Few spiritual traditions are as idiosyncratic as New Orleans Voodoo hoodoo. We have our own way of doing things, we have our own signature recipes and spells, we have our own unique history, and we have our own Spirits. Yet, we embrace the traditions of many. The diverse influences on New Orleans Voodoo results in a rich, dynamic, magico-spiritual tradition that is second to none.
Conjuring potions is a highly individual art that is governed by skill, creativity, intelligence, intuition, and spirituality. The first of these attributes, skill, is something that is acquired as a result of practice and redundancy. The rootworker becomes good at whatever task they are practicing because it is done time and again.
The serious student of hoodoo and conjure should familiarize themselves with the Doctrine of Signatures, a system of thought developed by alchemist and physician Paracelsus. The doctrine is based on the belief that every natural thing that is created by the Creator is signed as if it is a work of art. The signature is identified by the physical appearance of the natural object (i.e. form, shape and color), which symbolizes the properties it possesses.
According to the Doctrine of Signatures, all plants have their planetary and elemental associations which are visible; thus, these associations are considered their exterior virtues. The hidden or inherent properties of plants are their interior virtues, which must be awakened through the spoken word. This is where the magic happens. The words or prayers spoken when working with the various herbs, roots, and plants function to energize the interior virtues. That is why the rootworker should be mindful of the words spoken when creating oils and potions.
Conjure oils consist of a blend of a carrier oil, essential oils, plants, roots, herbs, minerals, and other ingredients. A given formula may have several of these ingredients, or it may only call for one ingredient. What a conjure oil contains is based on the intent and purpose of its use.
Types of Oils
There are several types of oils that are encountered in hoodoo, each created for a different purpose. Some of the terms used are in reference to the manner in which the particular oil is employed, while others are simply alternate terms that reference the same type of oil.
The first type of oil to consider when creating a magickal oil is the carrier oil. Carrier oils are used to dilute the various essentials used in formulas. Dilution is necessary given the fact that many essential oils cause irritation to the skin if applied topically full strength. Of course, if a formula is conjured that is not intended to be used on the skin then the carrier oil serves to extend the volume of the oil, as essential oils can be quite pricey.
Some carrier oils have longer shelf life than others, and most need an additive of some sort to prevent rancidity. Typically, vitamin E oil or liquid resin of benzoin is used as additives to extend the shelf life of a carrier oil. Only a small amount of either is needed to do the job. For example, to make a one ounce bottle of conjure oil, ½ of a dropper of vitamin E will suffice.
Following is a list of some of the carrier oils commonly used in New Orleans hoodoo oils and potions.
- Grapeseed Oil – Grape seed oil (also called grape oil) is a vegetable oil pressed from the seeds of various varieties of Vitis vinifera grapes, an abundant by-product of winemaking. Shelf life is approximately 3-6 months. Solvent extracted grapeseed oil has a shelf life of 9 months. Keep refrigerated.
- Olive Oil. Most likely the oldest of all carrier oils, predating biblical times. It is often for blessing and anointing formulas. Shelf life is approximately 12 months to 18 months if stored properly in a cool dark place.
- Mineral Oil. Traditionally used for blending Hoodoo formulas consisting of minerals (i.e. sulphur, lodestone) for the purpose of commanding and compelling.
- Sweet Almond Oil. Sweet almond oil is lighter in body and scent than olive oil, and works very nicely as a carrier oil for many formulas. By itself, almond oil is said to be a money attractor, and is associated with several prosperity incense and oil recipes. Shelf life is approximately 3-6 months if not refrigerated. If refrigerated, the shelf life can be increased to 12 months.
- Jojoba Oil. Jojoba oil is produced from the seed of the jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) plant, a shrub native to southern Arizona, southern California and northwestern Mexico. It differs from other carriers in that it is actually a liquid wax as opposed to an oil, it is odorless, extremely stable, and does not go rancid. This makes it ideal for use in conjure oils. Indefinite shelf life.
- Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconut harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). Like jojoba oil, it is extremely stable and is slow to oxidize and resistant to rancidity. Fractionated coconut oil can last up to two years due to its high saturated fat content.
Anointing oils are used to make an object sacred and to bless and heal the body. They can also be used to reverse bad luck and to remove negative energies, evil and dangerous influences from people, places, and things. Olive oil serves as the basis for many anointing oils, and can be used by itself as the perfect anointing oil. In hoodoo, to anoint something or someone simply requires the touching of the item or person with a drop of oil that is on your fingertip.
Dressing (Fixing) Oils
The terms dressing and fixing in reference to oils in hoodoo can be used synonymously. To fix a candle, for example, one smears, rubs, or drizzles a fixing or dressing oil onto the candle. Dressing or Fixing oils refer to any oil that is used to prepare a ritual item, gris gris or mojo bag or anything else to be used for magickal purposes.
Condition oils is a term used to reference all hoodoo-based anointing and dressing oils designed to target a given life condition, such as drawing love, reversing luck, influencing a judge and jury, and the like. Condition oils form the basis for other hoodoo potions such as sachet powders, spiritual waters, and incenses. Condition oils are also referred to as hoodoo oils, conjure oils, ritual oils, or formula oils.
There are a number of ways of blending the various formulas. Herbs may be steeped in the cold oil, wrapped in muslin and cooked on a stove over low heat, or gently macerated and covered with a carrier oil. The herbs may be strained from the oil or left in the oil. Those following more traditional methods typically leave some of the botanical material in the bottle of oil. Essential oils may be added to the formulas to enhance or complement the intent and purpose of the formula. Essential oils and herbs may also function as substitutes for each other when a required ingredient is only available in one or the other forms. In hoodoo and conjure, there are few hard and fast rules and the formulas differ in varying degrees from rootworker to rootworker.
In New Orleans formulas, there are a number of unique elements included in the pharmacopeia that may or may not be found in other regions. There are many similarities to other regional variants of hoodoo as well. A full understanding of the local botanicals, animal and mineral curios that comprise the hoodoo pharmacopeia is required to become an adept at conjuring oils and potions in the New Orleans tradition. Stay tuned for part 2 of the Art of Conjuring Oils and Potions where these elements will be discussed.
Alvarado, D. (2011) The New Orleans Voodoo Hoodoo Formulary. Unpublished manuscript.
 D.J. Undersander, E.A. Oelke, A.R. Kaminski, J.D. Doll, D.H. Putnam, S.M. Combs, and C.V. Hanson (1990). “Jojoba”. Alternative Field Crops Manual. http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/jojoba.html.
 Fife, Bruce (2005). Coconut Cures. Piccadilly Books, Ltd.. pp. 184–185.
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