Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.
The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.
TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.
Today on TBE 2.0, author Amber McBride(she/her) talks about Hoodoo/Rootwork, the problem with mainstream exploitation of Hoodoo and some book recommendations that incorporate rootwork, in the first post in the subsegment Black Magic.
(Black Magic is a sub segment of TBE 2.0 with the contributions of authors and bloggers recommending books by Black authors. With the exception of Hoodoo, Black Magic is a sub series of recommendation list)
HOODOO – ROOTWORK – BLACK MAGIC
To put it simply Hoodoo, also known as Rootwork or Conjure, is an African American magic system that arose in the Americas after enslaved Africans were stolen from their homelands and stripped of their way of life. Hoodoo and its many practices are as unique as regions in North and South America, but the pillars of Hoodoo include—the elevation of ancestors, knowledge of and working with herbs, roots, candles, sticks and bones, oneness with nature and balance.
Hoodoo unlike Voodoo is not a religion rather a series of rituals and traditions that when applied properly can bring good fortune and ward off bad energies. Many enslaved African Americans were not permitted to practice the religions/traditions of their homelands and therefore many elements of Hoodoo were hidden in plain sight. This is why often Hoodoo uses Bible verses or psalms in tandem with many spells.
Those who practice Hoodoo have an enormous respect for nature and therefore all herbs and roots should be sourced ethically. If a particular root is rare or going extinct it is important to find a substitute. Tree bark should not be continuously taken from the same tree. Any bones used should come from animals that have already passed on. Furthermore, as articulated in Sticks, Stones and Bones by Stephanie Rose Bird, metals (silver, copper, lead, iron) often share similar properties to bones and can be used as replacements.
In recent years Hoodoo has been exploited by mainstream media. Often linked to Voodoo or Witchcraft. It is easy to see the similarities, but these practices are each unique and should be respected for their profound differences.
The problem with Hoodoo being seen as something new and profitable by the mainstream is that shops sell products that are not ethically sourced and therefore carry bad charges. If the roots, oils, candles are not carrying the right energies more harm than good can be done. In short, capitalism got its hands on Hoodoo and went wild.
Hoodoo’s links to African and African American ancestors make it a uniquely African American practice. With this said, Hoodoo does borrow and give to many traditions, including Native American rituals. Many belief systems around the world that utilize storytelling, respect for ancestors and admiration of nature have similarities to Hoodoo. These practices have conversations with each other, but nuance is important when learning and respecting any belief system in and of itself.
I am not here to say that only people of African descent can practice Hoodoo, but an extensive knowledge of African and African American traditions is needed to practice it in any substantial regard.
Practicing Hoodoo is different for each Conjurer or Rootworker, but respect for the ancestors and the living world around you is of paramount importance.
Books That Incorporate Hoodoo
*Book title = Buy link
Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith
Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a family with a rich tradition of practicing folk magic: hoodoo, as most people call it. But even though his name is Hoodoo, he can’t seem to cast a simple spell.—HMH Books
Sticks, Stones & Bones by Stephanie Rose Bird
This book gives a comprehensive overview of Hoodoo/Rootwork and the importance of sticks, stones and bones in the practice. It is an excellent introduction into Hoodoo.
Me (Moth) by Amber McBride
Moth has lost her family in an accident. Though she lives with her aunt, she feels alone and uprooted. Until she meets Sani, a boy who is also searching for his roots. If he knows more about where he comes from, maybe he’ll be able to understand his ongoing depression. And if Moth can help him feel grounded, then perhaps she too will discover the history she carries in her bones.—Macmillan
Root Magic by Eden Royce
Debut author Eden Royce arrives with a wondrous story of love, bravery, friendship, and family, filled to the brim with magic great and small.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
Filled with mystery and an intriguingly rich magic system, Tracy Deonn’s YA contemporary fantasy Legendborn offers the dark allure of City of Bones with a modern-day twist on a classic legend and a lot of Southern Black Girl Magic.—Simon and Schuster
About Amber McBride
Amber McBride is an English professor at the University of Virginia. She also low key practices Hoodoo and high key devours books (150 or so a year keep her well fed). In her spare time she enjoys pretending it is Halloween everyday, organizing her crystals, watching K-dramas and accidentally scrolling through TikTok for 3 hours at a time. She believes in ghosts and she believes in you.