Monday, June 25, 2012

What is Traditional Hoodoo/Rootwork/Conjure?

I spent some time yesterday trying to explain what exactly traditional conjure work is to a person who claimed to be a Druid and hoodoo practitioner. By the time our conversation was done I think I just may have caused him to question if he actually understood what this practice is. From my perspective, I believed it was obvious to me that he was working off of the assumption that hoodoo was "just magic". So I think I will try once again to explain what hoodoo or conjure work is and why it's not "just magic" and why all the mixing, matching, and blending going on online indicates that people still don't have a clue what this stuff is.

1.) There are three names used to describe it. You can use the terms hoodoo, rootwork, or conjure. However, most people use terms like 'worker', short for 'spiritual worker', 'root worker' or 'conjure worker' instead. Also, most workers don't really use a name for what they do. In fact, many old-school workers believe the term hoodoo is a negative term, kin to meaning putting a curse on someone.

2.) Hoodoo/Rootwork/Conjure is a spiritual tradition. It's not 'just magic'.

3.) Workers pray to the biblical God and use the Bible heavily in their works. We do not work with pagan gods or spirits. We do not work with the Orisha. We do not work with the Loa. We do not work with the Hindu gods. We do not work with the Greek gods. We do not work with pagan gods, period.

4.) Though hoodoo/rootwork/conjure is not a religion it does have a theological outloook on reality. That outlook includes an all-powerful creator God and lesser spirits that can intervene on our behalf. Those spirits include our ancestors, saints and biblical figures.

5.) We venerate the ancestors.

6.) Some workers work with the saints. However, it's not as common as it is portrayed online. Online everyone works with the saints. The majority of workers in real life are Protestant. The majority of people who work with the saints are Catholic or people who have been trained by Catholic workers. You can work with the saints if you choose, just keep in mind that there is this false perception about the saints because almost everyone online works with them. It's not like that in the real world.

7.) We are witch doctors, not witches. The term 'witch doctor' can be applied to us because we undo witchcraft and oppose witchcraft. We fight witches! By witchcraft I am referring to evil-doers, people who do black magic against innocent people. I'm not referring to Wiccans or Neopagans. Note: Don't call us witch doctors though. LOL Just call us a worker.

8.) We don't do 'spells'. We do works, jobs, tricks, remmedies, etc. and we call upon God and use the Bible in these works.

9.) People need to be aware there is a difference between a professional worker and the stuff that is passed on down through the family. Most of the work found in the tradition is remmedies for health complaints and life's little problems. You know, how to stop a nose bleed, how to cure a tooth ache, how to break a fever, how ensure a safe delivery in birth, how to charm off warts, etc. Other than these healing works, the next most found works involve works for protection.

10.) The Creator has embued all things with his spiritual power. We learn the powers of the plants, stones, dirts, animals, etc., in nature.

11.) We use items from nature or items we can easily obtained from our homes or environments. We are not dependant upon occult shops for our supplies. We can shop at these shops if we so choose, but we are not dependant upon them.

12.) We don't do unjustified work. Witches do unjustified work. People who want nasty, unjustified things done to people they don't like go to witches. We can do strong, harsh work when needed, but we will not do things that are unjustified. Ex- We won't put a death hex on someone just because they called you a name or because you think they are trying to steal your boyfriend. Most workers won't even mess with death work period. Many workers won't do any dark work at all.

13.) We do not believe in karma, the Wiccan Rede, or the law of three. We believe in consequences and there are consequences for everything we do, good or bad. Sometimes something good may have bad consequences. I'm not trying to scare anyone, just trying to inform people that this is how it is. Ex- you doing work for money may take money away from someone else. Say a person may drop a $100 bill and you find it. That person has lost and you have gained. But these little losses and gains usually work themselves out in the end. All things are interconnected and it's sort of like the domino effect. It spreads out like ripples and effects things.

14.) Professional workers should be called to do the work. It's not like it is online where people who want to make a quick buck decide they are now conjure workers.

15.) No man or woman can grant us this power nor take it away. The gift of conjure is a gift from God and only he can remove it. You can bind someone for a time, but you can never remove their power. You can petition God to remove their power, but it's up to him.

I also want to touch on something I've noticed online. There are many workers online that are working with spirits that have nothing to do with hoodoo/rootwork/conjure. A short list of these spirits can be found below.

-Santa Muerte
-The Intranquil Spirit
-Anima Sola
-La Madama
-San Simon
-The 7 African Powers

This is just a short list but these spirits have nothing to do with conjure work. You can work with these spirits if you so choose. I'm not going to tell somebody what to do. However, they should not be taught as if they are a part of traditional conjure work.


  1. Awesome post Doc.

    #13-- you hit the nail on the head with this one, and the real workers called to it usually have some kind of specialty area. They don't usually do everything under the sun.

  2. I agree with everything you say especially 6 and 11. (Also, ancestor veneration and use of the crossroads are practices that vary a lot more in real life among workers than the internet would have people believe.) The only difference of opinion would be over witches. Traditions and customs vary all over, but in my upbringing there was no differentiation between a worker and a witch. Better stated, you could go to a rootdoctor to get roots taken off of you, but it was still a rootworker (amateur or professional) who put them on you. So being an evildoer doesn't make a person not a rootworker. In fact, coming up on the other side of things, knowing what other people do lol, you wouldn't go to just any old rootdoctor, reader, or store. By nature, there are simply some who do wrong. Being a wrongdoer doesn't remove the tradition and culture from rootwork or conjure.

    With no words for it beyond "roots" and "stuff" lol it's hard to categorize in a clear way from a cultural standpoint, IMHO. (Other than to say that some rootworkers are witches.) That said, I do agree with the point you're trying to make though. I'm sure among some people this distinction was made, but I'd never heard of it till the internet.

    1. I disagree with your take on 'witches'. I've never met an old-school worker, not an internet worker, who uses the label of witch or who believes that this is witchcraft. They all vehemently deny that they are witches. The people who label it as witchcraft are the outsiers, usually the fundamentalist Christians who denounce it as being evil. Also, old-school workers do indeed use the term witch as applied to evil doers. Generally the people who are throwing on you unjustified are witches. The concepts of workers and witches has alwasy been separate until circa the 1950 when certain people with agendas began to try to mix them up. Hyatt was a big problem too because he mixed everything up. So I would have to disagree with you on this. Workers and witches are not the same thing.

    2. (continued)

      Again, it goes back to the "witch" vs. "witch doctor" aspect that has been a part of nearly every single culture. If you can understand the difference between a witch and a witch doctor then you would understand why workers don't refer to themselves as witches and why they are opposed to witches.

    3. lol I think you misunderstood what I said. When I say no distinction, I mean... *you* stated that rootworkers DON'T do unjustified work, witches do. So, that's why I used the term "witch" to refer to rootworkers who do unjust things, because they're still rootworkers. From our cultural perspective, what they do is still rootwork. Or better stated, evil works still exist within this culture. We're not supposed to be evil, but some just are. I didn't say rootworkers are witches, but you implied it by stating that only witches do unjustified work.

      "Witch" is not a term I've ever heard applied to bad rootworkers by authentic traditional country conjurers. That's fine if you heard it. No one said you didn't lol. I don't disagree with your use of the term witch, but instead with the claim that rootwork is only the practice of upright and just people. *I've* never come across any who said evildoers are flat out NOT rootworkers. From our cultural perspective, badass authentic country workers are still practicing rootwork. It's distinguished as evil, and as something not to do, etc but not as being something other than rootwork. People get roots put on them, the don't get bewitched lol.

      My elders were/are in the sticks and didn't buy hoodoo from other workers. They didn't make purchases from shops or ads like the one used as your blog background. No hippies had to teach them (nor me) how a make conjure bag. So, no, neither Hyatt nor any other self-proclaimed master or theorist caused a "mixed" regarding this perspective. It may not be what you've surmised from all your studies, but it is indeed what we grew up with. :-) You don't have to agree with me, and I'm not saying that all old school conjurers share my view. I was just pointing out the difference of perspective in my upbringing. Better or worse we're all spirit workers.

  3. Number 12. I'm slowly doing works,going along, talking to people here and there and I mention the justified working, just as you say here. I don't know if I've met you elsewhere besides here and talked, but all of what you wrote here jibes with me. I mention justified works and have met rootworkers who have ridiculed me for it. When I politely explain I'm conservative, they think I'm identifying as republican. I don't know if I'll ever figure it out completely and have my chance to fly, Doc, but it sure feels good to come here and read this.

  4. Do you still view your website, sir? I have a few questions.