There are many varieties of magic, not all of which include the idea that magical spell-casting is efficacious or morally sound. Even in those types of magic where spell-work is taught, there is no general agreement on what magic is, or what it is not.
A theory that accounts for the form of magic called natural magic is that certain objects, including but not limited to natural curios such as roots, herbs, minerals, and animal parts, have within them a certain a-causal link to some realm of human endeavour, often by virtue of their shape, colour, size, or scent. In natural magic, the visible link between a curio's physical attributes and its magical symbolism is called the Doctrine of Signatures. Thus, to give two examples of the Doctrine of Signatures, violet leaves, which look like hearts, are used in love magic, and lodestones, which are natural magnetic rocks, are used to "draw" wealth, love, or luck to the holder. These operations may be carried out with or without reference to religious entities (gods, spirits, saints).
An overlapping, but actually slightly different form of magic involves human-made artifacts -- amulets, lucky charms, talismans, and the like. This form of magic is generally called talismanic magic. Talismans can be made by the magician him or herself but are often prepared for clients by a conjurer, craft-worker, or jeweller. If they are commercially purchases, they must be empowered, fixed, or consecrated for use, and once prepared, they are said to work on behalf of the mage.
A third popular form of magic is called will-based or thelemic magic. Its practitioners tend to disdain natural magic, although they may use talismanic magic as a way to focus their will-power. Magicians of this type also have been know to say that performing magical spells is unimportant to them because simply visualizing the performance of the spell is sufficient to strengthen their will-power and this bring about the magical results they desire.
Each culture (or social sub-culture) seems to have its own rules regarding the workings of magic, but many of these rules are found in more than one culture. For instance, ritual cleaning and bathing occurs in the magic of most cultures, including urban ceremonial magick (with a k) and Sicilian folk magic (without a k). But some forms of ritual or rule are not as widespread. For example, footprint or footstep magic (performing magical operations on others through use of their footprints, shoes, or by scattering material where they will step on it) is typically an African magical custom, which is found also in African-American magical practice.
For most folk-magicians, symbology is very important. Faith, technical knowledge, precognitive intent, and emotional power fuel belief and confidence in the effects of a culturally appropriate symbological working.
However, once the rules of each system of magic are internalized by the practitioner, a great deal of improvisation may be done for any given ritual or magical job of work. The mark of a good magician in his or hr own school of magic is his or her ability -- to borrow an analogy from music -- to seamlessly improvise a tune within the chord structure of the system being used.
Perhaps magic seems "too good to be true" to you because you
have an inflated idea about the practice of magic from the
perspective of movies or tv shows -- but in actuality,
magic is not a cure-all for problems. Rather,
it is a way of working with subtle energies, with the
natural virtues of plants and stones, with spirits, with --
well, with as many different forms of non-ordinary reality
as there are schools of magic, i suppose!
Sometimes spells work, sometimes they do not. Sometimes prayers produce results. Sometimes they do not. Nothing is infallible. Death is inevitable. What we do with our lives is a matter of as much choice as we can muster, given the limitations of genetics, circumstance, and happenstance.
Some of us find pleasure and fulfilment in the practice of religion, magic, occultism, and/or mysticism. Others of us do not.
You have wandered into a group of people who practice magic -- but how each of us *defines* magic is left to the individual.
Now, there is a further wrinkle with respect to the question of whether magic *always* works, and that is the matter of "belief."
You may have read in a book or heard in a movie that "magic only works if you believe it works" or "spells only have an effect on people who believe that magic can affect them." These statements and others like them are often used to rationalize away the fear that one has been magically attacked. One says, in effect, "magic can only harm me if i believe in it."
The "it only works if you believe it works" defense against magical harm is generally invoked by folks who think that the only metaphysical concept to which they need pay heed is their own consciousness.
One logical offshoot of this form of solipsism is something i call "belief in the consent of the victim" -- a mental gymnastics move whereby a solipsist can legitimize unfortunate events. Belief in the consent of the victim is sometimes expressed as, "If it happened to me, i must have allowed it to happen or subconsciously willed it to happen to me."
In New Age circles, belief in the consent of the victim gives rise to ideations such as, "The reason my house was destroyed in that landslide was because i subconsciously wished to learn a lesson from that event," or "I would not have been born a paraplegic if on some level i did not desire to experience life as a cripple."
Solipsism of this sort can be theoretically intriguing, but realistically it is untenable to me, because i see practical evidence all around me that things happen to people that are not within the control of the people to which they happen.
Thus, the invocation of "belief in the consent of the victim" as a presumed "law" of magic seems foolish and weak and unrealistic to me.
This does not mean that i believe that magic *always* works -- it merely
explains why i do not explain away any failures of magical spells by
invoking the illogical idea that "magic only works if you believe it works."
The question of whether a mojo hand, spell kit, or other occult item is "guaranteed to bring in results" is one that i am often asked. As most hoodoo practitioners know, every supplier in this country sells their products as curios only, for legal reasons which i am sure everyone can appreciate.
Magic is not guaranteed. Neither is prayer to God.
If a prayer is not answered, it may be that it is not God's will.
If a magic spell does not produce the results you hoped for, despite the fact that an authentic formula was followed and you put into the work all your best efforts and strongest belief, then all i can say is that God may have different plans for you.
It is a mistake to assume that most practitioners of folk magic believe that spells invariably work, like adding water to a box of instant mashed potatoes -- and that if a spell fails, it is the rootworker's fault. This is not so.
Most people know that skill or giftedness enters into magical successes, that timing is important, that traditional natural ingredients are preferred, that personal will and an outpouring of spiritual energy are crucial -- and that even when everything is done with the strongest of intentions and best of timing and authentic ingredients by a worker of great skill or giftedness, there is still no guarantee of success.
Tiger Woods is one of the greatest golfers ever. He sometimes loses. He sometimes loses extensively. No one says that golf is a game of random chance or that Tiger Woods is a fraud just because he cannot win every game. It is the same with magic.
People who are members of magic-using cultures learn from an early age not to expect more from magic than an improvement of their odds -- that they will sometimes score a startling win or an almost impossible success, but not always. Most people who work with magic on a regular basis think of it as an edge, not as a certain win.
I believe that spells really do work, at least some of the time, just as physical efforts work some of the time.
In order to demonstrate the parallels between physical effort and metaphysical/spiritual effort, let me ask the magical question this way:
"Can doing spell work result in my achieving a hoped-for outcome?"
Now allow me to construct a parallel with physical effort:
"Can physical effort result in my achieving a hoped-for outcome?"
The answer in both cases is: "That depends on a lot of factors which we ought to investigate further before giving you a solid yes or no reply.
For instance, with respect to physical effort, you might ask
"Can people lift heavy rocks?"
And i might answer -- "Yes, they can -- but not every person can lift every heavy rock, and some people can lift no rocks at all, not even the light ones .. and some rocks cannot be lifted by anyone, either because they are too heavy or because they are inaccessible to human beings."
So you see, even a simple assumption -- that physical effort will result in a hoped-for outcome -- cannot be answered yes or no in general terms with any certainty.
The same holds true when discussing spell-work. You might ask:
"Can performing a love spell result in my finding a lover?"
And i would answer -- "Yes, it can -- but not every person can use spell work to make any given person love them, and some spell-using people cannot find lovers at all, not even among those who don't care who they love .. and some people cannot be ensorcelled into love by anyone, either because they are too willful and self-determined or because they are inaccessible to love-oriented spell-craft by reason of pre-existing conditions such as their being already mated, their sexual orientation, their age, their physical health, or other unknown conditions and factors."
In other words, you cannot expect more of magical work than you can of the physical world as we know it. You may find in magic a useful tool, but, like any tool, it does not do the work FOR you -- it simply allows you to leverage your way from where you are now and the condition you are now in to where you want to be and the condition you want to be in.
Think about those things before you jump into spell-casting.
I can certainly go on record stating that i have found many benefits in my own life through the working of magical spells and that here in our shop we have had many customers provide us with feedback that they have had successful results with spell=craft -- but due to the nature of magic and the differentiation of attention and power among those who employ these spells, combined with the irregularity of feedback, we cannot be absolutely certain of their success rate.
To practice magic wisely, you need to be aware that not all spells work for every person every time. Like sports contests and wars, there may be a winner and a loser ... or, as with farming, some crops may thrive while others fail. You do your best and try to get the results you want with all the knowledge, dedication, and will-power you can bring to bear on the event -- and if you win, it's a triumph, and if you lose, it is defeat.
Magic is no different than any other area of life in this regard.
What i tell my customers and clients -- and you, the reader of this web site --
is this: Even if you use magic only to concentrate upon your desires and to pray,
you will at least have clarified what it is you want. If it works for you,
however, as it very often does, then you will not only have
clarified your desires, you will have achieved them.
Do some experiments for yourself and see what your results are. Keep a record of what you did, how you felt while doing it, and how it turned out.
Some people may be / seem to be / claim to be more "gifted" at performing works of magic than others -- for them, success seems to come early and easy and they continue the practice.
For others, this is not the case and after long struggles, they may drop the practice of magic.
The same is true of mathematics, of sports, of farming, of cookery -- some of these skills and arts come early and easy to one person and not to another -- some people may never excel at certain of these skills and arts.
Your *interest* in magic will carry you part of the way.
Your natural gifts may make even the early stages meaningful and successful to you -- or you may not be naturally gifted and yet find your way through dogged persistence.
Or you may find the entire venture useless and unproductive to your development.
Give it a try and see what happens to you.
Every person's story is unique. Only you can live your
Some people have no interest in the subject of magic at all.
Some people come from cultures where magic is not valued.
Some people belong to religious groups that actively oppose magic.
If vegetables are so good for you, why doesn't everyone eat them?
If marijuana is so bad for you, why do so many people smoke it?
If war is so evil, why do so many people become soldiers?
If television is so attractive, why do so many people refuse to watch it?
The answer to all of these questions is this:
free will and they make choices consistent with their
interests, desires, emotional states, skill-sets, and the
circumstances which put them into convenient proximity or
keep them at an inconvenient distance from with various
mental concepts and physical objects.
Alas, there is no simple answer to this question, because there are so many different types of magical spells.
Also, what seems a very easy spell to one person -- say, for instance, purchasing $20.00 worth of herbs, roots, and oils to prepare a love-drawing bath -- may be next to impossible to another person, due to a lack of dunds, an allergic reaction to certain herbs, or living in an apartment with no bath tub!
Some spells are quite elaborate and exacting, to be sure. For instance, there are candle rituals and personal empowerment spells that take up to 21 days to complete, working for a specific period ever day.
But for every spell of that type, the knowing practitioner can cite a much simpler way of working toward the same goal, by lighting a prayer lamp, for example, or suffumigating a space with ritual incense.
The best advice i can give to people who are curious about spells is this: Read about them, including on line, and become familiar with the tools and methods utilized in the spell-craft of various traditions. Tr to visualize doing the spells, performing a mental "walk-through," as if studying for a role on stage or preparing for a social engagement.
Then begin small, with a request for something you want, but which is not a matter of life and death to you if you don't get it.
Don't wait until a horrible crisis time impinges on your life to begin praying for success -- start now, by asking for small but significant changes to occur.
Begin with cleansing
baths and abundance work, drawing in blessings and the good things of life. Then, if
you like the work and have success at it, you will be prepared and will be familiar with many of the supplies, tools, and technques
you will need when an emergency strikes, as welll as having practical knowledge of how to use them.
I operate a small occult shop, and i continually ask my customers which spells work best for them -- and i'm happy to pass along some trends i have noticed in this regard.
In any given situation, what i have learned is that the best spell for YOU is the spell that --
People often ask me if a particular magical ingredient will "work" for their purposes or if a spell they are casting "will be stronger" or, conversely, "will get messed up" if they use a different ingredient or blend of ingredients.
The practice of magic does not operate according to strict rules such that an outside observer can calculate your "winning odds." Just as important to the work as good, traditional tools and curios associated with the form of magic you are practicing are these factors:
In other words, to use an analogy to cooking -- you can buy all the fancy ingredients in the world, but in order to present a successful dinner party:
I hope this all makes sense to you and explains once and for all why we cannot actually predict the outcome of a spell performed by someone we do not know on someone we do not know, even though we are the people who supplied the ingredients that went into the spell.
Still, you may ask, "Why are some spells more effective in changing a person's life than others?"
Hoodoo rootwork is more than just "wishing." Effective and powerful hoodoo magic spells which involve changing another person's life -- whether to bring happiness or sorrow -- call for
1) a strong magical link to the person
-- and one out of four is not "strong."
2) strong and appropriate magical tools and knowledge
-- and one out of four is not "strong."
3) strong and well-focussed intentions
-- and one out of four is not "strong."
Now, practically speaking, and working only in the tradition of American conjure, here is some of the feedback i have received from clients and customers regarding which spells are "strongest" or most reliably "successful."
If you believe you suffer from crossed conditions or have been jinxed, you may do better if you get that mess out of your way before you work on drawing money or attempt a love spell. Spells for Uncrossing and Jinx-Breaking are a great help. Some folks whose main problem is back-biting, jealousy, and gossip will benefit from working for protection from gossip before they go on to other magical acts.
By our customers' accounts, the money-drawing magic spells for luck in business and career provide a higher success rate than magic spells designed for casino gambling. In my opinion, this is because casinos set their own percentage of house winnings and it is difficult to prevail against them. However, certain gambling formulas and spiritual supplies, in particular Fast Luck , Attraction, and Lady Luck, can, in the right hands, we are told, increase the winning edge of gamblers who do not play long-shot games such as the state lotteries or betting casinos.
The various love-attracting mojo hands and love spells seem to have a high rate of success as reported by our customers. People regularly call to tell me that they have attracted the love of someone they wanted after performing a love-drawing lodestone spell or personalizing a candle magick spell for love. I myself have experienced such results.
On the down-side of love-magic, it is my experience and that of my customers that Reconciliation magic spells are by far the most difficult of the love-spells to accomplish. Typical causes of failure include: residual anger on the part of either party, complete apathy on the part of the desired party, and/or a change of heart in the person doing the spell whereby they secure the return of the lover only to find that they didn't want that person's love after all because the problems that led to the original break-up remain even after the reconciliation takes effect.
Love spells to tie a lover's nature or bind a lover to one have a moderate rate of success at best, unless intimate body concerns are utilized in the work as part of a magical link.
The Nation Sack, in particular, seems to work very well for women who have a man in sight and want to draw him closer and really make him stay in line. Those who use spell-work for fidelity and to reduce friction in the home report satisfactory results as well. But not everyone who uses these love spells reports success.
I am often asked, "Will a lucky charm really make me lucky?" and the answer, is complicated because concepts of what luck is differ from culture to culture and from person to person.
For most people, luck is a "winning edge," an increase in the statistical odds that they will win money or get laid or whatever it is they want. They may carry a lucky charm or good luck token in the belief that it increases their success-to-failure ratio in specific areas of life. They may augment its efficacy by dressing it with oil. The charms you mentioned above are typical of those that people have given credence to through long custom.
Some people think that luck is the same as or a form of directed magical will -- e.g. casting a spell -- and they expect specific results from the act of carrying a lucky charm. These folks are more likely to prepare and carry a complex charm like a mojo bag or a Mexican "amuleto" bag. They use the prepared curio as a focus for their magical will.
Other people -- especially those from cultures where disease is believed to be caused by malevolent airs or the evil eye -- may carry what appear on the surface to be "good luck" charms and they may even call them that -- but upon investigation, the charms turn out to be apotropaic in nature, that is, they are intended to avert ill-luck, sorcery, or unnatural diseases. Among these supposed "good luck" charms can be found the various blue glass charms, hamsa hands, eye-in-hand charms, corno charms, mano fico charms, and so forth of the Middle East and Mediterranean, and the Ojo de Venado (deer's eye) seed charm of Mexico.
For a bit more of what i personally think "luck" means to various
people, and how "luck" intersects with religious belief and with a
desire for protection, see the Lucky W Amulet Archive page on
Luck, Protection, and Religion
I am regularly asked this question by people who are not well-versed in the use of spiritual supplies to help themselves.
My first reply is a question in return:
Who made up the idea that there *is* such a thing as "spell overload"?
Do they *want* there to be such a thing?
What advantage would it give anyone, as a conjure practitioner?
It sounds like fiction to me -- like a plot element in a video game or a movie.
In first person shooter magic-scenario video games, concepts like "spell overload" are created to deliberately DECREASE a shooter's "powers" in order to give their "target" a slight protection against their overwhelmingly intense spell-casting powers and make the game more exciting.
The same sort of scenario is introjected by comic book and television editors into series fiction, where the story-arc must be slowed down a bit to avoid a too-rapid wrapping up of the major themes. Ideally, as an editor, one wants all of the storylines to wrap up exactly at the point that the series is cancelled. This is difficult to accomplish, but one tool that editors use is the "power limitation" premise.
Having been a comic book professional for 26 years, i know both the value of this device, and the hackneyed "oh, well, we need something to delay the resolution" shrug of the shoulders that underlies a story editor's decision to insert the "spell overload / power overload" theme into superhero and mystery hero fiction.
Is this what they want out of life?
Think about it.
The idea of "spell overload" seems to come
up again and again among young newbies who think that hoodoo
consists only of "casting spells" -- in token whereof they may call
conjure practitioners and root doctors "casters" --
and, as i see it, "spell overload" is essentially an urban myth of the magical
wannabe community that derives from comics, television, movies,
or video games. Since it has nothing to do with the practical and
traditional folk magic of any culture (except for the culture of
the very young and fiction-driven), i have nothing more to say about it here.
The idea that spells can "backfire" seems really to be two ideas under the same name.
1) The spell you cast will cause the opposite result than the one you hoped for (the person you want to have love you will hate you; instead of the job promotion you hoped to get, you will be fired from the job)
2) The spell you cast will somehow turn into a sort of tar baby that will ensnare and entrap you in its clutches (instead of the person you want loving you more, you will love them more; instead of the job promotion you hoped to get, you will be forced to cast spells over and over to stop people on the job from envying your success)
In the first group we find backfiring spells that are said to be the result of casting spells "the wrong way" or with "the wrong words" or with "bad intentions." In the second group we find certain spells deemed to be ipso facto tar-babies and "dangerous" to the practitioner.
Both of these forms of backfiring are dramatic and fictional in their origins. Like the related concept of "spell overload" mentioned above, they are crippling to the practitioner, and may even have been designed by their creators to function in that way, as warnings about the "dangers" of practicing powerful folk magic outside the confines of sanctioned churchly miracles and blessings.
At the Lucky Mojo Forum, people ask me about "backfiring" all the time, and offer their opinions about it to other posters as well. Here are some quotes from the Forum, gathered during 2009 and 2010:
Do you see how self-defeating, self-scaring, and pointlessly dramatic those ideas are?
They are obviously the scripts of people who were raised to fear and avoid magic.
If you feel that your work will backfire, magic is not something to
which you are habituated or for which you are gifted. Go do something else,
something in which you have hopeful and cheerful confidence. PLEASE.
People often ask, "How soon will i see results?"
I was taught (and i in turn teach) this:
Now, signs, movements, and completion are three different things.
A sign is an omen or significant coincidence or synchronicity that indicates a link between your spell and the target or between the target and the goal for which you have cast the spell.
Signs can take the form of coincident names, numbers, speech, animal movements, weather patterns, and dreams.
However, if you believe that dreams are nothing more than "subconscious regurgitating," they will be of little or no use to you as signs.
Conjure is a world-view as much as a system of magic. The question of whether dreams can be signs if they are nothing more than "subconscious regurgitating" is similar to questions asked about magical spells by from different world-views: "Can i be an atheist and practice hoodoo?" "Can i practice hoodoo if i don't believe that herbs have spiritual power?"
The answer is that, if, for you, dreams have no value as spiritual signs but are merely "subconscious regurgitations," you would not be able to use dreams as signs.
The experience of seeing a sign is subjective and it is built upon a subjective belief in the efficacy of contact with a form of reality beyond the mundane, a glimpse into the liminal space between mundanity and spirituality.
Some seek signs in the Bible -- but if you don't believe the Bible is divinely inspired, you might not find signs there.
Some seek signs in nature -- but if you do not interact with nature, you will not be able to see signs there.
If your subjective experience is such that all activities are reducible to mundanity for you, you will not see signs at all, ever.
So i'll just leave you with this thought:
Go with what you believe in.
Now i also said that we look for signs "in three days," for movement "in three weeks," and for results "in three months" -- or the spell is deemed to not have worked.
After completing a spell (any spell, including candle burning, doll-making, setting up a honey jar, etc.), you may look for signs of coming success within three days, look for movement toward your goal within three weeks, and look for a final result within three months.
If you see no signs within three days, then you may want to add additional spell work; if you see no movement within three weeks, you definitely want to do more work; and if you get no results within three months, then whatever spell you tried (in your case, candle work, but this applies to all types of spell work) did not succeed and you should either give up the work or try again with a new and different approach, by which i mean not only a new and different spell, but also a new tactical approach toward your goal. If you see no signs and no movement, you can persist in the spell for three months, but any longer would not be recommended by me.
In my experience, if a mojo hand, free magic spell, spell kit, or dressing oil is going to work for you, there will be definite "movement" within a week. Many people report amazing and complete results the first day.
Some spells are traditionally worked over a period of time, such as 9 days, after which one is instructed to "watch and wait" for 3 days. In these spells, the results are expected to come about after the waiting period is over. Usually i would wait three weeks to see if there is any movement toward the results i desired -- and up to three months to wait for definitive results, after which time, if i saw no results, i would consider the spell a failure.
So many people think that they should proceed with a long-term spell even after the signs are bad, but for me, the opposite has always been true. Likewise, even if the signs were good to neutral, but i saw no movement in three weeks, i would walk away from the spell. We are not looking for last-minute turn-arounds here -- on the 90th day you get your result -- rather, we are looking for good signs, positive movement, and a successful outcome, completing the spell. If we get good signs and some good movement, we may add other spell work to the process, to increase our success rate. If we get bad signs and no movement, it is, in my experience, very unlikely that there will be a good outcome.
A spell/divination like this is a delicate dance. You laid your trick. Then you waited for a sign. You got a bad sign: the target responded by wiping away your spell work. End of story. Either try again but more sneakily, or use another spell, or give up.
I mean, what is the point of looking for signs, if you don't actually heed the signs?
In my opinion, no matter whether you do your spell work yourself or pay a conjure doctor to do it for you, you should do check readings -- either on your own or with another reader (that is, not the one who did the work). You can use a simple pendulum dowsing or a three-stone or three-coin casting to ask and answer questions. If you prefer to consult a professional, itT not be expensive -- a ten-minute reading is all you will need. As a reader, i do check-readings for the clients of other readers all the time.
Remember too that not all spells work for each person every time (no more than
every surgery always cures a medical condition or every sports team wins every
game) -- so set a time-limit on your work and do not hang onto the memory of a
spell you cast ten years later "still waiting for it to manifest"
Spell-casting and other forms of magical work, such as divination or augury, spirit communications, astral travel, and the like are found in virtually every culture and in virtually every religious group. No one religion can claim them. You could ALSO be an atheist and a mage.
However, if you are following in the traditions of a specific cultural group in which folk magic and folk religion are intertwined, it is in your best interests to accept the religious premises embedded in the religio-magical system that you are studying or practicing.
That is, if you are studying Hindu magic, which is closely entwined with Hindu religion, you should familiarize yourself with the Hindu pantheon of deities and be prepared to offer puja to those deities. Likewise, if you are studying Mexcan Catholic curandismo (curing magic) or brujeria (witchcraft magic), you will need to also understand the historical and regional befiefs of Mexican Native Americans as well as the centuries of overlaid Catholic veneration of saints that is important to Mexican folk magic.
Can a god be a lucky figure? Can a saint bring luck? The answers to these questions is often "Yes," and i have written a separate page on "Deity Luck" for those with a further interest in the topic.
In addition, the relationship between Lucky, Magic, Protection, and Religion is
a complex one that each culture teaches according to its own traditions, and, to a certain extent,
each practitioner or observer, must settle for him or her self. Again, i have written a separate page on
the subject of "luck" in religious magic
for those who want to explore the issue in depth.
In 2010, Purple Dragon, a member of the Lucky Mojo Forum, posted a question about the role of Christianity in conjure, both as it is now found on the internet (often in a Pagan context) and as i teach it in my Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course:
I have been lurking a long time and am considering aiming towards taking catherine's Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course. After much reading around on the 'net, I find that although many are tolerant of using rootwork in an eclectic way, a lot are dead against it. Some seen angry and disgusted, believing it to be disrespectful. I would never wish to insult a long standing practice. I was refreshingly pleased when I first encountered the Lucky Mojo website, because it accepts one's personal freedom to adapt rootwork to one's own path. My confusion is this: If it's okay to change the name of say, the saints or Jesus for a figure from a different pantheon other than Christian, then why are people using the Psalms and Jesus' name so often in their work? Is this simply a matter of personal preference? What am I missing here? Apologies for irritating anyone with my naivety! I have looked hard for clear answers and am having difficulty clarifying it. Thanks!!
Purple Dragon, your questions are worthy of consideration, and i will respond in detail. I cannot speak for others, only for myself, and specifically with respect to my Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course, about which you inquired.
I suggest that you start by reading the chapter of "Hoodoo in Theory and Practice" (a free online book i have written) which is titled "History of Hoodoo."
After you read that, you will, i hope, understand that i am embarked on one path only -- to reflect to the world the Black Protestant Christian practices of conjure, rootwork, and hoodoo which i learned through personal contact and training with practitioners, starting in the early 1960s, and also found corroborated in a variety of ethnographic and folkloric magazine articles and books published from the 1870s through the 1970s. .
If you choose to study with me, i will interview you at the outset, and during our talk together, i will ask you ask you about your and your family's ethnicity, culture, and religion. I will do this in order to best help you approach what may be for you either the folk magic of your mother-culture or the folk magic of a very different culture than your own. I will also do this because it has been my experience, after teaching and training more than 1,600 students, that in order to understand the basis of hoodoo and rootwork practices, a student who is, say, 28 years old, Hindu, and a recent immigrant to the USA from India, will require more background information about African American social and political history than a student who is, say, 46 years old, of African American / Native American descent, and has grown up in the Baptist Church in North Carolina.
I do not teach people religion, but i do expect my students to understand that 95% of hoodoo practitioners are Black Protestants. That's just the truth. That's just how it is. And i hope that all my students, no matter what their own religious backgrounds, were taught by their mothers, as mine taught me, that if you are invited to someone's house for dinner, you are to say Amen when they say grace.
Am i "tolerant of using rootwork in an eclectic way"?
As a person, sure, i am tolerant, but as a teacher of conjure, i am not really that tolerant -- because i love, practice, teach, and transmit what i myself was taught, and it is not "eclectic" in the sense in which you are using the word. That is, traditional hoodoo may contain many admixtures from various cultures, but its culture-bearers are and always have been primarily Christians and its spell-work is conceived in a Judeo-Christian framework.
Of course, i also recognize that it is not my place, role, or authority to stop or to try to stop people from "using rootwork in an eclectic way." That's between them and their god(s).
No matter what religion you profess, or how religiously eclectic you are, you will do just fine as my student as long as you understand that my Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course will not be dealing with revivals of Neo-Pagan European religions (e.g. Wicca, Druidry, Heathenism), importations of West African and Caribbean religions (e.g. Lukumi, Santeria, Voodoo, Palo), or lodge systems grounded in Hermetic texts or Christianized Pseudo-Kaballah (e.g. Thelema). You may be an adherent of any of these religions -- or any other religion -- but these religions did not contribute greatly to the development of hoodoo and conjure in America, so aside from a few mentions, they will not be the subject of discussion. Rather, the course, when it discusses religion at all, will deal with the religious background of African American conjure practitioners.
My students acknowledge, respect, and honour the fact that hoodoo is a Black American Christian magical way of working, and that in addition to its African core, it contains strong and distinctly identifiable admixtures of Native American, Anglo-Saxon (Germanic-British), Scottish-Irish (Gaelic), Jewish, and other folk magical practices mingled into it. All HRCC homework turned in will be accepted only insofar as it accords with those premises (e.g. in reviewing the homework in which students make an oil, i will reject an "Oil of Oshun" or "Oil of Hecate") and this is why i make a point that of the two homeworks that consist of collecting folkloric beliefs, one of the two items collected must be from a Black American source.
Finally, in the matter of whether i teach "working with saints," i explain at the outset to each student that i teach as i was taught, for my purpose is transmission, not creation de novo -- and for the most part i was taught by Protestant Christian conjure workers. Institutionally speaking, Protestant Christians do not venerate or "work with" saints, although they may invoke the aid of angels and other spirits.
If you are not familiar with the predominance of Protestant versus Catholic traditions in African American society, i suggest that you review the data at BlackDemographics.com.
This site summarizes a number of polls, studies, and demographic reports on African American religious affiliations. The figures arrived at by the several demographic studies are in disagreement by a few percentage points, so i will give the ranges:
Importance of religion in African American society:
* 82% of Blacks (vs. 55% of Whites) say that religion is "very important in their life." * 82% of Blacks (vs. 67% of Whites) are church members.
Frequency of Christianity in African American society:
* 82% of African Americans are Christians * 45 - 50% of African Americans consider themselves Baptist Christians (e.g. National Baptist, Missionary Baptist, Primitive Baptist, Southern Baptist, American Baptist, Free-Will Baptist, Evangelical Baptist, Regular Baptist, Independent Baptist, United Baptist, etc.) * 9 - 15% of African Americans consider themselves denominationally unidentified "generic" Christians (e.g. they call themselves Christian, Protestant Christian, Evangelical Christian, Born Again Christian, Fundamentalist Christian, Independent Christian) * 7 - 12% of African Americans consider themselves Mainline Christians (e.g. Methodist, United Methodist, African Methodist, African Methodist Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Anglican, United Church of Christ, Congregational, Reformed, Dutch Reform, Disciples of Christ, Moravian, Quaker) * 6 - 7 % of African Americans consider themselves Pentecostal Christians (e.g. Pentecostal, Assemblies of God, Full Gospel, Four Square Gospel, Church of God, Church of God in Christ, Holiness, Sanctified, Nazarene, Salvation Army) * 4 - 6% of African Americans consider themselves as non-denominational Protestant Christians (e.g. they call themselves "Non-Denominational Protestant Christian") * 4 - 6% of African Americans consider themselves Catholic Christians (e.g. Roman, Greek and Eastern Rites)
(These numbers total a range from 76 - 96%, but the ranges derive from different studies and the averaged total should work out to about 82% of all African Americans considering themselves Christians -- with 96% of those African Americans who identify as Christians further identifying themselves as Protestant Christians. In other words, approximately 78% of African Americans consider themselves Protestant Christians, and 4% of African Americans consider themselves Catholic Christians.)
Frequency of non-Christian religions in African American society:
* 6 - 7% of African Americans consider themselves Muslims (e.g. Shiite, Sunni, Black Muslim, Nation of Islam) * 1% of African Americans consider themselves of a "new" or "other" religion (e.g. Voodoo, Scientology, New Age, Eckankar, Spiritualist, Unitarian-Universalist, Deist, Wiccan, Pagan, Druid, Indian Religion, Santeria, Voodoo, Rastafarian) * Less than 1% of African Americans consider themselves as religiously Jewish (e.g. Orthodox Judaism, Reform Judaism) * Less than 1% of African Americans consider themselves as members of Asian religions (e.g. Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Baha'I, Shintoist, Zoroastrian, Sikh)
Frequency of non-religiosity, agnosticism, and atheism in African American society:
* 6 - 11% of African Americans consider themselves of "no religious affiliation" (e.g. Humanistic, Ethical Culture, Agnostic, Atheist, Secular) * 1 - 2% of African Americans surveyed refused to answer questions about religion or responded "i don't know" when asked their religion.
Now, once you understand that my mission is transmission, and that i will teach you what i myself was taught, not something that i have made up or something that is artificially "eclectic" or "all-inclusive," then you will have a clear understanding of what i teach with respect to religions in my Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course.
You will also now understand the answer to your question, "If it's okay to change the name of say, the saints or Jesus for a figure from a different pantheon other than Christian, then why are people using the Psalms and Jesus' name so often in their work?"
The answer is, "People are using the Psalms and Jesus' name so often in their work, because 'their work' is the folk magic of African American people, 82% of whom are Christians."
Thanks for asking!
There are so many different cultural traditions in which magic is a factor that there is no one source that could teach your everything about the entire subject.
A good introductory book that outlines many of the types of magic, so that you can set your sights for closer examination of what most interests you, is "Practice of Magic" by Draja Mickaharic. It explains in easy, simple terms the various types of magic found in numerous cultures and provides pointers toward more specialized books on each area of magic. It is available through amazon.com.
After you read that book, you will be prepared to embark on a study of the type of magic that you feel most interested in, whether it is African American hoodoo rootwork or ceremonial magic or Solomonic magic, or Mexican brujeria.
If you wish to take my course in American Hoodoo (African American folk magic)
and learn to become a root doctor yourself, please read the prospectus
for the course and then contact us at the
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