Hoodoo is a system of largely protestant based rootwork or plant work, combined with biblical passages such as the psalms. Some do work with the dead in terms of animal bones, and different dirts including grave dirt. There is believed to be spirits within the plants, and are the main spirits worked with outside of christianity. There are allegorical teaching stories used such as briar rabbit and trickster spirits from the native american, african mix saw the similarities with their spider Anansi. Being protestant, there were no saints to preserve african spirits as well of the Orisha, Mpungo or Lwa, and the slave masters were less understanding of idolatry.
To facilitate this practice graveyard work including mediumship with the dead is employed, but it cannot be readily identified as necromancy. In modern times (the last 45 years) many who practice folk magic have joined the afro spiritualist or spiritualist churches who are more catholic based. Not all hoodoo or root workers are in the spiritualist church. This lead to the inclusion of spirit guides such as Blackhawk, 7 african powers and la madama from endless commissions of spirits incorrectly without reference, as practices and knowledge around these spirits were not passed on from the cubans and puertoricans from which they originated, known as espiritismo or the spiritualist church outside of the more european kardecian based.
Many people want to use the items in a botanica, but they have no power sitting on a shelf. The 7 african powers are not Orisha, they are various dead warriors from different african tribes from puertorican espiritismo and not the Cuban religions. This was further confused with the image of the crucified jesus as the just judge, Ogun or Olofi. Many different images of the Jesus and Mary are used for various african spirits where there was catholicism. The Cubans do not use saint images for their religious item for the spirits, it is just decoration. They receive the spirits in a pot in ritual. From what I have read about New Orleans, the catholic italians and irish kept to themself, although the pomp certainly was appreciated by the rest of the population, and welcome during open house feast dates of the saints.
There is some speculation at this time how someone from an American east coast european spiritualist church could found a southern afro church without having any public information about lineage, because they did not have our spiritual pots and teachings. It is possible that a congo based practictioner helped create this as Chicago is not far from New York where there is espiritismo. In which case he no longer was a spirit guide and became more like a spirit of the dead in an nganga or nkisi which can be birthed from to another who already has it. Unless this pot was created because his spirit guide statue was unable to be prepared in the afro spiritualist way. We also have indian pots, if a person has several indian spirits or ancestry as do those in Dominican Voudou called a Tindjo as a portal, and this could have been appropriated or influenced this creation.
I have contacted a hoodoo author about this question politely with no response, who supposedly held the lineage of Blackhawk into introducing it into Hoodoo. Quickly glancing at one of her books online, she had a section on how to work with the spirit of la madama, which shows the lack of cultural connection, as she is thousands of different individual people who is a spirit guide to an individual, of which not everyone has one in this category, nor have the same indian guide. Hoodoo workers going out and buying a la madama statue is rediculous.
In more European spiritualist churches good spirits have to acknowledge Jesus. These spirit guides are concerned with one person only. People may be attracted to the image of a specific historical indian perhaps because they have a spirit guide, no two will be alike however, and cannot be willingly passed to another person, or in life. Many people like the image of La Madama, but she is hundreds or tens of thousands of different dead people in that class, all with different real names. A person may have a Congo or an Africana, as black dolls are not all the same person, class or culture. Spirit guides come from seances, in which advanced mediums in community identify your spirit court or entourage, and no two people will have the same dead muerto or spirits. This is not something a person can do themself outside the traditions of spiritualism. People even have confused the Lwa statue of the african man Candelo as a folk saint, or these spirit guides as folk saints.
Hoodoo is folk magic that does not use african spirits, or pagan spirits, however in modern times the usage of Catholic saints has been added, again by going to botanicas and imitating african religions such as Santeria. Santeria is really magic with the saints, but came to also incorrectly be the term for the Orisha religions of Ocha, Lucumi and Ifa.
What most people think is New Orleans Voudou is in most cases actually folk magick, heavily congo based, incorrectly attributed by white ethnographers who treked heavily into west africa and identified anything remotely african as Voodoo. Modern pracitioners in the area are mostly Haitian initiates, and the records do not identify Lwa as being ever mentioned or prevalent in this area. The slaves in the area were mostly Senegalese and Congo, and can be reflected in the usage of red and black for some Rada, the inclusion of european poppets with "nails" not understanding the congo nkisi, and they were not used of curses. Nails are used for differing reasons, but share the marking of intention. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A VOUDOU CURSE. It is outside the religion to do so.
Really voudou dolls do not exist. These things are not seen in any other branch of voudou for the most part or have very different uses and meanings. Dolls are used throughout the caribbean to represent an ancestor, a guide or spirit they love. In other african diasporic religions such as palo they may make a doll for a client to work in absentee, such as protection to keep in a temple, much like a pot de tete in voudou, items are made with personal hair clipping or nails etc is included as just one of the ingredients required.
Also the emphasis on the color white is in voudou for rada Lwa, with red and black used only for petro. Black is rarely used otherwise, except for a few Ghede or Ayizan along with other colors or white throughout Voudou diaspora in the Caribbean. In Sanse we use purple and white for our chief Ghede Limbo, and black and white for the Ghede family. I do not think people understand the use of color, why they are used, its not just, those are their colors. Red and purple are considered hot, black and white are cool, with black being lower and darker. Black and purple is more so with riling up the dead to send them out, hot and dark, such as with bokor tradition outside of voudou. Some Haitian hounfort are two handed. We try to make the influence of the dead more kindly yet active with the "choice" lineage of color. There is no preservation of Ifa with the Orisha either, or the inclusion of Ellegua with red and black as some try to claim. Red and black is also more congo with their crossroads Lucero spirit, or within congo based Quimbanda with their Exu and Pomba gira crossroad spirits. Unfortuenately people mess with what they do not understand and is beyond their egoic control, or knowledge level.
Unscrupulous uninitiated authors have tried to make an afro wicca out of new orleans voudou, as there should be no pagan Greek or European spirits, they should not use spirit guides like espiritismo, and they should not have a whole pantheon of Orisha to choose from or Ellegua, and does not include western magick of hermetisicm. Most of any remaining west african practices have likely gone underground due to the tourists, or are practiced by Haitian lineage. Meaning they are haitian immigrants who recently brought their religion, or Americans who went to Haiti as is required, not new orleans voudou. Any native new orleans voudou within the confines of one city that possibly existed largely left or went underground.
There was seldom any Caribbean to America transport of slaves by prohibition law. And there is no other indigenous Voudou or African religion diaspora origins in America. It has become a tourist collection of museums, gift shops, tours, and books to make $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Just because there are cultural mixes in tradition doesn't mean people can just grab anything, and say "well they did it, they mixed things". Who's "they": the slaves who were forced to, and hundred to thousands of year old traditions these tens to hundreds of thousands of people agreed upon.
Madam Marie Laveau was a Catholic, relatively middle to upperclass free buisnesswoman, of mixed ancestry, possibly part Haitian, said to be American born in some accounts. Written suppositions are often more fiction than fact at an apprasial of the wikipedia page. She possibly married a 3/4 white Haitian man who shortly left, and then she studied under a Senegalese man Dr John, a hoodoo worker. Her chewing peppers for justice in one story, crying with red eyes reflects the congo as in petro. And then there is congo square, where she was seen dancing with her snake, performance art or no, Nsambi was the congo god. Yes we have the snake dhamballah, but the congo makaya tribe is where we get the Simbi Lwa. The mojo or gris gris bags came from a Senegalese or wolof word. The original bag was red flannel, and only used or had access to white or yellowish tallow candles for the most part.
There is a system in which any venerated dead of any religion or people can become Lwa however, but would be within a religious framework of Voudou. There is also a seperate ancestral veneration by their own family or cultural group or tribe. Did Marie Laveau practice voudou?, its very doubtful. But if the stories of her nursing epidemic victims is true, she definately deserves veneration, and as a folk magick practitioner and diviner.
The disgraced author Tallant is generally regarded as grandiose fiction, who again called all african folk magick and cursing voodoo, even Zora Neale Hurston was doubtful about the existance of a public or widespread voudou lineage as an ethnographer. She stated on her visit (sic), "the african rites, with names that rivaled those in Haiti", but they were not similar, nor recorded. My guess is they used the congo name for god, Nsambi. In our spiritual house, we hold secrets, all I can say is that Marie Laveau is venerated, and a congo spiritual worker through Palo Mayombe. JFK was made into a voudou Lwa by some Haitians. A bishop? who harried the folk practitioners in New Orleans was supposedly made into a Lwa, who hated any spiritual expression other than than christianity. Both were not practitioners of voudou in their life as far as is known. Can a spirit guide become a Lwa? Yes by a legitimate voudou practitioner with legitimate reason such as connection, as we do not work with a whole pantheon. Scholars are now beginning to write about the difference in african tribes and their influences in the new world, previously inaccurate reports from largely white missionaries is what shapes most and outsiders viewpoints on this subject to this day.
Obeah from Jamaica has practitioners also in a tradition of spiritualism, pocomania or revivialism. Obeah is heavily folk magick based, and ceremonial magic based using the 4th and 5th books of Moses. Folk magick, ceremonial magic and sorcery is evident within the Bokor, secret societies, black lodges of Haiti, and is not considered religion nor Voudou, even if used for healing. They do use Lwa more so the congo based Petro, Baron Samedi and Kalfu (carrefour, four square).
Some people identify Hoodoo, conjure and appalachian magic as the same, but they have regional differences. As explained to me by my apprentice, Appalachia has more scottish roots, conjure has more dutch germanic roots with hex signs etc, and hoodoo is more african based. Although each region included european, native american and african practices, they settled into slightly different traditions and had different local plants.
These were family traditions, mostly practiced in solitary, or passed down one on one orally. Thus it is very difficult to learn accurate practices from books or the internet.
The spiritualist churches as in the african based espiritismo has baptisms, and some hoodoo practitioners say they have baptisms outside the catholic church. Hoodoo is not a religion however, and many have no such practice. This lave tet is also done in Voudou which is an initiatory religion and uses the Lwa, of which only a few concern the practitioner and not a whole pantheon. The Orisha people only possibly had one or two out of hundreds in Voudou passed down by family lineage and not generally within the religion. In New Orleans some Voudou houses say they have no clergy nor initiations which mark religion.
Many people want to work with african spirits uninitiated, but this does not exist outside of lineage, whether family or orthodox. These african diasporic religions do not contain a bunch of spells, as the magic is inseperable from the religion's services, practices, spiritual point of access passed to you in intiation or blood lineage and rites. Voudou is life, largely in the moment and experiential in congress with spirits. Many seek to keep the people of the culture and these spirits at an arms length with over intellectual approach, such as through a books, but this is impossible as a way to practice. You can study the culture, but not the religious experience this way. A Haitian American said, "voudou pas des livres". I agree voudou is 98% without books, leaving room for creativity and cultural study once you know the spirits you are supposed to be working with through your initatory rites and services.
People from Louisiana, shameless profiteer authors or newagers can get as mad as they like about what I have said. The unitiated authors neglect to address these issues I have raised, nor have the lineages to back it up, nor allow disagreeing viewpoints on their pages. In Africa there were royal priest kings, and there is no guarentee of this connection now, outside of unbroken family lines and religion. There is nothing wrong with hoodoo, it is awesome folk magic, but its not voudou religion either.