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Women’s Herbal Conference, Glastonbury Goddess Conference, West Kentucky Hoodoo Rootworker Heritage Festival, and other gatherings.

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Do you Hoodoo? or, Rootwork Amongst the Edamame

I returned from the West Kentucky Hoodoo Rootworker Heritage Festival last evening. The festival site was set in farm country in western Kentucky and vast fields of soybeans formed a crescent around the encampment.  A rooster crowed up the Sun each morning and coyotes yipped through the long, cool nights. We had one wet night and one cold night and days filled with one of the most diverse groups I've seen in my (admittedly limited) Pagan festival experience.

There were workshops, rituals, classes and plenty of networking with colleagues from as far away as Toronto. The food was good, the company cheerful and remarkably even-tempered. Lots of nice vendors tempted us all with their pretty wares and I can't even complain about the late-night karaoke simply because the folks doing it were having so much fun.

I presented three workshops--one of them was "Willful Bane," a workshop I've been giving for a number of years on the ethics, history and techniques of hexes and cursing. It's got some surprising ideas contained in it, ideas that are sometimes difficult for modern Pagans to swallow.  It was fun to present it to a group who didn't feel particularly challenged by the idea of hexing as an extreme healing modality and understood the concept of justice that permeates some aspects of this work.

All those rootworkers in one place, sharing ideas and techniques, talking shop just as a gathering of electricians might.  We discussed all sorts of interesting things, sometimes deep into the night.  We didn't argue about who was right and who was wrong (if the participants were judging one another, I didn't hear it), we talked about the uses of the kinds of magic we all practice.  We laughed about practice making perfect and we commiserated with each other on similar issues.

There were altars everywhere and many people in the milling crowds walked around with heads covered. There was music and drumming, and veneration of trees and Divines.

The reclamation of these old traditions is a powerful part of the modern Pagan scene and you may expect to see more of it and hear more from the people who practice these ancient and sometimes peculiar folkways.

We are a lively, funny, curious bunch of people, mirrored at this three-year-old festival produced by Spirit of the Earth Church.  If folk magic is your thing, sisters and brothers, I recommend you check this out for 2014.

But don't forget your do-rag.

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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


  • shentonta
    shentonta Tuesday, 24 September 2013

    love the article. I live in NE Tennessee and did not know there was a festival of root work this close. I want to go next year.
    Thank you so much for the enlightening article.
    Blessed Be

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Tuesday, 24 September 2013

    Thank you. It was a powerful festival--I hope to see you there next year.

  • Celeste Jackson
    Celeste Jackson Wednesday, 25 September 2013

    I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and reading your book(yes, I did finish it- I could not put it down) and had one heck of a time explaining to the Social Deviance Professor why this workshop was important and how it tied into his class.(I had to break it down into smaller steps- discussing history, etc. He did agree that I had a very good point in stating that what I did was most definitely considered deviant by many Christians) So, now my assignment is to prepare him a paper on why hoodoo and rootworkers are fringe members of society and have been considered deviant.(I might add that he was brought up in a very strict Pentecostal home.) This might pull up my grade in the class(if it needs it).

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Wednesday, 25 September 2013

    Too funny. Yes, it was nice meeting you, too, at long last and nice to meet Bryan. I am considering a limited tour of Kentucky and will need your help in figuring out where I should go.

  • Celeste Jackson
    Celeste Jackson Thursday, 26 September 2013

    Absolutely! Bryan, Jack and I would be delighted to assist you. I would also LOVE to introduce you to Dr. Erika Brady. Dr Montell would be another great source, as he really knows the area.

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