Rootworkers and practitioners use image magic all the time – perhaps when they don’t even realize that’s what they are doing. For instance, when you carve a candle with a target’s name and another with yours, and move them closer to each other over the course of a week across your altar, you are having one candle stand in for you and the other stand in for your target, and what you do to the candles you are symbolically doing to you and the target. They may not look like you, but you might carve them with your name, or put a photo or a personal concern under them.
Same with photos – you place one photo face down underneath a plate or behind a mirror or your headboard, or put it under St. Michael’s foot, or place it face to face with another photo, and you are working image magic. Same with a skull candle on which you carve your target’s name to influence them powerfully on a deep unconscious or subconscious level, or when you use the same type of candle with your own name to help you quit smoking or form some new habit – or when you baptize a lodestone before using it in altar work. The idea is to use, or create in order to use, some kind of "magical link" between the actual person and the image, item, object etc that is being manipulated in the spell. Bodily personal concerns are the strongest traditional means to do this, and this kind of work has been done in hundreds of cultures for thousands of years.
The principle is the same as for doll-babies or poppets (as they are often called in European-derived traditions, or voodoo dolls as they are called in the movies and in tourist traps on Bourbon Street). For a long time, I did not see much doll-baby work being done by younger people anymore; when I did see it, it was usually for malevolent magic and every once in a while for love magic.
I’m happy to say I’m seeing more of it again, for whatever reason.
Incidentally, this terminology of a “magical link” is not terminology that every conjure practitioner or root doctor uses, and if you start talking to a rootworker about “magical links,” they might not always know what you are talking about. But it’s the same principle behind using their hair or nails in a mojo that is targeting somebody in particular. When a spell or trick calls for “personal concerns,” this is basically something that can link the ritual object to the target person. I have seen some folks say that certain herbs can be used in place of a target’s hair in some spells, for instance, and while I guess you can try it and see how that works for you, I personally would not take that one to the bank. See, when you “get” the theory behind this, you’ll get why these concerns are called for and why an herb cannot truly replace a target’s hair. The personal concern is a link to the person, in many cases pretty much standing in for the person in the spell. If you don’t have a bodily concern like hair, then you can make do with things like name papers or their business card, but it’s not the same as the hair. And so while I guess you could make do with a root to use in place of hair, by itself that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me – unless you were baptizing the root in their name and/or carving their name into it, in which case the root is no longer just a root but is also working as a poppet or doll baby of sorts.
Now, as to the type of concern. Bodily concerns like fluids, hair, nails, etc are often called for, and I have had some clients assume that that means the mojo or ritual object has to have the target’s DNA involved for it to work. That is not really the case. Now, bodily concerns are obviously going to be stronger than, say, the person’s business card or their company logo printed off the internet, because they are part of that person. And that is why some workers will tell you that if you can’t get hair or nails, that you can do well with an article of clothing, or the insole (or some other part) of their shoe (and in the case of shoes, that usually has added resonance given the importance of the foot and things related to the foot in foot-track magic). But that’s not to say that the underlying principle is that the spell has to use the target’s DNA. In fact, as you might note if you are familiar with foot-track magic, some spells specifically call for the person’s foot track. Literally. Like you go where they have walked, and you get a spatula or flat-headed shovel, and you scoop up their footprint out of the dirt, and you use that dirt in your spell. That isn’t going to have their DNA in/on it, most likely, so you can see that DNA is not the point. It happens to be the case that many good personal concerns may also have the target’s DNA on them, but that doesn’t mean a good personal concern has to use/have their DNA. It is possible to work on a target without using a bodily personal concern at all (baptism of the object is one typical way to do this).
Another set of questions I get reveals some fuzziness around the “theory” behind personal concerns in spells. In large part, it’s generally safe to say that personal concerns stand in for the person you’re working on. When you are working on a relationship, there is by definition more than one person involved, so ideally personal concerns would stand in for every person involved. See, one way of looking at a mojo bag is as a little tiny magical environment that you manipulate to represent the larger environment, and the personal concerns are little tiny representations of the people involved. (It’s the same principle behind a moving candle spell or lodestone spell – the altar in that case is a mini magical environment that you manipulate to bring changes in the larger environment.) So a mojo bag for a relationship generally has two targets. If you are making a mojo for love and you are after a girl, she is the target for this in one sense, because you are having a portable spell, basically, made for you, in the form of a mojo bag. You are putting the love-drawing and "love me now"/love compelling elements in the environment of the mojo, and surrounding her with them by putting her personal concerns in.
But all of this is in the service of getting you two together. So it will be stronger to also have your personal concerns inside the environment, even though you aren’t the target in the sense of there is no work aimed at you to change your emotions or behavior. Those ingredients in the environment having been given "instructions" to draw her (through her stuff) to you (through your stuff). We have to tell our herbs and powders and oils what to do, where to go, which is why we call the target’s name when we sprinkle powders, for instance (so that you don’t hot foot yourself, or hot foot the wrong neighbor, if a non-target person comes in contact with the powder). I give the "instructions" while I make the mojo, through prayers and invocations, sometimes through a petition paper as well, and you give instructions by praying over it or meditating on your goals or however you work. Of course you are carrying the bag, so you’re involved that way, but carrying/owning the bag is not actually the same thing as being inside the bag in the form of your personal concerns, of being inside the little magical environment you’ve created to carry around and bring influence to bear in a certain way. You’ve put her in the bag with the herbs and curios etc to get a certain result – but the certain result is her being influenced towards loving you etc, whatever the specifics of your petition are. So it makes sense to be as close to her as possible in this magical environment; it makes sense to put your personal concerns together in the bag (in the case of hair, twined together perhaps, or embedded into the same piece of blessed beeswax, touching; sometimes a bag will have a root for each person, baptized for that person, and each root would have hair tied around it or would be dressed with bodily fluids or the like).
So since you are carrying the bag, and it’s your bag, and you will be handling and talking to and feeding the bag, then it’s not like there is no element of you involved in it – never mind that I will be calling your name as I prepare the bag. But it works better if you are IN the environment with her, not just carrying her around in the environment. Some of this might seem like common sense, or like it doesn’t really make a lot of difference in practice most times, but not everybody has really thought about it, so I write this post to help you frame ways to think about it in case you haven’t. This becomes more important in some kind of spells, like those to bind a person’s nature. When you are making a mojo bag for a relationship, and you are including a tissue that has the mingled sexual fluids of you and your target, then that makes total sense and it’s no big deal that they are mingled. In fact, it’s good that they are. But if you are working on a target to tie their nature so they can’t be unfaithful to you, you really would want to be careful NOT to use a cloth or tissue that had mingled sexual fluids on it, because you are going to work on that object and symbolically work on the target through it. You don’t want to tie a knot in a handkerchief with both your sexual fluids on it unless you want to tie your own self down too; you want the handkerchief to just have the target’s fluids. (And while we are in the realm of symbols, of course, you should understand that that is not to say “and therefore this stuff works only symbolically, and thus affects only intention or predisposition or feelings, and not physiological stuff, so there is no danger in putting my own sexual fluids in there – I am calling the target’s name and influencing them to be faithful by symbolically tying this handkerchief, so it won’t have any affect on my own intentions or feelings.” That clean division between physical and emotional, between bodily and spiritual, just isn’t there in conjure; old time workers often warned that leaving a person “tied up” through spellwork could have detrimental physical effects. Any naturally flowing system – and a human being is a naturally flowing system in this sense – gets changed deeply when obstacles, blockages, reroutings and diversions happen to it. Work on tying natures is closely related to work on stopping up bowels or urine, on blocking up a menstrual cycle or stopping a womb, etc – it is potentially dangerous work that can have potentially fatal consequences, and so in my opinion it really should not be undertaken lightly and should not be undertaken by the inexperienced. If you are new to spellwork, don’t start here. Learn your way around with less potentially dangerous work first – and while you’re at it, you may learn that there are easier and/or less dangerous ways to accomplish your goal. I do not believe that there is no justification for certain types of work, ever; I think even work to maim and kill is sometimes justified. But it is dangerous work, and it’s dangerous not just to the target – it’s dangerous to the person doing the work as well. But I suppose that will have to be another blog post.)
It’s important to note that not all mojo bags or container spells work like this, where you and your love interest would both be in the bag. Some mojos are made to be “magnets,” where YOU are the target in the sense of the herbs etc are being instructed to work on you – to amp your glamour and sex appeal, to make you more magnetic and smooth-talking, or whatever. But once you get in the habit of thinking about the how and why of the ingredients and the manner of creation and working, you will begin to see what you should do and why you are doing it. Always think about what symbolic job the ingredients are doing, and what/who the target(s) is/are, when constructing your work. This will help you avoid some common traps, like “beginner syndrome” in which you figure if three herbs are good, thirty must be better, or “everything but the kitchen sink” syndrome, where you expect a single mojo or vigil light to do seven different jobs on fifteen different people, to banish evil AND draw luck AND make your neighbors stop fighting AND soften your landlord AND keep enemies away AND draw friends. If you want something to do that many jobs, you can’t expect it do any of them very well.
So when I have clients send me seven different kinds of personal concern, thinking (I suppose) that if one is good, four is better, I often have to (politely) check their exuberance. If you have a target’s hair, there is no need to also include their business card, not when we’re talking about personal concerns in general. (It would be different if you were working on them in a way that related to their business or job, of course – I can think of times when you might want both hair and a business card .) But in general, there are lots of options for personal concerns, and they generally fall somewhere on a scale of good to better to best, and if you have something from the “best” area, there is usually no need to also add something from the “good” or “better” category. A list of personal concerns in order of desirability for most spells in general might look like this:
• hair, bodily fluids, nail parings, skin
• used / previously worn, unwashed clothing, shoes that have been worn, insoles from shoes, foot tracks, dirty towels, napkins, drinking straws etc (think “things that their saliva or sweat has gotten on pretty good)
• original signatures
• handwriting samples
• washed/clean clothing, personal property or objects owned or touched by the target
• business cards, newspaper clippings mentioning their name
• name papers
Obviously, there is going to be some variation here, and certain kinds of spells will call for certain concerns, and in cases like that, you should probably trust that the spell does that for a reason, and use the recommended concern if possible. Some spells will call for more than one type of personal concern for various reasons, as well, so there is often some combination. And for various reasons, different workers in different contexts might rearrange the list I’ve given here and change the order of things. And also, depending on the spell or working, you might choose inherently inert objects (a plastic doll or a wax candle shaped like a person or a body part) or inherently powerful objects (roots, herbs, lodestones) to be baptized and called by the person’s name, to stand in for them in the spell or working. So plenty of things might complicate the above list or cause you to choose based on something other than the order of “proximity” or “inherent magical link” to the person. But in general, the higher up the list something is, the less you have to manipulate it or do extra stuff to it in order to get it working as a link to that target person in your spell. Hair already has a magical link between it and the target; you don’t have to do anything else. A piece of paper or doll has to be magically linked to the target before it can be used to affect the target.
In understanding image magic and the principles of working on somebody at a distance (giving their doll baby a bath versus actually having them take the bath physically themselves, for instance), we also have to consider other major players in conjure and spellwork, and how they interact with and fit into what we’re doing. We are concerned with the spirits or souls of ourselves and our targets, but we also have to consider the spirits of the herbs, the personages of saints and intelligent spirits, elemental spirits, God and the Trinity, etc. That will be part two of this little series on image/affinity magic.
ETA: And Mother Mystic has a post on this topic that I recommend.
Image one – creation of a doll-baby containing the target’s personal concerns (under the lodestone) and a fixed, baptized lodestone), which will be paired with a similar doll-baby to represent the other "half" of the couple
Image two – a moving lodestone spell, in which the lodestones have been baptized in the targets’ names
Image three – a sample name paper showing two names, in which one party is to be dominant over the other party. As such, it does double duty as a sort of (drastically concentrated type of) petition paper; it’s a petition paper in that it is invoking a particular effect besides just standing in for a person. Writing your name across another person’s name gives you dominance over the person. So in a way, it’s a symbolic kind of shorthand for the petition "may so and so be dominant over so and so," though the act of making the paper is itself a miniature bit of spellwork and thus a bit more than just a petition or just a namepaper. A name paper standing in for a single person as a personal concern might just have a name on it and be much simpler.
PLEASE NOTE: all photos in my blog are MY personal property, and are copyright Karma Zain, unless otherwise noted (in cases where I use an image in the public domain, for example, or an image licensed under a Creative Commons license). You may NOT take, download, "borrow," repost, or reuse these images without my express permission. Just like taking my writing and reposting it without my permission (barring using small, properly attributed portions in the context of a quote or review that would fall under "fair use"), in taking my images you are stealing from me. You are especially not advised to take my images and then put them on your blog or facebook, where I will eventually find them and be more than a little ticked off (no, I can’t look at every web page in existence, but my wonderful readers, colleagues, clients, and friends will let me know when they stumble upon such things). Sorry to spoil an otherwise lecture-and-soapbox-free blog post, but I just stumbled across a photo of some bottles of oil that I posted to this blog last year, taken and put up in a self-proclaimed rootworker’s facebook album. I have to assume this person got the image from someone else who had stolen it from me, because I cannot imagine that they would be nuts enough to steal from me and then allow me access to where the stolen material is being hosted on purpose. Surely.