Since my last post I’ve come across an example of broom-weed being used in theft detection charms by North American Conjure practitioners. In her essay “Hoodoo in America” (1931), the American novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston noted that:
“To catch a thief: hang three sprigs of broomweed about the neck of the suspect and recite Psalm 50:18, and if he is the guilty one it will choke him to death”.
Psalm 50, verse 18 concerns God condemning those who recite the commandments and talk of their faith whilst also being “the friend of every thief” they see.
Hurston didn’t give the Latin names of the plants the Hoodoo and Conjure practitioners used. As there are a number of species called “broom-weed” I can’t be sure if it is the malvastrum coromanelianum of the Jamaican ritual. However, the employment of broom-weed in Hoodoo demonstrates that it was employed in anti-theft techniques in different parts of the New World.
Did the idea/technique travel from North America to the Caribbean or vice versa?
One obvious difference between the North American and the Jamaican versions of the broom-weed anti-theft charm are the words recited. As seen in my previous post, in Jamaica a rhyme invoking St Peter and Saint Paul is used. In the USA, a psalm.
Saint Paul is not mentioned at all in Hurston’s collection of Hoodoo remedies. However St Peter is included in a couple of the charms though these are aimed at increasing success and prosperity rather than the detection/prevention of theft (see “Hoodoo in America”, pp. 338 and 413).
How wormweed can prevent unwanted attention from duppies.
Zora Neale Hurston, “Hoodoo in America”, The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 44, no. 174 (Oct-Dec, 1931), p. 324.
Good News Bible: Today’s English Version (London: Collins/Fontana, 1976), p. 565.
From U.S. Library of Congress, author unknown: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/57/Hurston-Zora-Neale-LOC.jpg