The world has always had magic in it. Depending on the time and place, magic and the people who practice it have been known by various names: witch, wizard, folk magic, witchcraft, voodoo, rootworker, conjurer, hoodoo.
Black magic is not the same as blacks’ magic, but the confusion surrounding hoodoo persists. Many people equate hoodoo to black magic and all of the negative underlying implications, which may explain the fear that some associate with it.
But hoodoo is, in the plainest terms, simply magic.
People of the African diaspora have a long history with magic, starting with their diverse religious and cultural traditions. The transatlantic slave trade damaged the connection to their particular types of spirituality, but didn’t necessarily break it. As many Africans were transplanted to various areas around the globe, some of them forgot the magical ways of their homeland. Other times, they were stripped of it.
For many, their forced conversion to Christianity was to blame. Slave masters saw the superstitions of enslaved people as backwards and evil, in direct defiance of the Christian teachings they sought to impose on blacks. In some cases, this conversion to a new faith actually took root, but for others, they managed a surface appearance of piety as an appeasement to “Christian masters.” While some blacks readily accepted Catholicism or Protestantism, others quietly took bits of these religions and combined them with practices that were nearly lost to them, along with the deities and spirits from their homeland. The blending of these practices created a new type of magic.
For many in the American South, hoodoo was its name.
Enslaved blacks had no power — physically or legally. However, hoodoo gave them a sense of power. In Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition by Yvonne P. Chireau, the author notes that “Africans adapted their beliefs to the specific circumstances of their status as an enslaved people and utilized their traditions toward these ends for personal or collective empowerment.”
Unlike the religion of vodou, or vodun (more popularly known as voodoo, a word that calls to mind all kinds of malevolence to…