Hoodoo Glossary

To help keep the confusion to a minimum: Voodoo is a highly complex religion. Hoodoo is a highly complex magic system & spiritual practice.

Voodoo is the religion, hoodoo the magic.

Some hoodoo practitioners (also known as rootworkers or conjurers) integrate elements of Voodoo and some do not. Hoodoo is not Voodoo and Voodoo is not hoodoo. They are different, yet complementary.

Hoodoo is a southern African-American folk magic. It taps into supernatural forces to improve daily life by gaining power in areas such as luck, money, love, divination, revenge, health, employment, and necromancy. Extensive use of herbs, minerals, parts of animal bodies, individual possessions, and bodily fluids such as menstrual blood, urine, and semen are used.  Contact with ancestors or other spirits of the dead is an important practice within the conjure tradition, and the recitation of Psalms from the Bible is also considered magically effective in hoodoo.

The word hoodoo can be used as a noun to refer to a system of magic (hoodoo), as well as the practitioner (he’s a hoodoo man).  It’s also used as a verb (he done hoodooed her), and an adjective (that’s a hoodoo trick).

Popular names for hoodoo include: conjuration, conjure, witchcraft, rootwork, and tricking (nothing to do with prostitution).

Hoodoo and Voodoo Terms:

Altar—A sacred place that honors spirits, ancestors, loved ones, or even the self.

Amulet—A piece of jewelry that is symbolic and protective.

Anointing oil—Oil used to dress candles and other objects (including people) to enhance their magical properties, including protection.

Banishing—A trick to get rid of something negative.

Blessings—Positive thoughts usually having a spiritual component.

Bokor—Generally believed in Louisiana today to be the Haitian equivalent to the hoodoo practitioner. Some bokors are said to be uninitiated specialists in malevolent magic.


Bon Dieu—God Almighty. Also known as Bondye or good god; the Creator who is distant from the world.

Bottle tree—making wishes and placing cobalt blue bottles onto branches of a tree to make a bottle tree that functions as a talisman.

Caul—The covering on the eye of a newborn that usually predicts psychic ability.

Chant—Repetitive statement used to enhance the magical aspect of a ritual, spell, or ceremony.

Charging—Energizing or strengthening.

Charms—A collection of symbolic objects designed for a specific purpose, such as luck, love, protection.

Cities of the Dead—A popular term that refers to cemeteries in Louisiana.

Conjure—To draw magic, spirits, or energy.

Crossing—Spiritual works that cause harm or bad luck.

Crossroad—A mystical place steeped in magic where four roads intersect and where deals are made; a location where two realms touch, a place between worlds where supernatural spirits can be contacted and paranormal events take place.

Crossroads magic—Prevalent in conjure, rootwork, and hoodoo. (See above.)

Curse—Negative energy cast upon somebody.

Divination—Seeing the future.

Dressing candles—To bring additional power to candles using herbal or mineral oils.

Earth Mother—A goddess that embodies nurturing, kindness, and fertility.

Feeding powder—Herbal or mineral substance used to charge and sustain the life of a powerful object.

Fixing tricks—Doing spellwork.

Foot track magic—A hoodoo spell that involves the physical tracks and footprints. Throwing powders and such in the path of a target who will suffer from abnormal maladies and a run of bad luck once they have walked on it.  Direct or sympathetic methods.

Gédé loa—Spirits of the dead.

Gopher’s Dust (Goofer Dust)—A magical dust used in foot track magic that traditionally contains snakeskin or the rattle of a rattlesnake. Used to motivate and enforce changes.

Graveyard dirt—Dirt taken from a graveyard. Especially potent if gathered from a grave at the crossroads.

Great Mother—Goddess of all goddesses; creator being.

Gris-gris—A spell, charm, or magic depending on use in sentence structure. A ritually prepared object such as a doll or a small cloth bag filled with magical ingredients, as well as the act of working the gris-gris (spell or charm).

Gros Bon Ange—In New Orleans Voodoo it is regarded as the part of the soul that connects the Voodooist to all of creation, which is constantly in union with Bon Dieu.

Hand—Synonym for mojo bag, charm.

He and she—Male and female lodestones that have been matched by shape and size.

Hex—Negative energy cast upon a victim.

Hoodoo—A system of folk magic that contains elements of African, European, and Native American teachings.

Hounfor—The name for a Vodou temple.

Houngan—An initiated priest within the religion of Orthodox Haitian Vodou.

Invocation—A song, poem, or chant designed to call upon the spirits or ancestors.

Juju—Magic, sometimes with bad intent.

Laying tricks—Hoodoo term for performing spells. Also refers to concealing or disposing of magical objects by strategically placing the ingredients in certain places in order to fix the trick; in essence, to seal the deal.

Loa (Lwa)—Also know as Mystères or the Invisibles; spirits responsible in the daily matters of life in the areas of  family, love, money, happiness, wealth, and revenge.  Petitioned in rituals and spellwork.

Mambo—An initiated priestess in the religion of Orthodox Haitian Vodou.

Mojo—A small bag of charms that serves as an amulet for a wide range of purposes.

Nation sack—A female-owned mojo bag.

Paquets—a small charm, another name for a toby or mojo hand.

—The name of the altar in Vodou. It is made of masonry and is circular, forming the base of the poteau-mitan.

Petro— A major family of loa in Haitian vodou; they are more fiery, aggressive, and warlike spirits and associated with the element of fire; considered “bad” or “hot” spirits.

Poppet—A small, stuffed doll or other organic object used to represent a human. Sometimes called a “voodoo doll.”

Poteau-mitan—The central pole of a Vodou temple.

Pot de Tête—A small covered jar that is constructed to help protect initiates from malevolent magic.

Rada—A major family of loa in Haitian vodou; older, beneficent spirits, guardians of morals and principals and associated with the element of air; considered “good” or “cool” spirits.

Root Doctor—A practitioner in hoodoo or New Orleans Voodoo tradition who is knowledgeable in using herbs, roots, and barks for the treatment of disease and casting of spells. Also—rootworker.

Rootwork—Magico-herbalism; also called hoodoo.

Santeria—A unique hybrid of Western and non-Western rituals, ceremonies, prayers, and invocations primarily practiced in South America.

Scrying—Gazing at an object such as a flame, water, crystal ball, or mirror to see into different worlds and times.

Shamanism—A type of healing practiced by a variety of groups that combines herbalism and natural medicines with deep spirituality. Shamen sometimes use trance induced by drugs such as peyote; are often adept at shapeshifting.

Spirit Box—A box that will serve to house a spirit of the dead.

Spirit Pot—A specially prepared cast iron cauldron that serves to house the spirit of a dead person who has agreed to serve as working spirit for its owner.

Sticking—Sticking a poppet or other object such as a candle is used to insert intent and energy into the subject.

Ti Bon Ange—In New Orleans Voodoo tradition it is regarded as part of the Voodooist’s personality. Similar to the conscious will.

Toby—Another name for a mojo.

Traiteur—A man or woman who has the power to heal using prayer and the laying of hands. Many are knowledgeable in the use of herbs for healing. Some may also read cards or have some knowledge of spell casting.

Trick—The name for a spell in traditional hoodoo.

Uncrossing—Works that reverse a crossing (hex).

Vévé —Drawing made with cornstarch on the earth or floor to invoke the spirit of gods or goddesses in Haitian Vodou; intricate symbol of a loa, used in rituals.

Voodoo—The American spelling used to differentiate New Orleans Voodoo from Orthodox Haitian Vodou. Latin American and Caribbean ways of working with the spirit world, a blend of West African and Catholic Christian teachings.

Voodooienne—A female practitioner of New Orleans Voodoo.

Voodooist—A male practitioner of New Orleans Voodoo.

Vodou—The traditional Haitian spelling for the religion of Orthodox Haitian Vodou.

Vodouisant—A practitioner or initiate of Orthodox Haitian Vodou.

Zombie—A dead person that has been revived after having been buried.  After resurrection, the zombie remains in the control of others, having no will of their own.  In truth, a zombie is a living person who has never died; it is a person who is under the influence of powerful drugs administered by an evil sorcerer.