Root magic and hoodoo is a funny thing. It goes back to the beginning of magical practice, as far as we can tell. And yet people hold it in disregard, even contempt. It’s OK to summon this, that and the other angel in some long-extinct, ominous-sounding language, or to do various kinds of complicated arcane practices, often supposedly for “enlightenment.” But it’s hard to get people to talk seriously about spells for money, luck, or love without someone getting offended or distressed. The feeling among a lot of witches seems to be that real witchcraft, that is, the actual craft of the Witch, is something from the past that is faintly distasteful.
Some people say “We’re more evolved than that.” That is, until they find out that they’re not. Some life situation rises up and bites them on the ass. THEN they suddenly feel it. They feel their humanity. Anger, lust, unrequited love, a need for money, a need for good fortune. Then, (hopefully) these folks realize none of us are all that “evolved.” If everything goes well, it’s hoped that they join the rest of us here on planet Earth. (Which is where we witches are supposed to be anyway, right?)
The issues that the old root workers and cunning women/cunning men addressed are the same ones that people are preoccupied with these days. In New Orleans, if someone hangs out their shingle as a witch, it will be found that the same issues that Anna Riva or Henri Gamache address in their little books are still the same ones that people are concerned with.
I’m helping a friend set up a new occult shop. It’s becoming evident that people are still interested in hex-breaker candles, love-attracting spells, good luck and money spells – love, sex, money, death, and good fortune, in short. Same as the ancient Romans, same as in ancient China or Japan, same as in India, same as in Zora Neale Hurston’s “Of Mules and Men,” and then right now in New Orleans – and I suspect everywhere else too.
I’ll go one further. I think at least part of the work of the witch is to be available to provide this kind of work for people. Marie Laveau, or should I say the Laveaus (both Marie I and Marie II) did that. They did spells concerned with people’s every day lives – spells to keep people out of jail, to get back at someone who did them wrong (and before someone gets all uppity about that one, let’s reread our “Aradia,” please), spells to attract the attention of a good looking man/woman, spells to get more money or a better job. (Which is the same as making a spell to get a good crop, no? so why the snobbery?). The lot. That WAS magic, to the old Craft people. That was what they did and the role they fulfilled in the community.
They served as counselors and scolds. They were called in to help animals, help with childbirth, do a little matchmaking, give a little advice, do a little scrying into the future, and sometimes to tell the truth that nobody wanted to hear and nobody wanted to speak. That’s a good spot to be in, and a good way to be in a community with others.
Yes, things have changed since the days of the cunning man/woman and the neighborhood hoodoo man or hoodoo lady. But they haven’t changed that much. And it would be a shame if witches of today lost sight of that, lost sight of that need.
Maybe a name change is in order. Personally, I think that we ought to start calling the earthy stuff “garage magic.” Used in the same sense as “garage band.” Rough and ready stuff, with few pretensions. Well, I think it sounds good. Then again “Garage Magic” could sound like something the late Billy Mays used to sell on late night TV, so maybe not.