Graveyard work is a BIG deal in voodoo and hoodoo. As my voodoo mentor Earl Marlowe put it: “Ain’t no escaping it. You gotta go down to the cemetery at midnight you wanna get things done.”
During my time with Earl, we used many cemeteries in and around London. And when we were playing music dates and busking in the USA, mostly in the South, we had a number of favored cemeteries we used for graveyard work, most off the beaten track and kind of desolate.
I remember sitting close to a country crossroads in Mississippi with Earl and him giving the lowdown on graveyard work. This is part of what he said:
“It’s all about negotiatin’ with da spirits. You go da graveyard at midnight – when dat ole hoot owl cry and dat black cat moan. Ya gotta find right grave too. You doin’ good work you want da grave o’ a good Christian or an innocent child. But you doin’ dark work, you need da grave o’ a sinner or an evil person. A drunkard, a pimp, gambler or a murderer. A bad ass.
But when you do that graveyard work DO NOT forget to take a spoonful o’ salt to protect you from them spirits. You don’ know what’s lurkin’ in that ole cemetery.
When midnight come, you gonna call the name o’ the person buried in that grave. You gotta wake ’em up from dat deathly slumber. But I advise you never to take a hot girl down there wid you, otherwise all the dead men in that graveyard – an’ a few womens too – gonna wake up and take her for their pleasure. You ain’t gon’ to want that.
Once you got that dead person awake, you ask for their assistance in solvin’ da problem. You gotta petition them. Tell ’em what it’s all about and why you need the help o’ da spirituals.
When you done, you take something from that grave. Some cases you can get a bone or tooth from the dead person. Mostly yo’ can’t. So you wanna get a handful o’ graveyard dirt – dat known as the goofer dust.”
[NOTE: Some academics say the word “goofer” comes from the Kongo word “Kufwa” meaning’ to die].
“You gotta remember to pay dem dead. Never forget that otherwise the spirit come after you and take payment, and it be a terrible price to pay. So you remember to pay the spirit with some pennies or silver coins. If you short o’ cash use rice.
Bury yo’ offerings or put ’em on top o’ da grave. Nobody gonna dare remove ’em.
Lotta things you can get done with graveyard work. You can bring peace to an unhappy home. Reunite with a woman or man you lost. Fix a court. Detect criminals. Force an enemy outta town…or kill if you has to.
Nother thing you can do is leave yo’ charms or mojo hands in a grave to absorb da power o’ da dead. Leave ’em from full moon to full moon, or from the waste o’ da moon to da next waste.”