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

 

 

 

 

Sample Hoodoo Spell: Opportunity, Life Change and Good Luck

“Let’s face it, sometimes the basic dressed candle spell just doesn’t cut it. When I needed some serious road opening, I devised this extra powerful Road Opener spellcast. It uses some additional products, not just Road Opener/Abre Camino formulas, in order to provide some much needed oompf.”

Source: The Spellcaster’s Source Hoodoo and Voodoo Witchcraft Blog

If you ever wondered what the directions for a hoodoo spell look like, this post is a good example, one that tells you the spell’s purpose, the ingredients you need, and provides a how-to-do-it narrative. While researching the novels in my Florida Folk Magic Series, I relied strongly on sites like this, comparing and contrasting the ideas I found to see which ones had the best fit to traditional Southern conjure.

Malcolm

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.

–Malcolm

Excerpt from my novel ‘Lena’

Lena, the third novel in my Florida Folk Magic series was released July 27 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing, following Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman. The novel is available on multiple on-line sites in e-book and paperback and can be ordered by your bookstore via standard bookstore purchasing agreements through its Ingram account.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the novel to tempt you into buying the book:

“So, our Lord of the worlds above—ha!–walked down the springtime path from Eden, all the way down to enjoy the splendor of orchids, lilies, and white-birds-in-a-nest, and He saw that they were exquisite and profoundly good, ha! Yet He found not a bog, nor a marsh, nor a swamp to make a fit home for cypress, tupelo, bulrush, pondweed, leopard frog, alligator, black swamp snake, sandhill crane, and great blue heron. He scooped Earth’s foundation with His hands and filled the scrapes and holes with tears and breath. When the plants and animals came, God Almighty was satisfied, just as we here today are satisfied that this everlasting water provided a fit place for Him to call our sister home.”

“Amen, James,” said Dorothy, using—for the first time as far as I knew—her husband’s name rather than “deacon” in public. Together, leaning upon each other on the roadside with Lane Walker and Eulalie’s daughter Adelaide looked suddenly old. He wore black and she wore blue.

Some people called James and Dorothy “Mutt and Jeff”—though not so as they could hear—because she was short and almost plump and he was tall and almost as fit as a football player. Today, he needed his wife’s shoulder and the starch in his white dress shirt to keep him standing straight enough to address the Lord.

She began singing “Sacred Lord, Take My Hand” and that steadied him though he didn’t sing even when Adelaide joined in, her strong alto voice almost as pure as her mother’s soaring soprano. Lane took off his faded grey poor boy hat and closed his watery eyes.

They arrived in the church’s 1948 Roadmaster, the same black car the coroner borrowed to carry Martin to the morgue and left it on the shoulder a respectful distance away while they stared at the green pickup my conjure woman borrowed from Lane as though it were a closed casket.

“This ain’t right,” snapped Adelaide in the don-t-give-me-no-sass tone of voice she must have learned from her mother.

“God’s plan,” said James.

Adelaide stood as close to the deacon as she could without kissing him which her crossed arms and tapping foot made it obvious was the last thing she planned to do.

“So our almighty God of the worlds above decided Florida would be a better place if Martin Alexander busted into a freight company owned by the chief of police, stole a tanker truck, drove south at top speed while being chased by the cops, and ran Mother and Lena off the road in Lane’s truck, drowning the old lady who served the Him with devotion and burning Martin to a crisp even though he went through hell already this year so that the four of us can stand here today and learn a lesson from it? No offense, Deacon, but was that the plan?”

Dorothy shoved between Adelaide and her husband. “Sorrow’s got your tongue. Let it be.”

Adelaide stood her ground.

“She ain’t here. Can’t you tell?”

“Adelaide, what are you saying?” asked Lane.

“I’m not as psychic as my mother, but I’m sharp enough to know she’s gone and that Lena is still here.”

“Find Lena, then,” said James, “while Lane and I pull his Studebaker out of the swamp.”

“I will.”

She turned away from them while Dorothy backed the Buick up close to the bed of the truck and Lane waded into the water with a long chain. Adelaide was coming up close on the dry end of the fallen Ogeechee Tupelo when Lane shouted “Hot damn—sorry, Deacon” and held up two, quart Mason jars on Eulalie’s moonshine.

“My word,” said Dorothy, “it’s still in good enough condition to pack a punch.”

“I’ll testify about the punch,” shouted James.

“I remember the night she got you drunk,” said Dorothy. They burst out laughing like they needed something to relieve the cares of the day.

“Here, take these, James, there are more down here,” said Lane.

“I’ll just put these in the car, sweet wife of mine,” said James, “to help us resist temptation until we get home.”

Adelaide watched them salvage the shine, muttering under her breath so that only the tupelo and I could hear her, “Finding that jick’s probably part of God’s plan.”

Copyright © 2018 by Malcolm R. Campbell

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

 

 

 

Get your 99¢ Kindle copy of ‘Eulalie and Washerwoman’ before the promotion ends

My Florida Folk Magic series novel Eulalie and Washerwoman has been available on Kindle this spring for only 99¢. However, we’re wrapping up this Kindle promotion soon, so this is a great time to get your copy before we return to the regular price.

Description: Torreya, 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. After he refuses to carry Eulalie’s herbs and eggs and Willie’s corn, mercantile owner Lane Walker is drawn into the web of lies before he, too, disappears.

Washerwoman knows how to cover his tracks with the magic he learned from Florida’s most famous root doctor, Uncle Monday, so he is more elusive than hen’s teeth, more dangerous that the Klan, and threatens to brutally remove any obstacle in the way of his profits. In this follow up to Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Lena face their greatest challenge with scarce support from townspeople who are scared of their own shadows. Even though Eulalie is older than dirt, her faith in the good Lord and her endless supply of spells guarantee she will give Washerwoman a run for his ill-gotten money in this swamps and piney woods story.

Editorial Review: 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

 

Enjoy the story!

–Malcolm

Magic: Initial Considerations

After yesterday’s post, a Facebook friend said he saw a similarity between my comments about magic and religious faith. That’s a correct observation.

Many people who study magic or what might be called esoteric principles are, in fact, strong and committed believers in either spirituality or an organized religion. They see their studies as an extension of their religious faith instead of a replacement for it.

The reason many of us use the phrase “the god of your heart” is because we know that before you come to the study of esoteric ideas and techniques, that you may well be a strong believer of an organized religion. Magic is not intended to change that or supplant that.

When using magical/psychic techniques, many people also include the phrase “if it’s the best for all concerned.” This is one way of admitting that none of us can know what “the cosmic” (God, the Creator) has in mind for a particular situation. It’s best to work in harmony with that rather than in opposition to that.

One thing that becomes clear when using the powers of one’s mind is that meditation does not counteract what you are doing and thinking the rest of the day. Let’s say that you spend 15 to 20 minutes every morning thinking positive thoughts about your attunement with the universe and a similar amount of time meditating every evening. This is a great start. However, if you spend large portions of the rest of the day in combative, worry-filled, negative, and overtly cynical states of mind, you are undoing everything you put in motion with your meditations. You have to live the positive, non-doubting confidence of your meditation 24/7.

Hoodoo practitioners often then say that when you cast a spell, don’t look back. Why? Because looking back suggests you don’t have full confidence in the spell and have to check on it. The same can be said for multiple forms of magic as well as prayer. If you pray for something and then pray for the same thing again, what are you doing? You’re saying you don’t believe your first prayer was effective, so you’re going to try a second prayer. The universe heard you the first time. There is no need to doubt it.

One of the greatest negatives when attempting magic is logic. Most of us are trained (or brainwashed) to use logic to understand the world. However, logic and magic do not necessarily bring you the same kinds of information. People who are learning to use their innate psychic abilities can be derailed by logic.

Let’s suppose somebody tells you their husband is late arriving home from work and wonders if you can use your evolving senses to discover where he is. The best way to go here is to immediately relax, slow your brainwaves via biofeedback or self-hypnosis techniques, and “look” for the person. This process will be much more difficult if you allow yourself to think about all the logical reasons the man is late: his boss kept him late, his car wouldn’t start, he had a early evening work-related event to attend and forgot to tell you about it, he was in a wreck on the freeway or his car broke down. Once you ponder all of those scenarios, it is difficult to keep your mind open to clues about what actually happened.

The world operates on logic. It’s difficult to set that aside and try an approach that’s not based on logic. This doesn’t mean logic doesn’t work. It does mean that logic can easily derail the novice practitioner of magic.

Quite often, the magical “answer” to a question you might have will seem like it’s “simply” your imagination. I urge you to explore that and see if your are coming to know things you have no logical reason to know. I have found, for example, that when I embark on a shamanic journey, that what begins with my imagination usually morphs into something that is actually true. You may need to experiment with this for a while to develop your confidence in the reality of the moment–that is, to see the difference between that you are pretending to see and what you are actually seeing.

Magic is so different than the beliefs we have been given since childhood and from the mainstream “truths” about how the world works, that it requires a strongly alternative mindset to accomplish. The first step is learning that the truths you’ve been taught from childhood are not the whole story.

Malcolm

 

 

 

Briefly Noted: ‘Old Style Conjure’ by Starr Casas

Those who know Mama Starr Casas from her Old Style Conjure website, need no introduction to this practical guidebook published in September. Like her website commentaries, it’s blunt, practical, based on the culture she grew up in, and overviews works (spells) and approaches in an easy to understand manner. The book reminds us that conjure (hoodoo, rootwork) is directly linked to African American ancestors, the Christian Bible, and common sense approaches to magic based on the materials at hand in a typical Southern household.

Conjure workers are usually Christian. I like Casas’ statement, “If you remove the Bible from Old Style Conjure work then what you are doing really isn’t Conjure work! It then becomes something else. If you can hold the greatest Conjure book ever written in your hands and learn the power from it; why in the world would you let anyone stop you?” She also doesn’t agree with people who mix hoodoo with other forms of magic in a roll-your-own approach.

Publisher’s Description:

Conjure, hoodoo, rootwork―these are all names for southern American folk magic. Conjure first emerged in the days of slavery and plantations and is widely considered among the most potent forms of magic. Its popularity continues to increase, both in the United States and worldwide. This book is a guide to using conjure to achieve love, success, safety, prosperity, and spiritual fulfillment. Author Starr Casas, a hereditary master of the art, introduces readers to the history and philosophy of conjure and provides practical information for using it. Featuring Casas’s own rituals, spells, and home recipes, the book provides useful information suitable for novices and seasoned practitioners alike.

In its pages, you’ll learn about:

  • Bone reading
  • Candle burning
  • Conjure bags
  • Building your own conjure altar

Research or Practical Use

This book is readable and should be very helpful to those who are interested in folk magic as an avocation, want to try out spell work themselves, or are fascinated by the history and culture of hoodoo. Students of magic will also enjoy the inspirational forward by Orion Foxwood.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two hoodoo novels, “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”

Briefly Noted: ‘Spiritual Merchants’ by Carolyn Morrow Long

Spiritual Merchants: Religion Magic & Commerce Paperback – May 31, 2001

This is a very thorough, readable and well-illustrated reference to the traditionally large and widespread practice of selling hoodoo, Voodoo and other spiritual supplies via mail order, web sites, and retail stores. The book begins with a compact description about the origins of hoodoo and charms–one of the best descriptions I’ve seen–and then goes on to discuss the nature of selling charms, herbal mixtures and other supplies by mail. The book includes a list of current (as of the publication date) merchants that were in business along with their histories.

One thing you notice before reading too far into the mechanizing section is the sad truth that many merchants faked what they were selling.  The ingredients were either not as advertised or were not prepared in the proper manner. Carolyn Long conducted extensive interviews with catherine yronwode (pronounced “Ironwood”) who founded the Lucky Mojo Curio Company. Long notes that yronwode not only has a great deal of hoodoo information (history, spells, practices) on her site but guarantees that the powders, oils, herbs, candles and other supplies she sells are genuine.

All savvy merchants, current and historical, were likely to run afoul of the USPS if they claimed their merchandise would actually produce working magical spells and/or cure ailments. For that reason, merchants sold–and continue to sell–their products “as curios only.”

Long includes a chapter about one of the more famous products, High John the Conqueror (and related “John” products) which are generally used for protection. The irony is, nobody’s sure what it is. Many plants have been considered that are native and non-native to the United States. The problem goes back to the fact that early conjurers were not, of course, using the scientific name of the root, so now we’re stuck having to guess. Until shown otherwise, I would tend to believe yronwode’s description here.

From the Publisher

They can be found along the side streets of many American cities: herb or candle shops catering to practitioners of Voodoo, hoodoo, Santería, and similar beliefs. Here one can purchase ritual items and raw materials for the fabrication of traditional charms, plus a variety of soaps, powders, and aromatic goods known in the trade as “spiritual products.” For those seeking health or success, love or protection, these potions offer the power of the saints and the authority of the African gods.

In Spiritual Merchants, Carolyn Morrow Long provides an inside look at the followers of African-based belief systems and the retailers and manufacturers who supply them. Traveling from New Orleans to New York, from Charleston to Los Angeles, she takes readers on a tour of these shops, examines the origins of the products, and profiles the merchants who sell them.

If you are researching hoodoo and/or writing a hoodoo-based folk magic novel, this book will serve as a handy reference.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the hoodoo-based novels “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”