Monday, January 17, 2011

The New Revision of the Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook

So you may have heard about my new contract with Weiser and Conari Press for a revision of the Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook. It is true, I am revising it. But the question is, would it be worth buying the revised version if you already have the first one?

My answer to you is a resounding YES! And let me tell you why.

When I first wrote the Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook, I put a lot of information together but did not share as much as I could have about my experience with New Orleans Voodoo. I was born and raised in New Orleans and I learned a lot from a variety of people while growing up, but my first and most memorable were the lessons from my aunt on the bayous of the Deep South. We used to visit my mamaw every weekend when I was young.  She had a couple of buildings on her property, she raised chickens and was downright country in every sense of the word. Her property butted up against the bayou, and back near there was a building with a long table and a lot of chairs in it. My aunt and I would go back there and she taught me about candle magick, how to read the flames and how to do basic spells. I was about 5 at the least that is my earliest memory. She also taught me how to conduct seances, so from an early age I learned about the spirits to petition and how to tell if they were listening.

My mother taught me a lot about herbs and gardening. She bought me my first divination deck which was the Gypsy Witch Fortune telling cards. She taught me about making dolls, and she would tell me stories about being Cherokee and about my grandmother and grandfather. But this was all done in secrecy at the time. I never understood why it had to be secret but I went along with it, until I got older, and then experienced some very hateful and hurtful experiences for being open about my beliefs. After that, I suppressed much of it and went about my life a "closet" rootworker and voodooist. Because even in New Orleans, the virtual birthplace of hoodoo in the United States, racism was and is still prevalent, even for Creoles such as myself.

I have always kept written journals of my workings and life in general, and at this point in my life, it is paying off big time. I am able to refer to those journals and uncover recipes and works that had been hidden for a long time. Unfortunately, there were a lot of my spiritual books and tools thrown away, once by someone I still don't know who or why to this day, when I was about 13. The second time it happened when my first husband tossed it all in the name of Jesus. I should also day he also abused me and my daughter in the name of G-O-D. He was and is a sick pedaphile and freak, and he will get his one day, because if he doesn't, then there is no God.

So, I have been touched by the blessings of Voodoo and I have suffered the discrimination and oppression from people who don't understand. These experiences have kept me from sharing a lot of information openly in the past. But no more will I be silent.

In the new revision of the Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook, I delve a bit more into the history of Voodoo as it arrived in Louisiana and in my hometown of New Orleans. I have attempted to trace where the practices of today originated and provide a much better contextual background into New Orleans Voodoo. It is not a long dissertation; simply a beefed up one and more accurate one. I have realized since the first publication that there is so much misunderstanding about the religion and the various characteristics that make New Orleans Voodoo  unique. I discuss how its unique characteristics are not "watered down" or impure, the service to the loas and Spirits never disappeared, it simply went underground. Just as it did with my own personal life, so it did with the majority of people who practiced it. The major change was that it went from a community and shared experience to a more individual one which was then redefined and labeled as hoodoo by the marketeers. The white researchers and marketeers all had a hand in redefining, incorrectly, what New Orleans Voodoo is all about. They separated the religion from the magick. But I can tell you that it was not separate when it first came to New Orleans in 1719, and it was not separate when I learned it as a child in the 1960s, and for many today, it still is not separate.

It is true that many bought the separation hook, line and sinker. Especially as the marketeers spread it from New Orleans to other areas of the country, selling the magick and sensationalizing those aspects of the religion that they could profit from. In most discussions about hoodoo, it is always defined as separate from Voodoo, the religion. But in New Orleans, the separation is not that cut and dry. That is why I call the book the Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook, because it refers to New Orleans Voodoo and hoodoo as a combined spiritual and religious tradition, as I know it and experienced in many many years ago. That said, the term "Voodoo Hoodoo" is not one I made up. Anyone who is familiar with New Orleans culture knows it is a common term - along with the term "Hoodoo Voodoo" -  that is used by locals to describe the unique magickal tradition that is indigenous to the region.

I am not concerned with the works of Hyatt and Tallant for legitimization of my tradition. Frankly, much of their interpretation is wrong. Most of the academic works written about Voodoo and hoodoo are by outsiders in great need of cultural fluency training. Ninety-five percent of the information found on the internet by the new school of internet hoodoo-ers is a redefinition of the tradition by outsiders, well-schooled in the works of Hyatt and Ironwood, but because they are not from the South, nor were they raised in the tradition, nor are they people of color, their perspective is flawed when it comes to an authentic representative narrative. The same can be said about popular works. There are people who are not indigenous to the religion or to New Orleans who will argue with people who are, and discredit and disrespect the voice of those who have authentic knowledge. This is tragic on so many levels.

My book is not an academic book, though I am an academic. However, I have referenced my sources like an academic so that folks can do further research on their own. And, I know that my audience wants to know the magickal aspects of New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo; they want to know the formulas, and they are hungry for the real thing. I am tired of seeing people being mislead. So, I have provided a very beefed up formulary that is from the New Orleans tradition. I have included information about some of the ingredients used that I did not provide before, and I have added some very nice spells to the collection. The section on candle magick has been expanded, there is a whole section with a large list of saints and psalms and their correspondences, and I have added more of the New Orleans specific loas in the chapter on Voodoo Spirits. I have greatly expanded the section on gris gris, because it is a big part of New Orleans Voodoo that has remained relatively unchanged since it was first brought here from Senegambia by the Bamabarans. Gris gris is not the same as is so much more that a bag of curios, roots and herbs. I have combined the Voodoo and the hoodoo in part to reflect the original combination of African Diasporic religions and in part to protest the marketeers and colonizers' successful attempts at appropriating and organizing the religion in a manner that makes their pockets full and their worldviews comfortable.

I am very happy with the way the revision has turned out, and I know that anyone who is seeking knowledge about New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo will be satisfied with the new version. While some of it is the same, there is much of it that is not. 

The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook


A triumph of painstaking and meticulous research. A brilliant and all-encompassing work and an invaluable source of recorded oral tradition." --Dr. Ann Nyland, author/translator of Complete Books of Enoch"