1. What type of book is Sticks, Stones, Roots and Bones?
Sticks, Stones, Roots and Bones is a book on Hoodoo with an emphasis on updating the tradition for present day use. Sticks, Stones, Roots and Bones , is a practical guide written for a general audience. While I teach on a college level it was very important to me that the book be understood by anyone from Junior High School and up. I am passionate about research and did also want to include scholarly research presented in a manner that it is easily understood.
2. What is Hoodoo?
Hoodoo began as a unique collection of folkloric practices of African American people. With close proximity of different cultures many other influences are also evident in Hoodoo, including Native American (South Eastern U.S. groups) as well as people from Appalachia and immigrants from Europe particularly those from the United Kingdom and Germany. The tradition is about self-determination, and may include healing or harming as the Hoodoo practitioner sees fit. Early on, Hoodoo, like other African-based traditions was used very proactively to help enslaved Africans in the Americas gain freedom. This is well documented by scholars. This was accomplished by using knowledge obtained in Africa of venoms, poisons and herbs to effect slave holders (the masterís) health or otherwise influence them so that a revolt could take place. Hoodoo healing was also used proactively and very positively, as plantation medicine, because blacks and even many whites were not able to see mainstream (allopathic) doctors. Hoodoo also involves the intersection or crossroads were humans and the spirit realm meet.
3. Why do you say Hoodoo is primarily a healing tradition?
Hoodoo is used to help people with practical matters of everyday life. This includes folk medicines for healing common ailments using the roots, berries, seeds, flowers and leaves of plants, typically called herbs. Matters of everyday life include finding and keeping a life mate, creating domestic tranquility, putting an end to vicious gossip, finding and keeping a job, increasing prosperity (personal or business), doing well at school and maneuvering through the challenging passages of life like pregnancy, childbirth, adolescence, marriage illness and death. There are people who use Hoodoo to bring terrible harm to others. I am not interested in that particular application and it is not something I am involved with. I am much more interested in the ways Hoodoo demonstrates how African culture has survived and continued in the United States. I am interested in the diversity of expression of Hoodoo, for example Hoodoo in blues songs, folkloric uses of plants for healing, the folkloric stories that grew from within Hoodoo and art objects used such as mojo bags, handcrafted brooms and magical soaps. I see Hoodoo as an interesting application of ethnobotany that is uniquely American.
Check back next week for the continuation of this insightful interview!