How to Perform a House Cleansing in the Hoodoo Rootwork Tradition

From the archives of the City Conjure Blog:

The spiritual work of tending the home is found in every culture around the world because the home is an extension of the body. One can be spiritually cleansed in their personhood but be living in a space that isn’t at all conducive to wellness. There are all kinds of factors at play when it comes to a dwelling’s ability to support us in our endeavors – building layouts, history, spirits attached to the space, other entities (both benign and not-so-much), land spirits, local influences, and those sharing the space with us. Unfortunately, almost all of the protocols inherent in the building and care of homes and buildings as found in world traditions have been entirely abandoned by those of us living in the West, leaving yet another door wide open to us experiencing dis-ease and disharmony.

Chinese Feng Shui is a popular (and highly effective, I might add) form of architectural and design orientation and remediation.

Some Northern European towns still adamantly plan city projects and construction away from known local hotspots and dwellings of little folk, or non-human and rarely seen races of people that live under the earth.

Some African cultures, like that of the Dagara, build their homes on a foundation of ash made from the dirt and remains of their ancestors, forming the basis of their home’s protection.

Besides the multitude of ritual acts that went into traditional European house building and barn raising, innumerable charms and fetishes have been remembered from this and other regions for warding off evil, inviting prosperity, and maintaining peace, all directly tied to the power of the home as an extension of the bodies of those living there.

Corn and Tobacco are common offerings to the spirits of the land in North America.

Corn and Tobacco are common offerings to the spirits of the land in North America.

After moving into my current abode, I found myself battling a number of energetic issues that I’d never faced before. Between a passive-aggressive house spirit (a conscious entity comprised of a former roommate’s own familial traumas), a building layout that seemed to direct lost souls directly to my bedroom, and all-around difficult energy to push, cut, and wade through on a daily basis, I was getting convinced that I’d have to leave. After turning the house spirit into an ally through almost a full day’s work of journeying to help resolve the family history entangled in it and crafting unique wards prescribed by my helping spirits for keeping hungry lost dead at bay, there was still something inherently “off” about the space that my usual house cleansing techniques couldn’t remedy.

While journeying to speak with my spirits on a separate topic, one of my helping spirits dropped a corn kernel into my hand. The symbol repeated itself the next day with ears of corn catching my eye at the local grocery store. Upon divining, my spirits indicated that offerings made to the land spirits on my block would bring a big improvement. Being a healthy shaman and spiritworker for me has meant regular grounding exercises, intense dancing in ritual space, and other actions that directly draw on the energetic resources of the land for support. $1.29 later, I was walking around my Brooklyn block sprinkling corn kernels at spots that seemed “hungry,” all the while apologizing to the spirits of the land for the actions of my species and expressing my desire to be in good relationship with them.

I returned home and sat down to answer some e-mails but quickly found myself completely overwhelmed by what I can only describe as an energetic “whoosh” from beneath me to high above and the feeling of being far beneath the ground for a period of at least 20 minutes. The land spirits here are hungry and even a cursory look into the industrial history of Williamsburg, Brooklyn (home of NYC’s only chemical and nuclear storage facility) can give us a clue as to why.

Gratefully, my home / land issues were brought to an end and things feel entirely different here. Now the house spirit gets a mug of tea every Sunday (he’s fancy). The land spirits — albeit an ongoing project of resolution far beyond one person’s ability to handle — get red wine and corn monthly. And my maintenance rites of smudging and cleansing are far more effective.

But what would it look like if the relationship between humans, land, and the spirits that dwell between us were tended again on a grand scale?

I’ve found that the most effective housing and building remedies are uncovered through divination and / or shamanic journeying, but most folks have beloved go-to rites that they employ at regular intervals in the spaces that they inhabit. In the hoodoo tradition, the most beloved rite is a floorwash — a literal washing of floors and other surfaces with a infusion of botanicals and minerals of choice. It works equally well for homes as well as businesses and other spaces, though there are many popular variations based on the purpose of the space.

Chinese Wash is the most popular hoodoo formula for space clearing but, like burning Sage, it is not a cure-all.

Chinese Wash is the most popular hoodoo formula for space clearing but, like burning Sage, it is not a cure-all.

How to Perform a Spiritual Cleansing of Your Space

Chinese Wash is the most popular preparation for cleansing spaces among practitioners of hoodoo.

Pour a teaspoon, tablespoon, or more of Chinese Wash into a bucket of hot water, depending on the size of the premises. (In a pinch, a strong tea of Lemongrass might do the trick.)

As led by Spirit, you may desire to add an additional infusion of herbs or curios with cleansing properties to this floorwash as well – Hyssop, Florida Water, and Sea Salt are all great options in accordance with their correspondences in hoodoo lore. A capful of Ammonia can be added, but bear in mind that it’s known to really strip away everything in the space, so only do this in the case of serious spiritual grime (and be prepared to do some spiritual rebuilding of conjurations particular to your home). If an Uncrossing bath has been performed, a bit of the run-off captured from the bath can be added to the floorwash as well.

Pray over this infusion, intending that any and all harmful energies in the space will be removed. You can add a commercial detergent as well, depending upon the needs of your space. With a mop, squeegee, or sponge, cleanse the space from the back room to the front or main room. If multi-floored, start by cleansing the top floor and work your way down, ending with the ground-floor and always working from the back of the space to the front / entrance, including with each room. As you cleanse, pray and intend that your space is made clean and new. Some find reciting Psalm 23 to be very appropriate for this rite.

If the space is carpeted, lightly wetting a broom and sweeping it over the carpet in the same fashion works just as well. Make sure to give the entryways of the home and of each room extra attention.

When finished, pour the leftover scrub water into your front yard or dispose of it at a crossroads. I like to throw it toward the West, in the direction of the sun’s setting (bringing an end to any crossed conditions), but many prefer the East as per tradition.

Now make a new floorwash, but this time using conjure and condition oils and / or an infusion of botanicals, minerals, and curios that speak to the things you’d like to attract into your space. Some ideas include Basil for protection, Mint for money, Rose for love, Lavender for peace and harmony, or other favorite allies as you are led by Spirit. Mop or scrub from the sidewalk, outer hallway, or up the steps into the entryway of your home, again paying special attention to the home’s threshold. Pray and intend that those things you desire are present in your life and visualize with confidence that you have them already. Pour this floorwash in your backyard (if living in an apartment, down your toilet will probably suffice).

Now take a conjure or condition oil that is intended to aid with protection and anoint all doors and windows leading to the outside world in a five-spot pattern – one dab in each corner and one in the center. Intend that your space is protected from any and all harm and that all blessings that you receive are kept.

Some folks follow this up with the sprinkling of such preparations as Peace Water for harmony at home and the inviting of peaceful spirits or Four Thieves Vinegar for protecting the space.

Performing this rite at regular intervals can make a huge impact on your space’s harmony and ability to support productivity.

All of this and much, much more are explored in my book Clearing Spaces: Inspirational Techniques to Heal Your Home published by Sterling Ethos.

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Understanding Crossed Conditions

Crossed conditions can thwart our access to the luck, blessings, love, and success we are entitled to

Crossed conditions can thwart our access to the luck, blessings, love, and success we are entitled to

Edited excerpt from 'Deliverance! Hoodoo Spells of Uncrossing, Healing, & Protection'

One of the primary goals in the cosmologies surrounding many folk magic and similar spiritual practices is to move through life in an uncrossed state, free from hindrances to good health, financial security, peace of mind, emotional fulfillment, and general success. To find oneself thwarted in any of these arenas is to be under crossed conditions.

Crossed conditions can be caused intentionally by an enemy who’s been laying tricks to cross you up, even leading you to being confused in your mind. A brush with bad luck can worsen over time if not remediated and a lack of optimal health in one’s surroundings can have an adverse affect on the wellbeing of those who live in or frequent such spaces.

Most easily preventable are the crossed conditions that are an outgrowth of the daily stresses, emotional wounds, and mental anxieties of life that have been left to fester unresolved. We shower and brush our teeth regularly, knowing that neglecting our physical hygiene will result in deterioration of our health and eventual social ostracization, but neglecting our emotional, mental, and spiritual needs leads to our ruin in these arenas and the parts of our lives they are connected to. Human beings are more than merely animated biology, and having access to bread, water, and a roof over one’s head does not necessarily constitute wellness.

We need emotional connection to others, a strong and healthy sense of personal and communal identity, pleasure of all kinds, a sense of purpose, and the ability to pursue goals and ambitions. Many folk magic traditions - including hoodoo rootwork - offer tools and techniques not only for removing crossed conditions, but for attracting and cultivating the favorable conditions we both need and desire.

A spell to uncross and protect members a family

A spell to uncross and protect members a family

This being said, crossed conditions can originate in realms not commonly considered, which is why many folk healers are also spiritual readers who consult divination and the wisdom of their helping spirits as to the cause of malaise in a client’s life. Many include the idea of generational and ancestral curses in their cosmology as magic has been known to be wielded against whole families, households, and lineages in most world cultures. These are sometimes the root of chronic crossed conditions, or why a client may say that they have always felt held back in life without a chance to pursue happiness unfettered by seemingly suffocating outside circumstances, or even the realization that bad luck in health, money, and love seems to follow a cyclical pattern. 

There are still other factors that can be the cause of crossed conditions, from intrusive entities attached to one’s person to spirits of the dead occupying one’s home or work environment. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list of factors that a spiritual practitioner may uncover as the source of spiritual illness, but a general overview of how crossed conditions, in their varying degrees of severity, are perceived, with tools of divination, spiritual insight, and the client’s subjective experience all being taken into account toward diagnosis and remediation.

Every spiritual modality has its strengths and weaknesses, and I believe that the most effective modality or healer for resolving a problem can be found with prayer and faith. Just as competent medical and legal counsel should be sought out alongside the practice of conjure when it is appropriate, so should the individual seeking a way out of severe crossed conditions remain open to the possibility that help will arrive from an unexpected avenue. Obsessive attachment to any single modality and blind faith in any one healer is both dangerous and a sure-fire way to relinquish one’s power. Such a perspective falls squarely in the realm of what old-time rootdoctors would call crossing yourself up, or self-sabotaging by engaging in harmful acts that limit one’s potential for growth, happiness, and success, including, but not limited to, entertaining bad thoughts and bad company.

A stumbling block in one’s path or ancestral line need not be the end, and overcoming it can provide strength for you and generations to come

A stumbling block in one’s path or ancestral line need not be the end, and overcoming it can provide strength for you and generations to come

There is something to be said for understanding crossed conditions, especially in their most severe and chronic manifestations, as having the potential to be initiatory. This is not the type of initiation that a priest or priestess in a religious tradition leads an adherent through, but the type that life itself is always presenting us. A time of financial destitution, the discovery of a lover’s betrayal, and finding oneself to be the target of spiritual attack are all opportunities for the human being to see what they are made of – to gather their resources on all planes and put them to use toward both self-preservation and personal growth. In the process, parts of the human will die and stronger parts previously unknown will be born. All time spent under crossed conditions and the process of remediation has the markings of the famed Hero’s Journey, landing the subject in the role of protagonist within their own myth. Every choice they make is crucial and not everything is what it seems. In the words of Joseph Campbell, famed mythologist and theorist regarding the Hero’s Journey, “Where you stumble and fall, there you will find gold.” These are the challenges that spur growth and if we are not growing, we are dying.

Crossed conditions are an unavoidable part of existence; they are the challenges that life presents to us by one avenue or another. By learning to humble ourselves and work with life as a teacher, we can discover how we, ourselves, need to change so that the circumstances around us can reflect our inner transformation. In seeing crossed conditions as opportunities for us to become wiser, stronger, and more whole, we shun the propensity toward victimhood and view every obstacle and catastrophe as a chance to step more fully into our personal power and sovereignty. Though seemingly easier said than done, the spiritual masters who’ve extolled such perspectives throughout the ages knew what they were talking about.

A near breakdown might mean you are ripe for a real breakthrough, and evil deeds committed by others might lead you to discover the path of your highest calling.

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Uncrossing Conditions: Clearing Our Emotional Bodies

Responsible energy hygiene asks more from us than having a spiritually clean aura or home. It requires more than protective wards and talismans for ourselves and our spaces. It asks us to pay attention to the ruts we find ourselves in again and again - the patterns in our lives that demand our attention from their repeated surfacing in our minds and relationships.

An oft-neglected aspect of energy hygiene is our emotional body, in which stagnancy, hoarding of emotions, and unprocessed grief can make us vulnerable to energetic harm in the form of entity intrusions and chronic jinxes. On the other side of the coin, emotional stagnancy can keep us from having the courage we need to truly live in the present moment, let alone pursue our goals and dreams. The heart is far more of an engine of manifestation than we tend to realize, and tending to its energetic health alongside regular spiritual cleansing helps ensure that we experience the type of flow that helps sustain luck and joy.


Water: Rivers and Ocean

The element of Water is one of our greatest allies when we seek to clear our emotional lives. Working with Water can be as simple as visiting a river or other moving body of water and making a small offering to its spirit while asking for help. Visualize the River moving through you and your heart, clearing away stuck energies and inviting fresh, new, living wellsprings inside you.

I recently visited a nearby river almost daily to help me move through chronic fears and doubts about new beginnings. Sitting on the concrete overhang beside it, I prayed for respite from emotional turmoil, and for my spirit and mind to be carried to new shores. (The apple I was carrying in my jacket - a planned offering for other spirits - popped out of its pocket and rolled down the overhang into the smooth flowing waters below. I accepted that more was needed from me to help me have what I was asking for.)

The Ocean can be worked with similarly - bring your prayers and an offering. In lieu of a physical object, Song will do. Though bathing in the Ocean is ideal, if this isn't possible due to weather, location, or accessibility, standing on the shore and imagining its tides washing over you can do so much, as can bathing with Sea Salt. The Ocean is especially potent in helping us resolve patterns rooted in

  • our relationship to mothers, maternal figures, and ancestors,

  • our relationship to the ideas of home, belonging, community, and connectedness,

  • birth-related experiences,

  • and fear of the unknown.


Conjure, Rootwork, & Botanical Allies

Lemon is central to Cut & Clear magic in the hoodoo tradition. Most often employed to rid oneself of excess attachment to a past lover, it can also be performed to sever emotional connections to past events, persons, and ways of being. Similar to concept of cord-cutting (and quite effective when paired with visualizations meant to achieve that), Cut & Clear work is one of the closest things to shamanic soul part retrieval that we encounter in the Southern Conjure tradition. In severing connections between the emotional body and trauma-inducing past or present experiences, the soul is freed up to access the energies it truly needs to sustain itself.

The late Dr. E. - founder of - conceived of a bath and oil formula he titled Love Uncrossing especially to address chronic issues in love and self-esteem. It’s often our patterns in romantic relationships that make us most aware of issues in our emotional bodies. Consisting of traditional botanicals associated with spiritual cleansing alongside herbs like Lavender and Hyssop for healing and forgiveness, his formulas and the beautiful spells he crafted to use them in help to unravel stuck energy in our emotional bodies, employing the element of Water through consistent bathing rites and the element of Fire through candle work.

When Cut & Clear magic or work with Lemon isn't effective at helping restore you to yourself, Black Walnut is traditionally worked with in a singular nighttime bathing rite meant to sever connections completely. Similarly, artist and spiritworker Katelan Foisy espouses imbibing Black Walnut tincture over a period of days to quell the pangs of the heart and the obsessive thinking that may come with it.

Violet, also known as Heartsease, is an excellent ally for helping quell what can sometimes be the overwhelming pangs and pains of the heart. Useful for helping us process grief and loss more easily, it can be drunk as a botanical infusion, carried in a pouch, or the live plant can be spoken to and kept by one’s bedside.


Shadow Work

Shadow work is a powerful way to address long-standing emotional patterns, but it can be difficult to engage in if one is inexperienced or doesn't have a guide to help navigate the murky waters of the sub/unconscious where potential for delusion and self-sabotage can be quite high.

I've engaged in a number of different modalities meant to address my shadow and found that the most effective ones acknowledge that our personal Shadow is not under our conscious control, nor is it overtly connected to cultural stories about "darkness" and expression thereof. It consists of parts of ourselves that are inaccessible to our conscious minds because we forcefully exiled them at some point in our lives. Effective shadow work aims to safely access these previously inaccessible parts of ourselves and transform them from clever saboteurs into powerful, gift-wielding allies through the power of love over time before integrating them back into our whole selves.



In one of my cosmologies, Hummingbird is known as the Warrior of the Heart. Ever-focused on our own heart’s capacity to be clearer, fuller, stronger, and more open, Hummingbird is called upon in some folk traditions to aid with the attraction of a long-term lover.

Hummingbird can be called upon to help us see where we are blocked in our hearts and what needs to be shifted, transformed, released, or retrieved there. An offering of sugar water is a kind gesture for this animal ally that can get the gears of our emotional lives moving again when they’ve gotten stuck on an event, experience, or story in our lives.

Interview with The Alchemist's Kitchen


I was recently included in an interview series for The Alchemists’s Kitchen’s article on How 5 Young Healers and Creatives Claim Their Magic. The article includes interviews with Regina of Wolf Medicine Magic, Morgan Claire Sirene, Mary Evans, and Crystal Lee Lucas. For brevity’s sake, I’ve included my interview portion of the article below.

When did you first realize that shamanic healing was the path for you?

I first realized the shamanic healing path was for me when, as a root doctor in the Southern Conjure tradition (also known as hoodoo or rootwork), I found myself most drawn to the work of uncrossing, exorcism / entity removal, and the plant medicines called upon for healing emotional blocks and wounds. There are all kinds of materia magica that help enhance one's self-esteem and virility, and cut mental and emotional attachments to persons and old ways of being standing in our way. Because when we experience power loss through abuse, oppression, and unconsciously giving our power away, it is necessary to get that power back and restore our sense of self.

My shaman sickness began in Summer, 2013. I had just finished a performance art intensive in Athens, Greece under the radical live art group La Pocha Nostra and, through a series of omens and synchronicities, found myself in Ariadne's mythline through an experience of isolation and psycho-spiritual crisis on the island of Naxos while in search of the ruins of the Temple of Dionysos. A few months later I would experience total loss of my default sense of self while Mami Wata and Mongolian spirits dismembered me, deceased transwomen took up residence in my life, and I'd awake from nightmares of a tiger trying to consume me.

A lot was happening to me, sure, but it was also an opportunity for me to take action to heal past traumas and come to grips with the stories I was telling about myself. I had to shed old skins and learn new techniques of spirit communication, boundary setting, and power retrieval, and quickly. It was during this period that my call to the path of shamanic healing - technologies for diagnosing and resolving what is out of alignment through direct engagement with the spiritworld - was made fully clear to myself and those around me at the time. Whether in one's personal life or an ancestral line, sometimes the only way we know something is broken is when something we thought was at least functional breaks in a way that is undeniable.

You work with a variety of different modalities and traditions. How do you bridge them together when working with people?

My work is very spirit-led. I use divinatory tools, mediumship, and trance states to communicate with my spirits and those of my clients. It's a conversation - all of us together, with certain voices being prioritized depending on what is needed. During this conversation, we can find out what’s at the root of what the Southern Conjure tradition calls “crossed conditions” - what’s causing dis-ease in the life of an individual, family, ancestral line, business / organization, or environment.

What needs to be removed through acts of cleansing or release? What needs to be transformed? Who or what needs to be fed or given an offering? Does a soul part or a creative / spiritual gift need to be retrieved and restored? Does a relationship with a helping spirit, spiritual tradition, or even artistic practice need to be cultivated?

What is the precise medicine that will shift the conversation we're having to a new one that enables us to be more joyfully effective in our lives and communities? Any or all of the above ways of engaging can be the necessary bricks on the path to healing. This can include referrals to persons with specialties, training, or initiations I don’t have.

Whether the conversation finds it footing in an animist / shamanic perspective, African-Diasporic cosmologies, practical everyday actions that shift perspective, or a combination of these, what we’re engaged in is a dance of reciprocity between parts of ourselves and energies related to those parts that sometimes need to be called in to bolster our own abilities to manifest and share what we've been given. Gifts, for instance, need to named so they can be cultivated - so we can get out of the way of our own medicine and so that others can identify their need for our gifts and celebrate us for sharing them.

My experiences and training have put me in the position of being someone who sits at the crossroads between the Old World, the New World, and a number of modalities that can provide a way "in" and a way forward. We're all meeting there, together, at the crossroads.

What does the term “shaman” mean to you? What is its connection to the “witch”?

The term “shaman” is a very contentious one here in the industrialized Western world. Popularized by anthropologists and applied to similar roles found globally, it has its origins in indigenous Siberian contexts and has come to signify indigenous medicine persons and their initiates in Meso- and South American plant medicine traditions as well as those who've studied the Core Shamanism techniques developed by Michael Harner, founder of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.

There's a bit of an obsession with the word that is proportional to our lack of identity and sense of purpose. This leads to its misappropriation by persons who may feel called to work with shamanic technologies for the purposes of healing but might more accurately be embodying a different role. This goes back to our trouble with naming gifts.

Shamans and many of those who might belong to the "shaman class of persons" (to quote my colleague Theanos Thrax) are no longer human in the way we commonly understand, being more of the spiritworld than they are of the human world. North Asian cosmologies recognize a triplicate human soul, and shamans are considered to have one or more additional soul aspects. Any impulses or yearnings that are inspired by the shamanic calling are a call to recognize one's own profound personal mystery and to step onto the path of mastery. To quote Christina Pratt, “Shamans are not the only initiated people. Anything we choose to do in our life that is ultimately a path of mastery has within it an initiatory function. Some are simply more profound than others. The shamanic initiation happens to be extremely profound, and others are simply more subtle, but they all involve a fundamental transformation of the person who is on that path of mastery.”

That path of mastery might indeed involve technologies wielded by shamans, witches, healers, diviners, and other types of medicine people. Every traditional culture has multiple types of medicine people. The word "witch" is very unique to the Western world in its current popular usage as its use in other languages differs greatly. In contrast to words like "shaman" and "curander@", the terms "bruj@" (Spanish) and "macumbeiro" (Portuguese) can be considered pejorative in their traditional contexts, indicating someone who might be prone to wield magical power unethically that is at odds with community values. The latter term is being reclaimed by many Latin-American magical practitioners as an identity marker recognizing inherent spiritual giftedness, descendance from animist cultures, the value of subjective and embodied ways of knowing, and the desire to wield that knowledge on behalf of "the folk" in a way that disrupts oppressive norms. Similarly, the word "witch" (rooted in European contexts with its own denigrated history linked to the oppression of women, queer people, and people of color) has been being reclaimed by many Europeans and Americans to signify the same.

The identity of "witch" is necessary for our times, wholly accurate for many people, and can be a source of great personal power in a culture that outright denies subjective, embodied, and ancestral epistemologies. The path of witch is the path of the highly empowered "free agent" at the borderlands of the people and the spirits of the land. I have my own connections to the word and encourage gift identification, intimacy with innate helping spirits, and dedicated skill-building so witches can play the role we need them to play right now in our culture and society.

How has studying theater helped you in developing your relationship to leading ceremony?

Much of my study of theater has been about its relationship to ritual and embodiment and the importance of performance in representing peoples, histories, and ideas. I entered my undergraduate studies hypothesizing that it is our lack of embodiment that leaves our ethics and values by the wayside. How can we embody civic responsibility and our relationship to our environments? How does performance name and heal trauma in bodies and communities? I know that the root of some of my own trauma in this lifetime has been a lack of representation of persons like myself in media, a lack of true mirrors. What needs to be mirrored about us? What needs to be reflected back to us and for us?

I jokingly call the field of Performance Studies "secular animism" because, in addition to exploring performance lineages, it asserts the idea that objects, words, and gestures are performative - they act upon us and have agency, which is at the core of what animists, witches, shamans, and magicians work with in their crafts. To quote poet and spoken word artist Jordan Chaney, "How do you conduct spiritual warfare? With spirits." Our world is an inspired. Join the dance. Join the fight. Be inspired.

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