Gnostic and Countercultural Elements in Zora Neale Hurston’s “Hoodoo in America”

In: Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies

Over the last decade, religious studies scholars have given attention to Zora Neale Hurston’s “Hoodoo in America.” These works, however, have not considered the important role of gnosis in hoodoo. This article acts to extend this literature by examining how Hurston employs secret knowledge to advance a particular understanding of hoodoo. Specifically, I argue that Hurston’s ethnographic study of New Orleans hoodoo captures a system of African-derived magical practices that is characterized by both gnostic and countercultural elements. These elements in turn reveal an intricate relationship between gnosis, human agency, and material culture that finds expression in the complex ritual system of New Orleans hoodoo.

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  • 1

    Hurston 1935; Hurston 1938; Hurston 1939.

  • 2

    Hurston 1931, 319–320.

  • 3

    Estes 1998, 66–82; Turner 2002, 112.

  • 5

    Hurston 1931, 320. The call is defined as a direct summoning of the individual by a divine entity. See note 4 for examples of authorities of divinity in the hoodoo pantheon.

  • 6

    Hurston 1931, 326, 357, 362, and 368.

  • 7

    Kaplan 2002, 124.

  • 8

    Rodriguez 2007, 541–543.

  • 10

    Hurston 1931, 357.

  • 11

    Hurston 1990, 183;185.

  • 12

    Kaplan 2002, 139.

  • 13

    Hurston 1931, 363.

  • 14

    Hurston 1931, 332.

  • 15

    Hurston 1931, 372.

  • 16

    Hurston 1931, 320.

  • 17

    Moore 2012, 146.

  • 18

    Ward 2004, 21.

  • 19

    Hurston 1931, 326. It is important to note that Hurston establishes a direct correlation between Haitian Vodou and hoodoo as practiced in New Orleans.

  • 20

    Hurston 1931, 327.

  • 21

    Hurston 1931, 327.

  • 22

    Hurston 1931, 336.

  • 23

    Hurston 1931, 341–342.

  • 24

    Hurston 1931, 364.

  • 25

    Hurston 1931, 380.

  • 26

    Hurston 1931, 382.

  • 27

    Hurston 1931, 387.

  • 28

    Hurston 1931, 414.

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