Friday, March 2, 2007


Hoodoo refers to African-American traditional folk magic. A rich magical tradition which was (for thousands of years), indigenous to ancient African botanical, magio-religious practices and folk cultures, its practice was imported when mainly West Africans were enslaved and brought to the United States.

Hoodoo is used as a noun and is derived from the Ewe word "Hudu," which still exists today. Hoodoo is often used in African-American vernacular to describe a magic "spell" or potion, or as a descriptor for a practitioner (hoodoo doctor, hoodoo man or hoodoo woman), or as an adjective or verb depending upon context. The word can be dated at least as early as 1891.* Some prefer the term hoodooism, but this has mostly fallen out of use. Some "New Age" non-Diaspora practitioners who have taken up Hoodoo as a hobby employ synonyms to include conjuration, conjure, witchcraft, or rootwork, The latter demonstrates the importance of various roots in the making of charms and casting spells. It is important to note that in traditional African religious culture, the concept of "spells" is not used. Here again, this Afro-botanical practice has been heavily used by the New Age, and Wiccan communities who have little understanding of "Hoodoo's" spiritual significance as it is traditionally used in Africa. An amulet characteristic of hoodoo is the mojo, often called a mojo bag, mojo hand, conjure bag, trick bag, or toby; this is a small sack filled with herbs, roots, coins, sometimes a lodestone, and various other objects of magical power.


  • An earlier attestation dates from 1863. A Confederate infantryman, wounded in the failed assault against Union-held Helena, Arkansas on 4 July, said, "Since that day at Helena I tell the boys I would rather buck against a hoodoo than try to down old Glory on the Fourth of July." Barring a radically different meaning of "hoodoo," the reference seems to be to trying to beat a curse (as being preferable to refighting the Battle of Helena). [citations needed]

Spirit-based natural magic

As can be expected, most practitioners of hoodoo are African American, but Whites and Native Americans also use hoodoo, although their practices share commonalities more with Pennsylvania Dutch pow-wow magic, rather than with the practices in West Africa. In its home of Africa, Hoodoo (Hudu) is a well respected tradition, which is typically passed through old family priestly lines. Today, in America, traditional folk knowledge is passed from person to person; and there is no evidence of a structured hierarchy.

The goal of hoodoo is to allow people access to supernatural forces to improve their daily lives by gaining power in many areas of life, including gambling, love, divination, cursing one's enemies, treatment of disease, employment, and necromancy. As in many other folk religious, magical, and medical practices, extensive use is made of herbs, minerals, parts of animals' bodies, an individual's possessions, and bodily fluids, especially menstrual blood, urine and semen. Contact with ancestors or other spirits of the dead is an important practice within the conjure tradition, and the recitation of Psalms from the Bible is also considered magically effective in hoodoo. Due to hoodoo's great emphasis on an individual's magical power, its basic principles of working are easily adapted for use based on one's desires, inclination and habits.

Home-made potions and charms form the basis of much old-time rural hoodoo, but there are also many successful commercial companies selling various hoodoo components to urban and rural practitioners. These are generally called spiritual supplies, and they include herbs, roots, minerals, candles, incense, oils, floor washes, sachet powders, bath crystals, and colognes. Many patent medicines, cosmetics, and household cleaning supplies have been also aimed at hoodoo practitioners and have found dual usage as conventional and spiritual remedies.

Differences between Voodoo and Hoodoo

Hoodoo and Voodoo are often mistaken for one another. Some believe that the terms may have a common etymology, with the religious persecution and suppression of the Voodoo religion in America, "hoodoo" is what remains.

The ancient African religion of Voodoo is an established religion with its ancient roots in Egypt, East Africa, ancient Ionia and Afro-Rome.[citation needed] Its current roots are in the West African region now known as Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso. It is practiced all throughout West Africa; particularly, among members of the Fon, Ewe and other West African groups. In Haiti it is practiced in a form that has been greatly modified by contact with the Catholic church.

In the U.S. Hoodoo is not a religion -- that is, it is spiritual and magical in nature, but it does not have an established theology, clergy, laity, or order of liturgical services. Hoodoo shows obvious and evident links to the practices and beliefs of all African folk magico-religious culture. The Hoodoo practiced in the U.S. by the enslaved Africans was brought from West and Central Africa, specifically, the area that is now known as the Congo and Angola, Togo, Nigeria and other West African regions.

References in other media


Many blues musicians have referred to hoodoo in their songs (for example, "Louisiana Hoodoo Blues" by Ma Rainey, "Hoodoo Lady Blues" by Arthur Crudup, or "Hoodoo Man Blues" by Junior Wells), and such elements have become important to the music. In addition to the expected terms hoodoo and mojo, other conjure words in such songs include jinx, goofer dust, nation sack, black cat bone, graveyard dirt, and black spider dumplings.

The Creedence Clearwater Revival song Born on the Bayou references hoodoo in the line "I can still hear that old hound dog barking, chasin' down a hoodoo there". From the context it would appear that the term use is a 'hoo doo there' perhaps a southern, black, or cajun slang for someone or something that does not belong, as in 'who is there?'.

Rock band Muse recorded a song entitled "Hoodoo" on their album Black Holes and Revelations.

Goth band The Deep Eynde recorded a song called "Hoodoo", released in 1995 and can be found on one of Cleopatra Records many compilations.

Folk Humor

A sort of "who's on first" routine arose from the sound of the word "hoodoo," which went like this: "You remind me of the man." "What man?" "The man with the power." "What power?" "The power of Hoodoo." "Hoodoo?" "You do." "Do what?" "You remind me of the man..." It may have arisen from vaudeville or burlesque but more likely it's a joke once in common circulation. This is referenced by David Bowie's character, Jareth, in the song Magic Dance of the film Labyrinth, albeit using the word 'voodoo' instead of 'hoodoo'. The routine is performed by Cary Grant and Myrna Loy in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.


Zora Neale Hurston recorded many hoodoo practices and tales. Other authors on the subject include Harry M. Hyatt, Newbell Niles Puckett, Jim Haskins, Mama Zogbe and catherine yronwode. Christine Wicker Not In Kansas Anymore Dark Arts, Sex Spells, Money Magic, and Other Things Your Neighbors Aren’t Telling You Christine Wicker featuring hoodoo, rootworker Dr. Christos Kioni.


Since 2004, Dr. Christos Kioni, a conjure doctor at Rootwork, Rootworker, Hoodoo, Conjurefrom Florida, has co-hosted and produced a weekly hour-long radio show and podcast on the subject of hoodoo called "The Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour."


The Skeleton Key, a film released in 2005, centers on the practice of hoodoo.


Hoodoo (and Voodoo) are a central part of the plot to Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father, an adventure game released in 1993.


In English, Australian, and New Zealand sports journalism, the word hoodoo is sometimes used to refer to a team's inability to achieve a certain goal - such as beating a particular opponent or winning a certain trophy. This usage jokingly implies that there is some supernatural force preventing the team from doing so and derives from the false notion that hoodoo magic consists only, or primarily, of curses. For example, the England national football team is said to have a hoodoo against Sweden, having failed to beat them in 38 years.

Military history

The first battleship of the United States Navy, the USS Texas, commissioned in 1895, was referred to by nickname as the "Old Hoodoo" due to a series of incidents that occurred after she was commissioned that gave her a reputation as an unlucky ship. The code letter "H" that was assigned to the Texas at that time may have also contributed to the inspiration. At the battle of Santiago, Cuba, on July 3, 1898, the "Old Hoodoo", in the words of a contemporary New York Sun article published shortly after the battle, became the "Old Hero".

See also

External links

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