‘Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.’

I’ve always liked this quote from Satchel Paige. I’m sure he applied it to many situations, though folks often say he was speaking of fear in general or worry that one isn’t doing the task at hand properly. In baseball, of course, looking over your shoulder probably helps the competion more than anything else.

A similar point of view applies in conjure. As Catherine Yronwode writes in her online overview of hoodoo practices, “One of the basic aphorisms passed along from teachers to students is, ‘Lay your trick, walk away, and don’t look back.’ Looking back can have the effect of undermining the careful deployment of curios meant to set the trick to working. It demonstrates as lack of faith or will.”

Personally, I think what’s gaining on a person who constantly looks back is doubt and that those who look back, literally or figuratively, have fallen into an obsessive compulsive (OCD) set of habits in relation to their faith–whether it’s magic, nondenominational spirituality, or a mainstream church approach.

“Faith” implies that a person trusts God and/or his/her spiritual practices. All of us may experience doubts about the way we have chosen from time to time, but generally faith–for me–implies a general certainty about one’s methods and practices (to borrow a phrase from the intelligence community).

For a baseball pitcher, doubting that one will throw a successful pitch is probably going to make it less likely that he/she will do so. This has nothing to do with jinx thinking; it’s more like saying one needs to smoothly throw the ball without clutching up while doing it.

Can we say the same thing about making the law of attraction work? Perhaps. Personally, I think one’s thoughts are vibrations and that negative, unfocussed, and uncertain thoughts produce results we don’t consciously want. 

Practitioners of positive thinking and meditation approaches suggest relaxing and meditating several times a day. If you do that with a high amount of belief in, let us say, an “every day in every way I’m getting better, better, and better,” outlook, then all of that gets rather undone if one takes a negative approach to his/her life during the time between meditation periods. I don’t mean to be flip, but if one is positive about his life and health for 30 minutes twice a day and negative and doubtful the rest his/her waking hours, what kind of emphasis results? 

In a mainstream religion, does one “undo” a prayer by praying for something more than once? I don’t know. However, I’m supersitious about going so. One time a minister asked if I was praying for my mother’s recovery again. When I said “yes,” he responded, “Do you think God didn’t hear you the first time?” Oops.

I tend to believe that thoughts are things and that constantly thinking something one way olr another way is going to manifest in the way one has chosen. I often think a general universal wisdom keeps us being so powerful that one thought would ever work like a Harry Potter spell. If so, we’d think something nasty in anger and see an entire city blow up. Can our faith move a mountain? Probably, but thank goodness it doesn’t move the mountain all at once or we might find a mountain sliding out of control onto the prairie.

What a trangled business all this is: understanding how life and our thoughts actually work. Maybe real life his actually real or maybe it’s an illusion. But either way, looking back and letting doubt take over our thoughts and actions is probably not going to serve us well.

So, I try to follow Satchel Paige’s wisdom and that’s to avoid looking back.


My conjure woman in “Conjure Woman’s Cat” definitely knows better than to look over her shoulder to check on the trick she just placed on the ground.




Freedom of Religion Means We Listen But We Don’t Preach

I grew up in a faith where one of our duties was to witness and spread the Word. I was never comfortable with that admonition because it seemed presumptuous to tell somebody else, “I know you already have a religion, but I want you to think about giving that up and switching over to my religion.”

My feeling is, if I ask you about your religion, feel free to tell me about it. Otherwise, don’t show up on my doorstep with a prepared sermon. Another feeling I have is that freedom of religion means that while we can learn from each other’s beliefs, none of those beliefs should be enacted into law. If they are, then one person is forcing his or her religion down the throats of those with other beliefs.

My mood is a bit sour today because in the novel I’m reading, the characters believe that mysticism is the work of the so-called devil. I guess the Christian mystics would take exception to that misguided idea. So do I. I take exception to it because I believe that while there is much I can learn from a preacher, there is also much I can learn by my own interactions with the Creator.

The polarized battle between red-state advocates and blue-state advocates has brought a lot of scripture quoting into the national debate. The people quoting scripture seem to think that freedom of religion is viable only as long as their beliefs are in control of the country.  Yet, when the same people look at other countries that don’t have separation between church and state, they complain about how outmoded it is to govern due to one interpretation of a holy book vs. another.

Eulalie, the main character in my Florida Folk Magic series, mixes fundamentalist Christian beliefs with hoodoo. This is fairly traditional. While I am sympathetic to the mix of magic and religion, Eulalie’s beliefs are not my beliefs. However, as an author, my duty is to portray her belief system as it is and not belittle it with authorial comments that stem from my beliefs. I think the author of the fundamentalist-oriented novel I’m reading now has intruded himself into the story by having his characters say that mystics are aligned with demons.

When I sat in high school and college history classes and learned about the numerous religious wars, I naively thought, thank goodness this can’t happen now. Apparently, I was wrong. There’s a lot of dueling scripture flying around as a justification for a lot of clashing beliefs and contrasting cultural approaches to the world. In fact, the world seems to be divided along religious lines with all sides believing their faith is everything and that the faith of others is nothing. Frankly, I don’t know how to combat that kind of arrogance other than to listen and try to understand.