Category hoodoo conjure witchcraft rootwork – association of independent readers and rootworkers

Hoodoo is an African American folk magic tradition that was developed over several centuries in the Southern United States from the cultural convergence of African, Native American, European, and Near Eastern spiritual and magical practices. It is known by various regional names like "conjure," "rootwork," "root doctoring," "working roots," "tricking," "helping yourself," "using that stuff," and "doing the work."

With the movement of emancipated African Americans north during the late 19th and early 20th centuries — a period known as "The Great Northern Migration" — hoodoo practices spread throughout the United States and, through cross-cultural mixing, acquired and adapted concepts and methodologies adapted from the magical traditions of other minority cultures within America.


Hoodoo is now found wherever African Americans live, and it is practiced, with a greater or lesser degree of authenticity and respect for its roots, by a variety of Americans of other ethnicities.

While strongly aligned with a number of other African diasporic traditions, hoodoo is not a religion, nor is it a purely African form of belief, but rather it is a spiritual and magical practice. Most root doctors — like most African Americans — follow the Protestant faith. The combination of the culturally mingled magical traditions of African Americans with Protestant Christianity leads hoodoo to be seen as a form of African American Christian spiritual practice.

There are many forms of name-paper used in hoodoo. In the example shown on this page, the "base name target" was written in a 9-line set, then the whole was turned clockwise in accord with the drawing or benefic result intended and the "overlay name conjure" was written across the first 9 lines in a 9-line steering or dominion, and finally "the general intention" of the work was written around in a cursive circle to enclose the spell. Ordinarily the general intention would be something specific, and the names would be people’s names.

Keys to open bound or locked up situations, hands to assist in bringing life’s desires within reach, coins as "Indian scouts" (watch guards) or "coppers" (police) to secure valuables and guard against encroachment, and "queer" money to throw luck our direction may be removed from their ordinary purposes and use and employed in spell-crafting toward symbolic ends in a language both amuletic and associative.

The mojo bag shown on this page is traditionally made of red flannel, strung with white cotton twine and tied around the mouth, then knotted at the ends, containing implements suitable to the purpose of the bag and relating to the target or aim. Red is a default colour for mojo hands, and may be general in purpose, though some relate it love or sex spells.

Bodily excreta such as nail pairings, hair, menstrual blood, semen, sputum, perspiration, tears, urine, feces, or saliva may be used in spells to target spell-work to a specific individual, to solidify the connection between the target of the trick and the spell’s intended effect upon a portion of the target’s body, or as a means of empowering a connection between the target and the spell-caster.

The container which holds a spell might be buried, concealed, or disguised as something ordinary (as in the insertion of such a spell into a picture frame’s interior or at the base of a candle holder). The "protective amulet gift," "nefarious buried spell," "curse set adrift in water," and the "sneaky trick disguised as a gift" are well-known and oft-utilized container spell conventions.

The work of the conjure doctor may be performed indoors in the living room, bedroom, kitchen, or bathroom, either on a plain work-space or at an elaborate altar. In many cases, the practitioner who is conjuring within the home will make an effort to see to it that the tricks are "hidden in plain sight" so that family members and visitors are not aware of what is being done to them, against them, or on their behalf.

The collection of graveyard dirt is a rite with a long history, involving necromancy or communication with the dead as well as the purchase of soil from a grave selected for a particular intended ritual use. Ancestors are almost invariably said to be of assistance, and certain classes of spirits, such as soldiers or children, may be found to be cooperative or biddable in specific cases. In addition to monetary purchases of graveyard dirt, offerings to the deceased may include flowers, libations, food, toys, or candy.

Those who practice hoodoo on behalf of clients go by a variety of names, including rootworkers, practitioners, hoodoo ladies, root doctors, conjure doctors, spiritual advisors, two-headed doctors, and conjures. Most hoodoo root doctors are also readers who perform divination prior to taking a client’s case. They may take on all sorts of conjure jobs or they may specialize in certain forms of hoodoo work.

Some practitioners may work for clients on a donation basis but most professional rootworkers undertake spiritual spell-craft jobs for set fees based on the cost of materials, the time necessary to do the work, and the intensity of effort they expect to expend. Ethical two-headed doctors do not "guarantee results" and they also do not take on cases which they do not intend to perform.