Conjure in pop culture – Supernatural S2 E8, “Crossroad Blues”

In Season 2, Episode 8, “Crossroad Blues,” the boys encounter a tin box buried at a crossroads surrounded by yarrow plants, which they remark on as being useful for “summoning rituals.”   The box contains an old apothecary bottle they surmise is full of graveyard dirt, a black cat bone (the whole damned leg bone, all still attached, including foot, tarsal/metatarsal, and radius/ulna), and a photo of the pact-maker, which they call “deep South hoodoo stuff.” There also appears to be a bundle of something that might be spanish moss, but you only get a glimpse. Ten years later, the pact-makers who did the crossroads rite see hell-hounds who come to fetch them at the expiration of their contracts, in this universe sealed with a kiss by a demon at the crossroads.


“So it’s just like the Robert Johnson legend, right? I mean, selling your soul at the crossroads kind of deal?”
“Story goes that he died choking on his own blood. He was hallucinating and muttering about big evil dogs.”

They find a pact maker with a peppery powder at his door, which he identifies as Goofer Dust. He then tosses them a leather mojo full of it that “keeps out demons.” Apparently it works even on hell-hounds, at least for a while.

We are largely in the realm of creative liberties here; this is a gumbo of influences, or perhaps it’s more like fusion cuisine. The writers seem to go to hoodoo when they want to evoke something particularly Southern or relating to a specifically African-American character with family knowledge (though to be fair, they mix it up pretty well and so far at least don’t seem to be painting with too broad a brush stroke or singling any one group out for any special treatment – like I said in the comments to my last Supernatural post, there’s a little something to annoy everyone of every religious persuasion in this series, not least of all orthodox Christians of several persuasions; the universe’s view of God is actually breathtakingly grim, and with so many sexy demons running around, I’m kind of surprised I haven’t heard more moral outrage from more quarters).

But while this is hoodoo-flavored, and there are some definite hoodoo spices mixed up in this one, as a whole they still don’t quite make a hoodoo dish. Individually, the crossroads, the black cat bone, the goofer dust, the photo, and the blues allusions all smell like hoodoo, but they don’t make a whole lot of sense mixed together. They’re just designed to evoke hoodoo associations and set the stage for where this particular universe is taking its particular characters.

I’m not here to enter the fray about when, where, how, and if Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for supernatural talent in blues-playing. There is tons of crap out there about it, and we can’t ever know the truth about anything that happened at midnight at a rural crossroads. Those rites usually require that you don’t have an audience, after all. I can recommend Lucky Mojo’s page on the crossroads legend, most especially for the explanation of how this “black man” or “devil” that you encounter is a distinct entity from the Judeo-Christian devil. (Though cat yronwode also gets into the question of whether that was really Robert Johnson who made that claim publicly, and the record would suggest that it was not.) That accords with my experiences and background as well: in deep South conjure, the rite done at the crossroads did not traditionally involve *selling one’s soul to the devil* or any kind of Faustian pact like that. That sort of thing was layered on afterwards by folks from outside the tradition, splicing in European lore. And if you peruse the Hyatt material, pertinent bits of which are excerpted at the Lucky Mojo page linked to above, you’ll find some remnants of surviving lore about a rooster leg (rather than a cat leg) involved in the rite. But the simplest form — the heart of the rite — is just showing up for a set number of nights in a row and waiting on the entity to appear to teach you a skill, usually involving manual dexterity of some kind. Again: this rite, done traditionally, does not involve selling your soul to any entity, never mind the Judeo-Christian devil; you do not need a black cat bone; you do not need yarrow; you do not need graveyard dirt; and you do not need to worry about hell-hounds coming for you later (though there is lore that sometimes the entity that comes to the graveyard is a creature rather than a man, so the black dog is a nice touch there).

As far as Goofer Dust goes, I imagine everybody reading this knows that it’s not a first pick for keeping away bad spirits, though it could very well be peppery, depending on your recipe. While some of the ingredients in Goofer Dust might sometimes be used for situations involving nasty spirits, Goofer Dust itself is usually used to harm people, and some of the elements in it are sometimes used to *draw* nasty spirits. Generally speaking, Goofer Dust is less an element of protection than an element of crossing (often with killing intent). I would not use Goofer Dust in any sort of protective rite – various recipes differ depending on what the creator has on hand and the region they live in, but my formulas (for both regular Goofer Dust and Extra Strength Goofer Dust) all call for some kind of poisonous or venomous insect or creature, and my dust is created with intent to harm, so there are plenty of better ways to work.

As for yarrow, for all I know it might be used for summoning in some other tradition or possibly even some other region, but not in deep-South conjure. I have never heard of it having any relationship to any crossroads rite, either. I find it’s more often used for courage and, by extension, for strength. I suspect that its associations with psychic power or divination come in through a combo of European herbal lore and the flowering of the sort of faux-world-mysticism of the 60s that introduced many Western practitioner to things like the I Ching, in which yarrow stalks were sometimes part of that particular form of geomancy (though coins are a lot more common these days). I have things I much prefer for psychism, divination, etc.; I don’t imagine I would use yarrow for this unless I was inexplicably out of all the other stuff I prefer to use. I use it for courage and strength, and it’s a great additive to Success or Road Opener mojos/formulas for clients when the reading shows that part of what’s holding them back is internal or emotional fear or self-doubt or weakness.

And if you want guitar-playing skill without the crossroads rite? Try putting a rattlesnake rattle in your guitar. (If you play electric, you’ll have to make do with a mojo in your guitar case. Put the rattle inside a plastic globe from one of those gumball machines that the toys come in, or else use an Altoids tin, to keep it from getting crushed).

[*] In Season 3, Episode 5, “Bedtime Stories,” one of the characters goes back to the crossroads, and this time there’s a wooden box containing a silver skeleton key, a cat foot/paw skeleton on a leather cord (not the whole drumstick-and-thigh), the apothecary bottle presumably full of graveyard dirt, and some silver coins (most too large to be dimes but I can’t really tell what they’re supposed to be). Here are screencaps of the character adding his own photo in the form of a fake ID.

crossroads 1
crossroads 2

new (small) batch of black cat bones, and notes on all those “just a quick question”s people ask us

I have a few newly-prepared black cat bones in stock now.  It’s not a whole skeleton – it’s not even half a skeleton – but I do have a couple of bones that aren’t already "spoken for" if you are reading this and you have recently asked me about bone availability.  They are not as white as some earlier batches have been – I clean them the slow, old-fashioned way, by burying them.  I use certain timing measures and moon phases in their burial and preparation, in accordance with the way I was taught in central Alabama in the early 90s.  When they are ready to be dug up, they then get a peroxide bath and a toothbrush scrubbing.  But it takes a while to get the bones really white – these are likelier to be a bit yellower and/or stained than the ones in the photos you’ve seen.  If you going to be grossed out by a less-than-lily-white bone, then you might want to pass on this batch (by the time they could get whiter, they’ll probably all be gone or spoken for for amulets and mojo bags).

I’ve had several clients and customers write over the past couple of months looking for black cat bones for individual sale, not as part of a pendant or mojo or the like.  I stopped listing individual black cat bones a couple of years ago, when one of my long-time suppliers became no longer a good source and my access to black cat bones became greatly constrained. (I won’t buy or obtain them from just anybody – I have to trust the person that the death was from natural causes or accident and that the animal was not killed or harmed by the person trying to sell me the bones.  And some folks will lie just because they have the opportunity to make some cash off the "crazy brujeria chick who will give you money for your roadkill or your neighbor’s dead pet, man!"  I have to guard against those types, so even meeting a new potential source can take a while to result in new bones, because I have to check these people out and get to know them.  If you’re a newer reader and/or not familiar with my take on and use of black cat bones, follow the tags to learn more about my ethics on the matter, and more about why I think they’re valuable curios even without all the gruesome cat-torture spells that are supposed to result in getting the One Single Magic Bone from a black cat).

So I’m sorry I’m using social networking sites to post this, when several of you asked to be remembered and probably wanted a heads up before I made these public, but I am not really capable of keeping track of all the requests I get for things.  I get SO MANY emails every day, and it’s plenty of struggle just to keep up with the inbox on top of my other full time job[*] and making, packing, and managing product sales, not to mention the queue for readings and consultations, which has been about 8 deep since I got back from England.  I am not saying this to sound like I’m whining; I’m just trying to explain what my inbox looks like every day so you guys don’t get mad at me when I can’t remember who asked for what two weeks ago.  Could I keep a list and go down it to notify people when something they wanted came back into stock?  Sure, but I’d be out of business soon, because maintaining such a wish list is not a rent-paying activity, and most of my activities have to be rent-paying activities.  (Please ask me how much time I spent earlier this week tracking down something I stopped carrying but thought I had one more of in a drawer somewhere, for a client who asked for some custom work using this Item I no longer sell.  And then ask me if he actually purchased the thing I went out of my way looking for when I had so many other things on my to-do list (like the readings and consultations and light setting reports that are late right now).  Hint: the answer’s no.  Multiply things like that by 50 on an average week, and you might begin to get an idea of why I just have to draw some arbitrary limits sometimes.  I just don’t have time to do things that way, not when I am busting my butt to stay on top of the regular day to day business; I sincerely hope you guys who’ve asked don’t take it personally that you didn’t get personal email. I just can’t remember for sure who you were except for the very last, most recent person to ask, but I did encourage him to just email me later lest I forget.

(I get people who will write me after not having any contact in a year, and they will sign the email with their first name or nothing at all, and it will say things like "things have changed since we last talked, what do you recommend?"  I guess it seems like, since we spend so much talking over things, it would be impossible for me to forget you.  But it’s not about that at all – it’s about the fact that I have twenty "Deborahs" in my files, for instance, and I’ve made at least a hundred mojo bags in the last 12 months since I spoke to you last.  I might have recognized your name and even remembered some significant things about you, if you’d signed the email with your name, but that’s not to say I have much of a memory at all of what you’ve bought in the past, not unless I ended up doing some fairly complicated altar work for you, or had done a consultation rather recently.  So this is something any client of any worker should keep in mind – you may not deal with twenty workers every day, but your worker could very well deal with twenty potential clients every day.  If there’s been a lapse in communication, you can help your worker help you by briefly recapping the situation and the work and being sure to *sign your full name.*  What seems like a "quick question" to you could mean your worker has to dig through files and/or databases to find your case file/notes – multiply your "quick question" by the "quick question" of the other 50 people who emailed that day, and you have a raving mad rootworker who also happens to be starving to death because she’s engaged in non-billable work.  This isn’t to make it sound like we boil everything down to money money money – plenty of us do pro bono work and/or support various charities and causes we feel strongly about.  It’s just basically a question of not assuming everybody remembers your favorite color or dog’s name, but that that doesn’t mean they don’t care about their clients, and keeping in mind that rootworkers are human too, and they have power bills to pay, and if they do too much free work, then they will end up not being able to afford to be a rootworker anymore. And so their drawing of limits and boundaries also doesn’t mean that they don’t care about their clients.)

I don’t mean to make it sound like "oh my god I have so much business," because I actually don’t. It’s just that the business I do have, I do everything myself.  And I don’t mean to make it sound like "I wish people would stop writing me emails," because I don’t wish that.  I’m just one little old person trying to take care of her customers and her small handful of clients, and I want very much for you guys to understand where I’m coming from and what my days look like so you don’t take it personally if I can’t remember what city you were born in or whether your mojo bag had an angelica root in it or not.  (or whether you asked me to write you when I got some cat bones in.)

Livejournal and facebook are the best I can do right now, sorry!

So forward that last email to me in which you told me what you were wanting in terms of bones, and I’ll get back to you re. what I have.  Or drop into the ebay store and see if any of the new listings strike your fancy.  Or leave me a message here (or send a direct email), letting me know what you’re interested in. I have some fragments and chips, a couple of ribs, a couple of leg bones, some vertebra.

I do not have a complete skull, a complete tail, etc from this batch – i have a broken pelvis, a broken scapula, and about half of a skull; sorry, the dogs got to it the day after I buried it and I had to fight them over the damned skeleton and move a big-ass piece of paving stone over the interment spot.

There’s a leg bone up for auction on ebay, as well as a black cat bone gambling charm and a black cat bone bracelet.

Thanks for reading! I’ll try to put up a substantive hoodoo post this coming weekend instead of just babbling and bitching.


[*] I’m not kidding. I work full time during the day, and then I come home and work full time plus on the store, the altars, clients and customers, etc.  That’s why my emails tend to come between the hours of 5 pm and 5 am.  I do not sleep 8 hours a night.  I sleep on the weekends, hence my not being open for business and not shipping on weekends.

new stuff

Ending today

Lucky Black Cat Bone bracelet

New stuff:

Customized honey jar spell kit
.  You provide jar and honey; I provide the oil appropriate for your situation, an appropriate candle, instructions, and a packet of herbs custom-blended for your situation.  

St. Brigid altar piece

cat bones and black cat bone oil

The bad news: I’m running out of cat bones and not sure when I’m getting more.  One of my more frequent sources dried up last year and it’s been hard going.  I have a few in the ground right now and my fingers are crossed for summer, but we’ll see.

The good news: this got me thinking.  Why is my Black Cat Bone oil so expensive? Because of the herbs and curios in it, including a chip of genuine black cat bone among other curios, herbs, and minerals that make for a pricier bottle of oil.  But when you use the oil up, the bottle still has all those herbs and curios and minerals in it. So why not sell a refill bottle of oil that contains just the hand-blended essential oils? That way when people run out, they can get a refill to add to their empty bottles instead of having to go buy a whole new bottle when the cat bone and other good stuff in there is still perfectly good.  I mean, those cat bones aren’t going anywhere.

So yeah. That’s what I’ve done.  You can get an oil refill, containing no herbs or bones – only the blended essential oil – to add to your empty bottle of Black Cat Bone oil should you ever want to do such a thing.  And at a fraction of the price of the original bottle.

black cat bones for auction on ebay

I was lucky enough to get most of a skeleton last year, but I’m running seriously low on bones right now. I don’t know when I’ll get the ones I have in prep, and there aren’t very small ones in the batch being prepared – mostly larger leg bones and some fragments.

I have a foot bone and a claw bone up for auction right now.

black cat bones

Ok, let me just take a moment to register my continued appreciation for black cat bone work.  I can’t really say more as it’s a client situation that is ongoing, but after eighteen years of working regularly with black cat bones, those darned things still manage to surprise me sometimes.

Don’t underestimate the power of black cat bone work.

I’m currently working on a lottery / money paket for a client, and it’s going to have a black cat bone attached to the outside (rather than put inside with the other herbs and curios) — the reason for this is that, in my opinion and experience, these bones need to be handled, oiled, and fed.  Burying them inside a jar full of herbs isn’t quite the way to go  — these little buggers like to see what’s up, like to get around, like to be carried places, like to be fed and handled, like occasionally to see the moonlight.  Hell, I carry one of my original ones around in my purse in a flannel bag with a couple of other items – I’ve been feeding it since 1990 and this might sound silly, but we have a relationship.  So the bone for this paket will be on the outside so she can feed it a little drink of whiskey now and then.  It’s a relationship worth cultivating, I think; if the black cat bone can work for you like it appears to be working for my client after only a short time, think what you can do with one you keep around for a good long while.

a Hyatt spell for a “stuffed” black cat bone

Sometimes I get bones from people who have previously had the skeleton articulated and on display, so they’ll have little holes drilled into some of the joints. And then the way I learned to prepare and use these, they were always able to be worn on a necklace, so I used to drill holes in mine all the time.

Most folks don’t want a cat bone necklace these days, but many of my clients still prefer bones with little holes drilled in them so they can put herbs and oils inside the bone. Here is a spell from a Hyatt informant describing one such mixture of stuff you might put inside a black cat bone:

Vol.2, p.1358

“An’ now it’s a bone in his left hin’ laig – dat straight bone from de top part of de left hin’ laig – y’ git dat bone out of him [away]. But yo’ jes’ want dat bone out de left hin’ of de laig.

“An’ now, it’s a straight bone, yo’ see, an’ it has lak a little joint lak at de top. Now, yo’ take a knife or somepin an’ yo’ cut dat little joint off dat it has at de top. Yo’ see, yo’ cut it off round at de top.

“Now, into dat bone – yo’ stuff dat bone. Yo’ see it’s hollow on de inside of it. Yo’ take dat bone an’ yo’ stuff dat bone.
[Here is a new type of black cat bone {see pp.74-97) dressed or magically prepared {see p.92f.) by an expert. – Ed.]

“Yo’ git a powdah, yo’ understan’, whut dey call five-fingah grass, an’ yo’ stuff it into dis bone. Yo’ git steel dust an’ yo’ git dat genuine lodestone an’ see dat it be ‘live. An’ jis’ make it into dust, an’ put dat down into dat bone. Yo’ put all dat down into dat bone an’ yo’ take a piece of cotton – yo’ understan’, dis cotton dat chew use – an’ yo’ stuff de top of dat bone. Yo’ stuff dat aftah yo’ done stuff all de ingredients in dat boen – yo’ take a piece of cotton an’ yo’ stop it at de top, jis’ a piece of absorbant cotton. Yoo’ understan’?

“Now, yo’ keep dat, carry dat bone, an’ it must be concealed into a pocket, lak in a wallet or into somepin – jis’ keep it oil [oiled] – an’ it must be on yore person all de time. An’ nobody else must nevah touch dat bone but chew.”

(What is that lucky for, now?)

“Into any game, any kinda games, a crap game, or yo’ could go to a lottery game – any kinda game dat chew undertake tuh go into.”

[Algiers, LA; Informant #1583, Nahnee the “Boss of Algiers”]

back home

I’m back, trying to get caught up with orders placed while I was gone.

I have some water from the Gulf of Mexico, some sand from Dauphin Island, and a wonderful array of dried insects and reptiles.  I also have a few new black cat bones — some had to be reburied, and some didn’t survive the burying/cleaning/digging up/dog avoiding process.

What this means:

Good time for Yemaya and La Sirene baths, goofer dust, hot foot powder, and stuff involving black cat bones.  This set hasn’t had time to be bleached white yet, but if you don’t care about them being a little more “natural” looking, then these will be right up your alley.  I should be able to get them white in a few more weeks.

If you’re new to my journal, please note that I do not harm animals to make curios, jewelry, etc.  All animal curios and parts used in my formulas and items are gathered humanely.

Also, I’ll be putting up some original art by my mother (she did a lovely Green Man that needs framing) and some veve paintings from my cousin pretty soon, I hope. These two are much better artists than I am, so keep your eyes peeled.

ok, one more, and then I’m going to bed (black cat bone)

Hyatt’s HCWR, V. 2, “Medicine-Show Man” from Sumter, SC.

p. 1097: “De great mistake wit de people today dey take too long tuh find de black cat.  It do jes’ as well fo’ yo’ to ketch any cat and paint it black with any black powder or shoe polish.  Ghos’es is some way crazy ovah whiskey…dat whiskey is a witch’ry anyhow.  Anothah fine thing, doc.”

p 1100: “If yo’ kin git it, people take an’ use de thing dey call de black cat bone.  Dat’s kinda hard tuh git, though. De real way–de ole time way lak a ole 65 yeah ole fellah lak me– but de mos’ lucky bone in de world is de black cat bone.”

“De real ole-time way to git de bone is — yo’ ketch a black cat.” [Actually, the details of how to make the fire in the woods are a bit much for me to type, but of interest here is that he says 1. you can catch a cat and paint it black, as long as its black when you cook it, and 2. you need to put a lid on it after you throw it in the pot alive, or else “he’s goin’ have mo’ power den yo’ think, boy.”  Delightful.  Anyway, also of interest is, “It dont’ make no difference whether he’s black all ovah or not, but de back of him must be black from his haid to his tail — an his tail.”]

“…dere is a bone dat will come on top of de watah an all de othah bones really goin’ tuh sink.  Den yo’ take out dat bone whut come on top of de watah an’ dat’s worth a thousan’ dollahs to any man.”

p 1106: “On way — de ole time way of keepin’ de law out yore place is to — dat same black cat bone.  Yo’ take dat black cat bone an’ sew it up into some kind of a good stout cloth…an’ yo’ tack him up ovah yore do’.  In some cases, wherevah de black cat bone is kept, yo’ can afford to take a black cat bone an’ trace on a big cardbo’d jes’ de shape of dat black cat bone, an’ sew it up in a pad somepin lak a folding pocketbook, an’ tack it ovah de front do’ an’ one ovah de back do’, an’ dat keeps him out.  Some of de bones is very scarce — sometimes yo’ use dem as a substitute, but dey’s not quite as good as de real bone itself.  But yo’ can use it in cheaper form in dat way.”

Somebody remind me to post about the “graveyard snack.”

specializing, black cat bones (warning: avoid if squeamish)

So much to know and do.  I decided a while back I was going to just specialize instead of trying to know and do everything.  So I stopped doing I Ching and Feng Shui work for the public, cut out the Wiccan/European trad stuff, pretty much stopped doing natal chart readings and rune work, just about dropped out of the ceremonial magick stuff, and I stick to what I know and always enjoy: Tarot, rootwork, points chauds, vodoun.  I can’t know and do everything well, but damn if I can’t do those things.  When clients came for that stuff, I just started recommending somebody else instead of trying to be the jill of all trades. And sticking to what I know and love best has been the right thing to do.

Every time I dip into Hyatt material I want to type up just about everything and put it out there.  How I wish these would be made easily available to the public.  But I have to treat Hyatt material like everything else.  I have to specialize.  Problem is, I don’t really want to.  But for now I guess I’ll just stick to what interests me most at the moment or what I stumble on that is a long term interest.  Goes without saying that St. Expedite in particular, saints in general, and the black cat bone material are among my favorites, though I’m awfully fond of container spells and anything to do with dirt dauber nests as well. I’ve been into container spells since about ’78 in one form or another, and work with the saints even earlier than that (the Infant of Prague was my childhood favorite, because my great grandmother had a lushly dressed statue on one of her little altars in her bedroom, and I loved to look at him — much more than I liked to look at the picture of Veronica’s Veil where Jesus’ eyes would open after you looked at it for a while and appear to follow you all over the house.  Brrr.)

But at the end of the day, I guess I’ve been a black cat bone lady for coming on twenty years consistently, though I first learned about that type of work in the late 70s.

Anyway, here’s a black cat bone bit from Vol. 2, pp 1841-1842, “A Man Called Doc” from Florence, S.C., 1939.  cut for those who don’t like such lore.

Post cat-boiling (which by the way I do not do), the informant says,

“An’ ah taken dat an’ got on car an’ go out back towards — in Savanna it’s called East Savanna, an’ dey have a East Savannah and a West Savanna.  So ah went on out dere an’ ah went ovah tuh a friend of mine.  Jack Kettle was his name.  He’s dead now.  An’ ah went down to a little stream where nobody wouldn’t be dere tuh bothah wit me, yo’ know, suh.  An’ ah had tuh take mah han’ in all dat ole slime den.  An’ yo’s tuh search till yo’ git evah’thing dat feel like a little gristle.  An’ ah jes drop ’em dere an’ put ’em in de watah an’ dey’d go right on down.  De watah wuzn’t mo’ den dat deep, suh, where yo’ kin see de sand.  Drop ’em in dere an’ dey go on down.  An’ ah tell yo’ whut’s a fact.  Dere’s three bones in a cat.  Ah’m be able tuh tell yo’ cause ah have did it twice.  An’ de bones – de right foot bone it’s a small bone.  None don’t go to de top.  Dey all goes to de bottom.  Dat bone will be turnin’ ovah jes’ lak a worm.  It appears tuh come upstream, an’ ah taken it out.  Ah found de three.”

“What bones were they?  From what part of the body?”

“Ah don’t know, suh, whethah dey outa de tail or where dey’s from.  Dey’s real small.”

“You got three bones that were going upstream?”

“Yessuh, on de bottom of dat sand — on de bottom, yo’ know, suh. Be like a worm, jes’ be turnin’ ovah.  … Ah take it out.  Dere three — yes suh, dere really are three. So ah took one dose bones an’ sold it fo’ $20. Ah had plenty luck.”

N.B. The context preceding this quote is the informant talking about how to avoid bloodhounds, and the informant says he has done the turpentine trick himself to avoid bloodhounds.  The transcription segues immediately, on the same line, to the black cat bone work, which the informant says he has also done himself.