Erik Davis on American hoodoo


10 Responses to “Erik Davis on American hoodoo”

  1. Erik Davis says:

    An author shouldnt get snipey, and I appreciate Niche’s passion for this important subject, but I dont agree that the post was confusingly written. I said that hoodoo should not be confused “with voodoo or other Caribbean transformations of African spirit possession cults.” I was specifically thinking about Santeria. The term was not “Caribbean spiritual practices” in general, but “Caribbean possession cults”, which is what I said (as Heretic points out).

    Caribbean religion is a confusing vortex, and surely impossible to clearly delimit in a single paragraph. “Obeah” for example means something different in Jamaica than Trinidad–it is folk magic in the former, but in the latter it is associated with more voodoo-like possession rituals. But everything overlaps as well.

    Of course as a syncretism hoodoo takes bits from everywhere, including Santeria. But it appropriates more “minor” aspects of Santeria, such as the objects associated with saints, etc. And of course much more could be said about New Orleans, but not in a short article like this!

  2. tyrsalvia says:

    Major congrats to cat yronwode (she usually does not capitalize her name) for this essay! Lucky Mojo is highly respected, for good reason. I’m glad to see more folks will find out about them both from this post, and from Erik’s essay.


    A perfect source for my Hoodoo Blues game.!hoodoo/

  4. Nadreck says:

    Is that “Catherine Yronwode the former Comic Book Magnate”?

    • License Farm says:

      Nadreck: It would appear so, yes. Strange where life’s paths take people, though not so much so in light of the territory her works encompassed previously.

  5. Art says:

    This is pretty standard fare for the ads in the Old Farmers Almanac.

  6. niche assignment says:

    Good and thoughtful answer, #8. The original post was confusingly written, and seemed to be drawing distinctions and definitions by exclusion, and then contradicting its own terms. But you describe the necessary and fascinating project of cultural genealogy this and related practices and traditions call out for very well.

    And the woman described and her work are fascinating — which my original post left un-noted.

  7. niche assignment says:

    Baffled that the essay — at least the quoted parts — repeatedly insists that hoodoo should not be confused with Caribbean religious syncretism and “should not be confused with or other transformations of African-American spirit possession cults,” and even more puzzled to read next that it *does* “resemble Jamaican ‘obeah.’” And still later we’re told that hoodoo is a “polyglot syncretism” that “fuses African magical styles with, among other things . . . Santeria.”

    Huh? Jamaica is not in part of the Caribbean world? The Caribbean world is not part of a western hemisphere cultural formation that can be boiled down to a great collision, mixing, and fusing — in many varied but related ways — indigenous with African and European — especially Spanish, Anglo, and French, but also Portuguese and Dutch — traditions and practices, with the Caribbean the very central vortex of this syncretism?

    It seems impossible to understand New Orleans as anything other than a Caribbean city — this explains how it in many ways is distinct from the more generally Anglo-settled American South while it also had its powerful infiltrates into Southern and eventually pan-US culture and folkways, as the listing of “Cherokee earth ways, Santeria, German folklore, Jewish sorcery, and the popular magic of Scots-Irish immigrants” and, under its “many regional names — rootwork, conjure, [and] witchcraft” perfectly illustrates.

    • HereticGestalt says:

      I think the point it’s trying to make is that hoodoo isn’t primarily a cult of possession, which is the hallmark feature of many of the most popular Caribbean and South American Afro-Catholic syncretisms – Haitian voodoo, candomble, umbanda, santeria, etc. – because most of them derive from the same group of West African tribal religions. Hoodoo, on the other hand, like obeah, lacks the cultic institutions, pantheons of ancestral spirit archetypes, and consistent cultural roots that are common among these more well-known religions.

      It’s all well and good to say that the Caribbean is and was a vortex of cultural influences that produced a lot of unique phenomena, but that shouldn’t stop us from tracing particular forms of practice and lines of descent within it.

  8. dr.hypercube says:

    Can’t see John the Conqueroo without thinking of Bo:

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