Florida Folk Magic Series: a journey into the past

In 1954, the year in which most of my Florida Folk Magic Series is set, Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, Richard M. Nixon was Vice President, Earl Warren was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and  Elvis Presley issued his first single, “That’s All Right”, on Sun Records. It was the era of an unconstitutional Communist witch hunt conducted by Senator Joseph McCarthy. It was the era of Jim Crow and the so-called “separate but equal” doctrine.

It seemed natural to me then, even in grade school, that people were still talking about World War II and that when kids played army in their backyards, they were fighting the Japanese and the Germans. What seemed unnatural to me then was that people were still, one way or another, fighting and re-fighting the U. S. Civil War.

The words “terrorism” and “terrorist organization” weren’t part of national security debates in those days, but if they had been, the KKK should have born that label; permitting the group to march in parades was, as saw it then, as ludicrous as allowing the Mafia to march in parades and, as I see it now, made as much sense as allowing ISIS to march in a U. S. parade today.

My own childhood years were good ones, but Klan violence–which was heavy in Florida–and the mistreatment of African Americans as a group were, to me, an intolerable smear on our nation’s intentions and mission as written down in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The vestiges of that smear are still part of a polarized national debate today. We still have more problems to solve and attitudes to change in 2018 than we should. White supremacists, neo-Nazis, bigots, and misogynists, as I still see it, are people with an Attila the Hun mentality and, frankly, we’d be better off if we put them on a giant ice-flow and set them adrift during hurricane season.

Yes, I have strong feelings about these issues.

But in spite of those feelings, the three books in this series are not intended as a political statement. They are history. They are the culture of another era. And they are the everyday magic of another era, one that still has many devotees today. It has been said that in the South, Whites didn’t like Blacks as a race but liked many of them personally as individuals. From what I saw, there was at least some truth in this, for our moderate and liberal White friends did have Black friends and colleagues. Even so, the KKK prescribed how far we could go.

If a White went “too far,” s/he would run into trouble that could be fatal. If we broke one of the rules–such as allowing a Black to sit in the front seat of our car or walk through the front door of our house–the Blacks would say, “this isn’t done” because they were even more at risk should anyone see the infraction than we were.

Oddly enough, Scouting brought conjure to my attention. That is, we learned to respect the out of doors and how to live safely in forests and swamps. This led to discussions with Black friends who had additional ideas about what was out there and how to safely approach it. Needless to say, I didn’t take any hoodoo practices back to the Scout troop or overtly use them on our monthly camping trips. But those practices taught me a lot about humankind’s potential relationships with the environment, one that in later years ecopsychology would explore without deriding these relationships as superstition.

The bottom line for a novelist is telling stories set in specific time periods with characters with points of view that aren’t always mainstream. Yes, as a writer I also needed to make sense of what I saw as a child, but not in a political treatise. I’m drawn, as I was then, to the people themselves and how they fought against the dangers that came into their lives. Have I put tall my demons to rest? Probably not.

Nonetheless, writing these stories has brought me a sense of closure to the time when First Lady Mamie Eisenhower christened the Nautilus, our first nuclear-powered submarine, Vice President Richard Nixon said we might send troops Indochina (as we called it then) even if the allies didn’t like it, the United States Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional, and Blacks weren’t allowed at lunch counters where I had the blue plate special or in the front of the city bus I rode into town.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

 

Announcing ‘Lena’ a new Florida Folk Magic Series novel

Lena, was officially released today by Thomas-Jacob Publishing as book three in the Florida Folk Magic trilogy as a follow-up to Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman. Both the Kindle and the paperback editions were available earlier than expected, so we’ve beat our planned release date of August 1.

Publisher’s Description: 

When Police Chief Alton Gravely and Officer Carothers escalate the feud between “Torreya’s finest” and conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins by running her off the road into a north Florida swamp, the borrowed pickup truck is salvaged but Eulalie is missing and presumed dead. Her cat Lena survives. Lena could provide an accurate account of the crime, but the county sheriff is unlikely to interview a pet.

Lena doesn’t think Eulalie is dead, but the conjure woman’s family and friends don’t believe her. Eulalie’s daughter Adelaide wants to stir things up, and the church deacon wants everyone to stay out of sight. There’s talk of an eyewitness, but either Adelaide made that up to worry the police, or the witness is too scared to come forward.

When the feared Black Robes of the Klan attack the first responder who believes the wreck might have been staged, Lena is the only one who can help him try to fight them off. After that, all hope seems lost, because if Eulalie is alive and finds her way back to Torreya, there are plenty of people waiting to kill her and make sure she stays dead.

Author’s Comments

This novel is a mix of conjure and crime set in the 1950s when the KKK had a very strong presence in Florida. Many policemen and sheriffs were either members or worked with the Klan and Klan businesses. I wondered how many people I knew were Klan members: it wasn’t something I could ask nor something they would admit if I did ask. My hope is that this series will serve as an immersion into the past and help bring increased understanding about why current attitudes are as they are.

Malcolm

Release Date for ‘Lena’

After a bit of back and forth with the printer and several proof copies, we finally have the cover for Lena coming out in good shape. We were starting to wonder if it had gotten hexed. We plan to release this final novel in the Florida Folk Magic Trilogy on August 1. As a Leo, I approve.

You can see the book’s trailer on my website and also on YouTube. As usual, Thomas-Jacob Publishing has done a great trailer and a wonderful cover. The artist who did the covers for the first two books in the series was unavailable. We are pleased that Fajar Rizki created cover art in the spirit of the art used for Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman.

Book Description: When police chief Alton Gravely and officer Carothers escalate the feud between “Torreya’s finest” and conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins by running her off the road into a north Florida swamp a long way from town, the borrowed pickup truck is salvaged but Eulalie is missing and presumed dead. Her cat Lena survives. Lena could provide an accurate account of the crime—the tanker truck, the dead man in the trunk of the squad car, and the fire—but the county sheriff is unlikely to interview a pet. Lena doesn’t think Eulalie is dead, but the conjure woman’s family and friends don’t believe her.

Eulalie’s daughter Adelaide wants to stir things up. The church deacon wants everyone to stay out of sight: he fears reprisals since it’s hard to tell the difference between the police, city fathers, and the KKK. Lena teaches Adelaide rudimentary spell work—how to hex the chief of police and how to read the possum bones to find Eulalie’s fiancé Willie Tate who’s working down on the coast and tell him to come home. There’s talk of an eye witness, but either Adelaide made that up to worry the police or s/he is too scared to come forward.

Then the feared Black Robes of the Klan attack the first responder who believes the wreck might have been staged and Lena is the only one who can help him try to fight them off. After that, all hope is gone because if Eulalie is alive and if she finds her way back to Torreya, there are plenty of people waiting to kill her and make sure she stays dead.

A Facebook friend asked why this is the final novel in the series. My answer is simply that I don’t want to push my luck.  Another Facebook friend grumbled about having to wait until August 1. Sorry about that, but it’s nice to have prospective readers chomping at the bit.

Malcolm

 

 

 

Favorite Scenes from ‘Eulalie and Washerwoman’

I suppose most authors have favorite scenes from each of their books. We hope our readers like them, too. Here are a few from Eulalie and Washerwoman, from Thomas-Jacob Publishing.

Publisher’s DescriptionTorreya, a small 1950s Florida Panhandle town, is losing its men. They disappear on nights with no moon and no witnesses. Foreclosure signs appear in their yards the following day while thugs associated with the Klan take everything of value from inside treasured homes that will soon be torn down. The police won’t investigate, and the church keeps its distance from all social and political discord. Conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins, her shamanistic cat, Lena, and neighbor Willie Tate discover that the new “whites only” policy at the once friendly mercantile and the creation of a plantation-style subdivision are linked to corrupt city fathers, the disappearing men, rigged numbers gambling, and a powerful hoodoo man named Washerwoman. 

Excerpts

So Eulalie woke precariously from the blues of her dreams into the jaundiced light of the kerosene lantern when a frightful pre-dawn bedlam was visited upon our back porch by a man named William Ochlockonee Tate, a blue-nosed hinny named Minnie, and a Florida water moccasin named Nagaina. I’m Lena, the cat. Before my conjure woman was awoken by Minnie’s flailing hooves, I dozed blamelessly behind the pot marigolds until they were kicked into the yard.

Audio Edition

“Sergeant told me they’d study on it after they get the crime wave under control.”

Eulalie spat a shower of juice against the busted marigold pot. “Crime wave? I hadn’t heard.”

“It’s so scary, you won’t sleep on this lumpy old sofa on the back porch no more. Officer Moe, he claims the Bellamy Bridge haint came to town to hex us up one side and down the other. Officer Larry took a posse and rode south to apprehend a swamp booger pissin’ in front of that new white people’s church on the Estiffanulga Road. “Preacher man was damn well pissed off.” Willie couldn’t help but grin at that. “Sergeant Curly’s been on the trail of Two-Toed Tom for a month of Sundays; says if he don’t close in for the kill soon, he’ll jump Jim Crow.”

“Bless their shiny badges and pea-pickin’ hearts,” said Eulalie as matter-of-factly as one could make such a tongue-in-cheek pronouncement with a good chew in the way.

“So, what do we do first? Gather herbs. Light candles. Boil water?”

“We ain’t midwifin’, old man.”

“Don’t drink nothin’ out of that pan, Lena,” she said. “That’s the leavings of blackberry root, alum and turpentine, not a cure for anything you got. You saw ol’ Bill Carver walkin’home with the cure because he rolled too many hot biscuits at the jook and got a personal disease”—she clapped her hands twice and glared at me like this was a warning—“one that makes it hurt to pee.”

“‘Negroes and Whites have been coming here for years no hint of a problem, Mr. Ivy. Why do I need a sign now?’ Little Poison leaned across the counter close enough for me to smell the cheap bourbon on his breath. ‘Listen good, Lane. When Niggers and Whites are together, somebody’s out of place. If I go inside that praise church, I’m in the wrong place. That’s a Nigger place. If a Nigger walks in my church, he’s out of place. Out of place people have a way of getting hurt, hurt bad sometimes, and then they’re found floating face down in the Apalachicola after falling off Alum Bluff, hurt bad when their necks get caught in nooses or their houses blow up or burn down. Civilized people grieve when people of any race, including you bagel-dogs get hurt. The Liberty Improvement Club wants a happy town where nobody gets hurt. You might say, we’re the Nigger’s best friend because we help him see the places he belongs, places he can have a comfortable life. When he makes a mistake, we punish him because we believe in spare the rod, spoil the child. You can see that, can’t you? That sign keeps people in the right place like saying keep off the grass or no parking. That sign will make you rich. Yeah, I thought your Jew-boy eyes would grow wide when you heard that. Mr. Smith will come by in an hour and explain it to you.’ He tossed another hundred dollar bill on the counter and left the store with a grin wide enough to show every rotten tooth in his mouth.”

“Gives us time for a quickie behind the brush pile, brown sugar,” said Billy “We’ll pop your clutch and see how fast you scream ‘Lordy Lordy’ and beg for more.”

Billy was in the process of massaging her bottom and leaning in close enough to lick the frown off her lips when he froze, froze like time looked away, then screamed, “Holy shit,” and stumbled back holding his neck, and for Hank it was the same even though his greedy fingers hadn’t quite reached Eulalie’s blouse, freezing though as the good Lord covered his eyes, wailing then like a stuck pig before stumbling backward over a keg of nails.

“Yellow jackets don’t believe in paramour rights,” said Eulalie.

She winked at me and walked off down the street. I stood there and watched Billy and Hank shoving their heads into the icy slush in the Coca-Cola cooler until they ran out of fresh profanity.

Reviews

Told through the narrative voice of Lena, Eulalie’s shamanistic cat, the fast-paced story comes alive. The approach is fresh and clever; Malcolm R. Campbell manages Lena’s viewpoint seamlessly, adding interest and a unique perspective. Beyond the obvious abilities of this author to weave an enjoyable and engaging tale, I found the book rich with descriptive elements. So many passages caused me to pause and savor. ‘The air…heavy with wood smoke, turpentine, and melancholy.’ ‘ …the Apalachicola National Forest, world of wiregrass and pine, wildflower prairies, and savannahs of grass and small ponds… a maze of unpaved roads, flowing water drawing thirsty men…’ ‘…of the prayers of silk grass and blazing star and butterfly pea, of a brightly colored bottle tree trapping spirits searching for Washerwoman…of the holy woman who opened up the books of Moses and brought down pillars of fire and cloud so that those who were lost could find their way.'”
– Rhett DeVane, Tallahassee Democrat

“A simply riveting read from beginning to end, ‘Eulalie and Washerwoman’ is very highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections. – Julie Summers, Midwest Book Review

“Narrator Tracie Christian’s spirited style is ideal to portray the fantasy world of conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins and her shamanistic cat, Lena, who live in Florida in the 1950s. Christian captures Eulalie’s shock when she learns that Jewish merchant Lane Walker, who’s always traded fairly with the local African-Americans, is being forced to give up his store to the Liberty Improvement Club, which forbids serving blacks. Lively descriptions of Eulalie reading possum bones and casting spells; tender scenes with her old beau, Willie Tate; and feline Lena’s communication with Eulalie via secret thought speech add to the local atmosphere. S.G.B. © Audiofile Magazine 2017

If the novel happens to end up on your bookshelf, I hope you enjoy reading it.

–Malcolm

 

Haints, Plate-Eyes and Demons, oh my

Frankly, I don’t like reading specific directions for summoning evil spirits because I’m afraid I’ll accidentally think them or recite them and suddenly a hideous monster will appear.

demonFrom hoodoo to witchcraft to high magic, the lore is filled with cautions about the dangers of summoning bad stuff because unless you know what you’re doing, the bad stuff will come after you. This would be kind of like purchasing a rabid dog to keep traveling salesmen away from your door. The odds seem high that the dog will attack you first.

Another reason I don’t like reading specific directions for summoning evil spirits is the feds. They probably track this stuff and the last thing I need is the NSA telling the FBI that I used the search terms “black arts conjure oil” or “hoodoo demon-calling spell” enough times for it “to be a problem” as opposed to looking for crossword clues.

Writers often talk about stuff like this. We worry about doing research about how to kill people, make bombs, mix deadly and untraceable poisons, and making pacts with the devil. The people who have that kind of history on their computers usually tern out to be serial killers or the kind of nut cases who join ISIS and saying “I’m just writing a book” probably won’t cut it when the cops arrive.

I didn’t worry about this when I was writing Conjure Woman’s Cat because for that book, I was looking up good spells, good charms, and how to reverse jinxes. But in the sequel, my good conjure woman is combating a black arts root doctor and so I have to know more about that side of the business for her to be able to speculate about what he’s doing and how.

Since I try to make the spells and uses of herbs as realistic as possible within the world of conjure, I don’t feel right just making it up. Suffice it to say, the curses I’ve found aren’t going into the sequel verbatim. For one thing, I have to find a spell or recipe in multiple places before I’ll trust that it’s more than the imaginings of one resource. For another, what if the thing works as advertised? I don’t need to see on CNN that people are using my book to summon demons to go after their spouses’ lovers or to disrupt law-abiding governments (if any). So, everything has to be blurred around the edges: exact enough to make a real conjure woman nod in agreement but inexact enough to your child, spouse or neighborhood crook can’t use it.

By the way, plate-eyes aren’t seen very much any more, but generally they’re unpleasant, what with their glowing eyes the size of plates. If one bothers you, you can get rid of it with anything that smells bad. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to use any plate-eyes in the sequel to Conjure Woman’s Cat because nobody seems to know how to contact one of them. Haints, well, they’re okay, but they usually have their own agendas.

Demons, though, they’re looking pretty good, figuratively speaking, because they’re easier to summon that most people think and fewer people are going to question whether the author has used the right technique or the wrong technique to call them.

When the book comes out, I promise it won’t contain the exact technique for calling a demon. It will be close enough to make the book slightly dangerous. But that’s what readers want.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300(1)Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and a batch of paranormal Kindle short stories.

Stop by my website.

 

Conjure Woman’s Cat is on Sale January 6

If the King Curio Catalog were still published today, perhaps it would feature Conjure Woman’s Cat, a curious but hard hitting novella about a north Florida conjure woman who uses spells and tricks to fight the KKK. The Kindle edition is on sale January 6th.

CWCkingSale

January 6th is variously known as Epiphany, Twelfth Night and Three Kings Day. Odd as it may seem, there is a strong connection between conjure and Christianity, with practitioners featuring Psalms and Saints in their work alongside spells and charms.

On Three Kings Day, conjure women would be protecting their houses with Three Kings Water and by writing the initials (C+M+B) of the kings in chalk on their doorsteps. They might also be making Three Kings Oil and Three Kings Incense.

I grew up in north Florida during the 1950s where this story is set and have tried very hard to convey the times, the racial turmoils, and the belief in folk magic in this story as closely as possible to the realities I saw. If you download the novella on Three Kings Day, you’ll save $3.00.

Then, lose yourself in another world for only 99 cents.

Malcolm

P.S. My contemporary fantasy Sarabande is also on sale for 99 cents on January 6.

 

Basil: powerful for more than pesto

My father escaped from his typewriter by experimenting with new food concoctions in the kitchen. Most of them came out very well. One of them even got into a cookbook. While the number of meals I cook is limited to a “safe group” that my wife and I have agreed are fit for weekly consumption, I seldom experiment in the kitchen except when it comes to herbs.

Basil - Wikipedia photo
Basil – Wikipedia photo

Basil, oregano and rosemary are my favorites and find their way into all kinds of things. My mother’s old Betty Crocker cookbook had a chart inside the front and back covers listing foods and the herbs that went with them. According to the chart, basil goes into lots of recipes. This chart has kept me from venturing too far into the inedible.

The last time we went to a high style restaurant, they were in their basil phase, creating numerous lunch and dinner dishes encrusted with, simmered with, or liberally garnished with fresh basil. While this was good stuff, it was a cautionary experience, reminding me to be careful with fresh herbs. Everything with basil on the restaurant’s menu was too strong.

I tend to use basil in stews and spaghetti sauce more often than not. However, as I discovered in my research for Conjure Woman’s Cat, one can also use basil outside the kitchen for bringing happiness (other than a tasty meal) or as a protection from evil. If you do this all the time, you might refer to the herb as “holy basil” or “sweet basil” and grow your own rather than getting it off the McCormick spice display at Kroger or Publix.

For example, basil–used alone–or with clover, rosebuds, lavender, etc.–can be placed in a bath or sprinkled or placed in sachets around doors and windows, or kept in bowls to bring happiness and love to your home. Likewise, when sprinkled dry or used as a cleansing wash, it is said to protect a home or a person from evil.

  • When you buy basil from a magic shop, you'll almost always see that it's sold as a curio, that is to say, not with any magical claims.
    When you buy basil from a magic shop, you’ll almost always see that it’s sold as a curio, that is to say, not with any magical claims.

    According to the Candle Spells website,  “It has been said that when tied in a cheesecloth bag and tossed into a hot bath, sweet basil will activate your money drawing abilities and you will be seeing money come to you.”

  • Carolina Conjure says that, “Basil is said to attract customers to a business by placing some in the cash register, or sprinkling basil-water near the threshold. “
  • Catherine Ywronwode (who also has a Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic book available on Amazon), writes on Conjure Lists by Hoodoo Psychics that basil is “A multi-talented magical herb, this one protects the home, brings love and peace to the family, and draws money to the kitchen; Sprinkle some on the floor and sweep it out the back door, for “No evil can come where Basil has been.”
  • Do a search on Google using something like “basil conjure” and you’ll get a lot more hits than you ever imagined the last time you put a little basil on your beef pot roast.
Basil Conjure Oil, meditation, relaxation, altar
Basil Conjure Oil, meditation, relaxation, altar

Needless to say, I’m a passable cook (within fairly narrow parameters) and not a conjurer at all. So I pass these magical ideas along as curiosities only and as interesting beliefs. As a famous scientist (I forget who) once said when asked why he placed a horseshoe above his door, it’s there just in case.

One can always sprinkle basil outside the front door just in case. Otherwise, if you don’t use too much of it, Betty Crocker and others have plenty of basil suggestions for your cooking and eating pleasure.

I make sure I never run out of basil.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300(1)Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a 1950s story about a root doctor who fights the KKK with magic.

Conjure Woman’s Cat website

 

 

 

First chapter of ‘Conjure Woman’s Cat’

cwcgiveaway3There’s currently a GoodReads giveaway for my new novella Conjure Woman’s Cat that lasts until April 15. If you like this excerpt from the book, why not head out to GoodReads and sign-up for a chance to win one of the three paperback copies to be given away?

Chapter 1

So Eulalie slept.

The mid-summer afternoon was hot and clear. We lay on the back porch beneath the bright sky because we needed clouds for our work. The sleeping sign hung on a rusty nail over the front door. Everyone who knew what was what hurried past our front gate and brick walk when the black scrap of wood, scrawled with the blood-red word “sleeping,” hung above the threshold.

After we hung the sign, Eulalie curled up on the back porch between baskets overflowing with pot marigolds and fell asleep before I settled down low on my sleeping spot beneath the old sofa where folks sit and speak of sorrows, troubles, and the blues. The marigolds’ sunshine-yellow flowers drooped into sweet dreams, because they can’t steal a fever or find lucky numbers without a dab of wind or rain.

While the porch planking was grey, worn soft by the calloused soles of many feet and easy on sleepers, I did not sleep. I watched, because I knew fire was coming. The creek separating the well-kept yard of longleaf pines from the overgrown piney woods of trees faced by turpentiners, and half-strangled by trespassing shrubs, did not sleep.

There was the Coowahchobee River, fierce and swift like her namesake, the panther. She licked the forest clean, protected the house and yard from spirits, and carried away the remains of spent spells westward across sanctified Florida soil into the Apalachicola River. Low fire she could stop; a forest canopy fire borne on the wind was out of Coowahchobee’s reach.

Joe Moore lived in the forest. I couldn’t see him through the saw-palmetto, gallberry, and deep Sunday afternoon shadows, though if he were looking he could see me. Eulalie and I trusted devils, gods, and the Holy Ghost from the Sanctified Church; Joe Moore trusted what he could see. With my second sight, I knew Joe Moore’s eyes were open. His ears were attentive, too. Though not as sensitive as my ears, they knew friends pronounced his name Jomo and foes pronounced his name Jomoowur.

That morning while the last scattered clouds moved eastward toward the Ochlockonee River, we threw possum bones into a hastily drawn circle. They saw fire, but not today. No friend of possums, dead or alive, Joe Moore trusted his living bones above all else. He watched with the indigo snake, red-cockaded woodpecker, and gopher tortoise from the woods. I watched from the back porch where the pot marigolds and Eulalie slept.

If fire jumped the creek and the bones while Eulalie slept, I would hear Joe Moore calling my name, “Lena! Lena!” long before the flames reached the three-plank bridge.

The warm afternoon drew me away from my concerns, drew me toward sleep and dreamtime travels. My spirit-self could go anywhere; that’s the one talent I had that Eulalie didn’t. One time, when the possum bones were blind, I found a lost child on Alum Bluff overlooking the river close by the woods where that white preacher said Adam and Eve once lived. I’ve been south to Tate’s Hell where legends say a rattlesnake killed old man Tate while he was hunting Coowahchobee with a shotgun and a Barlow knife. I knew where rivers came up out of the ground, where the Bogot people danced with ribbons, where the gopher tortoise shared her burrow with snakes, and where Deacon Smith lost his Bible.

I had a mind to visit “Stiff and Ugly,” where the river writhed like a snake, and find that haint-infested field where folks said Jimmy Ivy and his brothers, “Little Poison” and “English,” burnt crosses in all seasons, but a wisp of smoke from our dinner’s dying cook fire tickled my nose, and sleep fled like a frightened rabbit. My nose always twitched in the presence of a trick, just as surely as Eulalie felt a cold shiver near crossed paths and other goofered places.
I watched the smoke for signs while Eulalie slept.

Eulalie said she needed her beauty sleep because she was old. When Eulalie told me she was older than dirt, I thought there was always dirt so there was always Eulalie, who remembered all her years. She remembered when the good Lord twitched His nose as though the wind blew pepper into it and created dirt. She remembered when the Bogot people—beloved family—hid from the U. S. soldiers, when that writer Zora asked her to share rootwork and other secret things, when the original old man Tate was still a child in Sumatra, when Moses wrote his secret hoodoo books, when Coowahchobee stepped out of the Creator’s birthing shell and first saw the wonders of the world.

She deserved her sleep.

Even though I saw no sign the smoke that stole out from beneath the cook pot was calling its own, I kept my eyes open and only half slept. I half saw folks passing the gate, sometimes more than once, hoping we’d take down the sleeping sign. Some brought money; most brought overflowing baskets to trade for herbs, oils, and hands. The pot marigolds woke up moments ago, so Eulalie would wake soon to those needing our skills.

Her hair turned grey sometime between the arrival of the Bogot people and the departure of the last panther from Tate’s Hell Forest. More recently, her once-vibrant orange dress paled into peach. Even now, her skin was coffee colored, though some have called her chocolate to the bone. As I watched her sleep, skewed at a clumsy angle up against the grey siding, I thought she looked like a bear cub. The color of roots, she always said.

A woman trading okra at Walker’s Mercantile when we were trading eggs looked at me when I was young and said, “Lena, I do believe you are blacker than the ace of spades.” I didn’t know what she meant, so I ran outside until the trading was done. On the way home, Eulalie told me the ace of spades was a powerful gambling card. Spades meant other things, too, some good and some bad, so I preferred being the color of coal, night, and the coral snake’s eyes.

My eyes were the color of pot marigolds and Eulalie’s were the color of forget-me-nots. When we communicated eye-to-eye our looks were knowing looks, because the light flowed white between us, from blue to yellow and from yellow to blue mixing our pure words together in a manner that was silent, invisible and well outside the imagination of other eyes and hearts.

So Eulalie slept that afternoon that was hot and clear. Eulalie slept because a sign that looked like a dead crow dressed the front door. Eulalie slept because she had worked hard and was older than dirt. I kept watch beneath the sofa because it was in my nature to keep watch as the Conjure Woman’s cat.

 

KIndle cover 200x300(1)from Chapter One
“Conjure Woman’s Cat”
Copyright (c) 2015
by Malcolm R. Campbell

Thomas-Jacob Publishing

New novella tells the story of a cat, a conjure woman and the KKK

Click here for Kindle edition.
Click here for Kindle edition.

Thomas-Jacob Publishing has released Conjure Woman’s Cat,  a novella by Malcolm R. Campbell (“The Sun Singer”), set in the 1950s Florida Panhandle world of blues, turpentine camps, root doctors, the KKK and a region of the state so far away from everywhere else that it’s often called “the other Florida” and “the forgotten coast.”

Lena, a shamanistic cat, and her conjure woman Eulalie live in a small town near the Apalachicola River in Florida’s lightly populated Liberty County where longleaf pines own the world. Black women look after white children in the homes of white families and are respected, even loved as individuals, but distrusted and kept separated and other as a group.

A palpable gloss, sweeter than the state’s prized tupelo honey, holds the spiritual and temporal components of the Blacks’ and Whites’ worlds firmly in the stasis of their separate places. When that gloss fails, the Klan restores the unnatural disorder of ideas and people that have fallen out of favor.

Click her to see the trailer.
Click her to see the trailer.

Lena and Eulalie know the Klan. When the same white boys who once treated Eulalie as a surrogate parent rape and murder a black girl named Mattie near the saw mill, the police have no suspects and don’t intend to find any. Eulalie, who sees conjure as a way of helping the good Lord work His will, intends to set things right by “laying tricks.”

Eulalie believes that when you do a thing, you don’t look back to check on it because that shows the good Lord one’s not certain about what she did. It’s hard, though, not to look back on her own life and ponder how the decisions she made while drinking and singing at the local juke were, perhaps, the beginning of Mattie’s ending.

All that’s too broke to fix, but beneath the sweet sugar that covers crimes against Blacks, Eulalie’s pragmatic, no-nonsense otherness is the best mojo for righting wrongs against both the world and the heart.

I hope you enjoy the book.

–Malcolm

Conjure Woman’s Cat website

Paperback Edition at Amazon

Nook Edition at Barnes & Noble

Eulalie's world.
Eulalie’s world.

 

Remembering Hoyt’s Cologne

hoytsWhile researching folk magic for a new book, I stumbled across numerous references to Hoyt’s Cologne, an old-style toilet water that was supposed to bring people good luck, especially when gambling.

Originally called Hoyt’s German Cologne (until World War I made the name less optimal), the cologne was developed in 1868 by apothecary Eli Waite Hoyt. Usually described as floral in scent–and very strong–the cologne became so successful that Hoyt sold his apothecary shop seven years later to devote his time to the product.

The product is still available today, including on Amazon. One reviewer stated that it’s definite not subtle. Another described it as “very manly.” Wisdom Products describes it this way:

Hoyt’s Cologne developed in 1868 is truly an old fashioned fragrance reminiscent of early American colognes.  A clean and refreshing scent with fragrance notes of citrus and floral.  Hoyt’s is widely believed to bring good luck.  Splash on your hands and body before playing games of chance.

HoyttradingcardOEDUSA suggests splashing it on before and after shaving, adding that:

Though the company will never reveal the full formula some of the essences used to create the scent are: bergamot and neroli to add a citrusy note; orange blossom for a warm floral undertone with an element of dry orange; and lavender for a hint of refreshing herbal. In our opinion this is a delightful cologne that will pleasantly surpirse the uninitiated.

Today, E. F. Hoyt & Company’s beautiful advertising cards and signs are sought after by collectors of vintage designs. Developed by Freeman Ballard Shedd, the cards were originally soaked in the cologne when handing out sample bottles became too expensive.

The “Girl in a Rose” series of trading cards was especially popular. You can see an assortment of these cards on Cliff & Linda Hoyt’s This Card Perfumed with “Hoyt’s German Cologne” website.

hoyts2Catherine Yronwode, who operates the Lucky Mojo Curio Company, with its extensive hoodoo information site, mentions interviewing a man who worked for many years for Lucky Heart, a company that featured African American cosmetics and spiritual supplies.

He told her that a lady once came into the drug store where he worked as a child, bought a bottle of Hoyt’s, emptied the contents on her hair, and left the bottle on the counter, and saying, “I’m gonna get lucky tonight!”

I don’t know yet whether I’ll mention Hoyt’s Cologne in the book, but with my love of magic as well as vintage advertising, discovering Hoyt’s Cologne was an interesting “research trip.”

The current owner of Hoyt’s and the Hoyt’s trademark is Indio Products.

 

Malcolm

Amazon Kindle cover.

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Series. These “conjure and crime” novels are set in the Florida Panhandle.