Thursday, July 22, 2010

High John, Southern John, and Little John-Which John is Which?

I am often shocked that many hoodoos and witches out there still don't get these right! I know, the information is confusing, but these are 3 separate roots, with VERY different purposes. We should all know exactly what we're dealing, from a magickal, medical, and consumer standpoint. I am also listing pictures in the order described so now you will know which John is which.

High John or John the Conqueror-Ipomoea jalapa is this plant's scientific name. The MOST popular root in hoodoo and magick! Any working for success, luck, prosperity, manifestation, drawing, attraction, power, or gambling will call for this root. It can be added to any spell for extra power and can be identified by it's "liquid smoke" type scent and dark brown colour.
John's story-
John the Conqueror was an African prince who was sold as a slave in the Americas. Despite his enslavement, his spirit was never broken and he survived in folklore as a trickster figure, because of the tricks he played to evade his masters.
In one traditional John the Conqueror story, John falls in love with the Devil's daughter. The Devil sets John a number of impossible tasks: he must clear sixty acres of land in half a day, and then sow and reap the 60 acres with corn in the last half of the day. The Devil's daughter furnishes John with a magical axe and plow to use for these impossible tasks, but warns John that her father means to kill him even if he performs them. John and the Devil's daughter steal the Devil's own horses; the Devil pursues them, but they escape his clutches by shape-shifting.

He was NOT the white washed "King" you see below sold on candles, soaps, incenses and oils. These products are completely void of history nor do they contain any actual High John root. They are a mockery of High John's name, history and culture and a mockery of those of use who work hard to provide authentic conjure items.

In "High John De Conquer", Zora Neale Hurston reports that:
like King Arthur of England, he has served his people. And, like King Arthur, he is not dead. He waits to return when his people shall call him again. . . High John de Conquer went back to Africa, but he left his power here, and placed his American dwelling in the root of a certain plant. Only possess that root, and he can be summoned at any time.

Now onto Southern John, Dixie John, Low John, Beth Root, or Birth Root. These are the names of the root of the common Trillium Grandiflorum which is a native woodland plant here in Michigan. It is considered an endangered species and is illegal to harvest. I have several plants from my mother and each year I harvest 2-4 from my own patch to use the roots. They are becoming very difficult to find due to their endangerment and they are often mislabeled in botanicas which are selling galangal roots instead of true southern john's. Southern john's can be identified by their hairs (rootlets) and segmented body.

These spring-flowering members of the lily family have long been used medicinally, and among Euro-American herbalists, low john is sold medicinally under the name birth root or beth root and used as an aid in childbirth and with menstrual cramps.

This root is also used for luck, love, sex, and family. Carry a whole root for luck. To draw love, make a tea from it and drink it nightly while burning incense mixed with the root “hairs" the fibrous rootlets extending from the larger body of the root. For marriage, carry Southern John in a red bag with violet leaves, lodestone, and iron filings, dressed with attraction oil.

For a better sex life, tie low john in a muslin or cheesecloth bag and launder it with your bed clothes, underwear or lingerie. To break up an affair troubling your marriage, mix the root with the hair or nail parings of you and your spouse and burn them to ashes. Use the ashes to mark the corners and center of your bedroom and bed, praying the 91st Psalm for the intruder to go away.

Little John, Courtcase root, Chewing John, or galangal. This is Alpina galanga, and it is a member of the ginger family. It is most often confused with Low John, Dixie John, Beth root, or Southern John. Galangal Root is used for its Psychic ability, luck, money, courage, strength, protection, sex magick and for avoiding legal problems.

Worn or carried, it protects and draws good luck. Place it in a leather mojo bag with silver, to draw money. Galangal is burned to break spells and curses. It is also carried or sprinkled around the home to promote lust. Worn as a talisman, galangal aids psychic development and guards the wearer's health.

In Western Europe in the Middle Ages, the root was considered an aphrodisiac and is used in perfumes in India. In Hoodoo, it is often combined with grains of Paradise to make protective wash. You can also make this magick herb into an incense by combining it 2:1 with white sandalwood.

In African-American hoodoo practice, its pleasant gingery taste is part of its charm and, unlike High John and Low John, Chewing John is actually chewed and the juice swallowed. A typical spell prescribes its use in court case magic: Chew the root, swallow the juice and discretely spit the "cud" onto the courtroom floor before the judge walks in; he will decide the case in your favour. This root is almost always sold in slices, and can be identified by it's orange colour and ginger root-like form.

So now you know-use the right root for your workings and don't be fooled any longer;)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why on earth would I work with a death deity?!

This question recently arose from a client who seemed a little shocked and concerned about working with The Baron. It brought up fears of death and change. But, sometimes these things are needed, and isn't "change" just the death of something we've already experienced and learned from? Baron Samedi is a god of many things, but his biggest attribute is healing in many senses of the word. To me, change is a healing all in itself. When we experience a change, we are forced to grow, to leave our old, wounded, small-minded selves behind and forced out of our snug, segregating cocoon. Our wings unfold, dry in the new sun, and we are healed from what stifled us. We have changed, are born again, and are liberated....healed.

I don't believe deities, or anything else for that matter, are inherently good or bad, they possess both light and dark just as we do as we are all just energy and chemicals. All Lwa are associated with "darker aspects" because vodou has been corrupted and deformed by current society and the media.

My clients biggest concern was what would happen to him if he petitioned a death deity...would he die?! While this seems dramatic, those who do not know could assimilate such an idea with a death deity. Petitioning a deity who is a god/ess of death is done for many reasons and most certainly it would NOT cause one to die, or there would be a lot of dead pagans around the world;) Shiva and Kali are both death deities and millions of Hindus pay numerous daily devotions to them- they do not die from it. Death is subjective and it's views and associations are dependent on the religion. It is a point in a cycle that is an ending and beginning all in one. When a deity of "death" is petitioned it is to bring an end to one thing and begin another, such as an end to bad luck and an opportunity to tempt the fates into bestowing luck upon you. THIS is a death, it is a change. The Baron is a deity of the crossroads, a point where you have the opportunity to choose any way you want to go; an ending to one road and a beginning of 3 others, therefore choosing a new road would be a "death" to the old pattern or habit and a new beginning within life.

We all reach critical points in our lives where we must symbolically leave an old path, letting it die, to persue new, fresh, vibrant (and scary) opportunities.
Don't let the fear of a death deity stop you from taking that leap into unknown territory and refreshingly cool waters that will renew and transform you.
After all, what's worse, to settle and be complacent or facing a little fear? Renew yourself, transform yourself, face your fears, and get to know something The Baron;)