What is Hoodoo?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Hoodoo is an African American type of folk magic with its roots in African, Native American, and European traditions. Also called conjure or conjuration, it developed in the American Southeast and spread mostly through word of mouth. Though there are experts in this magic, there is no hierarchy, and the practice is open to anyone. Traditionally, experts, known as hoodoo doctors, traveled to practice their craft and took on apprentices.

"Hoodoo" is also a name for a tall, somewhat cylindrical desert rock formation.
"Hoodoo" is also a name for a tall, somewhat cylindrical desert rock formation.

Many people confuse hoodoo with Voodoo, a religion that began in West Africa, and the ideas that most people have about Voodoo are often actually closer to hoodoo. Practices include folk remedies, magic spells, necromancy, and fortune telling, and practitioners are predominantly Christian rather than followers of Voodoo. Though there are spiritual elements to the practice, it is not a religion.

Hoodoo refers to an African American type of folk magic.
Hoodoo refers to an African American type of folk magic.

Many spells and remedies make use of physical objects believed to have spiritual or supernatural powers. As in other magical traditions, plants, minerals, animal products, and bodily fluids are common spell ingredients. A person's hair, nails, or possessions may be used to make him or her the subject of a spell.

The Holy Bible, specifically the Old Testament, is considered an artifact of Hoodoo.
The Holy Bible, specifically the Old Testament, is considered an artifact of Hoodoo.

The Christian Bible, especially the Old Testament, is considered a powerful artifact in hoodoo. The Psalms and other passages are often read aloud as a part of spells, and the Bible itself can be a powerful talisman, particularly for protection. In this worldview, the Bible and biblical figures are reconceived according to supernatural and magical ideas; God is the greatest conjurer of all, using magic to create the world in six days. European and European-American grimoires, or books of spells, also had an influence on its development.

A common practice in hoodoo is the use of a talisman known as a mojo or gris-gris. A small bag, often of red flannel, is filled with certain items chosen for the effect the charm is to have and worn by the subject of the spell. Both the choice of items within the mojo and the way in which the bag is tied are important to the spell. The charm is typically worn under the clothes and must regularly be "fed," for example with a drop of perfume, in order to retain its strength.

Hoodoo has roots in Native American traditions.
Hoodoo has roots in Native American traditions.
Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments


Is hoodoo as dangerous as voodoo? I've always heard never to mess with voodoo unless you are a true believer. What are your thoughts on this?


Hoo Doo is derived from Christianity and African-American slaves. There is also a folk healing/magic system with some similarities called Pow Wow; it is common in the Appalachian mountains. It uses chants or prayers for healing. It is thought to have come over with the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Religions, faith, healing systems, the more fluid they are, the longer they last. No matter how isolated we are, even if no one directly knows an African American practitioner, someone may have known some who did and practitioners, particularly those who seek to heal, commonly use anything that works and share practices.


Hoodoo is a form of folk magic, yes, and has a Christian basis of practitioners more often than not. However, I wholeheartedly disagree that it is also only to be considered an "African-American" form of folk magic, simply for the fact that my family has been doing these forms of things for several hundred years, and has never had any connection to African-American anything, having been among the first settlers to this country and was isolated in the mountains of Appalachia.

There may be some similarities with so called African practices, yes, but that's as far as it goes.


Voodoo is a religion. Hoodoo is the practice of folk magic.


I don't believe in all these things people say happen, like spirits communicating with you. I might be different if it happened to me but i think people who say spirits communicate and magic spells and stuff work, but i really would like to know if anyone can honestly say i have encountered spells and magic and stuff.


@StormyKnight: She was born free, the daughter of a white planter and a free Creole woman of color in the French Quarter of New Orleans, LA. She married Jacques Paris who was also a free person of color who emigrated from Haiti.

Her career as a Voodoo Priestess was magic mixed with Roman Catholic beliefs that included saints with African spirits and religious concepts. She was beheaded in the top tower of her own home. People often claimed to see her in town after her death. She is buried in Saint Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans in a crypt. People who visit her grave draw XXX on its side in hopes that her spirit will grant them a wish.


Who is Marie Laveau and was she associated with hoodoo or voodoo


@googie98: Louisiana is the home state where the most Voodoo and Hoodoo are practiced in the United States. The major difference between the two is that Voodoo is a religion and Hoodoo is the African American practice of folk magic.

Hoodoo is a form of spiritualism practiced in Louisiana where most are Roman Catholic. They use mostly the Catholic Saints instead of invoking African deities. In Hoodoo the practitioners work for good and evil. They also have healers known as root doctors. Most of their magic includes candle burning and incense, as well as using the book of Psalms from the bible.

Voodoo is a religion that uses the African deities known as “loas”. Voodoo is the combination of ancient African religion, the art of healing of the Native Americans, folk magic of Europe and Catholicism.

Voodoo believers follow one god and many different powerful spirits known as “loas”.


What is the difference in Hoodoo and Voodoo?

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