A Bayou Hoodoo Herbal

Herbs of Lore and Faith from Texas to Florida

under construction: last update 6/17/22

Late 16th century map of the Gulf Coast of New Spain. Santa Cruz, Alonso De, and Archivo General De Indias. Mapa del Golfo y costa de la Nueva España: desde el Río de Panuco hasta el cabo de Santa Elena. [?, 1572] Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

Introductory Note

Some of these you won’t find in published sources on hoodoo, and in some cases they might not have much written about their magical uses at all, anywhere. People have historically worked with what they had in their regions and microclimates, and the knowledge was passed down in the oral tradition. They didn’t always know where it came from. They also didn’t always get to pass it down and so sometimes it just plain got lost. Only a fraction of the regionally-specific lore about herbs and curios in American folk magic has ever been gathered into one place, under one cover or one URL. 

Where I live and grew up on the Gulf Coast, we have a pretty big range of influences, traditions, paradigms, and ingredients. Culture, history, biome, and geography mean that there are some things we might do just a little differently down here. And in many cases, it just isn’t realistic to expect to be able to slot everything into neat categories with firm boundaries and say “this is Cajun” and “this is from Mexican herblore” and things like that. I mean, that’s not how folklore and folk traditions work, you know? But to the best of my ability, I’ll provide what info I can, and I’m always on the lookout for more.

(That means I want to hear from you if you’re familiar with herblore of the region and have something to add!)

A Note on Terminology

In calling this a bayou hoodoo herbal, I don’t mean to exclude regions of the Gulf Coast that aren’t really bayou. (The bayou pretty much ends with Mobile.) I just had to call it something. I also don’t mean to imply that everything here would be broadly recognizable as pertaining to hoodoo rootwork specifically. In fact, some of it probably won’t be, and there’s sure to be something in here for everyone to disagree with. It’s more properly a collection of lore about spiritual uses of herbs on the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida. But again, I had to call it something, and let’s face it, “bayou hoodoo” is a much more appealing and punchy title than “spiritual herblore of the U.S. Gulf Coast.” But I will do my best to identify where stuff seems to come from, and I’ll try to make it clear when a usage is not likely to be recognized outside of this region, or even across the entire region.

While I won’t always be able to tell you exactly where I heard something or when, I will do my best to estimate, and in cases where I can provide a source that pertains to what I’m saying, I will cite it in the article itself. I maintain a list of sources here.

Goals of This Work

History and the Region Defined

Herbs

  • Abre camino
  • American Beautyberry
  • American nightshade
  • Baby’s breath
  • Baneberry
  • Bayberry
  • Bermuda grass
  • Blackberry / dewberry
  • Black cherry
  • Black jane vine
  • Blueberry
  • Blue flag iris
  • Boneset
  • Bottle gourd
  • Bristle mallow
  • Bristly thistle [IG]
  • Broom grass
  • Buckeye
  • Butterfly weed
  • Button bush
  • Camphor
  • Cardinal flower
  • Carolina jessamine [IG]
  • Cat’s foot
  • Cinchona
  • Cleavers
  • Clematis
  • Clover, white
  • Cocklebur
  • Coffee
  • Coral bean
  • Coral vine
  • Cross vine
  • Cypressvine [IG]
  • Devil’s walking stick
  • Dogwood
  • Elderberry
  • False daisy
  • False indigo
  • Fig
  • Fir
  • Fleabane
  • Goat weed
  • Goldenrod
  • Gopher grass
  • Gravel root – see Joe Pye weed
  • Greenbrier – see smilax
  • Henbit deadnettle
  • Hog peanut
  • Honey locust
  • Honeysuckle
  • Horse mint
  • Horsetail
  • Hyacinth bean
  • Hydrangea
  • Hyssop
  • Indian balm
  • Indian pink
  • Jack in the box
  • Jack in the pulpit
  • Jezebel Root
  • Job’s Tears [IG]
  • Joe Pye weed / Queen of the Meadow / Gravel root
  • Lemon balm
  • Liquidambar / Styrax
  • Lizard’s tail
  • Manglier [IG]
  • Manroot
  • Master of the Woods / Sweet woodruff
  • Mayapple
  • Maypop
  • Nickernut [IG]
  • Nightshade (American, black)
  • Orange
  • Pine
  • Pokeweed
  • Queen of the Meadow – see Joe Pye weed
  • Rabbit Tobacco [IG]
  • Rattlesnake Weed [IG]
  • Sea myrtle – see manglier
  • Smilax spp
  • Sticky Nightshade [IG]
  • Trillium
  • Vetiver
  • Wax Myrtle
  • Yaupon

Sources