What is Hoodoo?
Hoodoo (also known as rootwork) is Southern folk magic grounded in centuries of African American heritage within the southern United States. Hoodoo is often known by other names including: conjure, rootwork, root doctoring, laying tricks, working roots or “doing the work”. It is important to note, that contrary to what some authors may write in their books, Hoodoo is NOT Voodoo (Vodou). Hoodoo blends together the magical technology of Congo slaves that were taken from Africa in the slave trade, combined with Native American herbal knowledge, bits of European folk magic and Jewish mysticism.
Hoodoo is not a religion, it is a magical system. The vast majority of rootworkers are Protestant Christians (mostly Southern Baptists) who read The Bible and pray the Lord’s Prayer and Psalms. Hoodoo practitioners are called by a variety of names including conjurers, conjure doctors, root doctors, rootworkers, hoodoos or two-headed doctors (a reference to the relationship between the magical practitioner and his guiding spirit).
While Hoodoo/Rootwork originates in the southern United States it can be found in major metropolitan areas to the north (largely due to the northward movement of the Black population after slavery ended, and with the expansion of industry). In these locations, Hoodoo Rootwork adapted practices of the local people’s magical systems like the use of Jewish Psalms, German (Pennsylvania "Dutch") Braucherei curios and even bits of Espiritismo and Santeria. However, Hoodoo Rootwork is very much a Black Christian folk magical system. With the movement of Black people out of the South, and the spread of information in this modern age, people of every color, race and creed are found practicing Hoodoo across the United States.
While most Hoodoo Rootworkers are Protestant Christians, there is a small minority of conjure doctors who practice Catholicism (mainly in Maryland), Spiritualist Christianity (in the South) or other forms of Christianity. In my opinion, Hoodoo Rootwork is not necessarily tied to Christian religious practice, but to divorce the two is a dishonor to the inherited traditions of Black ancestors that struggled to preserve their culture in the face of slavery and oppression.
What Do Rootworkers Believe?
Hoodoo/Rootwork emphasizes the power of natural curios and the practitioner over prayer to deities. This allows Hoodoo to exist outside of a specific spiritual or religious belief system. While rootworkers will pray the Psalms and The Lord’s Prayer during their spell work, they see this as a way of God assisting in the work. The “work” can still take place whether the person prays that specific Psalm or not.
Rootwork is firmly grounded in a very practical approach to magic. Getting results is the most important thing, and most types of spells are based on very common every-day needs like: drawing money, love, protection or dealing with pestiferous people. There is room in Hoodoo for both blessing and cursing, for healing and causing sickness, and for drawing blessings as well as laying down curses. While it is common to hear mention of karma and adages like “harm none” in other magical systems, such ethical laws do not exist within Hoodoo. God of the Old Testament is a fiercely protective god and there is nothing wrong with calling upon His justice to make ones enemies suffer. It is my personal belief that this accounts for rootwork’s ever growing popularity with modern magic workers from other traditions.
Some conjure doctors choose to not engage in any hurtful enemy work. These rootworkers commonly refer to themselves as “lady-hearted”. It is important to note that this is not a derragatory term. It is merely a way for them to clearly state where they draw their personal ethical lines.
To be clear, Dr. E. is not a lady-hearted worker. He is known for his aggressive rootwork against enemies and his willingness to hit hard with powerful rootwork. Yet he is also skilled at removing curses, uncrossing his clients and restoring their blessings after being attacked.
Is hoodoo evil? Will I go to hell?
If you are speaking to a typical southern Black person they will either regard Hoodoo with respect, or with great fear. In either case, Hoodoo Rootwork’s power is undeniable. If your concern is that you will be turning your back on God, you are mistaken. I will employ the holy Psalms in my work and call upon the power of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost to empower my work. In the Holy Bible, God let us know that we can call upon His assistance in prayer at any time, and by working with a conjure doctor, you are asking a professional to handle the situation for you drawing upon his expertise with herbs and roots.
Ultimately if you have any hesitation in employing a hoodoo rootdoctor in your work, it is best for you to air on the side of caution. Your fear or apprehension will merely obstruct the work that your conjure doctor is doing, and it is best not to fight against his efforts. Follow your heart and your conscience always.
Fortune-telling and divination in hoodoo and rootwork
“Fortune-telling” or divination, as it is more properly known, is used my many conjure doctors in the process of doing rootwork. Divination allows your Hoodoo rootworker to find out all of the factors that are at play in your situation and then determine the best course of spell work. Divination always employs a tool like cards, bones or shells, that are mixed and selected at random as a way of communicating with God for His guidance. (The word divine and divination share the same root and both point to God’s presence in the work.) By reading for the client with his divination tool, your Hoodoo doctor will help you find the custom magical course of action to get the results you seek. While some rootworkers sell pre-written spells at a fixed price to customers, most conjure doctors (Dr. E. included) prefer to work through this prescribed process – determining the right custom approach for your unique situation. Not only does this give you better results, but it saves you more money in the long run and creates less grief for the client. Dr. E. offers several forms of divination for his clients including: Tarot Card Readings, Throwing of the Bones and Santeria Cowrie Shell Readings.
Is Hoodoo the same as Voodoo?
Hoodoo is NOT Voodoo (Vodou). Hoodoo is southern folk magic from the United States devoid of any religious ties. It is a magical technology – plain and simple – developed by the Black descendants of African slaves brought to this country. As was already mentioned, most Hoodoo workers are Protestant Christians.
Voodoo, more properly spelled Vodou, is a separate and distinct religion that comes from the island nation of Haiti. It is one of the African Diasporic Religions that evolved in the Caribbean as a result of the slave trade’s destructive legacy. African tribes that never had any interaction, or that never knew of one another were forced to live and work together. In an attempt to preserve their native religions, they fused many of their beliefs together into a conglomerate practice. Vodou was the result. Vodou practitioners do worship God and Jesus mainly through the praying of French Catholic prayers and through Catholic mass, but they also venerate and work with their native African spirits and powers, called lwa or loa. Vodou is an initiatory religion where practitioners dedicate their lives and practice to the lwa through religious ordination. Vodou is not an evil religion as many people depict it to be. It is a beautiful religion that has preserved the native religious practices of the African people who endured terrible suffering at the hands of slave owners. It is to be respected and honored, but it is not Hoodoo or Rootwork.
Recently, an internet phenomenon has come to light where some authors, in a marketing effort to cast a wide net and catch as many readers as possible, are labeling their books and even their practice as “Hoodoo Voodoo” or some variation thereof. Hoodoo is NOT Voodoo (Vodou), and regardless of the commercial ambitions of these folks, the two have nothing in common. Hoodoo is American, Vodou is Haitian. Hoodoo is a magical tradition with no religious attachment, where Vodou is a religion. Hoodoo is a collection of spells and magical techniques any individual can perform, Vodou is a community-based and initiatory religion. Hoodoo practitioners use roots, herbs and minerals to create preparations or charms for their clients, empowered in the name of the Christian God while Vodou initiates work with the lwa through divine inspiration and intercession to help or initiate others. As well-intentioned as these folks may be, blending Hoodoo and Vodou is not only a disrespect to both practices, but it is confusing to most people and muddies the spiritual waters.
Hoodoo Spells and Rootwork Techniques
Rootworkers utilize many different techniques when performing Hoodoo spells. These techniques can range from the simplicity of lighting a dressed candle to the complexity of sewed dolls or mojo bags. Below are some of the hoodoo spell techniques you can find on our website as well as many of the rootworking techniques that Dr. E. uses in his Rootwork Consultations.
Hoodoo Cleansing Herb Baths and Floor Washes
One of the most effective magical tools is the use of Hoodoo magical baths. Rootworkers might use spiritual cleansing baths to remove negative influences (for example Uncrossing Herb Bath or 13 Herb Bath) or to draw positive influences like money (Money Draw Herb Bath) or love (True Love Herb Bath). Typically magical baths include dressing the body with Hoodoo Condition Oils suited to the magical need of the client. For example, a client can take a cleansing bath (like Spiritual Purification Herb Bath), then dress their body with Fiery Wall of Protection Oil to surround themselves with protection now that they have been spiritually purified of all negativity. It is also common for rootworkers to take an herb bath and dilute it into a mop bucket then use it as a floor wash to cleanse a person’s home in the same way they cleansed their client’s body. Dr. E. Products’ Hoodoo Herb Baths can serve both as magical baths and as floor washes for your home.
Hoodoo Candle Spells
Another typical magical tool that rootworkers will employ are the use of candle spells. These can include one or several candles that are carved with appropriate symbols, then dressed with hoodoo condition oils. These candles are often dusted with hoodoo sachet powders (like Setting of Lights service. In this service, a rootworker sets candles for the public utilizing their standing stock of oils and herbs at their disposal. This service was usually offered by spiritual candle shops or spiritualist churches. A customer could come in, write down their petition on a piece of paper or hand the rootworker a photo and tell them what they wanted. The rootworker would then take a candle of the appropriate type and dress it with hoodoo condition oils, and put a pinch of herbs in the top. Typically the customer’s photo or petition was attached to the candle with a rubber band or tape. The rootworker would then pray on the customer’s behalf, usually reciting their petition, light the candle and set it to burn on their altar (thus the name “setting of lights”). When the candle was done burning the person could come back into the shop and the rootworker would interpret the evidence left by the candle burn for signs as to the candle’s success. Dr. E. Products’ Setting of Lights service has all of the typical things you’d expect from a traditional hoodoo candle shop’s service. We collect your photo and petition electronically, print them out in our store and attach them to our candles. Each candle is dressed with Dr. E. Products’ Hoodoo Condition Oils of the appropriate kind of the customer’s goals. Each candle gets a pinch of the right herbs for that situation, and each is prayed over in the traditional manner (including a recitation of that customer’s petition). When the candles are done burning, we interpret the candle’s glass container for signs as to the success of the candle’s burn, and e-mail a candle burn report for each candle to the customer.
Hoodoo Mojo Bags
Sometimes, root doctors will create and empower charms like mojo bags for their clients. Mojo bags, sometimes called hands, gris-gris bags or jomos, work like personal magical allies to help draw the desired result to the client. The effectiveness of a mojo bag is closely tied to the power of the rootworker that constructed and prayed over it as well as the quality of the items inside. Mojo bags can contain roots, seeds, minerals, herbs, flowers, or even animal curios like bones. The spirit of the items inside the bag all combine under the direction and power of the root doctor to align in purpose. Mojo bags are linked to their owner, so buying a generic mojo bag off the shelf typically is ineffective. It is far better to purchase a mojo bag from a reputable seller like Dr. E. Products, where each mojo is individually constructed by hand, prayed and tied to its unique owner by including their name and/or a photo inside. Mojo bags should be kept hidden from view and never touched by anyone but the owner or the root doctor that first constructed it. Mojo bags are traditionally fed on a weekly basis with an appropriate hoodoo condition oil or with whiskey, to keep them strong.
Hoodoo Magical Sachet Powders
One of the signature methods of affecting someone with rootwork is through the use of magical sachet powders. Hoodoo magical sachet powders are deployed by sprinkling them where the intended target will touch them, walk over them or track through them in some way. Hoodoo magical sachet powders derive their power from the herbs and roots that are ground down to a fine powder and blended together with a dust-like carrier (Dr. E. Products uses corn starch as a carrer) so that the powder spreads easily and flies on the wind. They are often sprinkled in a person’s tracks to hit him through the feet as he walks over it; this is the most common way of using magical powders like Hot Foot Powder. Hoodoo sachet powders can also be used to dust letters or gifts that are then mailed or given to a person. When the letter is opened and the target touches the object, the powder gets on their body and hits them on a physical and magical level. Hoodoo sachet powders only affect the target who is named during the powder’s use.
Hoodoo Condition Oils
Hoodoo condition oils are one of the primary tools that rootworkers use in their spell work. Condition oils are composed of various plant oils and herbs mixed in a carrier oil. Dr. E. Products uses real essential oils and the best botanical items for our condition oils. The term “condition oil” originates from the use of oils depending on a client’s condition in life. For example, if a person needed to reverse evil back at an enemy, their condition called for Reversing Oil. Hoodoo condition oils are used to dress candles in spells, to feed mojo bags to keep them strong, to anoint and bless the body, or to bless other items. They are an effective and versatile way to use the power of plants and curios, and the variety of uses for them are endless. Because we use real essential oils in our condition oils, we do not recommend applying our hoodoo condition oils to your body with out testing them first. Try out on a tiny patch test on your inner arm first to for allergic reactions before applying them in any amount on the rest of your body. (Never use hoodoo condition oils on the mucous membranes of your body.)
Hoodoo Doll Baby Spells
Doll baby spells (sometimes mistakenly called voodoo doll spells) are one of the most common images brought to mind when people hear mention of hoodoo or rootwork. Contrary to popular belief, doll baby spells do not originate from Africa or from Vodou. They actually originate from the use of poppets in European folk magic. This is one of the techniques adopted from European magic into hoodoo. Rootworkers create dolls out of cloth, clay or wax, and tie them to the targetted individual by including personal concerns (like hair, blood, fingernail clippings, etc.) and then use them in spells to affect that person’s physical body. Doll babies can be worked in pairs to affect a couple, or singularly to manipulate an individual to do as you see fit. Doll babies are also commonly used in the infamous Mirror Box Spell used to reverse a person’s evil deeds back at them and hold them accountable for their evil actions. Doll babies are one of the most powerful kinds of workings to affect a person’s physical health, or to manipulate them to do as you will. Dr. E. is known for his hand-sculpted clay doll babies and has taught workshops at the Missionary Independent Hoodoo Rootwork Workshop Weekend at Lucky Mojo to teach others in his doll making techniques.