Making Hoodoo/Conjure oils is something I’ve recently become interested in. I always had an interest in New Orleans Voodoo and usually had some oils from this or that NOLA botanica around; but since Granny died my desire to know more about it has grown. Like a lot of elderly people in south Louisiana, my grandmother had some Hoodoo beliefs, although she always thought of herself as a Catholic (not that the two things are mutually exclusive).
And of course in Cajun culture there is a long tradition of traiteurs/traiteuses. That’s a kind of faith healing that mostly uses the “laying on of hands”, although a lot of them also use various herbal or otherwise natural remedies. (To get rid of a wart, rub it on a cut potato and bury it at a crossroads, etc.) My mother was a spastic child who was always falling off roofs and whatnot, so I know she got dragged to one by Granny at least once.
It’s a rewarding hobby, and an inexpensive one too: essential oils are almost always less than $5 a dram (1/4 of an ounce), and you only need a few drops to make a whole ounce of oil. Essential oils are overpowering and can even be harmful in their undiluted form, so you always want to use a neutral carrier oil. Old school rootworkers will say you have to use olive oil, but I think it makes everything smell like salad dressing and I use sweet almond oil. Jojoba oil is also a popular choice with younger rootworkers. And I squeeze a vitamin E gelcap into every bottle, which keeps the oil fresh longer.
If you’re a cook with wide interests (like me), you’ll already have a lot of the herbal ingredients in your pantry. More obscure ingredients like lodestone gravel or angelica root can be obtained at botanicas, or online, for a few dollars. Etsy has lots of spiritual supply shops.
I made this yesterday, it’s XXX Algiers Oil (usually spoken as Triple Strength Algiers Oil). It’s a great multi-purpose oil that originated in the Algiers neighborhood of NOLA. Most “condition” oils are meant to remedy one condition: get you a job, win you a court case, make your man stop straying. But XXX Algiers Oil is supposed to attract love, luck, and money–hence the XXX in the title. It’s a fun oil to make because the roots/herbs/etc. you put in the oil are up to you, so long as you use one each to attract the three conditions. You can use it to dress candles or anoint petition papers or as a perfume (it’s a unisex scent).
Most rootworkers will not share their formulas, but I say fuck that. I’m not looking to make any money off this, and sharing knowledge is never a bad thing. (Anyway, XXX Algiers Oil is not a big secret.) The essential oils are patchouli, cinnamon, vanilla, and wintergreen–essentially it’s Red Fast Luck Oil with the earthy patchouli added to “slow down” the oil. (Red Fast Luck works fast, as the name implies, but the results don’t last long.) I combined the patchouli, wintergreen, and vanilla in more or less equal amounts, but I find cinnamon oil has a REALLY strong smell and I put in a little less of it.
In the bottle, before I poured in the oil, I placed a pinch of lavender flowers for love; a few nutmeg shavings for luck; and a small piece of pyrite for money. I chose a love herb that’s slanted more towards promoting familial peace and harmony, as opposed to an outright romantic one like rose buds. Of course, any plant parts you put in oils have to be ABSOLUTELY DRY, or your oil will go rancid. A good resource for the different meanings of plants, minerals, and zoological material is Catherine Yronwode’s* Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic.
I bought several small bottles at the Washington Schoolhouse Antiques sale last weekend (I haven’t missed one of the semi-annual sales–there’s another one in April–since I moved to Louisiana), with the purpose of using them for oils. They’re all different shapes and colors, but all hold about one ounce. I spent all weekend soaking them first in hot soapy water, then diluted vinegar, then water scented with Florida Water, then finally just water. In between I scrubbed them out by wrapping bits of cloth around a wooden skewer. This bottle is actually an orphan salt shaker, I made it airtight by coating the inside of the shaker top with silver sealing wax and rubbing the threads with soft orthodontic wax.
I’m waiting on another batch of essential oils, and next week I’m going to make Peaceful Home Oil.
*I refuse to get involved in the American Hoodoo/NOLA Voodoo pissing matches, so any comments slamming either Cat Yronwode OR Denise Alvarado will not be approved. Everyone involved needs to just do what they do and stop trying to prove their way is the One True Faith.