Or more that I am thinking about career shifts. It is no secret that I am a traditional homebirth midwife, that I love being a midwife, and that I want more and more expectant parents to feel free and capable enough to be their own midwives. Another hat I wear is that of Community Herbalist. I make herbal medicine for people — plain and simple. I do not have or operate a full on apothecary, but that is kind of a dream of mine. I think it would fit in superbly well with the D.I.Y. Prenatal Clinic that I am currently dreaming about. Yet another more silent occupation I have is that of a Hoodoo Rootworker. Whoa, hold up, you say. Like a witchdoctor? Well, sort of, but not really. I do not drive out/banish/hunt witches, which is implied by the term “witchdoctor” — most people think it means someone who is a witch and a “doctor” of sorts. I am a witch, but I am not a doctor. I would say that being a rootworker is more closely like being a shaman. (Is this not the week of coming out of closets or what?)
Okay. So what does that mean?
Magic. Appalachian Mountain Magic. African-American Southern Protestant Magic. Romani Folk Magic. Herbalism. I offer certain readings, divination, altar work & prayer, herbal preparations, candlework/candle lighting, making mojo/gree-gree bags, blessings, cleansings, and certain spell casting to community members and clients.
Not only do I tend to women, their cycles of fertility, and their births, but I also focus on healing both the bodies and spirits of those in my community (of all ages and genders). This has not been something that I advertised to the greater population. It is not the easiest thing to really explain (though, not any better to just perform like a trained monkey on the spot) nor is it exactly the sort of thing that is easy to just throw into a conversation with a muggle. It is difficult enough to explain being a midwife to the average person occupying the next barstool over or riding the bus next to you. You mention “rootworker” or “root doctor” and they are lost and eyeing you suspiciously.
It is kind of like saying, “I am part Rom/Romani.” And being greeted with blank stares. However if I say, “I am part Romani…you know, Gypsy.”
“Oh, yeah, yeah, so was my grandmother. Gypsies are so cool.”
Just like some of the elder women in my family, I too have always seemed to have a gift for this sort of work, which I do find interesting since I am not specifically a religious person. I am a deeply spiritual person, but not religious like many other rootworkers. Some of the things I know and now to do for others seems like innate knowledge, but other skills and abilities have been studied and honed for many years (since I was a little girl playing in the woods at my great-grandparents in the Tahlequah Mountains in Oklahoma.).
One of the things a lot of people have heard me say to others or to them is, “I will light a candle for [fill in the blank].” I know that some people just say this and never actually intend to light a candle, but what they really mean is, “I will be thinking of you/praying for you.” I actually light candles for people. I anoint the candle(s) in oil and sometimes write names or messages on the candle or on little slips of paper under the candle(s) and then I light them. An intention and thought is reinforced by the energy of fire. It is much like a prayer. Candle magic is old magic. I remember growing up with my great-grandmother lighting candles for people; so many that she had a little candle altar, almost like at the Catholic church where mass was held, to make sure she had enough candles to light for all the people who needed one lit for them. She would name each person and what their candle was being lit for as each flame came to life. A powerful act. An act that I frequently do for close friends and family without them asking or me mentioning it — it is just like a second nature.
Another thing that I frequently do is make up little root bags (mojo bags or gree-gree/gris-gris). These are basically spells or prayers in a bag for my client to carry around: a more focused form of intent and thought than just lighting a candle. In a nutshell, they are small cotton flannel cloth bags with magical items inside (incense, herbs, roots, rocks/gems/crystals/minerals, dirt/sand/salt, messages on slips of folded paper, etc.), which are then smudged, blessed, or anointed and then given to clients to carry around with them or place in a certain spot, but always out of sight of others.
Spell-casting seems to be self-explanatory to me. And divination is using tarot cards, affirmation cards, or cowrie shells to find out more information about a question or problem and sometimes to find the answer to a question for my clients. With the exception of candle lighting, divination is usually one of the first things done with a client: to get a better understanding of what needs to be done and whether or not I believe myself to be capable of helping with the situation at hand. Occasionally, I can just “read” a person and figure out what needs to be done, but this honestly only happens with really close friends or certain folks with a strong energy or aura about them.
Depending on the situation, often times herbal remedies are also needed and when these are combined with the sympathetic magic of hoodoo rootwork, amazing synergistic and holistic results can happen. Of course, as with any spiritual/magical ritual work, there are no guarantees of things working or turning out they way things might have been hoped for or fantasised — anyone offering guarantees of success are probably running a physic-reader/candle-burning scam (yes, you read that right, a candle-burning scam).
I think there is a lot of room for this line of complimentary spiritual guidance and healing work in modern society, if people can get passed their preconceived notions and stereotypes of hoodoo, rootworkers, and conjurers. There is a decent-ish article from earlier in the year over at Huffington Post that discusses Magic as a social service, which I recommend reading if you would like more information on the concept of Magic as a modality that is part of a holistic healing regimen.