Sunday, August 4, 2013

What Is Voodoo and Hoodoo Spirituality?

Incorporating Hoodoo into your Pagan Path

Once you get over the curse of the fluff -- I hate to use that term, but let's face it, most of what has come onto the market in the last 2-3 decades is closer to New Age than to the Old Religion of our witch ancestors and kin -- and take an unbiased look at the history of witches and the craft, you may find yourself leaning toward folk magic, the craft of the wise, Cunning-Folk, mountain magic, and such.
Recently I have found myself drawn to the formidable, uncompromising craft known as Hoodoo and herb and root magic. For me recently, it has opened up a door to the basics of all magic. Through a web group run by Dr. Christos Kioni, I became familiar with these traditions and practices and have even incorporated some of the herbal, root magic into my own practice of the craft.
But it has also made me question the ethics of integrating the traditions or parts thereof into my own tradition. I'm not bothered by some the Christian roots of these traditions, as they seem to break down the barrier between conjure and pagan workings and modern fundamentalist Christianity. Even so, I am not African-American, have never lived in the south, nor do I have any history with their traditional practices. Can I ethically make them part of my pagan family tradition?
I recently read Cat Yronwode's "Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic ", and Denise Alvarado's "Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook ", and am completely engrossed in the use of roots and herbs as employed in Hoodoo. I regularly purchase supplies from Lucky Mojo for use in candle and herbal magic and find them to be especially powerful. I believe these workings are the foundation of all witchcraft, whether African-American, Native American, or white folk magic, but are best known as practices in the American south, particularly in New Orleans. I have to say that when I visited New Orleans I was completely taken over by the spiritual energy of the city.
What stands out with Hoodoo is the conjuring of spirits. One first has to accept that spirits exist. Then one must learn about them and seek to recognize them as the ancients did. I'm not sure how they justify conjuring in light of Christianity's obvious fear and condemnation of such practices, but it certainly works for the masters of Hoodoo.
I thought I might simply replace the names of the spirits/angels with pagan gods/goddesses, but I have discovered that the Voodoo pantheon is extremely eclectic due to the way the spirits within different African traditions have been combined. These spirits include deities and rites from Santeria and Yoruba that are comparable to saints or angels in Western religions.
Among them is Manman Brigit (Brigit, Brijit) that appears to be related to my Celtic Goddess Brighid. That gives me a sense of inclusion that allows me to include some of the practices within those traditions. I have for many years used the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, which includes the angel spirits of Raphael,Gabriel, Michael, and Uriel along with the pagan pentagram, and it is a powerful tool that concentrates elemental powers, so it seems ethical for a traditional witch like myself to include this in my practices.
The bottom line is that there is no pure religion. Even the Catholic faith, which claims primacy, drew from pagan practices in the creation of its religious institution and rites. This seems to imply that people often try the practices of other traditions, rejecting those that do not work, and keeping those that do. It is thus ethical in my opinion for us to incorporate those Hoodoo/Conjure practices that have proved effective and advantageous.
I am a panentheist. I believe that the deity is present in all natural things and as such their use in devotions, spells, prayers, ritual or whatever you choose to call it is quite natural. The single deity or pantheon we relate to really doesn't matter much to me because it all emanates from the same Source. If it resonates with you spiritually and feels right, why not?
                                  Image Source: Sheloya Mystical and Agrimas Gothic - Flickr Creative Commons