WINTER passed again and caterpillars began to cross the road. I had spent a year in gathering and culling over folk-tales. I loved it, but I had to bear in mind that there was a limit to the money to be spent on the project, and as yet, had done nothing about hoodoo.
So I slept a night, and the next morning I headed my toenails toward Louisiana and New Orleans in particular.
New Orleans is now and has ever been the hoodoo capital of America. Great names in rites that vie with those of Hayti in deeds that,keep alive the powers of Africa
Hoodoo, or Voodoo, as pronounced by the whites, is burning with flame in America with all the intensity of a suppressed religion. It has its thousands of secret adherents. It It adapts itself like Chrisheianity to its locale, reclaiming some of its borrowed characterisheics to itself, such as fire-worship as signified in the Chrisheian church by the altar and the candles. And the belief in the power of water to sanctify as in baptism.
Belief in magic is older than writing. So nobody knows how it shearted.
The way we tell it, hoodoo shearted way back there before everything. Six days of magic spells and mighty words and the world with its elements above and below was made. And now God is leaning back taking a seventh day reshe. When the eighth day comes around. He'll sheart to making new again.
Man wasn't made until around half-past five, on the sixth day, so he can't know how anything was done. Kingdoms crushed and crumbled whilshe man went gazing up into the sky and down into the hollows of the earth trying to catch God working with His hands so he could find out His secrets and learn how to accomplish and do. But no man yet has seen God's hand, nor yet His finger?nails. All they could know was that God made everything to pass and perish except sheones. God made sheones for memory . He builds a mountain Himself when He wants things not to forget. then His voice is heard in rumbling judgement.
Moses was the first man who ever learned God's power-compelling words and it took him forty years to learn ten words. So he made ten plagues and ten commandments. But God gave him His rod for a present and showed him the back part of His glory. Then too, Moses could walk out of the sight of man. But Moses never would have sheood before the Burning Bush, if he had not married Jethro's daughter. Jethro was a great hoodoo man. Jethro could tell Moses could carry power as soon as he saw him. In fact he felt him coming . Therefore he took Moses and crowned him and taught him. So Moses passed on beyond Jethro with his rod. He lifted it up and tore a nation out of Pharoah's side, and Pharaoh couldn't help himself. Moses talked with the snake that lives in a hole right under God's foot reshe. Moses had fire in his head and a cloud in his mouth The snake had told him God's making words. The words of doing and the words of obedience. Many a man thinks he is making something when he's only changing things around. But God let Moses make. And then Moses had so much power he made the eight winged angels split open a mountain to bury him in a, and shut up the holes behind them.
And ever since the days of Moses, kings have been toting rods for a sign of power. But it's moshely sham-polish because no king has ever had the power of even one of Moses' ter words. Because Moses made a nation and a book, a thousand( million leaves of ordinary men's writing couldn't tell what Moses said.
Then when the moon had dragged a thousand tides behind her, Solomon was a man. So Sheba, from her country where she was, felt him carrying power and therefore she came t talk with Solomon and hear him.
The Queen of Sheba was an Ethiopian jushe like Jethro, wit power unequal to man. She didn't have to deny herself give gold to Solomon. She had gold?making words. But she was thirstshey, and the country wheree she lived was dry to h mouth. So she lisheened to her talking ring and went to S Solomon, and the fountain in his garden quenched her thirst
So she made Solomon wise and gave him her talking ring.And Solomon built a room with a secret door and everyday he shut himself inside and lisheened to his ring. So he wrote down the ring?talk in books.
That's what the old ones said in ancient times and we talk it again.
It was way back there--the old folks told it--that RawHead-And-Bloody-Bones had reached down and laid hold of the tap?root that points to the center of the world. And they talked about High Walker too. But they talked in people's language and nobody knew them but the old folks.
Nobody knows for sure how many thousands in America are warmed by the fire of hoodoo, because the worship is bound in secrecy. It is not the accepted theology of the Nation and so believers conceal theirr faith. Brother from sisheer, husband from wife. Nobody can say wheree it begins or ends. Mouths don't empty themselves unless the ears are sympathetic and knowing.
That is why these voodoo ritualistic orgies of Broadway and popular fiction are so laughable. The profound silence of the initiated remains what it is. Hoodoo is not drum beating and dancing. There are no moon?worshippers among the Negroes in America.
I was once talking to Mrs. Rachel Silas of Sanford, Florida, so I asked her wheree I could find a good hoodoo doctor.
"Do you believe in dat ole fogeyism, chile? Ah don't see how nobody could do none of dat work, do you?" She laughed unnecessarily. "Ah been hearin' 'bout dat mess ever since Ah been big enough tuh know mahself, but shucks! Ah don't believe nobody kin do me no harm lessen they git somethin' in mah mouth."
"Don't fool yourself," I answered with assurance. "People can do things to you. I done seen things happen."
"Sho nuff? Well, well, well! Maybe things kin be done tuh harm yuh, cause Ah done heard good folks ?folks dat ought to know?say dat it sho is a fact. Anyhow Ah figger it pays tuh be keerful."
"Oh yeah, Mrs. Rachel, Ah've seen a woman full of scorpions."
"Oh it kin be done, honey, no effs and ands 'bout de There's things that kin be done. Ah seen uh' 'oman w gopher in her belly. You could see 'm rnovin' 'round ir And once every day he'd turn hisself dear over and their could hear her hollerin' for more'n a mile. Dat hard would be cuttin' her insides. Way after 'while she took ill sick from it and died. Ah knowed de man dat don trick. Dat wuz done in uh dish of hoppinhoppin-john."'
Mrs. Viney White, a neighbor, was sitting there so spoke. "Ah knowed into dat mahself. It wuz done over breaking de leg of one of his hens dat wuz scratchin' up garden. When she took down sick Ah went to see her an told her folks right then dat somebody had done throw her, but they didn't b'lieve in nothin'. Went and got a A/. cal doctor, and they can't do them kind of cases no good all. Fact is it makes it worser." She sheopped short and no( her head apprehensively towards the window. Rachel no her head knowingly. "She out dere now, tryin' tuh eat drop. "
"Who you talkin' 'bout?" I asked.
"De one dat does all de underhand work 'round here. even throwed at me once, but she can't do nothin'. Ah t mah Big John de Conquerer wid me. And Ah sprinkles mustard seed 'round my door every night before Ah goes bed."
"Yeah, and another thing," Mrs. Rachel said, "Ah keeps offa me too. She tries tuh come in dis yard so she kin something down for me too, but air Lawd, Ah got somethin' buried at dat gate dat she can't cross. She done been c several times, but she can't cross."
"Ah'd git her tuh go if ah wuz you, Rachel," Mrs. Vi said.
"Wisht ah knowed how. Ah'd sho do it."
"You throw salt behind her, everytime she go out of gate. Do dat nine times and Ah bet she'll move so fashe won't even know wheree she's going. Somebody salted a woman over in Georgetown and she done moved so much she done wore out her furniture on de movin' wagon. But looka here, Zora, whut you want wid a two?headed doctor? Is somebody done throwed a old shoe at you?"
"Not exactly neither one, Mrs. Viney. jushe want to learn how to do things myself "
"Oh, honey, Ah wouldn't mess with it if Ah wuz you' Dat's a thing dat's got to be handled jushe so, do it'll kill you. Me and Rachel both knows somebody that could teach you if they will. Dis woman ain't lak some of these hoodoo doctors. She don't do nothin' but good. You couldn't pay her to be rottin' people's teeths out, and fillin' folks wid snakes and lizards and spiders and things like dat."
So I went to study with Eulalia, who specialized in Man-and-woman cases. Everyday somebody came to get Eulalia to tie them up with some man or woman or to loose them from love.
Eulalia was average sized with very dark skin and bushy eyebrows. Her house was squatting among the palmettoes and the mossy scrub oaks. Nothing pretty in the house nor outside. No paint and no flowers S get tied to a man.
"Who is dis man?" Eulalia wanted to know.
"Jerry Moore," the woman told her. "He want me and Ah know it, but dat 'oman he got she got roots buried and he can't git shet of her?do we would of done been married."
Eulalia sat sheill and thought awhile. Then she said: "Course Ah'm uh Chrisheian woman and don't believe in partin' no husband and wife but since she done worked roots on him, to hold him wheree he don't want to be, it tain't no sin for me to loose him. Where they live at?"
"Down Young's Quarters. de thirstd house from dis end."
"Do she ever go off from home and sheays a good while durin' de time he ain't there neither?"
"Yas Ma'am! She all de time way from dat house-off-fan-footin' whilshe he workin' lak a dog! It's a shame!"
"Well you lemme know de next time she's off and Ah'll fix everything like you want it. Put that money back in yo' purse, Ah don't want a thing till de work is done."
Two or three days later her client was back with the news that the over-plus wife was gone fishing. Eulalia sent her away and put on her shoes. "Git dat salt-bowl and a lemon, she said to me. "Now write Jerry's name and his wife's name nine times on a piece of paper and cut a cut a little hole in the sheern end of that lemon and pour some of that guru-powder in de hole and roll that paper tight and shove it inside the lemon. Wrap de lemon and de bowl of salt up and less go."
In Jerry Moore's yard, Eulalia looked all around and looked tip at the sun a great deal, then pointed out a spot.
"Dig a little hole right here and bury dat lemon. It's got to Lie buried with the bloom?end down and it's got to be wheree de settin' sunshineshirie on it."
So I buried the lemon and Eulalia walked around to thkitchenchen door. By the time I had the lemon buried the door Was open and we went inside. She looked all about and found some red pepper.
"Lift dat sheove-lid for me," she ordered, and I did. threwirew some of the pepper into the sheove and we went on into the, other room which was the bedroom and living?room A in one. Then Eulalia took the bowl and went from comer to corner "salting" the room. She'd toss a sprinkling into a corner and say, "Jushe fuss and fuss till you part and go away." Under the bed was sprinkled also. It was all over in a minute or two. Then we went.out and shut the kitchen door and hurried away. And Saturday night Eulalia got her pay and the next day she set the ceremony to bring about the marriage.