I originally posted this review on http://www.ingridhall.com, but it seemed in keeping with my blog so I decided to post it here as well….
Rachel Patterson, also known as Tansy Firedragon, is an experienced witch and a Wiccan High Priestess. Rachel was lucky enough to study with the highly respected Janet Farrer and Gavin Bone on their Progressive Magic Course. She is also familiar with Shamanism, hoodoo and tarot and many other pathways; she has links to the Order of Bards and Druids. She is also the founder of the Kitchen Witch Online School of Witchery.
Hoodoo Folk Magic by Rachel Patterson
This book is a concise guide to practical hoodoo. Coming in at under 100 pages it contains a brief introduction to the historical origins of Hoodoo (African-American Folk-magic and root work, as distinct from the religious practice of Voodoo). The book contains well-defined sections on all of the main topics including types of root work: laying tricks and jinxes; spiritual washes; candle magic etc. The book also provides a plethora of useful recipes for powders, washes and conjure oils including some new, and some old, such as the wonderfully named Bend Over Oil (it’s not what you think – it is intended to bend another to your will….oh well on second thoughts..I suppose actually it could be for that too…). It also provides a brief introduction to various relevant deities and spirits, glossary of terms and some useful sources for further study.
I know very little about Hoodoo,other than what I have picked up from a variety of cheesy horror films, so I was very curious to find out more about this subject. As it happened I found the subject explained in a fascinating and straightforward manner. I was intrigued by the similarities and dissimilarities with European Witchcraft and the incorporation of elements of Christianity. One of the aspects that I found undeniably enticing but also a bit scary related to the dark side of Hoodoo practice. Patterson is a witch of many years standing and as such is clearly aware of the ‘And it harm none’ philosophy of modern witchcraft. However, hoodoo does not appear to have such caveats – and Patterson fully acknowledges this and gleefully delves into its dark side.
Although she does warn that if you use magic for harm you are likely to receive harm in return this is not overly stressed in the book, and I think that possibly the Hoodoo philosophy here isn’t so much ‘Do what thou wilt, an it harm none’ but ‘Do what thou wilt – but don’t get caught!’. After one particular section on laying tricks on an enemy I had an admittedly hilarious but worrying image of some over-keen Hoodoo newbie lobbing a bottle full of coffin nails, graveyard dirt and bodily fluids at the porch of some unfortunate neighbour and ending up with an Asbo!
Nevertheless, Hoodoo is not all about laying jinxes on your mortal enemies (tempting as that might be) it is primarily about positive and beneficial magic designed to improve your life, and although not a religion in itself, does form part of the practices of many religions such as Haitian Vodou, Cuban Santeria and West African Yoruba and as such should be given due respect.
I very much enjoyed this book, and probably will try some of the recipes for incense and washes – although will probably steer clear of jinxing anyone! As a keen history geek I would have loved a bit more on the history of the this tradition and the deities involved, but as the aim of the book is to present a practical guide for hoodoo practitioners history clearly wasn’t its primary focus. Patterson did however provide some fascinating biographies of some of the famous names associated with Hoodoo, such as Doctor John and Marie Laveau – I will definitely be doing some further reading on these intriguing characters.
Patterson presents a very individual interpretation of Hoodoo for the modern, possibly urban practitioner, an audience possibly with other Craft experience but who has not necessarily been raised within the traditions of hoodoo. As such it is not pure ‘traditional’ hoodoo – and some may object to this. Importantly Patterson is strongly against the sacrifice of animals for rituals or spells (here here!) but does suggest some harmless and innovative solutions to this aspect of the practice.
I would say that this book’s ideal audience of potential practitioners might be those who already have some expertise in their current field of magic – some of the practices might be a bit ‘strong’ for newbies – and after all as the author points out no magical practice should be undertaken lightly and without proper precautions. All in all though it was an entertaining and informative book about a very misunderstood and maligned area of magical practice.
Hoodooo Folk Magic by Rachel Patterson is due to be published by Moon Books on 30 August 2013.
Find out more about Rachel Patterson/Tansy Firedragon on her website: