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