Honoring National Hoodoo MonthOct 17, 2023 11:52AM ● By Marie Lewis
National Hoodoo Month is a time to reflect on and celebrate the rich and profound heritage of Black Americans, specifically through the lens of a unique and deeply rooted tradition known as Hoodoo. Hoodoo, often referred to as rootwork, is a practice that embodies the resilience, wisdom, and spiritual essence of Black communities in the Southern United States.
It's important to distinguish Hoodoo from the often misunderstood Voodoo, which is a distinct religion with a strong emphasis on a connection to the spirit world. Hoodoo, on the other hand, is not a religion. It is a set of spiritual practices, traditions, and beliefs, created by enslaved Black Americans, that have been handed down through generations. This tradition is all about healing, wellness, protection, and focusing on the natural environment.
Hoodoo encompasses a wide range of practices, including the use of herbs, roots, and other natural objects for spiritual and medicinal purposes. Its core elements include protection and luck, often practiced alongside Christianity, incorporating Christian elements into its rituals.
Hoodoo holds an essential place in Black history, preceding the establishment of the Black church. Its practitioners, often referred to as root-workers or conjurers (now herbalists), have long understood the energy of plants and the natural elements. Through Hoodoo, our ancestors tapped into their spiritual essence, connecting to frequencies that empowered them to free themselves from the shackles of slavery and oppression.
Rootmen like George Washington Craver and Doctor Caesar played pivotal roles in preserving and sharing their knowledge, bridging gaps between racial and cultural divides. Hoodoo has been instrumental in using the energy of plants for healing and protection. In the early 1700s, a Black man named Onesimus shared a revolutionary smallpox cure. In the 1800s, Jane Minor, a Black woman, cured a fever epidemic in Virginia using Hoodoo and eventually became a respected medical practitioner, freeing herself in the process.
Hoodoo has also left its mark on the Black church, with practices like "Catchin the Spirit" or the "Ring Shout," as detailed by historian Katrina Hazzard-Donald in her book "Mojo Workin'."
Notable figures in history, like Mary Ellen Pleasant, the first self-made Black-American millionaire, and Senator William H. Moore of North Carolina, turned to Hoodoo as a means of healing and prosperity. Biddy Mason in Los Angeles used Hoodoo to gain wealth and prosperity, while Frederick Douglass sought protection and guidance from a Hoodoo practitioner to rise against oppression.
Even in the darkest times of slavery, Hoodoo was a source of strength and rebellion. In the 1712 slave uprising in New York, led by Peter the Doctor, he and other enslaved individuals used Hoodoo rituals to cover themselves in roots and herbs before taking to the streets in a powerful revolt.
The Historical Perspective: Hoodoo, Religion, and Healing
Historically, the notion that Hoodoo equated to witchcraft was propagated by Protestant Christians seeking to exert control over enslaved Africans through religious means. These teachings were ingrained deeply as generations were raised within these church communities.
Remarkably, many rootworkers found their place within these churches, becoming leaders and healers in their communities. For numerous individuals, these conjurers and healers were the preferred choice for seeking healing and guidance, bypassing white physicians who often subjected them to degrading and experimental practices. Even the white owners, lacking medical knowledge, were seen as inferior healers compared to these deeply rooted and trusted Hoodoo practitioners. Also, Black midwives were preferred in those times instead of doctors they were masters at working with roots and herbs for safe deliveries. Hoodoo, in this context, served as a source of solace, strength, and empowerment amid the hardships of the time.
National Hoodoo Month is a time to acknowledge the incredible contributions of Hoodoo to Black American history and culture. It's not a "dark" practice but a source of strength, resilience, and empowerment that has been passed down through generations. It's a testament to the ingenuity and spiritual connection of Black communities, and it's a heritage that deserves our recognition and respect.
As we honor National Hoodoo Month and the legacy of Black Americans, it's worth highlighting the modern-day businesses in our community that carry on the tradition of using healing herbs and remedies, much like our ancestors did. These businesses provide a link to our roots and offer a wealth of natural remedies to support wellness and spiritual growth.
Health Daddy Wow: is a shining example of this tradition. Located at 1806 Ralph Avenue, Louisville, KY 40216, they offer an array of healing herbs, teas, tinctures, and roots. With a deep commitment to holistic well-being, Health Daddy Wow continues the legacy of harnessing the power of nature for the benefit of our community.
Soul Unalome Collective: is another gem in our community. It's not just a store; it's a spiritual metaphysical store and healing & educational center. As the only Black Indigenous-owned establishment of its kind in Louisville, they provide an assortment of handcrafted items infused with intent and energy. From candles and apothecary products to classes, readings, and a wide selection of Tarot and Oracle decks, Soul Unalome Collective is a hub for spiritual seekers and those in search of healing.
Mindful Moments w/ Mo: offers a unique blend of products to enhance your well-being. From aromatherapy oils to healing crystal bracelets, bath soaks, and yoga essentials, they provide a holistic approach to personal wellness. Their offerings are a testament to the ongoing connection between natural remedies and spiritual growth.
These businesses not only provide essential products but also connect us to the enduring spirit of our ancestors who used herbs and roots to heal and free themselves from oppression. National Hoodoo Month is a time to celebrate our heritage and acknowledge these modern establishments that carry the torch of our ancestors, helping us thrive and find harmony in both our physical and spiritual well-being.