Southern Spirits: Ghostly Voices from Dixie Land
introduction | 19th century hoodoo | 20th century hoodoo | 21st century hoodoo


by Anonymous
from "The New York Times" [newspaper], August 14, 1925

This is an extract from the introduction to "Voodoos and Obeahs of West India Witchcraft" by Joseph J. Williams, S.J. Ph.D. (Ethnol.), Litt.D. (1932). It consists of the reprint of an article from the New York Times for August 14, 1925, written by an unnamed reporter. It formed the basis for a later article on the same topic in "Time" [magazine], August 24, 1925

See also the similar article about Keystone Laboratories of Memphis, Tennessee, from Time Magazine, dated 1939 and the similar article about Rev. Charles P. Colbert of Detroit from Time magazine, dated 1939.

Because this unknown author used terms unfamiliar to modern readers and employed spellings not commonly found in the literature of hoodoo, a few explanatory notes have been added [in brackets].


TO NEGROES AT $1 TO $1,000.

Special to the New York Times.


Twelve thousand circulars said to have been sent to this
city by a New York voodoo doctor were seized by the police
here today as they were being distributed to negro homes on
the north side by six negro boys.

The circulars bore the address of D. Alexander of 99 Downing
Street, Brooklyn, N. Y.

All sorts of love powders, wishing dust, lucky charms and
incantations are offered for sale in the circular, with
prices ranging from $1 to $1,000.

'Guffer Dust, New Moon, No. 1, good, $50;
Happy Dust, $40;
Black Cats' Ankle Dust, $500;
Black Cat's Wishbone, $1,000;
King Solomon's Marrow, $1,000;
Easy Life Powder $100;
Tying Down Goods, $50;
Chasing Away Goods, $50;
Boss Fix Powders, $15;
and Buzzard Nest, $100,'
were some of the goods offered."

Inquiry developed that 'Bringing Back Powders' were designed
to return an errant wife or husband to a grieving spouse,
'Tying Down Goods' were said to keep the subject of one's
affections from departing, while 'Chasing Away Goods' had
the opposite effect. 'Boss Fix Powders' keep one's employer
in a friendly mind."

[This list is interesting on several accounts.

First, it demonstrates the active prosecution of "fortune tellers" and traditional root doctors in urban areas during the 1920s.

Second, it gives us the name of an actual rootworker in Brooklyn, New York, namely D. Alexander of 99 Downing Street.

Next, the prices themselves are phenomenonly high for the time period, and they would even be out of line in the early 21st century. For instance, the Lucky Mojo Curio Company sells Boss Fix Powder for $3.00 -- one-third the price D. Alexander charged in 1925.

The items listed also tell us something about the state of hoodoo rootwork in the urban North, just as the Northern Migration was getting underway.

The use of Black Cat artifacts and products of all types was, and remains, quite common in hoodoo, rootwork, and conjure.

The "Guffer Dust" (usually spelled Goofer Dust") offered for sale here is designated as "New Moon, No. 1, good." This would seem to indicate that collection of the graveyard dirt which is an essential component in the mixture and / or the compounding of the finished product was accomplished by a practitioner who worked according to magical moon phases. The New Moon, also known as "the dark of the moon," generally symbolizes getting rid of the old and embarking on a new phase. Since Goofer Dust is used to harm people or kill them, the idea would be that "dark works are done at the dark of the moon."

Finally, this is the earliest reference i have seen in print to the still-staple hoodoo products Boss Fix, Easy Life, and King Solomon -- although in the latter case, it is startling to see the word "Marrow," since most modern King Solomon spiritual supplies either just bear the monarch's name or are labelled "King Solomon Wisdom."

This material is reprinted from

Voodoos and Obeahs
of West India Witchcraft

Joseph J. Williams, S.J.
Ph.D. (Ethnol.), Litt.D.

Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts;
Fellow of the Royal Geographical and the American Geographical Societies;
Honorary Member of the Societe Academique Internationale (Paris);
Member of the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures (London);
Member of the Catholic Anthropological Conference;
Member of the American Folk-lore Society; etc.

Author of "Hebrewisms of West Africa,"
"Whence the 'Black Irish' of Jamaica,
"Whisperings of the Caribbean," etc.

Lincoln Mac Veagh
Dial Press Inc.

Copyright, 1932, By Joseph J. Williams

First printing December, 1932
Second printing January, 1933

[This book is interesting in its own right, but as it deals with Carbbean magical matters, it is not topical here. However, it should be noted in passing that the author, a Jesuit Catholic priest, also wrote the famed "Hebrewisms of West Africa" a book cited as influential by the hoodoo author Henri Gamache in his book, The Long Lost 8th, 9th, and 10th Books of Moses," in which Gamache claimed that Moses, the early leader of the Jews, was actually a black African.]

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