Black Magic looks at the origins, meaning, and uses of Conjure—the African American tradition of healing and harming that evolved from African, European, and American elements—from the slavery period to well into the twentieth century. Illuminating a world that is dimly understood by both scholars and the general public, Yvonne P. Chireau describes Conjure and other related traditions, such as Hoodoo and Rootworking, in a beautifully written, richly detailed history that presents the voices and experiences of African Americans and shows how magic has informed their culture. Focusing on the relationship between Conjure and Christianity, Chireau shows how these seemingly contradictory traditions have worked together in a complex and complementary fashion to provide spiritual empowerment for African Americans, both slave and free, living in white America.
As she explores the role of Conjure for African Americans and looks at the transformations of Conjure over time, Chireau also rewrites the dichotomy between magic and religion. With its groundbreaking analysis of an often misunderstood tradition, this book adds an important perspective to our understanding of the myriad dimensions of human spirituality.
1. "Our Religion and Superstition Was All Mixed Up"
Conjure, Christianity, and African American Supernatural Traditions
2. "Africa Was a Land a' Magic Power Since de Beginnin' a History"
Old World Sources of Conjuring Traditions
3. "Folks Can Do Yuh Lots of Harm"
African American Supernatural Harming Traditions
4. "Medical Doctors Can't Do You No Good"
Conjure and African American Traditions of Healing
5. "We All Believed in Hoodoo"
Conjure and Black American Cultural Traditions
Yvonne P. Chireau is Associate Professor of Religion at Swarthmore College and coeditor, with N. Deutsch, of Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism (2000).
"Chireau has written a marvelous text on an important dimension of African American religious culture. Expanding beyond the usual focus of scholarship on Christianity, she describes and analyzes the world of magical-medical-religious practice, challenging hallowed distinctions among "religion" and "magic." Anyone interested in African American religion will need to reckon seriously with Chireau's text on conjure."—Albert J. Raboteau, Princeton University
"Deprived of their own traditions and defined as chattel, enslaved Africans formed a new orientation in America. Conjuring—operating alongside of and within both the remnants of African culture and the acquired traditions of North America—served as a theoretical and practical mode of deciphering and divining within this, enabling them to create an alternate meaning of life in the New World. Chireau's is the first full-scale treatment of this important dimension of African American culture and religion. A wonderful book!"—Charles H. Long, Professor of History of Religions University of California, Santa Barbara and author of Significations: Signs, Symbols and Images in the Interpretation of Religion