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

 

 

 

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.

 

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

 

 

 

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

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Series, including the newly released “Fate’s Arrows.” These “conjure and crime” novels are set in the Florida Panhandle of the 1950s.