Hohman. They are:
Reading, Pennsylvania, 1818 [and subsequent German-language editions]
Reading, Pennsylvania, 1820 [and subsequent German-language editions]
Skippacksville, Pennsylvania, 1837 [and subsequent German-language editions]
Pennsylvania, 1839 [and subsequent German-language editions]
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1840 [and subsequent German-language editions]
John G. Hohman, Publisher. First English Edition, translated from the German. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1846
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, T. F. Scheffer, Printer, 1856 [and subsequent English-language editions, which are based on the format of this edition rather than the first edition. ]
unknown publisher, circa 1890s [and many subsequent English-language editions; some of which vary from one another in minor ways, particularly in the mis-transliteration of Germanic typefaces and the mis-translation of German botanical names. Covers vary from publisher to publisher, but most include an image of an owl. Interior plates common to many of these editions are six or eight steel engravings of ancient religious subjects (possibly from a 19th century Bible) which have no relevance to the text. 20th century publishers include Sheldon, Fulton Religious Supply, etc.]
Hamburg, Pennsylvania, 1818
Ephrata, Pennsylvania, 1822
Bath, Pennsylvania, 1857
I would like to offer my thanks to the antiquarian book dealer Ron Lieberman for substantial help with the following list of John George Hohman's works. Ron specializes in selling early Pennsylvania material at his book store, The Family Album (http://www.auldbooks.com/biblio/clients/lieberman.html). Thanks also to John Mullins" (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the loan of both the 1846 and 1856 English-language editions. Translations of the German titles were made by Lilo Glozer (email@example.com).
Three anonymous collections of spells and receipts are also attributed to Hohman. They are:
copyright © 1995-2010 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
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, !
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!
There are 6,000 web pages at Lucky Mojo. You can search for a single word (like mojo, hoodoo, pagan, or magick) or an exact phrase (like love spells, witchcraft supplies, or rootwork course):
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
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
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