Stumbled across a set of instructions for making red brick dust the other day. It had 10 separate steps and required a mortar and pestle, some rum as an offering, hand/wrist strength, patience, and a whole lot of praying.
Y’all, I’m gonna give you my secret recipe for red brick dust. And this is authentic — my ancestry on my father’s side is Louisiana Creole through and through. My father was the first generation in our lineage *not* to be born in Louisiana since my 5th great grandfather in 1752. New Orleans cemeteries are positively jammed with ancestors, on both my father’s paternal side (French Creole) and my mother’s maternal side (Spanish Creole, many of whom settled in Florida after coming through the port of New Orleans but ended up buried in New Orleans anyway given how the Catholic Church and its diocese system works – and one of these ancestors made her living in Pensacola by running a brickyard). [*]
And this is how we do it in my family. I’ve never shared this with the public before. You ready?
Continue reading “Red Brick Dust – My Secret Family Recipe (with bonus tidbits on 18th century Louisiana Creole culture)” →
Available through Seraphin Station, this rosary is handmade with a mix of pressed glass and Czech glass beads, each decade being separately attached to the center ring — a finger rosary — and embellished with a focal Pater bead of pressed glass, Czech glass, or in one case recycled sandcast glass. Whether you want to see this as a charm collection on a charm hanger displaying seven individual chaplets or single-decade rosaries, or as a sort of deconstructed All Saints’ rosary for contemporary rootworkers, this is a striking and unusual piece created by a rootworker with over 35 years of experience working with the roots, rosaries, and these saints in the folk Catholic tradition.
Large, sturdy, colored aluminum jump rings connect each decade to the center ring, so it’s possible, should you ever want to, to remove the individual decades and treat them as separate single-decade chaplets. This could be useful if you are working intensively with one or some but not all of these saints or if you’re traveling and need to cut down on how much spiritual stuff you’re lugging around.
Saints are chosen for their importance in the spiritual landscape of deep South hoodoo rootwork, with an eye towards popularity and contemporary usage (in the sense that while 100 years ago, St. Dymphna was probably not petitioned so often in conjure, today she is an enormously popular saint invoked by folks from all kinds of backgrounds and in all kinds of folk belief contexts. So she’s here!)
It’s made with strands or decades for the following:
- St. Gerard, patron of pregnancy and childbirth in the Catholic tradition, also represents Baron Samedi of Haitian vodou in some houses and temples. He is the patron of communication with the ancestors and the dead. On the other side of this medal is Our Lady of Perpetual Help pictured with Christ and the angels Michael and Gabriel. OL of Perpetual Help is called on for all kinds of things – in hoodoo in my region, it’s often against sickness, income uncertainty, hunger, and unstable households. She’s known to help with all of those things. She’s also associated in some houses and temples with the lwa Erzulie Danto.
- St. Lazarus is the patron saint of lepers and against leprosy, and by extension against plague and pandemic in contemporary practice. He’s also sometimes invoked by beggars, the homeless, people with HIV/AIDS, people with Hansen’s disease, and those who have unusually close relationships with dogs. He represents the lwa Legba, the patron of Yoruban divination and master of the crossroads, in many temples and houses, so he’s a powerful ally in road opening work.
- St. Expedite is the patron saint invoked for fast luck, for help breaking through obstacles, for help with procrastination, and, increasingly, in desperate cases, much like St. Jude. He’s also the patron of computer programmers. In some regions and in some houses, he’s associated with the Ghuede lwa who rule the crossroads between life and death, esp. Baron Samedi.
- St. Jude, the patron invoked for hopeless causes, is also called on more generally in conjure for financial prosperity and stability and is a good ally for those whose livelihoods involve working with emotional clients/customers and whose incomes can fluctuate for a host of reasons.
- St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, children, and boat captains, invoked for safe travel. In some houses in New Orleans Voodoo, in which Santeria has had a noticeable influence, he is associated with the orisha Agayu. He presents his devotees with difficult obstacles but also grants them the inner power to overcome those trials and grow strong enough to carry all burdens.
- St. Philomena is widely considered a miracle worker invoked by devotees for all kinds of things when other measures have failed. She’s the patron of babies and children and is considered the patroness of the living rosary. In some houses and temples, she is a lwa in her own right, seen as a helpful and pleasant spirit who helps those who make their livings as market sellers, removes negativity and evil from the surroundings, and grants the ability to have prophetic dreams.
- St. Joseph is the patron saint of happy death, carpenters, stepfathers, and workers more generally, invoked in all kinds of situations to do with the financial wellbeing of a family and/or household, but especially petitioned by those seeking employment. He’s also called on by folks who need to sell their house. He’s associated with the lwa Papa Loko, the originary houngan and healer. St. Dymphna is on the reverse side of this medal. She is widely invoked against mental illness, anxiety, and depression, and she’s the patron of incest survivors and teenage runaways.
Some of these associations vary by region and the religious background of the practitioner, so I don’t mean to imply here that most modern rootworkers work with St. Gerard because of his association with a particular lwa in Haitian sevis. Most rootworkers do no such thing. Hoodoo and vodou are of course two distinct traditions, the former being folk magic and the latter being a religion. In Louisiana, though, especially New Orleans and surrounding areas, there is a strain of practice where the two are often blended to a greater extent than elsewhere as a result of the city’s unique history.
Continue reading “Hoodoo Rootworker’s Seven-Way Rosary Chaplet – SOLD” →
Fiddler Dennis Stroughmatt talks about French colonial heritage in the Midwest
This isn’t directly related to conjure or rootwork, but it might be of interest to some of y’all. It’s an interview with a fiddler and folklorist named Dennis Stroughmatt who talks about the music and culture of his region, and what Louisiana Creoles have in common with Quebecois and some folks in Missouri. This right here is something of a summary of my father’s people and their culture, after they came to Louisiana from France (the line’s first “American forefather” was stationed at Ft. Kaskasia for awhile), and it gives you some insight into how some old Southern families are, incongruously it seems to some, quite Catholic for a long time (and thus how conjure and folk traditions that work a lot with saints will pop up in certain parts of the country that are otherwise widely Protestant, how nearly everybody with any link to any old, land-owning New Orleans families is distantly related to Marie Laveau (try looking under Lavaux in the records, for the links to the Duminy [from the Dumesnil and Dufouchard lines] and Glapion lines), and how St. Augustine’s Catholic church came to be when one state over, you can hardly find a single Catholic around at all, never mind one of African American descent). So this has a lot to do with the culture that Louisiana spiritual traditions are derived from, even if it’s talking more about fiddling than spiritual practices. Course, for some, the music is just as much a part of what really matters in life as the spiritual practices are, so these distinctions are a little artificial.
And of course I can’t say anything about Louisiana French culture without mentioning Mardi Gras Indians and second line cultures in New Orleans – this article on the Backstreet Cultural Museum is definitely worth a read.
Y'all. I am always talking about "people who grew up with this stuff" and "people who take conjure seriously and live it and not treat it as just as another tool in their eclectic toolbox" etc etc. (there is nothing wrong with eclectic and nothing wrong with you following your traditions of your origins rather than somebody else's, and nothing wrong with picking up conjure later or anything like that, in and of itself, in case you are just stumbling across this).
Well, one way you can know you have got an old-school, "been around a while" worker on your hands is when they make stuff like this: A serious old-school St. Michael mojo packet, made my Miss Bri at Milagro Roots. I hardly EVER see these from folks who didn't grow up around the Mississippi river or train with somebody who did. I first saw it New Orleans, and I actually rarely see it outside of southern Louisiana. It tickles me pink to see this kind of work.
If you have been reading for a while, you might remember that I used to offer something similar – but i started with embellished and embroidered scapular-type holy cards because I could NOT make my sewn packets look good enough to offer to the public. My flannel always puckered, or the card looked bent up, or the stitches were crooked, and I didn't want to glue them (even though the one I have that I got in New Orleans was glued) and I eventually gave up. But these are *great* and they are totally hand-done and hand-sewn, and customized with the personal concerns of you and/or your family members. It does not get any better than this for home protection work, y'all, for real. And since I sort of specialize in protection work and consider St. Michael one of my very special personal saints, you can bet it's impressive if I'm impressed. Go have a look at some serious old-school personalized protection mojo!
[below is a St. Michael mojo packet, but not Miss Bri's – I haven't asked her permission to post a pic of hers yet, so this is just for the sake of having a St. Mike pic for the moment]