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Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and Hoodoo Saints, by Denise Alvarado

Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and  Hoodoo Saints: A Guide to Magical New Orleans, by Denise Alvarado
Weiser Books, 1578636744,  276 pages, February 2022

My spirit longs to visit New Orleans, but alas the time has not yet come. So I decided to delve into Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and Hoodoo Saints: A Guide to Magical New Orleans by Denise Alvarado, letting her words transport me to the “sacred supernatural geography of the city”1. I’ve been completely absorbed in this book; Alvarado has done such a wonderful job illuminating the spirits and folk saints of this beloved city with a rich cultural history that I’ve hardly put it down.

Alvarado is a New Orleans native, who has been studying the indigenous healing traditions of the area for more than four decades. She teaches South conjure at Crossroads University and is also a rootworker in the Louisiana folk magic tradition. Alvarado has written quite a few other related books, including The Conjurer’s Guide to St. Expedite, The Magic of Marie Laveau, The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook, and The Voodoo Doll Spellbook. She also has an online shop at creolemoon.com with plenty of magical items for sale.

“As anyone who has been to the Crescent City will tell you, you get a feeling when you are there that screams “elusive and mysterious.” It’s a gut-level feeling–you know there is more to it, but you just can’t put your finger on it. All you know is that you want to see more, know more, and ultimately, feel more–more of that good old N’awlins supernatural vibe.”2

This is definitely how I’m feeling! But after having read Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and Hoodoo Saints, I feel like I know the potent visible and invisible world of New Orleans a bit more. In this book, Alvarado shares her research and experience about twenty influential Louisiana spiritual figures. With such a rich tradition, being as New Orleans is a merging place for multiple cultures, it’s hard to put all the people and spirits covered into one category. From folktale hero Annie Christmas, warrior-for-the-people Black Hawk, Voudou Saint Jean St. Malo, African Diaspora god Papa Legba, and even Catholic Saint Joseph, Alvarado delves into adoption of these figures into the spiritual tapestry of New Orleans.

Chapter by chapter, with each one focusing on one character, Alvarado shares all she knows, which I am positive is more than even locals know because of her studious research. It’s very clear that Alvarado has put dedicated time and effort into finding out all she can about these figures. And what I really appreciate is that she sticks to source material, which range from oral stories of New Orleans residence that were documented, old newspaper clippings, or even original source documents. If there’s a story that Alvarado can’t find source material for, she shares it but also lets the reader know she hasn’t found information to back it up, keeping the reader fully informed.

Alvarado also sometimes presents different views, offering the reader diverse perspectives on the figure she’s describing. This might be the different ways certain religious traditions portray a certain spirit, or differing versions of folktales. Alvarado lays it all out for the reader to truly see the full picture. And this made for a very interesting read because that’s how real life, and even more so spirituality and magic, tends to be – there’s no definitive answers and we’re doing our best to piece together information based on sources, experience, and stories from others.

Oh, but each story Alvarado shares is just so interesting! And her writing style is very conversational; her colloquial way of writing really draws the reader in! Alvarado successfully engages the heart, soul, and imagination all in one with these stories. You feel the pain of the spiritual figures, or those in need praying to them; you can taste the offerings being laid out; you can feel the culture the figure’s life took place in; you can see the Voodoo queen going about their daily lives. The weaving together of so many stories is tantalizing and will certainly have your mind wandering, hoping you get the chance to see these places in real life soon. And just in case you don’t get to right away, there’s plenty of pictures included throughout to provide visuals of what Alvarado describes.

This book is also beneficial for those who are hoping to expand their magical practice. If you’ve felt drawn to work with some of these figures, Alvarado provides useful insights. Now, I don’t mean you’ll suddenly be able to create your whole Voodoo or Hoodoo practice based on this book. That would require a much more in-depth study, obviously! But there’s plenty of information about what to offer certain spirits, what they like on their altars, and basic prayers or spellwork that can be done. For instance, burying an upside down statue of St. Joseph to sell one’s home or creating lucky garters to attract a generous man of means based on Lala Hopkins’ grimoire.

For each figure, Alvarado does a wonderful job describing who they were (their life story, spiritual origins), the impact they had in their life, why one might call on them, and what offerings are best to make if one does decide to create a relationship with them. Plus, there’s plenty of information about how different New Orleans spiritual practitioners or traditions work with these figures too for broader context.

Overall, Alvarado does a wonderful job teaching readers about the supernatural element of folklore vibrant in the city, opening them up to the multifaceted magic of New Orleans as an introduction to this very special place. Story after story, filled with historical information and practice magical how-tos, make this a very interesting book to read. Alvarado has skillfully pieced together tons of information to give the readers a fascinating guidebook about the figures that remain present in New Orleans folklore and culture, offering both blessings and curses depending on how they’re called upon.

If you’ve ever felt the pull of New Orleans, Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and  Hoodoo Saints is perfect for learning more about the spiritual roots of the unique city; there’s so much insight and knowledge packed into these pages, you’re bound to learn plenty and have quite a few laughs along the way with these tales!

Hoodoo Justice Magic, by Miss Aida

Hoodoo Justice Magic: Spells for Power, Protection and Righteous Vindication, by Miss Aida
Weiser Books, 1578637562, 288 pages, November 2021

Why do so many magical practitioners shy away from getting their hands dirty with messy spellwork – the spellwork meant to curse, hex, harm, and eliminate those who perpetuate injustice? I am not a Hoodoo practitioner, nor do I lean towards baneful magic, but Hoodoo Justice Magic: Spells for Power, Protection, and Righteous Vindication by Miss Aida was calling to me. I felt the need to add some protection to my arsenal of magic, and by selecting this book, I was given an entire army of spells, metaphorically speaking, to fight for and defend myself.

Reading the contents of this book made me feel tough as nails. And this armor was probably necessary, as it can get pretty gruesome. Miss Aida is fierce, and she doesn’t pamper her readers with gentle counsel. You really need to be ready to delve into gritty topics of body fluids and revenge, but with her guidance you’ll have enough know-how to implement successful spellwork.

But what gives grounds for the use of justice magic? Miss Aida explains:

“Sadly, not everyone is guided by moral principles but instead may value power, status, wealth, notoriety, and/or gratifying their own desires. These people believe they are entitled to whatever they wish without having to work for it, and they can and will act out that belief at any cost and without regard for others. They are immoral people.”1

Therefore, those who suffer the consequences of these people need to have their own means of defense and protection. Reading this introduction to the text was a reminder to me that sometimes magical means are necessary to combat injustice, and I appreciated the list of “Immortal Tactics” that describes how this injustice is perpetuated, ranging from deception to theft to physical and emotional abuse.

However, even though I’d come to see the necessity of justice magic, I will admit opening to the concept and spellwork took a bit of de-conditioning. The idea of the meek inheriting the earth and turning the other cheek seems to run deep in my psyche, and though some might deny it, I believe this is true for many magical practitioners.

Miss Aida turned these notions upside for me by including many psalms and prayers, such as The Apostle’s Creed and Hail Mary as part of the spellwork. She notes that retributive Psalm 109 is estimated by historians to date back to 1060 BC, and therefore concludes “The proof of magical payback is right in our very own Holy Bible.”2

Despite being raised Catholic, as I read these verses through a justice magic perspective, for the first time I began to feel the strength and agency within the words. There’s even a section in the chapter “Spells for Justified Curing and Hexing of Your Enemies” that describes how to curse through prayer!

These aren’t the only tools Miss Aidea provides for justice magic though – oh no, this book is filled with tips and techniques ranging from candle magic to insect magic. (Yes, insect magic! I had never realized the power ants have to destroy relationships with the proper spellwork.) Her advice on candle magic is some of the best that I’ve ever read, and the book is honestly worth reading for that chapter alone.

Constantly while reading, I was reminded of the necessity of working with what’s available as a foundation in Hoodoo tradition. While some spells require a bit more preparatory work or specific ingredients, Miss Aida gives tons and tons of options for achieving one’s means quickly and with what is on hand. However, this doesn’t mean this type of magic should be performed willy nilly or immediately just because one feels slighted.

Miss Aida gives plenty of caution about how spells can misfire, including situations where her own spellwork has led to unintended outcomes. With the nature of this type of justice magic, permanent physical damage, even death, can result. Miss Aida reminds practitioners the retaliation should always be equal to what is being done by the perpetrator, and that it is best to wait while deciding if the magic is worth one’s time, energy, and supplies before casting any spells.

These bits of guidance from Miss Adia, along with detailed advice on how to prepare one’s magical space for the work and clear energy afterwards, go a long way in keeping practitioners safe while engaging in this work. I particularly enjoyed the chapter “What’s Your Strategy?” where she lays out seven steps for this work, which help one to discern how and when to pursue justice magic.

Miss Aida covers a lot in these steps, from proper timing to do’s and don’ts of summoning entities. She also does a great job conveying the importance of intention and provides prompts for one to consider when crafting their petition or request to make it as specific as possible, leaving little room for unintended consequences.

I don’t think of myself as a very spiteful person, but reading through some of the spells, such as “Gag the Gossip” and “Dog Doom”, which includes dog poop as a spell ingredient, got me thinking about some people I’d like to try these out on. Honestly, I probably won’t perform them in the near-future, but just knowing I can always pull from this book makes me feel more confident that I can take care of myself through magical means if necessary.

Hoodoo Justice Magic seriously seems to have a spell for just about every defensive, protective, and vengeful aim one might want to pursue. Chapter topic includes sending enemies away, binding enemies, cursing and hexing, and breaking up relationships. But it’s not a “how-to” manual. Miss Aida writes as though she’s right there next to you, giving you small tips and reminders from her personal experience.

One example of this is when writing about a sweetening spell, she describes how it might make one have positive feelings or thoughts towards you, but it doesn’t necessarily promote action and therefore additional spellwork may be required. That little gem of wisdom is valuable to know if one chooses to do that type of spellwork.

Where her expertise really shines in the area of using ingredients for spellwork that are often considered taboo, such as bodily fluids or excrements. From vomit to semen, Miss Aida teaches how these can be potent facilitators of energy for magic. And she really ensures, to the best of her ability as an author, that a practitioner will not harm themselves in the process of performing justice magic.

When discussing gathering items that contain the DNA of one’s target of the spellwork, she reminds the reader to never let the item also have their own DNA on it. Other practical tips include how to obtain, refrigerate, and store secretions. It’s all quite interesting, especially the section on dominating others through your own urine. There’s even a good deal of information on how to gather graveyard dirt.

While all these items are common for Miss Aida’s Hoodoo practice, for me this opened up a whole new world. While at times I felt a bit icky about things, reading about how to use natural waste and human fluids in my magic actually made me feel more at ease with my own human nature. I found myself saying “Yuck!” less and instead wondering, “How could I use this as a magical ingredient?” It’s really eye-opening to see how much goes to waste that holds magical potency. Miss Aida has a way of shining light on the magic within the mundane.

All in all, Hoodoo Justice Magic is a book I am thrilled to add to my collection. It’s out of my comfort zone in so many ways, but Miss Aida has done a wonderful job of making the spellwork accessible to all levels. I feel like I will be less scared to shy away from needed confrontation and more willing to take justice in my own hands when necessary because of the knowledge this book has given me. It’s by far the best book on defensive and protective magic that I’ve ever read, and I highly recommend it to those seeking to expand their repertoire of spellwork.