African American Folk Magic: Hoodoo, Conjure, and Rootwork

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Lifestyle

Voodoo or Hoodoo?

hoodoo kitchen set up, traditional ingredients
Photography by Clem Onojeghuo

There is a lot of confusion between what hoodoo and voodoo are—many believe they are one and the same, but as was discovered through the articles on voodoo, they are two separate entities. Louisiana and Haitian Voodoo are the two branches of the voodoo religion practiced by many, whereas hoodoo is not a religion at all. Hoodoo, conjure, and rootwork are all terms used to describe African American folk magic that originated from West Africa. While folk magic practices are wide-spread among the southern United States, they are highly focused within the state of Louisiana. Practitioners of folk-magic are referenced according to their own personal practice—hoodoo, conjure, and rootwork practitioners are called Hoodoos, Conjurers, and Rootworkers respectively—there are of course variations therein, such Root Doctors and Root Healers.

Another important difference is what can be observed when considering how people react toward either of these practices; voodoo is often regarded with disdain and fear, whereas those who practice hoodoo are more frequently thought of as healers or wise herbal doctors. It’s quite interesting to see the different reactions between the two practices, considering the similarities in origin and practice. Hoodoo is a practice derived from West African, Native American, and European sources; rootworkers often refer to what they do as “working the roots,” as it references the roots, or origin, as well as the significance of plants and herbs in this spiritual and magical practice.

Beliefs and Practices

Woman lighting sage bundle, warding off evil spirits
Photography by Brittany Colette

There is a tendency among rootworkers to believe in the indispensable power of their own being, along with the tools that are used within the practice—religion can be considered one of these tools. Despite not being a religious practice, there are very general prayers and religious symbols that can be found intertwined within hoodoo rituals. Not being bound to any one religious practice, it is worth noting that many rootworkers are in fact Protestant Christians or Catholics, while others may have a broad range of belief systems. Petitioning saints and deities, along with prayer are important tools for many, but not all rootworkers opt to incorporate these techniques into their rituals.

Much like voodoo, hoodoo does occasionally get an association with the darker aspects of the human spirit; punishment, revenge, and justice are all valid reasons within hoodoo to perform rituals, just as much as promoting spiritual wellbeing, healing the sick, and love works. The thing that people don’t tend to see is that practices are not simply good or evil—there is no black and white when it comes to magical spiritual practices, as the very nature can vary as wildly as that of a person. The intention behind all magic-related spiritual practices is to enact change within the world in which they live.

Be Careful What you Conjure: The Dangers of Tulpamancy

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Horror Mystery and Lore Lifestyle
Tulpa image

Many people can fondly recall the creation of an imaginary friend when they were younger. Imaginary friends are a global phenomenon, used as a source to combat loneliness, and as a means to encourage creative enterprises in children. 

But what would you do if your imaginary friend suddenly became real? Would you try to destroy it? Or would you accept its unusual companionship? 

The Art of the Tulpa 

Such is the idea behind tulpamancy, a metaphysical concept that stems from ancient Tibetan practices. In essence tulpamancy is the ability to manifest an imaginary friend by intense mental concentration. A tulpa is a mental construct that takes physical shape–and once it does, the tulpa is capable of being fully autonomous from its creator. 

Individuals who practice the art of tulpamancy cite varying reasons for doing so, such as friendship, or as a means of combating certain types of anxiety. Practitioners all seem to agree on one thing, however–the tulpas they manifest are real people, entirely capable of freewill. 

The Science of Tulpamancy 

The creation of a tulpa is an arduous mental process that requires both immense time and concentration. First, an individual who wishes to manifest a tulpa must have a very concrete idea as to the parameters of their mental construct–what does this tulpa look like? What are the tulpas primary and secondary characteristics? What is the purpose of the tulpa? The tulpamancer must be able to create, then recall these details with near perfect clarity. 

Once said parameters are established, the tulpamancer must be able to envision their mental construct over and over again until they can evoke these details with little to no conscious effort. Many practitioners believe that a meditative state must first be achieved in order to successfully manifest a tulpa. 

Tulpas as Thoughtform 

Tulpamancy was introduced to the western world as “thoughtform” and gained popularity during the late 20th Century by way of science fiction shows and novels. Thoughtforms are much the same as tulpas in that they are physical manifestations of a mental concept and are capable of operating as free agents upon creation. 

While modern day practitioners tend to view tulpamancy as having separate origins from paranormal experiences there are some who believe that thoughtforms, or tulpas, are at the heart of some supernatural occurrences. For example, several individuals who study the paranormal now believe that poltergeist activity stems from negatively charged thoughtforms that are powerful enough to cause reactions and activity in the physical world. 

A small community of modern American tulpamancers were asked about the origins of their tulpas. Of those surveyed, 8.5% believe tulpas stem from the metaphysical realm, 76.5% think tulpas are psychologically created, and 14% think tulpas originate from spirituality or from paranormal ideas, beyond the paradigms of science. 

Dangerous Tulpas 

While we may, ultimately, never know the origins of tulpas it is important to proceed with caution when engaged in tulpamancy. Practitioners are encouraged to use sound judgement during manifestations since tulpas are autonomous in nature. Nothing could be as potentially dangerous as a tulpa that has been created void of sound ethical practices.  

Although many tulpamancers claim to have healthy, happy relationships with the tulpas they create, there have been multiple accounts where creating a tulpa has had a negative, even dangerous, impact on an individual. If you are contemplating creating a tulpa consider the following potential outcomes. 

Born From Negativity 

Once tulpas mature they develop their own personalities and preferences. However, every tulpa is born and primarily exists within their tulpamancers, or host’s mind. Since a tulpa is an extension of oneself it is common for tulpas to inherit their host’s thought patterns, moods, and mentality at the time of creation. Thus, individuals who are suffering from depression or anxiety can transfer these emotions into their tulpa. There have been numerous accounts of tulpas being extremely sad, even suicidal in nature. Tulpamancers who suffer from these bouts with depression may feel their problems have increased tenfold because now there are two depressed individuals to consider. 

Negativity tends to feed off of itself, and hosts who are battling chronic, seasonal, or even temporary depression may “give birth” to a tulpa that increases these feelings. 

Born From Violence 

Many tulpamancers admit that during the creation process it is easier for them to emulate traits from fictional characters they love, rather than attempt to build a tulpa from scratch. Some tulpamancers do so deliberately. Many have been tempted to create tulpas based off of characters that possess less than savory personality traits including a tendency towards violence. 

Again, once a tulpa is fully mature, they become free from their host’s will. Their actions are entirely their own and sometimes they desire to do things that could appall, even harm their host. 

During development it is common for tulpas to experience drastic mood swings just like children and teens do. These fluctuating temperaments combined with the fact that they have yet to learn about morals and ethics makes for a dangerous combination. Tulpas have been known to threaten to kill a host’s family members, pets, friends, even the host themselves. 

It takes a lot of hyper-focused concentration in order to create a tulpa and just as much energy and power to destroy them. Dissipating a tulpa can take several days, even for an advanced tulpamancer. What’s worse? Since tulpas share a headspace with their host they will know the moment their host first considers attempting to destroy them–and this will, naturally, make the tulpa very angry. There are tulpamancers in the world who live in constant fear of the very beings they created. 

Tulpa Obsession 

Even tulpas that have been created and manifested in a healthy environment can create unexpected consequences and events for their host. Once a tulpa has reached maturity it is not unheard of that they develop romantic feelings for their host. While some tulpamancers encourage these feelings, having relations with a tulpa can run the same risks as becoming romantically involved with a real human being including abuse and intense jealousy. Only, you can’t get away from your tulpa.

There have been instances where a tulpa’s devotion to their host has become unhealthy, even dangerous. Emotionally stunted tulpas may cause no end of problems if they feel their host is paying too much attention to real humans. Even a host/tulpa relationship that began from a place of love and harmony can turn sour like human to human relationships do…Problem is, you cannot simply walk away from your tulpa once a breakup occurs. Your tulpa remains with you, in your headspace. 

Tulpa Dependency 

Even supposedly healthy relations with a tulpa can have detrimental effects on a person and their relationships with other people. As bonds form between a tulpa and their host, the host may find themselves unintentionally, or deliberately, neglecting their other relationships, even familial and platonic ones. Why go all the way to a friend’s house when you have a tulpa friend right in your head? Why ask for support from loved ones when one can ask for support from their tulpa, all while sitting on the couch? 

Relying on a tulpa for every emotional need can lead to alienation and neglect. 

Tulpas and Mental Illness 

It is also strongly advised that individuals who suffer from personality disorders, mood disorders, and/or schizophrenia do not attempt to create a tulpa. During the manifestation process tulpamancers often report first communicating with their developing tulpas as a voice in their head. Often times these mental tulpas will speak to their host using their host’s voice as they have yet to develop the skill of vocality. 

Individuals who suffer from intrusive thoughts, split personalities, or auditory hallucinations may mistake their mental illness for an emerging tulpa and neglect to seek treatment. As these false tulpa encounters continue, and grow stronger, individuals run the risk of causing permanent damage to their mental wellbeing. 

Many tulpamancers argue that their lives were bleak, and lonely prior to the creation of their tulpa(s). However, tulpamancy is an intense, emotionally, and mentally grueling process with varying, unpredictable results. Tulpas can create lasting, even permanent, changes to a person’s life and state of being. Such a practice is not for the meek, the bored, or underprepared individuals.

Buyer Beware: Perils of Owning Haunted Artifacts

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Lifestyle
Ghost silhouette through the door
Photography by Nathan Wright

It’s interesting the types of things that are available to buy online, a quick search on eBay will reveal a number of haunted and possessed objects just waiting for the right buyer. Whether you’re an amateur paranormal investigator, or you collect these kinds of things for a living, there are always a plethora of haunted items up for sale. While it’s entirely possible these things aren’t actually haunted, it’s just as likely that they’re being sold because the current owner didn’t realize what they were getting into. The most dangerous aspect of objects that are possessed by spirits is the idea of coming into ownership without knowing about the spirit that the object hosts. There are many instances of new homeowners finding hidden rooms in old homes that contain creepy dolls that were locked away and walled off in an attempt to keep an unhappy spirit at bay.

5 Reasons to Avoid Owning Haunted Artifacts

blank
“The Hands Resist Him” by Bill Stoneham (1972)

Dolls, paintings, boxes, and really anything else you can imagine has the ability to become a vessel for the dead. Spirits are in death as they were in life, their personality is translated into their afterlife–were they innocent and pure, or were they full of grief, anger, or hatred? These are the kinds of things that must be taken into account when you contemplate becoming the new owner of a spirit vessel. It doesn’t truly matter if you believe in the paranormal or not, tempting fate and pursuing ownership of haunted artifacts probably isn’t the best idea—and here’s why:

1.    They aren’t toys

It may seem like a fun thing to acquire, especially around times like Halloween, but in all sincerity, they are not toys. These artifacts are vessels for people who have died and they may not be happy about the circumstances under which they died.

2.    It could result in an unhappy spirit

If you don’t really know what you’re doing when taking ownership of a haunted artifact, then you’re already in over your head. Understanding spirits and how to appease them is imperative to peacefully coexist with them. Living with spirits is difficult, even for mediums and psychics that deal with them on a regular basis—it’s exhausting and will interfere with the way you live your life, so unless you want a permanent house guest that you can’t explain to company, don’t invite it into your life.

3.    Spirits can cause behavioral changes

This is kind of a huge one, having a resident spirit in your home can cause major behavioral changes. This includes, but is not limited to depression, anxiety, mood swings, strange thoughts, anger, as well as violent and self-destructive behavior.

4.    It could already be an angry spirit

If you can’t handle an unhappy spirit, you don’t even want to know what you would be getting into with an angry spirit—let’s just say that people bury, sell, or otherwise rid themselves of these objects any way they can for a reason. If you would really like to know the type of activity an angry spirit can bring, just watch a horror movie based around malevolent ghosts and you’ll get a fairly vivid image.

5.    They might be cursed

Bear with me here—you may not believe in ghosts let alone curses, but even those who don’t believe are likely to feel quite unsettled or disturbed after handling a purportedly cursed object. Whether the angry or otherwise malevolent spirit was cursed to be confined within, or it was used during a ritualistic curse, there is a lot of negative energy attached to cursed objects. Typically speaking, objects that are used during ritualistic cursing or, “black magic,” are disposed of, so while it’s not likely, it’s still best not to tempt fate.

An open dybbuk box
Photography by Marika Martinelli

It’s important to understand that most of these kinds of auction listings begin with the phrase, “buyer beware.” While there may be a few fake listings, this phrase isn’t just a catchy way to draw attention to the listing—it really means it, that’s why there are usually strict no-return policies on them—they do not want these artifacts to find their way back to them.

Much like the dybbuk box that starred as the main terror of The Possession (2012), they aren’t objects of fascination, they are to be avoided by those who would rather live a peaceful existence.

Cursed Books You Should Read at Your Own Risk

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore Lifestyle
Old library filled with ancient books

It may seem like the spookiest thing about walking into a bookstore these days is how empty it is, with many choosing to swipe away on their Kindle as the shelves of old and rare books collect dust. But that’s nothing compared to the cursed books that have haunted us for centuries. While novels are supposed to bring wisdom and wonder, there are a few books in the world so cursed that one page flip will leave you with years of bad luck and misfortune.

From cursed Japanese poetry and witch’s spellbooks to a deadly novel that kills anybody who dares to edit its pages, the world of literature has a dark side that you couldn’t even imagine. Read on for our top five most cursed books to read at your own risk. 

young woman reading the orphans story

The Orphan’s Story

It can take a while for an author to get their big break, even the first Harry Potter manuscript was rejected 12 times – but 400 years is surely a new record. Written in the early 1600s by Martin de Leon Cardenas, The Orphan’s Story is a Golden Age novel about a 14-year old Spaniard who heads to the Americas in search of fortune. While it may sound like the typical feel-good adventure story, a major darkness lurks within its pages that led to the novel not being published until 2018. 

Belinda Palacios, a Peruvian scholar who edited the book for two years, says that she was warned by multiple people about The Orphan’s Story. They told her that the book was cursed, and the reason it had taken so long to publish was that anybody who worked on it would die in mysterious ways. While she initially laughed it off, research showed that those who previously edited the book died in horrific car accidents or of strange illnesses. Did the powers-that-be not want the ancient script out in the world? Palacios remains alive and well two years after the book’s release… so here’s hoping the curse has lifted.

The Untitled Grimoires

You would think people have watched enough scary movies to know never to mess with a witch’s spellbook… but apparently not. The Untitled Grimoires is a set of two handwritten, spiral-bound spell books, sold by an online retailer for nearly $14,000 back in 2013. The books were handwritten in the 1960s by Persephone Adrastea Eirene, a high priestess of Wicca who supposedly led her own coven. All 250 pages are filled with incantations, spells, enchantments, and details on how to summon spirits and demons.

However, there is a serious catch. The seller warned buyers that any non-believers who messed with the books would bring a deadly curse upon themselves, while Persephone herself explicitly tells readers on the first page that proceeding with the book would have serious consequences. She wrote, ‘To those not of the craft – the reading of this book is forbidden!  Proceed no further or justice will exact a swift and terrible retribution – and you will surely suffer at the hand of the craft’. Since the absolute best way to get somebody to do something stupid is to tell them it’s forbidden, we really hope that the buyers of this cursed book made the right decision.

The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage

Most parents give their kids toys or a new phone as a gift, but Abramelin gave his son a book full of mythical curses. That works too. Since it was translated to English in 1900, this 15th century novel has had a reputation for being cursed. There are several theories why, but most believe it has to do with the mage’s belief that everybody has their own, unique personal demon. 

Throughout the book, he gives instructions for rituals and supernatural feats to bring your demons under control. Any paranormal enthusiast knows that it’s risky to reach out and communicate with the spirit world, so it’s not surprising that readers of this book have reported bad luck and hauntings by spirits from another realm.

old cursed book

The Grand Grimoire 

When a book is nicknamed the “gospel of Satan,” you may want to think before cracking it open. Said to be written by a man possessed by the devil, this 16th century book is known as one of the most terrifying occult books in existence. It contains dark incantations and instructions on how to summon demons and raise spirits from the dead. That last part may sound appealing to those who are grieving or suffering from loss, but this book’s dark reputation makes it one of the most feared medieval manuscripts of all time. 

Since even opening the book is considered equivalent to selling your soul to the devil, it’s a good thing that The Grand Grimoire is not available for purchase. It’s said that the original copy is currently kept in the Vatican Secret Archives, and not currently available to the public.

The Voynich Manuscript

There’s nothing more frightening than the unknown, and this is why The Voynich Manuscript has become one of the most mysterious and feared books of all time. Written in the 15th century, all 240 pages are inscribed in an indecipherable language that has frustrated and cursed people with bad luck for years. While countless historians and researchers have tried to crack the code, none have been successful.

Was it written by people from another country? An unknown species? Alien life? Nobody knows… but it’s been long speculated that a fatal curse will be unleashed on anybody who finally unlocks this terrifying language. 

The Lesser Key of Solomon

The Lesser Key Of Solomon book cover

The Lesser Key of Solomon is a grimoire of demonology. Like many of these books, it has multiple names and is also known as the Clavicula Salomonis Regis. To add to the mystery the original author is unknown although several authors who have re-written it take credit on some cover variations. The pictured version is available on Amazon even.

The books is actually divided into five discreet books—the Ars Goetia, Ars Theurgia-Goetia, Ars Paulina, Ars Almadel, and Ars Notoria. Most historians believe the book of spells is a compilation taken from other grimoires dating as far back as the early 1500s. In essence, it is really written by many previous authors and compiled into a master book of magic. The contents include summoning demons, angels, and spirits. Creating magical talismans, spells of invisibility, curses, and anything else you might imagine wanting to conjure using magic.

Owners of the original manuscript report strange happenings such as pages turning on their own, the book flying off the shelf, hearing whispers in the dark and seeing dark shadowy figures after obtaining the book.

Arguably it might be safer to buy one of the re-writes as perhaps curses don’t transfer, but to be on the safe side maybe just observe this book at a distance.

Departing From the Mind of H.P. Lovecraft

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Featured Lifestyle
Colour Out of Space by Ludvik Skopalik
Artwork by Ludvik Skopalik

During this month’s Dead Author Dedication of H.P. Lovecraft, we have talked about his life, death, literature, his own personal inspirations, and how he has inspired authors and artists all over the world since his death. The question on this writer’s mind is, “how did a master crafter of the written word end up poor and barely able to make ends meet doing what he loved?” and what that means for aspiring writers.

The Legacy of Lovecraft

Last week we delved into the topic of why and how the work of Lovecraft never really successfully makes it into the film medium; since he was such an influential writer for the horror genre. Other authors in this genre have had their work be adapted into films–sometimes these stories are so popular they have even been remade, to update the story with more modern age techniques and higher quality film in order to see if they could do a better job capturing the original source. Stephen King has been one author who has been successful and lucky enough to be able to boast this honor, the productivity of his own lifetime of writing is something of a celebrity amongst aspiring writers. Any writer would be so lucky to capture even a fraction of the renowned that someone like Stephen King has managed, but the kind of reputation that Lovecraft has grown to develop as a writer since his death has a deeper and more concealed appeal.

H.P. Lovecraft Interview (1933)

The thought of having a cult following has an enchanting draw for artists, one that evokes the concept of an inextinguishable legacy; an artist who may have struggled from their creative inception can’t help but entertain the fantasy of their work not only lasting long after their life has ended but becoming more appreciated with time. There have been so many artists inspired by the chaotic and terrifying concepts that Lovecraft helped to create, that we were able to construct a list of books for people interested in learning more.

Even Lovecraft himself never expected to live to see his own stories adapted into film and like all good authors and literary critics, he agrees that while the film industry is a great and complex art form, it cannot and will not ever hope to replace literature entirely. His argument here, and we’re inclined to agree, is that literature is far too complex a beast to ever be matched by the artistic avenues of film. One cannot hope to accomplish the intricacies of the written word with mere dialogue and action, where words effectively capture our innermost thoughts, desires, fears, and secrets.

Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft
H.P. Lovecraft statue in Providence, RI
H.P. Lovecraft Statue in Providence, RI
Artwork by Gage Prentiss; Photography by David Lepage

Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft comes across as a fairly low budget short film, which lies more in the mystery genre, but it’s a brilliant show of how Lovecraft inspired minds to create a more complex, tangled, and generally incomprehensible universe–one that alludes to far greater, far darker, far more ancient and terrible things in comparison to the world that man knows. Lovecraft’s legacy was what can really bring hope to aspiring creatives, his legacy of work speaks to the complexity of the overflowing river that is the human imagination. This is a river that can never truly run dry, but it is only the limits of our own mundane experiences that can place our creativity within constraints.

It’s important to understand that while we here at Puzzle Box Horror greatly appreciate the body of work that Lovecraft added to the horror genre, we recognize his biases and do not endorse them or agree with them. We were more than ecstatic when we found that there were actually literary responses to these particular issues and hope that such responses continue to appear within the literary community.

Now that we’ve spent a month looking into the creative, yet dark and hellish mind of H.P. Lovecraft, it’s safe to say we know a fair amount about him–but there is always more to learn about his work that helped the horror genre become what it is today?

Is there anything you’d like to add about this mad and mysterious mind? Comment below!