Conjure Formulary: Devil’s Shoe Strings

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Devil’s Shoe Strings are the root from Viburnum Opulus (aka cramp bark, Guelder-Rose, water elder, European cranberry bush) and several other similar plants that conjurers use for protection, breaking jinxes and for bringing good luck and money.

Wikipedia photo

As the name Guelder Rose indicates, the plant supposedly originated in the Netherlands. The plant stands out in with its showy white flowers in April and May, and its red fruit in the fall. While it can be invasive, it is often used in yards as a hedge, attaining heights up to 15 feet. The flowers attract butterflies and the fruits is somewhat edible (but not right off the plant).

Indians smoked camp bark as a tobacco substitute and used it to relieve spasms and cramps associated the pregnancy. According to Web MD, “These days, the bark and root bark of this plant are still used to make medicine. As the name suggests, cramp bark is used for relieving cramps, including muscle spasms, menstrual cramps, and cramps during pregnancy. Cramp bark is also used as a kidney stimulant for urinary conditions that involve pain or spasms.”

Roots as sold by a conjure shop. Lucky Mojo photo.

In conjure, devil’s shoe strings from Viburnum Opulus and similar plants have a wider variety of uses. Mixed with dirt from an enemy’s yard and red pepper, devil’s shoe strings send curses back to the person trying to harm you. Put them in your mojo bag sith a silver dime and high John the conqueror root for general protection. Put them in a bottle of whiskey or Hoyt’s Cologne, let sit for nine days, and then dampen your hair with the coction for good luck.

As Conjured Cardea notes, “Devil’s shoestring is used for protection, to ‘trip up the devil’ so he can’t get in your home or life. They are also carried for gambling luck and for gaining employment. Some folks drive them into the ground around the front door or place a bundle of them above the door or mantelpiece. In the beginning of hoodoo, people would wear an anklet made with nine pieces of devil’s shoestring and a silver dime to prevent being ‘poisoned through the feet’ by stepping in goofers dust or other foot-traffic tricks.”

You need not be a conjurer to enjoy the plant because it just looks darned pretty in your back yard in hardiness zones 3-8.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two conjure novels, “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”

 

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Dog Days of August Book Sale

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Okay, before I get a lot of comments, I’ll admit that the dog days are already over, but I was on vacation in North Carolina with seven other members of my family watching this:

Malcolm R. Campbell photo, copyright 2017

 

Books on Sale

The Sun Singer, contemporary fantasy, free on Kindle August 28-31 – Robert Adams is a normal teenager who raises tropical fish, makes money shoveling snow off his neighbors’ sidewalks, gets stuck washing the breakfast dishes, dreads trying to ask girls out on dates and enjoys listening to his grandfather’s tall tales about magic and the western mountains. Yet, Robert is cursed by a raw talent his parents refuse to talk to him about: his dreams show him what others cannot see.

When the family plans a vacation to the Montana high country, Grandfather Elliott tells Robert there’s more to the trip than his parents’ suspect. The mountains hide a hidden world where people the ailing old man no longer remembers need help and dangerous tasks remain unfinished. Thinking that he and his grandfather will visit that world together, Robert promises to help.

On the shore of a mountain lake, Robert steps alone through a doorway into a world at war where magic runs deeper than the glacier-fed rivers. Grandfather Elliott meant to return to this world before his health failed him and now Robert must resurrect a long-suppressed gift to fulfill his promises, uncover old secrets, undo the deeds of his grandfather’s foul betrayer, subdue brutal enemy soldiers in battle, and survive the trip home.

Sarabande, contemporary fantasy, 10 free Kindle copies during Amazon giveaway, August 27 – September 10 – When Sarabande’s sister Dryad haunts her for three years beyond the grave, Sarabande begins a dangerous journey into the past to either raise her cruel sister from the dead, ending the torment, or to take her place in the safe darkness of the earth. In spite of unsettling predictions about her trip, Sarabande leaves the mountains of Pyrrha and Montana on a black horse named Sikimí and heads for the cornfields of Illinois in search of Robert Adams, the once powerful Sun Singer, hoping he can help with her quest.

One man tries to kill her alongside a deserted prairie road, another tries to save her with ancient wisdom, and Robert tries to send her away. Even if she persuades him to bring the remnants of his magic to Dryad’s shallow grave, the desperate man who follows them desires the rowan staff for ill intent, and the malicious sister who awaits their arrival wants much more than a mere return to life.

Mountain Song, general fiction, free on Kindle August 28-31 – David Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?

This novel is loosely based on the author’s experiences as a seasonal employee in Glacier National Park even though he did not grow up on a Montana sheep ranch.

Malcolm

 

I wonder how many people think there’s another eclipse today

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The information warning signs, many with messages like ECLIPSE TODAY – EXPECT DELAYS probably reminded people about potential traffic congestion. The thing is, the highway department hasn’t taken down the signs. They were still there yesterday and this morning.

One wonders how many drivers think there’s another eclipse coming. That would probably be the same group who had to be warned–in the eclipse tips category–don’t wear your eclipse viewing glasses while driving if you’re on the road during totality.

Meanwhile, the funniest sign I’ve heard about so far is this one from the Iowa DOT:

I’m sure people were texting and driving during the eclipse. GOSH IT SURE IS DARK. CAN’T EVEN  SEE ANY TRAFFIC. Duh.

We enjoyed the eclipse along with totality’s chorus of singing tree frogs. Hope you had a great experience as well.

Malcolm

Hoodoo Nuances: Rising and Falling Clock Hands

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“When both clock hands are rising, cast spells of a positive or uplifting nature; when both clock hands are falling, cast spells that are meant to cast off evil and keep enemies down. But you must not perform magic when one clock hand is rising and another is falling. For Example: if the time is 10:40 the hands are rising, if the time is 2:15 the hands are falling, if it’s 5:45 do not do any magic because the hands are doing both.”

– Moon Phases in Hoodoo Magic from the “Spiritual Illumination” blog.

Years ago when more people were conscious of moon phases, rising and falling tides, solstices and equinoxes, and the flow of the seasons, farmers, fishermen and others who depended on nature for their livelihood, referred to their almanacs to that they were planting, harvesting, and fishing by the signs. For example, as the Natural Events Almanac mentions by way of introduction, “Planting by the signs is a fairly straight forward operation. You plant aboveground crops (lettuce, peas, tomatoes, etc.) when the moon is waxing (growing) from New to Full Moon. Underground crops (beets, radishes carrots, potatoes, etc.) are planted when the moon is waning from Full to New Moon. However, true gardening by the signs is a bit more complicated.”

While the I Ching (book of changes) seems fairly remote from hoodoo, it emphasizes aligning ones life and choices with the natural flow of change, the direction the universe is heading at the moment you ask the oracle a question.   The idea here, which is deeply understood by conjurers, works (for spells, gathering/planing herbs, collecting rain water) and by old farmers and fishermen is that success is more likely when you go with the flow rather than against it.

Taking note of the hands of a traditional clock–which I suspect some day soon people will no longer know how to read–fine-tunes one’s work with the flow of time hour by hour. Like planting and fishing, some work is best done under waxing (growing) moments and some is best done under waning moments.

Conjurers base their practices on what works for them. To some extent this is intuitive inasmuch as you can, with practice, feel the moon’s changes without looking out the window, sense high tides and low tides without referring to a tidal clock, and understand the hours without looking at the positions of the sun and moon–or the hands on your clock.

The “old-time” conjurer woman who posts at Spiritual Illumination believes that “the three most important timing considerations in hoodoo are the day of the week, the time of day, and the time of the moon. Of less importance (generally) are the positions of the planets and the day of the year.” This is a personal preference and differs from person to person.

As a writer, I like conjuring nuances because they add depth to my series of folk magic novels. Personal experience has shown me that notions about time, moon and tides are not superstition because–let us say–that if one works with oracles like the I Ching, the Kabbalist’s Tree of Life, Tarot Cards, and meditation, the flow of time and space and energy become very evident when it comes to their impact on what we are doing. So, it’s not surprising that hoodoo practitioners are very conscious of the benefits of going with the flow.

In some ways, our attitudes about life are a form of conjure in that consciously or subconsciously, our minds are creating the future. What works for the hoodoo practitioner works for all of us.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the hoodoo/crime novels “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”

 

 

Preparing to visit the moon’s shadow in the mountains

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According to Being in the Shadow, 39% of the people in the United States live within 300 miles of the eclipse. We’re well within that distance of scaring ourselves by the fast-moving moon shadow racing across the sunny (hopefully) sky, so we’re going. Our trip to the North Carolina mountain rental cabin where eight of us will meet is only 188 miles,–according to MapQuest, that’s three and a half hours on the road.

Artist’s conception of an eclipse.

We’re arriving at the cabin several days in advance because if all Americans within 300 miles decide to travel to a great viewing location, that’s 127 million people on the road. So far, we’ve seen estimates for north Georgia of about 60,000 extra cars on the road.

This is the post-eclipse estimate of people streaming back toward Atlanta minutes after the totality period is over. I-85 backs up every Thanksgiving, so–even if we still lived in an Atlanta suburb–we’d travel on a different day. That’s the good thing about being officially retired and working at home: we don’t have to rush back to work.

Initially, my attitude about driving so see the eclipse was kind of “ho hum.” I maintained that I saw eclipse conditions every night after it got dark. Nobody else in the family bought this. We have the shortest drive. Four people are coming from Maryland and two are coming from central Florida. It will be fun getting together in a cabin where we have plenty of room. Of course, as soon as we get there, we’ll check out how much sky is visible from the cabin’s deck.

We’re getting ready to go. We have our approved eclipse glasses (the cops say don’t wear them while driving). The car has new tires and a recent oil change. We have somebody coming by the house here in NW Georgia to check on our cats. We have extra wine.  We have dinner reservations on eclipse day, compliments of my wife’s tireless planning efforts. And we have a nice list of places to go and things to see while the eclipse isn’t happening–depending on traffic. As for pictures, I’ll post some if I can capture anything that looks exciting other than the black rectangle.

What are your plans? If you don’t live along the eclipse track, are you giving there?

Malcolm

 

Those messy website blues

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Like a new car, a new website looks sleek, clean, and is the envy of everyone who sees it. However, like cars that get older and no longer are washed or given scheduled maintenance and oil changes, websites start showing their age as well.

Last night on MasterChef, chef Ramsay told one of the contestants that his dish was confusing because it wasn’t cohesive and was more like a smorgasbord of flavors that didn’t go together. This is another way of saying that–like the old car–a website that’s messy, confusing and probably difficult for new visitors to figure out isn’t helping you.

When I set up my website (Conjure Woman’s Cat), I had great intentions. I was going to keep it squared away (a navy terms that means “shipshape”) rather than than letting it look like our old Buick or the top of the desk in my office.

I chanced upon a writer’s website article that basically said, if you’re website is screwed up, you won’t be kissing your books goodbye because nobody will be buying them. This caught me attention because sales have been lower this year than last year. Partly, that’s Amazon’s fault for establishing a new ranking system that’s biased in favor of bestselling books from mainstream publishers. Even though the rest of us are in the chopped liver category, it was obvious to me that I needed to clean up and streamline the website.

This has taken the better part of two days. It’s by no means perfect. On the other hand, it no longer has a garage sale kind of ambiance surrounding it. One thing I tossed out was a synopsis of each of my older books. This made the site too wordy and added pages. So, I’m featuring my two latest books and putting everything else in a catalogue of covers. Might be a mistake, but the result is certainly a lot easier to figure out.

In the business world some years ago, the word “agile” was often used to refer to companies that could change quickly with the times whether they needed new products or new ways of talking about their current products. I think authors need to be agile in this way in their presentations and promotions. While the books are the same books we published some years ago, we need to find new ways of capturing people’s attention.

So, I cleaned up my website an hour ago. So far, neither Oprah or Warner Brothers has called, but I can always hope.

–Malcolm

Candidate Discriminated Against Due to Silver Spoon in Mouth

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Junction City, Texas, August 6, 2017, Star-Gazer News Service–Mayoral candidate George Argentite, 47 Metallica Way, filed suit in federal court under the Americans with Disabilities Act claiming he was being discriminated against because he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

“Slanderous statements by incumbent Clark Trail alleging that a man with a silver spoon in his mouth cannot possibly govern fairly or understand the needs of the majority of prospective voters have not only poisoned public opinion against me in the current election campaign, but have cost me my job at P.S. 47, gotten me kicked out of my role as head deacon at the church, and essentially banned me from local restaurants, movie theaters and grocery stores,” Argentite told reporters outside the courthouse this morning.

Political commentator Joe Everyman, who says his family uses stainless steel flatware, believes Agentite’s troubles stem from Trail’s campaign slogan “My opponent thinks he’s a privileged man or possibly a god.”

Members of the family have mixed views about the origin of the Wallace Silversmiths Grand Baroque teaspoon that protrudes from the left side of Argentite’s mouth. 50% claim that the spoon was swallowed by George’s mother Anne at a Rotary Club dinner while she was pregnant and 50% say the spoon–which is completely fused into Argentite’s jaw bone–resulted from a gypsy curse.

Hospital records indicate that early attempts at removing the spoon threatened to destroy Argentite’s head, “potentially transforming him into a two faced individual.” The pediatrics department believed he would grow out of it by the time he lost his baby teeth while surgeons discovered that cutting off the spoon at the gum line resulted in the object “regrowing rather like a lizard’s tail.”

“Prior to Trail’s smear campaign, most people didn’t realize I couldn’t get the spoon out of my mouth any more than a real rich person could pretend he wasn’t rich,” said Argentite. “People just thought I sucked on the spoon in the same way other people walk around with cigarettes, toothpicks and bits of straw.”

Trail told reporters that “saying your opponent has a silver spoon in his his mouth is a traditional method of vilifying the rich as a class of people who deserve to be tarnished for reaching the pinnacle of the American dream that the rest of us have yet to attain.”

According to informed sources, Argentite has received lucrative offers from monarchs, mob bosses and dictators to serve as an official taster since silver can detect the presence of arsenic in food.

Agentite’s wife, Flora, said, “We’re too scandalized to kiss in public any more,”

–Story by Jock Steward, Special Investigative Reporter