Celtic Exorcism & The Road to Hell – Wicked Tidbits from the Weiser Vaults

Every once in a while in her wanderings through the Weiser backlist, Ankhie comes across a forgotten gem. Such was the case this morning when, looking for something else, a slim volume entitled Celtic Legends of the Beyond: A Celtic Book of the Dead, popped off the shelf. How could I resist? It’s full of folksy recollections as recorded by French author Anatole Le Braz in 1893. The Weiser Edition was translated by Derek Bryce in 1986 then reprinted 11 years later.

The first thing my eyes fell on was a chapter on exorcising ghosts:

The people that need to be exorcised are almost always the rich who have obtained their wealth by wicked means, and those who have lead a disorderly life. Therefor they are mostly nobles and middle class; peasants have too hard a task earning their living not to be peaceful after their death.

Their souls are condemned to wander until all the wrongs they have done have somehow been put right. They are ill-tempered and wicked. They prowl about their old home, and get their own back for their distress by making trouble amongst the living. They are exorcised in order to immobilize and silence them.

Only priest have the power of exorcism. Not all priests can do it. It needs one who has the know-how, ability, and determination. It is quite something if there is one in every region. It is not enough for the exorcist to know his science thoroughly; it is also essential that he is a tough character.

When the priest is called in for an exorcism, he puts his surplice on and carries his stole in his hand. He takes his shoes off when he reached the haunted house, for he must be priest right to the ground.

The evening before his arrival, the people of the house have to sprinkle fine sand or ashes over the floors and steps of the house from the front door right to the attic. This permits the exorcist to follow the ghost’s footsteps and to shut himself in the room where they seem to end. This is where the evil ghost is lying. A terrible combat takes place between the exorcist and the ghost. Sometimes the priest comes back from his encounter worn out, pale, and covered in sweat. During the time this sinister meeting is taking place, the people of the house huddle around the hearth, dumb with fright. They block their ears so as to try not to hear the terrible din coming from the room. They ask themselves who is going to win, the evil ghost or the man of God. Sometimes the priest repeats special prayers, sometimes he struggles bodily with the ghost, sometimes he asks the ghost difficult questions, and takes advantage of the moment the other is thinking what to reply, to put his silken stole round its neck.  Then the ghost is beaten. It becomes grovelling and docile. The priest says the rite of exorcism over it and makes it enter into an animal’s body, most often that of a black dog. he takes it outside and entrusts it to someone in his confidence, often the verger or the sacristan, one of whom would often accompany him on such a mission. Then they go, the priest in front, the other one behind and leading the animal, towards some rarely frequented place, such as a barren heath, a disused quarry, or a quagmire. ‘From now on this is where you shall live”, says the priest to the ghost, and he marks out a circle delimiting the space in which it can move; he often uses a barrel hoop for this purpose. They choose a rarely frequented spot because if someone were to pass close by, he or she would surely be grabbed by the feet and dragged underground.

The second passage was, logically enough, about Hell:

The road to hell is wide and well-maintained; it invites the traveller to take it. It has ninety-nine roadside inns in each of which one must stay for a hundred years. Good-looking, friendly bar staff serve drinks, which taste better and better the closer one is to hell. If the traveller resists the temptation to drink to excess, and reaches the last inn without being drunk, he is free to go back; hell has no more hold on him. But in the case of those arriving drunk, they are given a horrible mixture of snake and toad’s blood to drink. From then on they belong to the devil, and are done for.

I must admit, I enjoy the idea that one need not abstain completely to avoid hell, just keep it in check. Seems like a reasonable policy.

Serious Conjure – A Preview of the Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook by Denise Alvarado

We don’t even have our copies of this book yet, but the manuscript has had Ankhie firmly in its grip for about a week now! The Foreword alone (by Doktor Snake) is worth memorizing:

Here’s the dope. Denise Alvarado is a true hoodoo mamba home girl who burned hi-octane conjure in New Orleans where she grew up, and on visits to relatives on the Mississippi bayous, where she was formally introduced to the Voodoo/hoodoo path. Called by the spirits and taught conjuration by family members, she was working the goofer from five years old. That’s some serious heat. Denise is no pretender. She’s for real. She fixes the formulas, raises the spirits, calculates the mathematics, and works wonders at the old dirt track crossroads.

Crucially, she’s also an academic—a formally trained anthropologist and psychologist with fifteen years of clinical experience. What this means is that she personifies the Law of Balance. She combines left-brain, logical thinking with right-brain, creative thinking (unsurprisingly, she’s also a great artist). In other words, Denise tempers her magic with good sense and critical thinking—not something you see often in the world of  spirituality and the occult.

This healthy duality shines through in The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook. The book is not only written in a lively compelling style, but its  reliability—in terms of exacting research—is simply not found elsewhere. Denise cites all her sources and covers just about everything you could ever want to know about Voodoo, Santería, hoodoo, the saints and psalms, the cult of Black Hawk, and more.

Plus, Denise spills the beans on the mechanics of working conjuration. She shows you how to create your own magical oils, formulas, floor washes, and powders.You’ll learn everything from how to make African Juju Oil and Boss Fix Oil (a very handy formulation!) to fixing up Amor Oil and Four Thieve Vinegar. She lists all the spells you are ever likely to need in life—from love and money spells to courtwork and protection spells.

Anyone who has read my writings will know that I’m Voodoo’s wild card—a mix of the Joker (trickster) and the Ace of Spades. I ride the hoodoo highway down to the crossroads to pump out the groove with the Graveyard Snake and Ole Satan.

But you can guarantee that whereever it is I’m heading—whatever it is I’m doing—I’ve got a copy of Denise’s The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook on hand. On every level, this book is worth its weight in gold—and some!

—Doktor Snake http://doktorsnake.com

Honestly – there’s just no way that Ankhie can improve on that! So I’ll just add that I wholeheartedly agree with the good Doktor, and here’s a little taste to tide you over until the book hits the shelves later this fall. This  excerpt is from an early section “The Basics: Characteristics of New Orleans Voodoo Hoodoo Folk Magic” – scores of tables of correspondences, charts and spells follow, but alas the formatting won’t reproduce here.

Crossing and Uncrossing

Simply put, crossing refers to spiritual works that cause harm or bad luck, while uncrossing refers to works that reverse it. A number of products are used to aid in putting an end to crossed conditions, particularly when used in conjunction with one or more of the psalms. For example, products such as uncrossing crystals, oils, sachet powders, incenses, and even chalk are believed to be particularly effective when used in conjunction with the 37th psalm. The word cross is virtually synonymous with the words hex, jinx, and curse.

Foot Track Magic

Foot track magic involves throwing powders and gris gris in the path of a targeted person. That individual will suffer from unusual problems and a streak of bad luck after they have walked on it. The belief is that the toxic properties of the powder or gris gris will be absorbed through the foot and “poison” the individual. Ailments such as back problems, difficulty walking, edema, and difficulty concentrating are some of the complaints of those who have been victimized in this fashion. Foot tracks can also be used for other purposes, such as keeping a lover from wandering off.There are two methods of foot track magic: the direct method and the sympathetic method. The direct method is when the powder or other substance is thrown on the ground or a bottle is buried and the person’s foot actually touches or walks over it. Some folks take care and throw down the mess in an “X” pattern. I was always told you just throw it where you know the person is going to walk. The second method involves capturing the person’s footprint by gathering the dirt from an actual footprint of the target, or by taking an old sock or shoe and doctoring it with some other powder.

Floor Washes

Floor washes are used to remove negativity from the home or business or to bring good fortune, increase the number of customers, or attract love. Florida Water is commonly used as a floor wash. A ritual floor washing typically starts at the back of the premises and ends at the front doorstep. The top floor is washed from the ceiling to the floor, and this is repeated on each floor. Extra time is spent scrubbing the doorway. For best results, the floors, corners of the rooms, closets, doorsteps, walls, fabrics, and furniture are washed. The left over water is thrown out of the front door in the direction of the east, if possible. In the old days in New Orleans, urine, and especially the urine of a child, was frequently used as an ingredient in a floor wash, as was red brick dust.

Laying Tricks

Laying tricks is another reference to the throwing of special herbs, powders, and gris gris in a place where the intended target will touch it, usually by walking on it. It also refers to the concealing or disposing of magickal objects by strategically placing the ingredients in certain places in order to fix the trick, or seal the deal. You can put a hoodoo on a person by filling an old shoe with red pepper and placing under their house.

For example, if you want to keep your partner faithful, you could take a pair of your lover’s dirty underwear, tie them in a knot, and bury them in their backyard. If it is an enemy work, then bury the work in the person’s yard, or under their doorstep or porch or somewhere else they are inclined to walk. If it’s a money spell, you could bury the spell in the yard of a bank, or, if you can get away with it, in the yard of a treasury mint. If you are a gambler, bury it in a potted plant or in the garden or yard of the casino. Following this train of thought, the same can be done for court case spells (in the courtyard), blessings (in the churchyard), school success (schoolyard) . . . you get the picture.

The following are some frequently employed places for laying tricks.

Buried in a building structure. A common place for laying tricks is in construction sites, because the tricks will last forever—or at least for as long as the building stands. Bank construction sites are good for attracting money; courthouse sites are good for keeping the law away; hospitals and doctor’s offices are good for healing; and church sites are good for protection.

Placed in a chimney. To bless the home, a trick can be laid inside a chimney.

Buried in a garden or potted plant. When you want to attract love, luck, fertility, or success, bury a trick in a garden in spring and summertime or in a potted plant anytime. A trick to work against someone else can also be planted in the person’s garden or in a potted plant at their place of residence.

Buried in the earth in the home yard. To ground a trick and keep it working, bury it in someone’s yard. Plant good luck works in your own yard, under your porch, or beneath the front steps for fixing blessings, love drawing, money drawing, and protection. Plant a bad luck trick in someone else’s yard to hex them.

Placed under carpets or rugs. This is reflective of adapting hoodoo to modern times. When you don’t have a yard to work with, the same principle can be employed by placing a trick under someone’s rug or carpet.

Buried under the enemy’s doorstep or porch. To hex or jinx and enemy, place a trick under their doorstep or front porch.

Placed in food or drink. This method is typically employed in domination spells, to keep a mate faithful, or in enemy works. Scrape some skin from the bottom of your foot and bake it in some food that will be eaten by someone you wish to dominate or jinx. Add semen or menstrual blood in your lover’s food or drink to keep them bound to you.

Thrown into a fire. To neutralize a jinx, burn it in a fire and spread the ashes around a tree. For example, to cause harm to your enemy, burn a bad wish written on paper in a fire and spread the ashes around their doorstep or front porch. Prayers and well wishes can also be accomplished in the same manner. Burn a special prayer in a fire and scatter the ashes near the home for special blessinPlaced in clothing or on objects. For love spells, money spells, protection spells, and court cases, mojos are often sewn into clothes, curtains, pillowcases, and mattresses.

Disposed at a crossroads. To dispose of ritual remains such as candle wax, ashes from incense, and the like, leave them at a crossroads. Bad luck tricks can also be disposed of in the middle of a crossroads where cars will run over them and destroy them. Tossing coins in the middle of a crossroads is considered good luck.

Buried in a cross mark indoors. As an alternative to a crossroads, an artificial crossroads can be created by making a cross mark indoors. The basic method of creating an indoor crossroads is by drawing an “X” with cornmeal, chalk, or cascarilla on the floor. The cross mark is used for fixing spells, harming an enemy, or as part of protection spells and likely has its origin in the Kongo cosmogram.

Buried in a graveyard. Ritual objects used in extreme magic—like causing serious illness or death—can be buried in a graveyard.

Thrown in running water. Throwing a spell into running water is best used for wishes and banishing.

Placed in a tree. Trees are believed to absorb negativity and evil, so bad works are often buried at the base of trees to neutralize them.

Placed in a bottle. An old practice with origins in the African Congo involves making wishes and placing cobalt blue bottles onto branches of a tree to make a bottle tree that functions as a talisman. My mama always had a bottle tree in the yard. This practice used to be common in the South, but over time the practice seemed to fade away. In recent years, however, it seems as if bottle trees are beginning to make a comeback all over the country.

Spiritual Baths

Spiritual bathing is an ancient practice. In hoodoo, spiritual baths are taken to cleanse oneself of negativity or to bring good luck. Almost always, when someone goes to a rootworker for treatment, a spiritual bath will be part of that treatment. A person is directed by the conjuror to put special herbs, oils, or other ingredients in the bath water to bring about the desired change. This is often done in conjunction with the recitation of special psalms. Removing negativity requires washing oneself with a downward stroke, while bringing luck or fortune requires washing oneself in an upward motion. The left over water can be used in other spellwork, added to floor wash, or disposed of at a crossroads.

Magickal Oils, Incenses, and Sachet Powders

For thousands of years and across cultures, the belief that plant and animal aromatics (or “odours,” as they are referred to in the old texts) have psychological, natural, and supernatural effects on human beings. Ancient magicians regularly made use of anointing oils, incenses, and powders as a means of consecrating themselves, their altars, or other ritual items, or to alter their state of  consciousness. Instructions for preparing sacred oils and anointing formulas are provided in biblical texts as well as in Egyptian papyri, European grimoires, and other ancient and sacred books. As the art of perfumery developed alongside the science of pharmacology, the formulas of the various hoodoo oils, ointments, and powders coincided with this evolution. In New Orleans, the influence of Egyptian and French perfumery on the magickal formulary is quite pronounced, though often unrecognized. The ancient use of oils, powders, and incenses for psychological stimulation, as aphrodisiacs, in religious and spiritual contexts, for psychic development, for healing, and for magickal influence persists to this day in their application in hoodoo.