top of page

Black American Herbalism: What is Hoodoo? | Black American Spirituality

Hoodoo is an African American/Black American spiritual practice. Hoodoo practitioners are also known as root workers or conjurers. This practice is a birth right to all Black Americans whose ancestors have been enslaved by colonizers in the South. Hoodoo contains a mix of Native American and African practices, as well as Voodoo and Christianity. It is not witchcraft, nor a religion. The slaves did not want to forget who they were after the horrors committed by the colonizers. They used the Bible, which was the only book they were allowed to read, at some point, and used the verses to cast spells and hide their magic.


Many practices that were bought from West and Central Africa has some influence in Hoodoo. Many enslaved Africans were taken to North America, South America, as well as many other parts of the world during the Slave Trade. The (Native) Black Indians and Africans were forced into Christianity, but they also shared their own practices with each other and hid it within Christianity. As Christianity grew in African American churches, Voodoo, African traditional religions (ATR) and Native American practices were meshed with Christianity, which became Afro Christianity. The origin of Hoodoo occurred in the South of the United States.

Slaves would use plants, roots, bark, soil, flowers for their conjure and root work. This became interchangeably used with Hoodoo. Slaves would use this magic to escape, control their slave masters and protect themselves and others. Through 400 years of slavery, the Civil War, Emancipation Proclamation Jim Crow etc Hoodoo became a spiritual practice among Black Americans today. Many practices have been passed down from many generations, but a lot has been lost which is why Black Americans look to their ancestors and spiritually inclined elders to assist them on their journey. For generations to come, Black Americans continue to use Hoodoo to get employed, heal from a sickness, pay respects to the dead and many other beliefs.

Who can practice Hoodoo?

There has been a lot of back and forth on whether Hoodoo is closed practice or not. Hoodoo is a closed practice; It is a birth right amongst Black Americans. The spiritual practice was hidden within African American Churches. African Americans/Black Americans have the birthright to practice Hoodoo. Some is a closed practice because of the use of ancestral veneration and cultural traditions passed down through lineage. Unfortunately, in recent times, Hoodoo has been appropriated and used for profit among non-Black Americans. Ancestral veneration also includes giving offerings and setting s

Ancestral Veneration

Honoring your ancestors is very important in Hoodoo. Discernment is important. Ancestral veneration means to have a spiritual connection with their dead relatives or others. Ancestral veneration is an important component of hoodoo because of its history. Although it isn't exactly a requirement of Hoodoo, many continuing to keep a spiritual connection with their relatives in the afterlife. Sometimes it may not even be relatives; It can very much well be people we've known in this lifetime or past lifetimes. Much of Hoodoo is also intuitively led practice. We trust ourselves to use discernment to know when we sense our ancestors want our attention.

On today's social media platforms, many have expressed how Hoodoo is witchcraft when its really NOT. In my opinion, as a black woman I feel that the Black Community has lost their way because of "Divide and Conquer". There has been controversy regarding Hoodoo on many social media platforms. Respect to all religions and spiritual practices but studying or learning about spiritual practices an open mind is key. Just because one's journey beliefs or customs doesn't look like yours, it doesn't mean its bad. People say that ancestral veneration is demonic and that is simply because of the miseducation. Many of us practice Hoodoo every day and don't realize it:

  • Don't sit your purse on the floor, or you will lose money.

  • Sweeping from the back of the house to the front.

  • Pouring out liquor for someone whose passed.

When learning about Hoodoo, it is recommended to have an elder who can guide you and maybe share some history. But a lot of us don't have that which is why we turn to our ancestors.

Magic and Root work

Hoodoo is also known as root work or conjuring.  Other components of Hoodoo consist of using herbs for magic and healing. There is balance of both good and bad in Hoodoo, as there is in everything. The bad may be known as left hand work, which consists of rituals, spells and techniques that might cause harm, ill wishes, or negative energy. When an evolved, heavily guided root worker does this, it is because they may have been spiritually led to as a way of seeking one's justice and/or karma. Then there's the good side of Hoodoo where healing and medicinal uses of herbs, spiritual cleansings, divination, dancing and other magical practices is manifested. A person does not have to be considered root worker or conjurer to practice Hoodoo. A person can just be an herbalist and help others without doing left hand work. When one is both an herbalist and a root worker, they are known to be a root doctor or witch doctor because they are mixing their spiritual practice with healing herbs and other materials.

bottom of page