I’m a reader and rootworker born and raised in the Southeast who grew up learning a dizzying list of Catholic patron saints, 75 ways to cook a plucked chicken, and a bunch of folk cures for getting rid of everything from warts to unpopular suitors. Thanks to my mama and her clan, I make a mean doll baby *and* a mean roux.
I was born in Alabama in a family spread out all over the Southeast that yet was very close-knit and made regular pilgrimages many times a year between households. I’ve spent significant chunks of time and/or lived in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia (and South Carolina, but I didn’t learn my way around there as well as I’d have liked, what with being in the Army at the time). But learning the similarities as well as the sometimes subtle but quite significant differences in conjure theory and practice in these regions — even in different sections of the same state — has been a huge factor in my education.
And I’ve spent a lifetime on that education, studying Southern-style herblore, vernacular religion, and folk magic, always with an eye towards origins and influences but also attentive to shifts and patterns over time and across regions, always keen to glimpse the original strands that ultimately merged to make it what it is today. So I’ve studied religions of the African diaspora, vernacular religion from medieval Europe to 20th century urban America, and spiritual aesthetics from Coptic Egypt to 20th century Benin. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on early medieval portrayals of the body-soul relationship, I’ve been an invited lecturer on New World vodou at universities and conferences, and I’ve published in the field of early modern angelology.
But it’s never been just academic for me. I’ve got over 35 years’ experience working with roots, saints, and spirits, doing divination work, and doing energy work in both Eastern and Western traditions. Beyond all the articles and classes, I have always studied and researched and practiced — not just in libraries, but anywhere I could get a rootworker, palm reader, spiritualist, candle-shop owner, faith healer, local history buff, or tea leaf reader to talk to me or let me hang out. And I have taken that knowledge and those conversations and turned them towards developing an ability to clearly communicate concepts, methods, and insights to my reading and rootwork clients.
I serve clients from all walks of life and religious backgrounds who are interested in applying practical hoodoo solutions to their life challenges. The framework of rural Southern hoodoo in which I am immersed is a rich, coherent system explicable to and valuable to folks from all kinds of backgrounds.
As a hands-on, rural-style rootworker, I get my hands dirty. I am not afraid of some of the more visceral of curios, such as bones, blood, fur, and other bits, and many of my herbs and roots are grown by me or family members in Alabama and Louisiana.
I started offering my own hoodoo condition oils and saints’ oils in 2002 after I got back from overseas, first to my reading and spiritual services clients and later on eBay. I had a full line of oils, powders, and baths by 2007. I was surprised by the eBay response and got way busier with that than I’d ever expected (especially since my photographs really, really sucked and I wasn’t exactly an internet or marketing whiz).
At the time, it wasn’t easy to find authentic, old-school formulas in online marketplaces like that, and standalone websites were much harder to run than they are now, so people responded to the quality of my formulas despite my horrible web design elements. Now you can’t swing a cat without hitting someone selling their version of Van Van oil and Etsy is positively choked with Red Brick Dust and chicken feet, so the more the merrier, I suppose, but I was doing this stuff *way* before it was “cool” 🙂
What you will find here:
Traditional formulas made the old fashioned way in tiny batches by a rootworker who knows what questions to ask and listens to the answers, grows many of her own herbs, and has a great deal of experience negotiating relationships across the crossroads – between cultures and vocabularies, between the human and the animal, mineral, and vegetable, between the visible and invisible worlds.
No assembly lines or mass production here, and no mix and match BS or “hoodoo voodoo gypsy Santeria sorcery from Atlantis” crap. Innovation and adaptation are part of living folk tradition, sure, but those innovations and adaptations should spring from within the culture and make sense within the underlying coherent paradigm. That means you have to understand that underlying paradigm before you can innovate within it. Otherwise you’re just appropriating.
I’m fluent in the paradigm, so you will find discussions both scholarly and pragmatic of both traditional and developing practices. You’ll find explanations, guidance, opinion, theory, and acknowledgment of sources. And you will see me call out mix and match BS when I see it (which is constantly), with explanations of what the deal is.
You will not find the fingerprints of ill-fitting neopagan paradigms on my conjure stuff or any attempt to “paganize” hoodoo or scrub the Christianity from traditional Southern-style conjure. You will not find references to karma or the “law of three” here (except to point out that neither of them have **any** place in traditional conjure). 19th century rural Alabama is not 19th century urban Philadelphia or pre-Reformation England or 20th century Haiti or any-century New Orleans. Simbi is not Mercury and Erzulie is not the Virgin Mary or a goddess. All cultures and languages are not all the same underneath.
I don’t do oils with watermelon fragrance oil or other Herman Slater bullshit in them. Mullein is not a substitute for graveyard dirt, and I have no patience for the “all gods are really one god” bit of implicitly imperialist and ethnocentric nonsense. It matters where things are from and what dirt they grew in.
I don’t try to be your go-to person for every system under the sun (and I think you should be very skeptical of anyone who does try to do that). But what I do know, I’ve studied and worked exhaustively, and if I take your case as a client, I ultimately want to provide you with sufficient resources and knowledge to eventually put myself out of a job. I want you to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing and how to do the essentials yourself if you want to, just like you should know how to make biscuits even if you usually prefer to go out to brunch.
So if you want to be an informed and educated and active consumer of spiritual products and services in the conjure tradition — if you want to know what you’re doing and talking about — you’ll find that here, too.
I study (though do not lay hereditary or initiatory claim to and am not an expert in) some strains of what you might call faith healing or folk religious magic, particularly that of Mexico, Italy, and Cajun Louisiana. I come from a very Catholic-steeped folk magic background, so I have a longstanding working relationship with many saints and spirits, both orthodox and popular, that are called upon in North, Central, and South America.
Devotionally, I work in a Franco-Haitian Gnostic Vodou lineage with full consecration as a bishop in several lines of succession, including those of Vilatte, Doinel, and Houngan Lucien Francois Jean-Maine. As an autocephalous bishop in the independent sacramental movement, I am legitimately empowered to fulfill ecclesiastical roles requiring ordination or consecration, including exorcism and the administration of sacraments (though I cannot guarantee that your local parish priest would recognize my consecrations as valid!).
I work with an active group of fellow bishops, energy workers, rootworkers, and serviteurs of the lwa on a regular basis here in the Southeastern U.S. I am especially grateful to Tau Allen Greenfield, Tau Dositheos, Tau Peristera, Tau Heosphoros, and Tau Thomas Dionysus for their guidance and companionship on my ecclesiastical path, and to cat yronwode and AIRR for the opportunities afforded for professional development as a rootworker.
Karma Zain at AIRR Karma Zain’s Bio at KarmaZain.com
- Karma Zain Profile at etsy (with some photos of altar spaces)
Karma Zain: Brief Bio at Big Lucky Hoodoo
- Karma Zain on Pinterest
- Interview with Karma Zain (by an anthropology student)
- Interview with Karma Zain by Miss Bri
- Testimonials (selected, 2002-2012)