Southern Spirits: Ghostly Voices from Dixie Land
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by Anonymous
from "Time" [magazine], September 25, 1939

The following short article names a partial list of the products sold nationwide during the 1930s by an African American root doctor and Spiritualist Church leader named Rev. Charles P. Colbert (d. 1937). As the piece makes clear, Rev. Colbert lived at 545 Owen Ave., Detroit, Michigan, and was the pastor of the Great Britain Spiritualist Church (Negro). See also the similar article about D. Alexander of Brooklyn, N.Y. from the New York Times, dated 1925. and the similar article about Keystone Laboratories of Memphis, Tennessee, from Time Magazine, dated 1939 .

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].


Regardless of what your trouble may be, you can look the world in the face; solve all your problems; get what you want and fear no man or circumstance. Your happiness and success demand that you print your name clearly and send it to Rev. Charles P. Colbert, Detroit, Mich., 545 Owen Ave.

Such an advertisement has quacked in many a U. S. newspaper. People replying to it received pamphlets and a catalogue of charms, soaps, talismans, oils, perfumes, astrological forecasts, other arcane devices and potions, all marketed by the "Great Britain Spiritualist Church (Negro)." Typical items: "GRENDELINE HOLY OIL. It is said the Sibber Tribes of India used Holy Oil in all important undertakings, believing this Oil would aid them in success. Prince Sibber never believed in failure. We offer you Grendeline Holy Oil. . . . Price per bottle $1.00." "JUNGLES FLOOR WASH . . . most important weapon for fighting Evil conditions. . . . $1.25."

Last week the Federal Trade Commission announced it had issued a cease & desist order against Great Britain Spiritualist Church and its officers. (Among them: the widow of Mr. Colbert who died two years ago.) The FTC itemized its findings: "Grendeline Holy Oil is not a product of the Sibber tribes of India, and will not assure the users thereof health, wealth, happiness and success. . . . Mintolean Mojou Lucky Oil is not a product of African tribes or of foreign countries, and will not produce luck or have any effect on dice soaked in it. ... Dr. Colbert's House Dressing Balls will not always produce luck, peace, happiness and plenty; or banish discontent. . . ."

[Mojou is an uncommon spelling of mojo, here used not in the sense of a conjure bag, but meaning the anointing or dressing oil that is used to "feed" a mojo hand or lucky dice, or to dress spiritual candles, or to wear on the person. The best-known brand of the 1930s was not Mintolean Mojou Lucky Oil, but Lucky Mo-Jo Oil, manufactured in Chicago by Morton Neumann's King Novelty Company, also known as Valmor Beauty Supply and Famous Brands Distribution. The Reverend's House Dressing balls were very likely either Blue Anil Balls or Bluestone or lumps of Camphor resin, both of which still used for this purpose.]

This material is reprinted from

Time magazine
September 25, 1939

also online at,9171,762005,00.html

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

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