how to learn about hoodoo (from a client query)

A client contacted me asking what websites (aside from cat’s at luckymojo, which I figure everybody knows about) are out there that provide good information on hoodoo.  She’s specifically looking for spells.

My answer: there aren’t a lot of them.  Most of what you find out there in internet land is adulterated and eclectic collections of spells from various traditions that are put together by those who follow syncretic, new-age paths. (And that is fine — it’s just not hoodoo).  There might be some hoodoo in it, but there will be a lot of other stuff too, and you pretty much already have to “get” what a hoodoo spell generally looks like in order to know if what you have is worth your time.  Here are a few sites I DO recommend, with caveats or comments, if you are interested in learning hoodoo spells (if you’re looking for formulas, you’re largely out of luck; you’ll have to figure out how stuff works and learn how to put two and two together, or five and seven as the case may be, for yourself).  The thing is — and I hope you’re paying attention right here even if you skim the rest of this — there are no spell books out there that will tell you how to do something just so.  The good thing is that if you grasp the principles, you don’t NEED to have a spellbook to tell you how to do something just so.  There is very little of that “must be done on a Tuesday when the moon is waning and this exact rhyme said just so” business in hoodoo, which is an eminently practical sort of folk practice.

1.  Lucky Mojo.  The single most well-researched, carefully attributed, and thorough site out there for info on hoodoo.  You can spend a lot of time on this site and it will all be worthwhile.  She also has pages of correspondence and emails preserved from earlier, in which people have asked questions or contributed spells, which she has then commented on.  You will learn a great deal from these comments.  This should be one of your first stops, and you should visit frequently; it’s an incredible resource by an incredibly generous woman.

2.  HyattSpells on yahoo groups.  From the list description: “This list is dedicated to the workings of Harry M. Hyatt and his studies of Witchcraft, Hoodoo, Rootwork, Conjuration, Folklore and Mythology. A list to discuss spells collected from conversations with Hoodoo Doctors and informants from the deep South from 1936-1940. Not for the squeamish, this list is to discuss spells that use ingredients that some may find offensive. Don’t join if you offend easily! For 17 years of age and over!”  Dara is another incredibly generous practitioner and researcher who takes time to maintain this valuable discussion list.  A word to the wise: follow the group rules and don’t barge in there asking for spells.  Use the message archive search feature, and stay on topic.  The list is dedicated to Hyatt material and you should keep that in mind when you post.

3.  Of Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston.  The e-text of this book is hosted by the University of Virginia.  Hurston, a Southern-born African American anthropologist who attracted some criticism due to “going native” in her fieldwork, collected material in several states for this book.  You should read her introduction on collecting folklore as well — if you really want to learn conjure, you have to talk to people.  It’s not a “book” tradition. That doesn’t mean books haven’t informed it at various stages in various areas of the country, but that it’s largely been an oral, hands-on tradition rooted in communities and neighborhoods. 

Other resources, which I can recommend with caveats:

Conjure on yahoo groups.  The noise to signal ratio is pretty high on this list, though, and if you subscribe you will have to wade through a bunch of BS about “my voodoo priestess says this” and “well my Palo initiator said this!” and “well Hyatt said this” “well nobody who would use a black cat bone is a good person” etc etc, apples and oranges stuff which frequently disintegrates into conversations about radiators and dieting.  I suppose the safest thing to say is that these folks and this list have a different definition of conjure than I do, and you shouldn’t assume conjure=rootwork=hoodoo on this group (and you will note, if you read Hyatt and Hurston for instance, that the practitioners they talked with sometimes made distinctions between these labels too, but I’ll leave that alone in an introductory post).  Conjure should probably not be your first stop unless you really have a lot of time on your hands.

Mojo Moon.  The spells on this page are all unattributed, but there is some stuff here that works from a hoodoo perspective.  There’s also some stuff that does not.

See also the blogs and sites I’ve linked to in my “links” section; they have info worth looking at.

Got a site to add?  Got a site to warn people about?  Got a question about material on a site?  Post a comment!