This post is inspired by Cat Yronwode‘s interview over at New World Witchery podcast, episode 14. Followed by personal epiphany.
She spoke of how she firmly believes that anyone wanting to practice hoodoo needs to get involved with the culture it was born from (paraphrased), i.e. go and talk with some black people who have it in the family. That it isn’t enough to read some books and do what they tell you to do. If you want to really get into practicing it, you need to understand and *connect* with the culture(s) that birthed it.
Allrighty, stage set, would you like to know my epiphany?
First, I need to explain about ‘keys’. Or more particularly ‘keys to a tradition’. This is something I’m familiar with in the context of wicca. And is also very applicable and probably described similarly in Free Masonry and other hierarchical occult orders. Essentially, by training with a particular group, you are taught the keys to accessing the group’s egregore (group mind) as well as their accumulated knowledge and trained experience dealing with the non-physical.
Hmmm, to back this up slightly farther. When a group of people work together over an extended period of time, a group mind, or egregore, form. This group mind is a gestalt of the people and is therefore made up of them and also something more. A group that exists over decades or centuries builds up this group mind from everyone who has passed through it but also from everything that group has done together magically.
This accumulates a lot of energy and power.
But access to this energy is limited to those within the group. The people in the group have keys, ritual methodology, symbols, sigils, invocations, etc. that are specific to the group. Having the knowledge of these keys and the proper way to use them allows a member to access this group energy.
The engregore also includes (this part is only my opinion, so far as I’m aware) the experiences the group has had while within the group mind. In other words, if the group has frequently done invocations to Bast, the egregore of the group would have specific connections to Bast that are stronger than other groups and a member, even a relatively new member once they have the keys, would have a closer to relationship to Bast than someone else at the same level of training but in a different group.
So my epiphany was realizing that the cultural involvement or sensitivity that Cat Yronwode was describing, this need for a strong practitioner to really be involved with, understand, connect and resonate with the cultures that birthed Hoodoo was also a description on how someone can get the magical keys to the Hoodoo tradition.
There is no lodge to go and train with. No book written down (yes, there are spell books and Hoodoo books, but they are not the same as the grimoire passed on from master to student which would also include the verbal instructions that go with it) to steal the keys from.
In my personal and perhaps random opinion, the importance she placed on steeping oneself in the culture is actually one of the keys. Another way to put it is that the art of Hoodoo is culturally derived and therefore those pieces of culture are at least some of the keys that allow you to access it.
And if you can’t work with the keys to an egregore, you will never be able to access the full strength of the tradition.
Or your access to that style of magical craft will be hampered compared to someone who can embrace more of the direct keys.
Now personally I also see Hoodoo, from her description, as having been born from repeated meldings of different cultures, and each meeting place birthed new evolutions of spells and methodologies. I believe that as a living tradition, as it encounters other magical practices and other new cultures it will continue to evolve. So even if you are not comfortable in say working with Jesus Christ, you can still work with Hoodoo. However, you will be cut off from that particular key to the tradition and may want to find or create a different key that will work better for you (though please note, new keys typically take time to build up their strength).
But that starts getting into some serious nitty gritty which I won’t be going into today. Or possibly ever on the blog. One never knows.
~The Abysmal Witch