Hoodoo, Conjure, Rootwork & American Folk Magic

Ulalume

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#1
I thought it would be good to have a thread for Hoodoo specifically, as it's a form of folk magic distinct from Voodoo (with which it's often confused) or other forms of witchcraft.

To start, there's an interesting article in Texas Monthly, about the last hoodoo drugstore in Texas:
http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-daily-post/the-best-little-hoodoo-pharmacy-in-texas/

image.jpeg
(Excerpt from article)

Once common in the big cities of the Deep South, places like Stanley Drug often started as regular compounding pharmacies but evolved over time, by popular demand, into purveyors of the sorts of candles, incenses, herbs and holy oils sacred to America’s hoodoo tradition.

Stanley’s general manager Stephanie May says hoodoo is everywhere in East Texas and the South, once you learn how to spot it. A native of the south Arkansas-north Louisiana borderlands, May says it was all around her growing up. But until she inherited Stanley from her uncle some years back, she didn’t recognize it.

“Friends and family had always practiced this but I just didn’t know,” she says. “Keeping a bowl of lemons by your front door because it protects you is a hoodoo thing. The desire to use ammonia to clean everything. That’s a very hoodoo thing. Those bottle trees? Those are to capture evil spirits. And if you drive through Mississippi now you’ll see old TV tubes sitting out in the yard or up in trees. Same thing—to capture evil spirits. Blue around windows and doors? That’s for protection. It’s all around you and you just don’t see it. People are dabbling and you just don’t know until you learn about it.” (Some even believe that most Texan of holiday rituals—the consumption of black-eyed peas, greens and cornbread on New Year’s Day for good luck and prosperity—is a hoodoo ritual.

- See more at: http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-dai...oodoo-pharmacy-in-texas/#sthash.121cSv7L.dpuf
 

FrKadash

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#3
The Long Tradition of Folk Healing Among Southern Appalachian Women
Whether their practices are rooted in the Bible, Mother Nature, or common sense, there’s no denying that there’s something enchanted in it.
by Beth Ward
November 21, 2017

“Put it in some booze,” she says, and you’ve got yourself an elderberry tincture that can help fend off any number of nasty coughs and colds. It’s not native to the area, says Ballard, but vervain can act like “rocket fuel” for any magic or healing work you’re trying to do. And mugwort? Put the leaf inside your pillowcase, she says, to help promote lucid dreaming.
https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/southern-appalachia-folk-healers-granny-women-neighbor-ladies
 

EnolaGaia

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#4
My great aunt Tessie was one of those southern Appalachian folk healers. She had a longstanding reputation for healing minor ills, knowing herbs, midwifery, etc., in the community. Because it was a staunchly Christian community (and she an avowedly staunch Christian), her status as a folk healer was kept discreetly on a word-of-mouth basis.

In 1979 aunt Tessie turned 93 - the age at which all her long-lived siblings had finally, in some cases suddenly, declined and died. Even though she was still bright-eyed and lively, she surprised the family at her birthday party when she instructed them to put her in a nursing home. She noted the apparent fact her generation's warranty ran out at 93, and she predicted she'd die within 6 months. The family followed her wishes, and she died within 6 months.

My brother and I were interested in Appalachian folklore, folk culture, etc., and we beseeched her to teach us about her folk healing knowledge. If nothing else, we offered to record her so as to preserve whatever portion of her knowledge / reminiscences / advice / etc. she cared to share.

Aunt Tessie appreciated our interest, but politely declined to teach us. She explained that her folk healing / witchy-woman knowledge had been passed down to her from older women, and it could be effectively passed on only to another woman. She had attempted to tutor all three of the younger women relatives who'd more or less 'been assigned' to live with her over the decades, but in the end she outlived every one of them.
 

EnolaGaia

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#6
Does anyone know about Powwow/Brauche?
My late brother (cf. post #4) was seriously interested in - and studied - folklore / traditions, and he lived in eastern Pennsylvania during the early-to-mid 1980's. What I know of powwow / brauche (beyond simple recognition of its historical existence ... ) is what he related to me 3 decades ago. He'd invested time and effort into exploring the subject, but eventually set it aside.

He'd ended up concluding brauche was sufficiently distinct from the southern Appalachian folk traditions / folk healing with which we were both familiar as to render it a different approach altogether. He found far less overlap between the two approaches than he'd originally suspected, and this was the main reason he discontinued his exploration of brauche. Here's a cursory summary of how he explained it ...

According to him, the crux of the difference lay in what one might call methodological emphasis or prioritization, and this difference was most evident with respect to medicine / healing.

The southern Appalachian traditions occasionally or variably incorporated elements of faith healing, but remained fundamentally grounded in concrete procedures and items for dealing with the problem at hand. Phrased another way - there might be charms, rituals, prayers, etc., involved in addition to (e.g.) applying herbal remedies, but they were always peripheral or secondary.

The brauche approach was overwhelmingly focused on the power of faith or faith-based entreaties - often to the complete exclusion of the concrete procedures that were central to the southern approach. In other words, under the brauche approach charms, rituals, prayers, etc., commonly comprised the entirety of a curative intervention.

I recall that we mused over the notion that these differential emphases might have evolved to suit the two traditions' socio-cultural milieux (e.g., brauche being more exclusively faith-based owing to its strong affiliation with faith-based communities), but I don't recall that we reached any conclusions on that point.
 

EnolaGaia

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#8
Ethnographers suggest that the Appalachian "Granny Magic" tradition has distinct Cherokee roots, which I assume you are well aware of. I found this link:
http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeVIII/EsotericaVIII.pdf ...
It's important to bear in mind that the European settlers' prior practices and knowledge base had to adapt to being on a new continent with plant and animal inventories quite distinct from those of their native lands. Access to the knowledge of North American natives was critical to learning how to operate in the new environs. This would have been the single most important element adopted from the Cherokee (etc.).

I'd say the second most important thing would have been the Native American practices for purging and purification (e.g., sweating as a deliberate tactic).

The article to which you linked is a good overview of the diverse issues involved, but IMHO the author tries too hard to pigeon-hole all the topic's dimensions (magical / religious / healing) into one or another taxonomic box inherited from earlier writers.

Owing to diversity and differences imposed by topography, culture, and history it's a mistake to overlook the fact that Appalachian communities stayed relatively segregated from each other, and the specific characteristics of these traditional ways varied among locations / families / practitioners. I'm skeptical about the wisdom of seeking the sort of uber- / totalizing characterization the article's author seems to be pursuing.

The same can be said for the Native Americans as well. The northern portion of 'Appalachia' as defined in the article wasn't Cherokee territory at all. As a result, it's similarly erroneous to presume there was a single body of indigenous lore passed to the Euro-invaders.
 

MrRING

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#10
I was watching a court show on TV over the Thanksgiving holiday and one of the defendants talked about his girlfriend having "white liver" which led to have an uncontrollable sex drive. I had never heard the term before, so I had to look it it and it turns out it's a thing.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8456330
Hoodoo is a folk belief system common among black Americans. Conjuration and rootwork are other terms used to describe this system which includes the casting of spells and witchcraft. This paper describes the black folk concept of 'white liver', an aspect of hoodoo which bears striking resemblance to AIDS. White liver refers to a condition characterized by sexual excess and a wasting to death of sexual partners. Although clearly antedating by many years the current AIDS epidemic, white liver is important as a contemporary black cultural entity that may be used to describe AIDS or to articulate a fear of AIDS.
Here I found another reference to it referring to "white livered widders" and it makes it seem more of a general country phrase (though my Dad who grew up in Appalachia hasn't used it before):
http://www.appalachianhistory.net/2015/08/white-livered-widders.html
People with an abnormally strong sex drive were said to suffer from white liver. The folk medicine record contains scant information on this folk illness, because openly talking about sex was taboo in the past. The earliest and most complete description of white liver comes from Vance Randolph’s study of folk culture in the Ozarks: “When a lively, buxom, good-looking woman loses several husbands by death, it is often said that her inordinate passion has ‘killed ‘em off,’ and she is referred to as a white-livered widder.
 
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