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  • Author or Editor: Stephen C. Wehmeyer x
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The vernacular magical, divinatory, and healing practices associated with the Afro-American Gulf South, alternately called “Hoodoo” or “Conjure,” offer a window into an intriguing world of “everyday esoterica.” Practitioners envision a world of competing human desires, which move and are moved by an array of malign and benign spiritual forces. They cope with this world with a pharmacopeia of symbolically powerful physical substances, but also through works of bodily discipline, prayer, meditation, and other practices aimed at the cultivation of will, self-awareness, and self-regard. These latter tools and techniques comport closely with Michel Foucault’s concept of technologies of the self. Exploring Hoodoo ritual through Foucault’s lens offers opportunities to re-imagine American Hoodoo as an esoteric system that enables practitioners to manipulate and transform themselves as well as their circumstances. This examination serves to increase our appreciation for the sophistication of these traditions, while simultaneously enlarging and enriching Foucault’s paradigm – offering new ways to consider the techniques by which one might come to know and understand oneself. This inquiry addresses a lacuna in the scholarship of Hoodoo and Conjure and also situates these traditions more firmly (and accurately) within the wider corpus of Gnostic Studies and Western Esotericism.

In: Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies