questions you’ve asked – on item instructions in general and saints candles in particular

Q: Why won’t you tell me what day of the week to light my saint candle on? [Implied: it’s a simple question, and I feel that the purchase of a $15 custom item from your store that it took you an hour to make, custom, just for me, creates an obligation for you to answer any question I have about how to use it even though you don’t know me or my situation from Adam’s housecat.]

A: So many tears would be prevented if folks read the FAQ before purchasing; the FAQ clearly states that this is simply an impossible thing for anyone to expect of me, which if you put yourself in my shoes for a few minutes and imagined that I get twenty emails just like yours every day, there is no way that I would have time to make these custom items.  The FAQ states:

Do your items come with instructions?

Not unless the listing states that they do; there is more than one way to use my products depending on the spell you are using. If you need guidance on general principles of spellcraft, or on using hoodoo oils, powders, etc in general, visit my blog for tips, tricks, and links to reliable, educational internet resources. If you require specific guidance or feedback and want my personal attention on your use of my products or on the spell you are casting, you can purchase a consultation session at my website. It is not humanly possible for me to answer every email I receive asking for free spell advice and for instructions on how to do X,Y, or Z with my products. If you need a spell, your single best resource is probably – they have hundreds if not thousands of hoodoo spells listed.

If you’re going to order a candle or oil and then get mad at me when I can’t answer questions about the specific spell you’re using with it, then I wish you wouldn’t order from me. I don’t advertise that service and don’t offer it; I do not offer free spell consultations. There are *hundreds* of spells out there. If you need one-on-one guidance, you might consider hiring a rootworker if you don’t know where to begin in doing your own research.

In part this is a problem of time. I spent at least 20 hours a week just answering emails (this does not include typing up light setting reports and consultations; this is essentially work I am not being directly paid for). It is not humanly possible for me to give free, custom advice to everybody who buys an item from my store. I would be out of business in no time because my power would be cut off and I would be starved to death.

But there’s an even bigger underlying issue here. The author of the email containing this type of question presumes that there is one simple answer to the question, “What day should I light my saint candle on?”

In fact, there is NOT one simple answer, and you can’t really blame your rootworker or product supplier if you bought an item without a spell in mind and then find yourself not knowing how to use it. There are a thousand spells and not all are equally suited to your situation; it requires an assessment of your case in order for your worker to advise you, and such assessments take time, and they are not automatically included in the purchase price of a $15, custom-finished, custom-painted, and custom-fixed candle.

Would you go into Lowe’s, buy a few pressure-treated cypress boards, and then bring them back to the cashier and say “Should I build my deck with the steps facing north or west?” I sure hope you wouldn’t. And if you did, I sure hope you wouldn’t get mad at the employee who said, “Actually, had you asked first, that isn’t the material I would have recommended given that you don’t know what you’re doing yet.”

An offer to customize according to client preferences does not automatically equal unlimited post-purchase support and troubleshooting.

But let me illustrate why this is not a question of me being stingy and withholding a simple answer (leaving aside for the moment that if it were simple, you could have found it in five minutes with Google). Let’s say, for instance, that the client purchased a fixed St. Gerard vigil candle. Client then writes and asks, “What day of the week should I light it on?” Here are (some of) the problems embedded in the question that make it NOT something with a simple answer (AND all of this is leaving aside the fact that I only have so many characters allowed by ebay in my response to your message sent on ebay, so i couldn’t type all of this even if I wanted to – and I don’t want to).

First of all, not everybody treats a vigil light for a saint like a vigil light for a hoodoo condition. Some folks will set a love light on Friday, because somebody told them to, or they read it somewhere, or it’s customary where they come from to do love work on Friday, or because Friday is associated with Venus through a long chain of complicated etymological, linguistic, and historical reasons [1] and Venus is the goddess of love.

Note First Huge Problem: this reasoning does not fly with somebody working that candle in an orthodox Roman Catholic tradition. Goddess of love? Surely you jest?!

If you work with St. Gerard as a Roman Catholic, doing a novena, you would light it whenever. If you were my great-grandmother, you would light it on Sunday, because she started all her novenas on Sunday with only a few exceptions.

If you work with St. Gerard as an image or aspect of the lwa Baron Samedi, then you would light it on Saturday.  I do not know what religion you are when you order this candle; I can’t tell you “the right answer.”

Let’s just say the for the sake of illustration that a petition to a saint would be set according to the same principles as a non-denominational love-drawing or other type of “condition” candle (NOT a wise assumption, but let’s just follow the thinking for the sake of argument). The answer obviously depends in part on what you are petitioning the saint for.

If you decided to use hoodoo guidelines to work your vigil or novena, and you were setting the light for the purpose of having a child, and you needed an eager, cooperative, loving husband and a couple in synch with each other, you might set it on Friday, since it’s the day for love but also the day for general attraction work. OR maybe you’d set it on Monday, since in some traditions it’s associated with the moon, which in some traditions governs fertility. Or on Sunday, since that is the traditional day of blessings in some religions/paths. Or on Tuesday if you wanted to focus on your husband’s virility, as Tuesday is the day of Tir or Tiw, the Germanic counterpart of Mars and known in Scandinavian traditions for strength, victory, battle, and other “virile” attributes [2]. OR you might set it on Wednesday, named for Odin, in turn associated with Mercury, because Mercury days are when you’d work to remove obstacles. Or on Thursday because it’s associated with Jupiter who you tap for any kind of abundance or success work.

I hope you get my point.

You want to get hung up on a day? Fine. Light in on October the 8th.

But it’s March, you say, and you want to do the novena now. Ok, no problem. Then LIGHT THE DAMN CANDLE NOW. If there is ONE DAY associated with a saint, it’s generally the saint’s death day, which generally becomes the feast day. So if you are hung up on certain days, then you are going to be waiting for one chance a year to light that candle.

Another problem inherent in the question is that not everybody uses days of the week to determine when they will set a light, regardless of the type of light. In general, I do not, unless the need for the light is not pressing but is something like a pre-booked set of lights over the course of a few months to improve communication between two people. In a case like that, I might set it on a certain day of the week – but I might not. It depends on a number of different factors. Some folks are more concerned about the planetary hour of the day, or the phase of the moon, or whether or not Mercury is retrograde, or what the sun and moon signs of the targets are. It’s complex. However, that does NOT mean you have to be all complicated in your approach in order to get results. If you purchase a fixed light, it’s fixed – I did everything that MUST be done short of lighting it. Anything else you choose to do is up to you and the framework you are working within.

Bottom line: There IS NO ANSWER to the question “on what day do I set the St. Gerard light” other than “that is up to you and the spell or framework you’ve chosen to work within.” Instead of presuming your rootworker is being mean or stingy, take a sec to listen to what they are saying and chill out with the getting peeved because you didn’t get the answer you wanted. Maybe you didn’t ask the right question.

Other bottom line: if I were independently wealthy and had all the time in the world, I would LOVE to just talk to folks about conjure and religion and spirituality and folk magic all day long. I would LOVE to. But I have to pay my bills just like you do, and I just plain cannot answer questions about individual specific situations and spells for free. If there is something that MUST be done in order for your product or object or item to work, I will let you know, I promise. If you MUST feed it with oil, I will tell you so.

But if it gets into the realm of preference or religious background or worldview or framework, then we are out of the realm of “must” and into the realm of “do your own research or book a consultation, or go ask those super-friendly, super-knowledgeable folks I’ve linked to for help.” I swear on my great-grandmother’s Bible than I do not insist on this to be a bitch – I insist on it because I get 100 emails a day and I have to pay my bills and feed my ever-hungry teenager and fill orders and do consultations for paying clients. If you think about it for a minute, what I’m saying here is not unreasonable – and I promise I charge a whole lot less than your lawyer does for a consultation.

Finally, again, if the shoe does not fit, do not wear it! If you are reading this, then you are the type that reads and probably finds the instructions and FAQs, and so this probably does not apply to you at all. I’ve written it up for the sake of new customers who might not understand my position here, and also by way of illustrating just how complex the choice of some aspects of conjure work can be – and how personal. When I say “one size does not fit all,” that does not mean it’s a free-for-all and that anything goes. Changes and tweaks and additions and modifications are done according to a certain logic that makes theoretical sense according to the conjure practitioner who has internalized this theory or logic. Changes and choices are made for a reason.

But that does not mean that all adaptations or changes will be the same in every case, and it furthermore does not mean every worker will do it the same way. I come from a Catholic background, but a worker who comes from a Protestant or non-Christian background may be making choices according to a different set of considerations than the ones I’m using. All changes and choices are logical and coherent within the operative framework; not every aspect of every worker’s framework is the same, though.

NOW, having said all that and it being nearly 3 am and me still needing to type up a couple of light setting reports and contracts before I can sign off for good for the coming week-and-change, HAPPY HOODOOING! I love y’all, and thanks for reading, and thanks for shopping with me, trusting me with your spiritual supplies needs, and giving me the honor of helping you achieve your goals with rootwork and/or advice. Don’t forget to “like” my business page on facebook!

As a reward for those of you who do read, and who have stuck with this post to the end even though you knew all this already, here’s an easter egg for you: at the Spring equinox (aka feast day of St. Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, aka 2nd Sunday in Lent, aka a Fire Festival, aka just-after-the-full-moon, aka the 20th of March), I will select randomly from among those who have left a comment in response to this post, here on livejournal.  [Ed.: this post was originally posted on livejournal; entries have been imported into WordPress but not comments.] I will send the winner a free bottle of extra-special, only-made-once-a-year spiritual oil. I won’t say what it is yet, and in fact I don’t have a name for it yet, but I promise it will be awesome, and I promise it will be rare, and I promise it will be multi-purpose and in the general range of blessing/abundance/prosperity, and I promise it will be hand-made by me with all the attention that all of my spiritual oils, powders, etc get. Just leave  a comment on this post right here to enter.

I do allow anonymous comments, but in order to be able to win something, you have to put either a unique username or a first name and last initial in the comment so that you would recognize your unique name/nickname if I were to announce it.  If you are John S., there is probably somebody else out there with your first name and last initial, so give me something else, like a nickname or city/state, ok?

Have a great March and thanks for stopping by!

[1] In the language of the Anglo-Saxons, Friday was Frigedæg, named for the Germanic goddess Frig. This came about because the language of the learned in Europe at this time was Latin, and so all correspondence, records, prayerbooks etc used when the Germanic settlers were converted to Christianity were initially in Latin. Thus what we now call Friday was then called “dies Veneris,” or “the day of Venus,” as this is how the imperial calendars in the Roman empire worked – all days of the week were named after planets (which in their turn were named after the gods). English-speaking clerics translated this into the vernacular as “the day of Frig,” as they mapped the Roman deities onto Germanic deities in cases of translation like this. So if I were working within some sort of British and/or folk tradition, I might make my choices based on the fact that this is currently Hrepmonað, named for the goddess Hreðe (not that we actually know much about her, as her name was preserved by a Christian monk who was happy to see the worship of the pagan gods pass), and/or that today is Quiquagesima Sunday, when the homilies focus on when Christ was said to have healed a blind man, and/or that the full moon is coming up on the 19th and the moon is currently waxing, and/or that the Equinox is coming up, etc.

If I were coming from a more typical Protestant background in my conjure work, I would probably not be working with St. Gerard at all.  He’s not a household name in non-Catholic circles like St. Expedite is, and it might be more common to call on the angel Gabriel for fertility stuff in some circles, given his role in the Annunciation.

See, working with the saints is not actually shot through-and-through traditional Southern-style rootwork. I grew up petitioning the saints and dressing the Infant of Prague in fancy robes and putting the baby Jesus statue in the arms of the Joseph statue and putting a crown of woven flowers on the Virgin Mary statue in May. But I grew up in a rare family – a deep-South Catholic family. Outside of those areas like Louisiana where Catholicism was everywhere, there actually aren’t all that many Catholic rootworkers, and of the thousands and thousands of saints that the Catholic church recognizes or has recognized, only a small handful are widely known in hoodoo. That’s why it’s pretty easy to find out what day folks might set a light for love drawing in general, but not so easy to find out what day folks might set a light to a Catholic saint that hasn’t quite made it into the “mainstream” like St. Expedite has. It’s hard to find “the rules” on days to set saints’ lights in conjure because there are no rules.  You will find differences in how novenas to even popular saints like St. Expedite are handled, some folks saying Wednesday, some Sunday, etc, some a red candle, some a blue candle, etc.

[2] The word “virile” itself comes from the Latin word meaning “man,” so when I say courage/battle/strength are “masculine” attributes, I’m being etymological here, not sexist.

excerpts from an interview; frequently asked questions; about Karma Zain

I thought I’d share some excerpts from an interview I was asked to participate in recently, since I have it typed already, and since the questions that were asked are variations of questions I’ve heard plenty of times before. (This was from a university student  doing academic research in anthropology.)

Q: How did you become interested in hoodoo?

A: I grew up on the gulf coast in Alabama as one of sixteen first cousins just on one side of the family, and spent a lot of time with my large, close-knit family all over the southeast — Scots-Irish Protestants in Texas; English Episcopalians and Irish Catholics in Alabama and Louisiana with lots of intermarrying and close “social family” connections in the SW part of the state, hence aunt who teaches French, Cajun siblings-in-law, and a cousin who did her anthropology thesis on traiteurs in St. Landry parish and thereabouts; English/Spanish/Native/Mexican/who knows Catholics in Florida, mostly Pensacola; Irish and Scots-Irish Methodists and Catholics a bit further up north in Butler and Lowndes Counties, AL; and lots of folks scattered in between. We’re a huge family of storytellers who collect lore and practice scores of family traditions, and we all crisscrossed the region several times a year for birthdays, concerts, and to trade around the kids for summer vacations and holidays. My grandparents lived in a tidy but dirt-poor Mobile neighborhood just down the street from a passel of palm readers who were standing room only after church on Sundays.  My great grandmother in Pensacola lived in an immigrant neighborhood – well, Pensacola basically *was* an immigrant neighborhood – and between her church work and his work in a local deli, they knew *everybody* and got recipes and stories from everybody.

my great-great grandparents in Lowndes County, AL

So for instance, my great grandmother had a houseful of home altars with fully dressed saints statues, holy water everywhere, rosaries all the time; she went to mass every day down the street, but you have to get that Jesus and the saints were full time members of the family, not some folks you just visited at God’s house on Sunday.  This wasn’t special stuff you only did at certain times. It was all as everyday as bubblegum. When you are poor and live in the deep south and have a lot of folks around for whom folk traditions and “folk Catholicism” and folk cures and beliefs are woven into the fabric of their lives, these folk traditions and practices like hoodoo are everywhere.  Mind you, nobody called it that, and my great-grandmother might have tanned my hide if I’d equated salting the porch and sweeping after the tax man came with hoodoo. Or it’s possible the word would have been meaningless to her.

Courir de Mardi Gras in Mamou, Evangeline Parish, LA
But it was everywhere, and I was intensely interested in all these folk practices from an early age.  My mama would go down to the giant junk shop on Moffatt Road in the early 80s in Mobile, which was where most people went for lawnmower parts, used appliances, various hardware stuff, discount shoes, whatever – stuff was literally piled on top of other stuff in this space that had once been a nightclub – and she’d be looking to get the lawnmower fixed, or to get a new belt for the vacuum, and I would wander off to the counter where there were a few occult books tucked under the glass and a bunch of plaster statues and ceramic crosses and stuff, and if I stood there long enough, the owner would come by and ask if he could help me. I would tell him I wanted a bottle of Dragon’s Blood oil and he would go in the back. He’d come out 5-10 minutes later with an unlabeled bottle for me that he’d mixed up and/or poured out of a larger bottle.  My grandmother lived a block away from Professor Val, who did spiritual consultations and palm readings, and the little old neighborhood ladies would get out of church on Sunday and go straight to see Prof. Val every Sunday.
It was everywhere if you knew what you were looking at, just like all those million folk cures for taking off warts or keeping away the yellow fever with sulphur and fettidy or keeping the baby from getting colic were.  Maybe the rich folks could afford to take the baby to the doctor every time it got sick, but most folks couldn’t, and the sense of community resourcefulness and home remedies had the same kind of feeling as pragmatic spiritual practices a lot of times – maybe not everybody even believed in astrology, or even gave much thought to whether the kind of stuff they were doing at home was or was not compatible with official Sunday religion.  But even people who were a little skeptical would probably try to get the wart taken off.   So it was all around, to be absorbed – it just didn’t have a name, not in the circles I knew, not in conversation anyway.  Some people would even have those books but it wasn’t the kind of thing you really ever sat down to talk about.
back yard grotto for the Virgin Mary in Evangeline Parish, LA

Q: Is hoodoo something you believe in, or is it a nostalgic practice that you appreciate the history of?

A: I don’t think these two things are mutually exclusive, for starters.  I do truly believe in it, and I also specialize in it rather than in any other kinds or strains or traditions of folk magic or spirituality because I appreciate the history of it; it’s in my blood, it’s in the food I grew up eating, with the baby Jesus in the King Cake and the silver dime in the black eye peas at New Year’s and the gifting the frankincense, gold, and myrrh to the baby Jesus on the Epiphany.  I have studied and even been initiated into other kinds of magical or occult traditions, but I don’t even fool with much of that stuff anymore.  I gave up all the fancy robes and secret passwords and now I work with my hands and the herbs and bones again, instead of a wand and sword.  It’s just more natural to me, and easier, and much more effective, and plus my mama already grows half the herbs I need and I don’t have to go chasing down some rare expensive perfume from Timbuktu to make the stuff I need to make.

Q: So people still seek out conjure as a source of medicine today?

A: Sure.  A combination of poverty, of less access to regular sophisticated medical care, of mistrust of the medical profession in some subcultures and areas, and often simply a truly different conception of the body/mind/spirit relationship than the bio-based perspective of the medical profession all feed into this – I’m sure you know more about this than I do as an anthropology student. There’s a lot of danger in some old folk practices – my grandmother used to let us play with liquid mercury and she was more likely to treat childhood illness with “monkey blood,” aloe vera, a cup of whiskey mixed with lemon and honey, and a heating pad than she was to go stand in line at the clinic, and we just didn’t know better then.  But that’s not to say that aloe vera doesn’t heal burns, and that whiskey+honey+lemon won’t soothe a sore throat.  There’s a lot of wisdom in the old folk practices too.

Saying a rosary to St. Dymphna can actually help a mentally distressed or stressed out or anxious person, not only because it addresses their trouble in a familiar way that validates their belief system and culture of origin and makes sense to them as a whole person who is part of a kin and social network wtih certain shared beliefs and vocabulary, but also because focused, repetitive activity like that can be relaxing, can lower the blood pressure and the level of adrenaline in the body by interrupting the circuit of stress and anxiety, giving the sufferer something soothing to do that gives them some agency and sense of being in control of at least some part of the situation.
That sense of agency is something that poor folks who go to the health center or the county clinics or who are on the state medicaid or medicare type insurance get taken away from them all the time; doctors reinterpret them and reinterpret their experiences to them and translate them into numbers and statistics and organs and systems and genes.  These are the good doctors.  The bad ones treat their poor patients with a barely-disguised sneer sometimes, especially if those patients are pregnant women.  It’s demeaning and dehumanizing.  Supplementing traditional medical care with faith-based treatments that are explicable in the person’s culture of origin and treat the person holistically in terms of mind/body/spirit can be very helpful and empowering, even if you don’t have any scientific evidence that St. Dymphna helped the panic attack, or St. Peregrine helped put the cancer in remission.  Then of course there is the whole question of the inherent healing properties of so many herbs in themselves. But I am not the one to talk about herbal medicine – there are better folks out there to talk to about that.  It’s not all malarkey though.
a spiritual bath as part of a communal spiritual event in central GA

Q: Do you follow strict guidelines, or do you see hoodoo as flexible and open to innovation?

A: I’m not sure I understand this question, what you must be trying to get at by asking it.  If you mean, do I always do a money drawing spell the same way, of course not.  I think every community adds its own original components to things; as long as they emerge organically from and meet the needs of the community, I see it less as innovation and more as the adaptability that is critical to survival and that is the hallmark of any oppressed or underprivileged community.  Hoodoo isn’t about individual practitioners exactly, though of course it’s had its superstars in legend and history.  But it’s about communities and geography and local tradition.  I use red candles for St Expedite but I know of a lady near Savannah who uses pink or blue, depending on the work.  She and I come from different communities and if somebody were to sit down and really study it, they could maybe even figure out why one person from one region or with one type of ethnic background has a slightly different take on somebody from another region or ethnic background.

Another example – I don’t use mercury anymore – when I make a fixed nutmeg for a client, I might use tinfoil or even a cigarette paper or chewing gum wrapper with a shiny side instead.  Mercury is dangerous, but aluminum has enough of the same properties to substitute for some of what mercury did.  I might use other herbs or curios to make up for what aluminum can’t do.  Or, if losing a key ingredient that can’t really be replaced with anything else, then I might use a different approach or trick or curio or spell instead.  If you can’t get semen, there is no point substituting anything else and trying to do the knotted string trick to tie a man’s nature.  You just have to use a different trick.  Same with ritual disposal of spell remains.  If I still lived in New Orleans, I would probably not use as much graveyard dirt for such a variety of things as I do now, living outside Atlanta where there is plenty of it to be had and the dead are not so crowded.   Hoodoo is practical.  You have to look at what you need, waht you want, what you have, what you can get, and how you can make do.

As a professional rootworker, you also have to know your client. My 60 year old African American clients from small towns in Louisiana, or my 40 year old Catholic clients of Spanish descent from a little town in Florida – they want what they know and what they grew up with. These two come to me and not some other worker, not because I am The Best Worker Ever, or even the best at her type of case, and not because I am a certain race or not a certain race or ethnicity, and not because I am or am not a certain religion, even, maybe.  I think a lot of times, they come to me because we speak the same language and grew up eating the same food and breathing the same air and scraping the same red dirt out from under our fingernails.  They don’t want me fixing something that isn’t broken, and why would I?  A city-born worker telling her to run out to Super Target or the health food store and buy a box of fancy chinese herb tea to make a bath from isn’t going to be the worker for her.  She wants a worker who knows good and damned well the nearest Target is in Metairie and it isn’t going to have the fancy chinese tea anyway.  But because I grew up in and around small towns where stuff isn’t open 24/7 and where nobody wanted chinese tea anyway, I can tell her what to go get at the Winn Dixie that will do just as well.  Similarly, I might be way too “country,” or way too snotty about Anna Riva oils, for a client who grew up in a city where Anna Riva oils are what they had and what she has used her whole life, and who the hell do I think I am to tell her to pee in a bucket and throw some brown sugar in there instead of buying a premade, nicely scented wash that she uses and that her mother used before her?  So some of it is “fit” – a shared perspective and vocabulary and culture rather than “one true way” or “this way superior to that way no matter what.”
my great-grandmother and some of her children, Pensacola, FL
But I’m not making these changes because I am trying to be some rock star to bring innovation to the practice, or because I think you can still call it conjure if you use a rose quartz and invoke the goddess and the horned god and don’t do any Old Testament style work because you’re afraid of the law of three (I wouldn’t call that conjure).  Or whatever.  I am making the changes because they are sensible, they are in alignment with the traditional principles and theories, and they are in response to available resources and the needs of the person doing the work.  Everybody has a different potato salad recipe, but potato salad in the southeast tends to have certain traits in common, a certain framework behind it that makes it what it is, a certain point past which innovation makes it hard to call it potato salad anymore.  Same with hoodoo I think.

Q: [Referencing Zora Neale Hurston’s account of a conjure rite to dismiss an evil spirit, gathered in the Bahamas in the 30s.  It involves killing a chicken and capturing a spirit in a bottle.]  Is this a practice you are familiar with?

A: Not in US hoodoo, no.  This happened in the Bahamas, as you know, and also in the 30s.  The time and place and community and culture all matter, and while you may be able to point to some common ancestry in the family tree of this practice and the sorts of practices you’ll see in US hoodoo, that doesn’t make them interchangeable. When most folks where I grew up consider hoodoo in the US, they wouldn’t consider this hoodoo exactly.  Some folks might allow it as conjure and make a distinction between conjure and hoodoo, but I can tell you that where I grew up, and for the majority of my clients that grew up with this versus learning about it over the last few years thanks to the internet and a few books, this isn’t something any of us would do.  Maybe a modern day rootworker who practiced one of a few African Traditional Religions I can think of might do some rite like this – I’m not saying that the elements and principles aren’t explicable and even, singly, recognizable — but most rootworkers are still Christian, and most rootwork clients are still Christian too.  US hoodoo has other ways of dismissing evil spirits, not least of all because we do not live on an island and we do not have easy access to live chickens these days, in most places.  it would be needlessly complicated and needlessly expensive to do this rite in Atlanta, GA in 2010, and it would not be acceptable to the majority of my clients, were I to prescribe it, I don’t think. There are other ways of working that make more sense in this day, age, and place.


NB: These photographs are my own personal property from my own personal collection.  They are NOT in the public domain, they did NOT come from some random website, they are not licensed under a creative commons license, and you may NOT use them without my express written permission.


Does anybody know how to make text wrap around images in livejournal?

back home, update, and 19th century fortune telling with eggs

I’m back home, and the ebay store is open again (yes, every in-house order was shipped before I left).  Just so people wouldn’t forget I existed, I put  up a couple of auctions while the store proper was closed.  There’s a Gran Bois rosary and a small paket ending tonight – bids for both are still really low, so it’s a great chance to get a bargain on handmade stuff!

My back is still not tip-top, though it’s better than it was the last full week of June, and it’s better than it was yesterday morning.  But I am not out of the woods on this one, unfortunately, so if I suddenly disappear again that’s why.  No out-out-of-town of any significant length planned anytime soon, though.

While I was home in Alabama, some relatives and I were going through some of my great grandmother’s old papers, and in a portion of her "memoirs" she related a game she and her brothers and sisters used to play, to tell who you would marry.

You had to do this on New Year’s Eve, the last night of April, or on Hallowe’en.  Whoever wanted to know their future mate would put an egg in the fireplace, before the fire, at 9 p.m.  That person had to sit by the fire, "not speaking or spitting," until midnight, at which point he or she would see the one destined to be the future spouse come in at midnight and turn the egg.

My great grandmother and her other siblings sat with her older brother one New Year’s Eve when he did this.  (She didn’t record the date, but she was born in 1886, and this happened while she was old enough to sit up with her siblings but before she married, so we’re sometime in the last decade of the 19th century or first of the 20th, most likely).  Nobody came in and turned the egg, and her younger brother got up after midnight, bored and jeering at the whole thing a bit, and poked it with a poker.  It promptly exploded, sending scalding bits of cooked egg and shell all over their hair and faces. 

This is similar to a number of other spouse-predicting spells in European traditions, involving eggs and/or special nights of the year, but for the curious, this particular event happened in central Alabama sometime near the turn of the century, in a very small farming community, with first and second generation settlers from all over Europe, so there’s not a particular "stamp" on this tradition.