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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Neo-Hoodoo - The New Cultural Appropriation


It happened in the 80s and 90s with Native American culture and the 90s and early years of this decade saw the explosion of so-called Celtic Spirituality, not to mention Northern European traditions.  Now it's happening with a tradition unique to America, that of hoodoo.  I'm speaking of cultural theft.

I came across a post at the Demoniacal blog in which the author, a traditional hoodoo practitioner, discusses a run-in with a Wiccan who wants to create Neo-Hoodoo.  Essentially this Wiccan believes hoodoo is a dying tradition and Wiccans should be able to appropriate it and do what they want with it.

This isn't a new attitude and certainly not one that is limited to Wiccans.  I remember in the 90s when sweat lodges were all the rage.  I took part in many but not any put on in a traditional sense that I know of.  Eventually, I saw more of racist attitudes by whites as in "natives don't know their own ceremonial history, so why should we listen to those who tell us we can't sweat."

Also, there was sometimes a native man or two involved in these groups who turned out to be a con artist or wife beater.  Before you think I'm saying that all new-agers are bad and natives are evil, I'm not.  It's just that when you combine a longing for spiritual heritage with lack of respect for culture and greed, you're bound to draw bad people into the mix as well as those who really need to learn a lesson about human behavior.  But my Indian wannabe experience can turn into a huge post, so I'll save that for later.  I just got sick of the inherent racism and blase attitude towards cultural theft, so I left the groups I was involved with.

Anyway, the point is, hoodoo is the new 'it' thing to steal from and turn around and make money from or just claim it as your own.  I have to wonder if the people who are doing this have any kind of cultural connection to the South where hoodoo originated.  I'm what most Southerners might consider a Yankee but my grandparents were from Kentucky and their families went far back a couple centuries and extended into several states in the deep South where they originally were from.

From what I recall of my grandma's family, I probably have at least over 100 cousins down south just from her side.  I'm not going to say I have conjure workers in my family history.  I have no idea about that.  My grandma told me of one card reader and one herbalist, but I don't know for sure and I don't know if they were conjure workers.  My point is, I don't dislike Southerners.  I have personal experience with them.  I also don't see them as "the other" or some strange breed of people whose way of life is dying.  I wonder what people who think neo-hoodoo is okay really think of Southerners and African-Americans who originated the tradition.

I practice the conjure I've learned from books and people on the internet.  I'm also not a traditional Christian.  But I don't mix hoodoo with other practices and I don't throw out God and the Psalms when I'm working.  In fact, hoodoo has brought me closer to my Christian roots, not in the way my evangelist mother would appreciate mind you, but closer to Jesus nonetheless.

Becuase of the internet, hoodoo is becoming extremely well known.  And to some, it may seem antiquated.  But it's still alive and well. It also made its way around the country, so it's not just in the South.  Because of the nature of the attitude of cultural appropriation, I don't think people like this Wiccan are going to be discouraged any time soon.  Will the fact that more traditional conjure workers are speaking out help?  Sure.  But only those whose spirituality isn't fueled by a hate for God and Christianity are going to listen.

The full post at Demoniacal is well worth a read.


© Trish Deneen

2 comments:

  1. I'm shocked no one has commented on this post! This is actually an honest post. The amazing thing to me is that a witch would want to adopt or incorporate a practice that is totally against witchcraft. In Africa a "witch" doctor was a doctor who healed people who had been cursed by witches. Hoodoo, Voodoo and other African traditions are %100 against witches. For a witch or one who practices witchcraft to want to mix their religion with such practices brings up questions of their own authenticity.

    I would like to think that witchcraft is so self-contained, together and well organized that it need not bother with "little old" Hoodoo! LOL! Fact is many people who have become possessed through foul practices of witchcraft have had to go to the Hoodoo doctor to be healed. Hoodoo is about bending your own soul and manipulating your own spirit until it is in total alignment with God and then all roads open without penalty. Witchcraft is about bending and manipulating God's will in spite of the soul and that leaves the individual wide open for evil spirits to consume the soul.

    Real hoodoo does NOT use fire to bring in blessings of love or money, because that is not in line with nature. Fire consumes, fire repels, fire destroys. Real hoodoo uses water and dirt, because they give life.

    There is NO way to mix anything with hoodoo without taking away its power. It simply does not work. If you use FIRE to bring in money, there maybe temporary results, but in hoodoo common sense you just burnt your blessing and the change will NOT LAST.

    Hoodoo was invented to open the road that was blocked by oppression and injustice, not to practice selfish "spells".

    Hoodoo also does not use spells, they use recipes. The only thing that needs to change with hoodoo is its delivery, but there is no way that the real power of hoodoo will ever be realized by mixing it with witchcraft.

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    Replies
    1. Candi,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and sharing your insights on hoodoo. It's interesting you say that hoodoo doesn't use fire as it seems some modern practitioners have incorporated candle work into their hoodoo. Do you think they're wrong?

      I'm not sure but I think that Gerald Gardner took from different traditions including African and blended them with European practice to create Wicca. Since Wicca has informed so much of modern witchcraft maybe that's why some witches feel that hoodoo isn't that different. That's just a not so fleshed out theory mind you, but I do wonder.

      You said - "Hoodoo is about bending your own soul and manipulating your own spirit until it is in total alignment with God and then all roads open without penalty."

      That is so elegantly stated and I think something for people interested in hoodoo to think and pray on past a surface level. Thank you.

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