Hi there, this is Ash. Apprenticeship can be a real adventure. I don’t think I knew what I was getting into when I asked Hexeba to take me on. That was two years ago! Hard to believe it’s been two years. We will be celebrating this milestone in June for sure. Since I am the Apprentice who has been with Hexeba the longest I get the pleasure today (and often I hope) of telling tales on Hexeba and what goes on at the Apothecary. Today I am going to give you a little peep into what goes on behind the scenes.
Hexeba has a freezer in her garage the size of a refrigerator. In other words a full size upright freezer. Going into Hexeba’s freezer is always a gamble. Sure sometimes it can be relatively safe, where you find the usual stuff like frozen soup, veggies, chicken breasts excreta; but sometimes….well, sometimes there is a dead cat inside.
To be fair, she did warn me before I ever went into her freezer. Over the last two years, besides the dead cat, there has been a dead snake and the occasional road kill. I would not be at all surprised to find a bird, or a raccoon, a possum or even a rabbit. We have used body parts from all of those critters at one time or another. That’s one of the fun things about Hoodoo, you never know what you might need or use in a recipe, even animal bits. Hexeba’s house is full of all sorts of critter parts. Not in a creepy way. She has a couple of alligator heads. She calls one of the Gus and the other Gwen (short for Gwendolynn,) they are charmed to protect her home. Lately, since we have started to produce Chicken Feet for the store, she has been talking about making a hanging protection charm of some of them. One of the other apprentices even keeps an eye out for road kill for her. I just try to be wary of the freezer and any “meat” she pulls out of there, cause it might not be for dinner.
I probably don’t have to tell you that food is very important in the South. In Louisiana they have raised food to an art form. It has always been that way – at least for my people – the Cajuns.
George Rodrigue, the guy who became famous for painting a blue dog, created several paintings of the Cajun people.
The one I am sharing here was based on a photograph taken of several of my family members. This picture, and others Rodrigue created, depicts a social custom practiced in South West Louisiana (especially in the New Iberia area) the Aioli Dinner. The Aioli Dinner was a social gathering which met at a different plantation home each month, these groups were also known as Creole Gourmet Societies. The term Aioli refers to a garlic-butter sauce, and in the 1800s the term Creole, as it was used by the people of Louisiana, referred to someone who was born in Louisiana but whose parents were European (usually French or Spanish). Much as the term “Chicano” indicates a person who was born in the United States but whose parents were from Mexico.
During this event the men sat at the table, each with his own bottle of wine, partaking of the wonderful food that the women had prepared and the boys served. Aioli Dinners would last for about six hours. These clubs were very popular between 1890 and 1920. The meals would be lavish amounts of food, but not the Cajun cuisine of today. In fact the gentlemen at the table and the women serving them would not have called themselves Cajun. They were French, and their cuisine was Creole. This was the cuisine of the French “high society” living in Louisiana.
To me it is of little wonder that the Cajun people would combine cooking, eating, medicine and magic.
There are many workings used in Hoodoo/Conjure that involve food or cooking. Stop me if you’ve heard this one…
If you are a single man… never eat marinara sauce prepared by a single woman. It is possible for her to “bewitch” you by adding her menstrual blood to the sauce.
Of course most everyone in the South knows you eat black eyed peas on New Years day for health, wealth and good luck in the New Year.
Since many foods are natural plant items (ie: strawberries, potatoes, herbs) it goes to follow that you could use particular foods in a spell that you eat. For example, most everyone is familiar with the idea of food as an aphrodisiac. Oysters are supposed to raise your libido. Bananas and cucumbers look like an erect phallus. (So this could be considered to fall under the Doctrine of Signatures, where something is believed to work on the part of the body it resembles.)
So, in my mind it is not a huge leap for spells/workings to be placed into food and then served up to your target.
If you wish to use this kind of magical workings you not only have to become a decent cook but you also need to understand which ingredients do what.
Here is a short list of some of the food ingredients you might use and what they are used for.
Sugar/Honey - to sweeten people up
Cinnamon – for money and for success in business
Nutmeg – for money in business
Cloves – to stop gossip, for luck, for friendship
Catnip – for flirtation
Vanilla – for love and romance, makes one more loving
Salt – protection
Grapefruit – Heal a relationship
Rice – attracts wealth and prosperity
Baking Soda – to increase your power
Garlic – protection
Pepper – protection or to send someone away
I hope this has given you an interesting way of looking at the foods you prepare. Share with me any recipe ideas you might have in the comments. I would be interested in where you take this.
Often I get asked, “Are Conjure and Hoodoo the same?”
Well, Yes and No.
Hoodoo is primarily found in the Southern United States. You will find Hoodoo primarily in Louisiana, but it can also be found in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and to a degree in Texas, Florida and Arkansas. Folks who practice it might not call it Hoodoo but it is the folk magic practice that in the South is often interwoven with the Catholic Religion. Conjure seems to be practiced mainly by Protestants, throughout the Appalachians and down the Southern part of the Eastern Seaboard. But for a very long time now those that practiced what we call Hoodoo, and those that practiced what we call Conjure shared information and even married into each other’s families. People are not stationary. They move, they cross state lines and so did this magical practice. During World War II many folks were uprooted from their homes and found themselves stationed at far away bases. My own family moved from Louisiana to California because the Air Force said they had to. Many years later some of them relocated to Florida. So there are no clear cut differences between these two practices, Hoodoo and Conjure, except maybe in the working of Spirits and Saints.
In Conjure you might work with ancestor spirits, asking your Granny for help in finding the right man to be your husband, or to help you make ends meet. Most of us had loving Grannies who would of course help you. (Don’t ask your evil Granny for help…she didn’t get nicer just because she died.) You might also appeal to the Spirit of Black Hawk for protection (a common occurrence in Conjure.) Calling on Black Hawk’s aid originated in the Spiritualist Movement. Others might call on Angels or personal spirit guides.
However, in addition to calling on ancestor spirits or others from the realm of the dead, Hoodoo Rootworkers might also call on the Saints, asking them through prayer to help. For the purposes of this post I am stressing the difference of Hoodoo work with Saints as well as other spirits, versus the practice of the more Protestant Conjure Doctors where Saints are acknowledge but rarely worked with or prayed to.
Now remember it is not a clear line that separates the two. There is a lot of overlap, a lot of mixing.
Nowadays there is also a further confusion of the two practices. Not only have ideas and works been shared to the point of almost no difference between the two traditions, but since Hoodoo/Conjure is a magical practice and not a religion, we find many whose beliefs are neither Protestant nor Catholic.
While it is not the way Hoodoo/Conjure was practiced in “days of old,” you will now often find Wiccans practicing Conjure or Atheists using Hoodoo as their magical practice. While I think this is just fine there is a part (a fairly significant and powerful part) of the magical system that will be lost.
Many who have turned from “The Church” or from Abrahamic religions have a knee jerk reaction to the idea of working with the Bible as a spell book, or praying to a Saint, or making an altar to Moses or Jesus. I completely understand. I was raised Catholic and even though I left that church long ago there is a part of me that still resonates with it. I have learned not to throw the baby out with the bath water. I have found that I can accept the Saints and even Jesus as “enlightened beings.” I don’t need to worship them to recognize their usefulness in spell work. Furthermore, if read with the right mindset the Bible is the most awesome spell book.
Well, I have kind of gone off on a tangent.
We’ve already talked about one of the major don’ts in Hoodoo in the blog post from March 12th called, “And Remember Kids - Don’t Eat the Hoodoo.”
But let’s take a look at some of the other do’s and don’ts.
Invariably when I teach a class on Hoodoo I have somebody, sometimes several somebodies, bring up “The Rede” or “The Three Fold Law.” I have to remind them that this is Hoodoo not Wicca. Hoodoo does have a moral compass, however… is the work justified. I tell folks don’t kill a butterfly with a cannon. In other words if your neighbor’s dog keeps digging in your yard you wouldn’t (or at least probably shouldn’t) cause your neighbor to suffer a horrible wasting away disease that ends with a horrendous death! That’s not justified. You might jinx them to move away or for her garden to never produce flower or fruit till the dog stops digging. (Meanwhile you should not neglect the mundane work and…oh I don’t know – talk to her!) Or maybe you’ll put up some “keep away” wards to encourage the dog to stay in his own yard. So this Hoodoo Don’t can probably be summed up by…Be sure the work is justified and don’t shoot a butterfly with a cannon.
Another don’t would be: Don’t confuse European Herbalism with Hoodoo. Hoodoo will sometimes use botanicals for the same medicinal properties as European Herbalism. However, Rootwork/Hoodoo deals more with the human condition (heartbreak, legal battles, bothersome neighbors, runaway husbands, financial difficulties etc.) whereas European Herbalism is more focused on health (which herb to use for which ailment ie: ginger or peppermint for tummy aches, eyebright for sties, white willow bark for headaches, etc.) There is some overlap, Rootwork would often work on physical ailments and herbalism worked right alongside European Folk Magic or Witchcraft. The lines often blur and information has been shared in the distant past as it is today.
But don’t confuse them and create an amalgamation, they are two different schools of study with some shared commonalities.
Don’t be fooled by those who tell you (or imply,) “you can just make it up,” “intuition will guide you” or some other bull larky. Rootwork is a practice that has been around for hundreds of years, based on practices much older than that, and the recipes and rituals are a learned practice. The only way to truly learn is from a teacher. One on one. Oh I know there are books and you can learn a lot from books, if the writer truly knows the subject. There are authors who do a little reading and then re-write a bunch of recipes and history and voilá they are experts. Then there is Pinterest. You just know that those are the real recipes, right? Kind of doubt it. Of course you can learn a lot from buying the products. Far be it from me to tell you not to buy ready-made products, hell, I make products. But you are only getting part of the picture if you are buying the products to learn Hoodoo. But if your goal is just to do the work and you’re not worried about learning Hoodoo, then by all means buy the ready-made products, after all that is the way it was in days of old. There has always been those who learned these ways and those who came to the Rootworker for help with their problems. It works, why mess with it now?
But if you are trying to learn Hoodoo then you cannot rely on books, or intuition, or European Herbalism knowledge, or guessing what’s in the bottle. Rootwork has been and always will be partially hidden in the shadows and the swamps. The recipes of the various practitioners are carefully guarded secrets.
That leads me to another don’t…Don’t ask me, “What in it?” It is considered just rude, like asking Colonel Sanders of KFC for his secret recipe. My recipes took years of work and research. Some of them were handed down to me or other members of my family. I’ve spent many years working with teachers down in Louisiana, and still work with them every year; and you just want me to tell you how to make it…excuse me???
If you are checking to be sure you won’t breakout in hives then ask it differently; maybe something like, “I’m severely allergic to lemon grass…can I use your Van Van Oil?” (NO)
Ok, I have a kind of weird Hoodoo – Do. While you are learning buy a wide variety of the ready- made products out there. While you cannot fully learn Hoodoo this way, it is a good way to introduce you to the knowledge of what is real and what is just a money making con. It shows you just how much crap is out there. Buy from many companies or vendors. Buy from the semi-tacky tourist shops in New Orleans, buy from the real Voodoo practitioners, buy from the botanicas, buy from the online stores, buy buy buy and compare. What is their mojo bag or gris gris bag made of? What’s inside? What should be inside? What would you expect to see? Are their oils made with herbs and minerals, roots and flowers? Or are they just perfumed oil? Are there dyes or synthetic products added? Should there be? How do you think the rootworkers of say 1870 made their products? Find out how that changed in the 1930s and why. So for me another “DO” would be to educate yourself. Take classes, read, go to conferences, join Rootworker or Hoodoo or Conjure Facebook groups, but remember there are a lot of folks out there who take a class or two, maybe read a book or two and pass themselves off as experts. I guess my last don’t is…Don’t be one of them. Till next time…Remember Kids, Don’t Eat The Hoodoo.
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.