How to Practice Ancestral Traditions in the Diaspora.
Pray, ask, listen.
You aren’t just like your ancestors anymore.
You become changed by the new lands, by the new places your feet have walked on, the different dirt beneath your toes.
So will the magic change.
If you don’t have access to houses and temples and reputable priestesses and priests in the diaspora, listen to your bones and find what is being expressed.
Your spirits are right here, in your breathe, in your body, in your spirit.
You gotta listen, see what YOU can pull up.
Don’t try to make it into what they are doing, what that white Houngan is doing, that white Taoist priest is doing, the white folks are doing.
Make it your own. Let it come from within you and your specific ancestries and the land you are living on.
See what you and your spirits express. Maybe some of us in the Diaspora can’t find the right houses and temples and priesthoods right now, because we gotta add something new, some new spices and flavors to our collective ancestral traditions.
The rivers are still here, they aren’t going anywhere. Go pray there. Pray to the mountains. To the winds.
You don’t stop being yellow or black or brown because you aren’t doing things exactly the way they did in the past.
Iono like are there any conversations amongst Black spiritualists on the renaming of work dedicated to cursing/harm? In my practice i never refer to this as Black magic simply because i refuse to reaffirm the connection of Blackness to evil and/or harm. My hoodoo is not at all separate from my political orientation. In fact, its an important extension of it. And i dont see why i would passively reproduce this antiBlackness in my spiritual work (which, for me personally, is critical to my honoring and rememory of my ancestors, my elders, my community, myself, and our future which all intermingle at once).
“Hoodoo- Also called Rootwork. An African-based system of healing and magick primarily using roots and herbs.
Rootworker- A person skilled in the use of herbs and roots to cure illness or cast spells.
Voodoo- A religion that originated in the ancient kingdom of Dahomey (present day Benin) in West Africa and transported to the Caribbean and the Americas by African slaves. The proper name for this religion is Vodun, Which means “Spirit” or “God” in the language of the Ewe/Fon tribe.”
McQuillar, T. L. (n.d.). Rootwork: Using the folk magic of Black America for Love, Money, and success.
“It’s important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror — first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House and the Grammys — and see themselves,” she said (Beyonce Grammys 2017).
Beyonce’s Grammy performance speaks to gennerational traumas, to womanhood, to mothers and those who give birth to us and who are then punished for the act of pushing us out of their wombs. Her performance speaks to the Divinity within Black bodies, coloured bodies, marginalized bodies that have been taught that God cannot exist within us.
I see those who say her speech was too long, her words self indulgent, her image overated? I ask then, have you really listened and received what she is saying?
Why is it so contreversial for God to exist in the body of a Black Woman? Why is it so contrversial for Black and Brown and Coloured bodies, on who’s very shoulders our societies have long stood on to be built but is overdue in recounciliation and recognition, to embody the Divinity of Motherhood? To speak to that Divinity? And that glorious celebration of that Divinity?
Beyonce, with all her privileges and under privileges is using this platform to tell her story, and through her story to speak to generational healing of those who have been abused and brutalized by the toxicity of colonial masculinity.
It was perfect to me, Divine, and speaks to the reality of Divinity within bodies that embody God within our blood, our sweat, our tears, our triumphs, our healing, the revolutionary reality of our very existence, in a society that would make us invisible. When we become invisible no more.
I made this simple charm for people who are seeking financial independence. I know a lot of us could rly use that right now.
a green candle for prosperity*
money(I used coins)
a wallet or piggy bank(somewhere you keep money)
2 rose quartz crystals for self help and love*
1 citrine cluster for wealth and abundance*
super moon anointing oil(not pictured)*
Anoint your candle and arrange your crystals around it on a plate Pour your coins in a circle around the candle and set the items you wish to charm next to it, making sure it touches the plate Light your candle and sprinkle some basil on the flame Add 3 shakes/pinches of basil to each item you’re enchanting and say:
“Bring me abundance, Bring me wealth, Bring me the things I need to do for myself.”
Place the coins in your piggy bank and one in your wallet
Either recharge the items with your candle or crystals. I suggest using a wallet and piggy bank like I did, so you can bring one charm with and leave one to bring abundance to your home.
((*Optional, feel free to either not use crystals or substitute them with others, same with candles and anointing oil))
*Put this together on a Thursday, during the Waxing to Full moon. Alterntively, Thursday sun rise to high noon works too, when the clockhand is going upwards on the clock (Thanks Mama Starr for this trick).*
Things you will need:
1. A suitable container (see below), something earth and made of more organic materials preferably like wood or clay.
2. A Lodestone, Master Root, Alraune etc. Properly gathered and prepared.
3. Money Drawing Powder and oil (see below for a simple recipe)
4. Change and bills from your wallet.
6. Holy Water/Agua Florida etc.
7. Paper and pen.
8. Prayer and white tea lights (cleansed and blessed/prayed over).
9. Cigar/sage bundle/cigarello/smoke blend and pipe etc.
To bless a cash box, or a money pot in more rootwork terms, with a lodestone or Master Root or some other spirit filled curio that corresponds to wealth and power.
Conjure magic is a catchall term for folk magic. Those of you who, like me, played Dungeons and Dragons, may be familiar with the term “hedge magic”. Popular culture, movies and certain books, would have you believe that this type of magic is evil, and that you should flee at any cost. I’m reminded of a horror writer Facebook group I was in where a person shared an idea for a novel:
Police officers kill a young black guy and the cop gets off for the crime. Then his grandfather does hoodoo voodoo on the cops for revenge. It gets really bloody by the end. Several people commented on what a great idea this was. Um.
One: It’s been done.
Two: Hoodoo is not voodoo.
Three: Murder is not the intent of conjure magics.
I’ll start with number three. Murder Is Not the Intent of Conjure Magics: Conjure magics have been a part of every culture on the planet, each of which has specifics on ingredients, spells, and incantations. Southern Conjure is a mélange of African, Native American, and yes, some European magic systems. (There goes that D&D terminology again.) The main reason for the European influence is that when slaves were brought to the Americas, the tools and ingredients they were used to did not exist and substitutions had to be made. In many cases, they were also not able to perform ceremonies with any freedom and had to adopt methods that could be activated in a more clandestine manner.
The original purpose of conjure was to make life better for the practitioner and those around them. In the case of the earliest examples of this magic, it was to create protection spells, spells to send away those what would do harm, increasing luck. As time went on additional spells of luring love, financial success, and compelling others to your will developed. Conjure is alive, constantly growing and developing as a magic, depending on the needs and desires of those practitioners.
Hoodoo isn’t instantaneous, as some media would lead you to believe. It’s planned, considered, there is intent. It certainly isn’t the gore-laden blood bath some movies would like you to think. It’s subtle, thoughtful, and crafted with care. And a reliable rootworker will tell you when your situation doesn’t require his or her services. One of the main tenants of Southern conjure is respecting the earth and all that comes from it. Many of the ingredients and supplies needed to work a hex come from the ground and practitioners of conjure are taught to respect that fact. Waste is not tolerated. It’s similar to a chef saying, “Respect your ingredients,” on a cooking show.
Hoodoo isn’t voodoo I’ve read a great deal of short stories and novels, and have watched movies that use voodoo as a central tenant of the plot. For the most part, authors and filmmakers tend to take one path when portraying conjure magic: It’s evil and must be destroyed. The same goes for the practitioners.
In these tales, voodoo is practiced in tiny hovels in the backwoods of “insert Podunk town name here”, Louisiana or on the dusty, impoverished streets of the Haitian mainland. Spells are directed at seemingly blameless people out of spite or for some nebulous reason only the truly evil mind could understand. And the practitioners are either hideous crones, or beautiful, yet demented women who dance partially clothed in the swamps at midnight, slashing the necks of flailing chickens. And with this portrayal comes the confusion between conjure magics. What movies show as voodoo is usually not. Many now know, unlike the average person from the last century, voodoo, or Vodoun, is a religion practiced alongside Catholicism, which itself is ritual heavy. Yet the stereotype of it being steeped in evildoing and the love of destruction persists.
Typically, most hoodoo practitioners are Protestants. But hoodoo itself is not a religion; it is a spiritual and magical practice, whose traditions have been passed down in families and to eager students. It exists in many variations wherever African-Americans are, but it practiced by many ethnicities. The particulars of spell casting, hexing, or laying tricks is not as flagrant as the silver screen would lead you to believe, so some creative license is present in most cases to make those scenes more unsettling. Who wants to show on film a person sprinkling brick dust in someone’s yard? Ooooh, scary.
Authors and filmmakers understandably focus on the dark side of conjure magic. Blood and ritual is always alluring in horror circles. The unknown, the unusual can be most frightening—and fascinating. Conjure can be cool and/or creepy to someone unfamiliar with it, but what if it’s the norm? My great aunt was a practitioner of root, the Carolina’s term for hoodoo and conjure. She scraped against six feet tall and her frame filled most of a doorway. She drove a late model Cadillac and always told the best stories, punctuated by her table-slapping laugh. The ones I remember were hilarious—from people asking to win big in the local number- running racket to people that wanted to get their boss off their back. Most of the time, people came to her for helpful spells, not things to hurt other people. My cousin went to her for a potion so she could marry before she was thirty. She got married the week before her thirtieth birthday. I was in the wedding, but I wish I asked for a spell to make her pick another bridesmaid’s dress.
*Shudders* It’s Been Done.
In the Facebook group, I responded to the idea mentioned above. To paraphrase, I said there are a number of books and movies with this theme and I’d really like to see one that showed the original intent of this folk magic. One that showed another side of conjure. The side where women are strong and powerful, but with an elegance and grace under fire. Women who helped each other and worked their magic for the greater good. In reality, male and female workers of hoodoo, conjure, root—whatever term you want to use—are normal people who hold jobs, pay taxes, raise families, and are compensated well for their talents. Even so, don’t cross them. Or they may cross you. I remember reading what bestselling author Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must be the one to write it”.Guess I’d better get to it.
In hoodoo traditions, rootworkers gather dust from the land around them. My friend takes dirt from the bank buildings for prosperity, graveyard for the dead, crossroads to see into the spirit world.
They take the land and work magic from beneath their hands, prayers from the bible mixed with the roots from the Devil’s boots and tiny yellow petals from Worts of Saint John growing wild in the park, placed in bags of red flannel, fed and birthed as little spirits.
Sufi mystics writing passages from the Koran onto thin pieces of rice paper. Fill with herbs. Steep in tea. Burn to ash. Praying to their ancestors and God.
My social worker in the group home took my palm, her fingers tracing the lines on the back of my hand, speaking about my past, my future, scars and hurts in the present.
She makes me tea. Writes secret passages on pieces of rice paper and bay leaves when I’m not looking. Steeps them in the cups of warm water.
Tells me what her Djinn speak to her when no one else is listening.
My great grandfather told fortunes in the main house on his land, in the courtyard by the peach tree that bloomed with pink blossoms during the summer time.
On the stone table before him, he would cast green copper coins with tiny holes in their middles onto red cloth. Consult fortunes from the worn, thread bare Book of Changes between his palms. Light sandalwood for the ancestors. Draw intricate patterns with mao bi brushes onto yellowing pieces of parchment.
Burn to ash, mix with dongquai roots and ginseng. Exorcised the yin plaguing his clients, healed bodies, read the dragon veins of the land and moved accordingly.
I take the dirt from beneath my hands, mix them in the bowls with fresh rain water, hair from the crowns of my own head, red thread and iron nails. Fill in the blue glass bottles before me. Cork the top. Bury under the front porch. Keeps away the shadows and dark sided things with poison on their tongues.
I have learned that my magic can come strongest when it comes from the land, comes organically from the places around me.
Invest in a good knife, a sturdy metal cup, a solid earthen platter and bowl, a good branch of some hard wood, a bright candle. Invest in my prayers, in my charms, in the land beneath my feet and the dirt that falls between the cracks of my fingers.
Remember my roots, the wisdom of the people I have learned from and the wisdom of my ancestors.
Lets talk about Chicken feet and their use in the practice of Conjure/Rootwork.
Chicken feet are basically tools found within Conjure practices as a mean to cleanse a person from crossed conditions. The belief is that in the old days when people would have animals around their house, it was not uncommon to own chickens who occasionally would walk around the property freely during the day, seeing as Chickens scratched the ground out around the house in search for small insects and worms to eat throughout the day, looking at it as a form of sympathetic magic, a chicken foot is used in the practice of Conjure/Rootwork as a cleansing tool, scratching lightly the person with the intention to scratch out any negative energy or crossed condition attached to a person. there are many ways to use this tool and it varies depending on the tradition one practices, now I can only speak from my personal experiences and practice with this tool, so I will explain the way I use the chicken foot as a tool to cleanse yourself with them.
Cleansing with a Chicken foot.
The photos posted above are of one of the chicken foot I’ve personally made to cleanse myself with the help of my ancestors. the process can sound simple and it can be to an extent, I tend to do Spiritual cleansings in sets of 3 to 5 days, and not all of them are the same, I will explain a basic way to cleanse yourself so you have an idea on how to work with them, I learned this type of cleansing from my Conjure teacher Mama Starr Casas.
First I would gather my supplies, Florida water, a candle and the chicken foot. first I would do a prayer to my ancestors asking for them to assist me to cleanse all negative energies and crossed conditions known and unknown, it is important to pray and petition from the heart, get a good amount of Florida water in your hands and brush yourself from the crown of your head to the bottom of your feet, next with the chicken foot in hand, scratch lightly with the claws while praying and asking your ancestors that all crossed conditions and blocks can be removed from you, again petition from the heart, you will want to scratch from the crown of your head to the bottom of your feet, scratch downwards in a sweeping motion, don’t scratch yourself too hard either, last I would get the candle and again pray that the candle picks up whatever is left and be removed, again the candle should be brushed from the crown of your head in a counter clockwise motion and followed by sweeping downwards to the bottom of your feet and from heel to toe. after the cleansing is done, you can pray for blessings while dressing yourself with a conjure oil on whatever intention you might have, would it be to protect yourself, or to draw money, or have good luck, it is important to understand that by doing a spiritual cleansing, you are removing something from you, leaving an open spot which can be filled up with the help of Conjure/Magical Oils and powders to help you achieve your goals and blessings. Don’t limit yourself to do a spiritual cleansing when you believe to be crossed or thrown at by an enemy, you can do this types of work in a regular manner to clean yourself, and to avoid having any type of blocks, sometimes we are around people who don’t mean too well towards us, they might act one way when they are around you, but their intentions might be different.
I hope you enjoyed my first blog post, thank you for reading and if there are any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask, I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Good morning dear friends, and happy Sunday <3! Burning the roots this morning for a prosperous week - if you want the recipe, it’s very simple: Galangal root (Low John), Dragon’s Blood root, dry Orange rind, dry Ginger root, and a pinch of Three Kings resin incense. Smells like heaven, and it is a very simple formula for attracting prosperity, strength and protection.
Give up your waters woman, become but a husk so that you are remade from your dust.
When I was little, I had a series of spells that would plague me at night. I would choke on my own breathe, until it felt like my body has closed itself up to world around me. Usually happening between the moments when I was just about to wake up from sleep, my body would seize as if I was stuck on the threshold of dreaming and waking.
Here I would have visions as my eyes welled up with tears and my mouth opened in silent gasps, screaming out for the deaths that are yet to come in my family. Until my parents would come rushing through the doors, and I would gulp down honey water to choke me awake with the sudden sweetness.
The sensation of losing your breath is as if you are becoming nothing, swimming through nothing, seeing nothing. Slowly.
When I was very little, I almost died. One of my lungs collapsed at night while I was sleeping, and liquid began to fill my throat till I could barely gulp down air. My mother heard me gasping in my cradle beside her bed, and rushed me to the Emergency Room.
Last night, I couldn’t stop drinking water and then expelling my waters until the flow became crystal clear. There came a knowing in my body that it was time for another passage into the world below and back. I filled my copper basin that have collected the ashes of my ceremonies for the past months with cold water from the tap, and sitting it in a triangle of wooden staves, floated a white candle in its depths.
My body heats, and morphs, and changes as my skin transforms serpentine, grow scales, wings of white feathers sprouting from my back, my breathing becomes none existent and this time I let it. For I know it is the mothers sitting with me.
I fall asleep to the light of my white candle, my fetch swimming through the oceans in my soul, waiting for the dream to come, to incubate as so many of us have done in temples and cells and caves and arbours in all the days before and after us.
You may see yourself swimming down a lake or well. You will see yourself pass through more layers or doors than you have ever thought possible, usually involving an increasing sense of claustrophobia or pressure as you get deeper and deeper. Eventually you will find yourself very close to the heart of the spiral, the ‘eye of the storm’ where things are weaved and unweaved. You will need to pass through and to do so you will need to be able to let go of everything of you that is mortal. You will also be stripped of the illusion of ‘up’ and ‘down’ and come to realize that in travelling ‘down to the bottom’ you have also reached the height of heights and are now in the stars.
- Lee Morgan’s A Deed Without A Name, page 133, from the chapter “The Water Below The Hills”.
As I woke up in the world of sleeping, I found myself inside the houses of my mothers. First I was in a small cottage by the Bayous of Louisiana, Maria making gumbo and fish head stew with black bread. The scent of her spices fill the tiny house with memories I didn’t know I had. She sprinkles a powder into my bowl of stew and whispers a prayer I can’t hear. “Time to meet your maker”, she says to me, and I think it’s my time to die.
“Not like that baby”, she responds, “You got more than one maker”.
I take the bowl into my hands, and as I take my first dip and bit, the scenes around me shift.
Now I am on the banks of a river, the earth yellow with minerals and nutrients rubbing warm dust beneath me. Around me are tents filled with women, they point to the rushing waters crashing against the jagged rocks, and tell me to get closer or I’ll never swim to shore. The bitter waters splash against my face, tasting of green things and ash. I am stripped down into my scales and fins, and dipping into the waters, my vision goes black.
When I can see again, I am in my middle school classroom in China. Before me is stretched rolls and rolls of paper, and I am spending an eternity writing out line after line. My middle school teacher, stern, manipulative, who in one breath can weep in front our parents for our supposed failures and then scream and hit us with her ruler behind their backs, stood looming over me. I pick up my pen, and begin to write as I always have in the past, never stopping until the alarm clock wakes me up from my slumber.
Time to meet your maker baby.
Is she my maker? I wonder to myself, this woman who was my mother for most days when my own mother left me there in that institution each morning, and came to pick me up late at night. Was she my maker? This stern, cruel woman who’s images blurs with that of my mother’s, with that of the many teachers before her who attempted to drill into my head a mother tongue I was suppose to know but could never quiet get the handle of. I feel my arms and run my hands over the cruel lines left behind by her stings and pinches and slaps and wrenching.
I look at the rough, thin paper under my hands, my pen scratching out symbols and characters I can no longer remember the meanings of.
No sun shone through the windows, everything was dark except for that single fluorescent light that shone above our heads.
Her shadow creeps through every corner of the wall, running against the lines of chalkboards that surround us, imposing their dark shadows against my body.
All those years of repetition, of stolen consent, of silenced voices. I did something I didn’t know I could do, and had never done in previous dreams like the one I am having now, in that claustrophobic classroom with that imposing teacher.
I put down my pen, I walk up to her, I look her in the eye, and I say, firmly, quietly, “no”.
And I walk away.
She weeps as the alarm sounds and my eyes open to the sun streaming through my window, cascading onto the sea of plants lining my room.
Give up your waters woman. I did. Become but a husk so you can be remade from your dust. Was I ever a mother? Was I ever in past lives a woman with a uterus who didn’t need to hide behind the masculinity she was assigned at birth because of her genitalia? Did I ever feel the sensation of pushing life out from between the lips of my legs, feeling a piece of me slip out of my body, into my arms? Or given away to another? Or take herbs poisonous to this life suckling in my womb so that I wouldn’t need to do this?
I look to the mothers of my line, and they gently move my head to look forward into the future.
Some things do not need to be carried with you for all the lives you will live love.
The spirit of a child I didn’t know I had been carrying within my belly laughs and gurgles with joy.
Backstory. When I was nine years old my parents told me that we were going back to China for a summer vacation. After packing our bags and taking that arduous fourteen hour plane ride back home, we began looking for elementary schools in my area a week after we landed. We didn’t come back to Canada for five years. I was placed in local elementary schools with a series of abusive homeroom teachers. They were the mothers that my own mother refused to protect me from. They placed their hands without my consent onto my body, their fingers digging into my mind against my will.
Shaping me, gaslighting me, manipulating me into the perfect little brain washed, teacher fearing, government fearing student that the communist regime in China desired from every family at the time.
I could never say no.
These past few nights have been my beginnings and continuations in correcting that mistake of the past.
How I Learned To Work Roots, Conjure Spirits, Talk To The Dead.
A long, long time ago, there was a 17 year old, sometimes boy, sometimes girl mostly human person. Who had run away from an abusive household filled with authoritative parental figures screaming and beating into him what is and isn’t right, what is and isn’t true, what is and isn’t reality; into a slightly less abusive youth group home filled with equally authoritative social workers, trying to pin him into a box of what he is and isn’t capable of in life.
His art was stifling. His breathe shuddering in a cage in his chest where his bleeding, metaphorical heart used to be. Locked away like a little red bird that had fallen asleep for so long into an endless night that all that remained was the occasional chirp from its beak and shudder from their lips.
And along comes someone, who saved him, by teaching him how to save himself.
This is how a black, southern woman who lived life times in West Africa, another in Cuba, another in Brazil, and finally one more in New Orleans, pulled the heart of a 17 year old yellow skinned Chinese boy out of the dark bottomless pits of that river we call depression.
It started with a book. In the New Age Occult Section of the local Chapters, the only one in that not quiet small town not quiet big city place where he was living, there was that book. The first of its kind that the boy had ever seen in his whole life. Amidst all the badly glossed paper backs promising their potential buyers the secrets to “connecting with your higher self”, or “doing magic for the betterment of all and with harm to none”, or “how to worship the old gods” was this book that promised something more substantial than any of them combined together. The boy didn’t have time to connect with his higher self, or do magic for the betterment of everyone else but him. Deep down, he wasn’t even really sure he believed in the old gods anymore either.
He was hungry.
He sometimes didn’t have enough food in the group home because funding was cut low by the federal government and everything had to be budgeted. He didn’t often have money for toiletries and hygiene products except for the small sampling packets they could afford to give him sometimes from the donation bins given to the youth group home. The rest of the time he had to make due with whatever else he could find in the toiletry sections of dollar stores and the charity of others.
Mostly he just worried. Worried about where to get things because he had little money of his own, what being 17 and still finishing high school and struggling with depression and trying desperately to find a part time job on his own and all. Worried about what would happen if one day the funds allotted to the youth group home by the provincial government got cut low enough that he might be shipped off to somewhere else in Ontario that he has never been to, or worse, become homeless. And he worried about whether he will ever be able to graduate with high enough grades and find a school as far away from his current location as possible because that was his only ticket out of there that he could conceive of at the time. He had no money, no parents, and a decent school. It might not sound like the worst of situations to some who may be living in war torn third world countries, or struggling to survive on a slave ship during the Trans-Atlantic slave trip, and the boy often thought of this with feelings of guilt whenever he would succumb to depression and feel exhaustion from his life.
He would also feel guilty when he picked up that book that he eventually bought, the one filled with magic that could change his life, because he didn’t know if he was suffering enough to “deserve” to use it. And then he tried to cover that guilt up through racist logic leaping justifications to himself and anyone who would listen on what business a little Chinese boy had with doing African American folk magic.
Throughout this whirlwind of uncertainties that sometimes drove the boy’s mind into a frenzy that made his head pound and his stomach grumble because they each only were allowed one slice of bread with their hot dogs for dinner that night,
she was there.
At first he thought it was just a book, but she was there, guiding him, walking with him, teaching him.
He would have vaguely recollected dreams of sitting with someone by a river, hands moving and weaving through patches of herbs and dirt and shrubbery together.
And then when he woke up, he would read through that big red book of magic he kept by his night stand, and pick out the things that seemed familiar.
Like, here is a spell on how to make sure you always have a source of money.
Take your next bank statement, fill it with mint leaves ground to a powder by your own hands and prayed over. Fold the bank statement into a packet and draw money signs over it. Keep this in your binder of important documents and you will always have money.
And then he did. After that night when the social workers signaled that curfew had come and all the lights in the upper level bedrooms were shut off, he quietly crawled to his little make shift altar space and lit an electric tea light candle because he wasn’t allowed to have real candles and got to work, said the words, and put the little packet inside the binder where he religiously collected all his other bank statements.
From then on, he always had money one way or another in his bank account at the end of the every month. Not a lot, just enough for him to put a little towards his savings for his move to the city after graduation, buy some toiletries, and afford some more food for himself on the side.
Then she guided him towards more books. Books with titles like conjure, or rootwork, or hoodoo blazoned over the covers. Some books that shouldn’t have been for sale even, hard to come by books, books that were only passed in secret between people and that white folks treated like the gospel on rootworking. She picked things out from these books for him to do, taught him how to question the rest. Question everything really until it worked, especially what the white folks were teaching.
And then she would come into his dreams, or sit like a little flame of fire on the back of his neck so he felt like his veins were filled with it and he would rush around town looking for roots and herbs and Orisha and Lwa and New Orleans and hope and power and get bitten by mosquitoes and learn where the golden rod grows and see toad flax in building corners.
And then the boy got scared for a really long time. Things got real. Really real. And he ran out of justifications as to why a Chinese boy had any right touching Black American Conjure. And so he put away the roots and powders and stuff and tried to practice European witchcraft like all the other good little witches in the big new city he was finally able to move to. And apologized, a lot, for the way he acted about how he had any right doing Black American Conjuration.
But still things would bleed through. Candle workings, praying psalms from the bible, working table seances. Once you learn things its hard to unlearn things.
And I guess this is my way of saying that I realize now that she is real. I realize now that she did teach me so many things that even if I don’t call rootwork, it is still just what I do now. Because she taught me to save myself. She was one of the first people who taught me down to earth real life in your face magic to save myself.
And throughout all of this should and should not, I forgot to simply just listen to what she had to say to me for a really long time.
Until she started talking again and I started listening. And she showed me how she learned to read Chinese fortunes from a relative of mine from a ways back who was brought to work on the plantations and docks in Cuba.
And I listened. And I stopped hiding from myself because that was what was missing throughout all of this. And she reintroduced me to that relative of mine, who introduced me to more, and so here I am.
Here I am. Working roots, reading I Ching, talking to spirits, and happy for so many more reasons now then the meager allowances I was given before I saved myself at 17.
And so this is the story of how a Black Southern Rootworking Woman taught me how to survive in a world that is often times much easier than her’s was, but often times still just as cruel.