RootWork-Conjure Sorcery

There is a lot of confusion regarding the path(s) of Rootworkers and Hoodoos in the modern neo-pagan & Occult communities. What's not helped are the varying degrees of accuracy on certain websites offering to be the end-all font of knowledge about Hoodoo and the southern spiritual traditions.

This page is going to serve as a sub-page on my site to help present a side of Hoodoo & Rootwork-Conjure lore that has been severely lacking. The focus will be on the practical yet the historical shall not be shunned. Where solid secondary references such as books are concerned, these shall be cited. Unfortunately, the bulk of the folklore and training one receives in Rootwork is primary information or that of personal instruction of an oral tradition. This is handed down by the practitioner to the student from mouth to ear.

There is a lot of information that's been given to one particular individual thru oral interviews and that was the famed Harry Hyatt. His five volume set of Hoodoo Folklore is a must have for the serious student of Hoodoo. Of course like any source of information, there are pros and cons regarding Hyatt's work.

The pros is that he took time and went out to interview hundreds of African Americans about their own Hoodoo practices. A tremendous amount of folklore was culled and the mammoth five volume set of Hyatt books contain over 10,000 entries. This IS a wealth of information to work your way thru. The other main point is that it's considered (by some) to be accurate due to the varying degrees of validity given to each entry. As a researcher, Hyatt recorded the locale where the entry was taken from thus giving his source. Many of the entries validate one another thru this process however some seemed far fetched.

The downside to Hyatt's book is that other than self-validation, there's little to no way to accurately establish if an entry (or series of entries) is true or not outside of the book itself. We've all seen the grade school experiment called "Telephone" and how a story is started at one end of the classroom and by the time it reaches the last child in the class it's totally different than what it started out as. Folklore is much the same. It's information that is given to friends and family, often orally, which can easily result in embellishments and truth-stretching especially over time. Can this be true of the lore presented in the Hyatt collection? Absolutely. Does this inherently imply that all of the information is suspect? Of course not.

Some modern conjure workers who've perused this work have said that the information seemed as if it came from very unreliable sources. For instance, medical diagnosis is not considered valid when given by a non medical source as it is when given by a trained, medical source such as a practitioner. Thus the same for Rootwork-Conjure practitoners and their lore. It's always been difficult for outsiders to come in and dig into the lore of oral traditions and gain any sort of truth without embellishments or outright lies given them.

Scholarly attempts to uncover truth within a spiritual tradition, especially one that has had a history of being closed, usually results in incomplete and often inaccurate information. This makes uncovering factually accurate folklore difficult if not downright impossible for the scholar/outsider. Thus the old adage, "Forget who said it, is there any truth to it" must surely be applied and relevant information must be sifted from the muck to find the diamonds.

This can be remedied if one will make the conscious effort to apprentice oneself to a bona fide practitioner. The information given then will be of the highest merit however the downside to this is that usually an oath is given not to reveal such information to anyone else who is not recognized as an initiated practitioner of the same tradition.

The cycle of the dog chasing its tail continues.

Definition of Terms

Part of this can be solved thru the understanding of accurate terminology and definition of terms. For the sake of clarity, it's often felt that one should define one's terms. Thus with Hoodoo and its related quasi-spiritual and sorcerous practices. If we look at a practice and relegate it to a known and accepted label, the discussion of the material will be much more agreeable and more easily processed due to the lack of confusion. Of course many will vary in opinions as to the validity and factual accuracy of said definitions given and I shall not apologize for this. I can only offer these definitions as they relate to my own personal experiences and research.

Worker: One who practices a form of southern Sorcery. In essence it refers to a 'spiritual worker' and I first heard it among the Black community in south Florida many years ago. They do not refer to their practices as "Hoodoo" nor "Conjure" anymore and haven't for decades because instead they prefer to use 'spiritual work' to label their workings. This is to keep the lawman from bothering them as I've been informed.

Hoodoo: 1) Possible corruption of the term Voodoo (Vodu, Vudu, Voudou, etc.); 2) a sorcerous practice whose origins has roots in the Congo; 3) a folk practice using folklore, charms, and varying degrees of pseudo-spiritual goods such as sold by mail order curio houses from the early 20th century; 4) a practice that borrows elements from necromancy, spiritualism, root-working, Christianity and Native American shamanism, among other sources.

Voodoo (Vodu, Vudu, Voudou, etc.): 1) a Fon magico-religious practice rooted in Haiti and the surrounding Caribbean isles. 2) a magico-religion coupled with Root-Conjure work as practiced in New Orleans during the mid to late 19th century.

Root-Conjure: 1) A practice of Neo-African Sorcery that utilizes the roots of various flora and fauna native to the practitioner's home. 2) A Worker who engages in the art and practice of evoking Spirits for practical ends. 3) A Worker who uses the Christian Bible as a source of Mystical folklore and Magical instruction which is primarily gleaned from the Psalms and the vrious books of the Prophets.

Obeah: A tradition of Caribbean Witchcraft [1] that has origins among the Ashanti tribes of Africa. These Africans were deposited as slaves in Trinidad and Jamaica durign the slave trade days.


[1] Witchcraft as practiced in the Caribbean should NOT be confused with the Indo-European Pagan practices of Wicca. The former is considered diabolical and evil by islanders whereas the latter is considered to be earth centered and more of a positive nature. Furthermore, Caribbean Witches are not known to be compassionate and their truck with evil is usually thru various venefica and malefica performed on their victims.

The following essays and articles should provide you with some more information regarding this fascinating subject.

Secret That's Not A Secret

Uncrossing Ritual

Classic Bend Over Spell

St. Expedite Spell

Hoodoo Precepts

Harry Middleton Hyatt Collection