Intersections of Scholastic Image Magic and Hoodoo
There are only the most circumstantial and speculative historical connections between Scholastic Image Magic and African-American Conjure, or Hoodoo, yet I have seldom seen two very different traditions create such amazing synergy when properly combined.
The most frequent implementations of this synergy I have used are the feeding of SIM talismans with Hoodoo condition oils in a manner similar to feeding mojo bags, the magnification of the power of Hoodoo oils, powders, baths and natural curios by placing them temporarily in the proximity of compatible SIM talismans, and the creation of Hoodoo formulae and mojos which incorporate astrological talismans.
To me, these are fairly straightforward combinations which make a lot of sense in the context of Al Kindi’s theory of stellar and terrestrial rays, and the odd fusions of celestial and natural magics which appear in the writings of Cornelius Agrippa.
But going beyond relatively fundamental research into further optimization of these hybrids is what I have begun to explore. These explorations include the usage of magical fragrances on the body as supplementation for suffumigations used in astral petitions which appear in Picatrix, and the selection of fragrances to extend and maximize the potency of SIM talismans one may wear or carry.
Planetary Flavors and Odors
Picatrix advises preparing for a planetary petition or talisman by consuming foods associated with that planetary hierarchy for as long as is manageable prior to the ritual. One manner of doing this in the case of Venus is by eating the animals of that planet such as goat, rabbit, deer or veal calf. Another is by using sweet and savory sauces. By consuming things that resonate with a particular planetary hierarchy, one harmonizes with it and, in a sense, one’s body gradually becomes similarly composed.
This process can be enhanced by using fragrances compatible with the planetary hierarchy in question, either by association through the incenses used in the suffumigation of the planet, like frankincense essential oil in place of frankincense grains for Solar rites, or the sensory similarity between the scent and the associated flavors, thus an intensely sweet and grass-spicy blend of scents for Venus.
For example, as William Lilly says of Venus:
In Savours she delightes in that which is pleasant and toothsome; usually in moyst and sweet, or what is very delectable; in smels what is unctious and Aromatical, and incites to wantonnesse.
Scent is associated with the Air Element and will help the magician both receive and project planetary power of the associated type. Suffumigations, and thus scents of all kinds, are a foundational pillar of SIM. The complexity and potential for their ritual usage is almost inexhaustible, as the many recipes for such in Picatrix reveal.
This can be complicated by the fact that Hoodoo formulae have specific associations with olfactory signatures as well as sets of herbs and curios in the bottles. Hoodoo condition oil formulas have their own grammar and poetry, combining the meaning of scents and curios to produce unique variations of effect. It is my belief that the roots and curios produce terrestrial rays which are projected into the fragrances and impregnate them with signatures. When utilized, the Air element carries the scent and the signature of the curios into the wider universe to cause change.
When combining planetary work with Hoodoo, one can find some marvelous Hoodoo formulae which are entirely compatible with planetary work. For example, Commanding Oil and many of its cousins have strong Solar associations by scent, by function, by label imagery, and by curio. Placing a bottle of this near Solar talismans and then anointing yourself with it will not only give you a regal bearing that will accrue respect, but also make spirits of the Solar hierarchy find affinity with you and enhance the power of any Solar talismans you may be wearing.
Coherence Is Power
It is not an uncommon practice to use more than one Hoodoo fragrance at once. I use at least three daily: for protection, for prosperity, and for love or authority. Some Hoodoo products can be used for numerous purposes, like Van Van Oil and Fast Luck.
This can create problems with regard to planetary work.
When working in SIM styles of planetary magic, one needs to utilize objects or contexts where the particular planet or star’s rays can fully permeate and ensoul an object, person, situation or even idea. Much like X-rays pass through flesh with ease, bone more difficultly, and metallic lead hardly at all, everything has a different capacity to receive or absorb animating power from one or more stellar hierarchies. Gold receives the rays of the Sun and Saturn very well, and Mars poorly. A soldier receives the rays of Mars well, the Sun moderately, and the Moon and Jupiter poorly. An idea for a novel receives the rays of Mercury and the Moon well, and Mars and Saturn poorly.
This concept of “reception” permeates Picatrix’s theoretical discourses and causes confusion because the same term in English is used to describe certain planetary configurations. Reception is often understood to be (at least partially) a function of elemental qualities; so that things which fall under the power of the Sun have some affinity with those of Mars because both are hot and dry, and less so with the Moon which is cold and wet. Reception is a concept which replaces correspondence, so that every material or situation can become a vehicle for (or storage for) spiritual power, but to extremely variable degrees based on what flavor of celestial power is being utilized. It’s hardly ever a 1:1 association; that notion was borrowed somewhat sloppily from alchemy, which functions quite differently.
Another bottleneck on reception is whether any particular thing is a combination of two or more components together, and whether each fall under the same or differing celestial hierarchies. The more pure a specific planet’s associations are in any particular context, the stronger its hold over things in our world.
When planetary forces are mixed up too much, the power becomes muted and suppressed. It is the exact opposite of the notion of hybrid vigor. It is why magicians have done rituals to planets using consistent associations. The reason we don’t dress in blood red for Mars, use a Venereal incense, wear a brass crown of the mind for Mercury and black snakeskin boots for Saturn during a ritual to Jupiter and thereby gain the benefits of five planets rather than one is that this doesn’t work at all. It’s like riding a chariot with the horses running in completely different directions; you go nowhere fast.
When planetary forces are coherent and particularly pure, they have a greater ability to express themselves, much like a planet on the cusp of an Angular Mundane House. This is of course independent of Essential Dignity, so having Saturn in Leo expressing itself with maximal freedom is usually a terrible idea. One of the essential goals of celestial magic in SIM is to maximize this purity, or coherency. The effects become concentrated like a laser beam, and vastly more powerful.
This has relevance to the use of fragrances with planetary associations. If you use multiple fragrances, they should all have close associations with the planetary hierarchy you are working with. When you use scents that fall under two or more hierarchies, you will gain the benefits of each, but they will all produce muted results. If you instead use several magical scents that fall under a single planetary hierarchy, each will have greater power. Furthermore, any magics you perform when you have been using scents connected to a consistent singular hierarchy for days will be greatly enhanced.
Scholastic Image Magic is a tradition which cannot exist in modernity without modification. While we practitioners aspire to be maximally Traditional, we all have necessary adaptions and minor heresies. Not many people are following Picatrix’s instructions on how to create an oracular head by waylaying a traveler and pickling their corpse, alchemical oil of feces sounds highly unpalatable, bullock sacrifices are expensive and challenging in an urban environment, and preserved antelope marrow is impossible to find, even on eBay. (I know. I’ve tried.)
Hoodoo has two qualities that make it useful to act as a plaster in the missing spaces where we cannot replicate what medieval and Renaissance men had access to. It is generally quite inexpensive; its most exotic ingredients are even less challenging than obtaining high quality lignum aloes. It is also a very successful adaption of traditional sorceries to the flora and fauna of North America, with reasonably well developed understandings of the signatures and properties of local resources.
But beyond this, magics of various traditions must to some extent exist in the same reality. Perhaps some operate on different planes of existence or operate on different principles rather than simply quirks of history, but there cannot be an infinitude of variants of magic which all function completely independently. Some must be capable of interacting, and interacting in a helpful manner.
I believe SIM and Hoodoo are among the most compatible in their interactions; an elegant collaboration of High Magic and Low Magic which wildly transcends the definitions and limitations of each.