Friday, March 13, 2009

Sachet Powders in Hoodoo

As those who frequent my other project, The Hoodoo Review might notice, I don't use a lot of commercially made magical powders. Frankly, it is usually cheaper and often easier to just grind up my own herbs or else multitask a bit of incense powder for the purpose.

However, in cases where one needs to influence another person, and has access to them, I have discovered powder to be the best mode of working on them. If all you're able to do is long-distance work, stick with candles and incense; but if you are working on someone you can visit in person, or at least access their personal effects or their home or work, this is where powder becomes a value. It can be deployed in various ways: sprinkle the floors, drop a bit in the corners of the building, blow it around the room, and so on. It has been my own experience that putting it on something they will touch is the strongest method to work this.

Why should an identical oil formula not work just as well for this? Well, it's a good question. My guess is that it's because oil is sticky and tends to stay put, whereas powders can get all the hell over everything. A teaspoon of powder has thousands of particles, able to float about, be inhaled, collect on surfaces. A teaspoon of oil just makes a big grease spot. It can also be harder to use oils secretly -- you might be able to dust a resume and blame any residue as being toner from the printer. If you turn it in with big oily spots on each of the corners, however, that's harder to pass off as not being deliberate. If people suspect you are up to something, they sometimes fight the influence a bit harder.

Another benefit of powders is that they have the power to enhance candle or incense spells. I never had anyone tell me this, yet I've observed several others also figured out this trick: when you write up your name-paper or wish-paper and set it under your candlestick or incense burner, dusting the paper with some complimentary powder or else just making a circle of powder around the burner really seems to add some oomph to the spells. Make of this knowledge what you will.

Sachet powders are less popular nowadays than magical oils, but the opposite was once true. In older hoodoo spells it is usually much more common to see powders used to work powerful magic.

One reason for this is that essential oils and fragrance oils used for making oils did not used to be so common and available as they are now -- especially amongst the lower classes. In the 18th and early 19th century such items appear to be unknown in hoodoo. Powders, meanwhile, are simply made from pounding dry herbs down to dust in a mortar and pestle. These herbs could traditionally even be wild gathered (i.e. had free of charge by the practitioner who knew where to look) and so were much more popular amongst slaves and poor blacks of the antebellum.

Modern style sachets are meant to be appropriate to use as a body dusting powder and are usually cut with talc or starch. While this has become an element of the tradition for how they are now used -- raw herbs cannot be dusted on the body in this same way without leaving telltale smudges -- it is a newer development, apparently coming about in the 20th century as commercial perfumes and beauty products started to be incorporated into hoodoo practice. Older style powders were usually just sprinkled in designated locations or fed to the targeted person, and contained no fillers.

I love my new style hoodoo body powders, but it's always good to know the history of these things!

Though nowadays dwindling in popularity next to hoodoo condition oils, so-called "sachet powders" remain an important part of traditional hoodoo style magical practice. 

The name likely evolved from the early 20th century mail-order catalogue era, when companies selling occult supplies had to be careful not to make claims about their products (regardless how traditional or effective they were) containing or producing any supernatural qualities; doing so would put the owners at risk of prosecution for postal fraud and false advertising under the laws of the day. Sachet bags had historically been little pouches filled with powdered herbs, which were used to scent clothing and linens (back in the days before dry cleaning and scented laundry soap existed.) An occultist could claim that his or her herbal powder blends were simply meant to be used as "sachet powders" for perfumery, and that names like "Come To Me" or "Essence of Bend Over" were only meaningless brand names for the fragrance blends, thereby skirting the law.

Powder blends go a long ways back, predating the use of anointing oils in the tradition that would come to be known as hoodoo. The Petit Albert (circa 17th century) describes sprinkling and blowing powders on people for magical for gaining mental or physical control of them, and the black slave Henry Bibb likewise was told by a conjureman in the early 19th century to sprinkle powder on his Master to gain influence over him.

Beyond dusting people with powders to control them, by the 20th century there are accounts of burying powders on property to affect some influence over the property or those who dwell inside. The Black Cat Protection spell is a working of this type, collected from an old-time informant.

(updated 5/28/16 to merge sachet powder articles)


Many spells or casters advise sprinkling a pinch of salt, or sometimes herbs or appropriate powders, in the corners of the house/room where the spell is being done. For example, were I casting an Attraction spell, I might sprinkle a pinch of Attraction powder in each corner. For a harmful spell, I could put some salt in the corners to protect myself from cross-contamination. In a Money House Blessing, some Money House Blessing in each corner would assuredly be beneficial.

I'll admit, many of my most successful spells included this step -- but that is not to say all spells where I did not perform this were failures. Additionally, I've never noted any particular luck in spells where the entirety of the spell is to just sprinkle the corners. This seems to work best as an assistance to a fuller spell.

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