Voodoo spells and conjurations were outlawed on the plantations, but they still went on as a means of empowerment and to overcome oppression…

During the 1930 many black American ex-slaves were interviewed for the U.S. government’s Virginia Negro Studies Project. Some outlined “conjure” recipes, while others noted how white slave owners aggressively outlawed hoodoo and African folk magic.

Here’s some quotes from the study:

May Satterfield of Lynchburg gave a recipe for making a voodoo charm to bring good luck:

“…Git some rat veins, wil’ cherry blossoms, an’ bile ’em togeder wid whiskey an’ make bitters.”

Interviewee John Spencer of King George County recalled the following:

“When one negro became angry with another, he would bury in front of his enemy’s house a bottle filled with pieces of snake, spiders, tadpoles, lizards and other curious substances, and the person expecting to be tricked would hang an old horseshoe outside of his door to break the spell.”

Unsurprisingly, white slaveholders didn’t encourage African voodoo beliefs. Partly because of the ever-present threat of revolt and also through fear that the hoodoo conjurations might just work…

Marrinda Jane Singleton, a former slave from Norfolk, Virginia, described the white slave owners attitude towards African spiritual practices:

“Such superstitions and practices caused so much confusion among the slaves, along wid fear dat the Marsters took steps to drive it out by severe punishment to those that took part in any way. This did not put an end to these practices. Many of us slaves feared de charm of witchcraft more then de whippin’ dat de Marster gave. They would keep their tiny bags of charms closely hidden under their clothes.”

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