I was recently having a less than lovely conversation with a certain fellow practitioner of hoodoo, who seemed to view me merely as some kind of maliciously deliberate competition, and thus she wasn't the most charming of people to speak with. Among other things, she was griping on and on about my Conjure Cookbook. Making some lemonade of this lemon, it has inspired me to give this brief history of the book's composition.
When I was a new person to magic -- having fallen into it by a weird accident of timing and irrelevant search engine results -- I wanted to make my own formulas from the start. Similar to how I usually prefer knowing how to cook than to going to restaurants, and prefer making my own beauty products to buying them, I wanted to make them. And even back then, when I knew nothing about how to make a good magic formula, I'd still try to make them, from all kinds of stupid ingredients that I'd be embarrassed by these days. Thing was, I never had any inclination to buy a formula if I really just wanted to make it: and the friends I was making in the magical world tended to be of a like mind. The ones who wanted to buy would buy without hesitation; but the ones who wanted to make would put off and put off until they could learn to make.
After a few years of trying to learn more about recipes, and keeping that Hoodoo Review blog that's become absurdly popular (with its fifteen followers! Woo!) I was starting to figure out what was good and bad in mixtures. I was also becoming quite aware that most recipes one would find were all from the single source of The Magickal Formulary by Herman Slater.
After one evening of being on a magic forum and trying to swap a recipe with someone who seemed to be very knowledgable and have a good traditional background in magic and creating formulas, sharing with her one of my own finest creations as a swap for one of her recipes -- and being ultimately disappointed when the recipe she gave in return was another of those Magickal Formulary recipes -- I decided I could probably write a better book. And I concluded that there was need for one, because that Magickal Formulary really did seem at the time to be the only hoodoo-centered book of formulas out there, which was why everyone was using it.
So, imitating the structure of the good but very Wiccan/Neopagan work by Scott Cunningham, The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews (it lies, it's not complete because it omits all harmful or dominating formulas; and it even mentions Slater's book and chides him for including them, meaning it acknowledges that they do exist) I began The Conjure Cookbook. It was all done in about three very intense weeks in which I had little time to sleep or bathe, but it's the sort of project where I'd get too bored with it if I let it drag on for weeks so I had to do it fast while the muse was with me. I had years of collected notes and sources already, it was just a matter of putting them into something useful. Some came from websites, some invented, some from other books, and some were technically from other books but I had repurposed them to be hoodoo (this is to say -- in a move that I understand is not untraditional -- I would sometimes find a recipe for a medicine or a perfume or something that was not inherently meant to be magical, but it had the right sort of ingredients in it. So I'd call that "Follow Me Boy" or whatever, even if it had started as "Eau de Pucelles." Evidently pharmacists would do this all the time in the old drugstore days.)
Our unpleasant conversationalist whom I mentioned above, seemed to suggest she thought I had intentionally stolen the name from another publication called something like The Conjure Cookery or something like that -- I'd never heard of it before she mentioned it. In fact, I chose the title Conjure Cookbook simply because I've found that alliteration is my friend. The Saxons new the value of this; their poems were all alliterative. Publishers know the value of this; Jane Austen did not change the name of her book First Impressions into Pride and Prejudice without reason; alliteration makes things sound catchy and catchy catches attention and that means sales. I had already observed as much with my blogs as well -- any blog I've made that didn't have an alliterated title seemed to ultimately fail ("Hoodoo Review" for those who wonder, is an internal alliteration.) Conjure Cookbook won out over other titles like "Making Magic" and "Finest Formulas" that I'd considered using, because it was the most descriptive.
I then arranged a bunch of oils and things on a tabletop, snapped some photos, then ran them through a few Photoshop filters and voila -- a cover! I was trying to make it look like the kind of art I had seen around New Orleans when I'd gone there, so I used bright colors and the polygonal lasso tool. The original picture, undoctored, is at left.
And so it was done. Conjure Cookbook is my best seller and probably my most useful book (and maybe it's one because it's the other.) In one of the reviews on Amazon, someone speculates that I left out quantities in a deliberate effort to protect the "secrecy" of the recipes. Obviously, any recipe I was able to get my hands on in the first place wasn't all that secret -- but the notion of keeping good information secret just seems stupid to me anyway. It was my frustration with secrecy that motivated the book's whole creation. Down with secrecy! Information's no good if it's just in your head.
And so Conjure Cookbook came to be, to fill that little need I saw in the world.