not-BS spotted on tumblr: lab-grown gems with a side rant on so-called “closed practices”

I have an entire category on this blog for “BS spotted on Pinterest,” under which I also post BS spotted on tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, etc.

Tumblr has lots of BS. I’m especially (not) fond of the posts about hoodoo that copy/paste or screenshot or quote a portion of a book and then close with stuff like, “remember, kids, if you weren’t born into this culture/aren’t the right race or ethnicity/are trying to be a convert/whatever, it’s appropriation: Do Not Touch because it’s a closed practice” and similar such BS bits of racist, essentialist, historically ignorant, anthropologically blind, genealogically clueless posturing, gatekeeping, and virtue signaling.

(Clue brick: an entire culture can’t be a closed practice. That doesn’t even make sense. Unfuck your muddy thinking and imprecise language, or you are just part of the problem. Full disclosure: If I never see that bullshit neologism “closed practice” again it will be too soon. I especially don’t want to hear it about hoodoo from non-Southerners, ’cause those folks tend to get the South wrong all the damned time.[1])

But tumblr has some not-BS occasionally, and it’s only fair that I point that out every once in a while, too. So here I bring you some not-BS from tumblr.

I posted the whole thing so you’d have the context, but the spiritual folks and magicians and such reading along should have a pause and think about this last bit I’m emphasizing here. I’m not telling you what to do – I’m just suggesting we all give the underlying principles at work here some genuine thought. Resist sloppy thinking and false dichotomies and think about your theoretical underpinnings as a practitioner.

(And, you know, your ethics.)


[1] Yes, cultural and religious appropriation is a thing, and it’s a thing we should care about. I’ve written about it here and especially on Big Lucky Hoodoo. But this BS, ignorant, imprecise bumper-sticker preachy virtue signaling crap I see on tumblr constantly is just ridiculous, and it’s so incredibly off-base sometimes as to actually contribute to the freakin’ problem. More on this in the near future.

The rampant BS in essential oil marketing

…because I always come away from a Pinterest trip with something I have to write a PSA about! I’m sure this will piss off at least some of my readership, but this stuff has been ridiculous for a while now.

Y’all, there is no such thing as “therapeutic grade” essential oil. There is no governing body that grades essential oils and there is no standard definition of “therapeutic grade” or any other grade. Any company can decide to put “therapeutic grade” on their bottles. It’s totally freakin’ meaningless, and in fact, just speaking for myself, when I see a bottle of essential oil labeled “therapeutic grade,” my trust of the company goes down several notches, because it’s bullshit and they either know it, or they don’t know enough about what they’re selling to take their word on anything.

And if you see a blog telling you there are four grades of essential oils, I will bet you cash money that they are shilling for one of the big multilevel marketing setups that typically price their oils at least four times higher than typical quality retail brands. They use language like “therapeutic grade” to try to justify the markup, but I promise you, this is just marketing crap. Those oils are not some kind of ultra-elite anything, and they aren’t worth what they want you to pay for them. And the claim that “grade A” is organic and therapeutic grade, and “grade B” is food grade and could contain synthetics and contaminants… just click out when you see that bullshit. That’s garbage. People are just making shit up.

Now I believe those bloggers probably believe what they’re saying. There’s a lot of psychology going on here. I’m not saying it’s the bloggers necessarily who are lying to you – at least not on purpose. They have faith in this company or else they wouldn’t go to all the trouble. But that doesn’t mean they have the slightest idea what they’re talking about. The rhetoric that floats around, too often with bad advice, is dangerous. And if you believe these companies are angelic entities with humanity’s best interest, and not their corporate bottom line, at the heart of what they do, well, you’re drinking the Kool-Aid, and I suggest you put it down.

I also took a tour through the first 25 Amazon reviews of an essential oil set from a reputable and recognizable essential oil retailer. Absolutely zero percent of those 25 reviews were written by someone who knew enough to justly evaluate an essential oil. The criteria by which they judged the oil were nearly universally stupid and all over the map. Reviews like this are worse than useless as real data or any kind of yardstick of quality.

Also, don’t consume essential oils because some random website told you to. (Or at all.) No, that is not how your ancestors overcame illness. Your ancestors used the *whole plant* – not necessarily the whole thing from root to flower in every case for every blend, but the point is they did not use isolated compounds or massively concentrated distillations of only part of the plant’s constituent profile. They used the actual plants with their actual phytochemicals to make teas and salves and liniments and baths and such so that the infusion, decoction, etc. contained numerous active components that *worked together synergistically* in ways we still only barely understand. That is so far away from taking an aromatherapy essential oil internally that my head just about explodes when I see people recommending you ingest essential oils. That can kill you.

(I’m going to save for later the rant about how the trendiness of essential oils has contributed to some massive sustainability problems and ecological crises and exploitation, because that rant needs to come along with specific and practical discussion of alternatives as well as some historical, agricultural, and *chemical* context, and that’s gonna require significant time and research. But for now I’ll just say that the essential oil craze has actually been devastating to the environment, and I think everybody interested in rootwork needs to spend some time thinking about things like ethical sourcing as well as whole-plant infusion as an alternative to all-essential-oils-all-the-time, and choosing native/regionally available herbs and roots. Your great-great grandparents most certainly were not using essential oils to make up their medicines or condition oils or baths, and it’s unlikely that were they importing expensive, rare resins and spices from other countries. They were using what they could go out and gather. We’ve really developed a kind of perverse concept of essential oils as some “pure essence” of a plant, and this related idea that one plant is the Ideal for a certain thing and there’s nothing better anywhere, so we should get it by any means necessary and totally ignore what’s growing right under our noses in our regions. Nothing could be further from the truth.)

Bottom line: there’s a lot of freakin’ garbage out there. Some of it is just common obfuscation for the sake of marketing, but some of it is straight up dangerous. Some of the BS being circulated comes from well-meaning but gullible people who have believed a bunch of hype and overestimated the ethical character of the companies they shill for. You shouldn’t take their advice and you probably shouldn’t follow their recipes without doing some of your own research with reputable sources, either (esp. if they talk about “toxins” and “chemicals” a lot in really vague, sweeping terms, think you should put essential oil in your kid’s pancakes, and don’t think body products need preservatives).

And don’t just take my word for it, either. After all, I’m not a an aromatherapist or herbalist or a botanist or a scientist of any stripe at all. Go see what credentialed experts have to say about this stuff – not “momwithablog74” who wants you to buy a certain brand of incredibly expensive essential oil. Go see what trained aromatherapists think and how naturopaths feel about all this and what medicinal plant conservationists recommend, and while you’re at it, what the FDA and the Better Business Bureau have had to say.

If you’re going to use essential oils, you should know what the deal is, both in terms of the quality and ethics of the company whose product you use and in terms of the global status of the plant the oil comes from. Don’t contribute to ecological crises (or cultural theft) and don’t give your money to dishonest companies who use misleading marketing techniques. They are trying to swindle you.

Oh ffs – Jezebel root PSA/rant + crash course in rhizomes

Iris fulva, one of the species whose rhizome is called Jezebel root. Public domain. [1]

This post represents stages of my research today to figure out where the hell something crazy came from. Watch the crazy unfold.

You keep using that word…

Jezebel root is not this…whatever this crap is. Pro tip – the stuff in that picture isn’t a root at all.

Reportedly???

Jezebel root is not “reportedly related to the Iris flower.” It IS the root of an iris flower. But the stuff in that picture? Is not the root of an iris flower. Matter of fact, it looks like that same crap in the first picture. I’m beginning to think an entire segment of the “occult world” has been using tree bark for Jezebel root for a whole generation now.

Pro tip: don’t buy herbs from places where nobody knows what a root looks like.

Least they got the genus right:

But Jezebel root is not orris root.

Version?!

The plot thickens:

Abies means this comes from a fir tree. This makes so little freakin’ sense it just blows my mind.

Let’s consider this Curse of Jezebel, in which one is supposed to hold the root – not a piece of the root, the root – in one’s hand for an extended period of time. The root of a big old honkin’ fir tree. Come on, now. Pro tip: don’t buy herbs from people who obviously don’t research and perform the spells they’re writing about.

But yeah – there’s a whole segment of the population who apparently accepts that some part of a fir tree that doesn’t look like a root is legit a “version” of Jezebel root. Never mind that I have never, ever heard of any tradition associating the fir with cursing or with attracting a man who’ll spend money on you or any of things that Jezebel root is used for. Have any of y’all?

Where are people’s brains?

Oh, now this is some convoluted stupid.

Ah, the plot thickens some more. According to these folks, it’s not just any of a number of possible abies – it’s Pinus abies, aka Norway spruce, and it’s “commonly used” when real Jezebel root is “out of season.”

Okay, just stop. The audience here is people who buy dried herbs from online suppliers, presumably because they can’t get them locally in season or at all. Drying an herb removes considerations of season from the freakin’ table, ffs. Also, that passive construction “is commonly used” is weaselly as hell. Commonly used by whom, exactly? (Answer: by people who don’t use their brains.) Most herbs are freakin’ seasonal, ffs. That’s why we freakin’ dry them.

And anyway, this rationale makes absolutely no sense. We’re talking about roots – or actually, we’re talking about rhizomes, and that’s important. We call it a root, but it’s really not. A rhizome is an underground stem that can produce the root and stem of a new plant and that stores nutrients to help the plant survive in case the growing conditions are unfavorable one year. That’s right, one year – only perennials have rhizomes (plants that live for at least two years). And irises can live for up to about 20 years if they’re well taken care of. That means you can dig up the root any old time.

This is what you’re looking for – you should see little ridged scaly-looking segments on an unpeeled rhizome (right), and whether peeled or unpeeled, you will probably be able to see little stringy looking roots, or at least holes where those roots used to be (left).

And mind you, these folks claim true Jezebel root is one of the Louisiana irises, which is kinda half true (but not every Louisiana iris species is Jezebel root, and Jezebel root is not only Louisiana iris species).

Well, in places like Louisiana, it doesn’t always get cold enough for the plant to even die back completely for winter.

So somebody please explain to me in exactly what way, in exactly what sense, Jezebel root can be said to be “out of season” and therefore “commonly” need substitution?

This is some absolutely bugshit crazy rationalization.

Y’all – use your brains. And don’t buy herbs from idiots.

(OMG, I’m gonna have to do one of these on corms and Adam and Eve root I think, too…)



Part of A Bayou Hoodoo Herbal.

[1] Annales de Flore et de Pomone ou Journal des jardins et des champs, October 1834. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Sciences et techniques, S-16469.

Quick Little Catholic Iconography Lesson

Ok, the Pinterest Pedant strikes again.

Mary does not have a Sacred Heart.

Mary has an Immaculate Heart.

This is the Immaculate Heart of Mary: sword, flames, roses. No thorns.

This is the Sacred Heart. Only Jesus has a Sacred Heart. Thorns, not roses. Pierced, but with a spear, not a sword. Flames but note the cross in the midst of them.

Occasionally the Sacred Heart will be pierced by an arrow instead. This has to do with an idea that we wound Christ with blasphemy and profaning the Sabbath. The Golden Arrow Prayer said in reparation is said to heal those wounds.

You’ll often see the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts together, but they are still two different things and not interchangeable.

You may now return to your kitten memes.

All of these images are public domain and are copied/pasted so widely that it would be an afternoon’s rabbit hole to try to source them all, sorry.

questions you’ve asked: dressing vs. drowning candles, cinnamon, BS spotted on Pinterest

Q: Not a real question but a PSA on dressing candles.

Y’all got some real pretty dressed candles on Instagram and Pinterest, folks. Some of y’all got some real pretty big ole fire hazards up on Instagram and Pinterest. Look, those big old chunks of rose petal and various herbs look really nice for the camera, but that shit is a straight up fire hazard and it’s interfering with your candle work. The candle cannot do what it’s supposed to do when you choke it out with huge globs of herbs. Y’all don’t need to be playing like that, especially not with glass-encased vigil candles.

And are you interpreting every pop and shudder of the flame and bit of soot as information about your candle work? Well, that’s not the spirits telling you anything. That’s your candle flame sputtering and choking ’cause you crammed too much shit into your candle wax. You are interfering with the candle’s ability to report on the very work you’re asking it to do.

Q: Can I use cinnamon oil as a substitute for Come to Me oil?

A: Well, that’s kinda looking at it the wrong way, hoodoo-wise. See, Come to Me oil is not one single herb/essential oil. It does other things besides just put a fire under somebody’s ass to get them over there to see you. I mean, it’s a great ingredient for “heating something up” but in a positive, attracting way (versus, say, cayenne pepper, which also heats things up but without the sweetness that cinnamon has). But a straight-up substitute? I’d say no.

I mean, aside from the fact that one single herb/oil is pretty much never gonna be a real substitute for an entire compounded formula, there’s also the matter of how formulas are traditionally compounded in hoodoo, and that’s almost universally going to be a basis of at least three ingredients. The oldest and simplest “recipes” nearly always call for a three-ingredient basis. There’s a lot about hoodoo that doesn’t have to be “just so,” so you must do this on this day of the week when the moon’s doing this. Hoodoo doesn’t fool with a lot of that. But the odd-number ingredient thing is deeply, deeply traditional.

I’d look for at least two additional ingredients to include that told the cinnamon where to go and what to do. By itself, cinnamon doesn’t command “come to me.” It just suggests you get moving. The whole thing needs some sentence structure, not just cinnamon as a verb hanging out by itself, if that makes sense.

Q: stfu spell. lemon?

A: yes.

Q: alum?

A: yes!

Q: pins?

A: Sure!

Q: lavender.

A: say what? er… and you’re putting it with the alum, not a separate spell or something and you forgot to explain that?

With the alum, huh.

No, I wouldn’t hit a hog in the behind with that recipe.

Q: I saw it on Pinterest.

A: Of course you did. Bless your heart, darlin’.

Man, there sure is some kind of stuff on Pinterest.