With hoodoo's recent surge of popularity across a broad spectrum of the online occult audience some complex, perhaps thorny issues have been brought into the dialogue. A lot of traditional workers - people who grew up in the communities who passed on and evolved this tradition over many, many generations feel that there is a genuine risk of true conjure becoming lost, diluted or bastardised. The influence of new age concepts, wicca and other modern western systems - and even that of its fellow afro-diasporic traditions, such as santeria and vodou can have an unwelcome and destructive influence.
What's most confusing about this is that because of the of the way hoodoo evolved it's already comprised of a broad range of magical influences ranging from its roots in the kongo traditions, to European witchcraft and Native American herbal lore. People take that to mean that it's a free-for-all and that it can be mixed with anything from wicca to chaos magic. Most destructive is the fact that the people being drawn to this new glamourous sparkle that the tradition is receiving forget that it in fact is the heritage of a group of people. It isn't simply magical system - it's a folk tradition. Which means that it is deeply intertwined with a group of peoples cultural experience and identity. It isn't this free floating thing that can be claimed by whoever pleases because it already belongs to someone.
Whenever this argument gets put forth it's usually round about now that people start getting uncomfortable. A slippery sense of entitlement rears its head - one which will have you believe we are free to do as we please and take what we want from whomever we want, because we are special. We are spiritual. What harm can we do?
So I will offer an example of the damage that can be done by the New Age machine.
One word: Reiki.
Most people don't know this because I am worried it might damage by bad-ass image ;-) but I have been trained and attuned up the Master-teacher level of Usui Reiki. In fact I went through the whole cycle of training from Reiki I to Master level a total of three times. Each time with different teacher. Why three times? Because I was determined to find an authentic transmission of the original system created in Japan. You know what I discovered? You pretty much can't. The reiki healing system was raped and pillaged so many times by so many greedy self-entitled westerners that the original form, whatever it was, is basically gone. Now you have Crystal Rainbow Dolphin Reiki, and Fairy Pumpkin Kundalini Reiki and Lumerian Varja Monkey Reiki. I personally was considering starting my own school of reiki - called Michael Jackson Moonbeam Reiki after I got a tingly sensation in my palms while watching Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk on TV the other day, just after he passed over to the other side. I swear, I laid my hands on someone and they said they could kinda sorta hear the baseline of Thriller pulsing in their crown chakra.
I am being silly, I know.
I don't mean to bash reiki people, because I have spent a lot of time with them and they are a lovely bunch to be sure. Some of my dearest friends are reiki teachers and I have tremendous respect for them. And I am quite certain that Lumerian Vajra Monkey Reiki really does make people feel a lot better and happier - but what what grinds me is that the Usui system, even the forms which claim to be traditional are simply remnants of whatever Dr. Usui received during his enlightening experience on the mountain. Interestingly, the founder of Aikido received his system in a rather similar fashion (a flash of golden light coming down through his crown) and roughly at the same time as Usui - supposedly they even knew each other. Now, compare Reiki today with Aikido.
Anyone for some Fairy Dolphin Kundalini Rainbow Aikido? Why not? I bet Aikido could be vastly improved by crystals and new age music, personally.
I am being silly again, I am sorry.
But my silliness aims to illustrate how destructive and demeaning sloppy New Age appropriation along with greedy self-entitlement can be. Just because you think it's spiritual and makes you feel good doesn't mean its right. Reiki got eaten up alive by the New Age monster and spat out as a pale spectre of its original form. Word is there is a clutch of original Usui Reiki practitioners somewhere in Japan, in hiding. I really don't blame them, honestly I don't.
Getting back to hoodoo for a moment - we find there is this problem that comes with being an outsider participant to any living tradition that you weren't born into, which is that you are inevitably going to bring your own world view and existing beliefs and practices to it. It cannot be helped. It's a human response to learning - you want to synthesise, blend and find commonalities that overlap so you can integrate what you know already. You are trying to make sense of it all, and this is sane and natural. The goal then should be to study the tradition in its purist form, with greatest respect that you can. To work with it as it stands before you begin chopping and changing the parts which don't fit your cosy expectations or the blinkered ideas you are bringing to the table. In all likelihood you are actually changing the parts that you need most of all, and in fact the part that makes it, you know, work. Before you know it what you have left is this watered down grey goo (or worse, fairy rainbow goo) which you will eventually abandon for next months new magical flavour because surprise, surprise it doesn't actually deliver anymore.