Monday, January 14, 2013

Stregoneria and Hoodoo

Ciao a tutti,

I think that it's important to never stop learning.  That's one of the reasons that I've (lately) been looking into Hoodoo practices.

Wikipedia says:
"Hoodoo, also known as conjure, is a form of predominantly African-American traditional folk magic that developed from the syncretism of a number of separate cultures and magical traditions. It incorporates practices from African and Native American traditions, as well as some European magical practices and grimoires. While folk practices like hoodoo are trans-cultural phenomena, what is particularly innovative in this tradition is the "remarkably efficacious use of biblical figures" in its practices and in the lives of its practitioners."

When I started to look closely at the *structure* of the magical practices and operations of Hoodoo, I noticed a startling similarity to the structure and practices of Stregoneria (witchcraft as a system(s) of magical practice(s) derived from Italic cultures).  I suppose that it should have come as a surprise that there appear to be so many similarities.  Many of the American-Italic immigrant practices of folk-magic also use the saints and other cultural icons to add flavor and oomph to their magic.

Another quote regarding Hoodoo from Wikipedia is:
"The goal of hoodoo is to allow people access to supernatural forces to improve their daily lives by gaining power in many areas of life, including luck, money, love, divination, revenge, health, employment, and necromancy. As in many other religious, magical, and medical folk practices, extensive use is made of herbs, minerals, parts of animals' bodies, an individual's possessions, and bodily fluids, especially menstrual blood, urine and semen. Contact with ancestors or other spirits of the dead is an important practice within the conjure tradition, and the recitation of Psalms from the Bible is also considered magically effective in hoodoo. Due to hoodoo's great emphasis on an individual's magical power, its basic principles of working are generally felt to be easily adapted for use, based on one's desires, inclinations and habits."

I normally refer to Stregheria being the *Pagan, religious* practice of Witchcraft and magic derived from the Italic cultures while Stregoneria as witchcraft as a system(s) of magical practice(s) derived from Italic cultures.  In a way, Stregoneria can almost be seen as the "Hoodoo of the Mediterranean".

I'm no expert on Hoodoo but it seems that it is predominantly structured with a very heavy gloss of Christianity.  Stregoneria also shares this trait.  The closer I look at these practices, the easier it is to see the "Pagan view" just below the surface.  Many of these practices would seem effective no matter what gloss is overlaid on the magical procedure(s). Culturally, that has been Christianity - partially just because that's the way it is. Partially because the predominent cultural view in this country is some version of Christianity so "clients" are more at ease with magic and the supernatural when coated with glamour with which they are familiar.

I've met a number of Hoodoo practitioners for whom the "gloss" of Christianity is intregal to their worldview. I've also met some who feel that the gloss is just that and is primarily for the clients peace of mind while the practitioners themselves may have very different religious or spiritual outlooks that has nothing to do with Christianity. It's something that I hope to look closer into.

Do you have any personal experience or training in Hoodoo?  If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  I think that paths of Hoodoo and Stregoneria have some amazing similarities.




  1. Ciao Vincenzo,

    La Stregoneria Italiana non può essere paragonata all'hoodoo oltre che per un fattostorico, anche per via dei contenuti.La Stregoneria italiana non è strutturata attorno a un pantheon come lo è il voodoo essendo un'eco di culti africani in cui si lavora con Orixà e Santi Cristiani. La Stregoneria Italiana non ha un panteon e nemmeno è legata al cristianesimo cattolico, in quanto questa religione condanna le pratiche di stregoneria. Non confondiamo le “Segnature” delle guaritrici di campagna con la Stregoneria.La Stregoneria Italiana è un tema complesso a partire dalla denominazione stessa della parola stregoneria che non ha nulla di cristiano o sincretico.

    Invito a documentarsi su fonti più attendibili di wikipedia e a non diffondere informazioni inverosimili su tradizioni secolari italiane ponendo sullo stesso piano due realtà profondamente diverse sotto diversi punti: epoche, geografia, popoli, storie nazioni e punti di vista spirituali.

    1. Ciao Jule,

      Thanks for commenting on the post. I think that perhaps there is a language barrier. Hoodoo and Voodoo are not the same thing. They are very different. Hoodoo is an American system of magical practices rooted in a syncretic blend of folklore and folk magic often cloaked in a veneer of Christianity but often can be practiced without regard to religion (or pantheon). On the other hand, "American" Voodoo is comprised of the spiritual folkways and religious practices that developed from the traditions of the African diaspora. There are many different streams of Voodoo/Vodou each with a different emphasis on pantheon, practices, and beliefs (as seen from outsiders).

      Witchcraft/stregoneria, or whichever word you choose to use, is seen VERY differently depending on the content - time, culture, dominant religion, etc. There is historical witchcraft, anthropological witchcraft, modern witchcraft, religious witchcraft (pagan), folk magic based witchcraft, diabolism (Christian), and so many more. It's very important when entering a discussion to make sure that there is a common language or accepted definition of the terms being used.

      Italy is considered a Christian nation which accounts for how the word is negatively used among the general population. Here, in the USA, the word was used in a negative way by the bulk of the populace until recently (50 - 60 years or so) but that has been changing. If you define witchcraft by practice and by some identifying characteristics, you find some very interesting things happen. I believe that, for the most part, the word "stregheria" is not used commonly in Italy in the same way as "witchcraft" is used in the USA or England. Italy has a wealth of terms for magical practitioners (even if heavily Christianized) whereas the USA/England has relatively few. Unlike Italy, that means that we use one word (witchcraft/stregoneria) to refer to multiple things, often defined via context. Again, this means that context is key.

      What we may classify (by practices) as witchcaft (from our perspective) is not the same that a native Italian would classify using that word. They might call the practices by an entirely different name and avoid using "stregoneria" because of the negative Christian connotation. However, we are often still talking about the same related things, just under a different name. A good place to look for how we (modern practitioners in the USA) often use the term is this site: It is an excellent resource.

      When I lived in Sicily, I met several native "practitioners". They didn't even agree among themselves as to what stregheria or stregoneria meant (either historically or modern), whether their practice was pagan religious, cultic sorcery, Christian gloss folk magic, etc. And you know what? That's fine. There is no "one true" definition of witchcraft but by having open and honest discussions, we can come closer to finding out the similarities and difference for how various people (and cultures) view it.

      Normally, I dislike referencing Wikipedia but sometimes it is the quickest for general information. I prefer primary sources when possible.