Friday, April 4, 2014

Pure History Specials - War On Witches

http://www.hulu.com/watch/575948

This is a documentary about witches in Scotland in the 1500s. I'm posting it here because these were some of the ancestors of hoodoo. Notice in the documentary how the "witches" (cunning folk) were devout Christians and invoked God in their "spells". They were not pagans and the Wiccans and self-styled witches of today are not their descendants. We (the hoodoo crowd) are. Note too that they took on paying clients. These practitioners didn't call themselves witches. That was an accusation that was made by those who wished to demonize them. In about 300 years from the time period of this documentary, Scott-Irish immigrants would bring this folk magic, especially the notion of a professional who takes on paying clients, to the U.S. and it would mix with African and Native American influences, producing what we now know to be hoodoo, roots or conjure. The African and Native American influences were very similar to the European influence. The witch doctor of the African and the medicine man of the Native American, fit quite well with the European professional practitioner. Not to mention that all three influences, the European, the African and the Native American, believed in one creator God (with the aid of lesser spirits) from whom all power flowed.

Note: See all the dolls? The "Voodoo Doll" comes from the European influence.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks, for the link!
    I would like to know though how, along the course of time the three beliefs melded, I mean of course information was traded and people worked together and learned, but if there was so much separation between peoples here in the earlier days of the U.S. how did practitioners really mix and begin to create what we know as hoodoo today? Do you think somewhere along the way practitioners were like - it takes one to know one - or was it more because of intermarriage between peoples? just wondering

    And yes, it seems that the dolls in american folk magic does come from Europe, because from what I understand, the human shaped effigies that come from Africa were more likely to house/represent a spirit rather than to influence a person.

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    1. Both whites and blacks would have quickly integrated with Native American beliefs. There was some early influence of white practices on slaves as there have been discoveries of slave quarters dating from he 1700s that had "witch ladders." Since witch ladders are European it's obvious the slaves adapted this from whites. Perhaps the most influence and mixing occurred in the latter 1800s when the Scott-Irish began a second wave of immigration to the U.S. due to the potato famine. These groups were poor and in the South they mostly lived and worked alongside of blacks. So it's really no mystery that beliefs mixed. As far as the Voodoo Doll goes, yes it's pretty much well established it comes from the European influence. The Boccio and other African fetishes were indeed believed to be possessed by a spirit. We still see this belief reflected in the dolls that are used to represent various spirits in various African-derived traditional religions today. However, the dollies that people used in folk magic are used in the fashion of the poppets of Europe, pins and all.

      I personally believe that a lot of the mixing was accomplished by women, black, white and Indian. It's just an easy thing to visualize with women teaching each other tricks.

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  2. Ahh, I see, that makes a lot of sense, since working class would mix more closely to working class. I never knew that about witch ladders though, I didn't think there would be artifacts from that early, but it makes me wonder HOW and WHO taught the slaves then of that practice. :) Maybe an indentured servant from the Brit. Islands?

    But I agree with you on women being the head of the mixing, women would probably seem less suspect to mix amongst each other regardless of who they were. - Their duties of running a household and doing chores could require them to be with and helped by other women.

    Also to back up what you mentioned on the bocio, I dug up this link from my bookmarks. It's a historian/researcher from Benin speaking briefly on the subject of Voodoo, it's practice and why it's vital to the people where it's found in west africa, notice how he also describes the boccio in detail as being an art form made to embody the gods rather than a form of more practical magic. ---http://vimeo.com/31803106

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    1. The link doesn't work for some reason.

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  3. darn - http://vimeo.com/31803106 if that doesnt work again try "Vaudou - Gabin Djimassé"
    Also - http://www.vaudou-vodun.com/en/ that link will show all the interviews conducted on the research of voodoo from the exhibition at the Cartier Foundation.

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  4. Doc, it worked for me...

    http://vimeo.com/31803106

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