Rootwork: Using the Folk Magick of Black America for Love, Money, and Success is a very short and concise book. The author clearly wanted to provide a short and easy to read introduction to the practice of Hoodoo. The author wanted to provide a book where the individuals reading could come away feeling at least on a surface level familiar with the topic of Hoodoo and what Hoodoo was.
The short book covers history, the practice, and provides some simple spells and recipes that a novice could use to start their practice. The book is divided up into three parts. Each of the sections of the book provided insightful information but could have been more in depth.
The first part of the book covers the basics which includes the history and some of the basic cultural influences that have made Hoodoo what it is today. This section also defines what Hoodoo is and how it is different from the religion and spirituality of Voodoo. The section also does a basic introduction into the beliefs behind Hoodoo or Rootwork into why this system works. With any folk magic tradition it is essential to understand the culture and the history of the culture the magic system comes from. Without these understandings the practical aspects of the system become useless and one will never really understand what the system has to provide.
The first chapter in the book covers what Hoodoo is as a practice. This is probably one of the most essential chapters in this book. Here the author illustrates why Hoodoo is actually a different system than voodoo. It is also here that we begin to understand the role that Hoodoo played within the slave communities during the years that the slave trade existed. The author also barely covers how the practice managed to survive and adapt. This is also where we see how important herbs played in the roles of the lives of the African Americans historically.
The second chapter covers the history of Hoodoo. Here we see why the practice basically disappeared thanks to regulations in the US regarding slaves and congregations. This chapter also explains why there are various regional differences in southern and central America as well as within the Caribbean Islands that you will not find in the United States tradition of Hoodoo. This is due to the culture of those regions and how easily the slaves were able to adapt their native practices to that of the practices of the slave owners. The author’s main point in these illustrations is that Hoodoo arose out of the slave trade and it is important that we never forget that Hoodoo was and is the connection African Americans have to their native ancestral tribal practices.
Here the author explains that Hollywood has bee one of the biggest contributors to the misunderstanding of hoodoo as a magical practice rather than a religious practice. It is thanks to Hollywood that Hoodoo is seen as an evil practice rather than a rich system of healing spells and life work. While it is true they had spells and practices to harm others and defend the family, Hoodoo originated as a healing system as the slaves could not afford traditional medical care.
The author also illustrates within the chapter the reasons that a person may practice Hoodoo. Given the origins of the tradition and the terrible history of slavery it is a solid question. The authors answers are simple. The author provides 5 simple reasons that any one of African descent may want to practice or learn Hoodoo. The two reasons I found most inspiring are to connect to your ancestors log dead and for spiritual and personal growth and empowerment.
The third chapter and final portion of part one is about how Hoodoo works. Before going into the basic techniques and practices of Hoodoo one should have a basic understanding of the beliefs associated with this tradition. The six commonly held beliefs of Hoodoo Rootworkers forms the basis of how the tradition works. A perfect way to end the first part of the book.
The second part of the book provides some insight as to what the practice of Hoodoo may entail. This section of the book is aptly titled “Elements of Rootwork”. This section of the book is not meant to be a practicum or how to. This is a section that talks about the practices you will find in the how to section. A few of the techniques and practices have some exercises on how to perform that particular practice or use that skill. Overall the segment of the book was designed to introduce you to the basic skills and practices you may find a Hoodoo or a Rootworker engaging in.
The fourth chapter in this book starts off the elements section. For those who are familiar with European systems of magic you may be surprised to find a chapter on the elements and how the elemental forces of earth, air, fire, and water, are used in Hoodoo. This chapter covers how each element has a specific type of magical act that may be used as well as the properties of that element. The concepts here are new and useful to those coming from a European background looking for other ways they can work with the elemental forces of magic.
The fifth chapter in the book covers talismans and charms. Out of all the practices associated with Hoodoo the practices of talismans and charms is probably the most thought of and common one. Here the author goes into some of the traditional Hoodoo charms and talismans that many people are not familiar with covering the use of herbs as talismans by themselves as well as covering the use of human and animal parts. There is also a section on how to most effectively place the talisman or charm for its effect called “laying a trick”.
The sixth chapter in this book covers spirits of the dead. The chapter begins by discussing the types of spirits of the dead that one can experience and meet. The book then goes on to how to honor them and provides a few different examples on how one can communicate with them.
The last chapter in this section covers the various forms of divination that a Hoodoo practitioner may engage in. There are many different methods of divination. The author here explains why divination is engaged in prior to spell and ritual work. The majority of this chapter covers how to perform divination using simple day to day playing cards.
The final section of the book is the one that I was most eagerly interested as a reader which was the selection of spells and recipes to try. The final section of this book is what brings the book from an informative book about the history, practices, and tradition into a practical handbook.
The eighth chapter of this book focuses on what one needs to know before one can actually practice or use the spells and rituals outlined in the following chapters. This very short chapter is essential as it provides a few guidelines to using the spells effectively.
The remaining three chapters are made up of spells and rituals that are written in a step by step manner making them easy to use. Each of the spells contains a list of materials that are required followed by a list of actions and steps to take. Some of the spells have ingredients or actions mentioned earlier in the elemental magic section, but when combined the spells provide useful tools for creating a basic practice.
To end the author provides a selection of providers for spell and ritual supplies. Combined with the spells earlier and the techniques outlined throughout the book this final touch creates a useful handbook for any one to use. Together with the spells the providers and the authors make Hoodoo accessible in the 21st century to a wider selection of people than ever before.