more stuff that annoys me

I know, I know, getting upset because somebody is Wrong on the Internet is … well, a waste of time.  But one of the reasons to have a livejournal or blog is to vent, so I’m going to.

Seen (not all that) recently on the Internet: an assertion that hoodoo is intimately linked to water, and thus rivers, lakes, and the sea are integral for ingredients in rootwork.

Ok, please qualify your terms before I burst.  Starting with some phrases involving “region” and “culture of origin” and “geography” and “family tradition” and “blended paganism” would be helpful.  Actually, I’m not sure they’d solve a thing for me, but they’d make that statement more palatable.

Similarly, “Hoodoo practitioners are mainly Roman Catholic.”

Damn it, no they’re not. 

Have you MET any?  Have you met any outside Louisiana?  NOTHING in the available literature and fieldwork of the past century that records the actual words and practices of hoodoo practitioners, NOR anything you will see in a tour of spiritualists, readers, and candle shop owners in the Southeastern U.S., supports this.  Will people please stop substituting the unique thing that is New Orleans for the rest of the conjure world (and the voodoo world for that matter)?  I was born and raised in southern Alabama, home of Sister Sheila, Madame Zabrena, Sister Clare, and Sister Moses Collins among countless others (I challenge you to find a Catholic among them). Professor Val had a shop on Holcombe Avenue in Mobile from the 50s until after I moved away the first time in the 90s.  Around there, people go to church every Sunday (not Mass), and then they go see Professor Val right after.  Every Sunday.  These folks are NOT CATHOLIC.  This REGION is not Catholic.  Trust me.  I went to Catholic school as a child and teenager and I heard the shit some folks still spew about Catholics (they use Catholics to get warmed up on Jews, African Americans, and these days, Muslims).  My birth city has a church large enough to be familiarly called “Six Flags Over Jesus.”  It is literally larger than a city block.  The interstate service road curves around it. And guess what — Baptist.  Rinse, repeat.  Meanwhile, my daughter went to Catholic school when we returned to Mobile, and the tuition I paid as a tithing member of the Church while she did preschool, pre-K, and Kindergarten there was less than any decent daycare program within twenty miles.  Our parish had the dubious reputation of being “the poorest parish in the diocese.”  Why so poor?  Well, low membership, spare tithes, lots of financial aid from the parish to needy families who wanted their kids to have a Catholic education.  Ok, I digress.  But the low numbers should be telling.

Not that it’s all Baptist around there.  My father took me to backwoods whitewashed clapboard wooden churches as a child where people prayed in the Spirit and spent most of the service singing and where I was the lightest skinned person in the house.  He took me to suburban fancy churches as a teenager where people prayed in the Spirit (and a couple of them laid hands on me and tried to drive the demons from my body, I shit you not)  and I was one among many, many pink folks.  I know a bit firsthand about the religions, readers and candleburners in this town, largely because my parents were *insane* with the religion thing, and I know a bit about the readers and candleburners halfway up the state in Birmingham, where I did most of my undergrad in the early 90s, and about near Ft. Stewart, Georgia and Savannah, where I lived for three years in the mid-to-late 90s, and not a damned one of them I ever met was Catholic (though in the mid-90s Birmingham saw a big influx of Latin American workers, beliefs, and products, and thus an influx of Catholicism and saints’ imagery, and more Juste Juez amongst the Sonny Boy products on Southside).  One itty bitty, ancient woman in Ludowici, GA, whose daughter booked her appointments, gave me the most expensive cold reading I have ever paid for in my life; I ought to dig up the notes about that from 1997.  She used Tarot cards, and a plain seven day candle, and wore an old flour-sack-print housedress like my great grandmother used to wear.  I digress — again.

“Hoodoo practitioners are mainly Roman Catholic” — I find this sort of statement to be ignorant at best and tinged with racism at worst.

We had a “junk shop” in town when I was in my early teens, and this guy would sell old appliances, old books, old whatever.  I was early in my ceremonial magick “career” and i was there with my mom looking at something or other.  I bought a copy of Waite’s “The Book of Ceremonial Magic” from there that I still have.  (You Gulf Coast folks may remember it — it was later, or maybe earlier, the site of some teen club — it was called “Future Vision & Specialty Company” on Old Pascagoula Road in Mobile).  If you didn’t know any better, it was the place to go to buy lawnmower parts.  I didn’t go much because I didn’t drive then and my Catholic mom wouldn’t have bought any of my reasons for wanting to go.  I got inspired while I was there and asked the owner, an African American man behind the counter, after I saw a tucked-away section of occult books, if he had any dragon’s blood oil for sale.  He went in the back and emerged a few minutes later with a bottle that he sold me.  It took me nearly ten years to figure out why the dragon’s blood was in a mineral oil base, which at the time dismayed me because I was expecting Anna Riva type perfumey stuff (which in 1987 was about all you could get in Southern Alabama unless you had a car or a credit card; I had neither.  I thought since all the oil I could get was stinky perfumey stuff, that if I bought single-note or single-ingredient oils, I could better combine my own without getting headaches from smelly synthetic perfumes.  What did I know!). 

Anyway, I get it now (the thinking behind why one might use a mineral oil base for such a blend — and there’s more than one possibility, one giving him a lot of credit and the other not as much).  But he *knew what it was* and could whip it up in less than ten minutes — obviously had some “special stock” in the back room that was only for those who knew to ask for it — and I wish I’d paid more attention.  I’m mad at myself for not hanging around more (and learning, among other things, why it was pretty neo-pagan of me to ask him for dragon’s blood oil lol).  Anyway, my point is that I go places and check things out, and I have been making a habit of that for a couple of decades now, and I challenge anybody to back up that “hoodoo practitioners are mostly Catholic” shit, even WITH some serious geographical qualifications.  I give Ray Marlborough his due — while I personally would never use some of his formulas, he is generally careful and upfront about the way the stuff he learned is peculiar to his own region, and he generally notes when he has tweaked a tradition — so go on with your bad self.  But you need to check yourself before you say that “most Hoodoos have an altar to Damballah Wedo” because that is fucking Llewellyn bullshit, my friend, and you should be ashamed.

Most of the less than orthodox spiritual stuff I grew up around came from three sources — my great grandmother, and you could never tell when she was being serious and when she wasn’t; books, which I devoured from an early age (ask the five year old what her name means, go ahead); and my parents’ hippie upbringing that veered sharply when my mom went back to the Roman Catholic Church when I was 9 and my dad took a sudden, serious interest in Spiritualist churches when his morning hammock meditation wasn’t doing it for him anymore.  Does not make for traditionalist stuff, I freely admit.  And I do not actually privilege “traditional” practice over .. whatever.  I just believe in making sensible and careful claims and backing up your own shit.  I also freely own my own syncretic practices as well as my White Liberal Guilt and my more than occasional discomfort with the fact that I have landed myself in a position where I end up Holding Forth about African American folk magic practices to people who don’t know the difference between New Orleans, Haiti, Cuba, that Africa is a continent and not a country, etc.  By all rights, according to these people, I should be researching the heretics in the French side of the family and doing benedicaria research on gr-gram’s side and maybe some belligerent holding forth about Catholicism and Irish politics from gr-pa’s side and probably drinking a lot of beer to boot.

Oh wait.  I’m already doing all that.  Er.  Well, anyway, it’s an odd spot.  But there you have it.  Cheers.

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