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Forbidden Knowledge: To Share or Not to Share, that is the Question

One of the purposes of this blog is to have a space to share some of the more controversial workings and receipts that are found in Hoodoo and New Orleans Voudou but never make it to print because of how controversial they are in the context of modern society. I've been told that we shouldn't publish certain "forbidden knowledge" because there are essentially too many sick muther fluckers out there who will try to replicate the workings. Well, I have a few thoughts about this topic.


typewritten hoodoo spell
The Voodoo's Manner of Getting Rid of a Man, excerpted from Catherine Dillon's Unpublished Voodoo Manuscript, 1939

Forbidden knowledge refers to information, practices, or concepts that are intentionally kept hidden, restricted, or deemed off-limits by certain individuals, institutions, or societies. The designation of knowledge as forbidden can stem from various reasons, including ethical, moral, religious, cultural, or societal considerations. When we refrain from sharing cultural information deemed "forbidden" for fear of what someone might or might not do with the information, it is a form of censorship. That said, I do acknowledge the concerns. There are some cruel workings that involve animals of all kinds, and I am not an advocate of animal abuse. Some works involve the use of blood in questionable ways. The decision to share or withhold certain controversial workings and recipes in Hoodoo and Voudou raises complex considerations, touching on issues of cultural preservation, responsibility, and the potential consequences of disseminating such knowledge. After careful consideration of the potential issues, I narrowed it down to a few primary reasons why it is a good idea to share the information instead of withholding it.


The first reason to share cultural knowledge is to preserve it. Advocates for sharing controversial workings argue that it's essential to preserve the entirety of cultural practices, even those deemed controversial. Restricting certain information may result in an incomplete understanding of the traditions, hindering the preservation of cultural heritage in its entirety. This is important more than ever in today's social climate where the folkways and traditions of the south are being diluted by those who are too many generations removed from the practice to know what it truly looks like apart from the Instagram and TikTok masks. Too many folks lack an adequate education on the subject and the literary landscape is saturated with people writing books who have little firsthand knowledge outside of the internet. And those who do seek information do not know how to think critically about the subject matter and confuse thinking critically with being critical about authors and their works. The issue of thinking critically and being critical is one I plan on addressing in another post at some point.


In addition to cultural preservation, I believe that providing a comprehensive understanding of Hoodoo and New Orleans Voudou, including controversial aspects, empowers individuals to make informed choices. Knowledge is a tool for personal growth, spiritual development, and a deeper connection with cultural roots. Restricting certain workings due to the fear of misuse limits the free exchange of ideas and cultural practices. It raises questions about who gets to decide what information is shared and what is withheld. It is a form of intellectual and cultural hoarding.


Take the bulk of cultural information about Hoodoo, New Orleans Voudou, and conjure that is referenced by academics. For years, the information about Hoodoo has been inaccessible to the everyday person because they couldn't afford to pay for it. Harry Middleton Hyatt's Hoodoo-Conjuration-Witchcraft-Rootwork goes for at least $1000 per volume (of which there are four, available as of the time of this writing for $7444.95), a price that simply puts it out of reach for most. And Catherine Dillon's unpublished Voodoo manuscript is inaccessible because it is unpublished and only available through a library that charges per page, the entire thing costs thousands of dollars. The manuscript is not like a regular academic article or even a popular book, it is a mess of newspaper clippings, and unedited field notes and interviews. The average person with today's attention span would be quite disappointed in what they receive. This is why I have been quietly working on a version of the manuscript that can be published and disseminated for the price of an average book. Admittedly, it will be several books once complete because of all the information it contains. These are long term projects however that will take years of content analysis and editing to complete. In the meantime, I have included some of the information in the books I have written.

Critics who caution against sharing controversial information often cite the risk of misuse, emphasizing that some individuals may lack the discernment or ethical framework to handle such practices responsibly. Concerns about potential harm or negative consequences may lead to a cautious approach in disseminating certain knowledge. Years ago, there was a popular conjure doctor who was videotaping animal sacrifice and animal workings that were cruel and posting them online. He caught a lot of flak for that, his popularity waned, and one never hears about them now. Unfortunately, since that time, it has become more commonplace to post such videos online as a way to gain "street cred" as a conjure worker. Those posting such works ignore the teachings that animal sacrifice is a sacred act and should not be up for public consumption in that way. Some of the other cruel workings have no place being videotaped and posted online. It is an amplification of animal abuse that no one wants to see as most people are not into hurting animals, no matter the reasons.


The debate also involves considerations of cultural sensitivity. Some argue that sharing certain practices may perpetuate stereotypes or contribute to the commodification of cultural traditions. Striking a balance between cultural preservation and respect for the cultural origins is a challenging aspect of this discussion.


The emphasis on community guidance and mentorship within certain traditions of Hoodoo and Voudou underscores the importance of a supportive and knowledgeable environment for practitioners. Advocates for withholding controversial workings often assert that these practices are best approached within the context of a community where experienced mentors can provide guidance, oversight, and ensure responsible usage. This perspective recognizes the nuanced nature of certain rituals and the potential for misunderstandings or misapplications if undertaken without proper knowledge. While I wholeheartedly embrace the value of community-based learning, there is acknowledgment that not all aspects of these traditions are part of initiatory knowledge. In cases where certain information is not restricted by initiatory secrecy, reading about controversial workings can offer potential practitioners an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the concepts, ethics, and potential challenges associated with these practices. This preparatory understanding may facilitate a more informed and respectful engagement when seeking hands-on instruction within a community setting, contributing to a balanced approach that combines individual study with the guidance of experienced practitioners.

 

In navigating this intricate cultural landscape, it is essential to carefully weigh the subtleties of information transmission, individual responsibility, potential censorship concerns, and the wider implications associated with the sharing or withholding of so-called forbidden cultural knowledge. Achieving a delicate equilibrium that honors cultural origins, fosters responsible use, and nurtures a nuanced comprehension of these traditions poses a significant challenge for both individuals and communities engaged in these spiritual practices. It ultimately begs the question, to share or not to share?

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