Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Conjure Cookbook: Its History of Creation

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.


  1. Have you ever found recipes geared towards same sex love? Or even herbal ingredients lists that address this? I also enjoy your other blog, Hoodoo Review, and am sad to see that a few of products that had a favorable review are no longer available. Also, I don't follow the blogs using Google, but I do subscribe to the feed.

  2. Hey, She-Wolf : --
    I don't usually bother with same-sex geared recipes because they're unnecessary -- that is, the love formulas are all the same regardless of the sexual orientation of the users. Mixtures like Come To Me and Love Me and Stay With Me and so on are all used by anyone for anyone. Mixtures like Follow Me Boy or Follow Me Girl, are for effecting a specific gender but it doesn't matter if the user is a different sex or not. There's a certain movement that considers lavender an auspicious love herb for same sex love formulas, but it's used just the same for traditional love formulas as well. Same sex couples just need to change the genders of the figural candles and tools of that type, but the formulas are all the same for gay love as for straight love.

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  4. I am familiar with your mentioned "fellow," and I personally felt her to be exceptionally unpleasant as well. I'll keep my real sentiments to her to myself, but she's quite an ass, and she insulted me too. I'm very familiar with your work, I've seen many, many of your posts both on the forums of a certain company or two, as well as Blogger(and I read Hoodoo Review too, though I am not a subscriber as of this very moment), and I do find you to be very enlighted. I actually have used Hoodoo Review as a reference to certain pre-made items. The fact of the matter is that it doesn't matter if you use the same "vocabulary words" or the exact same ingredients in your spells, what matters is that they work. I also "deviate" from "traditional" systems and formulas, and my stuff always gets the job done. I also practice ethnic magic forms (I'm primarily American Indian, with "spice" thrown in) and I use a lot of our traditional formats. As you know, the "hoodoo" that is being taught by what's-her-name has "roots" (pun intended) in our (American Indian) formulations as well. I've actually seen that woman be a complete jerk to paying customers on her own posting board, and she lost me as a customer on the very first try just by submitting me to some of her nonsense on one of my personal pages. Apparently, my skin isn't dark enough for her to know I'm a genuine Indian, despite the fact that I have truely Native facial features and my mother is darker than brown sugar. I told her off and cancelled the order. To be clear, I've been making my own formulas my entire life, but was curious about pre-made stuff. Needless to say, I learned my lesson. I am greatly saddened for you that you had to deal with what she put you through. Frankly, she isn't the "cat's meow" herself, and I can see where She "stole" from others in her own publications. If you don't know what I'm talking about, scroll down some of the books she sells on her own site and then compare the insides of those works to her "own" publication. Additionally, I actually own the book she wrote (I bought it before she insulted me), and it is in a HORRIBLE state of chaos to begin with. Supposedly, she has worked as an editor in the past, but I question what kind of quality her work was, judging from the product she's put out. There are more than a few typos, and it lacks proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation in more than a few places. Additionally, I found her book to be lacking a lot of information as well, and she absolutely failed to include her citations for the stuff she "borrowed." I salute you for your calm demeanor and your honesty in both your dealings with her (it took courage to write about that encounter), and in your Hoodoo Review. I have checked on several on the products you reviewed personally, and more times than not, I've found the reviews to be sound. I have, as of last summer, tried several products, including the Indio lines, and can say that you were fair about the ones you reviewed. Thank you for providing a valuable service to the community at large.

  5. I had always wondered about that myself (why must I add another ingredient for the spell to be gay-oriented, isn't it enough that my purpose and conviction is for someone who is ultimately a person), but as I am new to Hoodoo, I didn't want to mess with something if it really is that traditional. This gives me some things to ponder about. Thank you.


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