Also known as rootwork or conjuring, Hoodoo was developed in the Americas during slavery. It originated as a cross between Fon and Ewe spiritual folkways, in honour of the West Africans beliefs that the slaves had to leave behind. As a result of the restrictions that were imposed upon them, Hoodoo was mainly practiced secretly or disguised as a part of their forced Christianity. The word Hoodoo has a double meaning and is either the religion itself or the spells that are cast by those that practice it.
Hoodoo involves the use of magickal and supernatural forces, to influence lives in areas such as love, power, wealth and revenge. Herbs, minerals, animal parts, human body fluids (including menstrual blood, urine and semen) and possessions are used in these spells. The souls of practitioners’ ancestors, and other spirits, are the contacts between themselves and God. They are given offerings in the forms of animal sacrifices, oils, powders and incense to make them happy and willing to give a favourable outcome. In the religion there are practitioners who conduct rootwork for others and these are referred to as Hoodoo doctors.
Psalms are read during spellwork to increase their power, but Christianity is not the only religion that was majorly influential in the way Hoodoo matured. On their arrival in the Americas, the slaves discovered that many of the roots and herbs that they had at their disposal were unfamiliar. The Native Americans, who worked alongside them on the plantations, introduced them to the properties of these new plants and their spirituality became a strong influence on the way in which Hoodoo developed.
In the 1990s many descendants of slaves began moving back to the south because of more racial tolerance, and returned to their roots. They were also able to self-educate about the way their ancestors practiced Hoodoo, because of the widespread use of the internet. There are many subtle differences in the way that followers practice, mainly based on where they are located. However, there are some beliefs that always stay the same:
- A Higher Power Exists
The practitioners of Hoodoo worship a variety of gods, some of which have even been adopted from other major religions. All branches agree that there is one or more higher power that created humans and guides their daily lives.
- Life after Death
Ancestors play an important part in worship and they are called upon to assist the deities and spirits during conjuring. They also guide and protect those that they leave behind after ascending to this higher state of being.
The ability to foretell the future, with the assistance of the spirits, means that it is possible to change it based on what has been revealed.
- Everything has a Purpose
All plants, animals, humans and spirits are believed to be created by God and sent to earth, in order to fulfill a divine purpose.
Hoodoo practitioners believe in justice and the Bible concept of ‘an eye for an eye.’ The punishment must fit the crime, and curses are performed as a way to ensure that justice is served.