The Case of the Burning Rooster: When Politics, Money and Religion Ride in the Same Cart the Whirlwind Follows

The Case of the Burning Rooster
I am a fanatic of Frank Herbert’s Dune and it is through the words of his character Rev. Mother Ramallo that I have summarized an issue facing us as religious community, the tendency to prostitute religious practices for material gain and the inherent lack of judgment it unchains in many.

The original quote reads “When religion and politics ride in the same cart, the whirlwind follows,” however, in our case, there is yet another volatile element added to the mix, it is called MONEY.

Everything we do in our religious practices is under a magnifying glass. This is a reality that we cannot escape. Our struggle to defend religious freedom and the right to animal sacrifice have seen its day in court not once but two times. The first time was in the Supreme Court case of the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah and recently, in the Merced v. City of Euless. Both cases meant blood, sweat and tears for those who championed them, Oba Ernesto Pichardo and my godfather Jose R. Merced. It is thanks to their efforts that we can seek shelter in the law to practice animal sacrifice, but this must be done within the boundaries of the same law that protects us.

Here are more realities we have to live with, African Traditional Religions (ATR) are misunderstood, stereotyped and perceived by the greater majority of people in the world as superstitios practices and not real religions. Therefore, when practitioners of Palo, Santeria and Voodoo or any other ATR step out of boundary and commit acts that shine a negative light over our communities, it is imperative to take action and to analyze the situation as a community. Only those who are initiates and who belong to our communities have the right to determine the course of action that will steer us. Outsiders are free to their opinions but to me that is where the buck stops as I do not rule myself by their criticism, motivations or ideas.

Furthermore, money is not a motivating factor in my religious convictions, practices or blog opinions. I do not use my religion as money-making machine, nor I have clients or read for clients. Fine if others do, but know that when they peddle religion as a good or service they run the risk of missteps and colossal lack of judgments like the one I am about to discuss.

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Hoodoo Nights: Magical Products, Craftsmanship and Pride

A Hoodoo Favorite: Four Thieves Vinegar
The very first time that I opened a package from my Hoodoo product supplier, I was very pleasantly surprised by what I found. A world of different possibilities opened up in front of my eyes as I examined the herb infused oils and the various mineral curios and incenses in front of me. It was then that I realized how much my magical supply cabinet was missing and, how much I could still learn. I felt blessed because I was inspired and resolved to dedicate time to learn the Hoodoo craft.

This is not a shameless plug to promote Ms. Cat´s products, as I don´t even mention her website for three reasons. One, I am still her student and I am in no way or form trying to gain ´brownie points´ towards my graduation—that is only earned through earnest work and turning in assignments. The second reason is because I am not seeking self-promotion by association with her or her products and the third reason is because when a reader of this blog wants more information about a subject or reference they are always welcome to send me a private email at If you write to me I will furnish the data gladly as we really try to make this blog about information and never about pushing products or services that is not our purpose. Our purpose is to share spiritual experiences and discoveries along our various journeys.

As I uncapped one of the oils called “Psychic Vision” my first reaction was one of peace and elation, then then extreme curiosity took over me. I wanted to know more about what went into making the magic I had uncapped. The genie was out of the bottle and I wanted to get to know it.

I instantly started to wonder what it would be like to actually visit her shop and to be able to peruse through the shelves at leisure just like I do when I visit the many botánicas we have here in Puerto Rico.

Certainly, we have not shortage of suppliers of magical or ritual wares, mostly catering to the Santería Spiritist and Palo communities, not to mention other systems such as 21 Divisions which lately has been on a growth spurt in Puerto Rico.

However, when I started to compare in my mind the ¨oils¨ and ´fragrances´ found at local shops, they paled by comparison to the treasures I had just received via US post. So, I went to my well organized magical supply closet and started to pull open drawer after drawer filled with tiny square bottles of oils and fragrances…suddenly my eyes were opened. These were but pale reflections of dreams sold under the names of ¨7 Powers¨, ¨Madama, ¨Lluvia de Oro¨ or ¨El Indio¨ labels, but none of them really had any ´life´ to them, not that I really believe they had from the moment I got them at the various shops I visit. The inferred powers supposedly contained on those bottles were inexistent. They were produced in mass market conditions, labeled and shipped from New York, California and Miami to cater to people who may, or not, know any better but still buy these stuff because they are part of ´spiritual recipes´ for this or that trabajo (working) and for this or that spiritual bath. Bologne!

This was a turning point for me. It was then when I decided that I would learn to make my own blends of oils and fragrances and prepare for myself materials that would indeed be filled with good ingredients that could lend energy and power to help further my workings. No more red or yellow dye with alcohol and generic fragrances for me!

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Hoodoo Nights: What exactly is Hoodoo?

Example of a Hoodoo Altar
Hoodoo, Conjure, Rootwork… the very own mention of those three similar terms brings up all sort of images to one’s mind. I promise you, there is not much of Hollywood into it, but there is indeed a lot of fascinating history behind it.

I promised you that I would give you my definition of Hoodoo. So here it is, for me Hoodoo is the African magic of the people, or folk magic, but it is more than that. Hoodoo incorporates the knowledge of Native Americans as well as European folklore. Now, the origins of the term ‘Hoodoo’ itself are debatable, but its etymology is really not the center of this article. If you want to read more about how other people define Hoodoo, you can certainly do a bit of digging on line or in books. The same way that Hoodoo incorporates the knowledge of cultures found in the South of the United States, it carries a particular meaning for each of its practitioners. For my purposes, Hoodoo is a rich system of magic where the use of herbs for magical and medicinal purposes is greatly highlighted. This system has a particular allure for me as it does not require adherence to a system of religious devotion or to theology like Voodoo, Santería, Candomble, Palo Mayombe or other African derived practices in the Americas. Also, its knowledge does not conflict but rather coexist peacefully with my Santeria and Palo practices without interfering or having to mix them.

In order to be considered a Hoodoo practitioner, a Conjure men or woman, or simply a Root doctor what you need is to study under someone with considerable experience and to practice, practice, and practice. Of course, it helps to be gifted in the arts of divination. Most divination systems will be compatible with Hoodoo as there is no hard and fast rule as to which is best to use. The most popular are card reading, casting bones, reading tea leaves, using a glass ball, palmistry, etc. There is one more thing that can make a Hoodoo practitioner excel over others, that is to be able to work with spirits, as in spirit guides and as in learning how to obtain the help of willing spirits to empower certain workings.

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Hoodoo Nights

My Personal Copy of the Hoodoo course book
Time management is a fine art. I often times amaze myself on how I can pack a million things into my day-to-day routine. I am a professional and as such have long hours at work. My husband and I raise two kids, and if being a parent does not taking enough of my time, add to that being an Olosha (yes, I do have godchildren to attend as well) and a Yaya Nkisi. Religious obligations take time, the blog takes time and keeping up with my intense curiosity for all things spiritual takes time as well.

For over three years I had been promising myself that I would carve a bit of said precious time to satisfy an intellectual and spiritual desire to learn about Hoodoo and its practices. Having lived in the South of the United States for over two decades and married a man from Louisiana made it natural for me to feel inclined to learn the traditions of the Deep South. But I needed not to marry a descendant from French Cajun folks to fall in love with the mystique of the South. You see, I have always loved Louisiana.

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