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Book Review: Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones
Hoodoo, Mojo & Conjuring with herbs

bookcover.jpg (41K)By Stephanie Rose Bird
ISBN 0-7387-0275-7
288 pages, including extensive index, bibliography, glossary and appendices
Released: June 2004

I welcome Stephanie Rose Bird's contribution to the herbal literature. Her contribution stands well apart from most works already on the market, not least due to her primary focus on the magical herbal traditions of African American origin known as Hoodoo. There are hardly any books available on this subject, neither as scholarly ethnobotanical works, nor as popular how-to literature. Stephanie Rose Bird's approach is refreshing - it is not a scholarly work, yet it is well researched. The true well of knowledge though from which this work is born is her own intimate knowledge of her traditions. She manages to explain many of the concepts of herbal magic in clear, down to earth terminology that is neither abstract nor wishy washy. As such she has written a book that has the user in mind. It is full of practical advice and suggestions as well as recipes.

Hoodoo, the herbal magic laid out in this work is a truly 'American Tradition' in the sense that it incorporates elements from various traditions and acknowledges the flow of knowledge between different ethnic groups, especially those that have become divorced from their home land. Hoodoo, although it contains elements of African folk magic, is a hybrid that has adapted old traditions to a new land with different plants. But, that being said, cultural traditions are only alive as long as their practitioners manage to adapt them to the changing circumstances of life - that is what makes them living traditions. Those practices that nobody any longer understands become dead, meaningless rituals.

This is a book that deals with African American herbal folk magic, which concerns itself with the problems of every day life: love, health, happiness, prosperity, grief, rites of passage, spiritual cleansing and protection. It also offers explainations for some spiritual concepts, gods and paraphernalia such as 'the bag of tricks' and 'Mojos' that are unique to the African American tradition. I also welcome the fact that she suggests alternatives to killing animals for making talismen and such, and also draws attention to the concern of endangered plant species.

Considering the number of books available on other American traditions e.g. Native American or Mexican American, this book has long been overdue and I am glad it is finally here. Although it will more than likely be grouped with the cookbook style pagan/magical herbals on the shelves of book sellers, this book actually stands well above them and distinguishes itself by its thorough research and down-to-earth practical approach and language.

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Please note that although all the references to edible and medicinal herbs are tried and tested, their efficacy cannot be guaranteed and has not been approved by the FDA. Furthermore, everybody responds differently to various plants, and adverse reactions cannot be ruled out. Historical information regarding poisonous plants is included for educational purposes only and should not be tried out at home. Everybody uses herbs at their own risk and thus must make themselves fully aware of their potential power. Any information given here is educational and should not replace a visit to the doctor should this be necessary. Neither Sacred Earth nor Kat Morgenstern accepts responsibility for anybody's home experimentation. Links to external sites are included as pointers to further resources - we do not endorse them or are in any way responsible for their content, nor do we thus verify that their content is accurate.