Hoodoo, Voodoo, and Conjure: A Handbook is a unique
work that seeks to fill gaps in public knowledge and to
provide much-needed correctives when public perception
diverges from facts. In recent years, a few books have
attempted similar tasks. Carolyn Long’s Spiritual
Merchants: Religion, Magic, and Commerce, Yvonne
Chireau’s Black Magic: Th e African American Conjuring
Tradition, and Jeffrey E. Anderson’s Conjure in African
American Society are the most prominent examples.
Unfortunately for general readers, all of these were written
with scholarly audiences in mind. As such, each can be
somewhat inaccessible to nonspecialists.
The present work, in contrast, has been written with students
and the general public in mind. Although in no way “dumbed
-down,” it was written with more than a small cadre of
professionals in mind.
The most logical way for a book of this sort to begin is by
clearly defining what it is all about. Most important, what
exactly are Voodoo, hoodoo, and conjure, and how do
they differ from one another? Voodoo proper is an African
creole religion, meaning that it is a faith that began in African
and adapted to new conditions in the American South. As a
developed system of belief, it has its own gods, priests, sacred
ceremonies, and magic. At the same time, just which religion
the term designates varies significantly by context. For instance,
scholars frequently use Voodoo to refer to a West African
religion that is more properly called Vodu or Vodun. More
often, however, one sees Voodoo used to indicate a folk
religion of Haiti, the preferred term for which is Vodou.
In North America, Voodoo means a religion once popular
along the banks of the Mississippi River, especially in the city
of New Orleans. To further complicate matters, Voodoo is
sometimes called Voudou or Vaudou in the United States.
A more detailed analysis of the relationship between these
religions and the reasons for the multiplicity of similar terms
must await a later chapter.