Lucky Nine Oil

Lucky Nine Oil

I think this is the last oil that I’ll make for a while. There are hundreds–possibly thousands–of different Hoodoo condition oils, but there are maybe a dozen that you’d use on anything like a regular basis*. This isn’t even one of them, I just made it because I thought it looked fun and I had one more bottle from World Market that wasn’t being used.

Lucky Nine Oil is a very NOLA-specific condition oil, and you’ll always find it in books by NOLA-area workers like Anna Riva and Denise Alvarado. It’s called that because it has nine ingredients, and you’re supposed to add nine drops to your bath for nine days in a row to get what you need. (It’s said to work well for those seeking employment.) Nine–three threes–is an especially lucky number in African-derived magico-religious systems; it’s also a sacred number in Catholicism, folk or otherwise, hence the novena, which literally means “nine” and lasts for (yup) nine days.


  • Musk
  • Rose geranium
  • Frankincense
  • Myrrh
  • Sandalwood
  • Orange
  • Bergamot
  • Allspice

Add a few pinches of dried vervain and blend in a base oil that’s light and sweet-smelling, like almond or sunflower. This is an oil where I wouldn’t substitute dried herbs or resins for the oils, because as mentioned, it’s primarily a bath oil, so you want it to be liquid.

*The only one I haven’t attempted to make myself is Van Van Oil. For whatever reason, I prefer to buy it; I like to get it from different sources and compare. Everyone makes it slightly differently: some people make a cheap and easy version with just lemongrass oil and vervain; some people go so heavy on the citronella that it smells like bug spray; some people sweeten it up with lots of lemon verbena. I drove down to Arabi last Saturday to photograph the remains of LeBeau Plantation (look for a blog post about that later), and on my way back through NOLA I stopped at F&F Botanica, where I’d never been before. I was so overwhelmed by their candle selection that I forgot about everything else, and I’m kicking myself for not getting some of their Van Van Oil. I guess I’ll just have to go back soon!

Money Lamp

money bottle lamp

This is something I made out of a Topo Chico bottle (a Mexican brand of sparkling water) when I noticed what a lovely shade of green it was. To a lesser extent, yellow is also associated with money in Hoodoo–yellow for gold–but green is the most traditional color. Also, I like green better than yellow.

They don’t have twist-off caps, but if you very gently pry off the cap in several spots, it will remain unbent enough to enable you to pop it back onto the bottle neck. I made a hole in the cap with an awl and fed my wick through it. I’ve given up using vegetable oil and natural wicks–they were always going out and required constant fussing with, and I just got tired of it. I bought some woven wicks and some paraffin oil on Amazon and I’m much happier with the results. (Also, paraffin oil does not go rancid.) Spring for the the ultra pure-burning stuff, it doesn’t smoke or smell at all. And make sure the bottle says it’s for oil candles, not just oil lamps–technically these are oil candles and not lamps.

Inside is a bunch of money-drawing goodies: a cinnamon stick, some dried allspice berries, a High John root, pyrite chunks, and lodestone gravel dressed with gold magnetic sand. They were anointed with Special Oil No. 20 (I haven’t made any money-specific oils yet) and smudged in patchouli incense before being placed inside the lamp. (I had to get over my patchouli prejudice for that. It’s lovely as a base in a complex oil, but by itself it smells like dirt and hippies.)

I had a really cool idea for a paperless name paper that involved carving my initials onto an array of coins that added up to my age–which means I’d have had to to add another penny on November 23rd–but alas, the neck was too narrow for coins, even dimes. So instead I wrapped some paper money around one of my business cards, and put it under the lamp.

Crown of Success Oil

Crown of Success Oil

This is another complex oil, I think of it as kind of like the offensive counterpart to the defensive Fiery Wall of Protection Oil. It’s only used for positive works, though. It’s especially good for adults returning to school and people who run their own businesses, but it can be used in any situation where you desire to succeed.

There are a lot of ingredients in it. Mine has more oils than a lot of other rootworkers might use; I don’t like to have a lot of solids in my oils and if I can use the essential oil instead of dried herbs I usually will.

I used orange, allspice, cinnamon, geranium, lavender, bergamot, and rosemary oils; you could use dried herbals for the lavender, bergamot, and/or rosemary if you wanted. I added a pinch of anise seed, a small piece of High John the Conqueror root, and a chunk of pyrite. I’ve read of some rootworkers using a pinch of gold glitter, but glitter is made of plastic (sorry to bust your bubble if you thought it was made of unicorn farts) and I only want organic ingredients in my oils.

The bottle is from World Market, they have a good selection of small bottles for just $1.99.

Crown of Success can be used in candle spells (purple would be the right color here), used to dress things like resumes or business cards or school papers (dab a bit on each corner), or used as a personal fragrance. It’s got a really complex, but clean and bright, smell.

Four Thieves Vinegar

(I’ve had a bottle of this sitting for about 6 weeks, I’m going to strain out the herbs tomorrow.) Four Thieves Vinegar is a traditional recipe that supposedly dates back to the days of the Black Death, when its disinfecting/curative properties protected a quartet of Italian grave robbers from contracting the plague. In Hoodoo today it’s used for both crossing (especially if you’re trying to break up a couple) and protective purposes.

There is a million ways to make it, but there are 2 basic schools of thought: edible and inedible. A lot of recipes add inedible herbs and resins like rue and camphor. Me, I don’t see the point of vinegar you can’t drink, so I am firmly Team Edible. In addition to its spiritual purposes, you can use it for cooking or salad dressing–or you can feed it to someone you want to work on under the guise of cooking or salad dressing.

Red wine vinegar is the most traditional base, but you can use any kind you want, and apple cider vinegar is what’s used most often in the rural south. That’s what I use, because at least 5 generations of women in my family have cooked with apple cider vinegar. (I like Bragg, an unpasteurized, unfiltered vinegar that has a little bit of the mother in every bottle.)

Some people add dozens of ingredients to their vinegar, but the most basic formula is vinegar and 4 herbs (or garlic and 3 herbs)–one for each thief. I use garlic, sage, rosemary, and lavender. Stuff a bunch of everything in the bottle, pour in the vinegar, cover and put somewhere dark for at least 30 days, shaking daily. Strain out the herbs or leave them in, it’s up to you, and use as needed. (I strain them out, because the lavender tends to pour out with the vinegar if left in.) It’s delicious, and why anyone would make an inedible version is totally beyond me.

Three Kings Oil

Three Kings Oil

I got some sandalwood essential oil I’d ordered in yesterday’s mail, I’m going to use it for Peaceful Home Oil (yes I use it in Peaceful Home Oil even though it’s not standard, more on that later) but I’m still waiting on one last herbal ingredient. So in the meantime, since I had all the necessary resins, I made some Three Kings Oil. It’s an all-purpose blessing oil, good for consecrating altar items and dressing altar candles (most altars usually have 2 white candles at the back, one on each side).

Three Kings Oil is sandalwood, frankincense, myrrh, and amber. You can use essential oils for all 4 ingredients, or use all solids, or use a combination, which is what I did. I crushed up small pieces of the resins* in my mortar and pestle, and added some sandalwood essential oil. You can see the crushed resins resting on the bottom of the bottle, but they will eventually dissolve.

*We had a conversation about resins in one of my Facebook groups the other day, to crush or not to crush. Sometimes oil recipes will specify this or that resin be added whole, but more often than not it doesn’t say one way or the other. I crushed all these up, since they are the main–indeed, almost the only–ingredients in the oil. Ultimately, a whole piece of resin will eventually dissolve though, so the conclusion was that it doesn’t much matter one way or the other. Some rootworkers crush, some don’t, some both crush and add a whole piece for show, and still others use resin oils.

Lomographers of Acadiana meetup: New Orleans Pharmacy Museum & The Historic Voodoo Museum

I was uploading photos from this weekend to Flickr when I realized that I never posted last month’s meetup. Unfortunately I only have digital photos, because the batteries in my flash were dead and I didn’t realize it until the morning of the meetup. Oh, well.

First we went to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum on Chartres Street. It’s a museum of 19th century medicine housed in the office/home of the first licensed pharmacist in the Louisiana Territory. All of the displays are authentic, none of the items are reproductions. If you’re in the French Quarter and looking for something a little different I recommend it. It was really interesting, there was a lot to see, and admission is just $5.


One of the things I found fascinating was how so many of the herbal medicines of the 19th century contained ingredients that are used today in rootworking–the apothecary jar 4th from the right on the top contained tincture of asafoetida, a foul-smelling herb sometimes called “devil’s dung” that is used in Hoodoo to both repel evil and harm enemies. I saw a lot of other names I recognized, too.


I really, really want this graduated chest of drawers!

Gold- and silver-plated pills

Pharmacists sometimes compounded silver- or gold-plated pills for their wealthy clients. They knew that the metals had no medicinal properties, but they also knew they’re inert and pass through the system without causing harm, and it got bored rich people to quit whining about their made-up problems for 5 minutes, so what the hell.

Medicinal tobacco and marijuana

This was a display about the medicinal use of cannabis and perique (a type of tobacco grown in Louisiana)–tobacco was apparently prescribed to treat asthma!

Voodoo potions

Display of Voodoo potions. People used to get their spiritual supplies from the same place that they got their medicine. The potions were numerically coded (hence “love potion #9”) so that rich white people could ask for them without admitting they practiced or believed in Voodoo, which officially was only practiced by slaves and free people of color.

(So, to the people who say New Orleans Voodoo is a 20th century invention of people who wanted to make money off tourists, riddle me this: if it didn’t exist before that, how do you explain these bottles?)

Pond's tampons

Tampons in the 19th century contained opium. I demand a return to this practice.

Soda fountain

Early 19th century soda fountain. Soda was invented to get people to take bitter-tasting medicine, they would drown it in sugary flavored syrups and add mineral water.

Afterward we walked to the Historic Voodoo Museum on Dumaine Street. It’s pretty small, just 2 rooms and a hallway. And their air-conditioning does NOT work very well, it was stifling. In addition, the exhibits were filthy with dust, and some of them were a little… exaggerated, shall we say. Kanzos in the bayou, etc. NOLA Voodoo is a non-initiatory religious system (which is why the terms “houngan” and “mambo” are not used), and practitioners who want to be initiated usually have to travel to Haiti for it.


Main Altar

The main altar. The wooden rod in back is where the lwa come down.

Yemaya Shrine

Yemaya is one of the Yoruban orisha that made its way into NOLA Voodoo in the 20th century, probably via Santeria.


Special Oil No. 20

special oil no 20

This is a really simple, classic Conjure oil that I threw together yesterday. Special Oil No. 20 (sometimes called Wick Oil, Candle Oil, or Brown Oil) is patchouli and vanilla. In the old days it was made with patchouli leaves and vanilla pods, which is how it got its brown color; nowadays it’s more commonly made with essential oils and dyed brown.

Some rootworkers add this or that herb or root or maybe another oil; but in its simplest form it’s just the two essential oils, a carrier oil, and your prayers. I knew this had patchouli and vanilla in it, but thought there must be a 3rd ingredient that I couldn’t detect with my nose. Luckily a more experienced rootworker in my Facebook group clued me in. (I had also made the mistake of wandering into an old Yahoo! group that was clearly populated by fluffybunny Wiccan types, they kept insisting Special Oil No. 20 has at least one floral note.)

Vanilla is one of the most positive scents in Hoodoo, it encourages love–one of the simplest and most popular Hoodoo spells is to keep a vanilla pod in the family sugar bowl. And patchouli is one of the most versatile scents, used to draw both love and money and to break jinxes, so it’s almost always found in “multi-purpose” oils. Therefore, Special Oil No. 20 is appropriate for use in any positive or defensive workings. But not “left-handed”* work!

*One of the most striking differences between Hoodoo and Wicca is that Hoodoo has no equivalent to Wicca’s “Rule of Three”. Hoodoo is a belief system of poor and marginalized people who read the Bible if they read nothing else, and anger and revenge–or just needing to get people out of your life–definitely have a place in it.

XXX Algiers Oil

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.

xxx algiers oil

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.