Divination Conjure Style
Reading Cards, Throwing Bones and Other Forms of Household Fortune-Telling
by Starr Casas
Conjure magic is not my thing. Nor is Hoodoo or Voodoo or Santeria – I don’t come from these cultures – so I don’t practice these religions anymore than I practice Islam or Hinduism or Evangelical Christianity. However, I love reading about any religion and their practices and finding the commonalities that many religions – and cultures – possess. Because as different as all religions are, they are all very much alike in many basic ways. And – as a person who will try any kind of divinatory method – I am always interested in a book about divination. This book – Divination Conjure Style: Reading Cards, Throwing Bones, and Other Forms of Household Fortune-Telling by Starr Casas and published by Weiser Books – is a particularly good one, especially for a home-style witch like myself. I’ve always been the kind of person to use what I have around the house – or what I can find in thrift stores – rather than buy new, expensive tools. “Use what you have” is one of my mottoes. I have also never been without a deck of regular playing cards.
The author, Starr Casas, is well-known for her writings on Conjure magic and Hoodoo, Root-work and other forms of folk magic. Lots of this is termed “Southern” but us folks up North are familiar with these forms of magic as well. However, it is all powerful magic, whatever its terminology. Starr Casas’ website is here: http://www.oldstyleconjure.com/ and you will find all kinds of information on this site, as well as things to buy. She also has a Twitter presence, a Facebook page, and an Amazon profile. Although she writes about old-style folk magic, she is quite modern in how she connects with the public!
Like so many books about divination I have been reading lately, this book is heavy on the Biblical terminology. Casas was raised Pentacostal and she goes out of her way to explain that divination is “a part of God’s work and there’s nothing evil about it” (Casas, xviii) and she quotes various Bible verses to back up this claim. In fact, the entire book is filled with Bible verses. If you are a Pagan/Wiccan who is in recovery from any of the Christian religions, this might be a triggering for you – this is why I mention it. I was raised Roman Catholic and for a long time called myself a “recovering Catholic” but I have come to terms with my Catholic past. But I do understand if a Pagan or Wiccan reader would reject this book because of all the Bible references, the prayers to God, Jesus, Saint Martha or other saints. If you do reject this book, I want you to know that you’re rejecting a book filled with important magical knowledge and I do hope that someday you come back to it.
Part One is about preparing your tools and your space – where you are going to be doing your magical work – which is not so very different from most books of this nature. It’s always good to reread these kinds of instructions and not think that you know it all because you’ve been doing it for twenty or thirty years – or even just a short time! I can attest that the older I get, the more I realize that there is always something new to learn. Plus, it’s quite easy to get too comfortable in your spiritual practice – like anything else – and to get sloppy. It’s always good to review what you’re doing and reading about traditions and rituals other than your own is a good way to do this. While learning about other practices, you will find ways to enhance and enrich your own habits. Some might denounce this as “cultural appropriation” but on the other hand, there isn’t anything on this entire earth that hasn’t been borrowed or traded from one culture to another. This is just how cultures interact and it’s been like this since the beginning of time.
One of the things I really love about this book is Casas’ no-nonsense, down-to-earth approach to magic and divination. She writes about the current focus on “material things” and stresses that all you need to do magical work is “your breath, your words and your faith.” (Casas, 9). I can certainly attest to this. Some of the most powerful magic I have ever done was with no tools whatsoever – I was in a violent domestic relationship – and I had all my spiritual gear packed away in a safe place. But that didn’t stop me from using my mind to create magic and eventually free myself. As Casas writes, “I truly believe that our ancestors and spirits that walk with us hear us…Don’t overthink your work, or over prepare with lots of tschotchkes. Just trust in your ancestors and spirits to hear you and make it a success!” (Casas, 9). I couldn’t agree more.
Part Two is about card divination. This is the main section of the book; Divination Conjure Style is worth obtaining just for this section alone, in my humble opinion. I do find it amusing that she writes that “Some people feel there are drawback to reading the playing cards because there are no pictures (like in tarot cards) and you have to memorize the numbers” (Casas, 27) but then includes an pictorial illustration of each card instead of the regular playing card image! But perhaps this was the publisher’s decision (by the way, the illustrator is Josef Bailey).
One of the things that struck me is the way Casas describes cleansing a deck. I have never even heard of using a sulfur mix – but I have heard of cleansing with salt and water and candles. I usually sleep with a new deck under my pillow for seven nights but what Casas says makes sense – “You don’t know who has touched these cards, and what type of emotional feelings they have left on them.” (Casas, 28). So now I am thinking of doing a cleansing of all my cards – at least the ones I use most regularly. Maybe at the next Full Moon.
As I was reading through the meanings of each card, I thought that these were perhaps the best meanings of playing cards I have ever read. Simple, concise but precise and to the point. If you were going to memorize these meanings, you could easily do so. Each card has a Bible verse that accompanies it. Again – I hope this isn’t triggering to those of us with issues with Christian religions! Honestly, some of the verses are really well placed with their card counterparts; for instance, the Seven of Diamonds has the meaning of “Lies, gossip, unlucky gambler, criticism. Overspending.” The accompany Bible verse is from Proverbs 13:11 and goes, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever little by little will increase it.” (Cases, 64). I don’t know about you, but it matters little to me if it’s a Bible verse or a Sura from the Koran or a line from one of Shakespeare’s plays – I love the marriage of divination and spiritual poetry. No matter the source of the poetry, it only makes the reading stronger and more meaningful.
Starting on page 120, Casas gives meanings for card combinations. Like reading any kind of cards (Tarot cards included), card combinations are usually what tell the story of the reading – much more so that “this card on that position.” Casas writes, “When you are doing a reading, keep in mind that none of the cards stand alone in a reading. It is the combination of all the cards laid down that tell the story of what spirit is trying to convey to you.” (Casas, 122). She also says to pay attention to multiples of cards; what month the suits mean so you have an idea of timing; and “LISTEN TO THEM THREES…When there are three or more of the same card in a reading, this changes the whole meaning of the story.” (Casas, 124).
After discussing cards and their meaning, Casas talks about “workings”. These are spells using the cards to achieve certain ends, such as money or love or a peaceful home. She includes a working for justice but first she explains just what is “justified work” and what is not “justified work”. Justified work is when someone has done you a horrible wrong – caused you to be fired from your job for no good reason, for instance. But if it’s someone who is simply annoying – Casas uses the example of a neighbor who is always causing issues – that is not justified work. She suggests doing a freezing spell (I have done dozens of these and they work fabulously) or some other benign spell. She writes,
I’m going to repeat this again: you and you alone are responsible for the works that you do. Once you do a work and it is in the ancestors’ hands, then it is out of your control and there is nothing you can do to stop it. So it’s always better to think before you move and to not do this type of work when you are angry…That’s just the rules of this work; every saying has to be justified.”
The rest of the book is dedicated to other forms of Conjure magic – throwing bones, blue water, candle magic, egg magic, the pendulum. As for blue water, I have to say that I have not seen “bluing” for washing whites since I was a very little girl in the 1960’s. It was old-fashioned even then. But bones are easily obtained and so are candles and eggs. I have a pendulum, as many of you know.
The main concept that Casas stresses is that no matter what form of divination you use, you have to be open to what your ancestors and spirits are going to be saying to you. She writes, “You never know what message the ancestors and spirit are going to send your way. That is why being able to hear them and to understand what they are trying to tell you is so important.” (Casas, 202).
Quite honestly, Divination Conjure Style: Reading Cards, Throwing Bones, and Other Forms of Household Fortune-Telling by Starr Casas is one of the very best books I have read recently. I can’t recommend it enough. Run – don’t walk – to your nearest bookseller and request this fabulous book! Or buy it on Amazon or ThriftBooks.com or where you buy online. Just check it out! You won’t regret it.
Casas, Starr. Divination Conjure Style: Reading Cards, Throwing Bones, and Other Forms of Household Fortune-Telling. Newburyport, MA: Weiser Books, 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 but she gets along with a few of the masculine deities. She loves to cook and she is a Bills fan.
She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.