More Pinterest Potshots

-So then I keep the jar in a dark place, right?


-And when it’s all done, I need to dispose of the ritual remains.

-That’s it. You got it.

-And then I cleanse myself and my target.

-You– wait, what? Why in the everloving hell would you cleanse your target?

-I saw it on Pinterest.

-Oh for God’s sake.

Taking Potshots on Pinterest

I know it’s too easy and not sportsmanlike and all, and I really try not to reach for the low-hanging fruit *all* the time, for real. But sometimes you just run into stuff **and you have to say something** or you’ll actually **bust.**

Exhibit A:


Or how about the proud declaration of some energetic young entrepreneur:

– After I finish blending my oils, they are charged under a full moon before being sent to you.

– All of ’em, huh? Every formula you make is ‘charged under a full moon’?

– Uh-huh!

-Your Road Opener and your Crossing and your Get a Job and your Hot Foot and your Cancer Zodiac oils, all ‘charged under a full moon’?


-Uh-huh. Well then, that’s certainly something.

some blatant crap I’ve seen lately via reader tips and search terms

No, Crown of Success is not the go-to formula for stopping gossip.

No, you do not use oil to “cleanse” a mojo.

No, you do not feed a mojo with magnetic sand. You feed lodestones with magnetic sand.

No, the term “coffin nail” is not used to describe any rectangular or square iron nail.

Yes, children count as people when you’re talking about whether someone can handle your mojo bag.

Yes, someone that says a mojo bag should be buried to return it to the “mother” is importing shit from some other tradition into what they are telling you and you should be skeptical.

No, mojo bags are NOT “offerings.” They ARE charms. This is some mix-and-match shit by somebody who couldn’t even be bothered to skim Flash of the Spirit for topic sentences.

No, mojos in traditional conjure are not considered or said to have “ashe” by traditional practitioners who are not also on an ATR path. This is mixing apples and oranges in terms of culture and vocabulary. Now, it is true that lots more people probably know that word than did in the 70s or 80s, and the underlying concept is not so much the problem here, given that the word could be said to have entered common parlance in many circles. The problem is that when somebody pretends to be an authority on traditional conjure and says:

* “a mojo bag is made of ashe” or

* “we don’t use salt on altars in hoodoo” (apparently totally ignorant of the fact that salt is a traditional ingredient in plenty of conjure formulas, and too stupid to realize they contradicted themselves by advising you cleanse your candle holders with salt water – this is all shit imported from Wicca or some European tradition, y’all.)

…they are betraying themselves as not only ignorant but also unapologetic about playing some mix-and-match shit. In my book, when you misrepresent the spiritual and religious practices of others, blatantly rifle through the vocabulary and concepts of no less than half a dozen traditions in one blog post, and then try to “educate” people according to your mix and match shit, that’s called being a liar and fraud.

Look, I get search terms. I had an ebay store for ten years. I wrote some phrases for the purposes of having my stuff turn up in search results typed in by people that didn’t know what else to type besides “voodoo doll,” even though the popular conception of voodoo dolls is pretty insulting to vodoun and pretty ignorant of how doll-babies are actually used. If I had refused to put in the key terms that people use to search for things, then they would have found fake crap and only fake crap; I do have to sell stuff in order to stay in business. I have put “wicca” and “hoodoo” in the same ebay listing before – it’s called search engine optimization. I understand why it’s a necessary evil. But I then went on, in the listing, to explain that – I figure if somebody is going to find my stuff via some fuzzy or messy concept or vocab, I can at least try to ensure they get access to more accurate info after having done so. I make sure that if they bother to read the listing, they will understand that wicca and hoodoo are not interchangeable, that the common conception of voodoo dolls is pretty inaccurate, that my voodoo rosaries and oils are not traditional/historical but things I created because there is a place for them among today’s serviteurs (and the loa like them), that chicken feet usually don’t have a damn thing to do with the “voodoo” search term that brings people to the listing, etc.

I have pissed off both narrow-minded Christians AND conjure practitioners by writing about St. Clare being associated with psychic vision. The former group is offended that a saint is associated with psychic and occult stuff, the latter offended because they think I’m misrepresenting conjure by making it seem that saints are integral part to it. Sorry to both, but I didn’t invent it – saints ARE used by some (not all) traditional conjure practitioners, whether you like it or not, and St. Clare IS associated by plenty of folks with psychic vision. It’s not my fault – it’s just a simple fact.  I have pissed off followers of multiple ATRs, I’m sure, by saying that in some houses/temples, such and such orisha is sometimes associated with such and such loa. I’m not defending or even commenting on the practice (and in the description of the thing under consideration, I always explain that this is not necessarily a widespread association or even a wise one to make) – but I am reporting on *what I have seen with my own two eyes,* and sorry, but I have seen practitioners of one ATR put a statue meant to represent a spirit in another ATR on the same altar. It happens. (It probably happens a lot more in New Orleans, but you also have to realize something about the loa — they have their preferences and make them known, and most of these statues and things were made in China anyway, by people of no religion even vaguely resembling that of the person who eventually buys the statue. If Ghuede wants a plastic Wal-Mart tumbler with Halloween bats on it for the altar, or a carved skull pendant made by Buddhist monks, Ghuede gets it.)



If that pisses anybody off, well, I serve Ghuede, not them. If Erzulie Freda wants a string of shiny beads that were made for another saint, spirit, or orisha, and those things are available for me to get without having to change my religion or lie, then I don’t see the problem. Erzulie Freda knows she isn’t Oshun or Babalon, so people getting upset about beads made for Oshun, or a rosary made by a Thelemite for Babalon, but sold to the public and residing on my Freda altar, can get mad if it makes them feel better. Whatever. I serve Freda, and if they did too, they’d probably chill out because they would know how Freda gets about what Freda wants 🙂

But what you don’t see me doing is trying to teach anybody about Oshun, or claim that I serve Oshun, or claim that Freda IS the Mother of Sorrows, or that Mater Dolorosa IS Freda, etc. The loa sometimes seem to be more “catholic” (see sense 2) and adaptable than many modern practitioners of ATRs tend to be 🙂 I have a twenty-plus-year relationship with Erzulie Dantor; I listen to her even when she tells me something that contradicts what somebody in another house or temple does..

BUT. When you pretend to teach people or explain things to them, and you call your shit something it is not, you suck and you deserve to get called out. If you are brazen enough to make a claim like “all good hoodoos must do [X thing that I do],” when what you do is import shit willy nilly and play mix-and-match and expound factually incorrect information, you are disgusting. If you are then so astonishingly stupid as to plagiarize and copy people who should be schooling you, well, some lawyers will eventually get involved, but what you should really be worried about is what Manman Brigitte is going to do you when you farm her out to non-vodouisants who want a charm for a court case and don’t know or care the first thing about the traditions of serving this spirit. You are likely to get schooled with a boot. You should not only be ashamed of yourself – you should be worried.

Questions you’ve asked on Things You’ve Read: karma

Q: I read that if you take a spell from someone else and use it, you are sharing in the karma from the person who wrote that spell.

A:  Seriously?!  You read that?!  Good lord, stop going to that website.  That’s utter bollocks, sorry. In fact, most anything said by most contemporary neopagans about karma is utter bollocks, sorry to say. And this bit about a spell’s karma is about the height of absurdity in a vast sea of absurd stuff written about karma by folks who don’t have even a third-rate education in religion but are still gonna try to talk about it. And the information is out there, free for all, since we have libraries and the internet. Yet people can’t even be bothered to learn before they go spreading bullshit about a concept that comes from a major world religion adhered to by millions of people right this very second.

“Hmm, I could study this before I open my mouth, or I could just repeat whatever I saw on tumblr.  What a dilemma.” (cue Jeapordy theme)

First of all, karma doesn’t even work like that.  Karma has to do with ethics, action, and volition; it has to do with intention. A set of written instructions has no karma. It cannot serve as a vector for someone else’s karma. Karma is not mana or juju from a roleplaying game where an object or even a speech act accrues it or absorbs it, and it’s not a separate energy that two people could divide between them or share.

And even if a spell (or cake recipe, or auto repair manual) had or could transmit karma, the most fundamental principles of karma would dictate that the same recipe could be followed by two different people with two different ethical results depending on an extremely complex interplay of factors. In other words, two different people can take the same action — like using the same spell or pinching a baby or throwing a jellyfish back in the water — and have two different karmic results from it.

Second of all, and most importantly for our purposes here, karma has no place in traditional conjure. You are welcome to believe in it. Heck, you are even welcome to believe in the new-age bastardized Western version of it that modern neopagans will feed you when they relate it to the Wiccan Rede or so-called Rule of Three or whatever.  (It has nothing to do with either one of those things.)

What you can’t do is import that into your conjure work and call it traditional hoodoo. It’s not traditional hoodoo and it’s also not a traditional Eastern view of karma.  People will say things like, “you can’t deny the rule of karma any more than you can deny the law of gravity,” and that is just plain wrong. There are so many problems with that analogy it’s hard to know where to start.

But you can’t even begin to conceive of how karma works until you’ve taken reincarnation into account. (If you don’t believe in reincarnation, stop using the word “karma.” What you’re talking about isn’t karma – it’s some shit somebody made up.)

Presuming that karma=”as you sow, so shall you reap,” and that all the sowing and reaping happens within a short, predefined period of time in which you are an observer for the whole thing unfolding (like your single lifetime) is just preposterous. Karma does NOT mean “I was mean to the guy who asked me to prom, so when I am in college, I will get dumped/stood up/whatever and that is my karma.”  It does not mean “I will reap the rewards of good action in this lifetime” or “If i cast a ‘black magic’ spell, it will return on me.”  That is just ridiculously oversimplified.

Karma is far too complex a concept for me to explain briefly in a blog post, esp. when that blog is dedicated to the concepts, theory, and practice of hoodoo and karma has no place in traditional hoodoo. It is difficult for me to say anything about karma without drastically oversimplifying it; it is an extremely complex concept.  But I will note that the idea of “This bad or good thing happens in this life because of my bad or good actions in this life; what I reap is a result of what I sow in the present” — and this is essentially what people are saying when they try to apply karma to the practice of spellwork — is explicitly refuted in Buddhist teachings.  In fact, the teachings are explicit that one is NOT required to “repay” all the past “debt” of one’s karma; to proclaim otherwise is to deny the possibility of emancipation. In the Anguttara Nikaya, III.101 (Lonaphala Sutta), is written:

  • Monks, for anyone who says, ‘In whatever way a person makes kamma, that is how it is experienced,’ there is no living of the holy life, there is no opportunity for the right ending of stress. But for anyone who says, ‘When a person makes kamma to be felt in such & such a way, that is how its result is experienced,’ there is the living of the holy life, there is the opportunity for the right ending of stress. – trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu

And here is another translation:

  • O priests, if anyone says that a man must reap according to his deeds, in that case, O priests, there is no religious life, nor is any opportunity afforded for the entire extinction of misery. But if anyone says, O priests, that the reward a man reaps accords with his deeds, in that case, O priests, there is a religious life, and opportunity is afforded for the entire extinction of misery. — trans. Henry Clarke Warren, in Sacred Writings: With Introductions and Notes, Charles William Eliot, ed., P.F. Collier & Son, 1910.

You might have to read this more than once for the distinction that is being made here to sink in. And you really probably have to read it in its larger context, which is why I’ve cited my sources and linked to versions you can get to and read yourself.  And reading in the larger context would rightfully include reading the Buddhist works to which the above words were a response, such as tracts that lay out karma as a strict series of cause and effect (eg, a man who steals grain will be reborn as a rat; it is this simplistic view of karma as strict cause and effect that Buddha was objecting to).

You must also understand that this is my understanding from my study and I do not speak for all Buddhists or Hindus etc. I have, however, made a rather more than typical effort at understanding what is meant by karma, since my parents gave me this name and I began making study of it by the age of 5. But you should certainly study and read for yourself. You shouldn’t take the word of ANY random internet person on this matter.  Karma is an important concept in an important religion on the planet you live on. You should know what it is.

But if your interest in this is only as a student of hoodoo or some other type of folk magic, then this is your main takeaway point: conjure has nothing to do with karma, at least not as it is typically understood in the West by modern-day neopagans (or by anyone with just a quick, surface understanding they’ve absorbed from popular culture). For that matter, most of what you’ll see on Pinterest or random blogs to do with witchcraft has nothing to do with karma, not really. It has to do with the ethics of some — not all — contemporary witches and pagans, and some — not all — of those folks are trying to turn it into some universal law, which is just utter bullshit. It’s such a profoundly wrong view it’s astonishing to me how it keeps getting circulated and then keeps getting *even worse.* (20 years ago, someone would tell you doing a compelling spell was bad karma and it would come back on you. Now, they’ll tell you it will come back on you *three times.* Or 7! or 21! rofl, wtf even is that? You can believe that if you want, but don’t call it karma ffs.)

And by the same token, the idea that there is such a spell that could give someone karma or have some effect on their karma is totally, completely absurd. That’s just such an imprecise use of the term “karma” that it’s rendered totally meaningless.

Even the general definition you will see in dictionaries, of karma as meaning that every action will return to the doer with equal impact, is a vastly oversimplified reduction that is, in many Eastern religious literary contexts, actually *wrong.* Let’s just take the context of that passage I quoted above, so a Buddhist one, and let’s run with that analogy of sowing and reaping.

While it is true that a man reaps the seed he plants, it is not only his conscious action that has a bearing on what he reaps. There is also the quality of the seed; the choice of seed; the inherent intellect of the man from birth that influences his understanding of planting; the education of the man during life that influences his understanding of planting (and the karma of his parents has an effect on all of these things); the moral disposition behind the planting of the seed (if any); the desire that informs the action of the planting (if any); the type of ground in which the seed is planted; the effects of weather patterns, soil quality, rainwater, irrigation, and environmental predation; whether he afterwards pulls out the weeds and waters the crop; etc.

Karma is important, but so are birth, personality, effort and intention, time and conditions, beauty and ugliness. If one sows a seed for good but later repents of that good, there is no good that recurs to him as a result of that sowing. If one sows a seed with no desire at all, that action has no karma. That’s how two people can perform the same action with two different karmic outcomes.

In any event, you should not presume that with limited human temporal understanding, you will have the slightest grasp of what causes and effects are at work in your life or the life of someone else. The overwhelming majority of us cannot hold on to a sufficiently enlarged perspective long enough and often enough to be able to *really get* all the intricate interplay across lifetimes and among families, etc.

In short, do not let someone give you a one-sentence or one-paragraph definition of karma.  If you want to understand it, don’t accept some modern Western, pre-digested version of it. Study it for yourself in context.

If you are not willing to do that, fine, then just drop it. It doesn’t fit conjure, which largely has its roots in a mostly traditional Judeo-Christian worldview. It doesn’t fit Wicca, which is actually way more conservative and old-fashioned about this matter than a lot of religions. It doesn’t fit anything as a “universal law.” Don’t take some half-baked crap and try to apply it to a religion, worldview, culture, or practice that has never heard of it. To do is insulting to conjure, insulting to Buddhism, and insulting to the intelligence.