Thyme for cooking, conjure and health

“Thyme (/ˈtaɪm/) is an evergreen herb with culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. The most common variety is Thymus vulgaris. Thyme is of the genus Thymus of the mint family (Lamiaceae), and a relative of the oregano genus Origanum.” – Wikipedia

If you’re a Simon & Garfunkel fan, you probably remember their third album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.”

If you have an herb garden, you know that thyme is easy to grow, looks nice and smells good.

thymeIf you have a spice rack in the kitchen, no doubt there’s some thyme there. I add thyme to my spaghetti sauce. A lot of recipes call for its use in roasts, scrambled eggs, chowder, biscuits and with potatoes and other vegetables. Sunset says that “Thyme is a kitchen workhorse, infinitely useful with a wide range of meats and vegetables, and also with both savory and sweet fruit dishes. With cooked dishes, try adding thyme at the beginning and then a little more at the end, just before serving to make its flavor pop.”


The leaves and oil of thyme have a lot of claims behind their efficacy in treating diarrhea, stomach ache, whooping cough, colic, soar throat, flatulence, and as a diuretic. The Natural Society website states that “The volatile essential oils in thyme are packed with anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-rheumatic, anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties, which explains why thyme-based formulas are used as an expectorant, diuretic, fungicide and antibiotic.”


When used as incense, it’s been said to stimulate courage and purify homes and temples. According to Wichipedia, “It was mixed in drinks to enhance intoxicating effects and induce bravery and warriors were massaged with thyme oil to ensure their courage. Women wore thyme in their hair to enhance their attractiveness. The phrase ‘to smell of thyme’ meant that one was stylish, well groomed, poised, and otherwise attractive. Thyme is a Mediterranean native spread throughout Europe by the Romans. Their soldiers added it to their bathwater to increase bravery, strength and vigor. It enjoyed a long association with bravery. In Medieval England, ladies embroidered sprigs of thyme into their knights’ scarves to increase their bravery. In Scotland, highlanders brewed tea to increase courage and keep away nightmares.”


You can buy this curio online in several places
You can buy this curio online in several places

My interest in thyme, other than using it a lot in my cooking, is for its folk magic applications. Hoodoo practitioners use it to help their clients sleep, usually as an incense placed on charcoal or leaves placed inside or beneath a pillow for a so-called “magic dreaming pillow,” and for attracting money. Growing thyme in a garden, grows your wealth. It protects you and helps your income if you tie the leaves up in paper money and bury it where two paths cross beneath a full moon. It can also be added to bath crystals and sachets–or even as a perfume.

Add it to a mojo bag with bayberry, cinnamon, and alfalfa to attract money. Some practitioners mix it with galangal, vetiver, patchouli and cardamon when making Three Jacks and a King oil for gambling. (Massage the oil into your hands when you pick up the deck of cards and “feed” your mojo bag with it.) Traditionalists recite the 23rd Psalm when they use the oil. Some folks dress (coat) candles with it or even sprinkle it on poker chips.

Catherine Tronwode, author, practitioner and owner of the Lucky Mojo Curio Company, says that old time recipes like Three Jacks and a Kind, are “slightly different — some placing emphasis on catching lucky numbers through dreams, others on being hit with lucky “coincidences” or hunches, and still others on obtaining uncanny runs of finger dexterity at cards or dice — or all of these combined with luck at love and games of chance — but they have in common the underlying aim of enhancing the magician’s internally generated forces, enabling action upon the external world.”

For information about the use of thyme and other plants in conjure, consult Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic: A Materia Magica of African-American Conjure by catherine yronwode. For plant usage in pagan, Wicca and traditional witchcraft, see Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two folk magic novels, “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.” Both books are available in e-book, audiobook and paperback editions.


“Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, spammers?”

As many of you know, I take a dim view of spammers because they show up and do their business here without taking part in the conversation or sharing my posts on Twitter or Facebook. Just imagine yourself having a dinner table conversation with your family about the best books you’ve ever read when somebody you don’t know walks into your house, sits down at the table, eats a plate full of mashed potatoes and gravy, and says, “So, y’all want a way to get some cheap condoms?”

That’s a spammer for you.

Spin the wheel of fortune when you leave spam on my posts
Spin the wheel of fortune when you leave spam on my posts – Wikipedia Photo

I appreciate the fact that WordPress weeds out most of the people who try to stop by our blogs to steal all the gravy. But, there’s more work to be done.

With that in mind, I’ve installed my Anti-Spammer Hex App that tracks down those who show up on this blog and on my “Sun Singer’s Travels” blog and try to sell us stuff that has nothing to do with my posts–and worse yet–don’t pay for advertising on my site.

While working on Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman, I took a lot of notes about spells, magic, candles, plants and especially protection hexes. If you ever hired a hoodoo practitioner, you might have been handed a mojo bag filled with the ingredients of the “law keep away” spell. (It does just what you think it does.)

Well, I’ve modified the “law keep away” spell with extra graveyard dirt obtained from cemeteries that cater to sociopaths and have merged that into the traditional mix while burning a black candle during the new moon as a squinch owl shouted curses from a longleaf pine tree. The resulting formula has undergone rigorous testing at a town near you or maybe even in your neighborhood. If there have been any recent outbreaks of green apple quick step, lice, or mysteriously appearing vulgar tattoos, a spammer or two just wasn’t lucky.

The luck comes into the mix through a random number generator subroutine I added to my assembly language code. This gives spammers a 1 in 100 chance of getting away with leaving a free message here on my blog without being hexed. See, I can be a good sport about this even though the odds favor the house.

So, if you’ve stopped by with a spam message, just ask yourself. . .well, you know what.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s two hoodoo novels can be found at Amazon in paperback and e-book editions. The audio edition of “Conjure Woman’s Cat” received an Earphones Award Winner at AudioFile Magazine.

Local author experiments with hoodoo and discovers that’s a bad idea

Rome, Georgia, July 16, 2016, Star-Gazer News Service–Malcolm R. Campbell, author of the hoodoo novel Conjure Woman’s Cat, was doing hex research on a dark and stormy night when he went to a nearby graveyard to try out a haint calling spell to see what would happen.

Campbell being bugged by a haint while he tries to write the next chapter of his book.
Campbell being bugged by a haint while he tries to write the next chapter of his book.

Haints happened, more than he could shake a stick at (like that would do any good), and while they were generally friendly, they wanted haint tasks: people to scare, places where ghost lights would improve the ambiance, bad neighbors who needed to experience a plague of rabid bull frogs, people walking on lonely roads in search of spooky entertainment.

“I didn’t realize the spell worked until I got home,” said Campbell. “My three cats are always chasing invisible things around the house, so everything seemed normal when I got home from the graveyard. When the cats wouldn’t settle down, I turned off all the lights and was surprised to see a living room full of haints, Most of them threatened to turn on Fox “News” 24/7 unless I kept them busy with exciting haint chores.”

Campbell, who has always believed 100% accuracy makes for better fiction, told reporters during a “fluke rain storm” of flying fish, that trying out the haint spell was bad idea because it didn’t come with any directions for sending the haints back to the graveyard.”

Medicine men, shamans, cops, witches and everyday people with shotguns visited Campbell’s house to try their hand at getting rid of the haints. Nothing worked.

“I have to admit it was fun for a while,” said Campbell, “because when they weren’t out causing mischief, they sat in my Naugahyde recliner and offered tips for the haint scenes in my work in progress. For example, the idea that haints mainly haunt people in cemeteries is pretty much of a myth: more hauntings happen in abandoned Walmart stores than anywhere else.”

Campbell has a hotline with local police to assure them that “his haints” aren’t responsible for every “weird” 911 in Rome and Floyd County.

Security paint at Campbell's house.
Security paint at Campbell’s house.

“There’s been so much publicity about the haint infestation,” said Officer Smith (not his real name), “that people just assume Campbell forgot to close the front door and the haints flew out trying to make every night like Halloween. We’ve advised Campbell to keep each haint on a leash so that innocent people won’t get scared and pee in their pants.”

According to one haint who told his story to a local television station, “We haven’t had this much fun since the spiritualism era of the late 1800s and early 1900s when seances were all the rage, Ouija Boards were selling faster than hotcakes, folks wanted to believe they could talk to dead aunts and uncles, and tables all around the country were rocking, rolling and tapping.”

Campbell told the Feds, who came to town to investigate, that the haints were starting to get bored and were planning to leave for Washington, D.C. during the next thunderstorm when energy fields are high and spiritual travel is easier than falling off a tombstone.

“As soon as they leave, I’m buying a fresh can of haint blue paint for the front of my house to make sure they don’t come back,” Campbell told Agents Houdini and Doyle. The agents subsequently confirmed “things are weirder than usual” whenever Congress  is in session.

Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter.


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.


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.


Magical Realism Writing Tips – Importance of Belief

When an author writes a novel or short story in the magical realism genre, magic is always a natural  and unquestioned component of the characters’ lives and the environment in which they live. As an author, you’re more likely to write a believable story if–while you’re writing, at least–you assume the magic is real.

This is my favorite blog because the writer has many years of experience and a great archive of posts for many Hoodoo subjects.
This is my favorite blog because the writer has many years of experience and a great archive of posts for many Hoodoo subjects.

This doesn’t mean you must personally subscribe to the philosophy and practices of the magical system in your story whether that system is a known collection of beliefs such as hoodoo or Voodoo or a fictional system you built from scratch.

I prefer using practices based on actual belief systems because they already have a rich, varied and somewhat known lore that is often much deeper than anything a most of us can make up.

When I wrote Conjure Woman’s Cat about a root doctor (another name for a conjure practitioner), I began by reading books and web sites written by people who practice hoodoo. When I had a question, I asked them, usually making it clear that I was researching a novel rather than following the belief system myself. (You’ll see some of the sites/books I consulted in the folk magic category of my Myth and Magic Resources post.)

At times, I’ve read paranormal and magical realism books by authors who take a known system–say, witchcraft–and have their characters doing things that are completely outside the realm of the practice whether it’s Wicca or the traditional craft. Hollywood has done this a lot, but I feel more anger about it when I find it in a novel by a known writer who can look stuff up and talk to experts and keep the magic within the realm of what a system claims is possible. Witches do not worship the devil nor utilize spells that look like they originated in the Harry Potter series or Lord of the Rings.

This is a more commercial site with products to sell. However, it also has a wealth of information about spells, herbs and candles.
This is a more commercial site with products to sell. However, it also has a wealth of information about spells, herbs and candles.

Yes, we all take liberties when telling a good yarn, and even when we don’t, it’s probable that (in my case) a real conjure woman will find things in my book that are unrealistic. I try to make the material as accurate as possible for a fiction writer–as opposed to a real practitioner who writes a novel based on their own experiences.

One way to make your story accurate is through the use of multiple sources. This helps you understand the magical approach well enough to write about it in your own words.

Of course, if you make up the magic from scratch, it helps if you set limits on it (so that your characters aren’t all-powerful) and keep it consistent. Don’t state a magical rule on page 25 and then have a character successfully ignore that rule on page 250.

For your readers to believe, you have to believe. Most of them will believe while they’re reading the story. That’s how you need to feel. I didn’t become a conjurer after I wrote Conjure Woman’s Cat, and I don’t expect my readers to do so either.

If you don’t believe while you’re writing, the story won’t ring true because your author’s point of view is that it isn’t true.

There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that a fair number of people believe witchcraft, hoodoo and Voodoo work. Frankly, I don’t have an opinion about that and did everything possible while writing to refrain from judgement.

What we hope for when we write magical realism is that our readers will be carried away by the story as though everything in it is absolutely possible, maybe not in their own lives, but in the lives of our characters.

When magicians like Penn and Teller walk out on the stage in front of you or when you see them on TV, you know that what they’re doing is an illusion. You’re in the audience to be fooled and when the magician carries off a trick perfectly and you can’t figure it out, you laugh and applaud and ask for more.

A magical realism short story or novel is also an illusion. If both the magic and the realism in the story are done well, you’ll be fooled into thinking everything you read did happen or could happen. Neither the stage magician nor the writer dares approach his or her audience with any doubts about the effect s/he is trying to achieve. Doubts kill the performance, on stage or in writing.

And then, too, sometimes that stage magician and that writer include a bit of real magic under the guise of illusion. We always want you to think, “hmm, I wonder.”


KIndle cover 200x300(1)SarabandeCover2015Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the contemporary fantasy novel “Sarabande” and the magical realism novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”




Dill: it does more than season granny’s pickles

dillseedIf your granny taught you anything, she made sure you knew how to make a proper dill pickle. I’m not going to repeat the recipe here, because I ain’t your granny. Suffice it to say, it includes dill. Surprised?

Most people don’t grow their own dill. If you don’t, your pickles won’t do well at the state fair. Surely, granny told you this. Whether you’re using seeds or leaves (sprigs), pickles just taste better when you grow your own dill because factory fresh ain’t fresh.

If your granny was cagey, she probably didn’t tell you that you can attract a lover by soaking yourself in a “love-drawing bath.” Obviously, there are hundreds of spells you can add to the mix, but since taking a bath is a good idea before going out on a date, the dill seeds you collected and dried yourself are superior to those from the factory. (A fair number of sites tell you how to dry the seeds. Here’s one of them.)

The leaves from your fresh-from-the-garden dill will remove a jinx, possibly the kind of crossed condition a rival might have put on you to keep you from finding the mate of your dreams. Make a coction with the leaves and ginger root, strain it,  and rub it on yourself like sun screen. Think of it as a jinx screen. Do this for at nine days.

Maybe you’re not jinxed. Okay, then soak those dill seeds in water for three days and add them to your next bath. Soak yourself for a while (but not for nine days!).

Good luck.

Now, if you need something more powerful, there are dozens of hoodoo practitioners out there with hundreds of love spells involving candles, incense, oils, letters and even some properly obtained graveyard dirt. (Hint: get that, with a token of payment, from the grave of a good person, leaving out the black sheep in your family and/or a lunatic.)

I’m an author. I look this stuff up when writing stories like “Snakebit” and “Dream of Crows,” and my Conjure Woman’s Cat novella. That means that I “fake it,” I don’t prescribe it. My granny wasn’t a conjure woman (that I know of) so she didn’t hand down any spells. She often said, though, that “things are in a real pickle”–whatever that meant.

But, like suggesting sickly people should have a bowl of chicken soup, I’m in the clear by suggesting you throw some dill seeds in your bath.

If that doesn’t work, maybe you’re forgetting to brush your teeth.


crowssmallcoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Dream of Crows,” a dark story about a sexy conjure woman, a swamp, a cemetery and–it goes without saying–some graveyard dirt. It’s free on Kindle for two more days.


Crossings, magical and otherwise

KIndle cover 200x300There’s a railroad crossing on the cover of my upcoming novella Conjure Woman’s Cat because several incidents in the book occur at a crossing and crossings are associated with magic.

The Florida Panhandle has traditionally been tied to the timber and turpentine industries. In the 1950s era when my book was set, pines, pulpwood, scraped trees with cups collecting resin for turpentine, and logging trains were common sights.

In modern times, we associate road crossings with red lights, traffic jams, hard-to-make left turns and accidents. Railroad crossings are places where drivers have to wait for trains and, by all means, stop, look and listen.

Crossings have always been associated with danger. Robberies happened there, armed men clashed there, and people got lost there.

All of this translates nicely into various forms of folk magic, including hoodoo, and in mythology. Like borders, crossroads were often considered to be uncertain places where realms, domains, countries and states of mind came together. Such places were often like oil and water in that they didn’t properly mix–“neither here nor there” folks often said. There is power at a crossroads, for good and ill.

quincunx - click on art for the Wikipedia page.
quincunx – click on art for the Wikipedia page.

In hoodoo, the crossroads is the place where one summons demons and bargains for skills they need: in my novella, a young girl goes to a crossing to learn how to sing the blues. “Crossing” also refers to wavy lines an X mark (or quincunx) placed on the ground where one harms or shames another person through “foot-track magic.”

Powders and liquids used to jinx the path where the victim is expected to walk are said to enter or contact that person through the soles of his feet. Folks who know conjure, watch where they walk and also carry mojo bags, charms and other items to ward off evil.

Today we use the term “street wise” to those who know what to watch out for in the inner city; I think we can safely say one needs to be equally aware in a rural area where a root doctor (conjure woman) lives.

Railroad cars with logs - Saint Marks, Florida, photo by Johnson, State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
Railroad cars with logs – Saint Marks, Florida, photo by Johnson, State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Turpentine and pulpwood mean logging trains, a constant image in my book. People traveling the road into town see bulkhead flat cars at the railroad crossing heading for the paper mill. Where the tracks cross the road is also a tempting place to “lay a trick.”

I like the interplay of the magical and the real, and “crossings” (symbolic and real) offer a lot of “neither here nor there” kinds of places in a conjure story. A piney woods story wouldn’t be real without railroad crossings, bulkhead flat cars (typical for hauling wood) and turpentine stills.

I hope readers will enjoy the double meanings in the story as well the dangerous events that occur where one road (or railroad) crosses another road.

luckymojoYou can read an interesting summary of crossings in hoodoo at the extensive Lucky Mojo site.  (To Put on Curses, Jinxes, and Crossed Conditions, To Destroy Luck and Change Good Luck to Bad, For Revenge and Spiritual Antagonism).

You can read the Wikipedia overview of crossroads magic here and the post Mystery, Magic & Mayhem of the Crossroads here.

As always, I enjoy pulling the details and secrets of a place into my fiction and very much sharing the Florida world where I grew up.





My Writing Process – A Blog Tour Interview

When Rhett DeVane asked me if I wanted to be in a blog tour in which each author talks about his/her writing process, I laughed and thought, “What writing process?” So, I had to think about it for awhile. . .

What am I working on?

Lucky Mojo Site
Lucky Mojo Site

After writing contemporary fantasy set in the Rocky Mountains, I’ve been having fun going back to the Florida Panhandle for short story settings. I’ve become slightly more ambitious with the novella I’m writing set near the Apalachicola River. The story involves folk magic, nasty people, tragedy and the atmosphere of the piney woods world as it as in the 1950s. I usually work magic into my stories one way or another, but having a protagonist who is a conjure woman is something new for me. And, it’s been a hoot. So has the research!

One thing you see right away when checking into old books or contemporary hoodoo sites is that hoodoo is not the same as Voodoo. Hoodoo is folk magic; Voodoo is a religion. The other thing you’ll see is that while lots of people say they believe in magic, either “The Law of Attraction” on one hand or Harry Potter and Gandalf on the other.  Meanwhile, Hoodoo is written off as a cluster of ignorant superstitions. I don’t intend to treat it that way in the book. My hope is to do justice to another kind of magic while telling an exciting story.

How does my work differ from other of its genre?

MoonLightandGhostsI read a lot of fantasy, but that doesn’t make me a spokesman for the genre. That said, it appears to me that the fantasy most in fashion these days is (like Game of Thrones) set off-world or in our world after some catastrophe has wiped out society as we know it.

My writing focus is contemporary fantasy and paranormal. Contemporary fantasy is set in our world or in a world/universe/region close by. My work probably is probably closer to “reality as we know it” than most.

That is, I’m going to be using real settings and mentioning the differences, let’s say, between those who believe in magic and those who believe in science an technology. When I write paranormal stories, my work differs from others because there’s none of the Hollywood-style occult in it. I’m more likely to focus on ghosts and strange coincidences than vampires, demons, etc.

Why do I write what I do?

Celebrating the magic and wonder of the natural world
Celebrating the magic and wonder of the natural world

I like the interplay of people and the places where they live. Places tend to have an ambiance about them that’s not only tangled up with what’s going on there now, but is also influenced by old legends, tall tales, and the people lived there in the past. Since I believe there is much more to the world than what our scientists and our five senses are showing us, I like writing stories that the readers will see as possible. That is, I try to make the magic as close known techniques (real or imagined) as I can.

How does your writing process work?

When I start a book or a short story, I don’t know where it will end up. I become intrigued with a theme or a place or a prospective character and start fiddling with the idea. Quite often, the story will start to take shape as I look at source information about the place where it will be set, the kind of work the characters do, and the magic they’re familiar with.

The story takes shape while I write it. That means I’m just as in the dark about the outcome of the story as readers will be when they pick up the finished book.

The Tour

RhettA big thank you to Rhett DeVane (Suicide Supper Club), Southern fiction author from Tallahassee, Florida. You can find Rhett at her website: or on her blogs: and

Rhett lives in the town where I grew up, so she gets leaned on from time to time to update me on, say, whether a restaurant is still open or if nearby attractions still have one tour or another when I write stories about the Florida Panhandle. (I haven’t been there since the 1980s and there has been a fair amount of change since then.

ClaytonphotoYou may also like hearing about author Melinda Clayton’s writing process. I know I would because she writes wonderful stories including Blessed Are The Wholly Broken. I’m hoping I’ll get some tips that will speed up my “writing process.” She’s blogging over at GoodReads.

Melinda also lives in Florida, but since I haven’t yet come up with a story to set in her part of the state, she’s escaped the kinds of questions I send to Rhett.


$1.99 on Kindle
$1.99 on Kindle

Malcolm R. Campbell’s Florida stories include “The Land Between The Rivers,” “Emily’s Stories,” “Moonlight and Ghosts” and “Cora’s Crossing.”

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