Most folks are forget what Hoodoo is: folk magic. It’s about making do in magick to make ends meet. It’s wrapping finished work in newspaper before disposal, forgetting the moon phase when a job needs done, and putting your country wit to use in your craft. It’s using Madder Root to make a red dye because you have no red twine. And if you ain’t got that, God won’t mind what color string it is.
Hoodoo is taking simple items and unthought-of plants and applying prayer and work to them to make the world work in your favor. Hoodoo is laying on of hands with a prayer to God. It’s stopping a flow of blood with a bible verse and leaving cornbread out for the Good Folk to keep on good terms. It’s getting up at the ass-crack of dawn for a bath, and then waiting for the roosters to call before throwing the bath water towards the rising sun. It’s helping folk who need it, and assisting those with their wants. Appalachian Hoodoo is witchcraft wrapped with southern hospitality and seasoned with common sense. It’s the poor man’s work and mamaw’s blackberry jam. It’s more than just a way of life or how things are: it’s our blood and bones and the mud beneath our feet.
We seem to have forgotten this, the roots of the work we do. The hoodoo I practice has been growing and mixing for hundreds of years, putting roots into the sticky clay of poverty, sprouting through hardships and wars, and is sustained on the sunlight of common sense and hope in these hills. We gonna get y’all back to those roots.
While our days are far different from mamaw’s, we still got the same wit and sense about things. Long since those days on the mountains, the fire has been replaced by the electric stoves, gardens replaced by super markets, and groves replaced by suburbs in the valleys. But the meanings still there. Those imprints remain. Mountain folk always take pride in their ways. Some say it’s to make up for the stresses of poverty and life in these hills. I say it’s the spirit of the mountains, the war cries of the Cherokee, and the mountain songs of freed slaves reverberating in our bones and the ground under us. Our bones are filled with the strength of the Cherokee and our blood runs deep with the Irish temperament.
It is my personal opinion that using what’s around the home and searching the cabinets for items to employ for a specific purpose adds power to your work. As you’re searching, you’re constantly focused on the job at hand. This energy is then used to set the work off right when you begin working.
So here’s a list of reminders of how to use household items and extremely common plants in your rootwork.
Plantain – known by the Cherokee as White Man’s Foot, plantain has been used as a medicine and a tool by mountain folks. Make a poultice to help sooty big bites, bee stings and other skin irritations. Place a bundle above the door to deter thiefs and unwanted guests. Soak in water with dandelion root and a dollar bill to make a prosperity wash.
Dandelion – the young leaves are great as a spring tonic and in salads. The older leaves are bitter. The flowers are employed in love work and cleansing. The root is used for prosperity.
Moss – use this to stuff your dollies and make witch balls. It can also be used to cross someone, aid in protection, and to draw money and paying customers. To cross someone, grind it to a powder and mix with cornmeal and black pepper. Sprinkle on their property and if you can water it right away. The moss spores will then begin growing on their lawn. To draw money, do the same process, but replace the black pepper with ground dandelion leaf.
Black pepper and salt – this is the simplest mixture known as black salt in European witchcraft. This mixture can be used for protection from unwanted spirits and to keep people from returning; toss it behind them as they leave. As it protects, so too can it harm.
Cornmeal – cornmeal acts like salt: it does what you tell it to. Sprinkle it across the front porch while reciting Psalms 23, taking an odd number of steps backward as you do so. This is the oldest way of laying powders.
Tomatoes – the seeds are carried in sachets to help with a woman’s menses and to help her conceive. The leaves are used in workings to air out a person’s secrets.
Potatoes – potatoes are used for prosperity, healing, and crossing work, specifically to give illness. All parts of the plant are used. Slice a potato in half and fill it with the target’s concerns, bindweed, and Virginia snake root. Close it up with twine and stick 9 pins in it. Hide this somewhere the target will walk across, like under their porch. This will give them a suffering illness but won’t make them perish. For prosperity, fill it with a dollar bill, dandelion root, and honeysuckle root. Bury this in the front yard or under the porch.
Corn – dollies are made from the husks and the cob for prosperity and healing, especially for pregnant women. Place an old cob over the door or bury beneath the doorstep for protection and luck. Corn silk is used in love work. Stuff dollies with it when working for love.
Grapevine – not sure how it got it, but it seems to be everywhere here. Most older folks use the vines to make wreaths and baskets. It can be used for love, bindings, protection, and to paralyze enemies. Sometimes literally.
Bottle caps – these nifty little things can be used for so much! Nail a hole in the upper part and run a string through it. You can load these little fellers with herbs and some drops of oil for just about anything. Seal it in there with wax and wear it about. I have a white pillar candle used just for sealing things.
Twigs – if you live near trees, you got twigs available. These can be used to stir oils, make seed holes when planting, make dollies from them. There’s a whole mess of things. We usually go by the type of tree when using twigs in work. For more information on trees in Appalachian Hoodoo, click Here.
Old knives – growing up a man in these hills, you’ll acquire a shitload of pocket knives, given by fathers and uncles and that man from the family reunion. I’m not going to explain what knives are used for, obviously, but pocket knives and kitchen knives are used magically for protection. Stick a knife handle in the dirt on the south side on the house to avert a bad storm. Place a knife under the bed of a woman in labor and it’s said it’ll cut the pain down. If someone gives you a knife, you have to give them a penny or dime bad, otherwise it’s bad luck and the relationship will be cut in half.
Yarrow stalks – while not a household item or grocery store product, this “weed” grows every where. I use them to make corks for bottles. You get enough of them, about two inches long. Measure them to the mouth of the bottle to make sure it will fit tight. Wrap it well with sewing twine in the center of the bundle. This wrapping should be about 3/4 an inch wide over the bundle. Tie it off and pour some hot wax over the place you wrapped. Before it cools, jam it in the bottle to cork it and let the wax cool. If done right, your seal should be water resistant. That don’t mean leave the bottle upside down though.
Shoe sole – we all got old shoes and the grannies put good use to papaw’s old shoes, ’cause we don’t waste. The left sole of a shoe (of a man) is cut up and put in a fire. The ashes are then carried in sachets or used in work to bring good luck, money, or paying customers to the store front.
Driftwood – playing by the lake as a child, I always found pieces of driftwood. Remember when I said we don’t waste? Driftwood is nailed into the ground for protection from bad spirits and poverty. As the lake is always full, so may your pockets be as well. Haint-blue string can also be tied around them to further mark the property.
Baking soda – I use this in my baths and washes for cleansing and removing bad stuff from you. For a cleansing and protection bath mix 2 tbs with 1 cup of salt and 1 cap of Ammonia in a bath tub.
Gravel – before paved roads we had gravel and dirt. Some places are still like that here. Gravel from your driveway is used for protection and grounding, keep you sane where ever you must be. Lift the sole of your shoe and sprinkle the dust in there while saying Psalms 23 for protection. Put gravel at the bottom of your coin jug to keep the house prosperous. Not sure if any of you grew up with one, but a coin jug was a ten gallon jug that we’d put our loose change in. Got one stuck on my head once when I was little. That was traumatic.
Broken glass – we all break stuff. Shit, it’s a good day if I don’t end up breaking something. Keep those shards for good use when neededinstead of tossing them in the garbage. Use it for protection or baneful work. Get creative.
Sugar and sugar bags/boxes – sugar is used to sweeten things up, either situations or people. The bags of sugar, once empty, are ripped up and saved to be used as name papers and petitions.
Dirty Dishwater – while it ain’t really dirty, just a grey color, use this for baneful work, getting rid of old habits, banishing, etc. This one I learned from Byron Ballard.
Soap – in a pinch, mix some liquid soap and salt while saying your prayers. Wash with this mixture to cleanse you. Bars of soap can also be carved into poppets to use in your works.
Red clay – these mountains are full of it. After a rain, it’ll stick to your shoes and weigh you down. It’s a pain in the ass to walk through and dig in. However, it’s usefulness resides in rootwork. Dry it and powder it, sprinkle across the doorstep for protection and prosperity. It can also be added to sachets for fertility and stability.
Eggs – they are used for cleansings, divination, banishings, and bindings. However, the egg of a black hen can be employed best in bane work.
Newspaper – we use this, and any other kind of found paper, to wrap old works up in before their disposal. I’ve heard that I keeps other energies from touching the work, but I haven’t looked further into it.
Silk – this isn’t traditional, but this is used just like newspaper. I’ve experimented with it and it will not accept any kind of charge. Nor does it seem it lets anything pass through it. I wrap my sachets in this when I mail them to clients, to protect the bag from foreign energies.
Aluminum foil – I’ve always had an odd fetish for this stuff. Never really use it for keeping food well, just mostly in my works. As a kid I would shape it into animals like ducks and cats. When you don’t have one of those “mirror boxes” everyone yaps about, wrap the person up in this stuff to keep em firing at themselves with their bullshit. Works just the same. Aluminum is also non-conductive and contains heat, so the longer they try, the more they suffer their own words and works. It is also silver, which we relate to the moon. Tiny pieces can be added to sachets after sitting under the full moon for healing and protection. I just self-induced an image of tin-foil hats….
Flowers – I remember when one of my grandmothers had a flower shop run out of the basement. Flowers were everywhere. We go by a distinct flower language with our works, decorations and events. For a funeral there is often lillies and yarrow – purity and everlasting love. In some rural parts, rosemary is still included as to mean “I will remember”. Roses of red and white are used in weddings for purity and love. Yellow roses are given to friends and the sick for friendship, healing, and devotion. Mimosas are for charity, apple blossoms say “I adore you and prefer you”, and Belladonna means “silence”. Flowers can be dried and added to store bought wreaths for luck, protection, and good health. Or make your own wreath from grapevine. To keep the color of the flower, spray it with a mixture of water and limon juice, dry it in a dark place, and maybe give it a spray or two to hair spray to keep its form.
Alcohol – from beer to vodka, alcohol is used based on the drink. Beer and wine are sometimes given as offerings to the land spirits and Ancestors. Liquor is mostly used to preserve things and situations. It can also cool them down or water down their behavior.
Grease – we all had grannies who saved old grease to reuse. While I never saw them use all of it before using newly bought grease, I suspect they used it in other things. I personally use it in my works. Hot grease is good for “getting the root cooking” and heating the work up. Cooled grease is used for baneful work and to make your enemies sluggish in their endeavors. I only use this in bottles and jar works. DO NOT GET IT NEAR A FLAME.
Cough syrup – regardless of flavor, add this to workings to get the sluggishness out, especially with works that are acting slow and “congested”.
Toothpaste – I have personally used this like honey, to get things to stick. I’ve also used it as a substitute for mint to draw money and health.
Water – it’s use is based on when and where it’s collected. During a thunderstorm, it adds power to the work and can be used for protection. If it rains while the sun is still shining or barely any clouds present in the sky, this is used for great healing. We call that sun water. During a dark or waning moon, use this in banework (especially if it’s from a ditch) or for planting long term seeds. On a full moon, use this for fertility and to help with a woman’s menses. Water from a well is good for prosperity and healing. Willow water is made by soaking Willow leaves and fronds (harvested in the Spring) in water for a period of time as it sits in the sun. This is rubbed on the temples to aid headaches and other pains. Willow water can also be used for healing and removing warts. Snowmelt is water from melted snow. Use this to cool down situations or people, or to calm yourself when you need more clarity.
Colored glass – while it’s more common than it was then, colored glass shards can be placed in the garden, between plants. Or they can be hung from trees. This is done for protection and to cut misfortune as it approaches the door.
Stones – these can be stones found by the river or the lake, or in your driveway. Stones remember and hold things, you’ve heard of a worry stone right? Rub the stone while thinking about all your worries and stresses. Say a prayer for them to go into the stone and throw it in the water. River stones are usually for much longer works, like quitting drinking. The same is done with one stone for a number of months. The process may need to be repeated. Stones are also good for casting things out. Get some pokeberries and mash them up. Using that paste, write on the stone the thing you wish to be rid of. Take it far from the home and cast it to the west. Best done on the dark or waning moon.
Bottles and jars – these are pretty self explanatory. Reuse old jelly jars, peanut butter jars… mayonnaise jars are my favorite. I use old two-liter soda bottles for big batches of oils. When my husband goes to get beer at One Stop, the container is an amber glass jug. I have about five of those now that I make my batches of oils and washes in.
Leaves – if the leaf is big enough, it can be used as a petition. Fold it up with some herbs and stones, and bind it with twine to make a sachet packet. Again it is based on the plant it’s from and the work at hand.
Plants – whether house plants or garden plants, if they are old and tough then they can take the negativity you collect and transform it. Set out glasses of water with prayers to drain the house of negative energy. This water can then be used to nourish the plants. There are many uses of the plants themselves of course, but they also make a goood ally in other ways in folk magic.
Old shoe laces and strings – use these in your binding works and knot magics. Always keep a ball of hemp in the house. It’s uses are numerous.
Old fabric – many of us have fabric scrapings left behind after crafts. Save them and later sew them together to make a unique sachet bag. It’ll also save on buying more fabric. Strips can also be tied to trees with wishes. Take a strip of fabric and soak it in warm holy water. Hold this over a wound or where the pain is. Once the water cools, take it out far from the house and tie it to a fence or tree. As the fabric dries the pain or illness will subside. Some also take the fabric out and beat it on a large stone to beat the disease out.
Leather – tanned leather is used for many purposes such as: making gambling packets, pouches, etc. Recently in the past 50 years or so, Appalachian workers have began to use the old leather patches on old, worn jeans as sachet packets specially for good luck and gambling for men. Nana hated when papaw’d cut me off before going down to the casinos in Cherokee.
Milk – today milk can be expensive, depending on your location in the country. Back in the day, it was still expensive for the mountain folk, who couldn’t get it fresh. Others used the milk straight from their cows and goats. I add milk to my jars to keep others from peeping in on it. It also makes a great offering to the land spirits. Use it in works for fertility and cleansing. Milk from a solid black cow is also great for uncrossing work.
While this is not a complete list of the household things I use, it should be good enough to get you started and get those creative gears moving. Use your wits and common sense, but stay safe.
Like us on Facebook and follow the blog to be updated with new post in your email!