Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On Fast Luck Formula

I had hopes to reserve this article till the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum would write me back with some relevant info I'd inquired for, but given that it apparently took them 6 weeks just to charge my debit card for my $5 entry fee, I'm thinking I'll be waiting quite a while, and will probably forget to even write this presuming that I ever do get my answer (it seemed to confuse them that my inquiries regarding the hoodoo exhibit weren't based on someone writing a university thesis.)

Fast Luck is a popular and old-style hoodoo formula, generally used for any purpose in which one needs luck in a hurry, especially in matters of love or money.

At Extrascentsory Apothecary, Malcolm Mills writes, "I once had four different bottles of commercial versions of Fast Luck oil, none of which smelled even vaguely like the correct recipe. Two of them smelled like cherry, one smelled like baby powder, and the fourth smelled like lemon. Since Fast Luck is a combination of Juniper Berry, Patchouli and Rose, none of these oils was authentic."

Now, the cognoscenti are probably giggling here. For those not in on the joke, the juniper patchouli and rose recipe is another of the well-known fake hoodoo/voodoo recipes written by "Horrible" Herman Slater. Over at Lucky Mojo, there's an article about the recipe for Fast Luck formula in which she discredits the Slater recipe and provides a simple version from Zora Neale Hurston :

Cinnamon
Vanilla
Wintergreen

This is pretty much the version you'll get from virtually anyone who's not trying to use the Slater recipe. Lucky Mojo's blend also contains a couple extra ingredients like pyrite. Yronwode says, "Cinnamon (in powder and chip form) is widely used in African-American folk-magic to draw business and bring money-luck, hence its use as an essential oil makes good sense in this formula. Vanilla appears in numerous formulas for love-luck, so again, one is not surprised to find it in Fast Luck. Wintergreen is an oddity, though -- it has very few magical ascriptions, and it seems to function, in my experience, primarily as a fragrance that mediates and blends the rather contradictory aromas of Cinnamon and Vanilla. In any case, without it, one does not get the characteristic "Fast Luck" smell."

But without it was, indeed, my amazing Pharmacy Museum discovery! I do not know the date on this book of hoodoo recipes which sat open on a shelf behind a locked glass, but it looked pre-1950s at the very latest, and quite possibly was of Victorian origin like most of the museum's displays. This recipe was:

Cinnamon
Lemongrass
Bergamot

Aside from the cinnamon this obviously doesn't resemble the 'standard' recipe much at all! Yet functionally it should serve well: cinnamon for money and love, as described above; lemongrass is a famous multipurpose herb that also would strengthen the properties of cinnamon; and bergamot is the oddity here. It's a commanding-type ingredient, but is sometimes used to help a person control a situation and not just a person, and perhaps that's why it's included. Interestingly, that element links it back to the patchouli used in the Slater, patchouli being another commanding ingredient. Maybe he did base his version off a dodgy tip like Hurston's second recipe, which was plain citronella.

These days it is common for Fast Luck to be colored red, ideally with alkanet. None of the Pharmacy Museum booklet's oil recipes contained coloring instructions at all that I remember (though as an aside, the recipe it had for War Water was colored with cochineal.)

It's also worth mentioning that Hurston cites another recipe for Fast Luck consisting of citronella alone. 

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