Conjuring Harriet “Mama Moses” Tubman
and the Spirits of the Underground Railroad
by Witchdoctor Utu
I know that there are going to be many glowing reviews of this fabulous book, published earlier this year by Weiser Books, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser. There is so much in this incredible book – history, biography, herbal knowledge, rituals, occult secrets, Voodoo and Hoodoo and Christianity too! When I had just finished reading the book, I sat and thought about how to write this review. I fell asleep or maybe just into a trance but … I had a dream about Harriet Tubman. In it, she was very old – like the picture inside the front cover. She did not speak but she had a cane and she rapped on the ground with it. Three times. Then another three times. Then three times more. That was all. I have been thinking about this dream ever since. Three sets of three. What was she telling me?
I think she was telling me to keep things simple. Three sets of three is nine. So here are my main nine ideas about Witchdoctor Utu’s fantastic book.
- I was interested in this book initially because to me, the Underground Railroad is local history. Having spent most of my life in New York State, Southern Ontario, New England and Ohio, the story of the abolitionists and how they strove to free as many slaves as they could always captivated me. The fact that so much of this history happened in what I consider to be my back yard. Indeed, I have visited most of the places Witchdoctor Utu mentions in his book. The only places I have never been to are New Orleans, San Francisco and Kansas. I currently live in Buffalo, New York. I know without a doubt that many of the streets I walk may have been known to Harriet Tubman and the spirits of the Underground Railroad.
- I was also interested in the book because although I really had no intention in “conjuring” Harriet Tubman or any other spirit, I always had an admiration for her – she was one of my childhood heras – for her strength and resilience and for the fact that, after she freed herself, she kept going back to help others gain their freedom. Nothing stopped her. To me, she was the kind of role model that any girl, any color, any race, any religion, would want to emulate.
- Witchdoctor Utu is a wonderful storyteller. If you have no other reason to read this book, you will want to read the stories of “The Lovers”, “High John the Conjurer”, and John Brown. He has a way of bringing history alive and even stories that are shrouded in mystery are fleshed out and made real by his amazing gift of literacy. I can well imagine that he commands the floor at every pub and coffee shop he visits.
- One thing I noticed is the links between Voodoo, Hoodoo and European Catholic/Christian Witchcraft. Although I don’t practice Voodoo or Hoodoo, I am always trying to find links to the European Witchcraft that I know existed within the Catholic culture from which I come. This book is very helpful in that regard. Many pagans think that if you are pagan, you are anti-Christian; Witchdoctor Utu explains thoroughly that is not that case. He makes it clear that Harriet Tubman and the other spirits were Christians who worked folk magic; I believe this is true for my European ancestors as well.
- Another thing I noticed is the closeness between the names of the people in the book and the characters of the Tarot. The Freedom Seeker pictured on page 37 could easily be The Fool. “The Lovers”, written about so eloquently in chapter four, are obviously the Lovers. The other people mentioned in the book could be other Major Arcana cards. Harriet Tubman herself could be several cards – her younger self, The High Priestess and her older self, The Empress.
- Many of the rituals that Witchdoctor Utu describes can be used exactly as he writes them or they can be tweaked to use for your own gods and goddesses. What I really like about this book is that he takes real people – historical people – and elevates them to the position of gods and goddesses. With that in mind, we can do this with our own ancestors and anyone we revere personally.
- Like so many other books I have read on witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism, and other forms of the occult, Witchdoctor Utu presents all the rituals as group activities. But they can be easily modified for the solitary practitioner. I think that it’s much more fun, and certainly more powerful, when you are with a group of like-minded spiritual practitioners, all set on the same spiritual goal. However, working alone also has its strengths and power.
- Here are some links to local tours if you are ever in the Western New York area:
I used to live in the neighborhood of the first link. It’s very old and the houses date from the pre-Civil War era. It’s rather rundown but worth the visit. Just knowing that some of the most courageous people ever to walk the earth walked those very same streets is humbling. And you can go see the famous Falls when you’re there, too.
I have been to the Michigan Street Baptist Church numerous times. Again, it’s not in the best part of town but well worth the visit. Check out the home page of the website – it has a really cool map of the routes of the Underground Railroad. It really gives you an idea of how wide and vast this system was.
9. Like I said before, I have never had any kind of interest in conjuring Harriet Tubman or any other spirit – I am not that kind of witch. But I do commune with my own ancestors. The rituals in this book are helpful for anyone who wishes to establish a relationship with any spirit they feel close to. Also, in these days of uncertainty here in the United States, many of us wish to leave – to go to Canada or other safer, freer countries – my own son wishes to leave. Therefore, this book is a valuable resource right here and now for all people who wish to be free – in all ways. Thank you, Witchdoctor Utu for writing this valuable book.
Witchdoctor Utu. Conjuring Harriet “Mama Moses” Tubman and the Spirits of the Underground Railroad. Newburyport, MA: Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC, 2019.
About the Author:
Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.
Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.
She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.