Background and Education
I’m a reader and rootworker born and raised in the Southeast who grew up learning a dizzying list of Catholic patron saints, 75 ways to cook a plucked chicken, and a bunch of folk cures for getting rid of everything from warts to unpopular suitors. Thanks to my mama and her clan, I make a mean doll baby *and* a mean roux.
I was born in Alabama in a family spread out all over the Southeast that yet was very close-knit and made regular pilgrimages many times a year between households, so between that and where various careers have taken me as an adult, I’ve spent significant chunks of time and/or lived in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina. Learning the similarities as well as the sometimes subtle but quite significant differences in conjure theory and practice in these regions — even in different sections of the same state — has been a huge factor in my education.
And I’ve spent a lifetime on that education, studying Southern-style herblore, vernacular religion, and folk magic, always with an eye towards origins and influences but also attentive to shifts and patterns over time and across regions, always keen to glimpse the original strands that ultimately merged to make it what it is today. So I’ve studied religions of the African diaspora, vernacular religion from medieval Europe to 20th century urban America, and spiritual aesthetics from Coptic Egypt to 20th century Benin. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on early medieval portrayals of the body-soul relationship, I’ve been an invited lecturer on New World vodou at universities and conferences, and I’ve published in the field of early modern angelology.But it’s never been just academic for me. I’ve got over 35 years’ experience working with roots, saints, and spirits, doing divination work, and doing energy work in both Eastern and Western traditions. Beyond all the articles and classes, I have always studied and researched and practiced — not just in libraries, but anywhere I could get a rootworker, palm reader, spiritualist, candle-shop owner, faith healer, local history buff, or tea leaf reader to talk to me or let me hang out. And I have taken that knowledge and those conversations and turned them towards developing an ability to clearly communicate concepts, methods, and insights to my reading and rootwork clients. I started offering my own hoodoo condition oils and saints’ oils in 2002 after I got back from overseas, first to my reading and spiritual services clients and later on eBay. I had a full line of oils, powders, and baths by 2007. I was surprised by the eBay response and got way busier with that than I’d ever expected (especially since my photographs really, really sucked and I wasn’t exactly an internet or marketing whiz). At the time, it wasn’t easy to find authentic, old-school formulas in online marketplaces like that, and standalone websites were much harder to run than they are now, so people responded to the quality of my formulas despite my horrible web design elements. Now you can’t swing a cat without hitting someone selling their version of Van Van oil and Etsy is positively choked with Red Brick Dust and chicken feet, so the more the merrier, I suppose, but I was doing this stuff *way* before it was “cool” 🙂
What you will find here:Traditional formulas made the old fashioned way in tiny batches by a rootworker who knows what questions to ask and listens to the answers, grows many of her own herbs, and has a great deal of experience negotiating relationships across the crossroads – between cultures and vocabularies, between the human and the animal, mineral, and vegetable, between the visible and invisible worlds. No assembly lines or mass production here, and no mix and match BS or “hoodoo voodoo gypsy Santeria sorcery from Atlantis” crap. Innovation and adaptation are part of living folk tradition, sure, but those innovations and adaptations should spring from within the culture and make sense within the underlying coherent paradigm. That means you have to understand that underlying paradigm before you can innovate within it. Otherwise you’re just appropriating. I’m fluent in the paradigm, so you will find discussions both scholarly and pragmatic of both traditional and developing practices. You’ll find explanations, guidance, opinion, theory, and acknowledgment of sources. And you will see me call out mix and match BS when I see it (which is constantly), with explanations of what the deal is. You will not find the fingerprints of ill-fitting neopagan paradigms on my conjure stuff or any attempt to “paganize” hoodoo or scrub the Christianity from traditional Southern-style conjure. You don’t have to be Christian to do this stuff, but you should expect to encounter some Christian references in traditional conjure. You won’t find talk of karma or the “law of three” here (except to point out that neither of them have *any* place in traditional hoodoo rootwork). 19th century rural Alabama is not 19th century urban Philadelphia or pre-Reformation England or 20th century Haiti or any-century New Orleans. Simbi is not Mercury and Erzulie is not the Virgin Mary or the Goddess. Mullein is not an adequate substitute for graveyard dirt. Traditional hoodoo formulas do not smell like watermelon or have glitter in them. All cultures and languages are not all the same underneath. I have no patience for the “all gods are really one god” bit of implicitly imperialist and ethnocentric nonsense. It matters where things are from and what dirt they grew in. And you’ll find formulas here with descriptions that acknowledge this and explain their sources. To the best of my ability, I give you that information rather than just asking you to take my word for it. I don’t try to be your go-to person for every system under the sun (and I think you should be very skeptical of anyone who does try to do that). But what I do know, I’ve studied and worked exhaustively, and if I take your case as a client, I ultimately want to provide you with sufficient resources and knowledge to eventually put myself out of a job. I want you to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing and how to do the essentials yourself if you want to, just like you should know how to make biscuits even if you usually prefer to go out to brunch. So if you want to be an informed and educated and active consumer of spiritual products and services in the conjure tradition — if you want to know what you’re doing and talking about — you’ll find that here, too.
SpecialtiesI specialize in Success, Protection, Uncrossing, Reversing, and Spiritual Cleansing work. Protection work is a particular specialty of mine, and I am not afraid to get my hands dirty taking action in cases that consultation and divination reveal to be justified. I am a firm believer in good old-fashioned personal and home cleansing and protection; experience has taught me that it is the foundation for success in so many other kinds of work. To read more about types of altar services I offer and what kinds of cases I do and do not take, see the Types of Altar Work page. My forte is custom-made and custom-finished amulets, talismans, charms, pakets, and shrines. I love to do work like this, so if you want a St. Michael chaplet made especially for you or a home protection amulet with certain bones, stones, and curios involved, contact me and let’s talk.
Religious & Cultural ConsiderationsI was raised a sort of maverick, hippie-flavored Catholic, I guess you could say, but I had an excellent, albeit unusual, religious education and I have a pretty decent amount of experience with and knowledge of other faiths and folk traditions. And you certainly do not have to be Christian to have hoodoo work for you. Most of my clients these days are folk Catholics, followers of an African traditional or diasporic religion, nondenominational sorceror/witchy types, or folks who consider themselves spiritual but not a certain religion. However, I work with clients from lots of different faiths, cultures, nations, and creeds, and I can work with you on creating solutions that are in alignment with your spiritual and ethical framework. So you should expect traditional hoodoo rootwork here, but there is some flexibility within that tradition. I will not pretend hoodoo is something it isn’t, but I also won’t just say “here’s the only option you have, take it or leave it.” I study (though do not lay hereditary or initiatory claim to and am not an expert in) some strains of what you might call “faith healing”, for lack of a better term, particularly those traditions of Mexico, Italy, and Cajun Louisiana. I come from a very Catholic-steeped folk magic background, so I have a longstanding working relationship with many saints and spirits, both orthodox and popular, that are called upon in North, Central, and South America especially. Devotionally and ecclesiastically, I work in a Franco-Haitian Gnostic Vodou lineage with full consecration as a bishop in several lines of succession, including those of Vilatte, Doinel, and Houngan Lucien Francois Jean-Maine. As an autocephalous bishop in the independent sacramental movement, I am legitimately empowered to fulfill ecclesiastical roles requiring ordination or consecration, including exorcism and the administration of sacraments. (If you’re here for the bishop/Gnostic Vodou/points chauds stuff, you should visit this blog.) Here in the Southeastern U.S., I work with an extended network of fellow bishops, energy workers, rootworkers, serviteurs of the spirits, healers, builders, visionaries, herbalists, homesteaders, and really cool old folks who have been puttering around in their gardens long enough to know how to feed a small army on local weeds in case of apocalypse. Some of this network is regional, some further afield and the alignment is spiritual or ethical, but we all “run the woods” in one way or another. So if you’re in the region and looking for expertise closer to home, I just might know someone. These folks are a continual source of education and inspiration for me. And I learn more every day from my family and ancestors as well as from the clients and customers from all over the world I have the privilege to meet and work with. I am also indebted to cat yronwode and AIRR for the opportunities afforded for professional development as a rootworker during my membership there, from its inception until late 2015 when I took a hiatus from public life. I am deeply grateful to Tau Allen Greenfield, Tau Dositheos, Tau Peristera, Tau Heosphoros, Tau Thomas Dionysus, and the other clergy and kindred working In Free Communion, especially those of the Great Arabia Mountain Working 2005-2013, for their guidance and companionship on my ecclesiastical path. And to my kin from the old church in the valley of the mountain: Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, ché la diritta via era smarrita. Some lost, some found, but none ever forgotten: Andiamo.
Karma Zain at AIRR Karma Zain’s Bio at KarmaZain.com Karma Zain: Brief Bio at Big Lucky Hoodoo
- Karma Zain: Bio at SeraphinStation.com
- Karma Zain on Pinterest
- Testimonials (selected, 2002-2012)
- Testimonials (selected, 2002-2020)
- “Desiring Angels: The Angelic Body in Paradise Lost.” Criticism 54.1 (2012): 117-149.
- Occult of Personality, Podcast 57. Interview on points chauds and Congregational Illuminism (as Tau Naamah, my ecclesiastical name), with Tau Dositheos and Tau Allen Greenfield. First aired March 3, 2009.
Interview with Karma Zain by an anthropology student Interview with Karma Zain by Miss Bri
- “Daughter of God, Sister of Angels: The Soul-Body Relationship in Old English Literature.” Southeastern Medieval Association Conference, Atlanta, GA, Oct 2011.
- “Sacred Art in African Diasporic Religion.” Illumination Expo, Atlanta, GA, Sep 2011. Invited speaker.
- “The Soul in the African Diaspora.” Agnes Scott College, ANTH/REL 219 (Trans-Atlantic Voodoo), Feb 2011. Invited speaker, honorarium received.
- “’The Angels Men Complain Of’: Monstrous Masculinity in Li Contes del Graal.” International Medieval Congress, Leeds, UK, July 2010.
- “’Monster Culture (Seven Theses)’: A Roundtable with Jeffrey Jerome Cohen.” 44th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2009. Invited panelist.
- “Unnatural Births: Satan’s insceafte in Solomon and Saturn II.” 44th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2009.
- “Memory, Lineage, and Geography in New World Voodoo.” ANTH/REL 219 (Trans-Atlantic Voodoo), Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA, Feb 2009. Guest lecturer, honorarium received.
- “The untydras of Beowulf.” Southeastern Medieval Association Conference, St. Louis, MO, Oct 2008.
- “New World Voodoo.” ANTH/REL 219 (Trans-Atlantic Voodoo), Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA, Feb 2008. Guest lecturer, honorarium received.
- “The Borders of the Body in Beowulf.” South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference, Atlanta, GA, Nov 2007.
- “Reading the Handwriting on the Wall: Literacy, the Word, and Culture in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” Student Conference, Mobile, AL, May 2007.
- “Symbolic Exchange and Monstrous Appetites in Beowulf.” Southeastern Medieval Association Conference, Oxford, MS, Oct 2006.
- “Writing Sojourner Truth: Myth, Authorship, and Identity since Akron, 1851.” 3rd Annual Gender Studies Conference, Mobile, AL, April 2004.