Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

In the southern United States, magnolia trees are ubiquitous these days.  Originating in the Far East where they are a symbol of love, fidelity and grace, magnolias quite literally grow like weeds in the warm, humid climate familiar to the area known as the “deep south.”  With all this in mind, it probably comes as no surprise that both leaves and flowers are used in hoodoo root work.  The magnolia is generally thought to draw love, but it has a more sinister undertone than one might expect if one takes a closer look at practices from only a scant 75 years ago.

Old wives advised their daughters to wear magnolia flowers to attract men.  This was especially popular at open air festivities such as barbeques and horse races since the scent of the flowers could be overpowering indoors.  I’d be concerned about attracting bees and yellow jackets, frankly, but whatever works.

Scott Cunningham mentions magnolia only briefly in his comprehensive and invaluable Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs.  Here he notes that magnolia should be placed under or close to one’s bed to “maintain a faithful relationship.”

Hoodoo root workers use the dried leaves in particular for this purpose, including them in mojo bags to improve conjugal relationships of all kinds.  This is the point where the manipulative side of magnolia’s use comes to light, as Catherine Yronwode points out at her highly informative Lucky Mojo site.

It seems that some women were known to collect a bit of semen from their partner and use it to dress a string which was measured to the length of his penis.  Nine knots were tied in the string with the intention of keeping the man from wandering and then the “nine-knot measure” and dried magnolia leaves were stuffed into or underneath the mattress of the couple’s bed.  This would, in theory at least, keep the man from being able to perform sexually with anyone else beside the woman who had laid the trick.

As Yronwode points out, the fear of this kind of hoodoo was so strong that it was immortalized in the musical style most connected to such magick: the blues.  In 1933 Will Batts recorded a song called “Country Woman” in which he sings:

I don’t want no jealous-hearted woman, great God, makin’ up my bed;
Man, she’ll put somethin’ in the mattress, make you wish you was dead.

Really, what more is there to say? 

Header: From a Sketchbook of Landscapes in the State of Virginia by Lewis Miller c 1853-1867 ~ the ladies are wearing magnolia blossoms and leaves in their hair


Timmy! said...

That is somewhat manipulative, but understandable, Pauline.

Pauline said...

I don't know. It seems like it might be just as easy to find yourself a better man. There's a lot of fish in the ocean, these days anyway.