This is an extract from "Seership!" by the great 19th century African American magicaian and Rosicrucian, Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825 - 1875). Born in New York State (of parents from Virginia), Randolph travelled the world widely as a Free Man of Color. He was a world-renowned Spiritualist and Clairvoyant Reader, and wrote extensively on Sex-Magic and the art of Mirror Scrying. He also worked for Abolition before the Civil War and helped to raise money for the Black Militias of Louisiana during the conflict. Immediately after the war, he taught literacy courses to newly freed slaves in New Orleans under the auspices of the Freedmen's Bureau. When funding cuts brought an end to the Freedmen's Bureau in 1867, he returned to his former career as a Spiritualist author. "Seership!" was published in 1870.
The material quoted here presents Randolph's beliefs about African-American Hoodoo, New Orleans Voodoo, Spirit Mediumship, Spell-Craft, and Mesmerism. His writing is old-fashioned and prolix, so some of the paragraphs have been broken into shorter pieces and a few explanatory notes have been added [in brackets].
(AFTER RANDOLPH DESCRIBES THE VARIOUS HEAVENLY SPIRITS WHO WATCH OVER HUMAN AFFAIRS):
Not all invisible onlookers, however, are to be counted in along with seraphs and angels, nor do they always take a subject away from the mesmerist for that subject's good; but it may happen that obsessing forces of the "Voodoo" grades step in to serve their own peculiar ends. People may laugh as much as they please at the idea of wicked, mean, obsessing, tantalizing, tempting beings, or at the old notions of the alchemists and others of that ilk; my researches and experience tell a far different story. When it is asserted that there is no mysterious means whereby ends both good and ill can be wrought at any distance; that the so called "spells," "charms" and "projects" are mere notions, having no firmer foundation than superstition or empty air alone; -- then I flatly deny all such assertions, and affirm that the conclusions arrived at are so reached by persons wholly ignorant of the invisible world about us, and of the inner powers of the human mind.
Although I am not called upon here to explain the rational involved in this special department at full length, yet elsewhere I have clearly indicated the direction in which it is to be found. As well tell me that the sun does not rise, as that there are no means whereby two dissevered persons cannot be brought in contact, or that methods do not exist by means of which one person can assuredly so work upon another as to gain desired ends -- of course said ends ought always to be good, but even if they be evil, the self-same principle and power exist, and can be easily brought into active play and power -- no matter whether said ends be those of love, affection jealousy, revenge, or love of gain and lust of power.
I have seen too much of that sort of thing in Asia, Africa, France, California, England, Long Island and New Orleans, to doubt the evidences of my senses, and the experience of years of attentive study of this branch of the great magnetic law, makes it impossible for me to doubt it. Indeed, so thoroughly convinced was I of the truth, that I spent years in travel and association with experts in order to become master of the processes and the rather unpleasant secrets of the lower -- as well as of the higher -- kind.
In New Orleans nothing is more common than for both men and women to employ the VOUDEAUX to effect contact with loved or desired ones. I have never known a failure, albeit some experiments of acquaintances of mine were rather expensive. A man loves a woman and can not reach her, or vice versa; then comes in the voud. I have a personal story to tell on this head, with living witnesses in Boston, that would convince the most sceptical person living.
[Within the term "voudeaux" Randolph included those who practiced any African diasporic religious tradition, as well as those whom we would now call hoodoo doctors or rootwork practitoners. Unfamiliar with French conjugation, he coined the word "voud" for a single individual rootworker.]
More than that: in this matter of sympathetic art I know that a pair of twin rings, containing each other's hair, one worn by the loved, the other by the lover, will blend the two in magnetic rapport to an astonishing degree. The whole thing is magnetic -- another word for magic; and so it is also of the "love-powder" business, for although most of the charlatans who pretend to deal in them are conscienceless swindlers, yet it is possible to prepare and charge certain materials so that they will retain the nerve aura of one person, and impart it to another, kindling up magnetic love between them, just as a little yeast will leaven a whole barrel of flour.
[The "'love-powder' business" refers to the prevalence of the use of magical sachet powders in the hoodoo tradition.]
Again, it will not do to tell me that one person cannot throw a spell upon another, and affect them favorably, or the reverse, at any distance! Hundreds are living witnesses today of my public exposure and defiance of the whole tribe of VOUDEAUX QUEENS -- Alice H___n and Madame D___s -- a victim, that I gained much of my knowledge in these occult points of black magic.
[The identities of the Voodoo Queens Alice H___n and Madame D___s remain a mystery pending further research in the New Orleans City Directory covering the period of Randolph's residence there. It is also interesting that Randolph, a younger contemporary of the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveu (Marie Philomene Laveau Glapion,1794 - 1881 [?]) did not name her; her fame was achieved primarily by stories told about her after her death.]
I have known it to be practiced for purposes of lust, passion, love, revenge and pecuniary speculation, and always with a strange and marvelous success.
Again, we are told that powers of evil guard hidden treasures, and successfully obfuscate and confuse the would-be finders. I believe it; and also believe that said obfuscation can easily be overcome by a timely resort to powers of a higher grade.
People are wont to laugh at and deride all this, in spite of the fact that the loftiest minds earth ever held, from HERMES TRISMEGISTUS, and the ALCHEMISTS, down the ages, to the last elected members of the SORBONNE, have believed, do believe it, and I glory in being found in such August company, including ALEXANDER of RUSSIA, and NAPOLEON III.
In corroboration of what I have written, I beg leave to introduce, without comment, the following article concerning "Voudooism -- African Fetich Worship among the Memphis Negroes," from the Memphis Appeal: --
Go to "Voudooism -- African Fetich Worship among the Memphis Negroes"
This material is reprinted from
Original and Selected from Various European and Asiatic Adepts
Paschal Beverly Randolph.
Randolph Publishing Co.
The Magic Mirror and How to Use It
Paschal Beverly Randolph, M. D.
The Confederation of Initiates
Beverly Hall, Quakertown, Pa.
The latter edition is the one most commonly found; the text above appears pages 21-23 of the 1930 reprint.
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