Response to an email asking me to “prove I’m for real”

…Or why legit workers aren’t even slightly interested in doing Psychic Pet Tricks for free to convince you to be their client, and what you should do instead of playing Test the Psychic.

Q: I was wondering if there was a way you could help me to prove you are genuine by maybe stating something about me that i have not told you. I want help, but I am tired of encountering all these fake psychics when i search.

A: [Name], what you need to do is not search but *research.*

There is a lot of good advice out there to help you avoid getting scammed.  There is also a lot of bad advice, given by scammers themselves on their scam websites and ads. Then there’s a lot of well-meaning advice that is inaccurate, biased, or just plain ignorant. So it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff when you don’t know the warning signs and don’t understand the principles of spiritual work.

Alas, asking a professional rootworker for a free reading, even a tiny one, is not going to be a good method to determine who is and isn’t a scam. It might be a good method to determine who is actually busy with real clients and who has time on their hands to send cold reading tidbits out to whoever asks because their time is not taken up doing any actual spells or readings, though.

If a worker gives *every single person who writes* a sales pitch, without even knowing what that person is after, that worker should make you wary; legitimate spiritual workers will not take every single case every time. But it’s safe to say that the willingness to work for free in order to tantalize new clients will never be on a legitimate list of things to look for when looking for a good worker.

I am a firm believer that only the open hand can receive, and I have seen firsthand the miracles that can be accomplished from the kindness of strangers, so I try to play some part in all that by doing some pro bono work for clients in urgent situations who are unable to pay my regular rates. We never know where our miracles will come from.*

But like many professional workers, I generally have a queue at least a dozen deep of people who have booked work or consultations who are waiting their turn, so it makes absolutely no sense to go out of my way to try to “reel in” an unknown client, especially one who has had the sorts of bad experiences that tend to indicate lack of knowledge about the principles and realities of spiritual work. (This is not a jab at you – a lot of very good people have been ripped off because very bad people preyed on their emotions, hopes, and desperation.)

It’s not because they are bad people or want unworthy things, but because their expectations are usually coming out of left field, and they need to learn some basic principles of spiritual work and research before they pay anyone else (including me) to do any more spells or readings for them. 

So most legitimate spiritual workers aren’t receiving emails like this and feeling any sense of “oh my god, I’d better convince this person I have never met, whose case I might not accept anyway, that I’m for real.” (Most of us probably get at least twenty emails like this every day, as well; even if I wanted to, I couldn’t oblige all the people writing them.)

I’m sure you’re a great person, and I am positive you do not deserve the treatment you have received. But I’ve found that clients who have been repeatedly scammed are too often seeking very unlikely or even impossible results that make them vulnerable to the unethical who will promise anything (e.g. reconciliation with an ex in a case where the ex has decisively moved on, a huge lottery win on a short lead, a drastic change to their physical appearance through spellwork). They don’t know much about how spellwork actually works and instead have lots of misconceptions in their heads that they’ve picked up from a variety of dubious sources online and in the media.

But you can’t just be a passive consumer. You need to understand the difference between voodoo and hoodoo, between wicca and rootwork, between an empath and a card reader and a clairvoyant and a high priestess, to be able to recognize liars and cheats.

You have to do research, which should start at the very least with reading what a reader or worker has written about their own work and practice and seeing what there is about them online. How long have they been doing this? Do you know who they are and where they are, or is all that obscured under some grandiose language about “powerful covens” and “we” and “dual casting” and “spellcasting awards”?

“Psychic” means so many different things to so many people that it’s nearly useless as a word. Some people think all spiritual workers are psychic or that all psychics are spiritual workers. Some people think psychic = empathic, or that psychic = clairvoyant, or that psychic = medium, or that psychic = returns lovers. None of that is necessarily true. Not everyone gifted for doing spiritual work is also gifted for doing the type of readings that many clients are looking for. And not everyone gifted for doing readings has even a modicum of ability as someone who can perform a given type of spiritual work. Finally, not everyone who *can* do certain types of things is therefore *willing* to do them in every case.

If you’d done research on me, for instance, or even just skimmed over my blog page about me, or my website pages on altar work or consultations, you’d know that I do not refer to myself by this useless term “psychic.” I am a rootworker, and I do traditional rootwork. I do consultations for clients seeking rootwork and those involve divination, but I don’t even do what you’re asking for, which is tell total strangers, whose cases I might not even accept, something about themselves.

In addition, even if I wanted to convince you of my ability to do whatever it is you’re looking for, you haven’t given me enough information to do it. When you read about “psychics” who don’t need you to tell them anything but they can just tell you what’s going on without you saying a word, you are usually reading about a classic scam called a “cold reading.” Here ya go:

You have a box of unsorted photographs in your house, you see yourself as an independent thinker, you had a scary experience with water in your childhood, you haven’t quite lived up to your full potential, someone has broken your heart, you aren’t naive but people have taken advantage of you in the past, you’re having problems with a friend or relative, you are sometimes insecure with people you don’t know very well, you are close to someone whose name starts with a J.

All of these statements are statistically likely to apply to a majority of any given United States or UK sub-population, and with some minor alterations, to the Latin American and southern European populations. That’s not a reading. It’s a game of throwing darts and seeing what gets a reaction.

The kind of person you are looking for — one who can tune into anyone immediately from a two-line email and see a particular recess of their lives in detail that will be relevant to them and put it into words in a way they can immediately understand and see the value of — does not exist. I say this as someone who’s given (and received) thousands of readings over the last almost 40 years.  While you should not fork your cash over to scam artists, you won’t get far knocking on doors and introducing yourself by saying “prove you’re real.” *You* have to do research on *them,* just like you would (I hope) before you choose a veterinarian or mechanic or attorney.

A final point is that established workers are not generally desperate enough for new clients to do free readings upon demand to get them. Professional workers do not take all comers. I personally refuse more work than I take. This stuff requires significant investment in energy and time.

For example, I generally have no more than a dozen clients’ mid-to-longer-term/intensity work or issues in various stages on my desk or altars at any time (not including vigil lights and paid consultations). That’s all I want to handle at once, since I’m not a corporation, a company with employees, or a front for a marketing scheme, and since I do other things with much of my time besides just readings or just altar work.**

But I get more emails than that every day inquiring about work. And I’m more likely to decline to work with a client who doesn’t understand how spiritual work and readings actually work rather than take lots of extra time educating them, when what they probably need is to stop spending money on “spellcasters,” period. So here’s what I suggest.

Stop searching and start researching.

What you find at the top when you search are people who know how to have their sites turn up high in results due to search engine optimization. That’s all. They may or may not be legitimate, but they have good tech guys. Those sites that handle thousands of clients in a short period of time are owned by a group of people who know how to write their own testimonials and who know how to send out dozens of “readings” and “spell work reports” a day that are all the same vague thing but with the name changed.

Second, have a look at my FAQ here and pay particular attention to these:

My blog also links to other readers and workers whom I personally know to be reputable and ethical. You will find, at their sites or blogs, photographs of work they have done that *they* took and uploaded, a glimpse into their background that doesn’t sound like it came from a made-for-TV movie, some mention of what types of work they do and what types they do not do, You’ll see a person, not just a bunch of vague, generic marketing copy.

Third, pick an area of spiritual work or readings to learn about, just something small to start, and learn about it from a variety of places, not just one so-called authority.  Even this small step will help you begin to learn to sort the wheat from the chaff. 

Until you know how to do that, until you know enough about what you’re venturing into so that you can be sure your hopes and emotions aren’t putting you in a place where you are vulnerable to scam artists, don’t buy any more spells from anyone. Learn the principles of candle magic and spiritual bathing instead, spend your money on a few simple and inexpensive supplies, and learn how to use them for the types of spell you want to do.

I offer you my sincerest best wishes for your pursuit of your goals.


*So I actually do occasionally work for free, or for extremely discounted fees. When I was a member of AIRR, I’d regularly do work for indigent clients who were accepted into AIRR’s pro bono program, and I have always tried in some way to help people in crisis situations who couldn’t afford my usual rates.

I do a lot of pro bono and reduced rate work for the following:

  • people with legal trouble because someone else is abusing the legal system to harass them or force a certain action, esp. when children are involved
  • parents trying to get child support and/or cooperation from the child’s other parent
  • people trying to leave abusive relationships
  • people facing charges for non-violent drug offenses
  • people, esp. single parents, facing housing difficulties
  • people who badly need spiritual cleansing or uncrossing and need help getting that work done
  • people in populations historically or habitually targeted by law enforcement and government for profiling or harassment who need protection

And I regularly set lights on several community altars on a pay-what-you-can basis. These don’t come with light setting reports or anything like that, but anyone can ask to have their name and petition paper added to my community work for getting steady work, for blessing, and now in the era of COVID, for health/safety and protection from illness. (Anyone interested in doing that can just contact me via the website. I’ve been trying to post it as its own product all week and keep getting derailed by various things, but I’ll get it eventually…)

In addition, for years I hosted local events (local to me, but people traveled from other states for them frequently) in which I did in-person consults and then performed whatever spiritual cleansing, spiritual bathing, headwashing, footwashing, censing, etc. the client needed. (If the world doesn’t end first, I’ll do them again one day when COVID cuts us some slack).

But what I don’t do is free work for just anybody on just any situation just because they asked or showed up in my inbox. Love work and gambling work will never be eligible for pro bono consideration, for instance.

**People who do only readings and no altar work can do more readings; people who do no readings and only altar work can do more altar work. But I do consultations, readings, altar work, teaching, translating, writing, and research, as well as make and ship products, answer crap-tons of email every week, design and make jewelry, and run a small farm. I am not sitting in front of the computer all day.

july coupon codes – take 10%-20% off karmazain.com

I was going to have a July sale on mastery/commanding items, but DSL is still too spotty and I’m afraid I won’t have time to both set it up and post it before 3 am. So I just updated codes that expired last month so you can use them in July, since that was the quickest way to get the July specials out.

From now until July 15, use these codes when you check out through the new storefront for percentages off your entire order:

use code july10 for 10% off orders over 15.00
use code july15 for 15% off orders over 50.00
use code july20 for 20% off orders above 99.00

Here are the instructions:

Using Discount Codes:

“For direct payment gateways [this means if you use a credit card to pay through shopify payments], the discount code can be entered on page 2 of the checkout process when the customer has the opportunity to select a shipping method and enter in credit card information.

“PayPal Express, being an offsite payment gateway, works a bit differently. This is the PayPal Express Checkout’s workflow: when checking out, your customer goes to paypal.com right away, where PayPal collects his shipping and billing addresses. After that, the customer returns to Shopify where he picks a shipping rate, types in a discount code (if you have discount codes that are ‘active’), the price is updated accordingly and, on that same page, your customer gets to finalize his transaction.”

– from the Shopify user guide

Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter – once we get the kinks ironed out, there’ll be newsletter-only specials, coupons, updates, and then regular tips, tricks, and conjure advice.

Write with your questions – I will publish and answer the really good ones as a regular “column” – you can ask anything, from hoodoo theory to recommendations to troubleshooting a spell you’ve done recently. Just shoot an email to karmazain at gmail.com and put “question for column” or something like that in the subject line. If I choose your question, you’ll not only get a perseonalized answer, you’ll get free goodies in the mail (my choice, but I will try to take preferences for formula families or product types into account).

Getting the most “bang” for your buck: getting help when you’re on a budget

Q: A client on a budget has a few separate issues going on, some of which are big, messy, or long-standing; she wants to have a light set and writes to ask whether she should choose a taper light instead of a vigil light setting.

A: Maybe – while you would probably want to do some sort of spiritual work aimed at these other goals, since they are all going to require different approaches/specifics, and while taper light settings cost less to have set than vigil light settings do, I’m not sure if light settings are the best route for all your goals or not. While they rarely hurt, it sounds like money is a concern for you right now. So I would encourage you to try to get the most “bang” for your buck. Honestly, a taper light setting is inexpensive, but it’s also not a lot of “bang” when you are talking about big, complex, and/or longstanding situations. A vigil light setting would probably be better for two reasons:

First, it works for a week instead of a couple of hours.  That’s a lot more “pressure” or “juice” being put towards your goals spiritually, and is a better deal in terms of how much altar time your goals get per dollar spent. (Taper light settings are usually set before or during a crucial time, while other, longer-term work is ongoing. For instance, if you have a Crown of Success mojo bag and had some Crown of Success altar work done towards getting a new job, and you had an interview on Friday, you might have a taper light set the night before the interview. Or you might have a taper light set to give a quick, focused “boost” to some type of work you’re doing at home. But a single taper light, by itself, would generally not be what most workers would recommend for anything with deep roots or complex situations.) Second, a vigil light setting with report will give you more information about whatever goal it was set for. While it will not go into the same amount of detail as a consultation, it will give you a lot more detail than a taper light usually will.

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However, when you are talking about “bang for your buck,” the best value probably comes in with coaching sessions. These are good *if* you already know what the best route to take is, and *if* you are comfortable doing work on your own behalf. You could have a coaching session or consultation for advice/guidance that focused on Road Opener work you could undertake at home towards removing [x] obstacle, and the session would outline how to get or make the stuff you need and how to perform whatever kind of rite you decided on (such as a spiritual bath combined with light setting, or creation of a spell bottle combined with “fixing” your office with spiritual powders, for instance).

If you are not positive of the best route, and/or you are not already comfortable doing your own work, and/or you do want some type of feedback/advice but don’t want to wait on a consultation before having some spiritual work started, *then* my suggestion would be a vigil light setting first.

questions you’ve asked: road opening, timing, haints, czechoslovakia (!?)

Some of these are from my saved-up list of questions that people ask via email or blog comments, that I save up to answer on my blog when I get a chance, and some are implied/indirect questions that come from search terms. Don’t forget that I maintain a directory of Frequently Asked Questions and commonly requested information.

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Q: What are some spells to remove obstacles?

It kind of depends on the obstacles. In some cases, you need Uncrossing, in others you might need Spiritual Cleansing or Van Van or Chinese Wash, and in still others you might want Road Opener. If you don’t need uncrossing, but you’re just kind of stuck and have the inertia thing going or aren’t getting the opportunities you need, then the formula you want for removing obstacles is usually going to be either Van Van or else something like Road Opener or Abre Camino. Sometimes it might be called Blockbuster, but you should ask your supplier, because depending on where they’re coming from (theoretically as well as regionally), Blockbuster might be more akin to Uncrossing or Van Van. And some folks, probably those not from the Southeast, seem to make Road Opener with quassia, which is not how I learned it in the Southeast, and in my opinion that will not do the same job (and it cannot then be called Abre Camino, because Abre Camino contains an actual herb called Abre Camino instead of quassia). In short, there may be more or less intersection with other formulas, depending on the background of your supplier and their formula, so it doesn’t hurt to ask the person selling the stuff you are going to buy.

While on this topic, I have heard people claim that Road Opener is not hoodoo. I call bullshit. While it’s true that Road Opener came into hoodoo through Latin American routes, it’s sure as hell part of hoodoo now, and there is a definite difference between Road Opener and Uncrossing. Uncrossing removes crossed conditions. There are all kinds of situations that could benefit from Road Opening that do not need Uncrossing and that may need something that is not precisely Van Van; where once we might have approached that through a combination of herbs or actions that did not go by the name “Road Opener,” what we today know as Road Opener fills a niche, is useful, and is definitely used by traditional practitioners of conjure. Saying it’s not hoodoo is imo being overly pedantic (and is generally part of some online pissing contest and/or the kind of “over-correction” that results in people saying things like “irregardless” and “I feel badly for you” – people trying so hard to be “correct” that they end up “over-correcting” and end up somewhere silly; and if you’re like most of my readers and clients, you don’t really give a crap about whether something was used in the 70s in Florida but not the 50s in Mississippi. You just want your situation remedied.) Saying it’s not hoodoo because it entered hoodoo at some later point than the mythical non-existent “originary” point is going to put you on flimsy ground to talk about Chinese Wash (once upon a time it was not used in hoodoo); Hot Foot oil (once upon a time there was only powder); the method of candle-dressing employed by hordes of workers (because it was popularized in a booklet in the 40s by a man [or maybe a woman] who grew up Jewish; Blackhawk (Native American via Spiritualist churches in Louisiana); and boldo leaf (which is in a shit-ton of modern protection formulas but crossed into hoodoo through Mexican folk practice). Honestly, it’s a ridiculous argument. [*]

What you do with those obstacle-removing formulas will, for the sake of easier communication in this blog post, be called spells. (Usually folks who ask this sort of thing want to be given what they think of as a “spell,” which will be specific instructions for exactly how to do some multi-component rite called “a road opener spell” or something like that. Thing is, hoodoo really isn’t a system of “spells” in the sense of “things that have to be done just so on a Friday before a full moon with these rhymes” or where people have spells collected in books and stuff like that. Rather, you light a candle, or sprinkle powders, or take a bath, or do some combination of those things and others that suits your supplies and your situation. Every “road opener spell” I do for a client is probably slightly different; the appropriate actions and ingredients depend on the situation. I do not have a book of spells – the idea is sort of ridiculous, and most folks I know who didn’t come to this from a different background don’t default to calling their work “spells” or telling clients they need to do “spells.” Personally, I call what I do altar work or just plain “work,” and avoid the term “spells” just because 1. it was never called that when I was growing up, and 2. it gives the wrong impression, that conjure is about collections of spells and books of shadows and stuff like that. So people who write me saying “these spells are hard to find” have, in my opinion, *the wrong idea* about how these things are traditionally done; collections of typed-up spells are hard to come by because they’re unnecessary (and when we do post “spells” for the benefit of clients who want to be given “spells”, we usually have to endure dozens of follow-up questions about what herb we can substitute for some herb we list, and what to do if we can’t get that kind of candle or a certain oil, etc, which defeats the purpose of typing the damned thing up in the first place). It’s just the wrong way to think about conjure. When we do altar work for you, we don’t select a spell from out of a book. I’ve written about this at length elsewhere, particularly in the FAQ directory; bottom line, if you want a spell explained or suggested that is specific to your situation and materials at hand, book a consultation with a professional worker who can instruct you on what to do for your specific situation.)

But here are some suggestions from Lucky Mojo. (So when you dress a candle with oil and light it, you are doing a candle burning spell for our purposes here.) If you insist on a given a set of instructions to follow just so, then Dr. E has a thorough, nice Roads of Fortune spell here. But honestly, properly dressing and fixing a candle is powerful work. So is a spiritual bath. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.

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Q: Reconciliation mojo bag takes one month to work.

A: I’d be pretty darned surprised. The most important reply here is that there’s no such thing as one simple answer to the question of “how long will X take to work.” It totally depends on the situation (and on your definition of what success is in that situation). You can read more about timing in spells here: “How Long Will It Take to Work” and “Timing Spells, Setting Limits, and the Non-Existent Rule of 3 Days/3 Weeks/3 Months.” But I’d say one month for a reconciliation working of any type, in very many of the situations for which I’ve been consulted,  would be way too optimistic. But it totally depends on the situation and specifics of the individual case. The bottom line: There are too many variables in anybody’s case for anybody to be able to answer your question about how long the candle or mojo you are thinking of buying will take to work, or even if it will.  Spiritual work just doesn’t work like that.  The reality is that sometimes it is NOT God’s will.  And this is not a gumball machine where you put your quarter in and get a prize you can anticipate from the picture in the window.

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Q: Sour jar take how long to work? [sic]

A: See above.

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Q: What happen to the old fashion hoodoo that was used in the 70’s?

A: Assuming you mean the 1970s, you are actually talking about what I’d call the full flower of “modern hoodoo” (I’d distinguish that from today’s hoodoo, which I’d call “contemporary” and, if pressed, probably use the late 80s as a historical marker for… maybe). The 70s is not “old fashioned” when you are talking about hoodoo history – that is recent as hell. But for starters, you have to define what you mean by “old fashioned.” Do you mean hoodoo as it was in the 1850s? 1920s? In Memphis? Detroit? Natchez, Mississippi? Crystal River, Florida? By the 70s, you had lots of published books on all kinds of practices “cross-pollinating” with older, more rural, less book-derived practice, including European witchcraft and commercialized “Eastern mysticism,” astrology, etc. You’d had mail-order catalogs for generations at that point, and you had drugstores in large cities selling candles and things from China. The old-school candle shop owners (who had once upon a time been new-fangled!) might start selling books on meditation to help their bottom lines; the tea leaf readers might branch out into astrology to get and keep clientele; the tarot was much better known by then, even among those who had grown up reading playing cards; the era of pharmacists blending their own colognes, hair oils, and perfumes in the back from formularies were largely over and everything was imported en masse. In some areas, a cultural turn resulting from Black Pride, Afrocentrism, or Rastafarianism, for instance, might mean that the younger generation was no longer using the hair products their parents had used, or attending the churches their parents had attended, or valuing the same art, aesthetics, music, and even naming conventions their parents had valued. This ties into the other question on this page that spilled over into my footnote about “what is and isn’t hoodoo” – you can’t really say something like “here’s the originary date of hoodoo, and here’s the cutoff date for old-school conjure, and everything that was new after that is not traditional hoodoo.” I see this today in interviewing people in academic contexts about voodoo in Haiti or folk religion or spiritual practice in just about anywhere – often the grandchildren will talk to you about their interest in or return to practices that their parents won’t speak of and tried to distance themselves from. Sometimes the children have to recover these practices on their own, if their grandparents or older relatives are no longer living.

So the bottom line depends on how you define some of your terms. What happened to the hoodoo of the 70s? the same thing that happened to the hoodoo of the 60s and the 50s. It changed a bit as the world changed, as horizons changed, as neighborhoods and markets changed. What happened to “old fashioned hoodoo”? Well, how do you define old-fashioned?

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Q: Was czech jewelry ever spelled cech?

A: FFS, wtf. Well, this is a hoodoo, voodoo, magic, and folk religion blog, but I happen to be able to answer this, and the question brought more than one person to this blog, so what the hell. (Though these search terms make me baffled at how some people use search engines – they aren’t oracles and typing complete sentences usually helps rather than hinders!) The “czech” you see when a rosary is made with “Czech glass beads” is short for “Czechoslovakia,” which as of 1993 no longer exists; that area is now divided into “the Czech Republic” and “Slovakia.”  There, they speak Czech and Slovak (get it?). In the Czech language, they have different ways of conveying sounds through orthography than we have in English. In English, we use “Cz” to represent the sound we pronounce in this case as a hard “ch,” but they use “Č” (see that little symbol on top of the C? That is *critical* to its pronunciation and therefore spelling – you cannot just leave it out or it would be pronounced differently).  So, no, it was never spelled “Cech,” but it was spelled “Čech” (with the little symbol). I imagine the person who asked this question did not realize that “czech” was short for “czechoslovakia,” or else they could have just looked it up in any encyclopedia, but I digress.

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[*] This sort of thing becomes an issue for anyone studying living folk practice. Living practices change. Herbs and resins and dirts and flora/fauna used in Western Africa, for instance, had to change in Haiti, Louisiana, Brazil, Trinidad, Virginia – because the same stuff does not grow in all those places, just to touch on the tip of the iceberg. You can see the sorts of issues it raises in the contemporary practices surrounding Santisima Muerte in Mexico today. I maintain that, from a historical perspective, the use of gold, purple, green etc Santisima Muerte statues is an interpolation that came through modern commercial occult markets and probably has at least a little to do with symbolism and practice found in commercially-available materia magica for traditions such as Santeria. But however they came about, and however recent they are compared to the red, black, and white statues, the fact remains that living devotees of the saint who are actively, at this very moment, living a spiritual life in which the saint plays a significant role, are using them and see a need they fill. And for someone to come in from “outside” their particular community and tell them their practice is not legitimate — well, who’s the authority, finally? The academic or the practitioner? You can do a slippery slope thing with this if you want and say “well, then, since I practice hoodoo, then whatever I do is hoodoo, and nobody can to say any different.” We can — and do, in various corners of monograph footnotes, articles, blogs, and websites — debate this kind of thing ’til the cows come home. You can even accuse me of doing the same thing I’m criticizing here, when I rant about people selling stuff to “cleanse” mojo bags, or when I say “watermelon fragrance oil is not hoodoo.” Sure, there are some lines that are going to be debatable, less than clear cut, in a living, breathing tradition. (For instance, I say that if it’s the consistency of soup, you have no business calling it gumbo, but there are folks winning prizes with gumbo recipes that I would not hit a hog in the behind with. Is it chili anymore if it’s white and made with cannellini beans? When you are really hungry, do you give a crap?)

*And yet* the fact remains that when my 40 or 60 year old clients from Louisiana or Florida or South Carolina order a bottle of Van Van oil from me, they have an expectation of what it’s going to smell like, and if I send them something pink that smells like gardenias, they are probably going to ask if I mislabeled the bottle (and maybe secretly think I’ve lost my mind). They will not have the same reaction to my suggesting Road Opener oil, even though neither of us used a thing called precisely that in our childhoods (probably in part because my clients know I am not some convert who jumped off a Wicca wagon and started making Van Van oil last year, so I am not going to sell them some new age goop that does not “fit” with what we both grew up with). Similarly, while Catholic conjure doctors were a relative rarity outside of Louisiana, they nevertheless did exist, and work with some saints did extend beyond the borders of Catholicism and even those who would self-identify as Spiritualists or Spiritists prior to the internet and folk Catholics like me writing blogs. So saying “work with the saints is not traditional hoodoo” is profoundly ignorant, not to mention insulting. Folk magic is *always, always* influenced by region, including the religion, traditions, culture, and flora and fauna of the physical land upon which its practitioners live, in their physical neighborhoods. I have clients from Alabama who grew up with this stuff who leave offerings at their ancestor’s graves, and I have other clients from the East Coast who grew up with this stuff who hold their breath when they go by graveyards and paint the baby’s windowsill blue to “keep off the haints.” Workers I respect who I know to be authentic and honest say they were taught that women shouldn’t do rootwork while pregnant. I was never taught any such thing and I seem to come from a very different way of conceiving of both spiritual work and pregnancy; the theory underlying such a prohibition doesn’t fit into my worldview, religion, or practice. Those are very different approaches to working with and living with the dead, with the unborn, with liminality, and they can be traced to different regions and distinct “paths” along the diaspora and/or traditions in question; and yet, it’s too simplistic to say that one set of beliefs is “traditional” or “authentic” and the other is not. The bottom line is that there has never been any monolithic central guide to *anything* that’s a folk tradition – if there were, it wouldn’t be a folk tradition anymore. At least part of it would be codified, captured, encapsulated, isolated, no longer “in free play” in a living community. To say that things change does not mean “anything goes,” but to say that any change after some arbitrary, imaginary cutoff date is “not hoodoo” is just ridiculous.

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For some further thoughts and conversation that unfolded from this post in the comments section over at the mirror site, go here.

Questions you’ve asked on Things You’ve Read: ceromancy (& a bit more on scams + “one true way”ers)

One more while I’m on about it, which has been lingering in my file of “questions to eventually get around to answering on the blog.”

Q: I read that reading vigil candle glass is not true ceromancy and not true divination, that reading wax from candles is not traditional ceromancy, and that spirits have to be invoked for it to be true divination (like tarot and cowrie shells). But you describe reading vigil candles as a type of ceromancy meaning it’s divination.

A:  I don’t know where you read that, but assuming it’s not coming across differently than it was meant in its original context, and assuming that the writer claims to know anything about hoodoo and is not just applying their tradition’s particular definition to the entire world, what you have there is some revisionist hoodoo history, and some pretty ethnocentric and ignorant revisionist history at that.  These “one true way”ers are usually quite defensive about the one particular way they were taught because they were only taught one particular way. What I mean is that they did not absorb principles and patterns naturally, but they had a single teacher, usually fairly recently, who “one true way”ed them.  I would tread carefully with this person and take their “teachings” with a grain of salt, as they seem to be of the school of “everyone who does it differently from me is a fake and/or newbie.” The sad thing is that people who present their methods this way, with this level of protest and defensiveness, who feel the need to label others with the newbie or fraud brand, are usually giving themselves away as converts, trend-followers, or else victims of cult-of-personality teaching.

First of all, ceromancy means divination with wax.  Ceromancy is the reading of the wax, and by extension, of the process of the wax burning itself (the way I’m using it, that includes behavior and signs of wax, flame, herbs, smoke, and glass during and after the burning).  The word comes from the Greek keros (wax) + manteia (divination), and there is more than one way to do it. In Renaissance Europe it was probably done by dripping wax into water and reading the patterns. Probably others call what I’m calling ceromancy by other names, like pyromancy (divination with fire), or perhaps even scrying (“scry” comes from the now-slightly-archaic “descry” meaning “to discern,” and that sense of the word probably comes into English from Latin “describere” [to describe] probably via Old French [“descrier,” to publish]). So in fact, since reading the burning and remains of glass-encased vigil candles combines more than one type of substance and element, there probably isn’t one single “old word” for it. I just picked ceromancy since without the wax, none of the rest can happen anyway.

Divination is as old as human beings, probably. Divination with fire is probably as old as fire, and different cultures will have their own methods, depending in part on available resources and technology (if your light source is pitch-covered torches, your methods will differ from those of a person — or culture — whose light source is paraffin candles). Reading signs from candles as they burn is quite traditional in hoodoo. Reading signs from candle glass is as old as glass-encased candles, which admittedly are not as old as wax or fire, but it’s certainly a valid practice in conjure. To say otherwise is blazingly ignorant, or else troll-ish and they’re just trying to get a rise out of somebody.

Finally, in the bit about spirits being invoked, there is an interrelated knot of issues and assumptions in there that would take a while to untangle and are beyond the scope of this post. The person who told you that seems to not understand how we work with spirits in hoodoo and is instead importing some concepts from another tradition into their pronouncements about hoodoo practice.  Not all of the spirits involved in hoodoo will be anthropomorphic entities with names. In fact, if they articulate it at all, many workers will talk about the spirits of the roots and the spirit of a certain herb or type of water and such in conjure (there are plenty of very good workers out there who may not be very good at, or have time for or interest in, articulating the theory behind everything in plain English – not everybody is a writer, and not everybody is a teacher; that doesn’t mean they therefore aren’t a good worker — so my point is that not everybody articulates this stuff the same way, but you can definitely trace the concept behind the work in your studies).  The mention of cowrie shells is a clue in this direction, that they’ve been “one true way”ed from a non-hoodoo starting place that they think gives them authority in pronouncements on conjure. Cowrie shells are a big deal in some traditions, particularly some of the African diaspora, and are part of some venerable methods of divination. But that does not mean that all traditions that can be linked to the African diaspora have the same vocabulary, methods, spirits, deities, holy objects, taboos, etc.  *Culture and geography matter.* They matter a lot. Similarly, I’m not knocking tarot cards. I read with cards every single day. But your old time worker was probably more likely to read with a regular deck of playing cards back in the day – and without chanting the Golden Dawn invocation of IAO over them first, too, the irreverent scandal! But one of the main problems here is that it’s ridiculous to say there are no spirits involved in setting a glass-encased candle and then reading the signs from that candle – that statement betrays a complete lack of understanding about light setting in hoodoo.

But this is me being somewhat generous and assuming you haven’t just stumbled upon some site that is giving what appears to be “how to not get scammed” advice but which is really a vehicle for proclaiming that their website’s font, or their timeline for finishing readings, or their particular list of spell names, is legit and everything else is fake. If elsewhere your source talks about gypsies, the pyramids, the estate of a voodoo priestess or shaman, or tells you have they have a grimoire or book of shadows with “real” hoodoo teachings in it, then you can feel fairly confident that you have busted a fake, or at least a moron. Otherwise, assuming that this stuff isn’t reading differently out of context, you are just getting lessons from somebody who is applying standards from one culture or tradition to a different culture or tradition. This doesn’t make them a fake, necessarily, but it probably does make them a little ignorant and a lot arrogant.  Look, not everybody has a graduate degree in comparative religion. Most people don’t – that’s why I always tell people they should be highly suspicious of anyone who claims to be a Supreme Initiated Award-Winning Master of a lot of different traditions.  (Having been associated with more than one house or temple in voodoo is not a big deal, nor is having moved from Wicca to ceremonial magic. But being an expert in voodoo AND gypsy magic AND hoodoo AND Lukumi AND ceremonial magic AND wicca etc etc, however, is a warning sign, as is having won some non-existent “annual spellcaster’s award.”) But if they don’t actually have a genuine grasp of a wide variety of world folk magic practices throughout history, and they start making sweeping pronouncements about what is and isn’t legit, you should probably just ignore them.

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.

The Truth about Haunted, “Spelled,” Charmed magical items (or eBay, MST3K style)

Every once in a while a potential customer or client who is fairly new to the world of magic, conjure, spellwork etc will write me about some Haunted Fairy Djinn Thing they got on eBay from a 7th Generation Witch who has 3 dozen identical pendants, all with The World’s Most Powerful Love Spell Ever! ™ on them, sitting in some warehouse or box in her basement. They wonder if another spell will “clash” with this Haunted Fairy Djinn Thing, or if two “styles” of magic (like conjure from the Southern United States and Haunted Fairy Djinn Vampire Lover Wrangling from, er, well, eBay) will “cancel each other out,” or if the Bind Your True Love Forever wishing box they got could have turned on them and cursed them or given them bad karma.

The answer to every one of those questions is no.  There’s a fairly good chance that no spell at all was cast on any of the items you bought from such a place.  If a spell was cast, there’s a fairly good chance that it was cast by someone who knows just enough about marketing but not very much at all about spell-casting. Chances are good that the item you have is magically inert.  Even if a spell was cast on it by a knowledgeable person, if the spell was cast en masse while thirty of them were sitting on a table still with their Dollar Tree tags on them, and you order it later and it’s popped into a box and sent to you and nothing is done by you or the seller to customize the work or link it to you, then I’m not sure I’d even categorize that as you having had a spell cast for you.  Magic is not a gumball machine where you put your quarter in, turn the knob, and get your cookie-cutter result out of the slot. In any case, while I can let my imagination run really really wild and think of a couple of extreme situations in which two spells cast for the same ultimate goal might conceivably “clash” or “cancel each other out,” that kind of thing is really pretty rare.  Spells don’t “turn” on people, generally speaking, and spells don’t actually “cancel each other out,” at least not in the way that people are thinking of when they write with such a question. [1]

giza

The pyramids at Giza, where all Fairy Vampire Demon Pirate Djinn Lovers who get trapped in cheap rings made in China by coven members from Poughkeepsie apparently originate. This image is from Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

 

 

Anyway, a recent customer question had me looking at one of these eBay listings myself and feeling torn between chuckling and making my best Disapproving Face – the latter not because I don’t have a sense of humor but because sometimes people prey on other people who are in a really bad spot in their lives, don’t really know anything about magic that they didn’t read on eBay, and are willing to part with vast sums of money because they are desperate and believe the bullshit they read on eBay.  But read along with me, and I will provide vaguely educational, distinctly sarcastic reader responses as we go along.

Hello and welcome! Up for auction is an Authentic Blah Blah Witch Fairy Gemstone Vampire Blah Blah Thingamajig.  As you know, ABBWFGVBB Thingamajigs are very rare.  (Yes, that’s why I saw twenty of them at Dollar Tree last weekend.)

This Thingamajig is one of the most powerful Thingamjigs in the world. (According to the person writing this website copy who wants you to buy one.)

This (glitter covered magenta polyclay) Thingamajig (made in China) will work on every Djinn, Spirit, Demon, spell item, spirit item, and cursed item, from our coven or not.  (I can’t even think of anything clever to say.  I am reduced to “No it won’t.”  Unless the claim you are making is that it will brighten up the room with a sort of Kindergarten Kitsch style, and will probably keep the dust off of anything you can fit into it.  That would be true.)

Just place your item in the box and after 48 hours it will be good as new if not better then new.  (You can believe this because anything spelled so creatively and written in 24 point Papyrus typeface just *has* to be true.)

The special spells on this Thingamajig are very unique.  (As opposed to slightly unique?  clue brick: by definition, if it’s plural, it can’t be unique.  Look it up.)

This box has a cloning ability. Just put your spelled item inside and it will duplicate the spell to the non-magical item.  (Seriously, if you believe this, you need to put the credit card down and step away from the computer. Do not spend another cent on anything magic-related from anybody making claims about magical anything in their inventory. You have a LOT to learn about the principles of magic.  This is not Harry Potter or Dungeons and Dragons.  You cannot buy a wand that will do anything when you point it at someone and say “Expelliarmus,” and you cannot buy a box that allows you to cast spells by osmosis.)

I am known all over the world as one of if not the best spell caster.  (I’m so good that I can cast spells on items that enable them to exist in violation of all the principles of magic, all the suggestions of common sense, and all the teaching of history and geography. That’s why I’m casting spells a dozen at a time on cheap Chinese ceramics and pot-metal costume jewelry for $39.99 a pop. This title was awarded to me by an independent, unbiased, and expert panel consisting of my three closest friends in grade school, my cat, and a guy from Nigeria who keeps emailing me to tell me how wonderful I am, how I’m blessed, and how we are going to go into business together as soon as I can scrape up the startup money. The unfortunate side effect of my incredible magical power is that it renders spelling and grammar checking features nonfunctional on all word processing programs within a 5-mile radius.)

I have won many spell casting awards including the Golden Spell award and Spellcaster of the Year.  (And I’ve employed my spellcasting abilities to such great effect — to hide my name, location, and identity from my crazed fans out there worldwide — that everybody who hears of these world-famous awards immediately forgets that they ever heard of them, including the members of the organizations that do the awarding.  I’d name those organizations, but you’d just forget that they were world-famous before you finished reading this really long bio of me, anyway.)

I was rated the #1 Spellcaster in the world six times.  (Of course that identity protection spell means that no professional rootworker, spiritual advisor, or spellcaster can remember that such an award exists, or figure out what sort of governing body would award such a thing and by what criteria. And it means I have to keep repeating this because nobody can remember how great I am otherwise. See? I’m so good, you can’t even remember ever having heard my name before! There’s your proof!)

This Haunted Beauty and Sex Spell Celtic Bracelet will make your skin tighter and your hair and nails grow shinier and your wrinkles melt away.  (It is made with authentic Celtic nylon and authentic Celtic Tourmaline, and you know it’s truly one of a kind since the Celts wouldn’t have known tourmaline if it bit them in the ass and set their mothers on fire, since it isn’t found in Europe and wasn’t introduced until probably 1000 years after anybody stopped identifying themselves as a Celt.)

 

What every self-respecting Celtic Pagan Demon Djinn Vampire Werewolf Angel Fairy Isis Mermaid Unicorn spellcaster has hanging on her bedroom wall, right next to the batik pentacle tapestry, the Twilight poster, and the Azure Green poster depicting the Witches Alphabet.  (I stole this photo from somewhere online when I was making fun of the dominant aesthetic tendencies of certain subsets of neopagans. I wasn’t paying attention to sources so I cannot properly credit the artist – if I just ganked it, I doubt I saw an artist credited or a copyright notice, but if this is your art I will cheerfully remove it if you’d like.)

 

 

Our Haunted Goddess Erzulie Wish Box from a Voodoo Shaman is extremely rare and powerful.  (It’s so rare that not even initiated practitioners of the religion of Vodou have heard of such a thing, and it’s so powerful that it can overcome the facts that Erzulie is not a goddess and there is no such thing as a voodoo shaman.)

All you have to do is write your wish on a piece of paper and put it inside the box for 24 hours.  The Goddess Erzulie is not stingy with her gifts and will shower you with riches, love, and money. She asks nothing in return. (BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!  I’m sorry, I’m choking on my tea; therefore I can’t expand on how even a person with knowledge of voodoo as deep as can be gained by spending an entire grueling lunch hour in the metaphysical section of her local chain bookstore, thus absorbing the arcane wisdom of the Ancient Index of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Voodoo, would know better than this.)

My customers are worldwide and I help many famous people all over the world with their problems.  You have nothing to lose!  (Except $49.99+shipping, your credibility as a critical thinker and person capable of smelling a scam and doing some research and fact-checking, and any shot at a decent love life if you are foolish enough to follow this seller’s directions, make imperious demands of Erzulie Freda while holding a lampwork-beaded trinket and chanting, and thinking that you can walk around calling yourself a worshipper of this goddess who “asks for nothing in return.” Now that’s a spell that *can* “backfire” on you.)

Try our potions, made in authentic sacred ancient voodoo rituals by a voodoo shaman, for instant money.  We are the only seller offering authentic voodoo potions. (I harbor a slightly cruel desire to see this person tarred, feathered, rolled in dollar bills from their ill-gotten gains, adorned with cords from which hang vials of water-purification tablets, and set loose in the communal market of Gonaives, Haiti.)

Selling some comfortably-middle-class college kid in North Carolina a $20 trinket with a non-existent penis-enlarging spell supposedly put on it is kinda sad and I can even crack a grin about it and hope the kid learns a valuable lesson for that $20.  But telling lies about Haitian religion, culture, and history in an attempt to put more cash in your pocket so you can suck up more Venti sugar free vanilla soy Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha at Starbucks while you surf the web for porn, or shoes, on your iPad in air-conditioned comfort is not funny at all. There is a toddler in Jocmel dying of diarrhea today, and a young boy, the family’s only son, dying of cholera in Gonaives.  There is a teen girl being trafficked to the Dominican Republic this week with her parent’s knowledge because her 8 siblings are literally starving to death. There’s another dying of AIDS because antiretroviral drugs are so scarce. Infants die every day because there there is no clean water in their villages.  One child out of a hundred will finish high school. So I hope every dollar you make on your authentic sacred ancient voodoo instant money potion hangs on your soul like an anvil, and I hope you choke on every sip of your fucking Starbucks until you start diverting your profit to UNICEF or the Red Cross or Fonkoze. People who have really traveled the world and spent a lifetime making study of the world’s spiritual practices, religious beliefs, and folk magic systems do not tell such egregious lies while hiding their own faces and do not exploit other religions like this.

***

ETA: While I’m at it, a pet peeve: when “spell” is used as a verb in English, it means to form words with letters (“teach the children to spell”); to explain or make understood (“he doesn’t get it – we have to spell it out for him”); to name or print the letters of in order (“reservation for Barnum – can you spell that for me?”), etc.  It does NOT mean to cast a magical spell, so when you say “this djinn vampire lover voodoo ring has been spelled just for you,” you sound like a moron.  See, English already has a verb that means “to cast a magical spell” so you really don’t need to invent one.  People who are not pretentious snake-oil salesmen might reach for the perfectly functional “enchanted,” for instance.  So when you read “I stood over the altar in my flowing velvet ceremonial robes and created these spelled rings” and “these amulets have been spelled for you,” what this person is saying is that they stood up in their polyester RenFair PJs and enunciated “R-I-N-G” and “A-M-U-L-E-T.”  … which is probably pretty close to the truth in terms of ritual efficacy. The effect of such a “spelling” is about what you’re going to get when you purchase one of the 30 available $89 Vampire Energy Spirit Blood Source with Enhanced Erotic Sex Magic keychains. But as this is the same seller who uses the phrase “the biggest majority of my customers” (as opposed to, you know, the smallest majority), and puts most of the listing in 38 point Papyrus typeface, I am only scratching the surface. There is a special place in hell for this guy, and he will merit his own post someday.

***

[1] Now, if you actually have a genuine spirit trapped in an object, which is very unwise if you didn’t do it yourself and thus know exactly what was done and how to what type of spirit (and even then it’s still very unwise to treat spirits like your slaves and trap them anywhere and keep them hanging around your living room to do your bidding), then I suppose anything is possible – something like that could conceivably “turn on you.”  That would be the pissed off spirit that you’ve trapped and decided to keep around and probably not fed and cared for correctly, and you would have cause to be concerned. But if you buy a “spelled item” like a ring on eBay for $19.99 that has a “spirit” trapped inside it, please take comfort in the fact that nothing is going to happen.  Because your naivete and blind optimism protected you.  Because you bought a ring.  That’s all you bought.  And don’t even get me started on “charging boxes,” for God’s sake.

  

Feeding spirits is always important, sometimes time-consuming, often at least slightly messy, and will almost certainly cost you more than $19.99. 

P.S. This photo is my personal property and may not be copied or used without my explicit written permission. Don’t be an idiot and go around stealing other workers’ photos. The most mediocre spiritual worker with the most basic photo editing software can slip a digital sigil or two in their work that you’d be hard pressed to counter since you’d be hard pressed to even identify it.

on “bulsh*t” spells, scams, “impossible” magic, consultations, and budget spellwork

More questions I've gotten…

Q: "so i came across your site and ive been scammed several times [etc, snipped, the usual]  so i want to know if your legit and if you can take me serious than others and help me . if there is a spell you kno or ritual to grow taller to the height i wish too grow." 

A: Sweetie, there is no such thing as a spell to make you grow taller (or grow your body parts, or be irresistible to any person ever and always no matter what, or to reunite lovers in 24 hours guaranteed, or to get a vampire demon lover, or to get a ring with a wish-granting genie in it, or any of that other sounds-to-good-to-be-true stuff you can get on ebay), and anybody who tells you that they can make you grow taller with magic is lying to you (and making six times the money I make, because I won't prey on people who don't know better). Magic simply does not work that way.

There ARE spells to work on your personal presence, your self-esteem, the way you carry yourself and the way you appear to
others, your sense of mastery and confidence, your physical health and strength, etc.  If you are young and have not finished growing, there are ways you can focus on maintaining the peak of health and maximizing your potential. But if you are done growing, you are done growing.  If you have a medical condition and/or are undergoing medical treatments to effect your physical stature, there is work that can be done to boost the skill and wisdom of your physicians and keep your own health and receptivity at top levels.  Aside from that, you are looking for something that exists only in Harry Potter books and such.  And you should run, not walk, away from anyone who would prey on your naivete and desire in order to profit on it by promising to do something that is in violation of the basic principles of magic.

Same family as an earlier one I got this month:

Q: "what oil will make me beter looking and grow my penis?"

A: No product will increase your penis size or physically change your features, and most of the people who advertise that kind of thing are better at writing advertising copy than casting spells.  But there are spells that will boost your confidence, charisma, sex appeal, and aura of glamour, and many products in those lines, when used as body products, also are good for hair, nails, alluring scents, complexion, or stuff like that too, depending, and with a well-designed spell, will change the way you project yourself and the way people perceive you.  Buying a bottle of oil itself isn't going to do it, but you could build a simple, "pre-night-out" attraction/grooming ritual with candles, oils, and powders with things in the Attraction, John the Conqueror, Samael, Rubeus, Kaliprix, Kiss Me Quick, or Follow Me Girl/Boy type families, depending on what you're after.

Q: I read a spell site that said no real spellcaster would charge for curse removal, so how can you charge for curse removal?

A: You read one person's opinion.  If you want my opinion, here it is: what you read is judgmental, and frankly pretty ethnocentric and ignorant, and I say that no real, professional spellcaster who actually does this for a living would say something demonstrating such ignorance about the myriad magical/spiritual traditions that differ from – and probably significantly predate – their own tradition.  I don't know where you read it or what they do all day, but I do this for a living, and if I worked for free, I would not be able to do any work at all; I'd be closing up shop with a quickness.  The supplies I use cost money, no matter what type of spell I'm using them in, and I charge for my time and work, no matter what kind of work it is. I have to eat.  That doesn't make me unethical and it doesn't make me "fake." I just don't work for free – I'm not independently wealthy, and I charge for my time and work.

Now, if you are a customer or client or have been reading for a while, you already know that because I am a worker who also makes/grows most of her own product/product ingredients, and because I come from a rural background where we mixed up stuff with what we could get, not what was for sale at the drugstore with a hoodoo label on it, I am able to accommodate all kinds of budgets.  For clients who want to do their own spells, I do consultation sessions to coach them.  For clients who want to make their own oil or bath or the like, I will do consultation sessions to coach them too, and the "coaching session" is a path I recommend for clients who are hurting for money, because if you need me to stick to things you can get at the grocery store, i will.[*]  If you need to get uncrossed and you are broke, there IS help for you.[**]  However, this is not the same thing as my doing a full-blown Uncrossing ritual for free.

But I DO work with folks.  In fact, working with folks is what this is all about – being a professional worker is not about handing out "one size fits all" spells.  If you write me and want free advice, that is what you are going to get – a general recommendation for an approach that may be helpful for what you describe but may not be given any number of unknown factors that I can't look at (or, honestly, read a long email about) without a consultation.  But if you book a consult with me to talk about your case, you will get recommendations specific to your situation.  I tell folks all the time, when they ask "what is the best spell/product for me," that the best spell/product is the one they can and will use properly and that the case will be responsive to.  No point in me sending you some incense if you can't use it because you have asthma, or prescribing baths if you won't take them – nor in setting you up with Commanding work if the cards show that it will backfire, or with Reconciliation work if your case is hopeless.  But the bottom line is I do this for a living, which is part of what "professional" means. [***] 

Q: How do I avoid getting scammed by a fraud or unethical worker or reader?

Watch out for anybody who guarantees their work with a money-back refund.  Watch out for anyone who promises a 100% success rate.  Watch out for people who promise to reunite lovers within 24 hours.  Watch out for people who offer to do spellwork that fixes your problems with no effort on your part.  Watch out for anyone who offers to sell you a trapped wish-granting powerful sexy vampire genie for $100 that is bound to an antique ring that came from a voodoo priestess's house, or the pyramids in Egypt, or someone's dead great aunt who was a sorceress from Atlantis and/or related to Marie Laveau and/or the Salem witches, etc,  and who passed it down to the favorite grandchild (etc).  [Think – if you had that kind family heirloom, would you *sell* it?  And if magic were as easy as buying an enchanted item and never having to lift a finger, well, I wouldn't be working  🙂 ]  Watch out for someone who claims to be world-renowned psychic to the stars but who you can find no record of existence for that predates the one-month-old website.

Watch out for someone who never calls you on your shit.  If they think everything you propose is a great idea, all the time, and never give you another perspective, or make an alternate suggestion, or let you know that what you want is going to be hard to do, or suggest that you may have had some role in your breakup but encourage you to jump on the "everybody is out to get me" pity-party, then you may not have a fraud exactly, but you do have somebody who will flatter you to get your money and who will thus be of limited assistance in the big picture.  Now, it's possible that you may never get a reading or work done where this becomes an issue or where you'd even have a chance to see if this was happening – it depends on the nature of your case or issue.  And I"m certainly not saying your worker or reader should try to make you feel bad or small.  There is a real need for a reader / worker to be able to give you even bad news in such a way that it does not crush you or belittle you, or that is at least sensitive to the effects of the bad news.  That is not what i mean.  I'm talking about people who only ever tell you what you want to hear.

Watch out for anyone who judges all readers/workers of all paths by standards that are applicable only to a certain path or religion and says stupid things like "No ethical reader would ever recommend an uncrossing spell" or "no ethical worker would ever do hexing work" or "no ethical spellcaster would ever use animal bones" or "no real priest or priestess would ever charge money."  Those are ethics belonging to a few people, not everybody, and they are profoundly ignorant about and dismissive of/insulting to traditional Southern-style rootwork as well as many religions of the African diaspora.  How much somebody charges is not a reliable index of whether they are fake or not.  Whether they post their birth name and a physical address is not a reliable index.  Where they were born is not a reliable index.  Whether they have a psychic grandmother is not a reliable index. 

But there are quite a few things you can look for when searching for a reliable, ethical reader or worker.  Here's a page from Lucky Mojo outlining some common scams.  Here is the AIRR code of ethics, which I personally subscribe to as does every member of AIRR.  While there are good workers out there who may not susbscribe to every item on these lists exactly as written, a worker with any real experience should be able to outline some sort of code of ethics or terms or principles for you if you ask, so that you know where they are coming from — this may be outlined in a bio, or listed on an FAQ, or they may write about it less formally on their blogs or sites; the point is that you should be able to get some idea of where they are coming from somehow, either in something they've written and provide, or by asking them questions about how they work. 

Happy hoodooing!

_________________________________________

[*] This does not mean you can book a consultation and say "give me your formula for Fiery Wall of Protection" and I will go "Ok, here you are."  It means you approach me with a list of what you have and I tell you what of it you can use to make what you want.  Or you say "I need to make an inexpensive uncrossing formula with stuff I can get today, at the local market," and I will work with you, even if takes more than one trip to the grocery store or more than one email.

[**] Crossed conditions can be serious, and can prevent a person from getting ahead in all kinds of areas of life.  I will work with you to figure out some way for you to get back on your feet no matter what your budget (but seriously – between this blog, luckymojo.com, the lucky mojo forum and other forums run or hosted by real workers, and the blogs of all my colleagues that I have linked to, it is a question of a little bit of time spent researching.  You can get an uncrossing ritual with a few clicks, so it's not really reasonable to expect someone to do the research for you for free when you can do it yourself, you know?  But if you come to me with an idea already in mind and want to run an ingredient substitution by me, and you can send me a short, direct email, then I am likely to respond without your needing a consultation — if you are talking about a serious condition or emergency.  But not every desire merits reduced rate of pro-bono work.  If you are looking for Reconciliation, for instance, that is not an emergency – no matter how much you may feel like it is, sorry 🙂  Neither is lottery work. 

[***] The other part, in my opjnion, refers to ethics and bearing, as in "conducts self and business professionally," but that is 1. another post, and 2. hardly cut-and-dried, not open to interp, and not disputed at all in all circles.  Obviously the unnamed worker who said "no real spellcaster would charge for this" actually meant "no professional/ethical caster would, in my opinion and according to my code of ethics, charge for this."  How one charges has absolutely no direct, causal effect on whether or not one is capable of doing effective spellwork, though how and what one charges can sometimes be part of a matrix of warning signs.

I actually do take pro bono work, but you have to either be an existing client who I already know, be referred to me by another worker that I know, or get accepted as a pro bono client by the AIRR Pro Bono Fund and program, which I participate in.  The Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers, or AIRR, has a pro bono fund to help clients in dire straits who cannot afford to undertake work that they really genuinely *need.*  You can read more about it here.  If you send me an email out of the blue saying "Can you help me for free," you are going to get a form letter giving you some links, but you are not going to get a personal response. This is not because I'm mean and ugly – it's because I get about 50 emails a day from people "with just a quick question."  There is no such thing as "just a quick question" unless it is about work that is currently ongoing and contracted and therefore not you asking for free spell advice. 

A *great deal* depends on impressions here; folks who write simply assuming I will read a long, involved email and reply to them with personalized recommendations are likely to try my patience b/c they give me the impression they have no idea how this job works and are not able to put themselves into my shoes for a sec.  When in doubt, ask – a simple, to the point email saying "I have some questions about what product to use to get a promotion" will probably get a response saying "Great, go ahead."  If the next email is short and to the point, you will probably get a friendly response making suggestions.  If you send me a first email that is long and tells me the whole story about something and you want advice on that complicated relationship or job situation, you are going to get a form letter telling you how to book a consultation.  Bottom line : check your assumptions before writing, that's all! and ask before sending me a long complicated email, because it would be a shame if you spent all that time typing it and I don't read it.  I owe it to the clients who have booked consultations to get back to them ahead of new stuff, you know?  And those first two question on this post? I get fifty like them every day.  If you don't want to book a consultation, that's fine – I'll put your question in my queue of things to answer on the blog when I have a chance.

Image magic, doll babies, and the principles of affinity in conjure – part one

Rootworkers and practitioners use image magic all the time – perhaps when they don’t even realize that’s what they are doing. For instance, when you carve a candle with a target’s name and another with yours, and move them closer to each other over the course of a week across your altar, you are having one candle stand in for you and the other stand in for your target, and what you do to the candles you are symbolically doing to you and the target. They may not look like you, but you might carve them with your name, or put a photo or a personal concern under them.

Same with photos – you place one photo face down underneath a plate or behind a mirror or your headboard, or put it under St. Michael’s foot, or place it face to face with another photo, and you are working image magic. Same with a skull candle on which you carve your target’s name to influence them powerfully on a deep unconscious or subconscious level, or when you use the same type of candle with your own name to help you quit smoking or form some new habit – or when you baptize a lodestone before using it in altar work. The idea is to use, or create in order to use, some kind of "magical link" between the actual person and the image, item, object etc that is being manipulated in the spell. Bodily personal concerns are the strongest traditional means to do this, and this kind of work has been done in hundreds of cultures for thousands of years.

The principle is the same as for doll-babies or poppets (as they are often called in European-derived traditions, or voodoo dolls as they are called in the movies and in tourist traps on Bourbon Street). For a long time, I did not see much doll-baby work being done by younger people anymore; when I did see it, it was usually for malevolent magic and every once in a while for love magic.

 

I’m happy to say I’m seeing more of it again, for whatever reason.

Incidentally, this terminology of a “magical link” is not terminology that every conjure practitioner or root doctor uses, and if you start talking to a rootworker about “magical links,” they might not always know what you are talking about. But it’s the same principle behind using their hair or nails in a mojo that is targeting somebody in particular. When a spell or trick calls for “personal concerns,” this is basically something that can link the ritual object to the target person. I have seen some folks say that certain herbs can be used in place of a target’s hair in some spells, for instance, and while I guess you can try it and see how that works for you, I personally would not take that one to the bank. See, when you “get” the theory behind this, you’ll get why these concerns are called for and why an herb cannot truly replace a target’s hair. The personal concern is a link to the person, in many cases pretty much standing in for the person in the spell. If you don’t have a bodily concern like hair, then you can make do with things like name papers or their business card, but it’s not the same as the hair. And so while I guess you could make do with a root to use in place of hair, by itself that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me – unless you were baptizing the root in their name and/or carving their name into it, in which case the root is no longer just a root but is also working as a poppet or doll baby of sorts.

Now, as to the type of concern. Bodily concerns like fluids, hair, nails, etc are often called for, and I have had some clients assume that that means the mojo or ritual object has to have the target’s DNA involved for it to work. That is not really the case. Now, bodily concerns are obviously going to be stronger than, say, the person’s business card or their company logo printed off the internet, because they are part of that person. And that is why some workers will tell you that if you can’t get hair or nails, that you can do well with an article of clothing, or the insole (or some other part) of their shoe (and in the case of shoes, that usually has added resonance given the importance of the foot and things related to the foot in foot-track magic). But that’s not to say that the underlying principle is that the spell has to use the target’s DNA. In fact, as you might note if you are familiar with foot-track magic, some spells specifically call for the person’s foot track. Literally. Like you go where they have walked, and you get a spatula or flat-headed shovel, and you scoop up their footprint out of the dirt, and you use that dirt in your spell. That isn’t going to have their DNA in/on it, most likely, so you can see that DNA is not the point. It happens to be the case that many good personal concerns may also have the target’s DNA on them, but that doesn’t mean a good personal concern has to use/have their DNA. It is possible to work on a target without using a bodily personal concern at all (baptism of the object is one typical way to do this).

Another set of questions I get reveals some fuzziness around the “theory” behind personal concerns in spells. In large part, it’s generally safe to say that personal concerns stand in for the person you’re working on. When you are working on a relationship, there is by definition more than one person involved, so ideally personal concerns would stand in for every person involved. See, one way of looking at a mojo bag is as a little tiny magical environment that you manipulate to represent the larger environment, and the personal concerns are little tiny representations of the people involved. (It’s the same principle behind a moving candle spell or lodestone spell – the altar in that case is a mini magical environment that you manipulate to bring changes in the larger environment.) So a mojo bag for a relationship generally has two targets. If you are making a mojo for love and you are after a girl, she is the target for this in one sense, because you are having a portable spell, basically, made for you, in the form of a mojo bag. You are putting the love-drawing and "love me now"/love compelling elements in the environment of the mojo, and surrounding her with them by putting her personal concerns in.

 

But all of this is in the service of getting you two together. So it will be stronger to also have your personal concerns inside the environment, even though you aren’t the target in the sense of there is no work aimed at you to change your emotions or behavior. Those ingredients in the environment having been given "instructions" to draw her (through her stuff) to you (through your stuff). We have to tell our herbs and powders and oils what to do, where to go, which is why we call the target’s name when we sprinkle powders, for instance (so that you don’t hot foot yourself, or hot foot the wrong neighbor, if a non-target person comes in contact with the powder). I give the "instructions" while I make the mojo, through prayers and invocations, sometimes through a petition paper as well, and you give instructions by praying over it or meditating on your goals or however you work. Of course you are carrying the bag, so you’re involved that way, but carrying/owning the bag is not actually the same thing as being inside the bag in the form of your personal concerns, of being inside the little magical environment you’ve created to carry around and bring influence to bear in a certain way. You’ve put her in the bag with the herbs and curios etc to get a certain result – but the certain result is her being influenced towards loving you etc, whatever the specifics of your petition are. So it makes sense to be as close to her as possible in this magical environment; it makes sense to put your personal concerns together in the bag (in the case of hair, twined together perhaps, or embedded into the same piece of blessed beeswax, touching; sometimes a bag will have a root for each person, baptized for that person, and each root would have hair tied around it or would be dressed with bodily fluids or the like).

So since you are carrying the bag, and it’s your bag, and you will be handling and talking to and feeding the bag, then it’s not like there is no element of you involved in it – never mind that I will be calling your name as I prepare the bag. But it works better if you are IN the environment with her, not just carrying her around in the environment. Some of this might seem like common sense, or like it doesn’t really make a lot of difference in practice most times, but not everybody has really thought about it, so I write this post to help you frame ways to think about it in case you haven’t. This becomes more important in some kind of spells, like those to bind a person’s nature. When you are making a mojo bag for a relationship, and you are including a tissue that has the mingled sexual fluids of you and your target, then that makes total sense and it’s no big deal that they are mingled. In fact, it’s good that they are. But if you are working on a target to tie their nature so they can’t be unfaithful to you, you really would want to be careful NOT to use a cloth or tissue that had mingled sexual fluids on it, because you are going to work on that object and symbolically work on the target through it. You don’t want to tie a knot in a handkerchief with both your sexual fluids on it unless you want to tie your own self down too; you want the handkerchief to just have the target’s fluids. (And while we are in the realm of symbols, of course, you should understand that that is not to say “and therefore this stuff works only symbolically, and thus affects only intention or predisposition or feelings, and not physiological stuff, so there is no danger in putting my own sexual fluids in there – I am calling the target’s name and influencing them to be faithful by symbolically tying this handkerchief, so it won’t have any affect on my own intentions or feelings.” That clean division between physical and emotional, between bodily and spiritual, just isn’t there in conjure; old time workers often warned that leaving a person “tied up” through spellwork could have detrimental physical effects. Any naturally flowing system – and a human being is a naturally flowing system in this sense – gets changed deeply when obstacles, blockages, reroutings and diversions happen to it. Work on tying natures is closely related to work on stopping up bowels or urine, on blocking up a menstrual cycle or stopping a womb, etc – it is potentially dangerous work that can have potentially fatal consequences, and so in my opinion it really should not be undertaken lightly and should not be undertaken by the inexperienced. If you are new to spellwork, don’t start here. Learn your way around with less potentially dangerous work first – and while you’re at it, you may learn that there are easier and/or less dangerous ways to accomplish your goal. I do not believe that there is no justification for certain types of work, ever; I think even work to maim and kill is sometimes justified. But it is dangerous work, and it’s dangerous not just to the target – it’s dangerous to the person doing the work as well. But I suppose that will have to be another blog post.)

It’s important to note that not all mojo bags or container spells work like this, where you and your love interest would both be in the bag. Some mojos are made to be “magnets,” where YOU are the target in the sense of the herbs etc are being instructed to work on you – to amp your glamour and sex appeal, to make you more magnetic and smooth-talking, or whatever. But once you get in the habit of thinking about the how and why of the ingredients and the manner of creation and working, you will begin to see what you should do and why you are doing it. Always think about what symbolic job the ingredients are doing, and what/who the target(s) is/are, when constructing your work. This will help you avoid some common traps, like “beginner syndrome” in which you figure if three herbs are good, thirty must be better, or “everything but the kitchen sink” syndrome, where you expect a single mojo or vigil light to do seven different jobs on fifteen different people, to banish evil AND draw luck AND make your neighbors stop fighting AND soften your landlord AND keep enemies away AND draw friends. If you want something to do that many jobs, you can’t expect it do any of them very well.

So when I have clients send me seven different kinds of personal concern, thinking (I suppose) that if one is good, four is better, I often have to (politely) check their exuberance. If you have a target’s hair, there is no need to also include their business card, not when we’re talking about personal concerns in general. (It would be different if you were working on them in a way that related to their business or job, of course – I can think of times when you might want both hair and a business card .) But in general, there are lots of options for personal concerns, and they generally fall somewhere on a scale of good to better to best, and if you have something from the “best” area, there is usually no need to also add something from the “good” or “better” category. A list of personal concerns in order of desirability for most spells in general might look like this:

• hair, bodily fluids, nail parings, skin

• used / previously worn, unwashed clothing, shoes that have been worn, insoles from shoes, foot tracks, dirty towels, napkins, drinking straws etc (think “things that their saliva or sweat has gotten on pretty good)

• original signatures

• handwriting samples

• washed/clean clothing, personal property or objects owned or touched by the target

• photographs

• business cards, newspaper clippings mentioning their name

• name papers
 

Obviously, there is going to be some variation here, and certain kinds of spells will call for certain concerns, and in cases like that, you should probably trust that the spell does that for a reason, and use the recommended concern if possible. Some spells will call for more than one type of personal concern for various reasons, as well, so there is often some combination. And for various reasons, different workers in different contexts might rearrange the list I’ve given here and change the order of things. And also, depending on the spell or working, you might choose inherently inert objects (a plastic doll or a wax candle shaped like a person or a body part) or inherently powerful objects (roots, herbs, lodestones) to be baptized and called by the person’s name, to stand in for them in the spell or working. So plenty of things might complicate the above list or cause you to choose based on something other than the order of “proximity” or “inherent magical link” to the person. But in general, the higher up the list something is, the less you have to manipulate it or do extra stuff to it in order to get it working as a link to that target person in your spell. Hair already has a magical link between it and the target; you don’t have to do anything else. A piece of paper or doll has to be magically linked to the target before it can be used to affect the target.

In understanding image magic and the principles of working on somebody at a distance (giving their doll baby a bath versus actually having them take the bath physically themselves, for instance), we also have to consider other major players in conjure and spellwork, and how they interact with and fit into what we’re doing. We are concerned with the spirits or souls of ourselves and our targets, but we also have to consider the spirits of the herbs, the personages of saints and intelligent spirits, elemental spirits, God and the Trinity, etc. That will be part two of this little series on image/affinity magic.
ETA: And Mother Mystic has a post on this topic that I recommend.

***

Image one – creation of a doll-baby containing the target’s personal concerns (under the lodestone) and a fixed, baptized lodestone), which will be paired with a similar doll-baby to represent the other "half" of the couple

Image two – a moving lodestone spell, in which the lodestones have been baptized in the targets’ names

Image three – a sample name paper showing two names, in which one party is to be dominant over the other party.  As such, it does double duty as a sort of (drastically concentrated type of) petition paper; it’s a petition paper in that it is invoking a particular effect besides just standing in for a person. Writing your name across another person’s name gives you dominance over the person. So in a way, it’s a symbolic kind of shorthand for the petition "may so and so be dominant over so and so," though the act of making the paper is itself a miniature bit of spellwork and thus a bit more than just a petition or just a namepaper.  A name paper standing in for a single person as a personal concern might just have a name on it and be much simpler.

PLEASE NOTE: all photos in my blog are MY personal property, and are copyright Karma Zain, unless otherwise noted (in cases where I use an image in the public domain, for example, or an image licensed under a Creative Commons license).  You may NOT take, download, "borrow," repost, or reuse these images without my express permission.  Just like taking my writing and reposting it without my permission (barring using small, properly attributed portions in the context of a quote or review that would fall under "fair use"), in taking my images you are stealing from me.  You are especially not advised to take my images and then put them on your blog or facebook, where I will eventually find them and be more than a little ticked off (no, I can’t look at every web page in existence, but my wonderful readers, colleagues, clients, and friends will let me know when they stumble upon such things).  Sorry to spoil an otherwise lecture-and-soapbox-free blog post, but I just stumbled across a photo of some bottles of oil that I posted to this blog last year, taken and put up in a self-proclaimed rootworker’s facebook album.  I have to assume this person got the image from someone else who had stolen it from me, because I cannot imagine that they would be nuts enough to steal from me and then allow me access to where the stolen material is being hosted on purpose.  Surely.

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 luckymojo.com – 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.