Thursday, October 23, 2008
Hoodoo & Traditional Astrology
Hoodoo (Southern folk magic) seems to mix well with traditional astrological magic. This is partially because this is a traditional mixture! European magic (folk and otherwise) came into hoodoo practice.
Another more basic reason for the harmonious mixture is that hoodoo is basically African magic (with some European magic) practiced against a philosophical and religious background of Christianity. For the most part hoodoo practitioners (at least until very recently with the influx of Wicca and Neopagans) were Southern Christians, usually African-American (though many of their customers were white!).
Hoodoo does make a limited use of astrology. The most noteworthy is the use of the phases of the Moon for timing, which is not infrequent. Occasionally we get a more involved use of astrology. In Hyatt's Hoodoo Conjuration Witchcraft and Rootwork "HCWR" at pp. 1914-1930 is an interesting interview with informant 1445 from Fayetteville, North Carolina, entitled "She Observes the Astro'mical Signs".
"If yo' wanta use a man's photograph, as well as ah kin undahstan', yo' take dis photograph. Fust find de signs, astro'mical signs. Yo know we have twelve signs an' dose signs have sevens days in de month-yo's a man, see. Yo ketch dis sign whilst it in dis man's brain, if yo' want to change his mind fo' any purpose. If de sign is on de han' today, well yo cain't do no business -not until dat sign come back nex' week till de nex one come..."
The informant then goes on to say,
"Well yo' couldn't take no day tuh work it on no man except de sign was on dat day."
Hyatt then asks "The day you work it, you have to have the sign for that day? You have to have the sign for that day and you draw that sign on the photograph?"
The informant answers, "Dat's right"
Throughout the rest of her interview the informant uses this astrological method to time her work. The reference to 12 signs having 7 days in a month is confusing, as each sign could only have about 2.5 days. Nevertheless the informant seems to be using an ancient astrological method called the Zodiacal Man. As each astrological sign rules a different part of the body, Aries the head, Taurus, neck, Gemini, arms, Cancer, chest, Leo, the heart, Virgo, the bowels, Libra, kidneys, Scorpio, the genitals, Sagitarius, the thighs, Capricorn, knees, Aquarius, ankles and Pisces the feet. The Zodiacal Man is a picture of a person with the signs superimposed on the appropriate part of the body and a typical illustration of a medieval book of hours.
In D. Michael Quinns' Early Mormonism and the Magic World View at Figures 21-22, some examples of 19th century almanacs are provided with a listing of the signs that correspond to the various parts of the body and a listing of what days each month the Moon was in each sign. So while this is less complex than a full scale traditional astrological election, it is typical of how astrological information was used in the 19th and 20th century America.
It does appear that informant 1445 was using this method of magical timing, showing a link between ancient astrology and modern hoodoo. Thus while astrology is rare in hoodoo, this example is the best yet of the use of astrology by rootworkers. In addition, it is particularly noteworthy that the informant writes the astrological sign on the photograph. This is truly traditional astrological magic, right out of the pages of Cornelius Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy (1530).
So, I use hoodoo and traditional astrology because they work well together. I even have a Astrology for Rootworkers Course.
More on Hoodoo & Traditional Astrology; Hoodoo & Silver Procyon Anti-Curse talisman