Made-up vs. Traditional Hoodoo and Conjure

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I feel kind of bad when people throw around the phrase made-up in a derogatory way in hoodoo and conjure. Let me be very clear I don’t feel bad for me, I feel bad for them.

Hoodoo is very much like cookery.

Using tried and true recipes is fine, but if you’re really going to blow socks off you have to have artistry and in order to do that effectively you need to know the basics of the physics and the chemistry and how it relates to what you’re trying to make. Once you know those things, you can make all sorts of mouth watering dishes without needing a cookbook. You learn the rules, you figure out how things work, and you put things together in a way that makes sense and you’re golden.

traditional Recipe books have limitations, there is a finite number of recipes and variations published in any language. You could conceivably get by with enough variation from your grandmother’s cookbook, but no matter what you do some recipes are just never going to turn out right.


Ingredients change. The Cavendash banana is a great example, before the Cavendash came along there was the Gros Michel, which went extinct in the 1960s. If Gram got her recipes from her mama, your banana recipes were for Big Mike bananas and not Cavendash. And guess what? When Cavendash bananas go extinct, your recipes for them may not work out for your children or grandchildren.

You want your cookies and pie crusts to come out like Grandma’s then you need to switch your margarine out for butter or lard. Hydrogenated vegetable oils don’t do the trick. Hydrogenated lard is an abomination; real lard, ground from leaf fat and rendered in the big skillet on the stove is what does the trick. Rendering lard (and selecting prime crackles for the kids to munch on) is a joy to those that like rendering lard, the logistics of cleaning up a modern kitchen afterwards is a somewhat different matter.

Rennet (same stuff used in cheese making) is also responsible for the most divine frozen custards and ice creams ever, but you’ll be hard pressed to find packets of it at most grocery stores (my grocery store does it have it, but they are awesome and definitely the exception to the rule.) And good luck to anyone that wants whole milk with the cream, unpasteurized and not hydrogenated.

With hoodoo we face the same issues. Manufacturers drop unpopular lines, change their labels, alter their ingredients or go out of business altogether. Laws change. Commonly available plants back in the day, they don’t grow by the side of the road anymore or in the middle of their favorite meadows because that land is the favorite of a more commercially cultivatable crop. People don’t wear the same set of work clothes without washing them through the week and change into their one set of Sunday best for church.

Sensibilities also change. I don’t know a living person that would go out and do what’s necessary to find that black cat bone that causes invisibility, and I thank God for that. I wish I were completely unaware of people still putting bodily fluids into other people’s food, but there’s a lot of evidence online that it’s still a practice.

So if what we have to work with is different, and what we think and feel is different, how we see the word is different why are we clinging onto using the same old recipes as if that’s really traditional? Because its not traditional, not in hoodoo and conjure. Traditional hoodoo and conjure doesn’t lament over the unavailability of a root, or stay up until 3 am online trying to snipe that rare curio on an eBay auction, or fight to use an outdated or dangerous recipe.

It’s traditional in hoodoo to adapt, to create, to customize every work and fix to every situation with what is available. To say adaptation and creation is not traditional and made-up, is in itself is not traditional and made up.

Snobbery and elitism has plenty of room in other traditions, but not in hoodoo and conjure.


Used with permission