The Conjure Woman

The Conjure Woman
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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Walpurgis Night, Ogden Nash's 'Tale of the Thirteenth Floor'

The hands of the clock were reaching high
In an old midtown hotel;
I name no name, but its sordid fame
Is table talk in hell.
I name no name, but hell's own flame
Illumes the lobby garish,
A gilded snare just off Times Square
For the maidens of the parish.

The revolving door swept the grimy floor
Like a crinoline grotesque,
And a lowly bum from an ancient slum
Crept furtively past the desk.
His footsteps sift into the lift
As a knife in the sheath is slipped,
Stealthy and swift into the lift
As a vampire into a crypt.

Old Maxie, the elevator boy,
Was reading an ode by Shelley,
But he dropped the ode as it were a toad
When the gun jammed into his belly.
There came a whisper as soft as mud
In the bed of an old canal:
"Take me up to the suite of Pinball Pete,
The rat who betrayed my gal."

The lift doth rise with groans and sighs
Like a duchess for the waltz,
Then in middle shaft, like a duchess daft,
It changes its mind and halts.
The bum bites lip as the landlocked ship
Doth neither fall nor rise,
But Maxie the elevator boy
Regards him with burning eyes.
"First, to explore the thirteenth floor,"
Says Maxie, "would be wise."

Quoth the bum, "There is moss on your double cross,
I have been this way before,
I have cased the joint at every point,
And there is no thirteenth floor.
The architect he skipped direct
From twelve unto fourteen,
There is twelve below and fourteen above,
And nothing in between,
For the vermin who dwell in this hotel
Could never abide thirteen."

Said Max, "Thirteen, that floor obscene,
Is hidden from human sight;
But once a year it doth appear,
On this Walpurgis Night.
Ere you peril your soul in murderer's role,
Heed those who sinned of yore;
The path they trod led away from God,
And onto the thirteenth floor,
Where those they slew, a grisly crew,
Reproach them forevermore.

"We are higher than twelve and below fourteen,"
Said Maxie to the bum,
"And the sickening draft that taints the shaft
Is a whiff of kingdom come.
The sickening draft that taints the shaft
Blows through the devil's door!"
And he squashed the latch like a fungus patch,
And revealed the thirteenth floor.

It was cheap cigars like lurid scars
That glowed in the rancid gloom,
The murk was a-boil with fusel oil
And the reek of stale perfume.
And round and round there dragged and wound
A loathsome conga chain,
The square and the hep in slow lock step,
The slayer and the slain.
(For the souls of the victims ascend on high,
But their bodies below remain.)

The clean souls fly to their home in the sky,
But their bodies remain below
To pursue the Cain who each has slain
And harry him to and fro.
When life is extinct each corpse is linked
To its gibbering murderer,
As a chicken is bound with wire around
The neck of a killer cur.

Handcuffed to Hate come Doctor Waite
(He tastes the poison now),
And Ruth and Judd and a head of blood
With horns upon its brow.
Up sashays Nan with her feathery fan
From Floradora bright;
She never hung for Caesar Young
But she's dancing with him tonight.

Here's the bulging hip and the foam-flecked lip
Of the mad dog, Vincent Coll,
And over there that ill-met pair,
Becker and Rosenthal,
Here's Legs and Dutch and a dozen such
Of braggart bullies and brutes,
And each one bends 'neath the weight of friends
Who are wearing concrete suits.

Now the damned make way for the double-damned
Who emerge with shuffling pace
From the nightmare zone of persons unknown,
With neither name nor face.
And poor Dot King to one doth cling,
Joined in a ghastly jig,
While Elwell doth jape at a goblin shape
And tickle it with his wig.

See Rothstein pass like breath on a glass,
The original Black Sox kid;
He riffles the pack, riding piggyback
On the killer whose name he hid.
And smeared like brine on a slavering swine,
Starr Faithful, once so fair,
Drawn from the sea to her debauchee,
With the salt sand in her hair.

And still they come, and from the bum
The icy sweat doth spray;
His white lips scream as in a dream,
"For God's sake, let's away!
If ever I meet with Pinball Pete
I will not seek his gore,
Lest a treadmill grim I must trudge with him
On the hideous thirteenth floor."

"For you I rejoice," said Maxie's voice,
"And I bid you go in peace,
But I am late for a dancing date
That nevermore will cease.
So remember, friend, as your way you wend,
That it would have happened to you,
But I turned the heat on Pinball Pete;
You see - I had a daughter, too!"

The bum reached out and he tried to shout,
But the door in his face was slammed,
And silent as stone he rode down alone
From the floor of the double-damned. 

Walpurgis Night Fantasia - Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky

Tonight is Walpurgis night, the night witches were traditionally believed to fly to the mountains to dance with the Devil. In some traditions, the holiday and May Day, which follows it, are as significant as Christmas Eve and Christmas. The holiday celebrations usually include drinking and dancing, (May Poles included).

Mephistopheles takes Faust to the Brocken to dance with the witches in Goethe's play:

The witches t'ward the Brocken strain.
When the stubble yellow, green the grain.
The rabble rushes - as is meet - 
To Sir Urien's lordly seat.
O'er stick and stone we come, by jinks!
The witches f... the he goat s...

The broomstick caries, so does the stock;
the pitchfork carries, so does the buck;
who cannot rise on them tonight,
remains for eye a luckless wight.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Some Traditional Hoodoo Beliefs

If a woman visits you on a Monday morning you'll have bad luck for the rest of the weeHaving a woman visit you the firkst thing on Monday mornings is bad luck for the rest of the week.

If you sweep trash out of the house after dark you will sweep away your luck.

A spider seen in the morning is a sign of grief; a spider seen an noon, of joy; a spider seen in the evening, of hope.

Take a lodestone and some brimstone to a crossroads at midnight. Light the brimstone with a match, and a spirit will appear and give you advice in gambling.

Place a dime under your client's tongue: If the client is under a spell, the dime will turn black.

To ensure the safety of your child, cut a lock of its hair while it is still a baby and keep it with you. The child must have all it's hair before it can die.

A evil person can take the length of your fingers and hoodoo you in two days, to make you do what ever they want.

A love powder is a half teaspoonful of sugar, teaspoonful of peppermint and a teaspoonful of grated candied orange peel; give a teaspoonful of this mixture in a glass of wine and the person will love you forever.

A person can make you get very thirsty by putting a whiskey bottle under your porch for three weeks, and then throwing the bottle into a fire which will make you very thirsty for whiskey.

A sure way to hoodoo a person is to catch their eyes when talking to them and don't let them go.

A witch can cure her pain by rubbing sugar, salt, vinegar and hot water over her pain.

A witch is one that sells her soul to the devil and she has to keep someone in her power all the
time; if not, the devil will make her suffer untold agony.

Always carry a black cat's bone in your pocket, if you think someone is bewitching you.

As you eat the wing of a chicken, take the little bone that is near the end and drop it into the pocket of the fellow you are going with, without him knowing it, and he will ask you to marry him.

Burn your shoes as soon as you are through with them and you will never be bewitched.

Bury some hair from the top of your husband's head under the front doorstep and he will never leave home for good.

Bury your husband's shoes in the front yard with the toes toward the door and he will never leave you.

Carrying a rabbit's foot keeps all evil away.

Grave dust is what a witch uses to hoodoo you, and you will conquer her if you get some and wear it.

Hang black coats over all the outside doors at night, to keep witches out of the house at night.

If you don't want your man to talk to another woman, take a nail and drive it at the end of his heel prints, and he will run from her the next time he sees her.

If you take a strand of hair out of a person's head and wear it in your pocket for two days, it will give that person the headache.

If your husband is running around, take some of his hair and a piece of his necktie and put them in a bottle, then throw that in the river; and when that necktie rots, that will change him.

If a man carry a gun all the time, he will kill someone soon; because a gun can hoodoo him.

If a man get your hair and put it in a bottle of vinegar, it will make you crawl on your stomach for him.

If a man loves you and you love him, don't let him get a strand of your hair; for if you do, he will run you crazy.

If a man sees a woman he wants, he can get her by taking a picture of her and sleeping with it face down under his head for a week; and she will look for him until she finds where he lives.

If a man wants to run a woman crazy, he can take a strand of her hair and wear it in his shoes for a week.

Voodooism in Tennessee from The Atlantic Monthly Magazine (September 1889)

Baron Samedi Veve

by S. M. P.

from The Atlantic Monthly magazine (September 1889)

Paschal Beverly, 19th Century Conjure Man
The day on which the strange instance of Voodoo superstition occurred was more beautiful than any that seem to bless the earth now. One of many I remember at Beechwood Hall. The sun seemed to shine brighter, the shrubs smelled sweeter, the birds songs seemed happier then than any other time I can remember.

My husband was absent. Mother and I were together, ostensibly sewing, but for the most part sitting with folded hands, enjoying the May morning through the open window. Honeysuckles swayed into the casement. Outside were acres of greensward and sunshine, bounded by the tender green of the forests. In the vivid blue depths above sailed a lazy crow, supplying with his "caw, caw," the discord needed to complete the harmony of the song-birds. Beneath him the young corn rows checkered the brown fields. It was a day of melody and peace. Peace lay in the long shadows of the old apple orchard upon the sloping knoll.

Then the door opened, and one of the servants, tall Eliza came in with a troubled expression upon her face.  Her grave features were unusually solemn as she said --

"Miss Sallie, I Etta's mighty bad off and Uncle Jack's sent for the Voodoo woman."
Instantly aroused from my beautiful dream of peace, I asked anxiously what the matter was.

"She's tricked," she replied. "She spent last night crawling  under the house hunting for the vial with the Voodoo medicine in it. She's completely worn out and is lying down panting like a lizard.  She says she's going to die. But I didn't want the Voodoo woman to come without your knowing."

Unknown, 19th Cent.
"Who is this Voodoo woman, Eliza, and where does she come from?"

"Hush, Miss Sallie; she hears every word we say right now. She don't allow nobody to name her. She say she ain't got father nor mother, an' nobody don't know where she come from nor where she 's goin' to."

"Why do they send for this mysterious person to cure Etta? What do they imagine has made her sick?"

"They think Aunt Sue 's tryin' to conjure her. She's afraid to eat anythin', an' she 's starvin' herself to death. Sometimes she snatches a bite o' what comes from the house table before ole Sue has a chance to do somethin' to it. I done talked to her an' talked to her, but I can't do nothin' with her. Aunt Sue been goin' down steady till Etta got sick, an' now she looks like she's gonna live another hundred years."

I interrupted a little impatiently: --

"Eliza, I don't in the least understand you. Martha knows better than that. This is nonsense you are telling me.

"No, not nonsense, Miss Sallie. Didn't your gran'pa tell you ole Sue was gittin' to be a ole woman when he was a little boy? How she lives so long suckin' young folks's blood in their sleep? They die, an' she keeps on a-livin'."

"Oh," said I, "you surely can't believe that, for the poor old creature has not been able to stir from her door for years.

"Shucks, Miss Sallie, she don' need feet to walk at night. Peter Sladen sayss she can travel faster 'n a bird can fly. He seen her standin' in the door one night, with big black wings to her shoulders, same as a bat, an' she rose up in the air and de a'r an' was gone clean out o' sight in a minute. He seed her wid his own eyes.

"By nex' morn'n Mary Billy's baby was dead, an' ole Sue was hoppin' around pearter 'n common." Dropping her voice almost to a whisper, she added, "I always 'lowed she had somethin' to do wid Jerry's death."

Jerry was Eliza's son, who had died very suddenly of something like sun-stroke the previous summer. To divert her mind from a memory that always clouded her face with the melancholy of mania, I arose, saying, "Come with me, Eliza. We will talk to Sue, and then I will see Etta."

She followed me to the door of the cabin of the old woman, who had been an unprofitable charge upon the plantation for a quarter of a century, but I could not get her to go inside.

I entered alone; and the moment I spoke to her, the wretched old centenarian, a mere bundle of bones and clothes in the chimney corner, began to mumble and chatter. The cob pipe dropped unheeded from her blue gums, and would have set fire to her dress but for the nimbleness of the pickaninny who had the care of her. She raised her skinny claws (they had ceased to resemble hands) protestingly, and the wrinkled black skin of her face fell pendulous from the bone as she wagged her head to and fro, saying: --

"Don' come here pesterin' me, chile. De Lawd knows I am' done nothin' to de gal. Send fur Dr. Davi'son. Dey says I 'm at de bottom of it, but de Lawd knows I am' done nothin'." The filmy sightless eyes rolled about restlessly, vainly seeking mine as she urged her innocence. "Send fur Dr. Davi'son," she repeated. "he'll tell you dere am' nothin' de matter wid de gal."

Putting her head in the doorway, Eliza said : --

"Law, Miss Sallie, don' trust to dat. Doctors don' know ev'ything. Doctors am' Gawd A'mighty."

Turning to the hideous living mummy, I said, --

"You need n't be uneasy, Aunt Sue. I shall have the whole matter carefully investigated. No one shall hurt you, if you have done nothing wrong."

Unknown, 19th Cent.
"De Lawd blesh you, honey, you's de ve'y spit o' you' gran'pa. He would n't never let 'em hurt ole Sue, poor ole Sue, -- ole Sue, poor ole Sue."

We left her muttering "poor ole Sue," which was often her refrain for hours at a time. As we walked down the lane between the houses in the quarters, on our way to Eliza's cabin, the girl kept so close behind me that I felt sure she had the folds of my dress tightly grasped in her band; and her voice was quavering with ill-suppressed fear as she whispered, --

"Folks says she 's talkin' to de ole boy, when she carries on like dat."

"Eliza," said I, "are you really and truly afraid of Aunt Sue?"

"Naw 'in, I am' 'feard of her. I w'ars red pepper in my shoes."

"Red pepper? What for?"

"To keep her from hurtin' me, Miss Sallie."

"Where did you get such an idea?"

"Shoo, Miss Sallie, I be'n knowin' dat sence I was a young gal. 'T was a party give by de Mayberry darkies. We was all dancin' a break-down, an' de planks shuck under our foots powerful, an' let de clouds o' dust fly out 'tel we could n't see 'cross de room. Some nigger sneeze right loud, den 'nudder somebody, den 'nudder, 'tel you could n' hyer yer yers fur de sneezin'.

I sez, 'Mr. Frierson' (Tom Frierson was my partner), 'dere must be pepper in dis house somewhars.' 'Yes,' he sez, 'I'm w'arin' it in my shoes.' 'What you w'arin' it in yer shoes for?' sez I. Sez 'e, 'I w'ars it to keep a ole conjure nigger from hurtin' me. He kep' a-workin' on me 'tel he got a needle in my leg. Dat needle bothered me 'bout a year. Sometimes it would come through de skin, an' I done my best to catch holt uv it an' pull it out; but jes' as soon as I lay my hands on it, it was gone ev'y time. Den I put red pepper in my shoes an' a silver dime 'tween my toes, an' I am' seen dat needle sence.'"

[Tom Frierson told Eliza about a form of conjuring in which the victim feels unnatural pains in the feet or legs. This is sometimes called "poisoning through the feet." Wearing red pepper and a silver dime in the shoes for magical protection against such work is quite common to this day. For another such account at this site, see the 1930s slave narrative by Sam Jordan in which he mentions folks wearing silver dimes in the shoes.]

By this time we had reached Eliza's house. Both its doors, which were opposite, were wide open. To the right was the fireplace, with a few smouldering sticks in it, over which swung a pot attached to an old-fashioned crane. On a low bench were seated the sick girl's parents, moaning in a low, sobbing tone. In the corner near them was a neatly made bed covered with a bright patchwork quilt. The beams of the low-roofed cabin were hung with festoons of red pepper, bunches of yellow pop-corn, and strips of dried pumpkin.

Here and there on the walls were wisps of pennyroyal, side by side with a lithograph of a lady with a vivid red rose and green leaves stuck in her jetty ringlets, or a highly colored fashion-plate from an early issue of Godey's Lady's Book. A small table near the centre of the room was set with two flowered plates, cups and saucers, and knives and forks. Another bed was against the wall opposite the fireplace, and on it lay, face upward, the negro girl, apparently in a dying condition. Her eyes were partially closed, the balls rolled back. A scant, fluttering breath came through her parted teeth. The brown arms lay straight on either side.

"Etta, what is the matter with you?" I asked.

She did not answer me. I took one of her hands and stroked it gently. It was clammy, and the palm was ashen-colored.

"Speak to me, Etta. I want to help you. If you would like to see the Voodoo woman, she shall come to you."

The lids lifted tremblingly from the glazed eyes. With a painful effort she gasped out --

"It's my only -- chance -- Miss Sallie. I'm goin' to die. All last night -- I was crawlin' -- under de house -- buntin' fur de vial. De cork 's out -- de stuff's 'most gone. As soon as it's gone I'm goin' -- goin'. Dere ain't much left -- I'm "--

Unknown, 19th Cent.
The motion of the lips ceased, the eyelids fell, and only an occasional pulsation in the wrist showed that any life was left in the limp form. In the intense stillness that oppressed the next few moments I caught the sound of approaching wheels. I went to the door, and, shading my eyes with my hand from the outside glare, saw rattling down the lane a shackling little old cart, driven by the sick girl's small brother, Buster.

His legs protruded like black sticks from under his one white garment. With his whip (merely a hickory handle and a leather string) he was belaboring a little gray mule into a trot that jerked the wheels until they seemed to run each in a separate track, and sometimes almost under the centre of the wagon.

"There comes the woman," I said to those in the room.

"Thank Gawd fur dat, Miss Sallie," came at the same moment from Martha and her husband, neither of whom had said a word up to that time, but had remained bent forward, looking downward, and groaning at regular intervals.

I watched the approach of the wobbling wheels that finally stopped in front of the house. From the wagon descended two remarkable-looking persons, a man and a woman. He, a very tall negro, with thick African lips and woolly hair, was dressed in cloth as black as his skin. The woman was a delicate light mulattress, of reddish tinge. An oval face, regular features, and large, brilliant black eyes gave her singular beauty.

 She wore no hat or bonnet, but around her head was twined a turban of bright hues, Madras yellow predominating. Large hoop earrings hung from her ears, and a string of blue beads was twined round and round her throat, and fell in festoons, longer and longer, until they touched the waist of her white tunic. Beads were also wound about her arms, which the loose sleeves left bare. Beneath her skirt of dull indigo blue, which did not conceal her well-turned ankles, her exquisitely formed bare feet were seen, which carried her lightly, yet with great dignity of bearing, into the house.

Aunt Caroline Dye, 19th Century Conjure Woman
[Park presents us with one of the earliest verbal descriptions of what a 19th century "black gypsy" rootworker looked like, with her colourful Madras yellow tignon (which Park calls a "turban"), loose-sleeved white tunic, indigo-blue skirt, gold hoop earrings, and Middle-Eastern or Indian style blue beads worn to protect against the evil eye. Given the way this woman dressed, it is possible that what Park saw as a "light mulatress" may not have been a woman part African and part European, but rather a woman who was part African and part Romany, or even entirely Romany.

Note also as you read what follows that the curative rite this "Voodoo woman" performed does not closely resemble either African or Haitian Voodoo, and her song, chanted in "a foreign tongue" and accompanied by "undulating" dance movements is a further hint that she may have been from the Romany culture. In any case, whatever her ethnicity, she and her African American male helper were obviously not slaves and were free to travel the country and practice their spiritual work.]

Her companion followed most respectfully, while the boy hitched the mule. I retreated to the fireplace, and stood watching with amazed interest. The parents did not stir. They did not even look up. Eliza turned her back, and sat on the further door-sill, looking out. The woman took no notice of any of us, but advanced into the room towards the patient on the bed. Her eyes assumed a steadfast expression as she fastened them upon the girl. After a long space of breathless silence, in which she continued her fixed gaze, her eyes scintillated with an influence that pervaded the room, and seemed to subject all other volition to her own will.

She concentrated her attention upon Etta. A quiver ran though the girl's frame; her eyes flew open with a startled gaze. The woman drew back four or five steps with a hasty but most graceful movement, still looking intently into the eyes of the sick girl. Her body swayed to and fro. Keeping time to its rhythmic motion, she chanted slowly a weird, fantastic, barbaric air, unlike anything I had ever heard. The words were in a foreign tongue. The undulations of her body brought her near enough to touch the girl upon the shoulder, upon whom the effect was electrical. Again a shiver ran through her frame, and she looked intently upon the Voodoo woman, as, changing the air, she chanted in a low, sweet key that sounded like a staccato wind beating upon an Aeolian harp: --

"You loved him! You loved him! He 's gone!"

Then a pause followed, filled only with the throbbing pulse in my ears. Again she sang: --

"He's gone! He went to the fields! While there, he worked! He worked! He put his hands to his head, and said, I'm sick'

Unknown, 19th Cent.
At this Eliza rose from her seat on the door-sill, and turned. Through it all the poor father and mother did not look up, but made a low moaning and sobbing that fitted into the chant like a minor accompaniment, and so excited my nerves that I could not restrain the tears from rolling down my face. The woman continued : --

"It is this that ails you, and not the medicine in the vial! The old woman did try to trick you! The vial is under the house! But it will not be emptied! I have sent it back to where it came from! It has gone down, down! It has gone to him!" and she pointed to the floor. "It's gone now," she repeated, introducing a soothing note into the song. "That is not what ails you. You loved him, and he's dead! He's dead!" Here the song was a wail.

Eliza, who was listening with strained attention, threw her arms above her head, cried out in a piercing voice, "It's true! It's true! It was my son, and he's dead, he's gone!" and fell across the foot of the bed, burying her face in the bed-clothes.

The strange woman passed her hand over Etta's brow two or three times, raised it, and, stepping back three or four steps, said, in a voice of command, --


The girl arose.

With hand still up, the woman continued to walk backward to the door, her eyes still riveted on the girl, saying, --

"Follow -- follow -- follow."

Etta left her bed and followed.

When the woman reached the door, she threw one concentrated look upon the girl, following her as if impelled by an invisible power, and then turned and went out of the door. She ran lightly up the street, retraced her steps down the other side of the houses: making the circuit of the quarters, and came back into the house, followed still by the panting girl.

When she entered the house she looked at me for the first time, and said in an altogether different voice, though it was gentle and calm: --

"She is well now, Mrs. Park. There will be no more trouble about her."

It startled me to hear my name from her lips, for I was sure she had never before seen me, and was not expecting to meet me when she arrived. Moreover, no one had spoken to me since her entrance. While I was pondering this and all I had witnessed within the hour, the tall man approached her, and very tenderly placed his arm around her waist. It was timely support, as I at once saw she would have fallen to the floor without it. Her eyes were slowly closing, and her body was utterly relaxed.

"She must sleep," said the man. "She always sleeps after one of these spells."

I motioned him to follow me with the light burden of her body, which he had already taken into both his strong arms. I led the way to another cabin, where she was laid upon a bed, and rested in a heavy, motionless sleep for hours, after which, as I was told by Martha, she ate heartily at their table. As the cock crew for midnight she arose, and went unquestioned to her mysterious home.

Etta's recovery was as complete as it was sudden, and I never heard anything more of her queer malady.

S. M. P.
Reprinted from
The Atlantic Monthly
Volume LXIV
September 1889

More Folk Remedies

1. To cure a nosebleed, have someone repeat a Bible verse while walking around you in a circle, then blow your nose 3 times.

2. To cure a cold, drink a mixture of coal oil and sugar. (Doubt even sugar would make that taste but so good.)

3. To cure a cold, sleep with your head to the West.

4. To cure a cold, inhale the smoke of burning feathers.

5. To cure a cold, crawl east through a double-rooted briar.

6. To cure a cold, Tie dirty socks around your neck at night, when you lose them as you sleep, you lose the cold.

7. To cure herpes, eat cold boild frog each week.

8. To cure a nosebleed or hiccups, run a cold knife, (or key), up and down your back. Another remedy says to hold the knife against the back of your neck.

9. To cure hysteria or other mental illness, dunk patient in icy stream at night.

10. To cure a chest cold, place mashed potatoes on the chest.

11. To cure a cold, drink kerosine and sugar.

12. To stop bleeding, apply chimney soot.

13. To cure a cold, drink tea made from hogs' hooves.

14. To cure a stuffy nose, stand on your head.

15. To cure cold sores, put the dry membrane of an egg on your lip.

16. To cure a cold, drop a spider, (or a red ant), in a thimble, cork it and wear it around your neck.

17. To cure shingles, kill a black cat and put the skin on you before it gets cold.

18. To cure a stomachache, put a hot coal in a cup of water, shake salt over it 3 times, spit in it, then throw it in a fire.

19. To cure a cold, pound 6 nails in the wall and tie a string to each. Say with sincerity that the cold will leave and leave the nails in until the patient recovers.

20. To cure a cough, shave the patients' head and hang the hair on a bush. When birds carry the hairs away, they carry the cough with it.

21. Or, it was believed that you could sell your cough or cold, (but the amount of money asked for it was, of course, small).

The Loa, Spirits of Voodoo

The Ghede, L.L.
The Loa, also called the Mysteries and the Invisibles, are a central part of Voodoo. They act as intermediaries between human beings and the creator, (Bondye or Bon-Dieu - Good-God), not unlike Saints and Angels do in Catholicism.

Voodoo practitioners do not, as Catholics do, simply pray to these intermediaries and the Loa are represented by a great deal more than icons. Each has a very unique and developed personality. What they like and don't like is known and honored and each has distinct rhythms, songs, dances, symbols and rituals of service associated with it.

They are not Gods, however, they are beings who exist in the crossroads between Bondye and human beings, who interact and intercede between the two.To avoid persecution for their beliefs, African slaves in Hati and the Southern U.S. took advantadge of the similarity between Saints and Loa and used the former to represent the latter. Today, many Saints have become Loa in their own right.

In Voodoo ceremonies the Loa are called by the Priestess (Mambo) or Priest (Houngan) or sometimes Bokor (Sorcerers). They are invited to participate actively in the service, not simply worshipped. Offerings are made to them and requests made of them. They possess practitioners, but not in the way we think of spirit possession in the West.

The possession, called mounting, can be violent or calm, depending on the personality of the Loa. They speak and act through the practitioner, is a simple way of putting it, though there isn't really a simple way to describe it. One allegory often used is that of riding a horse, with the practitioner being the one ridden.

Crossroads, L.L.
Some Loa are easily recognized, some are more elusive. Phrases, actions and behavior indicate which Loa is present. When the Loa is identified, the symbols associated with them are offerred. For example, Legba will be given his cane, straw hat and pipe; the formidable Baron Samedi his top hat, sunglasses and cigar.

The Loa is fed, served and sometimes given or gives help and/or advice. They do not, as is commonly thought of possession in the West, have some need or even desire to stay in the host. Sometimes, however, they can be a little stubborn, for example wanting to linger and drink or smoke more. The Houngan or Mambo keeps those tendancies under control.

Loa have families, as human beings do. These are called nanchons, (nations). These include Rada (also Radha), Petro (also Pethro, Petwo), Nago, Kongo and Ghede (Also Guede, or Gede):

The Rada Loa are older, benevolant spirits. They include Legba, Loko, Ayizan, Dhamballah Wedo and Ayida-Weddo, Erzulie Freda, La Sirène, and Agwe. The color white is associated with them.

The Petro Loa are volitile, sometimes aggressive and combative. They include Ezili Dantor, Marinette, Ogoun, and Kalfu (Carrefour). The color red is associated with them.

The Kongo Loa originated in the Congo. These include the Simbi loa and Marinette, who is greatly feared for her ferocity.

The Nago Loa Originated in Nigeria and these include many of the Ogun spirits.

The Ghede Loa are spirits of the dead. They are led by the Barons La Croix, Samedi, Cimitière, Kriminel and Maman Brigitte. They are boisterous, a little rude, very sexual and tend to be having a sort of perpetual wild party. They have no fear and like to demonstrate their freedom from consequence. In services they do radical things to show this, like eating glass. The colors black and purple are associated with them.

Early American Proverbs

18th Century Woodcut

You can't do more than you can do.

 Those who have the most to say speak the least.

Speak of angels and you will hear their wings.

 Never miss a good chance to shut up.

 Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you.

 You can't unscramble an egg.

A little too late is too much too late.

If you're all wrapped up in yourself you're a small package, and not much of a surprise.

 A person is as good as their conversation.

 Adversity and prosperity equally make monsters of men.

Don't live it up so high you don't have a place to lie down.

How to Cook Like They Did in Ancient Egypt

"In water you see your own face, but in wine the heart of its garden"
- ancient Egyptian proverb

Honey Omlette

4 eggs
1 1/4 c. milk
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp honey

Mix eggs, milk and oil. Pur into pre-heated, lightly oiled frying pan and thoroughly cook on one side. Turn out onto plate. Pour warmed honey over it, sprinkle with pepper.


2lbs cream of wheat
2 1/2 c sugar
3/4 lbsp. butter
16 oz. plain yogurt
slivered almond halves

Bring all ingredients to room temperature. In a large bowl mix sugar and cream of wheat. Add butter, rubbing it with the sugar and cream of wheat between your palms for 10 minutes or more until well mixed.

Add yogurt and mix until Dough feels smooth. If dry, add one tablespoon of watre at a time -- it should have the consistancy of pie dough.

Butter a 13x9x2" pan and pat the dough in. With a sharp knife slice in 2 x 2 diamond shapes.  Press one almond half onto each. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown


2tbsp  unsalted butter or olive oil. 2 lb stew beef, cut into 1 in cubes.
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 c peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 c beef stock stock (beef), or as needed
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
salt and freshly ground pepper
1-1 1/2 lb okra
juice of 1 lemon

First cook okra: Trim the conical tips with a sharp knife, then soak the okra in red wine-vinegar for 30 minutes, allowing 1/2 cup vinegar per pound. Drain, rinse and dry the okra.

Preheat an oven to 325* F

Place 4 tbsp butter or oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Working in small batches, add the meat and fry, turning constantly, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer the cooked meat to a baking dish or stew pot.

Add the onions to the fat remaining in the frying pan and saute them over medium heat until translucent, 8-10 mins. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, tomatoes, tomato paste, the 1 cup stock and mint (if using: but really it is more authentic if you do use it!). Stir well. Pour over the meat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover tightly and bake until all the liquid is absorbed, about 1 1/2 Hrs.

Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter or oil in the skillet. Add the okra and saute for 3 mins, stirring gently. Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the cooked okra on top in a spoke pattern. Sprinkle the lemon juice evenly over the surface.

Re-cover the dish and return it to the oven. Bake for 35 minutes longer. Add stock or water if the mixture seems too dry. Serve very hot.
Serves 4.

Egyptian Chicken 

Soak chicken overnight in buttermilk. Then marinate:

Egyptian Marinade

1/2 c olive oil
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 onion, grated
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and pour over chicken. Cover and marinate overnight.

Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking. Remove the meat from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Grill or kebob and grill chicken, basting with reserved marinade while cooking.
Cooking time will depend upon the size of the poultry pieces; do not let become dry. Serve with pita and lemon wedges.

Date Candy

1 c fresh dates
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 c ground walnuts
small amount warm honey
dish of fine ground almonds

Mix the dates with some water to paste, add cinnamon and cardamom, kneed in the walnuts. Form balls, spread with honey and cover in the ground almonds.

How to Read Runes, Rune Poems

Anglo Saxon

Wealth is a comfort to all men; yet must every man bestow it freely if he wish to gain honour in the sight of the Lord.
The aurochs is proud and has great horns; it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns; a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle. 

The thorn is exceedingly sharp, an evil thing for any knight to touch, uncommonly severe on all who sit among them. 

The mouth is the source of all language a pillar of wisdom and a comfort to wise men, a blessing and a joy to every knight.

Riding seems easy to every warrior while he is indoors and very courageous to him who traverses the high-roads on the back of a stout horse.
The torch is known to every living man by its pale, bright flame; it always burns where princes sit within.
Generosity brings credit and honour, which support one's dignity it furnishes help and subsistence to all broken men who are devoid of aught else.
Bliss he enjoys who knows not suffering, sorrow nor anxiety, and has prosperity and happiness and a good enough house.
Hail is the whitest of grain; it is whirled from the vault of heaven and is tossed about by gusts of wind and then it melts into water.
Trouble is oppressive to the heart; yet often it proves a source of help and salvation to the children of men, to everyone who heeds it betimes
Ice is very cold and immeasurably slippery;  it glistens as clear as glass and most like to gems; it is a floor wrought by the frost, fair to look upon.
Summer is a joy to men, when God, the holy King of Heaven,  suffers the earth to bring forth shining fruits for rich and poor alike.
The yew is a tree with rough bark,  hard and fast in the earth, supported by its roots, a guardian of flame and a joy upon an estate.
Peorth is a source of recreation and amusement to the great, where warriors sit blithely together in the banqueting-hall.
The Eolh-sedge is mostly to be found in a marsh; it grows in the water and makes a ghastly wound, covering with blood every warrior who touches it.
The sun is ever a joy in the hopes of seafarers  when they journey away over the fishes' bath, until the courser of the deep bears them to land.
Tiw is a guiding star; well does it keep faith with princes;  it is ever on its course over the mists of night and never fails.
The poplar bears no fruit; yet without seed it brings forth suckers, for it is generated from its leaves. Splendid are its branches and gloriously adorned its lofty crown which reaches to the skies.
The horse is a joy to princes in the presence of warriors. A steed in the pride of its hoofs, when rich men on horseback bandy words about it; and it is ever a source of comfort to the restless.
The joyous man is dear to his kinsmen;  yet every man is doomed to fail his fellow, since the Lord by his decree will commit the vile carrion to the earth.
The ocean seems interminable to men, if they venture on the rolling bark and the waves of the sea terrify them and the courser of the deep heed not its bridle.
Ing was first seen by men among the East-Danes, till, followed by his chariot, he departed eastwards over the waves. So the Heardingas named the hero.
An estate is very dear to every man, if he can enjoy there in his house whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.
Day, the glorious light of the Creator, is sent by the Lord; it is beloved of men, a source of hope and happiness to rich and poor, and of service to all.
The oak fattens the flesh of pigs for the children of men. Often it traverses the gannet's bath, and the ocean proves whether the oak keeps faith in honourable fashion.
The ash is exceedingly high and precious to men. With its sturdy trunk it offers a stubborn resistance, though attacked by many a man.
Yr is a source of joy and honour to every prince and knight; it looks well on a horse and is a reliable equipment for a journey.
Iar is a river fish and yet it always feeds on land; it has a fair abode encompassed by water, where it lives in happiness.
The grave is horrible to every knight, when the corpse quickly begins to cool and is laid in the bosom of the dark earth. Prosperity declines, happiness passes away and covenants are broken. 
Wealth source of discord among kinsmen and fire of the sea and path of the serpent.

Shower lamentation of the clouds and ruin of the hay-harvest and abomination of the shepherd.

Giant torture of women and cliff-dweller and husband of a giantess.

God aged Gautr and prince of Ásgarðr and lord of Vallhalla.

Riding joy of the horsemen and speedy journey and toil of the steed.

Ulcer disease fatal to children and painful spot and abode of mortification.

Hail cold grain and shower of sleet and sickness of serpents.

Constraint grief of the bond-maid and state of oppression and toilsome work.

Ice bark of rivers and roof of the wave and destruction of the doomed.

Plenty boon to men and good summer and thriving crops.

Sun shield of the clouds and shining ray and destroyer of ice.

Týr god with one hand and leavings of the wolf and prince of temples.

Birch leafy twig and little tree and fresh young shrub.

Man delight of man and augmentation of the earth and adorner of ships.

Water eddying stream and broad geysir and land of the fish.

Yew bent bow and brittle iron and giant of the arrow. 


Wealth is a source of discord among kinsmen;
the wolf lives in the forest.

Dross comes from bad iron;
the reindeer often races over the frozen snow.

Giant causes anguish to women;
misfortune makes few men cheerful.

Estuary is the way of most journeys;
but a scabbard is of swords.

Riding is said to be the worst thing for horses;
Reginn forged the finest sword.

Ulcer is fatal to children;
death makes a corpse pale.

Hail is the coldest of grain;
Christ created the world of old.

Constraint gives scant choice;
a naked man is chilled by the frost.

Ice we call the broad bridge;
the blind man must be led.

Plenty is a boon to men;
I say that Frothi was generous.

Sun is the light of the world;
I bow to the divine decree.

Tyr is a one-handed god;
often has the smith to blow.

Birch has the greenest leaves of any shrub;
Loki was fortunate in his deceit.

Man is an augmentation of the dust;
great is the claw of the hawk.

A waterfall is a River which falls from a mountain-side;
but ornaments are of gold.

Yew is the greenest of trees in winter;
it is wont to crackle when it burns.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tibetan Astrology

Tibetan Time Wheel
There are several schools of Astrology in the East. Tibetan Astrology combines several of these traditions; those from India, China, Buddhism and incorporates them in Bon, a Tibetan religion.

The end result is, and is not as complicated as it might seem it would be on the surface. In Tibet, it is used for diviniation, as it is in the West but it is also applied on a larger scale.

Tibetan Astrology is part of the way they observe the passing of of time, daily and eternal; it is part of calendars, almanacs, and the vaster Tibetan philosophy of time cycles. It also is used as a sort of waking meditation, as movements of the planets are studied so that every-day activities can move in accordance with them. A part of it is what I do at this site, observing weekly planetary movements in addition to specific movements relating to the time individuals were born.

An individuals personal horoscope, how the current position of planets relates to where the planets were whent they were born, is important in both Tibetan and Western Astrology. Tibetans, however, bring the importance of the position of the way the position of the planets reflect the cycles of the larger whole, somewhat more to the forefront than Western Astrology does.

Tibetan astrologers use their system to give people advice, to predict the weather, when good or bad luck is most likely to come in earthly endeavors. There are religious ceremonies monks conduct to remove negative influences related to the planets as well.

When children are born, Tibetan astrologers examine their charts and conduct rituals to remove negative influences that may result due to planetary positions at the time. Death charts are also prepared to determine how the persons funeral would be best conducted. It is believed that improper observance of these things can bring problems, in life and death, for individuals and their families.

Intriguingly, Tibet has an ancient, "nameless religion", and this is also found in their Astrology. It is a complex subject but basically relates to five fundamental forces: vitality, life potential, phyical health, personal power and a fifth called "wind horse", or energies within a person. They relate to the five elements, Wood, Wind, Earth, Fire, Water. Though it draws from other traditions, the resulting system is unique to Tibet.

It is believed that these move through our physical bodies in a monthly cycle, which can, of course, be seen in monthly planetary movements. On days when the force is weaker, ceremonies can be undertaken to strengthen them.

Astrology can be a sort of daily meditation, a way to pause and contemplate the actions we are about to undertake and how they relate to the actions of the planets around us.

An Interview With Don Miguel Ruiz

Originally published at Suite101 Astrology

Don Miguel Ruiz is an interesting man. The best-selling author of "The Four Agreements", along with a number of other books, is a Toltec nagual, or holy-man. His voice is quiet, unassuming yet the moment he begins he engages your attention somehow. He speaks simply, yet communicates volumes with a few words.

I was excited to discover Mr. Ruiz and his books. Many Toltec teachings were lost or distorted when the Spanish invaded. The result is we know little for certain about them.

Now a corner of the veil of mystery that surrounds these traditions has been lifted. Mr. Ruiz not only elaborates on Toltec teachings but shows how they apply to our world today. He begins by explaining that the Toltec were not a race of people but a group of artists and thinkers,

"The word Toltec means artist." He said, "You are the artist of your own world. The limitations you create dissappear as soon as you become the artist you are, because, really, everything is possible. In your life, you are creating your own world.

"Then, everything is possible. The limitations you create dissappear because you realize you created them, you create your own story and it changes all the time. How it changes depends on who you're talking to, how you feel at the moment.

"Then, everything is possible. The limitations you create dissappear because you realize you created them, you create your own story and it changes all the time. How it changes depends on who you're talking to, how you feel at the moment.

"What is dificult is not to understand. The difficulty is you must unlearn and understand that it is our dream of life that is difficult. It is important to begin accepting experience the way it is, then it becomes easy. When you realize that you don't have to be how everyone wants you to be you can enjoy life.

What about other Toltec traditions, I asked? For example, they so closely studied the planets their astrology, which was central to their belief system, is better termed astronomy. Is it still significant today? Yes, he answered:

"Toltec astrology is not quite the same as the astrology people see today. We observed planetary events that took place and considered them to be very important to life on earth. It is extremely interesting. Every living being is unique. We determine individual horoscopes not only by the time that you are born, but the time at which you are concieved as well.

"At each of these times, the entire uiverse is arranged in a certain way. At that point, when your atoms are first arranged, you begin. It is the same as with the universe itself. You are the only one who is you." he continued, "You are unique not only in the present but for the entire history of humanity. This you, this combination of atoms that formed and then came into the world, arranged at these unique points in the universe will never be duplicated.

When looking at Toltec astrology, I saw that a great deal of importance was placed on 52 year cycles. In fact, much of their belief system seemed anchored on the number. Why, I asked, was 52 so important? "Toltecs measure by the cycles of the Earth, Moon and Venus." He said, "We observed and measured these cycles and noted that the positions of these three repeat every 52 years. So, after 9 months of creation, when you are born your maturation begins and moves in cycles of 52 years.

"Communities also begin in cycles of 52 years." He continued, "When the cycle ends, they and you are destroyed and built anew. The ruins of the pyramids reflect this, they were re-built every 52 years. It is all a dream, that evolves and re-constructs.

I asked him what he thought about Toltec mythology, which he touches upon in his books. "Myth", he said, "also plays a part in Toltec teaching. At one time people believed it was the truth. But myths are just symbols, their meaning changed a lot, evolved. The human mind believed it as it evolved, which created conflicts and evil.

"People believe in so many lies that are simply not true. As we see from the many conflicts arounds us. Or when we look at the whole human drama, we see that it is because we believe lies. Hitler came to power, for example, because everyone believed his lies and then there was war.

So what, I asked, of truth then? "The Toltecs have three levels of mastery of awareness of truth; three levels of seeing through these lies that create conflicts in our minds, lives and world.

"First, we must become aware that we are dreaming. We are dreaming all the time. When the brain is awake, we have awareness that what we percieve are projections that come from light. Reflection of light comes from everywhere to the eye; just like a movie. We see only light, light projecting objects.

It's all very virtual reality. Like when we see a mirror, we know everything that exists inside the mirror isnot real but it looks just like outside. When we touch it, however, we touch only the surface ofthe mirror. Everything is in our eye, our brain. It is all a virtual copy.

"Yes, we are dreaming all the time. When we are sleeping, it is still a dream, but we dream from memory. In dreams we see everything we remember. When the brain is awake, we are living in present time, the matter we see is the frame of the dream. When you know you are dreaming, everything is possible and nothing has consequences. But when you are awake, there are consequences. It is all about awareness.

"Sooner or later we'll find out the majority of beliefs we have are nothing but lies. The point is to get to the place where you accept existance as it is. There is nothing you can do to change what already exists, rather, we must surrender to trying to be what we are. It is wonderful to be human, to find out the only thing we can do is experience and enjoy life as much as we can.

"You are here on a mission, that mission, and that is enough. If you try to transcend, you'll fail because it is not authentic to do so. You must be authentic. You are unique and there is no one like you. The only way to make it is to be you, not better, or worse. There is nobody better or worse than you.

"Everyone is living in their own dream, making their own story. Don't make assumptions about it. Use words to tell your own stories. Just do best what only you can do. By doing this you are truly living, experiencing, enjoying life."

"Then, everything is possible. The limitations you create dissappear because you realize you created them, you create your own story and it changes all the time. How it changes depends on who you're talking to, how you feel at the moment.