I read a good book this year. It was written by Witchdoctor Utu titled “Conjuring Harriet “Mama Moses” Tubman and the Spirits of the Underground Railroad” , with a foreword by Baba Ted Jauw. Because of the heated controversy, and my own heated immersion in it, I made a decision to not review it for at least 6 months.The controversy I am referring to in this statement can be researched online.
For an interview regarding this, please visit 3 Pagans and a Cat to listen to Episode 33 – Our Community – Witchdoctor Utu. It will give insight into what went down, and you will get to hear the author’s words on the entire ordeal. Make up your own mind.
One of the primary reasons that I joined the battlefield to defend this author’s right to have his voice hears in print, was to ensure that freedom of speech by writers is protected. I especially became incensed when blatantly false accusations were levied against the writer in order to silence him. The entire situation ventured into a Magical Kafkaesque realm of identity politics. To sum up in my eloquent fashion, it pissed me off.
I am an emotional creature. I am ruled by my passions. Whether about drawing, writing, playing music, or other areas of my life, I am swayed by passions. I know myself. I understand the anger and hurt behind those who genuinely felt that the proposed book and presentation would be filled with cultural theft and exploitation.
Yet, I make the choice to not brashly make attacks without knowing about the authenticity of the target. I do not have to “make my bones” in the magical world by pontificating on works that have not even been published, which is what happened. So, I waited and read the book.
I went to the rituals. I witnessed the application of the content. I sang the songs with the groups.
I decided to wait and return to it when I was no longer in the fray of battle before I spoke on it. I wanted to view it with softer, and calmer, eyes. Sometimes it is best to know when to keep still. I had to separate the person I have met in person from the writer that Witchdoctor Utu is.
I like the book. I think it has its own distinct feel and audience. It is very good.
This book is not a book based on spell recipes or mainstream popular social media understanding of what North American Conjure practices seem to be. It is not based on robbing authenticity by claiming to be something it is not. It is not African American/African Canadian folk magic. It is a tradition of conjuration and magical practices with roots in these, along with a distinctly unique body of work that developed its own path. Even more accurately, it is based on the spiritual aspects connected to the existence of the Underground Railroad.
Not only does Utu’s book address this but it makes a powerful case for the elevation of slavery’s most iconic warrior and symbol. It encompasses the movements of abolition and escape and how Quakers, Atheists, Suffragists, Canadian Episcopalians, and other white groups defended, fostered and helped keep the Underground Railroad Underground as well as a powerful case to say that Tubman retained her ‘roots’ even as a practicing Christian. Many slaves did. Do.
To suggest that only a person of color may present this case is silly. To know that a group of non POC decided this is defacto racist in and of itself. The bottom line is that their ignorance of our religions and our makeup and our history is what happens when people think they are your saviors. – Baba Teddy Olujimi Jauw
It is not for the naive kitz with no exposure to its roots, Hoodoo (African American/African Canadian folk magic). It is definitely geared towards those who have an a minimum of exposure to the topic. Unlike authors who have taken the opportunistic route of creating “traditions” based on Law 27 of the “48 Laws of Power“. Utu is not asking you to believe in him, but to believe in the practices and sincere essence of the soul of them.
I feel it is necessary at this moment to also make some definitive statement on what conjure actually is. It is about the spirits. In this case, the spirits involved in this practice are specific to the localities wherein the author resides, and their geographical journeys, origins, and etheric planes of influence.This book is not about repackaging African Traditional Religions for fun and profit. It is the work of a person with privilege sharing their spiritual life’s passion.
Despite the overwhelming support from Priests and Priestesses of African Traditional Religions throughout the over the 15 years I have been sharing these practices surrounding the Underground Railroad spirits as well as when this ordeal took place, for which I am very grateful, this is not an African Traditional religion I am presenting in the first place. – WItchdoctor Utu
When I teach students in the Black Moon Grove, I emphasize looking at writers, teachers, and mystics as whole people. No one is composed of a single facet, talent, or interest. Really see them and their development over their lifetimes. Who the person is at today may change in five years. They may be a secretly charitable person, or a tyrant. Understanding that so many of the ways we perceive a person are tied to the limited contacts we have with them allows us to dig more deeply into someone who we decide to pursue as a source for learning.
Witchdoctor Utu wrote about working with spirits before this book. An article about working with the spirit of Tituba for conjurers appeared in a blog, and his work with this tradtion appeared in “Hoodoo & Conjure Magazine: Documenting Southern Indigenous & African-based Cultural Traditions in the 21st Century”. It is very interesting that no controversy regarding this book seemed to reference his history of work in this scope of spiritual practices. yet, working with Harriet Tubman brought out the weevils. The dedication to working with these spirits in the Northern American experience, in this case African diasporic, speaks to the experience and sincerity of the writer.
Reading this book will not initiate you into an African Traditional Religion, or make you a Conjure Doctor, or Two Head Woman. What it will do is serve as an open gate to this world of spirit work with the Underground Railroad and the Elevacion of Harriet Tubman…and other spirits. Poignancy in the working with the Lovers, is of special note.
The book accomplishes its mission, and is well written. I recommend reading it. Ultimately, the work will stand on its own….and on my list of required reading.
Disclosure: I received my copy to read in advance, and for free.