Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by catherine yronwode
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The kinds of protection and shielding spells used in various cultures and magical traditions vary based on what is perceived as a magical threat in each culture or tradition.
For instance, in cultures where the evil eye is a major magical threat, there are hundreds of styles of apotropaic amulets and spells to ward off the effect of the eye.
On the other hand, in cultures where a major form of hostile magic consists of throwing magical powders or dusts on the ground for victims to walk over, then the types of protection will be aimed at immunizing or shielding one from getting hurt when stepping in that mess. In other words, in order to understand a culture's protection spells, you have to understand that culture's spells of animosity and destruction.
Taking the broadest view possible, it can be said that protection spells and charms take on a variety of forms, and that these include:
This page about protection and shielding spells is a shortcut providing links to all of the Lucky W Amulet Archive pages depicting and describing apotropaic and protective amulets and talismans from around the world -- plus complete instructions (in the sections marked with a *) for dozens of simple folkloric protection spells in both the European American traditions of witchcraft and braucherei and the African American hoodoo tradition, collected during the early 1930s from the inhabitants of Adams County, Illinois, by the amateur folklorist by Harry M. Hyatt.
I also maintain the Lucky Mojo Free Spell Archive, a web site cataloguing spell-work in general. At that site you will find archives from usenet posts circa 1995 to the present detailing many more spells for personal and household protection from several magical traditions.
Folks seeking a structural understanding of the role
apotropaic charms play in folk-magic may be interested in a brief essay i have written on how
luck, religious devotion, and the need for
protection overlap in the making and wearing of
The following documentation on protection spells comes from the book "Folk-Lore From Adams County Illinois" a 723-page collection of folkloric material gathered by Harry Middleton Hyatt in the early 1930s.
As you read through these spells, compare the different -- and similar -- approaches to magical protection taken by Hyatt's German-American and African-American informants from Quincy, Illinois in the early 1930s. For instance, although informants from both cultures recounted almost identical spells employing salt and/or recitation of the phrase "in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," the heavy African-American emphasis on foot-track magic (working with shoes, socks, rabbit feet, doorways, paths, etc.) was counter-balanced by a relative lack of interest in feet and foot-tracks in the German material.
I have retained Hyatt's original entry numbers, but sorted the spells by type, for ease of comparison. [Comments in brackets are mine -- cat].
9542. "If you keep a silver dime in your mouth, no man can poison you." Negro.
9543. "If you will take a dime and bore a hole in it and wear it all the time on you somewhere, you can't be hoodoo." Negro.
9544. "If you take a dime around each ankle, you can't be hoodooed." Negro.
9545. "If you wear a dime in the heel of your shoe, your enemies cannot put a spell on you." Negro.
9547. "Take a dime and put red pepper over the dime, then wrap it up in brown paper and wear it in your shoe, and you will not be hoodoo." Negro.
9562. "Grave dust is what a witch uses to hoodoo you, and you will conquer her if you get some and wear it." Negro.
9591. "Keep a penny in your pocket and you cannot be bewitched." German.
9593. "To keep a person from hoodooing you, keep red pepper in your shoe all the time." Negro.
9594. "If you think someone has put something down for you to walk over, you take a piece of brown paper, put some red pepper in the brown paper, put it in your shoes, and when you walk over it, it will do you no harm." Negro.
9599. "Wear your pockets inside out to keep the witches off." German.
9619. "Carrying a rabbit's foot keeps all evil away." Negro.
9620. "Put a piece of rattlesnake skin in your shoe to keep the witches away." Negro.
9621. "If you wear a piece of rattlesnake skin in your clothing, you cannot be put under a spell." Negro.
9624. "If you will wear black pepper and salt in your shoes, you can walk anywhere and not be hoodoo." Negro.
506. "If you hang a bottle of bluing down a fireplace, it will keep Satan away." Negro.
9536. An old woman eighty years old [born before 1855] said she was never bewitched or her people, because her grandfather, then her father, always on the 6th of January, the Three Kings' Day, would put the letters C.M.B. over all outside doors before sunup, so the witches could not get in; and would put the same letters over the stable door so no one could bewitch the cattle." German. [According to German folklore, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar -- C.M.B. -- were the names of the three magi or kings who brought gifts to the infant Jesus in the stable on the 12th day of Christmas, January 6th.]
9530. "If you keep chickens with the feathers turned back the wrong way, you will never be hoodooed. Negro. [These are "frizzled fowl" or "frizzly chickens" -- birds with twisted and deformed feathers; black frizzled hens are considered especially efficacious in rooting out of the dirt any powders that have been laid down around the yard by enemies.]
9550. "To keep the witches out of the house, place a dime under the fireplace." Irish.
9570. "If you put a horseshoe over your door with the point down, a witch will never come under your door." Irish.
9571. "If a person try to hoodoo you in leap year, put a horseshoe over your door and they can't hoodoo you." Negro.
9589. "I always keep onions in the house to keep the devils out." Negro.
9592. "I always keep red pepper in the house so I will have good luck and not be hoodooed." Negro.
9595. "If you sprinkle black pepper and salt around your house, then sweep it up and burn it, it will keep your enemies away." Negro.
9629. "Take a sack of salt and make a cross on it and put it under the front doorstep, and you will keep away all evil." Negro.
9646. "If you will put a pair of scissors under your pillow, open with the points to the head of the bed, no one can harm you or bewitch you. I was bewitched years ago, and someone told me about putting the scissors under my pillow, open with the points to the head, and I have been doing this every night for years. I never go to sleep without the scissors under my pillow, and I have never been bewitched since that time." German.
9663. "If you put a piece of silver under your head [while you sleep], the witches will not bother you ." German.
9669. "To keep your enemies out of your house, put a tablespoonful of vinegar and a tablespoonsful of sulphur in a little can and keep that in the house, and they will never bother you." German.
9671. "If you think someone is hoodooing you, burn sulphur and salt every day; and open the door and your trouble will blow out." Negro.
9627. "If someone comes and you don't want them to come back, put salt and black pepper on the carpet. When they leave, take a broom and sweep it out the door, and they will not come back." Negro
9628. If someone comes to your house and you think they are putting an evil spirit on you, just as soon as they leave, sprinkle salt all around the chair they were sitting on and put a little on the seat of the chair, and they can't do you any harm." German.
9636. "If you don't want anyone to come back when they leave the house, throw some salt on their back." Negro.
9639. "If someone comes to your house and you don't trust them, as they leave throw a handful of salt after them and say, 'In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Don't come back.' And they won't." Negro.
9643. "If someone come to your house you don't want them to come back, throw a handful of salt at them and say, 'In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; move on' -- and they say they will never come back again." German.
9645. "If someone come to your house and you don't want them to come back, take salt and sulphur and mix good, and throw that on their back as they are leaving and they will not bother you again." Negro.
9652. "If someone comes to your house and you think they are a witch and you don't want them to come in, lay an old shoe in the door; and if she is a witch, they cannot step over the shoe." German.
9673. "If you don't want enemies to come around your house and put a spell on you, wash your front door every Monday morning with pee." Negro.
9574. "If a witch comes to your house, say, 'Kiss my a--' three times under your breath; and she can't harm you." German.
9575. "If you see a witch coming, run and put the broom down in front of the door and say, 'Kiss my a--' three times; and she will not be able to step over the broom." German.
9576. "If you think someone is a witch and you do not want them to bewitch you when you meet them on the street, say under your breath, "Kiss my a--' all the time until they get out of your sight." German.
9667. "If you think someone is trying to hoodoo you or do you some harm, and you meet them, walk backward six steps; spitting right and left, saying 'John over John' and 'John the Conqueror' and they can't hurt you." Negro.
9507. "If you are bewitched, boil a beef heart and while it is cooking, keep sticking it with a needle; the witch will have the same pains, and the spell upon you will be broken. German.
9508. "If someone bewitched you, put a piece of red flannel in hot water on the back of the stove and let it boil. The one that has a spell over you will come and ask for forgiveness." German.
9558. "If you think someone is doing you harm, get a two prong fork and go to a crossroad where they walk, and bury it [prongs up] so they will walk over it, using their name [abusing their name; cursing them] while you are burying it, and say, 'In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,' and they will swell up and just pop open and die." Negro.
9567. "If you think you are bewitched and can't sleep, take a little holy water and sprinkle it around the room three times and say, 'In the Name of the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost' and you will be able to sleep better." German.
9578. "To overcome a hoodoo, kill a lizard. Do it by smoking. Beat it to a powder. Mix the powder with whiskey. Drink it. This will cure you." Negro.
9598. "If you think someone is bewitching you, draw the picture of the one you think it is, and take that picture to the woods where the trees are very thick and nail the picture on a tree; and if you have the right one, the spell will be broken." German.
9623. "If someone is bothering you and you don't want them to, you take a handful of salt and call their name and throw it over your right shoulder and they will not bother you." Negro.
9626. "If you think someone has a spell on you, put red pepper and salt in all four corners of the room. It will take the spell off." Negro.
9675. "If you think you are hoodooed, take one pint of salt, one pint of corn meal, one pint of your urine. Put that in a can on the stove at twelve o'clock at night and cook until it burns. Then throw the can and all away and your hoodoo spell will be off." Negro.
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