October is Hoodoo Heritage Month! Hoodoo is an umbrella term to describe the conjuring, culture, and community of Black Americans. It’s often regarded as a Black spiritual tradition that focuses on nature and ancestral reverence.
Hoodoo Heritage Month started in 2019 when Hoodoo and Pre-Elder Mama Rue shared a post about African American spirituality on Facebook and proposed a Hoodoo Heritage Day. The Walking the Dikenga Collective extended the idea from a day to a month, and Hoodoo Heritage Month was born. What was originally a weekend event filled with teaching and classes is now a social media and community celebration of all things Hoodoo.
Hess Love, Hoodoo Historian, Archivist, and Environmental Activist says that October is the perfect month because it correlates with the thinning of the veil between our physical world and the spiritual realm. For them, Hoodoo Heritage Month is “a wonderful month of celebration, exploration, history lessons, and connections and also people learning about how pragmatic this tradition is and dynamic it is at the same time.”
If you search the hashtag #HoodooHeritageMonth on social media, you’re sure to find many resources seeking to educate Black Americans about Hoodoo. The Walking the Dikenga Collective created certain dates to commemorate the great Hoodoo ancestors:
October 2: Nat Turner Day
October 6: Fannie Lou Hamer Day
October 21: Day of our Fathers
October 23: Day of our Children
October 25: Day of our Mothers
Third Thursday: John the Conqueror Day
October 31: Crossroads Day
Mama Rue spoke with MADAMENOIRE on the importance of sharing information about these ancestors. For John the Conqueror Day, she says,
“White-washed Hoodoo doesn’t even acknowledge John the Conqueror that much because he’s been white-washed to be the type of Spirit that helps men with their virility, help men get women, help gamblers get lucky, and he’s so much more than that, and you get to learn the truth about this Spirit and what this Spirit means to us and our people.”
This white-washing has extended to other Hoodoo spirits such as the Spirit of the Crossroads. While regionally and culturally the Spirit is treated differently, mainstream media has equated this spirit to a demonic force that grants wishes in exchange for your soul, such as with Robert Johnson. The Spirit of the Crossroads is actually a spirit that operates at the crossroads between the physical and spiritual realms.
Thankfully, Mama Rue, Hess Love, and other Hoodoos are sharing the truth of our tradition with other Black folks on social media.
Around the creation of Hoodoo Heritage Month, Mama Rue felt called by her Spirits to speak out against the culture of half-truths, misconceptions, and cultural appropriation surrounding Hoodoo. She says, “Hoodoo is often seen as the bastard stepchild of the ATRs (African Traditional Religions). Folks from that lens tend to say, ‘Hoodoo is just tricks. There is no spirit involved and there’s no initiation.’”
Hoodoo Heritage Month seeks to set the record straight.
Hoodoo, as a tradition, has waxed and waned in visibility in the United States. Mama Rue explains,
“During slavery, our ancestors were not allowed to express any sort of African traditional practices. There were repercussions. Our ancestors being so clever and being the geniuses that they were figured, ‘We can still do our work and work this crossroads because we didn’t make that and they can’t punish us for walking around it, and honoring our ancestors and honoring the spirits that our ancestors revere.’ We were able to sort of sneak our practice in without anyone watching or being truly aware of what was going on.”
These practices were hidden in various parts of Black culture, including the Black church, but in recent years Black folks have been turning away from the Black church.
Mama Rue shares,
“A lot of us were leaving our churches and were talking about abuse in church. Different types: financial abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse.”
She claims this mass exodus left many people feeling like spiritual orphans because they had a strong spiritual need with no way to channel it outside of the church structure.
While our ancestors had to hide their African spirituality, we’ve seen a shift in the past decade. Black celebrities such as Beyoncé and Solange, writers such as Tracy Deonn and Jesmyn Ward and even the Nap Bishop herself, Tricia Hersey openly celebrate Black spirituality in their work. This artistic movement coupled with the mass exodus from the church has led to a widespread reclamation of Hoodoo.
Both Mama Rue and Hess Love say that Hoodoo, and by extension, Hoodoo Heritage Month, is for descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States and descendants of free Black people during the time of enslavement. While many Black people have stepped away from the church, Mama Rue reminds us that church-going Black folks remain one of the biggest preservers of Hoodoo and are therefore always welcomed in the tradition.
Hess goes further and tells MN,
“It’s for Black folks who live and love and want to be part of an intentional Black community and also not running away from themselves. There are some Black people who have no desire and no intention of being in community with Black people in a particular way. It’s for Black people who love other Black people. It’s for Black folks who love their ancestors. It’s for Black people who may be displaced in their community but have a type of allyship with the land and the air.”
Hoodoo Heritage Month is now a celebration of many Black people returning to the tradition of our ancestors. It’s a time for Black people to honor our ancestors, community, the environment, and ourselves.
Mama Rue says,
“It’s a time for us to get in touch with the things that our ancestors brought to this land that were broken up, fragmented, lied on, etc. It’s our way to move toward complete liberation. It’s our way of righting certain wrongs especially in the practice of ancestor reverence.”
Ancestor reverence operates on the belief that our ancestors continue to exist long after they die. As spirits, we can honor them through learning about and sharing their stories, building an altar, giving them offerings, or simply talking with them. Through this relationship, the ancestors can help improve our lives, whether that’s spiritually, emotionally, financially or however we need them to.
For Black folks who are interested in Hoodoo, Hess suggests,
“If you’re curious about something and it peaks your interest, ask why does it peak your interest? If you see a Hoodoo talking about a particular ancestor, dive deeper about that. If you see someone talking about how to use plants and herbs and you still feel called to it, if you have memories from childhood where you used to talk to trees, dive into that.”
It’s through this exploratory process that we can begin to understand the work that our ancestors are calling us to do.
During this fourth annual Hoodoo Heritage Month, Mama Rue shares,
“I am so proud of what the younger people are doing with this information. I’m so proud of the journeys that they have the courage to plant their feet on and start taking those steps and manifesting and creating the life that they want for themselves, their families, and their community.”
This Hoodoo Heritage Month, it’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to practice Hoodoo. While different families and regions practice differently, Hoodoo is inclusive of all of our differences. Hoodoo is in our blood. It’s how we live, and it’s a reminder that we need our ancestors, community, and the Earth to truly thrive.
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