Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sweet Hoodoo Baby

Rise of the Witches (1880)
by Luis Ricardo Falero

We are servants. Our hands ever guided through our ongoing dialogue with necessity. It has struck me recently how different this perspective is from those which prevail among my contemporaries. How little of the old sympathy remains among the western hoodoo. I have heard leading figures speak of their clients and students like puppies in need of a beating, demean the livelihood provided them by their hidden company and ridicule the ever-expanding place for our kind in the world.

It is our clients who are the agents of that hidden company which preserves us, not we ourselves. It is our clients who answer the call of necessity, who set our hands to working the will of the spirit. Seeing things thus, it is not our custom to even discuss the nature of our professional relationships as though they should conform to some pre-existing set of rules, always fitting snugly into our comfort zones. Without that company of spirit you are nothing and its preservation of you is as conditional as your surrender to it.  Think on that before you demean the wealth (material or otherwise) they have bestowed upon you.

We each have our talents and natural inclinations and our hidden company exists in perfect harmony with them, both naturally arising just as they are. Why then would we fail in what they have tasked us? Perhaps its all the sex in what we do, the general disdain for conditional anything which arises from the endless possibility of the flesh that has shaped us thus. In all honesty it is a theme which pervades our work. We cherish our clients because it is they who do honor to that hidden company and it is upon them that company of spirits has chosen to bestow its baraka, we are merely the instruments of that exchange.

Even those perilous exchanges which at times arise between professional practitioners are treated with the same reverential difference, this is what we do and it should be a great honor to meet another in the service of the invisible companies. Our spirits should come together with the complete presence of a prize fight or a porn scene. Each one leaving a piece of themselves behind and taking a piece of us away with them. A bit of Santeria here, a sliver of Palo there, a vein of Ghede, the whispering voices of wandering cleric’s and mercenary bokor, all gifts bestowed upon us by necessity. We cherish our service because it is a never-ending font of experience. This is, in our own humble opinion the true legacy of the hoodoo. True syncretic exchange has nothing to do with cultural appropriation, it is two scrappers trying to find a victory or two lovers caught in each others gravity and it is unwise to get between either. It is someone else's fist/crotch in your face.

Not the recipes and Psalms, not the honorifics and the oracles but rather the crucible of necessity and the compassion of the spirit. For us it is a violation of our commitment to leap to the criticism of our fellows in the trade, many of whom will one day be counted among the Honored Dead. Bad form. So we are just not going to do that. We will however state what we do not do, we don’t charge for failure, we do not believe that we are morally superior to either our clients or our occasional rivals and we most certainly do not regard the ever-increasing role of the hoodoo (a term which for us still encompasses those mercenary practitioner’s of the New World faith’s) in the secular West as being in any way negative. The suggestion that these newcomers to the scene represent the 'dollar store' compared to the establishments 'custom dress shop' (made on a recent Lucky Mojo podcast) is patently ridiculous. With suppliers like these... addition to the seasoned practitioners running the botanica’s which have sprung up it is possible to work with ingredients and source materials in a way that has not been possible for a hundred years.  

We have only gratitude for our peers among the mercenary class of practitioners, only respect. Especially those whom the spirit has placed upon our path as clients, allies and rivals, secret Buddha’s the lot of them.  


  1. I believe you've misunderstood my blog entirely. I am not in anyway taking my clients for granted, or demeaning my colleagues. I am where I am because spirit has led me and clients have recognized that and trusted in me. Newcomers are always welcome to our community in hoodoo.

    That said, there is a danger to the idea that just anyone can be a root doctor. There is a social responsibility to be up held. If a person with little to no real experience in the field is looking to join to make a fast buck, then there is an issue. Such people have existed throughout hoodoo's history often leading to instances where they were literally driven out of towns because of how badly they failed in their responsibility to truly help their clients.

    In today's age where everyone reads a bit here or there online then claims expertise this situation has increased to the point where we have a flood of these new wannabe rootworkers. Taking issue with such individuals is very much in line with putting my clients first. I don't want my clients scammed, and I want my clients to have the experience of being helped by someone who actually can.

    While I am all for being open and welcoming and shall continue to be such to all who with sincerity seek to learn. I shall regard those who abuse the openness of this community to take advantage of its people for the sake of money the same way an accredited doctor would treat a hack committing fraud with a fake clinic. Ultimately this perspective rises up from the desire to safeguard those clients you rightly point out are what make us what we are.

    1. Just anyone can be a" root worker" due that LM course. Because of that woman hoodoo has been destroyed.


    Ali, it was not my intention to single out your blog but I don't think I am misreading you entirely either. You fairly explicitly state that there 'is no money in it anyway', which to me sounds at least a little demeaning.

    Perhaps I have misunderstood you, you suggest a glut of hacks and charlatans (a suggestion I have only seen made by constituents of IARR) definable only by their recent arrival (last couple of years) on the scene and their not doing things the way you do. By that terribly general definition your accusation is being made directly at me, a thousand or so Santero's and at least half that many Palo.

    Who are these hacks exactly? What if we have different definitions of 'hack' (something I attempt to suggest at least in the article itself)? Is it not not wiser to illuminate known offenders, wait for time to make its choices and wink knowingly at each other? Your either open and welcoming or your not brother.

    As I said, I am not the judge I am the servant and it is for my clients and the spirit to determine my worth. I have found in these last couple of years that most often paying clients are a better judge of adepthood than debating initiates and quicker to punish exploitative interlopers. Often a 'first task' for a certain quality of client.

    I simply fail to see how the exceptionally vague accusations being made recently are either helpful or necessary.

  3. The members of AIRR are but one avenue of finding ethical work--they are a manifestation of an older idea that address the very same issue of people being scammed throughout the history of professional rootwork. They however are not the only avenue and I have never state as such, good sir. In fact, I endorse both Devi Spring, Balthazar and dozens of other very authentic, legitimate, ethical practitioners who have nothing to do with AIRR.

    If you feel that I demean you because you are not in AIRR, then you are gravely mistaken. I was taught by a non AIRR rootworker, I was raised in the conjure tradition long before AIRR existed and have met dozens of wonderful practitioners. The issue stems from the sudden growth of interest in hoodoo. People feel that they can now jump into the tradition and make a quick buck. This is not the case. There is nothing wrong with people coming to this tradition and trying to learn, there is nothing wrong with professional rootworkers, new or otherwise, there is an issue when people who have little skill, no depth of knowledge, no experience, can claim to be professionals and take in clients without a lick of understanding how to help them. If you feel you are in this category, then that is up to you. I don't know you so cannot say anything, but I certainly am not placing anyone in this category but those who exploit both the tradition and the community. The definition therefore is not vague in the least, nor implies a "my way or the highway mentality," but rather specifically defines unethical practitioners who do more damage than good by taking on clients without knowing what they are doing.

    We may have to agree to disagree, because at my doorstep comes many clients who have been burned badly by scammers and charlatans, I owe it to such people to mention why there is a growth of these individuals. Clients in desperation don't always use discernment and so we have people spending thousands of dollars on people who are incapable of helping them.

    As this tradition is close to my heart and family, I also feel the right to feel upset when I see the tradition exploited. For indeed, this is a calling, not a money making machine. If one seeks to get into this work for money in the first place, then you're starting on the wrong track; as you state, we are servants.

    As for naming specific individuals, some of us have taken this track, while this is certainly useful, it is also important to address this issue on a larger scale by pointing out the trends and markers of this phenomenon; I am a historian this is what I do.

    So while you may take exception with my post, and you are welcome too as I always welcome differing opinions, I stand by what I said. Conjure is facing an increasing number of mediocre newcomers who are exploiting the tradition to make a quick buck. There certainly are great workers out there, but caution is in order.

  4. OK .. I'll attempt to work with you here, without a doubt there are some inexperienced newcomers out there. Most generally, I feel it is the consumers place to judge the individuals value but since you feel it is your social responsibility how is it that these hacks can be identified? Specifically.

    Everyone is in it to make a buck, servants gotta eat right. You are, I am, all of us. You are a hoodoo Ali, an amateur historian at best and a doctor only through the vehicle of comparison. Lets just talk to one another like brothers.

    I am not defending mediocrity, I do not believe that a practitioner should be paid to fail (historians and doctors most assuredly are not), as it encourages just the behavior your describing, that is why I mention IARR and the possibility that we define 'ethical' differently. I will not however run about calling everyone with a different payment structure than my own, a hack. Punishing your fellows with general accusations for the mistakes of your clients is hardly professional.

    My contention is that though the number of working hoodoo is indeed considerably greater than a short while ago I see no reason to believe that the greater portion are scammers and charlatans. It is a tradition close to my heart and family as well Ali, I also feel the right to be upset with the suggestion that all newcomers are exploitative mediocre practitioners, or worse.

    I agree that many are leaping into the deep end without enough experience. I think that happens when you can just take a course for a few months and walk away a 'certified hoodoo'. I am (perhaps unfairly) assuming you operate under the aegis of IARR as it is a credential you cite on your blog. Though it is one among many on your own (and for the record I enjoy your blog), that is not the case elsewhere.

  5. Actually, I'm far from an amateur historian, my friend. I'm a professional academic who makes his living as a lecturer, post-graduate student, and author; I only brought up my role as a historian to help demonstrate my perspective--I am looking at trends.

    Since you'd like to work this out, I am all for it. If you'd be so kind as to indicate where I said all newcomers were "exploitative mediocre practitioners?" I do not recall making such an assertion. If you'd also like to point out where I judge such people based on their different pay structure? Perhaps that would help clarify your point, because you seem to be arguing based off a series of assumptions. For example, you assume that AIRR is the standard I am arguing, but it is not and in fact I don't mention AIRR at all in the post.

    The issue never was, nor has been AIRR. As I stated there are wonderful workers out there that are not members of AIRR, I myself being a professional rootworker nearly a dozen years before AIRR was around. My issue is the standard of ethics. If a person leaps into this work before they are ready, without experience, or any depth of knowledge they are being unethical by proclaiming themselves to be a professional rootworker--that is the standard, that is my definition of a hack. Why should we hold wannabe rootworkers to a higher standard then a guy proclaiming to be a dentist, but never went to Dental School?

    I couldn't care less how much they charge, how they charge, or if their standard meets that of AIRR. My focus is entirely on individuals who try to get into this work for whatever reason without having the necessary foundation for it (skill, knowledge, experience).

    Furthermore, I am not punishing anyone. I am remarking on a trend. One that you may not see, but one that I certainly have over my career and one discussed among colleagues, AIRR or otherwise. By remarking on the trend, I am not punishing anyone, I am making and observation, stating an opinion and hoping that it *will* make clients a little bit more responsible. However, if this tradition is near to you, then you'll have no difficulty understanding the implicit trust between conjure doctor and client and how easily that can be abused and exploited.

    If one wants to judge whether newcomer or old timer alike is a hack, then they merely need to examine that person's practice, check to see if their knowledge is indeed sound, what their clients have to say about them, and more importantly what their character is.

  6. My apologies for the historian remark Ali, obviously unfounded.

    I am focusing a portion of my argument on IARR because of the reference to the Lucky Mojo podcast within my blog, and your own. Indeed my issue is that in your blog and in the recent Lucky Mojo podcast no definitive statements are being made at all.

    You defend your position by remarking upon a trend that you refuse to substantiate. I remark about possible differences based in the IARR structure and you assure me that's not what you meant.

    All your really doing here Ali is calling everyone else's credentials into question, in the same manner as yronwode did on the podcast. Two things which you have repeatedly stated were related, hence my conflating the two here.

    Trends have definitive markers. I would expect a historian to understand that it is necessary to substantiate claims like those made in Year of the Rootworker and yronwode's podcast. Without reference to such markers you really are just casting aspersions on your contemporaries while validating your own moral superiority.

    "Conjure is facing an increasing number of mediocre newcomers who are exploiting the tradition to make a quick buck." You said it right there, just to clarify. Without qualifying a remark like this, how else should it be interpreted? This has been my issue from the beginning.

    Your statements as well as those made on the podcast suggest a community of charlatans (excepting your favored club of course), not mine.

  7. I'm sorry, but you are drawing conclusions that are not there. You are trying to connect dots by focusing on credentials though such a remark was not made by me. You are hung up on my credential with AIRR (Its AIRR, not IARR btw) by assuming that this is the standard I'm implying when I state the criteria is actual the level of skill, experience, and knowledge of the individual. By assuming this, you are turning the blog into something that it is not. As you can see, by the rather different comments received on my blog from others who have not made these assumptions and read the blog as it is.

    I used the podcast as a pedagogical springboard. I have not repeatedly made a connection between my own remarks or the podcast, nor have I implied anything about "credentials." I end the blog with a clear call for caution and clear steps to help substantiate the difference between the two groups of people; steps that are directed at calling into question someone's character, skill, and knowledge. Steps that do not exempt me, or anyone else. It is a fair approach, as you have indicated it is the responsibility of the client anyway--I am helping them along.

    Your quote does not back your statement up. How does it demonstrate that I am calling all newcomers hacks? How does that indicate that due to their pay structures they are hacks? "An increasing number" indicates growth, it does not blanket the whole of "newcomers" as you stated that I said.

    As anyone in history can tell you, trends in communities like conjure's are not substantiated any other way than by observation. A poll of "good" workers vs "bad" workers is not possible. Most of history is actually nothing more than the recollection of observations, therefore my blog is in line with historical observation, but while that was how my opinion was developed, it does not change the fact like all blogs, it is an *opinion.* Whether history or opinion skepticism is welcomed and encouraged.

    If my tone comes off as morally superior, then that is unfortunate as I am wiling to take that risk by enlightening my readers on a trend that I've experienced and observed.

    Since this opinion is based on my observation of the field I can only offer that in the past 2 years the number of clients who have suffered at the hands of these rootworkers has tripled in comparison to before hoodoo had the online presence it does today. I have observed this by the number of clients who have come seeking me out, my friends, my colleagues, and others and have clearly stated having been caught up in this phenomenon.

    While I respect discourse and always encourage others to challenge anything I say, I do ask that you actually focus on what I've said, not what you assume I've said. You've provided a single quote and it does not stand up to the accusation that I have attacked all newcomers.

    It may be possible that this discussion is doomed to be limited due to our obviously different stances and the medium by which are conversing, but all I can offer is that you've made some serious assumptions and they left you feeling defensive rather than open to the idea that such a phenomenon exists. I request that you re-read my blog and comments without these assumption, read how others perceived what I've said, and perhaps it can clarify my stance as not one of accusation, but of worry.

  8. I think you've both made some interesting points as far as the situation modern conjure-work finds itself in. Valentine seems primarily concerned with the idea that some are denying the validity of persons new to our tradition; a concern which is certainly valid....I've had a few people scoff at folk who learn about conjure primarily through the modern mediums of reading and the internet. People forget, I think, that its doing the work that makes you a skilled hoodoo, and that the method you learned the way of hoodoo from isn't the only thing that is important. We've got more raw information available to more people than ever, so it stands to reason that more people would be entering the tradition. He also seems opposed to the idea of some sort of hoodoo orthodoxy, and a little concerned that the AIRR is setting itself up that way, moving in that direction. Ive not heard the podcast that Mrs.Yronwolde makes the comments that concerned brother Valentine in...ill give it a listen this evening. I'm not a member of the AIRR, and so would have to rely on the good Frater Ali to tell if this is an aim of theirs or not. I do think having some organization is a good thing, but of course think it unwise to create an organizational litmus test for who is and who ain't a good hoodoo.
    I don't think brother Ali is making moral commentary; I think he's expressing concern over a real phenomena he is experiencing in his day to day practice. He has linked the increase in unskilled workers with the boom in people joining our tradition. Stands to reason that there is a link; I don't think the quality of new workers is any worse than before this current boom...if anything, they have far more information available to them then previous generations. There are just more of them. Bound to be more bad as well as good.

  9. Good Frater, that is indeed my concern: that there are more of these bad workers. That is all. That the desire to be a rootworker is overshadowing the desire to first properly learn how to be one.

    While I am a proponent of hands-on learning, I am also very comfortable with the new mediums available for hoodoo. This is reflected in my promoting correspondence courses and various educational websites: my learning hoodoo blog shows this. This is further evidenced in the fact that some of my colleagues at AIRR are indeed internet-trained and there is nothing wrong with that. It is the depth of the knowledge that I call into question for those attempting to be rootworkers before they gain the skill, experience, and knowledge to do so.

    As to AIRR we are certainly not aiming at any "orthodoxy." All one has to do is glance through our profiles; we have wiccan prietesses, Catholic workers, Paleros and Santeros, people with ceremonial backgrounds and much more. We are an eclectic bunch. What we hold in common is a love of hoodoo and a desire to join together to create a place where clients can find reputable and ethical workers. We are of course but one avenue and many of our friends are not AIRR members and we see no problem with that. AIRR is merely the manifestation of a desire to counter the problem of scammers, hacks, and such.

    The acronym stands for the Association of *Independent* Readers and Rootworkers and we are that. While we do pride ourselves one being some of the most skilled rootworkers, the organization should only be seen as a threat to those who have practices of an unethical and exploitative nature. To all others we happily co-exist with and those interested are always welcome to join: they merely need to meet the agreed up standards that are fair and ensure that our clients get the best possible help.

    My only confusion was why AIRR is brought up as a standard or even an "issue" when my blog does not express such. It was merely making an observation on what I have noticed.

    Nevertheless I hope the fears are assuaged. There is no orthodoxy, more than anyone myself and my AIRR collegues honor the diverse traditions of hoodoo (as can be seen by the thousands of web pages we've created on the vastness of hoodoo traditions), nor is there a blanket attack against all newcomers; simply a call for caution resulting from an observation.

  10. Brother, you have said several times now that I have misunderstood you and I am going to stop getting my back up over that because I think your right.

    You don't mention that the qualification to join AIRR isn't a successful practice (or is it?), its graduating from yronwode's hoodoo certification course. Which is why I brought it up, I apologize if I clouded our discussion. Also, I thought it was ironic that the only individual I am aware of running a school for hoodoo's is complaining about all the new hoodoo's.

    I realize you do not mention AIRR in your blog but you do conflate your position with that of yronwode's in the podcast, again I apologize if I clouded the discussion.

    Truly, it is not the call to caution which I took exception too but rather that it was directed entirely at newcomers to the scene, (which a charlatan would most likely not admit to being anyways).

    I could just as easily state; "Watch out for exploitative scammers and hobbyist practitioners among the old-school. They created a community that is infamous for its malpractice." And then go on to list hundreds of actual examples. You wouldn't take exception to that? Not even a little? I am asking you to see this from my perspective.

    The problem of charlatans is one we have to all face together, it is an obstacle I have to face with new clients burned and jaded by huckster's just like you. Now I also get to deal with an additional layer of suspicion because I am honest about how long I have been in the business.

    I also take exception because a charlatan will not pose as a fresh newcomer. They will lay claim to vast experience, great spiritual authority and an inscrutable insight into everything. You of all people I think, know that is true and also are intimately familiar with how precarious our social position is at the best of times.

  11. As an aside, however contentious I am grateful that you have taken the time to have the discussion.

  12. Mr. Ali,

    As an outside observer who has been interested in this discussion, I have some questions:
    - Most of your focused discourse has been on Rootwork. How distinct is Rootwork, as a subset of practices, from the whole range of operational techniques in Hoodoo? Must one do Rootwork to practice Hoodoo, or vice versa?
    - In your entry on the matter, you go on to say: "Whether their intent is to make money (stupid reason, rootwork isn't that lucrative), or to help people they lack that essential element that makes a person a real professional rootworker: a calling from Spirit."

    I have a few questions about this, as a practitioner of other systems: are you stating that this person has been branded or compelled to work with a certain class of spirits? With the Holy Spirit? You go on to state that a third party observer can confirm that the compulsion is correct... This raises my eyebrows. While hardly impossible, I am still not really sure what it is that you're trying to describe? It seems like you've dropped some compelling hints about what it takes to be a rootworker, but the reasoning behind this statement eludes me due to the succinctness of your statements.

  13. Friend Valentines, you seem to be taking issue with Miss cat's statements, which are not mine. I used her conversation as a pedagogical springboard as my readership is very familiar with the radio show. My criteria for a true rootworker is not based on where they learned their information, but the quality of that knowledge. If they took a correspondence course; great, if they learned hands on; great. AIRR no AIRR, correspondence course no correspondence course, the quality of individuals should be examined along with their expertise.

    My call for caution is rather clear. Hucksters are but one aspect of the problem. The blog post focuses on those who jump into this practice with absolutely no true foundation having only perused a few bits of information without truly getting a grasp of this work--the equivalent of reading a medical textbook and thinking you are prepared to perform surgery. Would you not say this is a problem? I have merely remarked on this problem.

    The intentions are something we can only guess at. Some are indeed hucksters and will pose as experts, but others are well-meaning and only want to help, yet in reality lack what it takes to help people. In either case it is the client that is burned. Mine is a nature that sees this as injustice. If you feel I am wrong in my stance to call attention to huckster and well-intentioned alike, then we will have to agree to disagree, however respectfully.

    You are correct that my focus was on newcomers because I have noticed in my experience a new wave of these individuals who are either hacks or well-intentioned but entirely inept for this sort of work. I have no issue with newcomers who are good at helping their clients, who took up this work with the gravity that it deserves. Yet I equally take issue with those who are "old-timers" that may lack the knowledge, experience, or skill, or are hucksters. My blog indicates newcomers merely to point out the new wave over the past years. Truly such individuals have existed before this, but as the good Frater pointed out there are simply more now.

    I am happy that I've been able to discuss this with you and if you still feel that I may have erred, then it will simply be a small matter in what will hopefully be a fruitful exchange.

    Mr. Jack, hoodoo is a term that has gain rather great popularity of late, but is a regional term referring to a body of practices more commonly called root doctoring, conjure, and rootwork. I use the term "rootworker" specifically to refer to the actual practice of hoodoo in a professional sense. A rootworker/ root doctor/ conjure doctor uses conjure/hoodoo to assist clients.

    Called to this work by Spirit draws from the cultural matrix of hoodoo, of which hoodoo cannot be separated, to refer to a spiritual calling. Conjure doctors feel compelled to do this work from a higher authority be it god, their spirit guides, ancestors, or even living teachers. This compulsion is confirmed by a reading, a spiritual diagnosis of sorts. This idea is often difficult for people outside of hoodoo to understand, but is a perspective deeply ingrained in hoodoo where magick has a distinctly spiritual quality that stems from a connection to folk-religions.

    A similar concept is found in nearly all the ATR's where noviates will describe a unique compulsion to join a particular religion because their spirit guide, or such has moved them to do so. I can only compare it to gaining guidance from one's Holy Guardian Angel.

    While it may certainly raise eyebrows for some, in hoodoo the world is seen as beautiful harmony of spirits within a web of destiny--the conjure doctor (like a shaman) is called, compelled, or moved to become the walker between worlds for their community.

  14. I understand Dr. Raven's perspective, and it's a valid concern. It's not like we haven't seen traditions get popular, watered down, and abused before. Spiritism could have been an awesome modern return to necromancy, if it hadn't had knockers being installed under seance tables to emulate spirit presences for profit. Talking boards have a longer history in the occult than Tarot, but Ouija and its use by teenagers and other idiots has left it rarely used these days. So Ali, you're right.

    But I'm with Valentine too. I understand processes and causality. When you identify a risk, you also identify mitigation strategies and system controls. Dr. Raven offered the mitigation strategy of Cave Canum, buyer beware. But how is the buyer to establish the validity of a practitioner? As soon as you say, they aren't all good, you have to judge them, the next logical question is, ok, based on what? What are the criteria that make a hoodoo a good hoodoo?

    Dr. Raven suggests the primary issue is ignorance and learning, inexperience. So the buyer is going to see that and they're going to look for proof that a person's been trained. What proof is commonly accepted by the public at large as indicating a person has proven their education? Why degrees, diplomas, and certifications!

    And oh, look, Cat happens to offer an online correspondence course that comes with a certification at the end. How convenient.

    So what's going to happen now? Cat's got the bully pulpit. The people who were trained outside her certification course are now going to be threatened with being marked as illegitimate by new clients who have been exposed to Cat's concerns. They'll have to put together another certifying body and certify themselves through that.

    Then the certifying bodies will fight to the death, and hoodoo will fade quietly back into the background of occult practice, where individuals continue the tradition, caring for their community and making money the way they always have.

    I think it's a cycle of popularity we've seen before. I expect it to go pretty much the same as it always does, personally. I think we're just at the part of the cycle where the folks that popularized it are starting to lose profit to their competition, and start turning on them.

    If I were more of a hoodoo, I'd start my own certifying body asap with the more prominent and experienced independent Hoodoos with the biggest names recognizing one another and offering certification based on an actual evaluation process, like, essay questions that explain what a person would do with specific common client requests. Have them spell out in detail the technique they would use, and have a panel evaluate their responses.

    V, if you could get together some other independents and set it up, you could also recognize Dr. Raven. Ali, you were trained outside Cat's system, and you have the AIRR or whatever certification, right? So if you suported Valentine's group, and they recognized you as well, you could be a mitgating force that extends the popularity phase of the cycle for hoodoo, forestalling the eventual collapse when the Organizations start fighting each other for clients.

    I'd suggest a 5-question essay test. Give them a divorce-related issue, a hex removal, a love rite, a wealth rite for a business man, and a wealth rite for someone in desperate circumstances, and see what kind of materials they use, what spirits they'd work with, whether their treatment would be effective based on your experience. Have three people review it and give it a grade. Let the certification alone be $1200, and you've got income to split between the reviewers too.

    If you can find a way to squeeze in a Hermeticist as a hoodoo-certifying authority, I'd gladly sit on the panel and grade people's experience for $400 per review. Cause I'm here for you.

  15. That's kind of my point RO .. where does this sort of thing stop and is it really even helpful for anyone anymore.

  16. Idealist, eh? I don't think it can stop any more than the rotation of the earth. It's like a natural law. Ali's points are valid, and your work, your business is protected as much as his and cat's by their call for discernment.

    If everyone says nothing and just trusts everything to be ok, is that better? what options provide less risk and more profit?

  17. OK .. how does it protect my work? I am a newcomer and according to Ali should be treated with suspicion. What happened to the good old days when an unethical practitioner just got wrecked by the community and that was that? Whats the matter with taking out the trash ourselves? I just think the best way to kill a thing is to committee it to death.

  18. Valentines, unless you lack experience, skill, and knowledge in this work, how are you one of the people who should be treated with suspicion? You've made this into an attack against you when it isn't. If you demonstrate these things then my blog goes on to indicate you one of the people who can be trusted.

    In *my* practice I noticed a wave of newcomers who were not ready to take on this work and did more harm than good. This to me is a problem. I do not have a problem with those who are newcomers but *are* ready for the work. We all started off new at some point.

    I understand that some may feel threatened, but I hardly think anything I said was even remotely close to condemnation of all newcomers.

    As Frater RO is alluding to it is far more dangerous to not say anything. Just two weeks ago I had a client who was burned for $2,000 hoping the spiritual practitioner could help him. It turned out that while not unethical, the spiritual practitioner was not as skilled as he claimed himself to be. He asked how he could discern better in the future. My blog answers that using a conversation with cat regarding the situation as a springboard.

    I've tried to politely correct your assumptions regarding the meaning of my post, but it simply seems that I cannot.

  19. I've been reading this with a certain amount of interest, particularly because, as a Heathen, my spiritual roots are somewhat linked with the reconstructionist community which has its own issues with authenticity.

    I'm not in any way related to hoodoo, and my links with the ATR-bloc boil down to some fruitful-but-early work with the Ghede and Legba lwa families. However, let me be the first to say that cliques exist in all walks of life, especially in the so-called occult community.

    While I understand the need for self-policing, the danger with setting up boards etc is that, as RO says, you get a kind of bureaucratic gang-warfare - and assumption of authority occurs quite easily after that. Even if it's not the intent of the founders to set themselves up as an authority, they start *becoming* seen that way, and that leads to denominational and authenticity issues even more.

    Let's look at some etymology here:

    **authentic mid-14c., "authoritative," from O.Fr. autentique (13c., Mod.Fr. authentique) "authentic; canonical," and directly from M.L. authenticus, from Gk. authentikos "original, genuine, principal," from authentes "one acting on one's own authority," from autos "self" (see auto-) + hentes "doer, being," from PIE *sene- "to accomplish, achieve." Sense of "entitled to acceptance as factual" is first recorded mid-14c. Traditionally (at least since the 18c.), authentic implies that the contents of the thing in question correspond to the facts and are not fictitious; genuine implies that the reputed author is the real one; though this distinction is not etymological and is not always now recognized.**

    So the authentic practice is that which stands on its own, by virtue of its own authority. (cont)

  20. Now, it seems to me that from the hoodoo point of view, the only ones who offer such empowerment are the spirits themselves, in combination with the skills of the practitioner.

    Now, Dr. Raven has stated he wrote his post in response to a general tendency which manifested itself in a specific incident that illustrates what he sees as a wider problem. Pardon me if I have misconstrued your intent Doctor, but it seems that the post in question was written in order to benefit the community of those who seek hoodoo work done, to enable them not to get a raw deal, or at the very least minimise its possibility?

    While it may have been interpreted adversarially, I suspect that it was not your intent to attack newcomers, but instead educate and benefit clients?

    If so, then it appears that once again, the textual nature of the web has engendered a miscommunication. Nobody likes the notion that an 'establishment' gets to decide what's right and what's not - and I suspect Valentine's anti-authoritarian tendencies have raised his hackles over the issue, as indeed they should!

    There's a great potential danger in centralisation when it it comes to the spiritual and ideological - however I don't think it's a personal attack on Valentine and other non-affiliated workers.

    I will admit that my first reading of Dr. Raven's post did indeed parse a perhaps unintentional implication that some newcomers are making claims about their practice that their arses can't cash, to the detriment of the client. Subsequent readings which have been informed by Dr. Raven's comments here, have suggested that the content was not intended as such.

    However, I believe Valentine's argument stems from a mistrust of any one body having rights of judgement over other practitioners - rather than a specific personal beef with the good doctor. As someone who has made a lifetime study of those ways exterior to the agreed 'status quo' I share my dear brother's distaste with the notion of top-down authority - as time goes on, it often becomes increasingly arbitrary.

    Hopefully, a balance can be struck - a communal recognition, as it were. On a practical level, moving with the times, perhaps some kind of community review-space might be created - there are such things for plumbers and electricians are there not?

    A great deal of work comes to all of us by word of mouth - and it's this function which might be enhanced by such a notion. Equally, such a space would not necessarily have any authority outside of the ratings.

    Centralised authority inevitably breeds those who operate outside it - sometimes leading to cut-throat and cut-price banditry. Perhaps a given community might benefit from taking a look at censure and other processes from various historical contexts?

  21. Mr. Valentine, regulation of the hoodoo community would protect your work by extension. The regulatory bodies would be protecting the "hoodoo brand" from being sullied.

    You have nothing to fear from the inquisition if you have nothing to hide, right? The police are here to protect you.

    Dr. Raven, I do not think you intended your post the way Mr. Valentine interpreted it. However, I do think Mr. Valentine's reaction is logical, and he's raised questions about what the implications of your post and Cat's statements will mean for hoodoo practitioners in general.

    I was not intentionally implying anything by my question, I was sincerely asking if it is better to do nothing at all, to let the processes within the hoodoo community that have policed the system internally since its inception continue to do so.

    I think it would depend on whether or not the risks have changed. Have the risks of getting an inexperienced hoodoo fucking up your life gone up to the point that existing controls are no longer sufficient to protect the client base?

    I think Dr. Raven's post itself is one of those traditional internal policing mechanism. An established root doctor is warning the public that there are dangers and to be careful.

    The question then becomes, is that sufficient, or will there be further controls and policies and regulations that get established?

  22. Mr. Ali: Thank you for those clarifications. I do believe I grokk what you are saying, and it does actually coincide with some of my experiences to a degree. (Not that I am saying I was called to Rootwork, mind you.)

    This discussion has been incredibly interesting to watch and I hope it continues.

  23. Brother Ali, I understand that you do not intend to attack me personally. That you are responding to a problem you see in your community. I hear you on that .. I really wish you were capable of seeing things from my perspective as well. All I am saying is that for a newcomer to mercenary work, who is honest about his history in the scene, you have at least inadvertently created an additional layer of critical suspicion for me.

    Mr. VI is also correct that I dislike the implications of centralized authority. That being said I understand that is a personal bias.

    I think the most interesting point that has arisen in this discussion is the notion that perhaps a centralized authority doesn't actually work to protect the consumers at all. False labels and all that.

    As brother Ali points out, back in the day we just ran the mother-fucker out of town (or worse). Also, I must concede that RO is also correct, that brother Ali's post is a case of that internal policing.

    Though that is true, I also think it is true that eventually the inquisition is a threat to everyone (history agrees with me). Did Miss Cat's hoodoo school and certification program create the illusion that you could just learn some recipes and be a hoodoo? Does that perhaps have something to do with the current glut of newcomers? Is it not possible that the old-school has played a hand in the creation of this problem? Is this what happens when your regulatory body emphasizes morals over talent? Recipes over experience?

    I just think there is a deeper and more relevant conversation here than 'watch out for inexperienced newbies'.

  24. I certainly see your point, Valentines. Casting suspicion on good workers is indeed the price we pay, but one that is a result of the individuals who have caused the need for warnings to be given out. I come from a time and place where rootworkers were trusted implicitly. My community looked to me without question. Now, I find that people come to me, too, hesitantly.

    I view this simply as part of the overall consequence and while it saddens me that such trust is lacking and suspicion is the name of the game, I am confident that I can earn their trust. While this is bad for me, it is good for the client and they are my first concerns.

    You are also right that the modes of learning have a contributing hand, but it is what people do with that learning that is the root of the issue. Miss cat preserves knowledge that up until 10 years ago was on the brink of vanishing except for pocketed communities, she offers a course that certifies people as having taken the course, and it is all. Others have jumped up and taken that as a certification for hoodoo.

    AIRR itself pushes against this trend, one of our requirements is not only demonstration of ethics, but demonstrate of skill, as well as demonstrating an established practice with active clients of a few years. Yet, this does not make us a regulatory body--we only regulate ourselves. We may warn others of trends we see, or of particularly big scammers, but all we do is offer one avenue where you can turn for rootwork among many. In fact we each keep a list of rootworkers that are non-AIRR but trustworthy that we may refer clients to.

    Ultimately, my warning, though controversial, is simply a natural response to an era where we cannot run people off anymore who prey on clients.

    MR VI you have seemed to grasp my post and intent quite well. My aim has indeed been education and the points you bring up are thought-provoking, I thank you.

    Good Frater RO, those are good questions. For now that is all we can do. Regulatory bodies in traditions that are so closely tied to family traditions have a hard time being regulated. Due to the nature of the internet running people off are not so easy. In a recent situation a shameless plagiarist was called out for ripping off dozens of authors and thousands of dollars worth of material--she remains very much a presence in various online communities.

    So what can we do? We warn. It may rock the boat, but if it helps a few clients here or there, then it is worth it.