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Getting Serious About Hoodoo

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This is real, traditional, Southern, rural-style American rootwork. It's run by a real, traditional, Southern, rural-style American rootworker, one who's been practicing professionally for 35 years.

It is not pagan.
It is not Wiccan.
It is not Vodou or Santeria.

Traditional hoodoo rootwork doesn't have anything to do with any of that.

This is not where you go to find the latest and shiniest crystals.
I do not have the hottest trends from witchy pins on Pinterest.

I have traditional formulas handcrafted in small batches.

This is not a "full-service botanica."
This is not your "one-stop shop for all your occult needs."

This is specialized stuff. (And I'm rather choosy about what clients I'll take).

I don't do wholesale.
I don't have a shop with employees.
I do not want 200,000 customers and I do not need 200,000 followers.

I'm more like the old-fashioned small-town drugstore 100 years ago where they made lots of stuff on premises - you just might have to come pick it up later.

And I never, ever want to sell my stuff on Amazon.

Why should I care when I'm kinda new to all this?

Hoodoo, Vodou, Wicca, witchcraft, and Santeria are all distinct things, and the correspondences, theories, and systems are *not* always compatible. It is absolutely possible to find a recipe for a Commanding formula or buy a bottle of Follow Me Boy oil that not only makes zero sense within a hoodoo context, it can *actually weaken or work against what you're trying to do.*

And it's hard enough to keep everything straight in one system or paradigm when you're new and learning. It's immeasurably harder when you're dealing with a bunch of material and info that comes from totally different traditions -- especially if you don't even know what traditions and backgrounds are informing the creation of those products.

And especially these days, since this stuff has absolutely exploded in popularity over the last few years, you can't always know for sure whether the place you're getting your supplies is really making hoodoo formulas that they understand and are familiar with, or if they're making something else and just using well-known hoodoo names.

Here, you can be sure. Traditional American hoodoo rootwork is the core of the product line and at the center of my own personal and professional practice as a rootworker and spiritual advisor. This is the stuff I grew up around, the stuff I've been using as a professional worker for 35 years and making myself for 18.

If I offer a formula I created from my astrological studies that goes beyond the sort of emphasis typical of historical rootwork, or if I make a product or piece of art relating to a religion that isn't part of traditional hoodoo rootwork, I will say so in black and white. I explain where stuff came from and how it fits together.

And I consider education to be central to what I do. I've been a teacher or trainer of some sort for my entire adult life. I've taught English literature, cartomancy, kickboxing, baking, how to field strip an M16, how to make a roux, and how to do spiritual cleansing and protection. Whatever it is I'm spending my days doing, I always seem to end up teaching it, too. To that end, my blog Big Lucky Hoodoo has over ten years' worth of articles on hoodoo, folklore, and vernacular religion, many of which spring from actual questions asked by actual customers and clients over the years.

So if you're tired of wondering why one source says this and another source contradicts it...

If you're tired of wondering who's making shit up or whether their spell advice will set your house on fire...

If you're tired of "hoodoo voodoo gypsy Santeria witchcraft from Atlantis" and other mix-and-match BS...

And if you want to use hoodoo rootwork to help yourself find more success and happiness in your life and endeavors...

Then you're ready to get serious about hoodoo.

And I'm here to help.

 

Why should I care when I've been using spiritual supplies for ages?

Well, if you've been around for a while, you already know that you can probably get Florida Water at a drugstore within a short drive from where you live if you live in the U.S. If not, you can get it online in a few clicks. You know about the bigger conjure shops online, and you've probably noticed that you can get Van Van oil on Amazon and WalMart.com now. Seems like there's a new botanica or candle shop offering Follow Me Boy and Uncrossing formulas every time you open your browser these past few years. It's never been easier to get hoodoo supplies - or at least supplies with hoodoo-sounding names.

What's not so easy is finding a source you can trust that has been around for more than a hot minute (and will stick around for the long-term), who you can ask a question of as an intermediate or advanced practitioner and get a thoughtful and educated personal response from.

If you're an experienced user of spiritual supplies in the hoodoo rootwork tradition, I want your business and I want to keep it long-term. I want to demonstrate my experience and integrity so you can feel confident that you'll be getting high-quality, authentic rootwork supplies every time you order. If you want something I don't have, I want to hear about it, and I want to let you know if I can make it or if not, why not.

I want you to feel comfortable asking me pretty much anything about your use of my formulas, and I want you to feel like you can trust what I say to not be some random crap I'm making up as I go along. I want you to see what I'm about, and that it isn't my ego or posturing as the Final Authority on Whatever. I'm not online all day trying to get more Instagram followers. I'm out there in the woods digging up a new variety of smilax and taking notes in a dog-eared notebook, or I'm the workroom making five different variations of a new soap to send out for product testing.

I've been around for a minute, and while I took a hiatus for a couple of years after what I guess I'll call a pretty massive midlife crisis, I'm back, I'm making everything right with folks I left hanging in 2015, and I'm not going anywhere anytime soon (God willing).

I value my repeat customers who are serious about hoodoo and folk magic highly, and I know your single good opinion is worth more than 20 quick Facebook likes. I don't want "all the customers." I want customers like you, who appreciate the time I put into my work, understand the value of specialized knowledge (versus the jack-of-all-trades approach), and have valuable opinions and experiences.

And I'm working to build a community around Seraphin Station, a place where you can access knowledge and resources, where you can run your ideas by thoughtful, experienced peers, where I have time to give your questions and ideas my personal attention and give our community the absolute best small-batch hoodoo spiritual supplies possible, adapted where necessary for the 21st century but *always* based on fluency within the underlying principles and paradigms and always respectful of tradition.

Read more about how Seraphin Station came to be.

Read more about my training and background.

 

Questions and Answers

What do you have against mass-produced spiritual supplies?

Nothing - some of them are wonderful. I use some of them myself. It's incredibly convenient to be able to get Florida Water at the local drugstore and for a price I will never be able to beat. It is not cheaper to make some things at home; they can make it so affordable because they can buy raw materials in such quantity, and since I use Florida Water in such quantities, I'm going to buy it mass-produced.

Same for many other materials. I can open an unlabeled bottle of hoodoo condition oil and know by smell and sight whether it's good, strong, authentic stuff; okay stuff made by somebody who dabbles in but does not specialize in hoodoo; or just plain total garbage. And if it's good, and if I don't make it but I can use it, I'll probably buy that too. Today, it's quite possible to get decent mass-produced baths or condition oils - much easier than it was 30 years ago, to be sure, when your only option was often 100% synthetic Indio-branded perfume oil stuff if you weren't gonna make it yourself.

But mass-produced just doesn't work for everything. I won't order spaghetti at a restaurant or seafood at a land-locked one. I won't pay for a mass-produced mojo bag and I won't take a newspaper horoscope seriously. If a client comes to me with a spiritual infestation and the usual home-first-aid measures haven't solved the problem, mass-produced Florida Water alone is not the answer I'm sending them back home with.

So there's nothing wrong with browsing the shelves at your local botanica, which caters to a broad clientele by having a little bit of everything. I always browse when I find one in a new neighborhood or city. I consider it part of my continuing education as a folklorist and rootworker. And there's nothing wrong with trying various stuff out and checking out shiny new things.

But there's definitely a place for more specialized, handcrafted stuff, and that's what I'm interested in providing.

 

But hoodoo is not the only tradition I work within.

There's nothing wrong with the materia magica of hoodoo being one set of tools in your toolbox but not your only one. It's just a question of understanding the traditions you're working within (and respecting their differences) versus treating entire systems of culturally-specific folk belief or religious tradition like they're totally interchangeable. I realize it doesn't bother some people, but I don't like it when I see people doing that and I don't do that.

Innovation and adaptation are part of living folk tradition, sure, but those innovations and adaptations should spring from within the culture and make sense within the underlying coherent paradigm. That means you have to understand that underlying paradigm before you can innovate within it. Otherwise you’re just appropriating.

I don't know about your deities and spirits, but mine don't take kindly to that. Many don't. All cultures and languages and lands are not all the same underneath. I have no patience for the “all gods are really one god” bit of implicitly imperialist and ethnocentric nonsense.

It matters where things are from and what dirt they grew in. And you'll find formulas here with descriptions that acknowledge this and explain their sources. To the best of my ability, I give you that information rather than just asking you to take my word for it. You can come here and feel confident you're getting stuff that is coherent within the system it purports to be part of, made by an experienced worker, not just someone who found a few reciples online and started selling things they're not even all that familiar with.

 

But I don't know if hoodoo is my thing yet.

That's ok. But in order to know, you have to learn about it. And in order to learn about it, you can't just uncritically accept whatever you see on Pinterest.You need to learn to sort the wheat from the chaff or you're going to be wandering around clueless, even making yourself a target for opportunists with no ethics or integrity. You *have to* learn the difference between Wicca and hoodoo, between rootwork and Vodou -- heck, between voodoo and Vodou -- if you want to move beyond the "playing dress-up and fingerpainting" stage of your personal magical practice -- and if you want to be able to tell when you're dealing with quality vs. random shiny crap and when you're dealing with someone legit versus someone who flies fast and loose with everything.

There's nothing wrong with being a newcomer who has "silly questions." I assure you that you are not the only one with that question, whatever it is, so don't feel shy about asking. (Just don't get all offfended if I give you a link or point you to an article I've already written or if I tell you you need to book a consultation if you want an in-depth response to your particular situation - I do have to earn a living and keep the lights on.)

 

What do you have against Vodou and Santeria and Wicca and paganism?

Nothing at all. (Okay, I have nothing against paganism at all. I haven't always had a lot of patience for a tiny subset of Wiccans I've met who've been judgmental jerks about anything not-Wiccan, but that's a tiny subset, and I don't have anything against Wicca itself.) In fact, devotionally, I work within a Franco-Haitian Gnostic Vodou lineage, and probably the majority of the colleagues and associates with whom I work closely are students of or initiates in African Traditional or African Diasporic religions like Vodou and Santeria. The rest are probably fairly evenly split between pagans, non-denominational sorcerors, and Christians of various stripes. I have nothing against any of this.

But these are all distinct things, AND they are all distinct from traditional American hoodoo rootwork, which springs from an overwhelmingly African-American Protestant Christian milieu.  And I feel it's necessary to repeat that out loud. A lot. Because some folks don't want to listen, and there's a lot of sloppy stuff out there that treats things as interchangeable when they are not.

Calling a hoodoo formula "pagan" is just the height of freakin' stupidity, and I am big about calling out mix-and-match BS when I see it. And this? "Van Van hoodoo voodoo Wicca pagan Santeria oil." That's some mix-and-match BS that should be hog-tied and horsewhipped.

 

But I'm not a Christian and I don't want to be.

You don't have to be Christian to do this stuff, but you should expect to encounter some Christian references in traditional conjure. You need to be ok with that or you're gonna have a hard time. And you need to understand it, because it's not just a veneer where you can replace the name of Jesus with the name of a deity from a pagan religion and think nothing important changes.

Hoodoo has the Judeo-Christian holy books in its very bones. You don't need to thump the Bible or go to Sunday School, but you do need to get and respect the tradition in which the Bible is considered the most powerful grimoire and talisman all rolled up into one that a traditional rootworker could use in their practice.

And if you understand this, you'll understand already why you won't find talk of karma or the “law of three” here (except to point out that neither of them have *any* place in traditional hoodoo rootwork, informed as it is by Protestant Christian ontology, cosmology, and ethical framework). If your default setting is a sort of fuzzy Pinterest-level engagement with some new age concepts that get thrown around all the time in popular culture,so *you* know what you mean by karma but you've never studied any Vedic sacred texts, you'll probably find that your categories need some adjusting when you're ready to make a serious study of hoodoo.

But if the concern is simply that you're a different religion, or not especially religious at all, don't worry - the message here is not "you must be Christian." You just can't pretend the Christianity isn't there, at least not if you really want to do hoodoo.

 

But you have a whole category in your shop called "Vodou."

Yes, I do. Vodou is a religion. I am a vodouisant. I serve the lwa, and I make a very small line of formulas in their service that other independent or isolated vodouisants sometimes find useful. And I make jewelry and altar art for a few of the lwa as well.

And that has absolutely nothing to do with hoodoo or with my being a rootworker. Hoodoo is not a religion. As a system of folk magic practice, it can be practiced to great effect by anyone willing to truly immerse themselves within it, regardless of their religion.

And so hoodoo rootwork has nothing to do with my religious or ecclesiastical activities. Devotionally, I work in a Franco-Haitian Gnostic Vodou lineage with full consecration as a bishop in several lines of succession, including those of Vilatte, Doinel, and Houngan Lucien Francois Jean-Maine. As an autocephalous bishop, I am legitimately empowered to fulfill ecclesiastical roles requiring ordination or consecration, including exorcism and the administration of sacraments -- though I would not expect your local parish priest to recognize me as his kin in the fraternity of apostolic succession :)

But this is essentially meaningless from a hoodoo perspective, as there's no initiation or ordination or consecration or any sort of mediation at all necessary between the rootworker and the spirits with which she works. Hoodoo is a layperson's system and praxis.

And all that gives me zero standing or authority within a house of traditional Haitian sevis, for that matter, as traditional Haitian Vodou doesn't have bishops and apostolic succession.

So all of these things are entirely distinct and from many perspectives, totally irrelevant to each other.

If you aren't initiated in traditional Vodou, why are you making Vodou art?

Because I have served the lwa for decades and because I'm an artist. Because you don't have to be initiated to serve the lwa or work with them. (In fact, in many houses and temples, initiation is not like Christian baptism where it's a rite everyone goes through as part of joining the religion. It's more like ordination to the diaconate and then the priesthood. There is simply no need at all for the overwhelming majority of vodouisants to ever undertake initiation -- not unless the lwa call them to serve at that level.)

In many cases, I make art because the lwa I serve have made it clear that they want me to make art for them. (Some lwa have not, in which case I don't.) And while I am not an initiate or serviteur in traditional Haitian sevis, I am deeply respectful of it.

And I go out of my way to make it clear who I am and who I am not, and what I can speak on with authority and what I cannot. So when I talk about Legba, I'm speaking of my experience with serving him in my house, but I'm not trying to tell anybody that I'm an authority on how *they* should serve Legba.

When people come to me with "voodoo questions," I know they aren't asking about the admittedly weird and unconventional stuff that some Gnostic Vodou "schools" have delved into and practice. They are asking about traditional Haitian sevis, about the African diasporic religion practiced in Haiti known as Vodou (which is distinct from Voodoo and Voudon *and* Vudu, believe it or not).

So I don't answer them based on some random eclectic practice of some mystery school. I answer what few questions I have any business answering from my perspective as a student of Vodou who serves the lwa, and I make it clear that I have no initiatory or ecclesiastical standing within traditional Vodou.

The questions overwhelmingly fall under either "Can you do powerful Hoodoo Voodoo Magic to fulfill my wildest desires?" or "Can I do this thing when I want Erzulie Freda to give me what I want in my love life?", neither of which exactly needs rocket scientists or initiated Vodou clergy to answer, but I make it clear I'm not that clergy and try to point the ones who need access to trustworthy initiates in that direction. I do not misrepresent what I do and what I provide, and I try my best to make it difficult for someone to get the wrong idea.

Among other things, this means I do not tell random new customers/clients coming to me for advice on spiritual work and product usage to go grab the Van Van oil and the "voodoo deity mojo bag" for their situation.

I take clients and advise customers as a rootworker. You can come in off the street and ask for Crown of Success work. But you can't come in off the street and order "voodoo spells" off a menu. These are just two completely different things, and I think it's irresponsible as hell when makers of spiritual supplies set all that stuff up next to each other on the same shelf and make no distinctions to the ignorant newcomer, quite often because they don't observe those distinctions themselves (which means they don't know wtf they're talking about or selling, btw).

And it's exponentially worse when they advise said ignorant newcomer *to approach spirits and deities from a totally different religion that they know absolutely nothing about* and have no intention of serving within the context of the religion. At best, it's haphazard dressup BS that will get you ignored by the lwa whose service you're butchering (or ignoring entirely). But at worst, it could get the ignorant newcomer in trouble as they start working with a deity or spirit without knowing what the hell they're doing.

What's worse than being ignored by the spirit you're insulting as you totally fuck up their service? *When the spirit you're insulting starts paying attention to your fuckups.*

Vodou is a religion. It is not simply a system of folk magic practice. The lwa are served in very particular ways that you need training to learn. You don't need them to do hoodoo, but if you're going to work with them, don't be a dumbass and don't take advice from dumbasses.