Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Show 41 - Hoodoo Women



Hoodoo. Mojo hands, John the Conqueror Root, Goofer Dust, Hot Foot Powder. It's a system rootwork, a folk belief in magic and it's all over the blues. Many hoodoo practitioners were women and I thought we'd take a look at some songs about hoodoo women. In Hoodoo Lady, Memphis Minnie sings about going to the hoodoo lady seeking some magical help and making sure she avoids whatever curse the hoodoo lady might lay on her:
Hoodoo lady, how do you do?
They tell me you take a boot and turn it to a brand new shoe
But don't put that thing on me, don't put that thing on me
Don't put that thing on me, 'cause I'm going back to Tennessee

Hoodoo lady, you can turn water to wine
I been wondering where have you been all this time
I'm setting here broke and I ain't got a dime
You ought to put something in these dukes of mine

But don't put that thing on me, Don't put that thing on me
Don't put that thing on me, 'cause I'm going back to Tennessee

Boy, you better watch it 'cause she's tricky.

Hoodoo lady, I want you to unlock my door
So I can get in and get all my clothes
But don't put that thing on me, don't put that thing on me
Don't put that thing on me, 'cause I'm going back to Tennessee

Now, look here, Hoodoo Lady, I want you to treat me right
Bring my man back home, but don't let him stay all night
And don't put that thing on me, don't put that thing on me
Don't put that thing on me, 'cause I'm going back to Tennessee

Boy, she's tricky as she can be. Better watch her, too.

Why, look here, hoodoo lady, I'm your friend
When you leave this time, come back again
But don't put that thing on me , don't put that thing on me
Don't put that thing on me, 'cause I'm going back to Tennessee
Boys, I'm scared of her
Memphis Minnie expressed her fear of the hoodoo lady. Perhaps the most famous hoodoo lady of the first part of the twentieth century was known as Aunt Caroline Dye. The Memphis Jug Band recorded a song about her released of the Victor label under the title Aunt Caroline Dyer in 1930:
I'm going to Newport News just to see Aunt Caroline Dye
I'm going to Newport News just to see Aunt Caroline Dye
She's a fortune-telling woman, oh Lord, and she don't tell no lie

I'm going to Newport News, partner, catch a battleship across the doggone sea
I'm going to Newport News, catch a battleship across the doggone sea
Because bad luck and hard work, oh Lord, sure don't agree with me

Aunt Caroline Dye, she told me, "Son, you don't have to live so rough"
Aunt Caroline Dye she told me, "Son, you don't have to live so rough
"I'm going to fix you up a mojo, oh Lord, so you can strut your stuff"

Aunt Caroline Dye she told me, "Son, these women don't mean you no good"
Aunt Caroline Dye she told me, "Son, these women don't mean you no good"
Said, "Take my advice and don't monkey with none in your neighborhood"

I am leaving in the morning, I don't want no one to accuse me
Yes, I'm leaving in the morning, I don't want no one to accuse me
I'm going back to Newport News and do what Aunt Caroline Dye told me to
The Memphis Jug Band sang about going to Newport News, Virginia to see Aunt Caroline Dye. Another singer, Johnnie Temple, in the song Hoodoo Women has the same hoodoo lady in the town of Newport, Arkansas where she actually lived:

Well, I went out on the mountain, looked over in Jerusalem
Well, I went out on the mountain, looked over in Jerusalem
Well, I see them hoodoo women, Lord, making up their lowdown plan

Well, I'm going to Newport, just to see Aunt Caroline Dye
Well, I'm going to Newport, just to see Aunt Caroline Dye
She's a fortune teller, Lord, she sure don't tell no lie

And she told my fortune, as I walked through her door
And she told my fortune, as I walked through her door
Said, "I'm sorry for you, buddy, Lord, the woman don't want you no more"

Yes, I turned around, said, "I believe I'll go downtown"
Well I turned around, said, "I believe I'll go downtown
"To Chicago River, Lord, and jump overboard and drown"

The hoodoo said, "Son, please, don't act no clown"
The hoodoo said, "Son, please, don't act no clown"
"Because it's a many more women, Lord, laying around in this no-good town"

The hoodoo is alright, in their lowdown plan
The hoodoo is alright, in their lowdown plan
But they will take your woman, Lord, and put her with another man.
The Seven Sisters were a collective of New Orleans hoodoo women. Funny Paper Smith told their story in the 1931 two-part recording Seven Sister's Blues.
They tell me seven sisters in New Orleans, they can really fix a man up right
They tell me seven sisters in New Orleans, they can really fix a man up right
And I'm headed for New Orleans, Louisiana, I'm traveling both day and night

I hear them say, the oldest sister look like she's just twenty‑one
I hear them say, the oldest sister look like she's just twenty‑one
And said she can look right in your eyes and tell you exactly what you want done

They tell me they been hung, been bled, and been crucified
They tell me they been hung, been bled, and been crucified
But I just want enough help to stand on the water and rule the tide

It's bound to be seven sisters because I've heard it by everybody else
It's bound to be seven sisters because I've heard it by everybody else
Of course I'd love to take their word but I'd rather go and see for myself

When I leave the seven sisters, I'm piling stones all around
When I leave the seven sisters, I'm piling stones all around
And go to my baby and tell her, there's another seven‑sister man in town

Good morning seven sisters, just thought I'd come down and see
Good morning seven sisters, I thought I'd come down and see
Will you build me up when I'm torn down and make me strong where I'm weak
Seven Sisters Blues‑Part 2
I went to New Orleans, Louisiana, just on account of something I heard
I went to New Orleans, Louisiana, just on account of something I heard
The seven sisters told me everything I wanted to know and they wouldn't let me speak a word

Now it's Sarah, Minnie, Bertha, Holly, Dolly, Betty, and Jane
Sarah, Minnie, Bertha, Holly, Dolly, Betty, and Jane
You can't know them sisters apart, because they all look just the same

The seven sisters sent me away happy, around the corner I met another little girl
The seven sisters sent me away happy, around the corner I met another little girl
She looked at me and smiled and said go devil and destroy the world
I'm gonna destroy it too, alright now

Seven times a year, the seven sisters will visit me in my sleep
Seven times a year, the seven sisters will visit me all in my sleep
And they said I won't have no more trouble and said I'll live twelve days in a week

Boy go down in Louisiana and get the lead right out of your bean
Boy go down in Louisiana and get the lead out of your bean
If seven sisters can't do anything in Louisiana bet you'll have to go to New Orleans

As these songs show, hoodoo women were often fortune tellers as well as root workers. Merline Johnson, known as the Yas Yas Girl sang about fortune tellers in her song Black Gypsy Blues. She uses fortune telling as a pretty straight forward sexual metaphor.
I'm the Black Gypsy, don't you want your fortune told?
I'm the Black Gypsy, don't you want your fortune told?
I will start from the first, and end up on your soul

When you get lonesome, and begin to feeling blue,
When you get lonesome, and begin to feeling blue,
Go to see a Black Gypsy, she will tell you what to do

I'm the Black Gypsy, and they call me Rosa Lee
I'm the Black Gypsy, and they call me Rosa Lee
When you get lonesome, call around to see me

All the men in town, come to see poor me,
All the men in town, come to see poor me
Because I know what to do, to ease your misery

Yes, I'm the Black Gypsy, and all my work's by trade
Yes, I'm the Black Gypsy, and all my work's by trade
And the man I can't ease his misery, has never been made

Blues songs illustrate that hoodoo and fortunetelling were a significant part of African-American life in the first half of the twentieth century. The characters and practices revealed in the blues give us a glimpse of what must have been a fascinating subculture. And women were an important and powerful part of the world of hoodoo. It's not surprising in the context of the blues that women would hold this power which at times is explicitly sexual.

Further reading: Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by Catherine Yronwode

Songs:
Hoodoo Lady - Memphis Minnie
Aunt Caroline Dyer Blues - Memphis Jug Band
Hoodoo Women - Johnnie Temple
Seven Sisters Blues - Funny Paper Smith
Black Gypsy Blues - Merline Johnson (Yas Yas Girl)

8 comments:

MacAllister said...

I've just found this podcast and blog. Very cool, and thanks!

The recurring themes of hoodoo, black-magic, and superstition--especially as related to women, femininity, and the sort of push-pull dynamic of sexual allure combined with danger, perhaps to the singer's/speaker's very soul, is a theme that runs through other cultural folk narratives, as well.

But in blues, it sets up a powerful conflict dynamic where what you want is not only dangerous and frightening -- but you've no way to tell ahead of time if you'll be destroyed or find a kind of salvation.

Christena said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hinazkhan said...

After listening to the Hoodoo Women Blues, I acknowledged that these blues basically represents the power and influence of magic in ancient times. People during that era used to strongly believe that Hoodoo women were perilous; hence they were frightened by them. Memphis Minnie emphasized on the desires of a person, for instance how people of that time wanted the Hoodoo women to help them fulfill their needs through skills of magic. On the other hand, the song also portrays a sense of fear in the tone of Memphis Minnie as if she was scared of the Hoodoo women putting a spell or performing magic on her. Therefore, asking help from Hoodoo women was considered to be a risky task and people avoided it.
Translation of a verse:
Hoodoo lady can transform water into wine.
I have been wondering, where were you all this time.
I am sitting here without money and I do not have a dime.
You must put something, in these dukes of mine.

wardaamin said...

After listening to the Hoodoo Women Blues by Memphis Minnie, I was amazed to discover how the fear of magic and power was displayed through various perspectives. Furthermore, I personally think that a glimpse of human nature or desires is shown here, because even though he had fear of “black” magic and was uncomfortable with the use of power they had; he still wanted to take an advantage of their splendid magic skills. Moreover, I think that these blues represent the “old believes” or superstitions that people had in the ancient times where myths and magic was considered non-fictional. These blues also represent the gender role, and believe that Hoodoo women were malignant or dangerous. Therefore, they were frightened of their powers. I was confused by discovering how power can have different impacts or phases. It is bewildering to acknowledge that the magic or the power that these women had created fear in hearts, and yet it was still a desire such as the power of money. These blues show that there is always a good and bad side to things, and somehow the concept of impact and the use of power are portrayed in the verses. Lastly, the song also imitates the timidity or fear in Memphis voice, as he is so afraid of being cursed by the spell of Hoodoo women by their magical powers. Therefore, the concept is still a controversy as to whether the power of magic is good or bad, and it is also clear that seeking help from Hoodoo women was considered jeopardous and therefore was neglected most of the times.

Verse 1:
Hoodoo lady, how do you do?
They tell me you take a boot and turn it to a brand new shoe
But don't put that thing on me, don't put that thing on me
Don't put that thing on me, 'cause I'm going back to Tennessee

Translation:
Miss hoodoo lady, how are you?
They apprise me that you attain a boot and you convert in it into an unaccustomed shoe
But I request you please do not put a spell on me, do not put a spell on me.
Please do not put that spell on me, because I am departing back to Tennessee.

Altaf Khan said...

good...../








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Al Shafy said...

Get Rid Of Black Magic Islamic Way

Allah Almighty has placed healing powers in His word, the Holy Quran. He declares in Surah Isra (17) verse 82, "We send down in the Qur'an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe..."

In the light of the Sunnah of the Beloved صلى الله عليه و سلم and the tradition of the true pious predecessors Faqeer meets visitors for open Islamic spiritual healing, in the form of Ta’weez and/or ruqya (dam), for counseling or general Islamic advice Istikhara on Monday-Friday.

Ta'weez or Ruqyah Syariah are beneficial only by the Will of Allah Almighty and when practiced according to the guidance of the Messenger of Allah and his successors.

Phone: +92-300-8118147
Skype: ruqyahcure