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Historically, most practitioners of hoodoo have been African Americans, but there have been some notable white root doctors (as they are sometimes called). Latinos and Native Americans have also been practitioners. The origins of hoodoo are thought to begin with the African slaves, particularly in the American southeast, and historically, its existence has been documented in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Today hoodoo practitioners, like African Americans, can be found in destinations of the Great Migration, including major cities of the west coast and the northeast.
Unlike formal religions, hoodoo does not have a structured hierarchy. It also does not have an established theology, clergy, laity, or order of liturgical services of its own. Instead, practitioners are often lay people within a community who possess specific knowledge of magic and hoodoo tradition. A traditional hoodoo doctor was often a nomadic sort who traveled from town to town peddling his services, but many also set up shop in their communities. Hoodoo is not reserved solely for the specialist. Many of the spells and practices are within the realm of “folk remedies” and are well known in some African-American and/or Southern socio-cultural contexts. Hoodoo and Voodoo are often mistaken for one another. Some believe that the terms may have a common etymology. Simply put, Voodoo is a religion, whereas Hoodoo is a group of magical practices.
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 folk religious, magical, and medical 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 also an important practice.
Hoodoo doctors have a number of abilities available to them and hoodoo spells are chosen in the same fashion as normal Vim abilities, except that hoodoo spells are only available to characters who have selected the ‘Hoodoo Doctor’ perk. In the same way that Vim determines the number of special abilities a character may choose, Vim determines how many hoodoo spells a character may know at any point in time (divide Vim rating by 5, rounded down). New spells are gained just as new Vim abilities are gained, during level-up. Hoodoo doctors may know any number of rituals, which are written down in their grimoires. Any number of Mojo bags may be created, provided the practitioner has the Vim available to create them, although each bag created comes with a temporary loss of Vim that reduces their ability to perform rituals or spells.
These are books of magic or tomes of knowledge that contain all that the hoodoo doctor has learned about the ways of magic. Practitioners record the ingredients and incantations required to perform their rituals, as well as their rootwork recipes that they use to make potions. If a character ever loses their grimoire, they lose access to all rituals and recipes they have recorded therein, although they may still perform spells since they have largely memorized these incantations. If a character comes across another’s grimoire, they may transfer over rituals and potions from that grimoire into their own, but transcribing those will require a Lore:Magic skill roll (difficulty determined by GM).
Although an actual list of ingredients used by hoodoo magicians and rootworkers could fill up an entire book, for the purposes of gameplay, characters will simply carry ounces (oz) of ingredients. Rituals and potions will require a number of ounces of ingredients and as long as a character has that many ounces in their inventory, they can perform the magic. This will streamline the process a little and keep the GM or players from having to remember what every little ingredient is good for.
Hoodoo practitioners primary method for performing magic is through the use of rituals, however rituals require a fair investment of time, ingredients, and some Vim as well. Rituals cannot be performed in the middle of combat and the practitioner needs to have a fairly quiet, spacious area in which to perform. All characters with the ‘Hoodoo Doctor’ perk begin with the ‘Create Mojo bag’ ritual, but must buy or find any others that they want. To transcribe a new ritual into their grimoire, a character must make a Lore: Magic skill roll (difficulty determined by GM).
Mojo bags are small bags that are made by hoodoo doctors and act as charms for themselves and/or others, although they may also be tied to a place as well. Mojo bags made for an individual are usually carried on the person, always out of sight. They are very rarely worn on a string around the neck and are much more commonly pinned to the clothes below the waist or carried in a pants pocket. Mojo bags intended to purify or protect a location are generally placed near the door, hidden in such a way that they cannot be seen by strangers. These magical charms generally provide some kind of benefit for the wearer, although some mischievous hoodoo doctors may attach curses to the bags. No matter the function of the mojo bag, the magic contained within only lasts for a single day, after which the bag becomes worthless. The contents of the bags themselves are made up of a variety of scribbled incantations, animal parts, insects, roots & herbs. Although traditionally these bags were made of red flannel, modern day materials have been successfully used as well, such as plastic baggies, paper bags, or even envelopes.
Whenever a hoodoo doctor creates a mojo bag, they must temporarily give up a portion of their personal magic to bind and empower the contents of the bag. The Vim spent by the practitioner during creation of the mojo bag is unavailable to them for a full day until the magic is used up. Alternatively, if the contents of the bag are emptied out, the magic binding is broken and the practitioner again has access to that Vim again, although they will still have to regain that Vim in the regular ways.
Spells are quick incantations that hoodoo doctors may chant to affect some sort of magical phenomena. Spells rarely have any sort of physical component and may be performed in the midst of a stressful situation like combat. The volume that the speaker chants the incantation does not matter, whether said as a whisper or shouted, as long as it is said aloud, the spell begins to take affect.
Another facet of a hoodoo doctor’s magic is their rootwork. By using recipes and mixing together various ingredients, practitioners are able to concoct potions that can have a variety of effects that can be ingested or poured on (depending on the potion/situation). However, just as with mojo bags, the hoodoo mage must infuse these potions with a portion of their own magic for them to work. While the Vim investment isn’t as great as with mojo bags, after awhile if the character creates too many potions, they’ll find their ability to cast spells and perform rituals hampered. Unlike mojo bags, rootwork potions last a bit longer and are usually good for up to a month. Potions last until the contents have been consumed, applied, or emptied. Each use of a potion uses up the entire potion, characters cannot drink half now and half later. When a potion has been used up the hoodoo doctor again has access to those Vim points again, but must regain that Vim in the regular ways.
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