Q&A Part II – Voodoo and Hoodoo

To pick up where I left off with The Road Less Traveled’s set of intricate questions, I will actually end up mirroring the methodology of the post which I submitted yesterday. I love writing about this kind of stuff and my noodle is brimming with commentary about the more intellectual aspects of Paganism, so this is all perfectly timed. Plus, taking many pages of commentary and boiling them down to three or so pages forces me to concentrate on the real crux of the issue. I just hope y’all enjoy eavesdropping on my answers to TRLT as much as I enjoy composing them. I think I’ve exhausted the portion that asks, “What is the main difference between” Witchcraft(s). Here I will look at the variation among Voodoo(s) so that I can also address Hoodoo later in this post. Sorcery will have to wait.

Just as across Europe there are sets of non-homogenous “versions” of Witchcraft, some falling under neoPagan Gardnerian paradigms, some not, there are many, many ATR-based[1] (African Traditional Religions) religions. Voodoo itself, like Witchcraft, is not a uniform system. In several countries Voodoo is practiced with varying traditions, purposes, and structures.

Bear in mind that my information regarding Voodoo and all other ATR-based religions is derived from a scholarly perspective only; I am an outsider of these traditions.

We are most familiar with Haitian Voodoo,[2] which is likely the most visible of the Voodoo traditions. Since the decline of Duvalierism, Voodoo has been instituted as a national religion with official status. This makes a big difference when you compare it to South American Voodoo. (Yes, I mean South American Voodoo – not Santeria. I’ll get to Santeria in a minute.) Consider the freedoms granted in a religion that is sanctioned by the government versus one that must operate in clandestine modes. In Venezuela, for instance, the accepted religion is Catholicism, however, folks practice Voodoo as a regular course. We are familiar with the syncretic correspondences made between Catholic saints and Voodoo loa (and Santarian orisha) and understand that this arose out of the need to veil the practices from the eyes of officials. In Venezuela, as I understand it, Voodoo practices are not outlawed, yet citizens “identify” themselves as Catholic. So it seems to me that Voodoo could be envisioned as either a systematic religion in toto (as in Haiti) or a limited practice with a syncretic relationship to Catholicism (as in Venezuela, Cuba, and other locales). Both must be, in my opinion, deemed valid; however we should be cautious to identify what we mean when we refer to “Voodoo” since there is such variance across cultures.

I know you didn’t ask this part, but I’d like to offer the information since I have it on hand. There are many other ATR-based religions that are alive and well in the 20th Century. Across the Caribbean and into South America, there are as many variations that stem back to African religions as there are Witchcraft traditions (as there are Christian denominations, for that matter). Just to name a few, consider Umbanda of Brazil, Candomble of Uruguay, and Cuban Santeria.

At this point, I’d like to jump ahead to one of your latter questions that I will answer in full later. You asked if a non-black could practice Voodoo. Based on what I’ve just said, the answer *must* be “yes.” Of course, one cannot be a Haitian Voodooist (or Voodooisant) unless one is, in fact, Haitian. (I’ll discuss New Orleans Haitian Voodoo soon.) The connection between the people of Haiti, its historical politics, its government and local officials, and its religion is strong.[3] Nonetheless, given the variety of Voodoo sects, we have to acknowledge that not all of their adherents are the same race.

Hoodoo, the way I have come to understand it, is not a religion per se. As a matter of fact, most hoodoos are Christian and regularly incorporate Biblical passages into Workings. Rather, hoodoo is a set of practices based on folk magics from many cultures. These cultures include: multiple ATRs, multiple Southeastern NATP (Native American Tribal Practices) – especially Cherokee –and (believe it or not) white European traditions like those brought over with the Pennsylvania Dutch hexmeisters, Scots-Irish herbalists and midwives, and Germanic occult practices. If you want more information, I recommend Hoodoo in Theory and Practice: An Introduction to African-American Rootwork by Catherine Yronwode,[4] the most recognized author in American Hoodoo. Part of her work explains:

Hoodoo consists of a large body of African folkloric practices and beliefs with a considerable admixture of American Indian botanical knowledge and European folklore. Although most of its adherents are black, contrary to popular opinion, it has always been practiced by both whites and blacks in America. (“Hoodoo, Conjure, and Rootwork: Definition of Terms”)

This makes sense the more I learn. For instance, The Bad Witch loves etymology. The origin of a word can tell you everything you need to know about a concept; or it can point you away from long-held misunderstandings about a concept. The etymology of hoodoo surprised me. Of course, hoodoo can be used as a verb, a noun referring to the practice, a noun referring to the practitioner, or an adjective. But while most dictionaries link hoodoo to voodoo, I found that the word hoodoo enters the American language in 1875, just before conjure comes to be used as a synonym for hoodoo in 1889.[5] So a connection between hoodoo and voodoo doesn’t make any sense, and is likely why the connection is disregarded by linguistic researchers. For example, Daniel Cassidy, author of How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads (CounterPunch Books and AK Press. July 2007), hoodoo is actually connected more clearly to the Gaelic, Uath Dubh, which is pronounced hoo doo.[6] So, it sounds to me that hoodoo is intended for anyone at all – but seems to have originated in Appalachia.[7] Hoodoo is also directly connected with and alternately referred to as “conjuration.” To conjure is both to summon and to influence. In the form of influencing, this is nothing more than basic Witchcraft. In the form of summoning, this is a little more like Sorcery. In my next post, I’ll talk about the difference between Goetia and Theurgy. This will, I hope, flesh in issues of Hoodoo conjure.

Also, as I understand it, hoodoo is non-hierarchical and non-initiatory. Whereas Haitian Voodoo adheres to a strict code of initiation, “couche,” and formal training (again, see Filan for the politics of the situation), hoodoo does not. This is likely where Louisiana or New Orleans Voodoo comes in. NOLA Voodoo is formally initiatory and prospective hoguns and mambos are expected to go to Haiti or Africa for initiation. I met one man in NOLA who claimed to be an authentically initiated Voodoo hogun; he was white. So it seems that whites can, in fact be Haitian initiated Voodooists. But, I have also heard that there are scammers in NOLA who claim to be trained or initiated in Africa, but are not. And I have heard that there are scammers in Africa who charge exorbitant amounts to conduct initiations for Americans, initiations that are not officially recognized by native practitioners. The lineage of white Voodoo “leaders” is often suspect – whether this suspicion is founded or not.

Most of the scholarship I look at argues that because Voodoo was a way for African-Americans to have a measure of influence over whites, they would have never conferred legitimate power on someone without any African lineage. But, this contradicts what I know: Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman is Jewish/Ukrainian, right? And only three (?) of the Mambos on the Haunted New Orleans “top ten” list (however valid that is) are black.

I am, admittedly befuddled on this subject. And we can’t really take anecdotal evidence here, considering the possibility of scams, now can we? Can anyone offer clarification?

To address your question of the origins of power, my understanding is that hoodoo attributes magical acts to personal power and to the natural properties of herbs, roots, minerals, etc.[8] As for a pantheon? Because hoodoos tend to be Christian and not Pagan, I would imagine that Jehovah is a viable supreme God; but because hoodoo is not a religion, but a practice, it seems to me that you should be able to Work within any religion that did not contradict hoodoo. There is also at least one commonly recognized African deity; known as Legba (aka Nbumba, Nzila, Ellegua, and Eshu), he is the “dark man” one can meet at the crossroads. As the keeper of the gate between life and death, a trickster, he seems to be more like the Pagan Devil than Biblical Satan. Where hoodoo connects the idea of “sin” and “evil” is beyond me at the moment. I do get the impression that death and hell are not nearly as terrifying as they are in many other Christian systems. And it also seems to me that it is not necessary to be a Christian to practice hoodoo.

The same goes for sorcery – which I’ll address tomorrow!

Thanks for hanging in there!


[1] And when I say “ATR-based,” it is with the realization that “Voudon” is historically (whether accurately or not, I haven’t checked the sources) to Nigeria and Dahomey. Yorùbá comes from, well, Yoruba. Both of these are the more recognized stem-religions from which most ATR-based traditions, like Palo, Congo, and Bantu, branch.

[2] And if you are not, there are two films I recommend: The Divine Horseman: The Living Gods of Haiti, based on Maya Deren’s work between 1947 and 1954 – so long as you promise to take it in a historical context – and Buying the Spirit, by Journeyman Pictures (2003).

[3] If you are interested in this topic, I *highly* recommend The Haitian Vodou Handbook: Protocols for Riding with the Lwa by Kenaz Filan (Destiny Books, 2006).

[4] I have been instructed to read it in its entirety by Maman Lee. It’s truly fascinating. Yronwode explains the admixtures of of not only ATR, NATP, and European occult practices as mentioned above, but she also discusses Middle-Eastern (Kabbalist and Judeo-Christian) and Eastern (Hindu and Taoist/Buddhist) influences on Hoodoo. Some really cool and well-documented stuff.

[5] Oxford English Dictionary. “Hoodoo,” n and adj , 1; “Conjure,” n, 3.

[6] Uath Dubh means:

Dark specter, evil phantom, a malevolent thing; horror, dread; a dark, spiky, evil-looking thing. Uath, (pron. voo) n., a form or shape; a spectre or phantom; dread, terror, hate. . . . Dubh, (pron. doo), adj., dark; black; malevolent, evil; wicked; angry, sinister; gloomy, melancholy; strange, unknown. (O’Donaill, Niall and Patrick Stephen Dinneen. Focloir Gaeilge-Bearla/Irish-English Dictionary. de Bhaldraithe, Tomás. English-Irish Dictionary. Dwelly, Edward. Faclair Gàidhlig gu Beurla le Dealbhan/The Illustrated [Scottish] Gaelic- English Dictionary)

[7] By the way, there is a newfound interest in a thing referred to as “Granny Magic.” I was very keen on the concept, but the more I read the more I think it is misrepresented. Maybe I’ll tackle that later. Maybe in answer to the new question you posed!

[8] This doesn’t contradict my earlier statement that I believe power comes from the Creator. In panetheistic views, the Creator is always already immanent in all of Creation. So, cool.

Q&A With The Road Less Traveled: Part I

This one is for The Road Less Traveled who posed some questions after my “Interview With Maman Lee.” I’m going to have to break this down a bit since no one really wants to read an article length blog post! Plus, I rekon having this in my scholarly voice instead of the Badness you’ve all grown to know and love, will make the ride a little different road.

Let me take a minute up front to thank you for the intricately detailed and elegant set of questions you’ve posed for me. I have been modestly berating myself for working more on “fun” projects then getting to the framework of my research (I have over 27,000 words of the “innards” but none of the (sometimes tedious to develop) super-structure. Thanks to your prod in the right direction, I have churned out these posts and about 30 more pages of a much-needed exoskeleton, thereby freeing me up to dedicate the weekend to research. Being encouraged by this headway has renewed my attentiveness to the project. So, thanks.

Bear in mind that I am not Haitian, nor am I descended from Haitians; I am not a Voodooist (initiated or otherwise). I make no claims to proficiency, expertise, or secret knowledge. But I will do my best to make a response based in logic and research. Also bear in mind that in our fields there are varying opinions, to say the least. The only reason I venture to address these topics is because I was asked to, not because I feel a need to create some sort of standardization among those opinions. What follows is simply my scholarly “take” on the questions at hand.

For instance, some folks lump Witchcraft and Wicca together and have good reasons for doing so. Ethan Doyle White, for one, argues that because of “common use,” we should not differentiate between initiates of Traditional Wicca and eclectic practitioners who refer to their practices as “Wiccan” (“The Meaning of “Wicca”: A Study in Etymology, History and Pagan Politics”. The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 12 (2): Feb. 2011, 185–207). I happen to disagree. This does not diminish White’s claims or his argument. It simply means that, as a scholar, I can accept his argument as valuable while still holding to my own rationale.

Like my daddy says, “Just ‘cuz them beans give me gas don’t mean no one should eat’em.”

OK, maybe it’s not just like that but still.

This segues well into the first set of questions.

The first half of the first question TRLT asks is:

What exactly is the main difference between European Witchcraft, sorcery, and Hoodoo? Aren’t they all different forms of magic? Is there difference simply the way people who practice these different systems do things?

This is laden with many questions so let me parse them out as best I can. (I’ll address the second half of that question and questions 2-3 as we go along this week. Maybe even ending on a PBP post – what is it this week? Still R?)

As for the difference between European Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Hoodoo, there is a basic difference in cultural development. First, I must address the multifold differences in European Witchcraft alone. Not only are there differences in folk-ways across the continent, there is a distinct difference between folk magics and Wiccan-based crafts. European Witchcraft is not a homogenous model. In itself, the multifaceted set of traditions contains a number of divergent cultures. Both Norway and Italy are in Europe, yet the Vǫlur’s practice of seiðr, in the form or galdr and other shamanic practices is very different from the folk magics of, say, Sardinia. Further, today’s vala and gyda will have very different practices (based on access, technology, laws, and cultural necessity) than their ancient ancestors. What’s more, practices in Italy itself can vary greatly from the mainland to the islands.

As for the variances of traditions based on Wicca, consider Stregheria (Italy). While I have not studied Grimassi’s tradition[1] (1970s) in detail, I know that it is founded on Gardnarian paradigms. Though  Leo Martello was the first recognized author to claim an Italian “family tradition” of Witchcraft (Witchcraft: The Old Religion. 1970), Grimassi popularized the “Aradian Tradition,” inspired by English author, Charles Leland’s,  Aradia, Gospel of the Witches (1899), a literary translation of Italian folklore combined with Leland’s characteristic narrative style. Here, Leland blends Roman mythoi with Middle-Eastern apologues to create a foundation for Mediterranean system – which was then adopted as a Celtic underpinning.

Likewise Buckland’s reimagination of Pictish Craft.[2] Because we have little or nothing left of the insulated Pictish people, subjects of cultural absorption and genocide and without an extensive written culture, we have no way of authenticating the recovery of their craft. However, I am of the mind that there is no historical evidence to believe that PectiWita and Gardnerian Wicca (considering the relentless Roman invasions and ensuing cultural changes) would have anything in common at all.

The opinion one has about “European Witchcraft,” it seems to me, hinges upon one’s opinion of Gardnerian British Traditional Witchcraft and the ensuing conglomeration of neo-Pagan Reconstruction movements. Those who agree that Gardnerian Wicca, and those that emulated it, are derived from uninterrupted (or even authentically recovered) customs, methods, and mythologies reaching back to antiquity will be of a mind that is very different from the opinion of those who believe that Gardner borrowed  heavily from Crowley and The Golden Dawn to recreate a manufactured tradition (perhaps driven by his desire to have extramarital sex). Of course, I don’t want to represent a falsehood here – there are opinions in between.[3]

Like mine.

I’ve mentioned a few in these posts: (“It Must Be. . .Wikipedia,” “ Dead Horses . . .,” and “Wannabethans” – likely others as well).

And then again, there is a sizable difference between Wicca as an initiatory system and Wicca as an eclectic set of practices. Initiatory Wicca, limited to a select number of vetted lineages, is not even the same as Wicca which does not have its foundation in one of these lines. Also see here.

It’s a lot like apostolic succession for the Papacy.

Of course, we should recognize solitaries and eclectics who choose to refer to their practice as “Wiccan” as legitimate. Some do not. It’s a matter of personal politics. The Bad Witch doesn’t have a dog in that fight.

Of course, there’s the possibility that there is a tradition surviving in Europe that has nothing to do with mainstream “Traditional Witchcraft.” If they exist aside from Teutonic Shamanism, I don’t know anything about them and cannot give you any information.

Being The Bad Gydia, I can tell you that the rituals of seiðr have little or nothing in common with Wicca when it comes to ritual. What is common among them is repetition (of musical chanting of a sort and drumming) to achieve the states of altered consciousness wherein Magic is performed. Other than that, most of the things practiced in contemporary Heathenism are derived from Wicca in effort to be “friendly,” not because they are authentic to Germanic practices.

My opinions regarding these concessions is beside the point.

So to answer whether the “difference [is] simply [in] the way people who practice these different systems do things,” I would say, “yes” and “no.”

The way things are done is certainly different; but nothing I would call simple. The way things are done speaks not just to a practical difference, but to a difference in philosophy.

For instance, in Wicca (and Western European Sorcery) the wand and the athame are decidedly phallic. In many Western Esoteric traditions, the phallus is venerated as the source of creative power.[4] The “wand-carrier” or völva is, by definition, a woman. As a matter of fact, it was expressly forbidden for Norsemen to “assume” female magical powers. This is not to say that they could not practice magic at all, which eventually became the case after the influx of Christianity (it’s very complicated), but that men were forbidden to perform magic. For this reason, I have to believe that the “imagination” of the “source of power for their workings” is different.

In my panentheistic belief system, all power comes from “God” or “The Almighty” or “The Creator” or whatever one calls the supreme and eternal animating force of the cosmos. The issue remains that, even if we all believe this tenet, we may all define this divine presence differently. Exactly where the source of power is derived is above my pay grade.

Alas, I am only qualified to speak to my own belief.

There’s so much more to come.

B, Q, 93 for now – TBW

[1] Grimassi, Raven. The Book of the Holy Strega (1981) and Italian Witchcraft: The Old Religion of Southern Europe, previously titled Ways of the Strega (1994). Consider also Stregheria.com – “The Home of Authentic Italian Witchcraft.”

[2] Buckland, Raymond. Scottish Witchcraft: The History & Magick of the Picts. Llewellyn Worldwide, 1991.

[3] If you are interested in more information, you might look at this one that argues that all of Gardner’s credentials are fabricated. Or this one that offers around 80 (I quit counting) other articles that criticize Wicca, Gardner, and Wiccan Witches – accompanied by  the claim that too many Wiccan initiates censor any and all criticism of their movement. And then there’s this guy (who, I openly admit, I did not watch yet but plan to) who has a four part YouTube criticism of Wicca. While most of the reviewers use unnecessarily crude language, I do not suggest we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

[4] It happens to be one of my main projects to use Norse traditions to recover a system of female power not based in phallic influence (or the “lack” thereof).

An Interview with Maman Lee

“Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Rick, Casablanca 

More a fan of conjuration than “conjure” in my youth, it wasn’t until about ’08 and Mama Lisa that I started taking Houdoo a little more seriously. Previously, my head was too full of Charles Chestnut and Brer Rabbit. Now I realize that Chestnut was right-on and that B’Rabby is more like my own Mvskogee Rabbit than he is like Walt Disney.

This is where my highfalutin scholarly education ties my shoelaces together and then stands back and laughs from time to time.

Bertie and I have been chatting a good deal lately and she, knowing that I was late to jump on board the rootwork boat under her tutelage, has been egging me on to “study more.”

I have been.

But as much as I like books, there are some things they just can’t teach. These things require mentors. And my preference is always a well-seasoned august woman with the ability to put me in my place with a simple snap of her eyeballs.

This is why my biggest complaint about finding a mentor remains that there are a lot of silly-arsed charlatans trying to mentor folks. This is as true for Hoodoo as it is for any other tradition. That’s not to say that there are no good root doctors, but to say that the loudest and most visible are showboats without a solid foundation beneath them.[1] This is too bad, because Houdoo, I am learning, is one of the most magnificent traditions around.[2]

After letting me toss my own net and letting me come up short, like a good patron, Bertie (re)introduced me to Maman Lee, a rootworker I had met when I lived up North; she had come to the university to speak at a number of colloquia and to guest lecture in classes. Bertie hoped Maman Lee would make a suitable substitute teacher for my late friend, Mama Lisa. However, unlike Mama Lisa, I can understand every word Maman Lee says the first time around, I can reference scholarship without worrying about being misperceived as condescending (and can expect to have “intellectual-stuff” lobbed back at me without a pause), and I can make urban points of reference since Maman Lee is also from The Windy City. Unfortunately, unlike Mama Lisa, pushing a century of Louisiana bayou living with a siege engine, Maman Lee is only about four years my senior: half Mama Lisa’s age. Blech.

I asked her if when we Skype she would mind wearing age makeup since I’m more comfortable with older women. She said, “No problem. As long as when we Skype, you try to be a young black girl since I am more comfortable teaching my sisters’ children.”

This is my place and I have been put firmly in it.

The Bad Witch and Maman Lee have had a little Skype exchange about the nature of “rebound” and, with Maman Lee’s express permission, I’m about to share some of it with you. How’s that?[3]

It all started when Maman Lee asked:

ML:     What’s your favorite thing Bertie ever taught you?

TBW:  I guess the most useful thing she taught me was how to clean up and reclaim my energy. You know? Like when you cast energy out and maybe misfire a bit, you need to keep that shite from becoming a bad boomerang joke. Or when someone is blowing psychic smoke out of their arse at you; you can’t keep their flatulence from coming, but you can make it smell a bit better. Or when you’ve done someone a kindness only to be met with a knife in the back; you want your energy back, I mean, you lent it to them but, in the end, it’s your energy and you want it back. But you want it back without all of their poop on it.

ML:     Bertie taught you how to do that?

TBW:  One of the first things, sure.

ML:     How?

TBW:  Um, I’d have to check with Bertie before . . .

ML:     Naw, hon. We are going to get along just fine.

TBW:  Right. I see what you did there. Did I pass?

ML:     Ha, yes, of course. Don’t be offended. Can you tell me when and how this works if not how to do it? I just want to have a touchstone with you.

TBW:  I’ll try. Say for instance someone has a bee in their bonnet and wants to fling some sludge your way, there’s a way to put up a sort of filter. The sludge is neutralized and incorporated as best as it can be. Say, someone unduly curses your car. The curse falls on you, but it happens on the best possible day in the best possible circumstances and with the best possible outcome. Hell, if you’re real good, you could even get a new car out of the deal. Same goes for your own energy. If you cast for someone – you know, on their behalf, at their request – and they turn out to be a real pill, then you can reclaim what’s rightly yours. This is funny because it usually leaves them standing with an empty basket going, “Heeeyy? Where’s my apples?” Truth is, they were my apples and I took them back. Can this serve as a touchstone between what I’m talking about and justified Hoodoo?

. . . .

ML:     So you see, the difference between Work[4] that is justified and Work that is not is a matter of degree. It’s like you were saying, if it’s your energy, you will get it back. But whether or not it has poop on it is a matter of equality.

TBW:  So, I have seen a lot of people try to define what is justified and what is not justified when cursing or jinxing or – hey, help me with the lexicon here, what’s your preferred term?

ML:     Working.

TBW: OK, Working. But I’ve never gotten a clear cut answer on where the line lies.

ML:     That’s what I’m trying to say, there’s no black-and-white. And it’s not about intent. You can intend to harm and have it be justified. You can intend to do no harm and it would be unjustified. Didn’t you say that you didn’t think it was acceptable to cast a spell to bind someone to you, even if it was done in love or for the intent to protect?

TBW: Right. I see.

ML:     We on the same page yet?

TBW:  I think so. I mean, I’ve never been one to shy away from solid protection or reversal Magic. As a matter of fact, I’m damned good at it. But this is not exactly the same, is it?

ML:     This is not just Magic or even reversal Magic, it’s enemyWork. We aren’t talking about sending someone’s bad energy back to them three-times-over. That’s all well and good and it works like a charm as they say. But we are talking about initiating the energy based on what someone has done in the physical world. And we aren’t talking about Work done on or for nice people either. We are talking about Work done on enemies. We like to think we can all just get along, but in this big world, there are bad people. And we are obligated to ourselves and to our families to protect ourselves from bad people. And in some parts of the world, there is no justice system. And there are those of us for whom the justice system simply does not work. So we use our God-given powers to exact justice. And we know that if we are morally and ethically in the right, we can perform the Work without fear of repercussions; when the energy comes back – because it is going to come back – it won’t have poop on it because we Worked within an ethic.

TBW: Even when cursing.

ML:   Sure, even when cursing. Look, it’s like this. A woman who curses her rapist. He made the first move. He broke the first rule. And it’s not just like he hurt her feelings, that’s something she can control, right? We control our own feelings, yes? You can’t Work on someone just because they called you a bad name or because they hurt your feelings or looked at you sideways. It has to be more than that. It has to be a real infraction. Therefore, the rape victim is justified because the degree of the rapist’s infraction was as great if not greater than her revenge. In this case, I’d be hard pressed to find a revenge that exceeds the harm done by rape. Plus, if she crafts her Work properly, she will make the punishment fit the crime. She might make his penis fall off. Either literally or figuratively. If a parent were to goofer – you know “goofer,” right?

TBW:  It’s severe. Goofer dust is meant to kill, right?

ML:     Possibly. Not always. Sometimes you can cause a fate worse than death. Know what I mean?

TBW:  Right.

. . . .

ML:     So if a father were to goofer the man who murdered his child, or if a woman were to Work on the person who abuses her or her child, or if a spouse were to Work on the person their partner is fooling-around with, or if there is a stalker or a vandal or a thief, these things are justified. You see? But the trick is that the severity of the Work has to meet the risk or damage or pain caused. You can’t exceed the situation dealt by the other party. It’s really an eye for an eye in this case.

TBW:  So, the punishment has to fit the crime. Hurt feelings are no reason to justify enemyWork. Got it. And enemyWork is justified if the offending party poses an ongoing threat or if they have evaded other forms of justice.

ML:     Hey, even if a rapist or murderer goes to prison, I see enemyWork as justified.

TBW:  What about more banal stuff? I mean people do bad things that aren’t rape and murder. This is where I get hung up. The example I always use is the one where I have no problem staking a pedophile out over a metaphorical fire ant hill, but there are issues that are less extreme. What then? What if somebody owes you money or something less harmful, yet significant?

ML:     Any threat of violence. Any attempt on your livelihood. Any – got it? Anything that will hamper with your work environment or your reputation at work. Unless of course, you earned it. If you are embezzling, you can’t Work on a whistleblower. I mean, you can, but it isn’t justified. Any damage to your property or pets or children. This includes intangible damage. Say someone is trying to get you evicted or trying to ruin your ability to lease or purchase. Like I said, if you don’t pay your rent you can be evicted, so this has to be damage done to you out of meanness. If someone is trying to run you out of town just because they don’t like you or because they are afraid of you, that’s what I’m talking about. Character assassination, harassment, stalking, bullying, or repeatedly spreading lies about you. Especially if this causes harm to your work environment or home environment. This is all justified Work. Situations where someone has hampered with your personal safety, your finances in any way, your ability to earn an income or succeed in your line of employment – whether or not you earn money from it – see where I’m going with this?

TBW:  Boy-howdy. One-hundred percent.

ML:     Someone hampers with your marriage, your home, your career, your reputation, and especially your children and animals? Then you are justified in performing enemyWork so long as you don’t exceed the damage they did.

TBW:  What happens if it’s not justified? Or if you go overboard with revenge?

ML:     First, you can cross yourself. It will all backfire. Here’s a specific thing I see happen, ghosts.

TBW:  Ghosts?

ML:     Suddenly you might have specters in your house. My mother calls them “haints.” You get a sense of paranoia and see darkness everywhere, no matter how you try to overcome it. Then a run of bad luck. Real bad depending on what you did. Ha, and who you did it to. You could also get crossed just by trying to Work against somebody who is especially charmed. When the spirits have a favorite, they will take up for him or her. You go after a favorite and you better make sure it’s justified. So ghosts, then bad luck. Then, you could – I’ve seen it happen – lose all of your mojo. I’ve seen talented rootWorkers take the wrong job and Work on somebody and it turn out not to have been justified. They just didn’t do the right readings ahead of time, you know? And then? Nothing. Not a thing in the world works for them. All their magic is just gone. What we do is a gift. And it can and will be taken away if we misuse it.

TBW:  Wow. I never thought of it like that. That’s a big difference between Hoodoo and Magic or Sorcery.

ML:     Yea, Hoodoo is not about formulas or the order of the universe. . . . I’ve seen people get crossed based on Working on suspicion. Once there was a man who thought his wife had cursed him so he asked a rootWorker to get revenge for him. . . . The wife had done no such thing and so the curse hit her and him both. And the rootWorker. He didn’t check to make sure it was the wife who had cursed his client. People are often so quick to jump to conclusions about who cursed them. Really, most of the time, in my experience, it’s just bad people reaping their own bad juju.

TBW:  Bad juju. Right. Got it. So, to recap – aside from the clearly illegal stuff like theft, murder, rape, assault, and so on. It is not justified to Work against someone who simply doesn’t agree with you or someone who expresses a distaste for you. It is justified to Work against someone who undermines your reputation or lies about you or tries to run you out of town or make your business fail or make you lose income or customers or whatever. It is not justified to Work against someone who hurts your feelings, because your feelings are your control. But it is justified to Work against someone who continually harasses you or your family. And the best bet is to make the punishment fit the crime. Like if someone wants to ruin your reputation, it’s best to Work against their reputation rather than, say, their dog or their car or their whatever. . . . And it has to be kept to the same degree, right? So a size 2T infraction does not justify a size 6X enemyWork.

ML:     True. But, this is sometimes out of your hands. You can Work for something that is the same size as the initial infraction, but sometimes it gets bigger than you Worked for and this is out of your hands and not on your mojo. Sometimes the spirits get a little ticked off when they see people doing the same thing over and again and they take it into their own hands to meet justice.

TBW:  And always confirm that you are Working against the right party.[5]

ML:     Always. Double check. Triple check. Check until you are sure. . . . And do not let your personal feelings get in the way. If you are too emotionally tied to the situation, let someone else read for you.

. . . .

Maman Lee also gave me a rundown of times when justified Work requires a warning-fire of some sort. Like when someone is too goofy to realize that they’ve stepped on the wrong toes – if it’s not too big a deal. (If it’s a big enough deal, no warning is necessary.) Then we should give the dolt a heads-up that if they don’t make complete recompense by, say, two-weeks from Tuesday, then we will begin such-and-such enemyWork. She says that unfortunately if they are too hardheaded to know what they’ve done in the first place, chances are they will be too hardheaded to make recompense. But it’s in our best interest to work with this ethic.

Good advice from my new(ish) friend. Thanks M. Lee!

[1] Recently, I had an exchange with one who disallowed any comprehension that Witchcraft, Wicca, and Sorcery were all very different concepts. I made an attempt to explain but inevitably had to throw my hands up and walk away from that one. Some folks are steadfast in their refusal to be informed.

[2] And again, I don’t mean New Orleans tourist fakery, I mean genuine American Houdoo.

[3] Lots of times I agreed or expressed comprehension. I won’t transcribe those “uh-huh”s and echoes.

[4] I had gotten an email from her before and she capitalized Work. Now when I hear her say it, it’s capital W: “Work.” I kept it that way for stylistic reasons in enemyWork and rootWork. And, as indicated by ellipsis, I edited out some reinforcing conversation. Hopefully I faithfully kept all context.

[5] I kept thinking about the case of The Evil Bitch.