Mojo Bags – Gris-Gris – Mojo Hand
WHAT IS A MOJO BAG?
First, you might ask, what is a mojo bag? Basically, it is a prayer or spell in a bag. In simplistic terms, it is an amulet. In the Hoodoo tradition, we customarily use the term ‘mojo bag, ’ but it can be called by many other names: a mojo hand, gris-gris bag, toby, or trick bag. The word ‘gris-gris’ means charm or fetish. The reason behind why a mojo bag would be considered a fetish is because practitioners of hoodoo consider it to be a living thing. While a few may simply create a bag of herbal and mineral ingredients, many seasoned workers breathe life into the bag before tying it off by blowing their breath into it. So you see, these magical bags are actual charms, made so by their specific ingredients inside (and the energies of the bag’s creator) that combine to form a synergistic blend of magic. Usually made of red flannel, some practitioners prefer to choose a color that relates to its use. For example, a money mojo might be green. But tradition dictates that it is almost always made of flannel. Another belief is that it is best to include an odd number of ingredients such as 3, 5, 7, 13, etc. Workers may also choose to include a certain ingredient in all of their mojo bags as a ‘signature.” I, myself, include lavender in all of my bags – unless a client asks me not to because of allergies. It is rather expected that the conjureman with the lavender tattoo would include this as his signature herb.
FEEDING MOJO BAGS
Creating a mojo bag is more complex than one might think. Inside there may be a variety of ingredients: herbs, minerals, bones, flowers, and sometimes personal items like a locket of hair. When made for a specific purpose or person, a mojo bag usually contains a petition (a written prayer or intention). Some people use an actual drawstring bag to create their mojo. My preferred method is what is known as a ‘flaming comet’ style mojo bag where a square of flannel is gathered up around the ingredients and tied off with string or twine. It should be made small enough to carry on your person. After it is created, it is fed with a liquid of some sort. While many use Florida water cologne or some other type of alcohol, I am one of those who prefers to feed the bag with condition oil — one that corresponds to the nature of the mojo bag. A love mojo, for example, should be fed with love oil. The bag is carried with you to impart its magic into your life. For the first three days, it should be kept against your skin and placed under your pillow at night. As the weeks go on and if your petition doesn’t seem to be manifesting, it may be time to feed your mojo bag again. Simply rub a little oil on the bag whenever you feel it needs a magical lift.
ORIGINS, VARIATIONS, AND DETAILS
A gris-gris bag is an amulet that originated in West Africa, specifically Ghana. Like a mojo bag, it also contained a number of objects such as stones, bones, oils, and herbs that combined to provide protection against bad luck and the evil eye. When they reached America, the gris-gris changed over time. Some began to think of them as harmful tools to curse another, often being left on the tombstones of cruel slave masters or hung on buildings and homes. In Haiti, they are still considered to be positive, and bearers of good luck and have made their way into Voodoo practice. It is thought to be proper to carry a gris-gris in your left pocket. Scholars trace it to the word ‘juju’ the West African name for fetish or sacred object.
A nation sack is a mojo bag that is only carried by women, specifically for the purpose of controlling a man. Some debate that it is actually called a ‘nature sack’ and white researchers misunderstood the dialect of the black subjects they were interviewing. It appears the nation sack was not a widely known tool, with most accounts of it being made and used in the Memphis, Tennessee area. Also used to keep a lover faithful or a husband from straying, its contents are related to love, devotion, and domination. Queen Elizabeth root (orris root) is often found in a nation sack, and it is a common custom to use menstrual blood as a key element as well as the semen of the man involved.
A jackball looks similar to a mojo bag but is made and used much differently. While it also contains herbs, roots, and other components found in a mojo, those ingredients are encased in a ball of wax (or beeswax) by slowly adding wax into the ingredients and shaping into a ball. It is then wrapped in red yarn or red twine, leaving behind a long tail when complete. Jackballs are considered to be container spells, calling upon the same energy one would use to create a witch bottle. They are used as a talisman to protect against evil, to influence others, to bring mastery to the keeper of it, and can also be used for divination – the same way someone would use a pendulum. It is believed that swinging a jackball in the air charges it with power.