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Halloween Hoodoo

"To catch a spirit, or to protect your spirit against catching, or to release you caught spirit – this is the complete theory and practice of hoodoo."

The above quote opens the five volume set of books entitled Hoodoo–conjuration–witchcraft–rootwork : beliefs accepted by many Negroes and white persons, these being orally recorded among Blacks and whites by Harry M. Hyatt that can be found in Special Collections.  Published in 1970, these books represent the culmination of years of interviews conducted by the author over a large portion of the Southern United States.

Not to be confused (as it commonly is), with voodoo or vodou, which are both religions derived from West African religions with a dash of Christianity thrown in, hoodoo is often classified as folk magic and is practiced mainly in the Southern United States.  The difference between hoodoo and voodoo and vodou is similar to the distinction between Wicca and witchcraft.  Also similar to Wicca and witchcraft is the fact that people often use all these terms interchangeably, though they have different meanings. Thus, one can belong to the voodoo religion and practice hoodoo, but they don't have to, and vice versa.

In hoodoo, a practitioner draws upon the spiritual power residing within them to perform a ritual to bring about power or success.  Today's mainstream culture often portrays hoodoo as a negative thing because of the common misconception that all who practice it are greedy or corrupt.

Hoodoo–conjuration–witchcraft–rootwork is a record of people's interactions with hoodoo, containing many accounts about how the interviewee was affected by a conjure or how someone they knew was affected.  One woman relates the experience she had when her neighbor put a conjure on her by burying a bottle containing  sulfur, hair, a bluestone, and roots of some sort.  According to her, this was the reason she was unable to stay up past ten o'clock each night.  She proceeds to relate how she destroyed the bottle and its contents and was able to stay up much later the following night while the next day the woman next door had to go to the hospital due to a major problem with her leg.  Another interviewee tells the author about a common practice of putting sulfur and ashes from the fireplace in a bag and keeping it in your pocket to ward off those that would do you harm.

Whether or not you believe that hoodoo works, these books make for interesting reading and are a comprehensive relation of a common practice here in the United States that most of us are largely unfamiliar with.  So if you get a chance between your Halloween celebrations, come see us at Special Collections where you can find the books mentioned here along with many others!

 

"Difference Between Hoodoo and Voodoo | Difference Between | Hoodoo vs Voodoo." Difference Between Hoodoo and Voodoo | Difference Between | Hoodoo vs Voodoo. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/culture-miscellaneous/difference-between-hoodoo-and-voodoo/>.
"Haitian_Vodou." Reference.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Haitian_Vodou>.
"Louisiana_Voodoo." Reference.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Louisiana_Voodoo>.

 

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Posted in Closed Collection, Special Collections

Halloween Costume Ideas in Special Collections

Are you tired of wearing that same old zombie costume year after year?  Fed up with being lost in the crowd of witches and ghouls?  Special Collections is here to help, with costume inspiration by the book!  Here are a few ideas for Halloween inspired by our collections.

Go Medieval or Go Home

If you're limited on time or materials, you can't go wrong with the Middle Ages.  All you need is a long bathrobe, a large scarf or sheet, a pair of pointy-toed shoes, and a pageboy wig.  Voila!  Tell all your friends you're a character from the Roman de la Rose.  Add a red hat, a fake beard, and a book, and you could be St. Jerome.

Fragmenta Manuscripta 156 biblialatina

Find a New Trade

Forget dressing up like a doctor, firefighter or astronaut.  How about a Victorian butcher, milkman or baker – or better yet, a cat'smeat-man, park-keeper or waterman?  You could be dressed as a sixteenth-century German piscator or a French marchande de poissons.  The numerous books of occupations and street cries in Special Colllections are a field guide to the merchant and artisan classes from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries.

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Be a Fashion Plate

Halloween and Homecoming are less than a week apart this year, so party like it's 1839.  Fashion magazines like Allgemeine Modenzeitung can give you an idea of what was in style back then. 

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Dress like a Peasant…

Special Collections has numerous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century ethnographic studies of the native dress of Europe, Asia, and the Americas.  Little did those ethnographers know they were creating a treasure trove of obscure Halloween costume ideas for us early 21st-century folk.  Here are a couple of examples of Italian peasant dress.  Choose your time and place; with our collections, the possibilities are endless. 

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…or like Royalty

Of course, if you're more ambitious, you could impersonate a famous king or queen for the day.  How about Elizabeth I?  Or maybe someone from the court of Marie Antoinette

Camden-Elizabeth 1980486

Embrace the Surreal

Perhaps you're looking for something more, shall we say, fanciful? The work of illustrators like J. J. Grandville and Walter Crane should provide ample inspiration for weird and wonderful costumes of all kinds.

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Or Dress Like your Favorite Author

How about Leonhart Fuchs?  Or Charles Darwin!  Of course, here in Missouri, we're partial to Mark Twain.

historiastirpiumfuchs Twain_photo_1

We can't guarantee you'll win any costume contests, but it's a pretty safe bet that you'll be the only one dressed as a sixteenth-century botanist or French fishwife at your Halloween party this year.  Happy Halloween!

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Posted in Rare Book Collection, Special Collections

Halloween at Special Collections

Among the bonny winding banks,
Where Doon rins, wimplin’ clear,
Where Bruce ance ruled the martial ranks,
And shook his Carrick spear,
Some merry, friendly, country-folks,
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, and pou their stocks,
And haud their Halloween
Fu’ blithe that night.

Hallowe’en by Robert Burns

Although Halloween has its roots in the pagan practices of Scotland and Ireland, its name comes from the Scottish phrase “All Hallows’ Even”, the night before the Christian holiday, All Hallows’ Day.  The word, Hallowe’en was first used in the 16th century.  Halloween is most closely linked with the Celtic holiday, Samhain, the day, it was thought, in which the natural and supernatural realms were nearest to each other and the dead could revisit the living.

The Reformation brought Halloween rituals under attack, although the customs still flourished in most of Scotland and Ireland.  Furthermore, the popularity of Guy Fawkes Night on November 5th every year also put a damper on Halloween in England.  The Puritans who sailed to America did not bring the Halloween traditions with them and Halloween was largely ignored until the 19th century influx of Scottish and Irish immigrants.  By the early 20th century, the popularity of Halloween in America had taken hold of the majority of the population.

Today, Halloween is a huge commercial enterprise.  In the U.S., Halloween generates $2.4 billion in sales.  More candy is sold on Halloween than Valentine’s Day and more parties are held on Halloween than on New Year’s Eve.  In terms of gross sales, Halloween is second only to Christmas.  Almost every television show and cartoon has a Halloween episode at some point and every comic has a Halloween theme as well.  The two comic books, Batman’s “The Long Halloween” and “Garfield in Disguise” are two such examples.

At Special Collections, such spooky tales like The Night Hag and Dante’s Inferno might tickle your fancy this time of year.  Come on by our Reading Room at 401 Ellis to take a look at our Halloween themed books and comics.  Have a safe and happy Halloween!

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Posted in Comic Collection, Rare Book Collection
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