What is a hoodoo man? How do you get a mojo hand? And, why would you ever need something called John the Conqueroo? If you've ever tried to decipher the mysteries of blues music lyrics, you're not alone.
Emaciated bodies and cheap labor may have been the most tangible manifestations of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to wash up on the shores of the eastern seaboard of America during the 17th and 18th centuries. Less obvious, was the simultaneous importation of a west African folk tradition called hoodoo.
The goal of hoodoo is to connect people to supernatural powers affording them more control over important aspects of their lives such as love, health, employment, luck, protection from enemies, insight into the future and communication with the dead. As in most traditional belief systems, hoodoo makes extensive use of herbs, roots, minerals, oils, animal parts, and body fluids.
Hoodoo is often confused with voodoo, the ancient African religion that first found a home in North America in Haiti before migrating to southern Louisiana. Hoodoo and voodoo are both spiritual and magical in nature but hoodoo is not a religion and therefore lacks voodoo’s formal structure and trappings.
The central item in the practice of hoodoo is the mojo. Effectively a portable talisman or spell, a mojo typically consists of a flannel bag containing a combination of roots, herbs, minerals and other “curios” that is carried concealed on a person for its supernatural powers. The flannel is often color coded to the mojo’s purpose – red for love, green for luck or money matters and pale blue for spiritual peace.
The contents of a mojo are designed specifically for the “condition” that it is intended to address. Just as individual cards make up a “hand”, the ingredients of mojo are sometimes referred to as a “mojo hand.” It is essential that the items in the mojo be kept secret and that the mojo be carefully tied to hold the spirit whose influence is being sought. In general, it is desirable to have an odd number of ingredients in the hand with a simple mojo containing at least three items.
Once prepared or “fixed,” the mojo is “dressed” or “fed” with a liquid such as alcohol, perfume or body fluids (saliva, urine or sexual fluids). It may also be exposed to incense or candle smoke or breathed upon to bring it to life.
Whereas mainstream folklorists, scholars and book publishers have paid little attention to hoodoo, dismissing it as superstition, blues musicians brought it to life. Indeed, the lyrics of the rural acoustic blues songs of the 1920's and 1930's in which hoodoo was a prominent topic, provide a fascinating glimpse into its practice and cultural significance. While not as profuse, references to hoodoo continued to appear in blues songs from the 1950's and 1960's even finding their way into pop music by The Beatles (Come Together), The Doors (LA Woman), Michael Jackson (She Drives Me Wild), Creedence Clearwater Revival (Born on the Bayou), The Grateful Dead (Ramble on Rose) and Steely Dan (Haitian Divorce) to cite just a few examples.
When hoodoo was still largely rural-based, practitioners used home-made potions and charms. In the 1920’s, hoodoo supplies were being sold by herbalists and pharmacists to meet the demand of a growing urban black market. By the 1930’s, the manufacture and distribution of hoodoo spiritual ingredients had become a full-scale industry. Now available on line, hoodoo is alive and well in America.
Do you feel like you’ve lost control? Need a little more oomph in your love life? Feel like lady luck just isn’t smiling on you? Perhaps, all you really need is some genuine hoodoo in your life, a custom-made mojo to help you take charge. Blues fans in particular may want to take advantage of the Blues Boy Special, a red flannel bag fixed with John the Conqueror Root, Lucky Hand Root, Lodestone, Black Cat charm, Rabbit Foot and Alligator Tooth, dressed with New Orleans style Fast Luck Oil.
Canada celebrates its 150th birthday on July 1, 2017 and what better reason to extend the festivities! The 16th annual Thunder Bay Blues Festival will do precisely that, working its magical spell on you by conjuring up the ultimate all-Canadian mojo hand, 21blues, roots and rock acts strong.
As Alan Doyle states, "Canada's turning 150 and I'm not going to miss the party!" The native Newfoundlander and his Beautiful Gypsies will take you to the crossroads of good times opening for Saturday night headliner, the extraordinary Barenaked Ladies. Friday night's marquee will glitter over a rare performance by golden-throated pop charmer, Amanda Marshall. The festival will close in grand style on Sunday with Guess Who and BTO icon and newly minted bluesman, Randy Bachman.
Speaking of icons, festival goers will be singing summer-time anthems with Kim Mitchell, marvelling at Tom Lavin and the Legendary Powder Blues, grooving along with reggae root doctors Big Sugar and swaying to the 10-piece brass bravado of Lighthouse.
The man who tops the festival's "Bring 'em Back" list, blues rocker Anthony Gomes returns while Regina's Jack Semple will simply dazzle you with his six-string virtuosity. No blues festival is complete without a harmonica player and 5-time Maple Blues Award nominee and Lee Oscar Award winner Jerome Godboo will deliver the goods.
From Montreal, Quebec comes the roots and power-pop Sam Roberts Band and peerless blues chanteuse Angel Forrest who just won an unprecedented 4th consecutive Maple Blues Award for Female Vocalist of the Year.
The 24th Street Wailers will red line the fun meter with a retro shout of 1950s era rock 'n' roll while Wide Mouth Mason will regale with their patented yeasty brew of jam-based blues rock. Reminisce to a trick bag of heartfelt hits from Barney Bentall & the Legendary Hearts and savour the stirring R&B sounds of The Julian Taylor Band.
As always, the Thunder Bay Blues Festival is a strong supporter of local musicians and encourages everyone to come down to Marina Park early to enjoy our amazing home-grown talent. This year, Dr Buck & the Bluesbangers will entertain with tight vocal harmonies on commendable covers of blues and rock favourites as well as their own original tunes. Eight-pieces strong, two dynamic female vocalists, a forceful presence on stage, Boardroom Gypsies will delight with a soulful set of R&B. Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and a smattering of original compositions, you'll be sorry if you didn't bring your dancing shoes when Rocksteady takes the stage. First time festival performers, Driven promise 60 minutes of hepped-up rockin' blues.
So, shake off those sorry week day doldrums, avail yourself of the restorative elixir of the Thunder Bay Blues Festival and celebrate the birth of our great nation. Canada, diverse, courageous, confident and caring, the home of real moxy for 150 years!