Monday, April 29, 2013

My Hoodoo Obsession

Recently I've been helping a friend with some Hoodoo fact checking on a book that she is editing. This help that I've been giving her has really made my love for Hoodoo become even more apparent. Most of you know that I am a practicing witch and I draw from many different cultures and practices for my rituals. The main areas that I pull from are Celtic Paganism, Hoodoo, American Indian, and Hindu. Pretty eclectic, I know, but I just love them all so much and I feel that each has its place in different rituals and practices.

Hoodoo is the dominant force is my rituals. I first became intrigued by it when I worked at an archaeology lab. The first project I worked on was cataloging and identifying objects from a dig site. The dig had been earlier that year in Silver Spring, MD at a house that had burned to the ground. This is an archaeologist's dream. This means that even though many of the artifacts were damaged, they were all left behind to analyze. Through the research of this site it was discovered that it was a house they was bought from a slave master after the slaves had been emancipated.

The house belonged then to the Jackson family who still resides in Silver Spring, Maryland (who the property was released to after all excavations and surveys were finished). Among many of the everyday artifacts there were some curious ones found. There were many buttons and marbles scattered throughout the kitchen and basement of the house. There were also strange markings on what was left of the windows; "X"s drawn on the corners of the glass. These markings were also present on many of the buttons, bones, and some of the other artifacts that were found in the house. Many of which showed the letter "J" as well as the X.

Much research was done on these markings and artifacts. It was then discovered that these were all examples of the practice of Hoodoo. The "X"s represented the crossroads which were a place of great power. The "J"s were an emblem of the Jackson family. These markings were used to protect the household. Upon further searching through the artifacts (I swear I spent over a week going through one box) more of these etchings were found on different objects.

I was just a technician at the archaeology lab so I wasn't the one that wrote the reports so unfortunately I can't provide the final accounts of what was found in the house and what all it meant. What was great though is this started my research on the subject of Hoodoo and lead me to use it in my thesis for my first GIS class. Below is the abstract of the thesis:

The religion of Hoodoo is one that is a mix of African culture and the culture of the slaves in the United States. It was mostly practiced during the 19th and 20th centuries after the emancipation of the slaves and is seen a lot in the South, but also in the Mid-Atlantic region. Hoodoo is a religion that is very concerned with space and what a person’s role is in that space. Most of the rituals of hoodoo have to do with containing that space and being able to control it. One of the main practices is the “mojo bag.”  The mojo bag contains many different parts of different elements of the world and it is all wrapped up in a piece of cloth that belongs to the person. These bags are placed in the four corners of the house, thus protecting the inhabitants.
GIS will be used to look at spatial relationships of Hoodoo objects.  In this project I will examine different sites that have Hoodoo artifacts to research similarities or patterns in use of space in term of these artifacts (the contents of these mojo bags) Questions that might be raised during this research are: What exactly is a Hoodoo artifact?  Does the spatial relationship of the artifacts within the site directly reflect the rituals of Hoodoo? Are there regional differences in patterns of artifacts related to organization of slaves? Are there patterns of sites related to the landscape and surrounding areas? To answer these questions GIS maps will be created.
Then there will be a GIS of a particular site, The Brice House in Annapolis, MD, and the spatial relations of the artifacts in that site, which then will go back to the general idea of space and control within the hoodoo practices. There will be a GIS of Virginia and Maryland to show how there is a large smattering of sites in these two states. By using the GIS of the Brice House archeologists will be able to see what the relationship is of the different artifacts within that site, and what they can tell them about the inhabitants of that homestead.

Hoodoo has become more than just a fascinating practice to study, it has become part of my life and daily rituals. Mojo bags are used heavily by me for both my own benefit and also to help others. Most of my rituals are also Hoodoo based with a mix of my Celtic flavor to them.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting article! I can't wait to read up on hoodoo myself as I have always been interested in it. I like the idea of it being about controlling and defining one's space, as that's always been a big deal to me, especially physically.

Thanks for the insight! Awesome getting to know your beliefs a little more. :)

Jennifer said...

If you haven't already, you should read "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil". Lots of mentions of hoodoo, as one of the the major characters is the wife of the famous Dr. Buzzard of Beaufort, SC.

The lowcountry and barrier island of SC and Georgia are just FULL of hoodoo beliefs, even to this very day.

Sam Curtin said...

Thanks, Jennifer I'll add that to my reading list!

Sam Curtin said...

Me too, that's what got me into it. I am a control freak in my everyday life as well as my magical one ;)

Moon Willow Witch said...

I'm thrilled to know I'm not the only Celtic/Hindu/Hoodoo witch! Hoodoo (and Voodoo) are what I turn to when I really need the pull out all the stops, so to speak, and they've never failed me. A trip to New Orleans last year was just indescribably amazing... That city feels like it is alive with spirits and voodoo magick. Have you ever seen The Skeleton Key? All Lousiana hoodoo!

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