Book review: Backwoods Shamanism
This book is full of information. At first I wasn’t really sure what to think by the title of the book. The book is titled backwoods Shamanism, and for me most books on shamanism are vastly different from this book. Most books cover spirits of the land, trance work, and some rituals to honor those spirits. This book contains information on working with spirits and some rituals/ways to honor them but it is not your typical book on shamanism.
I’d put this as a mixture of shamanism and hoodoo myself which is what makes the book so unique. The author teaches about working with spirit and how we need to focus on the physical and the spiritual to heal and have holistic lives. Yet his approach to shamanism and shamanic work is not the familiar Native American style. Its more reminiscent of the African traditions which is due to the Hoodoo practices.
This book comes in three primary sections with five different appendix resources. Each section including the appendix actually deals with a specific and unique area of Hoodo/conjure work. This set up makes the book ideal as a reference for a beginner to the craft and spiritual practice that is Hoodoo.
The first section of the book is all about the history and basics of Hoodoo. One thing I like is how the author approached Hoodoo themselves. In many books you get the feeling that unless you were either raised in the south or are African American you can’t practice Hoodoo. He takes a slightly different approach to this view.
The author makes it clear this it is a specific culture or way of life that makes Hoodoo what it is. He makes it clear that if you can respect the origins and the culture that created Hoodoo you can practice it.
The author spends some time talking about the view of God in Hoodoo. He makes it clear that while Hoodoo is not a religion, a relationship with God and some spirits is essential. The view of God the author expresses is not a conventional view either which further shows that Hoodoo is not a religion but a holistic craft that deals with the spirit and the body together.
For those who are new to magic in general the author includes a basic idea about how magic works. He describes the process of working magic known as sympathetic magic or imitative magic.. This is also part of the authors explanation on how and why you will see things like hair, nails, shed skin and much more in Hoodoo workings.
The last bit of information in the foundation of the book is on ancestral veneration. Working with ancestral spirits is one of the key components that make Hoodoo what it is. The author includes the reasons for working with our ancestors as well as how we can work with them and instructions for setting up an ancestral altar.
The second section of the book is one I wish the author had spent more time with. This is the section on home remedies and folk medicine. A major component of Hoodoo is the medicinal work with herbs and treatments. It is here that the author gives information on the medicinal practices in Hoodoo.
Rootdoctors are one of the many names associated with hoodoo practitioners. This is because many rootworkers were also the neighborhood healers. They were the ones with the knowledge of what herbs could be used for healing what ailment. In the areas where Hoodoo was formed there was little to no money to go see a city doctor unless it was a major problem. So they relied on the local Root Doctors.
This section though is a bit too small. While there are instructions on the different medical terms for herbal mixtures and how they are used there are only a small handful of remedies available. The definitions of the types of remedies and the information on the doctrine of signatures is very useful.
The remedies offered include a cough syrup, flu relief, sleep aid, and a general salve. So while there are only a few remedies these are simple and are enough to start a newbie working on holistic medicine for themselves and their family. They are a starting point, and we all need someplace to start from.
Now we get to where the real meat of the work is. The third section in the book is all about the magical practice. The author titles this section Conjure. This section is full of spells, rituals, workings, and many other useful bits of information. This is why many people will buy the book.
The author starts off by going over the importance of performing divination before doing any sort of working. It is a part of the Hoodoo traditions. These readings not only tell you if work needs to be done but also what sort of work needs to be done to correct the situation you are in. The author covers bone reading and playing card reading and gives instructions on how to work with and use both of them.
The author covers mirror work, making a scrying mirror & scrying, container spells, a few bottle and jar spells, poppet, baths, and more. The author provides detailed instructions on how to perform each spell and how they will work.Something I had never heard of before were wish boxes. With the information provided by the author I may just make one myself.
The last section of the book before we get to the appendices and resources is a section on related traditions. Here the author provides what information he can on traditions that are related to Hoodoo or have similar practices. The author includes this information as he believe that there is something about Hoodoo that is attracting more and more people and that these related traditions may have connections to our own ancestral paths or have something that Hoodoo doesn’t and we need in our practice.
The book serves as an excellent primer on Hoodoo and provides a little bit of everything you need to get started in the practice of Hoodoo.