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.

questions you’ve asked (in search terms): ratings, goofer dust, saints

Q: Who is rated the best on AIRR of hoodoo rootworkers? I have a complex problem that needs solved, who can do rootwork?

Every worker at AIRR can do rootwork. Every worker at AIRR has a minimum of two years’ experience working for the public, professionally; most have much, much more than that. We all handle complex cases all the time.

There is no rating system, and “ratings” and “awards” are two of the warning signs for scam artists and unethical practitioners. Anybody claiming to have received a spellcasting award or to have been voted #1 in something or other is lying or is misrepresenting the nature of the organization doing the awarding. There is no such organization that awards such things, tracks workers, assembles ratings, or anything like that.

AIRR-logo-140x140
I’ll just touch on a few of the numerous underlying problems with looking for ratings.

First of all, what are the established criteria by which to “rate” a worker? If you named yours, I can guarantee you that the next person to name their own will have different criteria and/or will weight them differently, and I guarantee that you two wouldn’t agree on what counts as meeting or exceeding the criteria in every case, too.

Every case is unique, every worker works a different way, and so much depends on “fit,” on communication and on the worker and client “clicking.” If you go read one of those forums dedicated to folks reporting on their experiences with spellcasters, you will quickly realize how ridiculous and often contradictory the various members’ criteria for rating or judging a spellcaster are.

Put simply, there are no rankings and there is no organization that would track such things. There are no criteria by which to “rate” workers that are logical, fair, verifiable, and able to be applied across the board. Workers, like doctors and lawyers, have different specialties, different criteria for taking cases and accepting clients, different styles, and different ways of working. There is no such thing as “the best worker” any more than there is such a thing as “the best lawyer” or “the best doctor.”

There are LOTS of criteria for choosing a worker or lawyer or therapist or financial advisor or anything else, and if you look at customer comments/ratings on some of those sites, you’ll see pretty quickly that “customer satisfaction” is usually the biggest thing people base a rating on. But that’s a pretty nebulous thing to go by, and it’s actually not a characteristic of the worker him/herself. On being told that the thing they’re pushing for is not going to happen, so the worker can’t take their case and they should consider letting it go, one client will leave 5 stars and mention the worker’s honesty and ethics. But another will be angry, leave 1 star, and write, “a fraud! couldn’t do the work, not a real worker!”

To be blunt, a client is often not in a position to rate a worker on anything other than bedside manner and communication style, which are part of the picture but certainly not the whole picture. The more a client understands about spiritual work and the more experience they have with it, the better, but even so, different people will have different criteria and priorities. You just can’t apply statistics to this kind of thing.

And workers have different skills, specialties, setups, policies, and preferences. For instance, if you are looking for a phone reading so you can have reconciliation work done, well, I usually don’t do phone readings and I usually don’t take reconciliation cases. I’ll tell you out of the gate I’m not the worker for you. If you want some good old fashioned smiting on your deadbeat ex, some workers don’t do work like that and some will (after a reading or intake appointment or consultation or something). I will do that kind of work if it’s justified, if it will benefit the client ultimately, and if the client is not a total stranger to me or comes recommended by a colleague.

But I have no patience with frantic lovers who think their breakup is an emergency and who will label messages “urgent” and then say “he didn’t call me last Friday!!!” You will not want to come to me about that kind of thing. The kind of client who would label this urgent is also the kind of client who rarely pauses to consider that their worker could be dealing with an actual emergency with a client whose child is being abused by the custodial parent, or who is facing eviction, or whose spouse has just died and left him with tons of secret debt which is all past due. So no, I’m not going to consider your boyfriend’s texting frequency an emergency, sorry. But there are other workers who work with those clients well and have the patience to deal with them and educate them about how reconciliation and return-a-lover work works.

Most professional workers will be able to tell you something about themselves, their way of working, and their philosophy and communication and reading style; you should find one who appeals to you and drop them a line. I’m sorry to say that that’s the only way to do it – there is no ranking system and no way to rate rootworkers in any kind of across-the-board system, no way to get reliable statistics (be wary of anyone who says they have a percentage success rate – that’s a warning sign that I’ve written about in another “questions you’ve asked” post), and no way to tell whether they will take your case or what they will say or do until you talk to them. I know some very good, very experienced workers who have a reputation for being “testy” or “bitchy.” I have been included in that number, in fact, before. But I have plenty of clients, some of whom actually like me. It takes all kinds!

For some people, being treated with kid gloves is more important than the truth or the bottom line (and what constitutes “kid gloves” or even “respect” varies wildly from person to person). For others, they can take a blunt response if they know the worker is being honest and has their own best interests at heart. No two clients will have the same criteria that are ranked in the same order of importance anyway. One client can get along famously with one worker and their best friend can be turned off by or dislike that worker. (Same with clients on the worker’s end.)

But I can tell you that every member of AIRR has been trained, vetted, investigated, and tested; interacts regularly with at least some of their AIRR colleagues; adheres to AIRR’s code of ethics; and will participate in mediation if the client has a legitimate problem with a contracted service. (“She hurt my feelings” or “my lover hasn’t come back yet” are not legitimate problems.)  Also, you can always contact a worker and, if they can’t or will not help you, ask them for a recommendation to a colleague. We are all colleagues and we know each other – if we think another worker will be a good fit for your case and your personality/communication style, we can probably suggest someone. But while some of us may like or dislike certain types of work or specialize in a handful of things and stick mostly to them, none of us is across-the-board “better” or “higher-rated” than another. There is no such thing as a legitimate rating system. And when someone contacts us expecting such a thing, we are cautious because we know they will need some educating on the basics if we take them on as a client.[*]

Why did my goofer dust fail?

There are way too many moving parts in any given working for anybody to be able to answer that without more information, or for any query you type into Google to be able to supply you with an answer. You might have made or deployed it wrong, you might have done everything right but your target has thorough protection from such tricks, or you might have done everything right and your goal is simply not the will of God.

How to make Martha the Dominator work in three days?

First of all, I would caution you that you can’t “make” a saint do anything. Second of all, don’t micromanage stuff like this. If you go to a lawyer for a problem, you tell him your problem, and he takes your case, and then you let him do his job. You don’t dictate the terms and you don’t tell him what day your court case is going to be and what the sentence is going to be, and if you tried, he’d at best laugh and he might just show you the door. You don’t go to a doctor or therapist with a problem and then tell them how and when to fix the problem; if you do, you’re a fool.

You don’t go to a family member or friend and ask for a favor and then demand that they carry out that favor according to certain details; you ask for the favor, and you politely let them know what you need (“I really need to have the car by 3 pm so I can pick X up at the airport and then I could return it on Sunday, if that’s ok with you”). They may tell you to get stuffed, or it would be fine but you need it back that night, or whatever. You need to prioritize your request and stick to the most important parts of it. Don’t get hung up on the how and why and details that don’t matter as much.

martha dragonYou petition a saint for their intercession, and you let them know what you need, and then you get the hell out of the way. If they grant your petition, you thank them. If they don’t, well, maybe it was the will of God, or maybe you were a jerk. Maybe there is a good reason that you can’t have what you asked for in the way that you asked for it. Maybe 3 days is unrealistic, and you screwed yourself by insisting on it – they could have done it in 7, but since you were a jerk about the 3 days, now they aren’t going to do a damn thing, because you need to learn a lesson.

The saints answer prayers, but sometimes the answer is “No.” You still treat them with respect because you have a relationship with them. If you didn’t have a relationship with them before you asked a favor, then that was your mistake right there. What would you think if a new person moved into the neighborhood, knocked on your door, and asked to borrow your car for the weekend? You’d think “who the hell is this guy and what is his problem? He can’t even introduce himself first?”

Sure, there is a long tradition of “compelling” saints and spirits through such measures as turning a picture upside down, whipping a statue, taking something off their altar to return when they come through, etc. But you had damn sure better know what you’re doing, have a pre-established relationship with the saint, and know that you aren’t risking extreme wrath if you go that route with this saint (not every saint is petitioned/treated this way). Traditionally, such coercive measures were used in emergencies – if the monastery crops were failing and people were starving and the continued existence of the Church and thus the saint’s home was threatened, it might be appropriate to set the statue on the floor and be a bit more emphatic about your needs. If it is not an emergency, though, and if you don’t already know what you’re doing, I would think twice about taking this route.

***
[*] I don’t mean to imply that the only ethical, experienced workers are AIRR workers. There are good workers elsewhere too, and I count plenty of non-AIRR readers and workers as colleagues and friends. I just happen to know the ethics and vetting of AIRR workers, so I can speak in detail and in confidence about them.

d*bag/fraud/jerk/scam alert

I don’t tend to pick out scam spellcasters by name, since they always have more money and more manpower to undertake harassment campaigns than I have to defend against them, but sometimes they serve themselves up on my doorstep.  This idiot has posted “REAL SPELLCASTER!!!111OMG” ad spam in *my freakin’ comments section,* so these folks are just begging for it. (Please don’t think that when you see these, there’s a real Clementine or Dr. Voodoo or Ashra or Mystique or whothehellever behind these – there’s a group of people, usually running more than one website, and they go around posing as satisfied clients and leaving comments all over the internet.)

Recent ad spam in my comments section:

Subject: A REAL SPELL CASTER
Thanks to Dr.Zabaza for bringing back my lover, my lover left me for my best friend until i saw Dr.Zabaza that help me bring him back to me. if you are in any kind of problem please contact Dr.Zabaza on his email address on zabazalogan@ [popular domain starting with y] or call Dr.Zabaza on his personal phone number on [redacted but I’ll send it to you if you want it for your fraud files] for any help.

Keyla, posting from IP address 208.105.5.178 in New York, though she claims to be from Chicago here

DO NOT FALL FOR THIS CRAP.  There is no Dr. Zabaza, there is no Keyla, and there are no spells.

There’s also no Emily from Cuba who was cured of HIV by Dr. Zabaza, nor a Karro who got her ex back, not even if she spells it Kara, nor a Koek who got her ex back, nor a Kane who got his ex back, nor Payson or Bawani from Cuba who got her ex back, nor a Sera from Malaysia, or the Netherlands, who got her ex back… and fancy that, I am just *shocked* that earlier in October, Dr. Zabaza was going by the name Prince Obasele and using an email address at anointedland@ [popular domain starting with g and ending with mail], I tell you. Even more shocked that the name behind this crap was Dr. Hama earlier this year.

And while we’re at it, none of these other d*bags exist either.

ETA: Wow, another one in a different comment thread, advertising Priest Omigodo at templeofsolution [at popular email service starting with G], from Mrs. Johnson at IP address 64.31.35.75. Also advertised here and two dozen other places.

SCAM/SPAM ARTIST DIRTBAG DIRECTORY

ETA: A running list of scam artist (aka spam artist) dirtbags who have volunteered to be identified as such by posting comments in my blog, with IP addresses:

  • Shadi Spell. Anonymous from IP address 93.186.31.82 advertising “Shadi spell” and “Priestess Shadi” at priestessshadi@ popular email account starting with g.
  • Priestess Shadi. Anonymous from IP address 93.186.31.80 advertising the same fake spellcaster. Anonymous from IP address 93.186.23.83 advertising the same. Anonymous from 82.145.216.52
  • Angulu Temple. “Dora” from IP address 93.186.31.82 [same IP address as Anonymous advertising “Priestess Shadi” only this time with a totally different story, different name of different ex and different time frame for the ex returning] now advertising for Angulu Temple or Professor Angulu at professorangulu@ popular email account starting wtih y.  This should assure even those prone to giving much benefit of the doubt that all these scam artists are the same group of people working under multiple false identities and posting all over the web pretending to be satisfied clients.
  • Professor Angulu. See above.
  • Priest Omigodo at templeofsolution. Pretending to be Mrs. Johnson at IP address 64.31.35.75 (see above in blog entry)
  • Dr. Zabaza at zabazalogan. Pretending to be Emily from Cuba, and Karro, and Kara, and Koek, and Kane, and Payson, and Bawani, and Sera. Also pretending to be Keyla at IP address 208.105.5.178.
  • Prince Obasele at anointedland
  • Dr. Hama
  • Meruja Owo, pretending to be Janet or Jannet Watson (or Madeson) or Gregory Mitche at merujaowo101 at live.com and dorispinto101 at yahoo.com. One IP address: 93.186.31.84. For the original saga demonstrating the tip of the iceberg on how much spam advertising this one has done, go to the following: for shits and giggles, I have approved a comment that “Meruja Owo” left in response to my blog post pointing out the spam, for which I am called an animal 🙂

Happy hoodooing,

Karma Zain

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.

speaking of scams – don’t fall for the cold approach in-person

Even though most of my articles and replies these days focus on online scams and frauds, the local, low-tech, old-school scams and frauds are still out there.

Classics:

Someone approaches you in a public place and tells you that you have a dark spirit or energy or color or cloud or something about you. They employ various cold-reading tactics to home in on something that might strike a chord with you – you have a curse that makes your family stuck in place so you can’t get ahead, you aren’t getting the respect you deserve at work, you won’t find true faithful love, whatever they ascertain as likely depending on your demeanor, your shopping cart contents, your clothing, your jewelry, your car (and remember that if they approach you outside a store, they could have watched what you bought and ascertained a whole lot about your life). They give you a card and tell you to visit their reader who is a man/woman of God and can help you.

Someone approaches you and tells you that you look worried and/or asks you if everything is ok. Statistically, *something* is likely to be on anybody’s mind at any given time, but even if you say no, they proceed with “Oh, good, then it hasn’t happened yet. Sometimes I get these feelings/see the future/etc…” and then they go on to scare the bejesus out of you with predictions about what will happen to you and your loved ones if you don’t pay to get the curse removed.

What makes these guys so awful is not even that they take your money and never do any real spiritual work, though that’s bad enough. What makes them so bad is that they can pick out people who are down and out a mile away, and kick them while they’re down by scaring the shit out of them.  Poverty, chronic worry, abuse, and desperation have an aura that attracts people like this – they can pick the easier marks out of a crowd. But statistically speaking, you can take a pretty small sampling of people in a Wal-Mart on any given afternoon and more than one of them is going to be having love or money problems.

Warning signs:

If someone approaches you in a public place (that is not a psychic’s convention or the like) and gives you an unsolicited reading, followed by an offer of help from a reader or worker whether it’s them or someone they know, be suspicious.

If the first reading involves a dark cloud or a curse that is causing all your problems and that nobody has been able to take off you before, be suspicious.[*]  There is no curse in existence that can ONLY be removed by one person, whom God is going to put in your path in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

If someone follows up the initial “you’re cursed” reading with “get these two candles for $200 that I’ll have blessed and set for you to remove the curse,” be very very suspicious. While $200 is not an unreasonable amount of money for some types of spellwork, an ethical worker will give you options about your work and will never tell you that they are your only option for getting uncrossed. And there are plenty of ways to help yourself through spiritual bathing and prayer that do not cost anything near this much.[**]

If someone follows up any of the above with ever-escalating amounts of money for ever-escalating work, walk away. An ethical worker will give you a quote for your work and will not come back after it’s begun and say “it’s much worse than I thought and I need another $500.” [***]

If someone tells you that they can help you but that you cannot tell anyone about the work they’re doing for you, run don’t walk. Don’t be fooled by some appeal to showing your faith or some garbage about the four pillars of magic.  “To Be Silent”  does not mean keeping your visits to a palmist a secret from your mother or your spouse or your best friend. (See the comments below for some expansion on what I mean by this.)

If someone then threatens you when you start backing away, or implies that if you don’t follow their directions you are doomed, or says they are the only one who can help you and that no other worker is strong enough to take off this curse, or implies that even worse stuff will befall you if you don’t act now, call the fucking cops. They probably can’t do much if you did not actually fall for their shtick and hand over your life savings, but you never know – they may be someone who’s already been investigated for confidence crimes, which are categorized as “theft by deception.” Hell, call me, too (well, email me). I’ll be happy to pop them in my Justice jar. An ethical worker will not threaten you, and many workers will make up some sort of written agreement about what your work involves and how much it will cost ahead of time, so that you are both clear and so that there is a record. Many will also give you some sort of record of the work, like a photograph of your altar setup as described, so that you know your work was done and the photo wasn’t just copied/pasted from another worker’s website. Certainly, if you are paying a significant sum of money for altar work, no ethical worker should freak out if you raise the idea of a written agreement or contract, if they don’t beat you to it and offer one at the outset. A scam artist will, though; they don’t want any record of this transaction and don’t want you to have any record.

By itself, there’s not really *one single indicator* that you are dealing with a fraud or scam. It is possible (though not likely) that your first reading with an ethical reader will see crossed conditions or a curse. It is possible that then the worker will suggest you have vigil lights set; if these lights don’t cost $200, and the reading didn’t shock you with something that had never crossed your mind before, and no warning bells go off, and you are not being guided by desperation or fear, and you can afford it, then this can even be a good idea (though you should feel free to get a second opinion – politely tell you reader you are doing this, and if they freak out and tell you that going to another reader for a second opinion will make your life worse, you have a warning sign).  But there are clusters of things that can be warning signs together (a regular, plain, undecorated Uncrossing candle set on an altar that is not part of a larger sacrifice or ritual should not cost $200), and there is a constellation of things that strongly suggest you are right to be suspicious (they should not give you the impression that they are the only one who can help you and that you are doomed if you don’t take their advice).

The thing is, these guys are masters at cold reading and masters at manipulating people. They suck you in, and nobody thinks it could ever happen to them. If you feel rattled by some encounter with a reader or worker, and you don’t feel you can just dismiss what they’re saying, then get a second opinion (from someone who does not advertise 99% success rates at reuniting lovers in 48 hours).

***

[*] Some readers who do not come from a conjure background will tell you that curses don’t really exist. You’ll hear from this psychics of a newer-age variety and from those who want to separate their profession from the scam artists advertising “reunites lovers.” But a lot of this is cultural. Curses and hexing/crossing are a fact of life in conjure, and they are a fact of life in the southeastern U.S. (and really all over the country and the world). I sell a healthy supply of stuff that people could use to do such work, and I sell it to people from *all walks of life,* from people who are working for barely more than minimum wage cleaning up after you in your hotel room to high-powered business execs.  Conjure products are used every day by people in every profession you can imagine, from cafeteria workers in your local middle school to politicians all over the world, to those in professions ranging from entertainment to education to drug trafficking to politics to healthcare to music to law enforcement to sex work to the sciences. It is everywhere, and some workers will undertake it on behalf of clients. However, the kind of curse that “holds you down” your whole life and has been in your family for generations is actually pretty rare, is not particularly easy to put in place, is a lot of trouble for someone to go to, and is a lot more likely with clients from some cultures than from others.

[**] My advice? If you are in a tight place financially, do NOT pay this kind of money for spellwork. Food and clothing come first. Never get a cash advance against your next paycheck to have a spell done. Never. Get a $25 consultation and learn how to do your own work with stuff you can get at the grocery store.

[***] If they were worth a shit as readers, they should be able to tell you at the outset if the option you choose might not take care of the whole situation permanently, if you might have to take further spiritual baths for a few months, or if you might want to follow up with another light every month, or if you might want to learn how to do spiritual cleansing of your home so you can keep it clean and protected, or if you really need to get some counseling or focus on drawing a new lover. It’s common for more info to emerge as candles and images are moved around during a working, but that info should not be fabricated just to get more money out of you.

***

If you are interested in this topic, you may be interested in the comments that unfolded on this post over at livejournal.

been scammed by so many fake psychics and spellcasters before?

Lots of people write to ask me to “prove I’m genuine” because they’ve been scammed so many times in their search for a legitimate spellcaster or psychic. Here is one of my responses to such a person.

Note: I’ve edited, revised, and updated this post and it now lives here:

test the psychic cover(2)

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.