Hoodoo Conjure & Rootwork

hoodoo, roots, spiritual -

Hoodoo Conjure & Rootwork

Hoodoo is a catch all phrase that was coined in a sincere and honest attempt to classify and describe herbal and spiritual traditions influenced and practiced by African Americans. Hoodoo, typically practiced in the Southern part of the US,  is often called conjure or rootwork.  It is an extremely diverse practice that (because of the Slave Trade) incorporates spiritual and herbal teachings from both African and Native American traditions. Because hoodoo in tradition was so diverse, there is a lot of flexibility and minute differences in practice depending on your region, religion, and family traditions.  

Hoodoo can stand alone separate from any one particular religious doctrine therefore it is not necessary that a practitioner of hoodoo have a religious affiliation. Although Hoodoo doesn’t have to be religious it was traditionally used hand in hand with Catholic and Protestant Christian practices. In fact, historically ordained ministers of the African American Baptist church were widely known for being great root/conjure men and women. Because of this religious aspect of Hoodoo many people practice “rootwork’ without even realizing it. 

Hoodoo is often related to other African spiritual traditions such as Vodou (Voodoo) and the traditional teachings of IFA. While they are all most certainly similar they have several key differences and are not the same. While Vodou is Haitian by birth and Ifa is west African by birth , Hoodoo is uniquely ‘American” as its traditions had specific influences by the natives of this land. That blending of cultural traditions is a major cornerstone within the foundation of this herbal and spiritual practice. 

One thing that makes Hoodoo similar to other African spiritual systems is its heavy reliance on the earth and the herbs and roots that come from the earth. Herbs and roots are essential to this practice. Hence the nickname of “roots”. Practitioners of hoodoo spend years studying not only the earth but the medicinal and spiritual properties of the earth. With the hoodoo practice certain herbs have specific meaning and intentions. This is crucial to understanding rootwork. Herbalism is in essence a major pillar of the hoodoo tradition! 

Many of us that grew up in the southern states have a strong connection to Hoodoo. Some simply pass it off as superstition, while others have been taught to demonize and shun the practice of conjure all together. This is in result largely in part because of the colonization of not only our bodies but also our minds and cultural traditions. To subjugate and oppress an entire people you must first convince them that their science is superstition and their faith is evil. 

Examples of our cultural ties to hoodoo are numerous. Here’s a few examples; 

  • new house/apartment blessed 
    • It is a common african and native american tradition to bless your space. Especially when just moving. 
  • Invocational prayer 
    • To call upon spirits to help, intervene, or influence is an ancient tradition. 
  • Prayer circles 
    • Historical context with a native american Powwow as well as West African Chant circles. 
  • Prayer cloths, trinkets, anointing oil, holy water, etc
    • Binding spiritual energy to objects is seen all over the world. 
  • Grandmother/Matriarchal figure blessing newborn babies 
    • At a closer look this is a very important cleansing/blessing ritual 
  • Grandmother/Matriarchal figure saying “I dreamed about fish in reference to someone being pregnant
    • An example of divination
  • Black eyed peas and Collard greens for New Years 
    • An example of a specific ritualistic meal that has purpose and meaning. 
  • Clean House prior to New Years 
    • Cleansing and Blessing Ritual 
  • Holy Ghost during church service 
    • The spiritual gift of Channeling has African and Native historical origins. 
  • Speaking in tongues during church service 
    • The spiritual gift of Channeling has African and Native historical origins. 

Hoodoo is not just a word for mystical folk traditions, rather it is a word that helps describe the Black experience of the South. It is literally tied to our foundation thus it is our birthright! Now that we have covered a very brief history of what rootwork actually is, we can talk about a few rituals that will help you connect to your  birthright of conjure!

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