Hoodoo is an African American type of folk magic with its roots in African, Native American, and European traditions. Also called conjure or conjuration, it developed in the American Southeast and spread mostly through word of mouth. Though there are experts in this magic, there is no hierarchy, and the practice is open to anyone. Traditionally, experts, known as hoodoo doctors, traveled to practice their craft and took on apprentices.
Many people confuse hoodoo with Voodoo, a religion that began in West Africa, and the ideas that most people have about Voodoo are often actually closer to hoodoo. Practices include folk remedies, magic spells, necromancy, and fortune telling, and practitioners are predominantly Christian rather than followers of Voodoo. Though there are spiritual elements to the practice, it is not a religion.
Many spells and remedies make use of physical objects believed to have spiritual or supernatural powers. As in other magical traditions, plants, minerals, animal products, and bodily fluids are common spell ingredients. A person's hair, nails, or possessions may be used to make him or her the subject of a spell.
The Christian Bible, especially the Old Testament, is considered a powerful artifact in hoodoo. The Psalms and other passages are often read aloud as a part of spells, and the Bible itself can be a powerful talisman, particularly for protection. In this worldview, the Bible and biblical figures are reconceived according to supernatural and magical ideas; God is the greatest conjurer of all, using magic to create the world in six days. European and European-American grimoires, or books of spells, also had an influence on its development.
A common practice in hoodoo is the use of a talisman known as a mojo or gris-gris. A small bag, often of red flannel, is filled with certain items chosen for the effect the charm is to have and worn by the subject of the spell. Both the choice of items within the mojo and the way in which the bag is tied are important to the spell. The charm is typically worn under the clothes and must regularly be "fed," for example with a drop of perfume, in order to retain its strength.