Ginseng has been used in my family for generations, but I still had many questions about botany. Where did it come from? Is it rooted in any African American traditions? For many African Americans, ginseng is an important root that spans generations, yet historical evidence of its use is rare.
As an intern on the American Ginseng Project, I started “digging” into ginseng. I began my research by examining the descriptions of enslaved people. The Slave Report of the Works Progress Administration, collected between 1936 and 1938, contains more than 2,300 primary source accounts, including photographs and interviews of formerly enslaved individuals in fifteen states. Examining and filtering through records for any mention of ginseng, I discovered that, especially in Western Appalachian, ginseng roots were a means by which slaves or formerly enslaved people earned extra income. They will “dig Seng” and sell the roots at the local market center. They also used ginseng for its medicinal properties. For example, they treat fever by wrapping a person with ginseng leaves to help relieve pain.
A strong connection between ginseng and black Americans is the hoodoo, which connects East African religion and spiritual practice with South African American culture. Hudu was created during the Transatlantic Slave Trade due to the enslavement of African slaves. There are descriptions of slaves using hoodoo to revolt against their captives in the eighteenth century. During the uprising of 1712 in New York, a freeman named Peter Doctor and a hoodoo practitioner helped burn slaves in the city. She made a “magic powder” and applied it to protect her colleagues’ clothing.
Today, the hoodoo has been advanced through the active practice of the African American people across the United States. Using a variety of herbs and roots, Hudu practitioners create a special understanding of each ingredient in their practice. According to author and hoodoo practitioner Stephanie Rose Bird, “In hoodoo, there is a feeling that herbs and roots survive and need to be taken care of throughout the day.”
Since many ginseng roots are like walking people, hoodoo features vitality and energy for the roots. Hudu, for example, believes that ginseng increases sexual potency, especially in men. Perhaps a related belief is that ginseng can bring good luck. According to Encyclopedia of 5,000 spells, ical is a guide to magical ginseng is the “wonder of the world roots” that will provide a wish to be carved on a root that is then placed under running water.
Ginseng can play an integral role in the use of mojo bags by hoodu practitioners. Bird explains that each bag will increase energy collection, and the strategic placement of different components will increase the strength of the bag. For example, Hoodoo – Conjuration – Witchcraft – Rootwork There is a spelling, “Adam-o-Eve”, which can get someone “in control”. It calls for a ginseng root, an Adam root and an Eve root. The roots of Adam and Eve came from a species of orchid Applectrum Hymel, Which is found in parts of the eastern United States.
The Eve root has a round shape while the Adam root is thin and long. After collecting your ingredients, you must “mass” them to make a powder. Place the powder on a hot stove, then add the flour to the flour and “grind” the mixture. Then, place it in a bag made from any material and do not let the mixture dust around the house. It is one of the many existing hoodoo spellings that ginseng uses and it explains how hoodoo is a very unique practice that helps people move around in their daily lives.
Bird Hudu has clearly written two books. Based in Illinois, she is one of many black women who actively use the hoodoo as a means of livelihood, often using resources that are readily available. “I’m a hoodoo,” he explains. “I have been studying and practicing hoodoo since 1999. I hope to inspire others, especially people of color, to join Hood through my writing, retrospective work and workshops. Hudu is an important collection of witchcraft and spiritual folk practices, especially for me as a black woman, in an otherwise quite white world of worldly spirituality. Undoubtedly, the work of birds speaks of the need to carry black earth-based traditions and practices.
As a solitary practitioner with his own garden, Bird does not use ginseng like other roots, but he fully appreciates the role of ginseng in hoodoo. “I understand ginseng as an old medicine and have used it to create and restore physical and spiritual strength for me and others. I enjoy its warming power, and through its soul-warming warmth, it is open to the possibility of our love and self-healing.” By
In addition, Bird believes that hoodoo “daily worries”, such as “finding love and keeping it off, finding and then cleaning up spiritually or maintaining a suitable home, getting a good job and dealing with boss, office and coworkers” “, Court cases and other legal issues, overall health, and wellness, and much more. He believes that Hudu’s “wisdom and proactive approach” is “definitely to return to African Americans and the motherland. This aspect of Hudu is uplifting, liberating and empowering.”
Where do birds see Hudu in the future?
“I hope the current interest in Hudu is not fleeting. I hope people will be open to rootwork, spells, and rituals for the modern and contemporary adaptations of the twenty-first century, so that it becomes a living part of the growing spiritual conversation.
You can learn more about Stephanie Rose Bird’s work by visiting SRB Botany and reading her published works, including 365 days hoodoo: daily routework, mojo and conservation (2018); A Healing Grove: Remedies and Pickles of African Trees for Body and Soul (2009 2009); The four asons of mojo are an herbal guide to natural living (2006); And Sticks, Stones, Roots and Bones: Conjuring with Hudu, Mojo and Herbs (2004).
Asia Smith is a sociology and anthropology student who has focused on food at Kalamaju College and is a former intern at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.