This will be in progress for a while, but I figured I could start organizing the stuff that’s already on the blog somewhere so folks can get to it from a single “directory” page instead of a list of scattered links.
Turns out I’m gonna have to do this in multiple sittings/sessions, though, and honestly that’s just as well, because that will give me a chance to solicit the input of some folks who *didn’t* just spend four years offline living under a rock like I did. So they are in a better position to comment on some of the more recently-available resources and recent evolutions/innovations within the cult. [*] So I’ll go ahead and do this as a short series of posts for now, and then I guess I’ll edit it down into a single page to list in the Rootwork Resources later.
[*] I’m using cult in the academic sense of the word to mean simply a system of beliefs and practices shared by a group of devotees. In this sense, it’s a neutral term and doesn’t imply anything about legitimacy or illegitimacy or make any judgment about devotees.
Santisima Muerte, or Most Holy Death, was not a mainstream figure at all when I started working with her just about 20 years ago now, and there was very little available in English about her. Devotees tended to keep her altars hidden and not honor her publicly, and while there were a few exceptions, there was still pretty widespread negativity and backlash around her cult. This was beginning to change when I began learning about and working with her, first slowly and then faster and faster as her reputation and devotion spread further and further.
Now people all over the globe honor her and petition her, and while the Catholic Church still objects and cautions the faithful about falling into idolatry and devil worship, it is easy to see evidence of her cult in broad daylight all over the place now. There are now multiple English publications and websites dedicated to her and it’s not difficult to find a worker versed in her cult.
I’m saying all this because it’s going to become apparent very quickly that I am a lot more old-fashioned and conservative about working with her than a lot of people are these days. You will find extensive resources online that essentially say “she’s wonderful and everyone should worship her!” and I am not going to agree with that at all lol, especially when the “everyone” we’re talking about is largely people who do not come from a Catholic background and are not from a culture that tends to treat the dead and ancestors as still-active and still-important members of spiritual society, as it were.
A quick example from an Etsy listing I saw the other day: a seller was offering an herbal mixture as a substitute for graveyard dirt and said in the listing that they thought it was disrespectful to disturb the rest of the dead to collect graveyard dirt.
That perspective is totally at odds with that of the culture from which graveyard dirt as materia magica sprang. I’ll pick just one unstated assumption that needs taking apart: the idea that the dead are asleep, peacefully resting when we don’t bother them, and that our interacting with them is bothersome. This is not even how the world works from a hoodoo perspective.
And a perspective like that would be totally at odds with that of Santisima Muerte’s culture of origin. It’s totally at odds with the way Catholics conceive of the afterlife and the relationship between the living and the dead. (And not just Catholics, of course – there are plenty of cultures and religions in which ancestors play important roles or death is seen as just a different phase of existence, not a permanent “exit stage left and proceed to oblivion” stage direction. But I’m gonna stick to discussing it in terms of Catholicism for this blog post for obvious reasons).
Here’s the deal: Protestants by and large do not even conceive of the ontological categories — or the available modes of being, if you will — within creation the same way as Catholics. They do not see the universe the same way or understand the relationship between the living and the dead the same way. They don’t conceive of the afterlife the same way, and they don’t understand any nuances of obligation or reciprocity that are all tied up in those relationships. And they often aren’t even aware of the extent of these differences because they don’t actually know anything about Catholicism or know any Catholics to ask.
People who do not understand how death is conceived of in a Catholic culture cannot possibly understand Santisima Muerte. You can learn about it and come to understand it, sure! But an awful lot of “witchy”-type folks like to play “flea market bingo” or “all-you-can-appropriate buffet” and just collect whatever looks cool without bothering to really grok the underlying system or tradition or culture it came from.
That’s always shitty.
But when it comes to working with Santisima Muerte, it’s also flat-out dangerous.
And of course, as her cult spreads beyond Mexico, there will be plenty of people who don’t want to say all those traditional Catholic prayers and have all those Catholic things on the altar because they’re not Catholic and they don’t see the Catholic aspect as important. They don’t see Santisima Muerte as having anything really to do with Catholicism. Some, in fact, seem to be patting themselves on the back for “liberating” her from what they apparently see as dreary and unimportant nonsense. They see her veneration (and some even use the word “worship”) as a totally new and completely separate religion.
In my opinion, they’re dead wrong, and in my experience, they’re risking the wrath of the very being they claim to be worshiping. And in being so chipper with the “everybody worship her, she’s wonderful!” stuff and not spending any time discussing cultural and religious context, they are in my opinion giving out bad and potentially dangerous advice to their readers who also don’t understand any of this and aren’t even aware of how much they’re missing and misunderstanding.
I’m going to quote from an exchange I was part of on an email discussion list a while back by way of illustration and discuss it in part 2. – it might have been more than 10 years ago now. I don’t have access to that email account anymore to be sure. But this discussion touches on some of these things I mean by “dangerous.”
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.
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. 
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 CommonsAttribution-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.
 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.
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.