The beginning of April brings a rush of optimism and faith as winter officially stops trying to kill us all. Now I may still be shopping at the grocery store in pajama pants and shaking my fist at the rain forecast on my phone, but it's clear that my seasonal affective disorder is on the way out and the blue skies are just around the corner. I thought the best way to celebrate this spring in style would be to pay a visit to the impossibly alluring Hoodoo Hussy, and see what physical and spiritual cleansing she recommends to start the season right.
CH: Welcome to Dope Sista, we're all big fans of your work, but could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
HH: My name is Hoodoo Hussy. I'm a conjure woman, a rootworker, Njuzu priestess and burlesque performer/producer. I provide spiritual care using plant medicine and spirit medicine to address my clients' needs. I work with my ancestors and deities through divination, intuition, prayer and dream seeing.
CH: When people hear the words "conjure woman," "rootwork," or "voodoo/hoodoo," a lot of stereotypes and horror movie plots spring to mind. Why do you think this is the case?
HH: Hollywood really did a great job at demonizing African and diaspora traditional religions. Ever since Europeans made contact with African people, they viewed our spiritual beliefs and customs as savage. They did not understand our practices and our worldview. Missionaries to this day still venture to different countries to convert people to christianity. The concept of the "savage negro" was pervasive in novels and eventually this stereotype made it's way into media. Our spirituality, our juju is seen as evil. On one hand, people fear it. But, on the other hand, it is treated as a joke. Because this inaccurate image of African spirituality is so ubiquitous, having the "evil voodoo man/woman" or savage "witch doctor" are go to aspects of horror films.
We pick up energetic residue everyday
CH: What does being a conjure woman mean to you?
HH: Being a conjure woman or a conjurer in general means you are working with spirits. To conjure means to call upon something. You are invoking spirits to assist you in your petitions and work.
CH: How did you begin your spiritual education and how long have you been practicing?
HH: My family is originally from the Mississippi Delta, and my granny's grandad was from Louisiana. This is in my blood. I come from a line of intuitives and rootworkers. Hoodoo was my destiny before I even knew the word. My granny is an intuitive and dream seer. I began reading historical text about African-American traditional spiritual practices and asking her about everything. My ability flourished in my teens and I began studying herbs when I was in high school. I formally left Christianity right after that. It just wasn't adding up for me anymore, despite my mother's deep devotion to the church.
CH: Have you always had a passion to burlesque?
HH: Always? No. LOL. Actually, I didn't quite understand exactly what burlesque was until I was sitting in a studio room with my mentor, Chicava Honeychild, and she told us she was gonna teach us how to be strippers. At that point, it hadn't dawned on me that burlesque involved an element of striptease. That was an eye opener!
CH: I can imagine! Who are some of the performers that have inspired you?
HH: Goodness, there are so many! Just to name a few off the top of my head: Chicava Honeychild, Genie Adagio, Jeez Loueez, Po'Chop, Ms. Briq House, Tutu Toussaint, Perle Noire, Sweet Lorraine, and Alotta Boutté.
CH: Where can we catch the next show?
HH: I'll be performing in Coney Island May 3, and in Atlanta over Memorial Day weekend. You can also catch me at Joe's Pub in Manhattan on June 18th, and you can follow me on IG for all the details: @hoodoohussy
CH: How does your work as a performer intersect with your position as a Njuzu priestess?
HH: The Njuzu are water deities who can be very seductive, sensual and sexual. I conjure up that energy when my performance calls for it. It's actually electric. I often feel like I am in trance when I rehearse and when I perform. Expressing that energy on stage is very spiritual for me. My spirituality and sensuality go hand in hand.
CH: Ever since I can remember, I've heard mention of taking a 'spiritual bath,' but I always thought it was only a metaphor. Could you tell us a little about the practice of spiritual baths and their purpose?
HH: Baths are one of the traditional ways to maintain our spiritual hygiene. I think most of us believe in regular bathing to cleanse our physical vessels. It's just as important, if not more, to keep our spirits clean and fresh. We pick up energetic residue everyday.
Some places, people and situations leave more residue than others. Sometimes we can be what I call "spiritually funky." This can affect us emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It's important to wash that energy away regularly. Sometimes, people need to do a series of baths, depending on the situation. Through divination and consultation, I come up with a prescription for a client that includes how many consecutive days they need to perform a spiritual bath and a specific recipe for the bath.
CH: What other types of cleansing practices do you routinely recommend?
HH: I also recommend egg cleansing, smoke cleansing with tobacco, smudging with cleansing herbs (not sage). Right now is a great time for floor washes and decluttering our homes. I'm about to do this myself. Cleaning up and clearing out excess from where I reside is a form of spiritual cleanse as well and very important.
CH: Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge today. I actually feel motivated to get out of these pajama pants and ditch my "spiritual funkiness!" In closing, what do you wish people understood about conjure work.
HH: I want people to understand that conjure and rootwork are not evil. It's not demonic. We are working with nature and our own ancestors. Our ancestors are not demons. This juju is our ancestral birthright that came across waters in the hearts and minds of the enslaved. It's what has been used in resistance to our oppressors. It is what we have used to heal and help our communities. Also Hoodoo is African-American conjure. It is African in origin. We can not allow outsiders to steal our heritage and spirituality. It belongs to us, Black people.
You can find spiritual baths and products and services at www.hoodoohussy.com