Conjure and rootwork are two words most used to describe the traditions and practices of both Hoodoo and Voodoo. Both traditions are rich in their African American roots, and to the untrained eye it may be hard to notice the difference.
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Hoodoo, often times referred to simply as conjure is a form of folk magic, that combines traditions from West African, Native American, & European spiritual practices. While commonly labeled as superstitious, practicers of Hoodoo are usually devoted to and pray to the (Biblical) 'Lord', and many of the Catholic Saints. Hoodoo is a form of magic, NOT a religion. Practitioners, while usually Orthodox Christian, can belong to and identify with any other religion and still be a practitioner of HooDoo.
Voodoo is a religion, and like most religions, it has many different variations and differing practices. There is Louisianan Voodoo, Haitian Vodou, West African Vodun, and Dominican Vudu'.
When Africans were brought to America for slave trade, they didn't leave their religions at home, all of their practices and beliefs stayed with them. However, they were not allowed to practice their own religions in the new world so the traditional African religions were blended with the religious practices of slave owners, as to escape scrutiny but still show loyalty to their roots.
The French occupied area of Louisiana was ruled by Catholicism, which is similar in many ways to the traditional African religions, which allowed a sort of 'blending' of the two. African deities were paired with Catholic Saints, to secretly still practice traditional religions. Thus, Louisiana Voodoo was born.
In the Low Country (the area covering most of the Carolinas, Georgia, and North Florida) the plantation and slave owners were Puritans. Christianity and traditional African religions did not pair as well, making for a more difficult survival for traditional religious practices. However, certain practices survived because of the needs in the new world. It's said that slave owners would consult with Root Doctors in search for gambling luck, money drawing, crossing and uncrossing, and finding love. This is how the traditions, existing today as folk magic, have survived. And it is also why many Hoodoo practitioners include bible scriptures and biblical figures in their practice.
Another great piece of history are the little islands that line the coasts of these Low Country states, where many former slaves retreated to after 1863. Knowing they were not yet truly free from the violence and dominion of their suppressors, many African Americans took to these secluded islands where their traditions, dialect, and the surviving pieces of their former religion were able to flourish. These people are the original practitioners of Hoodoo, and are known as Geechee, Gulluh, or Island people. (One of the many traditions that are still alive today and can be witnessed all over the Low Country is the use of "Haint Blue")
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A solitary and experienced Hedge Witch currently residing in Southern Virginia.
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