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Who-Do Hoo-Doo? Folk Magic - Southern Style

Guest 53rdspirit

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Guest 53rdspirit

I would like to share some information on rootwork from two very interesting older/vintage books. I will share more as I continue my research on the Internet as well as get through my own personal volumes of old-fashioned conjure. My goal is to inspire, not necessarily instruct.


...and the books are:


Drums and Shadows:Survival Studies Among the Georgia Coastal Negroes

Georgia Writer's Project (WPA) (1940) [Additional text can also be found on: http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/das/index.htm#contents]


[An excerpt about the book]: This collection of oral folklore from coastal Georgia was assembled during the 1930s as part of a WPA writers' program. This book focuses on a set of beliefs and magical practices (some of which are today known as 'Hoodoo'), including root doctoring, the existence of spirits, talismans, lucky and unlucky acts and omens and more. The interviewer also investigates the use of drums and dancing during celebrations, funeral and baptism rituals, food taboos, and other aspects of folklore and ethnology. Oral accounts in phonetic dialect spelling as they were transcribed before portable tape recorders....The coastal Negroes of Georgia are sometimes called Gullahs, although in general parlance the term is applied only to the Negroes of coastal South Carolina. Because of the similarity in type and speech, however, it is sometimes loosely extended to include the Georgia coastal Negroes as well. The place name, Geechee, derived from Ogeechee River, near Savannah, is also used locally to designate the Negroes of this district.


[An excerpt about "black cat bone"--of note, I do not, in any way, advocate animal abuse, but reading of old practices and procedures are, in my opinion, an important part of our learning the craft. You are going to find such practices, especially in the older books.]:


Grimball's Point, lying at the northwestern end of the Isle of Hope on the marshes and creeks that run from the wide Skidaway River, is one of the characteristic spots of Savannah's rural landscape. The lowland spreads grassy flats against the horizon; the squawks of marsh hen rise from the long reeds on Grimball's Creek; all the year round a familiar sight is the Negro fisherman sitting patiently in his small bateau or trudging with his plump catch up an old oak-shaded shell road.


... Jackson scratched his bristly chin and smiled sheepishly. "I do belieb in some room," he said, "but uh didn wannuh talk too fas. I seen a root man tak is bag an in it wuz needles an pins an grabeyahd dut an sulphuh an rusty nails, an he made it crawl. "But nuttn evuh done me hahm," he went on in his gentle voice. "I alluz got wut I want all deze yeahs. Cuz yuh know wy? I hab a black cat bone."


We had heard of the potency of the black cat bone. Other Negroes had told us that it could ward off conjure, cure sickness, or even give its possessor the power to fly. Thus far, however, we had met no one who had acquired so miraculous a charm.


"How did you get the bone?" we excitedly queried. We summoned up visions of Jackson creeping in the dead of night to some lonely spot near a cemetery and shooting a black cat between its glowing green eyes. The actual facts proved far different."Wen I wuz a young man," said Jackson, "I ketched a big black cat. Den I made a big fyuh in duh yahd an put on a pot uh watuh an let it come tuh a bile. Den I tied duh black cat up an put im in duh watuh alibe an put a weight obuh duh pot tuh keep im in and uh let im bile tuh pieces. Den I strain duh stoo an separate duh bones an I shut muh eyes an pull duh bones tru muh mouf till uh got duh right one. All deze yeahs I kep dat bone an nuttn ebuh do me no ebil."


Harris Neck. ... "Yes'm, mos of the folks carry sumpm fuh pruhtection," said Liza. "These keep othuh folks frum wukin cunjuh on em too. They's made of haiah, an nails, 10 an graveyahd dut, sometimes from pieces of cloth an string. They tie em all up in a lill bag. Some of em weahs it roun the wrist, some of em weahs it roun the neck, an some weahs a dime on the ankle. Then ef somebody put down cunjuh fuh em it tun black an they git anothuh one tuh wawd off the evil." Some of em has a frizzled chicken in the yahd. People do say they kin dig up cunjuh an keep it frum wukin gense yuh.


"Yuh heah all the time bout folks wut is cunjuhed. They gits crippled up an ef they dohn do nuthin bout it, some of em dies."


* * * * * * * * * * * * *


Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro by Newbell Niles Puckett (1926)

[Two exerpts, one on image magic and the other on using photographs] pp. 242-44. I will share more later on as I get through the book.


Images. ... A good piece of sympathetic magic is the following Mississippi method of disposing of a person even when he is absent: On the change of the moon take a newspaper and cut it out in the shape of a person, naming the image after the man you wish to kill. Stick a brass pin in this image working it down from head to foot (so as to "bear him down"). Then get a small box "sech ez thread comes in" and lay the man out in it like a man in a coffin. Just as the sun is going down, dig a hole in the cemetery and bury the box. Your enemy will surely die--"goes down wid de sun." Or else you may dispose of him by getting some of his old dirty clothes and corking them up tightly in a brown jug. Bury this jug in the graveyard on the breast of the grave. In nine days your enemy will be dead, but the process may be hastened somewhat by burying in the back yard a new half-gallon bucket filled with ashes from his grate. In rural districts of Georgia reputed witches may lay a spell by baking an image of dough representing a person, and sticking pins into it, thus causing the victim to suffer pain. Such a witch may be disarmed "by making her image in dough, tying a string around its neck and leaving it to rise. When it is baked she is strangled so that she can do no more mischief for a year, at the end of which time another break doll may be made to continue the influence." Mrs. Boyle tells me of Ellen, her old nurse, who sought revenge for some reproaches of Mrs. Boyle's mother by making a rag image of her and sticking pins in it, calling over and over again my mother's name." There were two other such images which she had seen. "One was of myself, dressed in scraps of one of my own dresses, and stuck full of needles. This I was warned by another servant, who said that she was afraid to touch it, but that I would find it between my mattresses where it was manipulated every morning when the mattresses were turned and that I would never get well until it was destroyed. It was." Not infrequently the voodoos would "make a rude image of the one on whom the hoodoo is to be cast, modeling it of wax or of mud from the mouth of a crayfish's hole. This is pierced again and again with a pin or with a thorn of honey-locust, while the wizard repeats his incantations. Other Negroes use images of butter as well as wax or clay. The use of such images, however, is as likely to be of European as of African origin. ...


Photographs. The use of photographs resembles somewhat the use of images and is probably of European origin, photography itself being, of course, unknown in Africa. To call you inconstant sweetheart back, turn his photograph upside down for nine days. Most common, however, is the idea that a photograph hung upside down will cause headache, death or insanity. Insanity may also be produced by putting a person's picture under a leak in the roof where the water can drip on it, and death by nailing a person's picture on a green tree and shooting it for nine mornings, or by burying the photograph in the graveyard --when it fades, the person dies.




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