I sell my Hoodoo product line in a few select stores. One day I was in a store taking inventory, when I glaced up and saw a woman at the other end of the store with one of my washes in her hand. I knew what was coming. Suddenly I was in one of those slow motion sceens where as she is unscrewing the top off the bottle I am reaching out toward her and trying to stop her as I called out to her, "Nooooooo!"
Too late. She opened the container and took a big whif and she got a snout full of ammonia.
For some reason folks think they should open bottles and jars and sniff. I do it myself. I blame the purfume industry.
People, this ain't aromatherepy!
Many Hoodoo/Conjure concoctions have unpleasent or pungent smells. Some have nice smells and some have little or no scent. I tell everyone, "When a recipe comes out smelling nice, it's a happy accident." You have to understand; the herbs, roots, and the bases that are put into a recipe are chosen for their magical properties, for what they will do, and because they work. Not because they smell good together. Aromatherepy and purfumery are exactly the opposite, in the purfume and essential oils industries the oils and scents are chosen so that they will please the nose.
Washes and Waters might be made with ammonia, Pine-sol, swamp water, or even urine (no products in my line are made from urine, but some may instruct you to add you own.) Some will contain perfumed oils or waters and smell guite nice. Some will smell of vinegar or camphor (which smells like Vicks Vapor Rub™). But if you are new to Hoodoo you might not know, by the name of the product, which are going to smell nice and which will be pungent.
A rule of thumb to follow, which usually works, is: if the product is used in “enemy work” or to hex, lay a trick, jinx, cross or otherwise involve a form of “hard work” or baneful magic, it will usually be pungent, stink to high heaven, or in general be unpleasant.
If the product is meant to work on a love condition or is meant to bring luck, happiness, or peace it will usually smell nice or neutral.
The name on the product will sometimes give you an idea if the product is going to smell nice or nasty. Products with traditional names like, “Come here” or “Follow Me Boy” or Kiss Me Quick” are used for love and will either smell nice or not at all. Products with name like “War Water” “Crossing” or “Cut and Clear” might smell horrible or pungent.
However, there are many products with traditional names that may not clearly tell you what type of scent you might encounter. For example: Florida Water. Many folks unfamiliar with this product may assume it is names for the state of Florida. But both the state’s name and the product’s name allude to the Spanish word for floral or flowers, and Florida Water smells like a floral cologne.
Hot Foot Powder or Hot Foot Oil does not advertise the fact that they have a variety of peppers in them. Boss Fix is another example of a product that makes it tough to guess if you will have a pleasant olfactory experience or not.
There are many more products that serve a wide variety of conditions and have a wide variety of scents ranging from non-existent to, “Oh My God.”
The main point is that the scent is the result of using the ingredients to meet the needs of the condition be it love, revenge, peace, protection or whatever; and it is not always going to be sweet or pretty. Do you want it to smell good or do you want it to work? Life isn’t always sweet or pretty and this ain’t aromatherapy!
In the four years since I started Cajun Conjure I have had the pleasure of working with several amazing apprentices. Some have been with me for a year or more, some stayed for only a few months before life got in the way. Others come and go as work and school allow. One has moved away, and another arrived to take her place. They have all been wonderful blessings in my life. They keep me on my toes, they make me laugh, they keep me in line and usually on-time.
This once a month blog post dubbed "Apprentice Corner" is so you can see what goes on behind the scenes. These are their words and they have promised to tell tales. So let me introduce you to...
Tina, Charlie, G.G., Ash, I'vee (pronounced Ivy), Lexa, and Danielle.
Tina: "I met Hexeba a few years ago through Pagan Night Out. I was searching for a Wiccan/Spiritual Teacher. I was looking for guidance and wanted to join a group of like minded people. I was excited for our first meeting and I just loved her when I met her. I joined her eclectic circle, and when the opportunity presented itself, I became her apprentice. We've had a fun if not sometimes turbulent (what happens when two strong women are together???) relationship and I adore her. She has been a wonderful teacher and fabulous friend."
Charlie: "I'm Charlie. I met Hexeba at Pagan Pride a few years ago after some unsuccessful searching for a group on WitchVox and MeetUp. I was interested in learning more about the Plant People and how to work with them. Being a student was an enriching experience in a season of learning for me."
G.G.: "I was at our local metaphysical store one night when Hexeba came in. As she was putting up product I was told who she was and what she did and what her product was about. I was intrigued. "Come on I'll introduce you," I was told. I shit a brick as I thought to myself, "Dude she looks scary and can probably turn me into a toad and throw me to the alligators."
I was introduced, we talked and she told me she had a class coming up that Friday. She seemed a tad less scary and I was like, "Eh why not."
Two days later I was at my first class. Five minutes later I was completely sucked in. Brought me back to my roots, similar and yet different. By the end of the class I knew this was were I needed to be and I was laughing at myself for thinking she was as scary as I thought she was.
It has been downhill since my first class. Since that first meeting I have been to all of her classes (Hoodoo, Wicca 101, Coffee and Conjure and at Pagan Pride and Pantheacon). I have learned so much about Hoodoo and Wicca and the various uses of her products, laughed at crazy stories and enjoyed the sense of belonging.
I was fortunate to be able to help Hexeba and become an apprentice during a rough patch in my life. I have cherished the time I have spent with her and the other apprentices. I have learned and laughed more and have even enjoyed being 'crafty'. Time spent with her has allowed me to see my path more clearly.
I do believe that people come into our lives for a reason. Words can not express how grateful I am to have the 'boss' in my life. Hexeba has been a rare gift in my life. She has gone from a super scary witch that may throw me to the gators to the funniest, most loving person that I am ever so grateful to call my friend.
I look forward to more busy days, laughs and learning.... On another note.. I am a sarcastic pain in the ass, she may still turn me into a toad and throw me to the gators. Lol"
Ash: "Hello. I'm Ash. I've been Hexeba's apprentice for about a year and a half. We met almost two years ago at a local festival. I attended a class of hers and asked her how I could become an apprentice shortly thereafter. I have smelled and tasted some rather "wonderful" things since then. I've thoroughly enjoyed learning from Hexeba. I'm looking forward to sharing some of our great stories with all of you. "
I'vee: "I finally decided to open and be myself, so late 2017, I went to a Book of Shadows Scrapbooking Class with Hexeba. She told me something that I needed to hear, "You're a witch, so do something about it." (insert: Hi this is Hexeba...just a clarification...I often tell folks that if something is not right in their lives they have the power to change it...however, it often comes out of my mouth, "You're a Witch, damn it, fix it." ...back to I'vee's story...) A month following that date, I asked to help with Cajun Conjure and so now I help where I can and I've learned the need of aprons."
Danielle: "Hi my name is Danielle and I have known Hexaba for close to 3 years now. I met her at a community get together and she’s been my Witch Mom ever since. At first I began studying with her but when she began transitioning into her Cajun Conjur business I spent most of my time working in her witch room stuffing doll babies and hot gluing juju dolls. I have since taken a break from apprenticing because life and grad school took up most of my time but have always been happy to help Hexaba when she’s in need. I have loved watching the evolution and expansion of Cajun Conjure over the last few years and am excited to see where it leads to next! Hope to see you at the next fair! "
Lexa: "My name is Lexa and I worked with Hexeba for a little under a year about two years ago. I so clearly remember the first time I saw her speak, I was terrified of her. Her class was on Village Witchery and I went into it thinking it would be a relaxed class, and I imagine for everyone else it was, but I knew I wanted to work with her and I was so scared to even talk to her I don’t think I absorbed half of what she said. It took me a whole year to get the courage to ask her if I could work with her. It came out as me, a 6-foot-tall red headed giant, just walking up to her and perhaps a touch too loud announcing “I WANT TO WORK WITH YOU” and she took a moment, looked up at me and said, “yeah sure e-mail me”. I had no idea that my religious practices, life and sense of self would be changed so drastically from that moment. I ground down bricks, organized shelves, laughed till I cried and learned magic that connected me to my blood in ways I never expected (practicing hoodoo as someone of Cajun blood but not raised in it), and I was right Hexeba is terrifying, but also funny, warm and the best teacher I’ve ever had the privilege of working with."
You would think that this goes without saying. However, just the other day I saw a post on Pinterest telling folks how to make Four Thieves Vinegar. Several of them in fact. Most of them told folks to add it to their salads and that that would help them stay healthy.
Hoodoo/Conjure products are not aromatherapy, nor are they salad dressing! Many of the products can be harmful if ingested. And Conjure is what has kept the tradition of Four Thieves Vinegar alive. Rootworkers have used it for generations and continue to make and use it.
Now for those of you who do not know the background of Four Thieves Vinegar, let me explain.
According to tradition, Four Thieves Vinegar was developed by Four Thieves during the Bubonic plague (also known as the Black Death, peaking in Europe around 1346-1353 and continued into the 19th century.) The stories vary, some say the Thieves were ordered by the courts to remove the bodies of the dead as their sentence. Some say that the Thieves were robbing the bodies prior to burial. Many of the stories come out of France, some out of Italy, but whichever story you hear the outcome is the same…somehow the Thieves were immune to the plague. Inquiring minds wanted to know WHY. The Thieves traded their secret to long life for their freedom. Their secret? The concoction of Vinegar they made up. And so the recipe for this Vinegar was passed down.
Now as many of you probably know, Vinegar is used today as a “green” alternative to toxic household cleaners. Why? Because Vinegar can kill germs. According to davidsuzuki.org, “…you can tackle household bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and other “gram-negative” bacteria with vinegar. Gram-negative bacteria can cause infections including pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound or surgical site infections, and meningitis.”
In Housekeeping in Old Virginia, published in 1879, the recipe for Thieves Vinegar includes (among other things) tansy, rue, mint and CAMPHOR.
My own recipe, which I got from the ledger book belonging to my great-great-great grandfather, also includes camphor and rue.
According to WebMD…” Camphor is UNSAFE when taken by mouth by adults. Ingesting camphor can cause severe side effects, including death.”
And (according to Wikipedia) “Rue extracts are mutagenic and hepatotoxic. Large doses can cause violent gastric pain, vomiting, systemic complications, and death. Exposure to common rue, or herbal preparations derived from it, can cause severe phytophotodermatitis which results in burn-like blisters on the skin.”
Now, let’s be clear. The recipes on Pinterest for Four Thieves Vinegar are little more than Italian salad dressing. They contain Garlic, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Lavender, Mint and of course Apple Cider Vinegar, or variations on that theme. They are safe to eat and because they contain Rosemary, Garlic and Sage, they will help you stay healthy. Eat it every day. Eat it twice a day.
If you add Wormwood you can dilute it with water and spray it on your body to work as an insect repellent. (But don’t add Rue) You’ll smell a bit like a good salad but that’s a small price to pay. Some of the Pinterest recipes call for Wormwood but I recommend you do not ingest it because it can become deadly at high doses.
The oil(s) called Four Thieves contain variations on a recipe that might contain clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils. It might contain Tea Tree oil. To be fair some of these oils might have antiseptic properties but they are mostly used as aromatherapy. Conjure is not Aromatherapy and while the Hoodoo/Conjure version of Four Thieves Vinegar may not smell pretty…it works. It works medicinally to sanitize and magically to banish, protect and heal.
The soaps contain variations or combinations of olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, castor oil, shea butter, palm kernel oil, and essential oils of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary. Smells good, but you rinse it off, and it will not do what Four Thieves Vinegar is intended to do in Hoodoo because, well because, you rinse it off.
If made right, Four Thieves Vinegar can be an antiviral, antibiotic, anti-parasitic, antifungal and even an antiseptic (and by “right” I mean it contains the proper herbs and other ingredients to be effective in the above areas.)
Rosemary is an antiseptic; Wormwood is an antiseptic and an antiparasitic (do not use internally;) Sage is antibacterial, and antifungal; Garlic is antimicrobial, antibiotic and antifungal. So you can see that a simplified version of Four Thieves Vinegar would help to keep you well.
If you use Four Thieves Vinegar (the ones with rue) to clean your home, or to disinfect the “sick room” be sure to wear gloves while applying it (or wash your hands after, not because it is toxic but because when you go into the sun it could cause your skin to redden or blister.) You should also dilute it with more vinegar. Most true conjure recipes will include rue and camphor (at least that is how I was taught.) Most practitioners will not share their recipes (so consequently do not list their ingredients) which has led some practitioners to shy away from these potent ingredients because they are worried that folks will think they are the Pinterest version and eat it….So remember kids, to be safe, DON’T EAT THE HOODOO!
I love to educate. I think I was born to be a teacher. When I was five years old I was in dance class and kept telling the other kids how to do the dance steps. Some people called my instruction, “bossy,” but they just did not recognize my natural teaching abilities. (ahem…cough, cough)
However, it can get really old trying to explain that Hoodoo is not Voodoo, and that Hoodoo AND Voodoo are not evil, or that what is depicted on T.V. and in Movies is NOT real. It is Hollywood, and not what Hoodoo or Conjure is. Hollywood is an entertainment industry and a business. They need to put butts in the seats at the theaters, and many people will pay good money to be scared.
So Hollywood “exaggerates” and creates a spooky environment and wraps Hoodoo/Conjure up in the horror genre, all to sell tickets. Because, let’s face it, a woman in the last half of her life, mixing herbs and oils and setting them on a shelf is just not edge of the seat entertainment.
Are there scary parts of Hoodoo/Conjure? Sure. There is what is referred to as the “left hand path” the “hard work” or “shadow work.” Sometimes you will hear this work called, “laying tricks” or “hexing.” But you have to remember THIS IS NOT WICCA.
Not every practitioner works that path, and those that do take steps to ensure their protection from the backlash that can occur. There are rituals to follow and it is not something to dabble in.
Actually, I think that is where the real scary comes in. If you have spent years studying this form of magic then you know how to protect yourself (hint: it involves more than lighting a candle or casting a circle) and if you haven’t it can get REAL very quickly and that shit just don’t rub off. All the Florida Water in the world won’t help. You have to know what to do BEFORE you play around with this stuff. Because if there is one thing I have learned in my 40 years of working the root….this shit works.
But, back to Hollywood. Since this is the Hoodoo world that most folks are familiar with they don’t read about, or attend classes that will educate them to the wonderful, practical magical practice of Hoodoo/Conjure. Most of Hoodoo is concerned with practical, day to day stuff: getting a job, finding love, making more money, bringing luck into your life, keeping your home safe and happy. These are things everyone wants. And, no, once you start practicing conjure you are not opening the door to evil. There is no “slippery slope.” Those are very Christian concepts and while many practitioners are Christian they just stay clear of the more, shall we say, negative, practice. Many of those who know of Hoodoo also think that if they have the local root doctor put the hex on their ex there will be no backlash on them personally…after all they did not work the magic. So my advice to you is either learn to work the root in a positive manner, or learn how to counter act the negative magic. There are no magical moral police. Magic in and of itself is not good or bad. Magic is neutral. It is the practitioner that decides how they will use their magic that determines whether it is for good or not. And working the root does not look much like what you see on T.V.
Hoodoo is not Voodoo. I know they rhyme and you will often find Hoodoo in Voodoo. But they are not one in the same.
I was teaching a Hoodoo class at Pantheacon and heard a woman mutter, as she peeked in the door…”Oh, it’s a Voodoo class.” I was in the middle of my introduction or I would have yelled out, “NO It’s NOT!”
I think this is a common misconception.
According to Wikipedia…”African American Hoodoo is a traditional African American folk spirituality that developed from a number of West African spiritual traditions and beliefs”
Well, that might be true (at least partially) but the way I learned Hoodoo (my family is from Louisiana) it’s a little like Gumbo, you throw in whatever works. Yes, there are components of African and African American Folk Magic and Spirituality. But here is where Voodoo and Hoodoo (at least the way I learned it) differ. Hoodoo is much less about religion or spirituality then Voodoo, and Hoodoo has a fair amount of European and Native American magical practices worked into it as well.
I am not an expert on Voodoo. I do not practice Voodoo. But I have many friends who practice Haitian Voodoo and New Orleans Voodoo (two very different practices) and most, if not all of them, also practice Hoodoo. A magical practice.
Hoodoo is a magical practice that has elements of Native American, European and African magic, as I said above. Think about it… African men, women and children, many of them brought to the south against their will and in chains, did not bring with them the roots and plants from their homeland. They did not tell the slave hunters, “Can you wait just a minute and let me gather some of this plant.” They arrived in the colonies with nothing. But they learned from the Native Americans and yes, even from the Europeans (sometimes by working with them and sometimes by watching.) They discovered which plants to use to achieve the same effect as their homeland plants. They figured out that Native Americans also used bags or pouches with herbs in them to protect themselves. They discovered that the British had poppets much like their own “Voodoo Dolls.” These are now called Doll Babies by most Hoodoo practitioners, and effigy magic was also not a new concept to the Native Americans. Magic has existed on every continent since…well, forever! And what works will survive. Amazingly many similar magical practices developed on all the different continents. Here in, what is now known as the United States, these similar magical practices met and married. They had a child….Hoodoo.
It has been my observation that if you practice a form of this amalgamation of magic in the Carolinas, or in the Appalachian region it is usually referred to as Conjure. In Louisiana (primarily) or to some extent in the Gulf States it is often called Hoodoo. Sometimes you will hear it called Rootwork, Root Doctoring or “Working the Root.”
Well, I hope we’ve cleared that up.
I would be interested in historical documents or studies that prove or dis-prove my position. Please, let me know if you know of any such documents.
I am Hexeba Theaux. My family has been in Louisiana since the 1700s and most of them still live there. Good Cajun folk. Heck, if you throw a rock in St. Martinville, Louisiana you'll probably hit one of my cousins. I have practiced Southern Folk Magic since I was a child. These are my thoughts on what is called Hoodoo or Conjure. I own and operate CajunConjure.com.