Hoodoo has some very unique practices and one of these is the use of goofer dust in order to place curses or hexes on other people. Goofer originates from the Kikongo word kufwa meaning ‘to die.’ This provides insight into the way in which the dust was originally used. The term is now taken to refer to any dirt used in spell casting which is meant to cause harm to another. Even though its use normally indicates malicious intent there are exceptions where goofer dust is an ingredient of love spells (to dominate) or occasionally gambling spells. The underlying purpose of the dust is to attract the assistance of the spirits in helping to fulfil the caster’s wishes.
The main ingredients in goofer dust are normally graveyard dirt and snakeskin. Other things that may be used are:
- Powdered snake head (especially of a rattlesnake)
- Dried manure
- Powdered insect chitin (exoskeleton)
- Anvil dust – The black iron filings that are found around a blacksmith’s anvil. The modern substitute for anvil dust is magnetic sand.
- Powdered bone
- Table Salt
A concentrated amount of the dust ranges in colour from a mustard yellow to a deep black, depending on the exact combination of ingredients used in its preparation. This is then mixed with regular dirt to conceal its true origin. Protective goofer dust can be made by using the graveyard dirt of a deceased loved one mixed with salt and pepper.
Using goofer dust in a curse can cause a variety of results such as the victim losing their job, becoming sexually impotent, developing mental problems or physical ailments (the most common is diabetes). Many of the spells that contain the dust have their origin in African foot-track magic, which is a way to hurt or poison a victim through their soles. The first sign of being goofered is normally a sharp pain in one or both feet, which progresses into a swelling of the legs. This condition worsens until the victim is unable to continue walking, and the final and most drastic stage (before death) is when they end up crawling on both hands and knees and howling like a dog.
The most common ways to jinx an enemy are to sprinkle some dust around their home or ‘pick up’ their footprint, mix it with goofer dust and enclose it in a sealable bottle placed securely in between two branches in a tree. The desired result of these actions is to stop them in their tracks.
Even though many of the symptoms may be unexplainable and cannot be cured by a medical doctor, a root doctor may be able to give victims some assistance in recuperating (depending on how strong the curse is). In addition to their healing spells they may recommend that those hexed sprinkle salt in the corners of their house, take a ritual bath or thoroughly wash their floors with a special healing mixture.