Thursday, January 14, 2010

On Goona Goona

GOONA GOONA: Creates an atmosphere of trust and understanding when used in troubled situations. Apply to the body as a perfume to reduce tension when dealing with difficult people.
In the home, rub on table legs, arms of chairs, or bottoms of plates to create a calm and confident environment.

So says Anna Riva in Golden Secrets of Mystic Oils. This usage is echoed in other sources too, such as Supermarket Sorceress, and the Magickal Formulary. Okay, sure why not? Both Supermarket Sorceress and Magickal Formulary give recipes, which are respectively:

Recipe A.

Recipe B.
Orange (?) (Slater sometimes includes the dye color, but not always -- makes it hard to tell if he means orange dye or orange fruit.)

Rose and nutmeg seem to be the common ingredients, as can be seen. Rose, okay -- but why nutmeg? Even when you go by the planetary association it doesn't make a lot of sense. Nutmeg is much more a money ingredient than a love ingredient. And there are no obvious ingredients in either recipe that seem they should especially create an air of "trust and understanding."

The fact is, having done some research on this matter, I am of the opinion that the description for Goona Goona's usage is wrong in all of these sources. Why? Well, let's start from the top.

Our story begins in 1929. Armand Denis, a sort of real-life Carl Denham, goes to Bali to film footage of exotic peoples and their topless women, and ties it together with a staged love story. The resulting film is titled Goona Goona, or; Love Powder (the name varied depending on the market.) The film did well -- "Goona Goona" became an industry term for trashy exploitation pictures, and it also entered the popular slang as a term for (more or less) "sex appeal." Take the following example, circa 1935:

Gypsy Rose Lee (pronounced: Goona Goona) is so wealthy she can retire.

The actual term goona goona appears to be the Balinese word for magic in general, and is sometimes used synonymously with voodoo in certain cases. Its popular meaning, however, was modeled on the famous movie and it took on a specific connotation relating to love and sex. We can assume Goona Goona powder first appeared on the US occult market around this period of the 1930s. But who, knowing the term from this slang or from this film, would buy such a powder with the expectation that it would "create a calm and confident environment"? Would anyone nowadays purchase a formula called "Sexy" thinking it should be used for trust and understanding?

Ah, no, my dear readers. Goona Goona is no soothing brew for tranquil love. This is a lust mixture! Its use would have been akin to Flame of Desire or Look Me Over formulas. The confusion seems to arise from practitioners back in the early/mid 20th century, when sex wasn't habitually discussed openly, employing euphemisms like "getting along" to mean sex. While I don't have any authentic 1930s recipes for Goona Goona, I can tell you this about approaching it as a lust formula: it explains that nutmeg. According to Egyptian Witchcraft, nutmeg is "used for all kinds of love alchemy, especially for potions and magic spells which elicit love and sexual desire." It's a spicy, passion-bringing ingredient. While personally I'd probably prefer cinnamon or cardamom in its place for a love powder, nutmeg makes even less sense as an ingredient to promote understanding and trust, unless that's supposed to be some kind of Victorian euphemism for 'fucking.' In fact, Alchemy Works reports an old Creole spell to make a woman "crazy with love" by sprinkling nutmeg in her shoe at midnight.

Assuming that Slater and Rosean both had some idea of what they were talking about when they reported their formulas (though I confess, I see potential that one may have been copying after the other's lead) its intention as a lust powder is certain. There are, admittedly, spells and formulas that evolve over time -- precipitado went from a mercury extract to a mixture of gunpowder and chile, Water of Notre Dame changed from arnica tincture to white rose water -- but, Goona Goona appears to have at least formulaically retained its original intent even if its descriptions are usually given inaccurately. Slater seems, as far as I can tell, to be the earliest person to report the "trust and understanding" usage. Since he's the same guy that says Yula oil is for death hexes and jalap powder is made out of galangal powder, we can safely consider him to be unreliable in this.

If your goal is trust and understanding, I'd propose an alternate formula -- perhaps some kind of lavender-plumeria blend. But if you're looking for a sexy time, use Goona Goona.

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