Recently, we at PaganPages, have had the honor to review and interview one of our favorite authors again, Orion Foxwood.
In February, I did a book review for his newest book The Candle and the Crossroads: A Book of Appalachian Conjure and Southern Root-Work. Orion Foxwood took some time out from his busy schedule to chat with us about his newest work and just what Appalachian Conjure and Southern Root-Work is.
PaganPages (PP): What is American Southern conjure?
Orion Foxwood (OF): American Conjure is a generalized term for a syncretic American folk spiritual and magical practice(s) that incorporates African (through the slave trade of the 17 and 1800s), Native American (specific to the geographic region), European (depending on the colony and variant of catholic or protestant tradition), and other localized or migratory practices that are primarily of colonial origins. These practices are known by many names including conjure, root-work, hoodoo, blue-roots, spirit-doctoring, etc. and represent a traditional role of magic in the American rural and urban culture. As a general description, they include (but are not limited to) healing, magic, prophesy, spiritual-cleansing, and defense practices.
PP: How did you learn these practices? Were they handed down in your family?
OF: I learned some of these practices and philosophies from my mother, neighbors, and friends while growing up; and other’s from workers throughout the American south. They were not transmitted in a formal setting but in response to needs as they arose. For instance, if there was a drought, I learned how to conjure rain. MY mother learned some of these practices from her mid-wife, who was a freed-slave. Other practices I learned while watching people come to workers of spirit-doctoring, who needed help for specific maladies… physical and otherwise.
PP: What is the difference between southern conjure and other types of folk magic?
OF: The primary difference is that the work I describe in my book grew in the cultural and social environment of the American South. I think that the defining attribute(s) is the influence of African cultures and the nuances of the civil war and its impact on the internal conflict of “freedom versus enslavement” and “inalienable rights of humanity.” This sculpted my unwavering commitment to equity of rights and resources and adoration of the contributions of the tapestry of ethnicity and culture that makes up America. Specifically, I am in deep love with and reverent of the contributing African cultures, though I am in reverence of cultural diversity in general. By the way, I am not saying this to be politically correct… this is how I am at my core.
PP: How has conjure influenced your life?
OF: I believe it has formed me at the very foundations of my self-hood. Through Conjure I know that there is a force at the center of our being that cannot be influenced or diminished by ANY external force, however oppressive or influential. There is a force, that we can call “our spirit” that is the most important and powerful force in our lives and it must be attended to. Conjure (or “spirit-doctoring”) has guided me in knowing the forces that enslave or liberate our spirits. Through Conjure, we exert ownership over our internal/eternal essence and how it blossoms into our world.
PP: You use a very soulful tone in this book, why?
OF: Thank you for asking this question. True Conjure, as I know it and in living culture, is a way of liberating ourselves from domination and bringing forth the qualities of a fulfilling and good life. There are many very fine books, correspondence courses, and web-sites that provide information, formulas, history and historical foundations. I did not see any that gave the gut-and-soul of a form of magical/spiritual practice (conjure) that could not be diminished or destroyed by the most brutal forces of humanity including slavery and other forms of oppression. Bottom line… I wanted my contribution to the corpus of conjure information to be a guide back to the heart and core of conjure, hoodoo, etc.
PP: You do professional conjure work with clients. What does that entail?
OF: I do readings to look at the client’s spiritual attributes and influences as well as their relationship to the roads of luck, love, life and death. This assessment, in addition to the client’s report of their needs and their life-scape, gives me information on the relationship between their visible and invisible life-patterns. From this, I can work with clients on a strategy to cleanse ill-influences and develop relationships with spirits and forces that support the “blessing-roads” of their lives. Professional root-work and conjure focuses on “the invisible relationships between visible things.”
PP: You are adamant about respecting the people, such as the African slaves, who suffered to preserve this work. Why?
OF: I am unwavering about this because the powerful foundational influences of American Southern Conjure (as I understand it) was African through the American Colonial Slave-trade. Therefore, the very “soil” of this practice, for me, was built by the slave spirits. In my view, you CANNOT grow the branches of a tree without nourishing its roots. African slave influences are the roots of the tree of my conjure. Therefore I honor my roots. I am grateful that these spirits found a way for these practices to find the way to my spirit.
PP: Why do you spend so much time in the book focused on “sovereignty of the spirit”?
OF: As my mother and Godmother said (please excuse my language) ‘if you ain’t got your spirit, you ain’t got shit.’ When you claim your spirit and know it… grow it, heal it and reveal it… you have the very kingdom of spirit. Sovereignty of the spirit is about claiming the piece of the eternal that you are… and growing your life from that perspective.
PP: What is your primary message in this book?
OF: Overcome spiritual domination and seek the freedom to become what inspired God to create you.
PP: What other conjure-related projects are you working on?
OF: I intend to use my new book as a manual and develop classes with CDs and DVDs to help interested students develop their spiritual sovereignty. I also intend to make guest appearances on TV and other shows. Over the next 2 years, I will provide an online store for the purchase of products and teachings on Conjure with ALL work in honor to the spirits!
We will keep our readers updated on Orion Foxwood’s classes, as well as, his online shop in order for us to honor the Spirits, as well.
We would like to thank Orion Foxwood for taking this time with us and our readers to explain his amazing book and thoughts on Conjuring and Southern Root-Work.