North American Folk Magic and Spiritual Herbalism
The first herbalists in the Americas were the Native people. The Arawak migrated from South America up into the Caribbean Islands, to Florida, and even as far north as the Carolinas. They are referred to as Tainos. Native American spirituality primarily holds an animist worldview. That means that all things, including plants, have intelligence.
The Tainos were the people who greeted Christopher Columbus when he arrived in the Caribbean. These Native people had already inhabited the region for 1000 years before Columbus arrived and had intimate knowledge of the islands, healing plants, and mastered sea travel. The Tainos were referred to as the "good folk" who were handsome, energetic, and hospitable. They had a cosmology, performed ritual bathing, venerated their ancestors, and used hallucinogenic plants to go into trance. Next time you eat something Creole know that it was the Tainos who invented the seasoning!
When African slaves were forced to the new world they brought the religions of IFA and Vodou with them. Some Tainos and Africans were able to run away to the forests, caves, and mountains to try preserve themselves and their traditions. Those who were still enslaved by Europeans were forced to conceal their religion under the guise of Catholicism. Saints become syncretized with African Spirits. The African slaves that were brought over included royalty, military, and priestly classes. The ancestral knowledge that was brought to the new world ran deep into the Congo. Other esoteric and occult European practices were absorbed into the culture such as Freemasonry. The Tainos did not go fully extinct but were absorbed. Contrary to popular belief the heritage did not die but is as durable as the SPIRIT of the Caribbean.
The Yoruba Speaking People
IFA is a Traditional African Religion that originated in what is now Nigeria with the Yoruba speaking people. IFA is a spiritual science with a very complex binary system of divination called ODU IFA. The knowledge of Ifa has been preserved within Yoruba communities and transmitted among IFA priests. Orishas are the spirits of IFA, like angels and archangels, who are in charge of human affairs.
The Fon Speaking People
Benin, in West Africa, is the center of Vodou in the world. When the Fon people arrived in the new world they brought their traditions with them. Haitian Vodou is unique and different from what is practiced in Africa yet they drink from the same well. It is a brilliant and vibrant religion. The vodouisants categorized the many different spirits that arrived in the new world according to their language and regional origin. At Vodou parties the LWA are called and when they arrive they posses the dancers to communicate with their devotees.
Today people in the islands and across the world practice these traditions in different forms. They are most commonly known as Santeria, Candomble, Lucumi, Palo mayombe, Haitian Vodou, 21 Divisions, and Obeah. These beliefs and practices arrived in New Orleans and evolved into what is known as Louisiana Voodoo. These traditions continue to evolve around the United States in communities of the diaspora.
Before any spirits can be called in conjure Papa Legba must be honored first. He is the guardian of the crossroads between this world and the next. Legba is the trickster spirit in African Vodou as practiced in Benin. He is syncretized with St Lazarus by some and St Peter by others in Haitian and Dominican Vodou. He can be found at dusk and dawn at the crossing of day and night. He can be seen by intersections, train tracks, and any crossroads. He loves candy, rum, black coffee, and tobacco he smokes out of a corn cob pipe.
Marie Laveau was a famous Creole practitioner of Voodoo, who was renowned in New Orleans. Her daughter, Marie Laveau II, also practiced rootwork, conjure, Native American and African spiritualism as well as Louisiana or what is known today as New Orleans Voodoo. Tourists continue to visit her tomb and some draw X marks in accordance with a decades-old tradition. They turn around three times and leave an offering hoping Marie will her their requests.
Conjure, also known as Hoodoo or Rootwork, is an old, powerful, and increasingly popular system of North American folk magic. Conjure's roots derive primarily from West and Central African spiritual traditions, but it has also been influenced by Christianity, Jewish mysticism, and Native American practices. White and Jewish pharmacists opened their shops in black communities and began to offer items asked for by their black customers, as well as things they themselves felt would be of use. This tradition was heavily influenced by Spiritualism and it's lore grew with the rise of mail order catalogs. Most practicing Hoodooist identify as Christian and not only see the Bible as the word of God but also a book of spells, especially the Psalms. Like all folk magic it generally concerns itself with day to day activities like love, luck, protection, and revenge!
Native American Shamans
Native American healers believe that plants, trees, shrubs, flowers and herbs possess a spirit and intelligence. When harvesting plants and herbs to be used in Herbalism the Shaman only takes what is required and asks permission and expresses gratitude during the harvesting process. The healing potential of the plants and herbs are empowered by ritual ceremonies, prayers, songs and chants. Rootworkers today continue to expand their practice to incorporate as much Native American wisdom as they can.
Wicca and Faerie Traditions
In the 1950's 60's and 70's there was a resurrection of Witchcraft in England and America. This segwayed to the sexual revolution and the reemergence of psychedelic drugs. Feminism changed public discourse and women reclaimed the word Witch as an empowering term. Gay and Transgender people were coming out of the closet and fighting back against police brutality. Groups like the Radical Faeries were born. European people rediscovered their pre Christian "roots" and practiced Folk Magic again. Books by authors like Scott Cunningham led millions to practice Wicca and Folk Magic as solitary practitioners.
The Seven Wonders
There are seven distinct characteristics that all North American Folk Magic systems have in common. They are:
- Communication with the Ancestors
- Calling and working with spirits
- Trance through Divine possession or psychedelics
- The practice of divination and dream interpretation
- The ability to cast spells both for good and ill
- Use of herbal medicine and healing methods
- Wisdom teaching from the Antiquity of time
Generations pass and over time the body of healing wisdom has continued to expand and embrace many traditions. Yoga, Qigong, and the New Age movement has also contributed to the already exhaustive body of healing techniques. Philip is proud to continue these traditions offering healing and emotional support to those in need of joy, hope, and emotional repair.