Southern Spirits: Ghostly Voices from Dixie Land
introduction | 19th century hoodoo | 20th century hoodoo | 21st century hoodoo

by Anonymous

from "Time"
July 11, 1927

Because this unknown author used terms unfamiliar to modern readers and employed spellings not commonly found in the literature of hoodoo, a few explanatory notes have been added [in brackets].

WARNING: The material on this page was written by a European-American who was describing African-American spirituality as an outsider. This author was racist or race-derogatory and the conclusions he or she drew while writing this eye-witness account are grossly offensive. However, the text is included in full because it accurately describes practices and customs of the African-American South during the 20th century (albeit not always with complete understanding) -- and it also serves as a political reminder of how far we have some in our struggle for race equality and respect in the ensuing years. Read with caution and compassion.

Does a Negro woman's husband gulp down his evening meal, reach for his hat, announce that he is "going for a walk," setting out to get a cigar, starting for a lodge meeting, calling on a sick friend, or give any other of the ancient husbandly pretexts for effecting an egress from his home, what steps are proper for his wife to take? Not tears or smiles, not reproaches or endearments, not cries or kisses, according to Negro "Dr." Samuel Kojoe Pearce, lodged last week in a St. Louis jail. The correct procedure is to purchase one or another of the many potions, powders, charms peddled by "Dr." Pearce and most efficacious in promoting domestic happiness.

There is for instance, his Tie-Them-Down Powder, which, slyly slipped into tea, coffee or other beverage is guaranteed to fill the husband with an intense desire to spend his evenings at home. [Brand names for such products vary from place to place. Other titles for similar products include Stay at Home Stay With Me and I Have You Tied and Nailed.] If, having been given Tie-Them-Down, the husband still shows no signs of curtailing his cruising radius, he becomes an "Aggravated Case" and the situation calls for Bring-Back Powder, similar in nature but greater in potency than Tie-Them-Down. [Other titles for similar products include Stay at Home and Stay With Me.] The Bring-Back retails at $50 for 25 powders; Tie-Them-Down at $25 for 25 powders. They are sold by the West African Remedy Co., the Pearce Health Institute, the Oriental Institute of Science and the Africa-American Institute of Science, all of which corporations have a very interlocking directorate consisting of "Dr." Pearce himself.

In addition to his powders, "Dr." Pearce also does business in charms. There is the Allah Charm, which will aid the wearer in contracting a wealthy marriage and is priced at only $3.49. There is the King Solomon's Wisdom Stone, "very valuable and charged with invisible life." There is the Black Cat's Wishbone, excellent for making dice behave and prompting the selection of winning horses. [This is a form of Black Cat Bone.] And there is the Lucky Turrarie, a general charm to keep evil spirits away from the homes it blesses.

"Dr." Pearce has done a mailorder business on a national scale; said he had received as much as $500 from a single customer. When arrested in St. Louis last week, however, he was unable to secure bail money and was therefore jailed while awaiting Federal Grand Jury action on his case. He was born in Nigeria (British West Africa), came to the U.S. from Hamburg, Germany, in 1920, claimed to be a licensed osteopath, and has "practiced" in New York, Detroit, St. Louis.

Negroes sincerely desirous of elevating their race last week agreed that persons promptly reporting other "osteopaths" of "Dr." Pearce's ilk would be performing valuable race service.

Some two years ago (Time, Aug. 24, 1925) one D. Alexander, of No. 99 Downing St., Brooklyn, operated a charming dispensary with a stock remarkably like that of "Dr." Pearce. He had Tie Down Goods instead of Tie-Them-Down and King Solomon's Marrow instead of King Solomon's Wisdom Stone. He also had some additional merchandise: Boss Fix Powders (to keep employers well disposed) Guffer (or Goofer) Dust, Happy Dust, Easy Life Powder and Buzzard Nest.

Both Messrs. Alexander and Pearce, however, agreed on one charm -- the Black Cat's Wishbone (which was priced at $1,000 in a circular distributed by Mr. Alexander). About this potent charm the almost equally famed Goofer Dust songs have been written:

I swear to God my man's got a black cat's bone.
I said a black cat's -- I mean bone.
I swear to God my man's got a black cat's bone.
Every time I start to leave, I gotta come back home.


Just sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle
     yo' goofer du-hust
And yo' little yellow Nellie
     with the diamonds on her belly
Will quit her razz-mu'tazzle,
     her sneakin' jizzle-jazzle,
An' come back to the Daddy
     that had her fust.

This material is reprinted from

Time Magazine

Vol. 28
July 11, 1927,9171,929312,00.html

is copyright © 2004 by catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.

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