On karma, crossed conditions, and remediation

This is a slightly edited version of a reply to a client in a convo that touched on uncrossing work and the concept of karma. It is necessarily a vast oversimplification, but it is probably more easily accessible and definitely less of a rant than other things I have written about karma here or on Big Lucky Hoodoo.

This is coming to you from a rootworker *and* from a woman who was given the name Karma at birth lol… so despite the fact that hoodoo has no conception of karma at all, being a folk magic practice based in Christianity, I do know a little bit about the concept 🙂

The concept of karma in Buddhism depends on reincarnation or transmigration or rebirth as one of its fundamental tenets. I am vastly oversimplifying a complex concept with an incredibly extensive history of development, but there are a number of important implications here that I’ll just mention.

– The concept is incompatible with scriptural Christianity.

– One’s karma is not just about one’s actions in this lifetime. That means our ability to understand how our karma stands or how it’s playing out is incredibly limited from our temporal, limited human perspectives, based as they are in our current lifetime. The very situations we find ourselves in in this lifetime, indeed the personality and character that we have in this lifetime, are shaped and directed by actions we took that we no longer remember, from a different time and place, in a different lifetime. So Karma does not mean “as you sow, so shall you reap” in the way most Westerners mean it. It definitely does not mean “as you do in this lifetime, that will be done to you in this lifetime.”

– Uncrossing work cannot free you from karma. That’s not how karma works. *Karma is not a crossed condition.* The word itself in Sanskrit means “action.” You have accumulated merit (or lack of merit) based on *your actions* (which can include certain kinds of thoughts). Demerits can’t be zapped out of existence, but they can basically be overwhelmed or outweighed or balanced by meritorious actions. And intention matters. The Buddhist definition of karma could possibly most fairly be rendered as “intentional action.”

– This is not to say they must always be YOUR actions; acts of merit can be dedicated to someone else, such as an ancestor, and someone could dedicate their acts of merit to you.

– In Buddhism, you could perhaps fairly say the whole point is to ultimately arrive NOT at a state where you’ve accumulated more merit than demerit, contrary to popular belief, but at a state where you are karmically neutral. Then you no longer feed into this cycle and no longer have to suffer rebirth. You basically *no longer have karma* at that point. This is probably the biggest point on which Buddhism deviated from the earliest Hindu conception of karma, which could arguably have been boiled down to something like the familiar “good deeds get you into heaven; bad deeds send you to hell.”

Now I don’t say this to be a bratty pedant or because I like to go around telling people they’re wrong. I say this stuff because the concept of karma that Westerners have kind of absorbed as part of popular culture can be limiting, even harmful. In fact, it can be *profoundly damaging.*

For myself, I’m fairly agnostic on the matter and on exactly how it would fit in, if it even did, with concepts of the afterlife and human and nonhuman spirits and ancestors and all the rest. I think most Western non-Buddhists should just stop using the word, because most Western non-Buddhists don’t know what they’re talking about. Those who are truly committed to the concept have, I believe, an obligation to understand it fully and as accurately as possible. And to those people, I would also emphasize meritorious/virtuous action as being at the core of anything you might call “karma remediation.”

So if this is you, it’s actually good news, I would think, because while Uncrossing is not the answer, good deeds, on the other hand, can actually get you somewhere 🙂

In some branches of Buddhism, meditation on a certain aspect of the Buddha can purify past/existing karma. In quite a few branches of Buddhism, confessing of misdeeds and a resolve to do better going forward can purify karma. It maybe isn’t too much of a stretch to map that (loosely) on to practices like Reconciliation and Penance in the Western Christian tradition, with Penance taking the form of some kind of service or donation or deed to benefit someone else rather than any kind of self-flagellation or internally-directed suffering or anything. Suffering is definitely not the point with karma, and in fact the whole goal is to get to a point where you can leave that suffering behind.

It’s kind of hard to explain both accurately *and* succinctly. I have a relatively recent blog post that goes into just a sliver of what the Hindu and Buddhist scriptures have to say about karma if you’re interested in that (though there’s also ranting):

questions you’ve asked: bunch of folks should just stop using the word “karma,” period

Questions You’ve Asked: Sovereign Queen vs. Queen Esther

A customer asks for guidance on choosing between Sovereign Queen and Queen Esther oils.

For a general “women’s empowerment/success” formula, I’d probably go with Sovereign Queen and reserve Queen Esther for particular situations/settings. Queen Esther oil is great for when you need to go into a situation with poise and intelligence, definitely, and though the ingredients are different, with it not being a hoodoo oil, it almost has a similar “vibe” to Look Me Over, Check Me Out oil, in that it draws eyes toward you and helps ensure that gaze is an admiring one.

Queen Esther does all that, but there are lots of elements of your empowerment and success more generally as a woman where that might not be the most important or appropriate thing. I can think of times, in fact, where you don’t want to draw everybody’s gaze during the course of business as a woman. And Sovereign Queen heavily emphasizes the sovereignty, the autonomy, independent strength and ability to succeed. Sovereign Queen is really almost more a mastery and success blend for women, focused largely on the woman herself as the target rather than on the eyes of beholders as the targets, if that makes sense.

So they are certainly complementary, or can be, but Sovereign Queen is more a day-to-day formula for a woman with important things to do who needs a certain commanding element – not compelling, but commanding, which in hoodoo formula parlance is about having people do your bidding because they want to, because they admire you and trust your ability to lead or ideas or whatever. so you don’t have to dominate them – they follow you willingly and respect you.

Now if I were working in a business setting and had an important meeting coming up at which I needed to pitch a new idea to a roomful of people, some of whom I maybe didn’t already know, that’s when I might use Queen Esther, as part of my preparations for the presentation or pitch or whatever and on the day of and during any business dealings related to it. Sovereign Queen can amp up your “attractiveness level” to others, but it does so in a complex, not superficial way – it’s not a lust oil or a love oil or anything. Queen Esther doesn’t have to be – it will get in step with your intention and the “level” you’re using it on – but it is definitely designed to attract attention when, in some way or another, this is “your show”, if that makes sense.

Excerpts from the product descriptions:

Sovereign Queen

Sovereign Queen Oil contains appropriate essential oils and herbs including Queen Elizabeth Root. It is for women who want respect and admiration, to make a good impression on new people and gain favor from important people. It’s a strong “female power” formula.

Queen Esther

You can read the story of Queen Esther on multiple levels, more or less allegorically, and this oil is designed to reflect that same potential and complexity while remaining perfectly explicable and useful no matter what level you read it on.

The Book of Esther explains that Esther underwent a lengthy process of preparation and beautification before she was taken to see the king; her book describes perfumes and oils of myrrh and sweet flowers. This formula contains many essences valued since biblical times for beautification, to increase attraction and glamour, and to incite passion. So if you read the story literally in its focus on increasing beauty and allure, you may certainly use the oil in your workings towards that purpose.

Those who read the Book of Esther allegorically use this sort of formula as a blessing oil for any special occasion in a woman’s life, such as engagement, marriage, or the start of any new important undertaking when all eyes will be on her and she can benefit from some of Esther’s poise and intelligence.

In esoteric practice, some read Esther as emblematic of the soul and the king as a symbol for G-d. In that reading, the months-long beauty preparations that Esther underwent reflect the necessary preparations the soul must undergo before approaching the Divine. Thus this formula can be used for ritual, prayer, and devotion, either for a specific working or more generally towards purity and beauty of heart and soul and completely apart from any earthly gender or sex considerations.

While this oil is made with biblical/esoteric correspondences rather than traditional conjure ones, it won’t clash or conflict with them and it can certainly be used alongside hoodoo formulas if you want to do that.

Questions you’ve asked: St. Cyprian for love work

A reader asks,

“I would like your guidance on getting the right St. Cyprian oil for myself. I have been working with the same . . . brand for years. . . . [but] I’m unfamiliar with him assisting in love work. What aspect of that does he help in? Or how does he help with that? Which type of oil should I get?”


As to love work, what you’re missing is the entire Spanish grimoire tradition, which is the base off of which many of the folk magic practices of the Spanish-speaking world are built. And that’s not some gap in your education you should feel weird about if you don’t speak/read Spanish. There are lots of overlaps with American and Mexican folk magic, but they are definitely not simply interchangeable, and this is one of those areas where there’s a whole distinct field that hasn’t trickled over into the English-speaking world so much, where St. Cyprian is primarily known for being the patron of magicians.

And what you have in this tradition is a very longstanding practice of invoking St. Cyprian in the same way you might invoke St. Martha (often in her dominator aspect) and/or Santa Muerte (in her red aspect) in work designed to call or keep a lover – and if you’re familiar at all with that type of thing, you know it’s often got a lot of that binding/commanding/urgency stuff tied up in it that merges very quickly over into the Intranquility side of things: e.g. may he not sleep until he is by my side, may he be on fire for me, blah blah blah. That Intranquility stuff is *ancient* and has been an unbroken practice in the Spanish-speaking world for I don’t know how many centuries. Lots 🙂

You can see an example of the type of prayer/spell I’m talking about via The Coptic Magical Papyri: Vernacular Religion in Late Roman and Early Islamic Egypt site, in a manuscript that dates from between 1001 and 1100 CE. There’s a bit titled Love Spell of Cyprian that includes some of these elements.

There’s also an Intranquility-style prayer from Mexico at the main St. Cyprian resources page at Big Lucky Hoodoo.

Now that is not to say that you can only call on St. Cyprian for dominating/intranquility type love work. He’s just like any other saint – folks who form a relationship with him call on him for all kinds of things that may or may not have anything to do with the precise stuff he gets mentioned in books/on websites and on prayer cards for. That’s kinda how patronage works 🙂 So if you’re not looking for Intanquility-flavored stuff but you want to work with St. Cyprian on love matters, you should feel free.

His popular hagiographical story has this whole business starting because he, as a pagan, tried to cast a love spell on St. Justina, who deflected it with the sign of the cross. Cyprian figured he’d just run into something more powerful than his magic – which he’d studied his whole life – so he needed to reassess which side his bread was buttered on. So that’s what he has to do with love magic.

Read more about St. Cyprian at Big Lucky Hoodoo.

So to some, he might seem like a weird choice to tap for love work, esp. considering no love spell ever worked on St. Justina and instead she and Cyprian both remained celibate and in the service of Christ for the rest of their lives, but nonetheless, he’s been called on for love work for ages and ages 🙂

The oil you have at home is probably most similar to my regular St. Cyprian oil, the not-seasonal one. It can be used in any kind of work with, or even as an offering for, St. Cyprian.

However, if you did want to get an oil that was made with an eye towards doing effective love work specifically, then version B of the seasonal oils would be your best bet. You can use any of the seasonal oils for any type of working, though – they’re all “keyed” to St. Cyprian beyond just one certain type of work.

Lots more info at Big Lucky Hoodoo.

Questions You’ve Asked: Patron Saints Playing Favorites

A client is getting set up with some Law Keep Away work, some of which involves physical items being installed at the front entrance where a St. Michael paket has been living. She wonders if she needs to move/remove St. Michael, whom she petitions for physical and spiritual protection, since he’s “the patron saint of police and general law and order guy.”

What a great question!

Short answer, no. No need to remove St. Michael.

A fixed paket of the type I used to make for clients/customers, when I could still source those detentes for reasonable prices. I haven’t been able to do that since reopening, but I like them very much and I hope I can offer them again one of these days.

Longer answer explaining my rationale: for one, human beings declared him the patron saint of law enforcement – he didn’t proclaim himself that lol… and even if he has shown a propensity for watching out for law enforcement, he certainly hasn’t done so to the exclusion of anyone else. IOW, law enforcement doesn’t have the corner on St. Michael.

Now he is a “law and order guy,” and I would not necessarily expect him to have my back if I, as a devotee of his, were to go out, get fucked up as a rat, and start a fight in a situation that didn’t need a fight, thus causing unnecessary chaos. But a fight for a good cause? Might be a different story – and that might be so even if in the eyes of the law it made me guilty of assault and battery.

IOW, angels and saints are not and have never been especially known for being huge champions of human codifications of law, order, and morality. Or to put it another way, in a standoff, St. Michael would have Valjean’s back, not Javert’s.

But another consideration too: even if St. Michael tended to “take the side” of the person working in the name of human law over another person, working to stay off the radar of some authority doesn’t necessarily equate to being against that authority. I can think of a dozen good reasons off the top of my head to want to avoid being the person an agency or authority focused on that don’t have anything to do with me breaking any laws in my city, state, or country. And I can think of a dozen more off the top of my head that might technically involve some law-breaking but there’s something about the situation, or the system, or the local authority, or the law itself, where the morality of the situation does not match the letter of the law that’s on the books.

And in any case it’s totally possible for me to break the law regularly while still having respect for members of law enforcement and not wanting them to be hurt in the course of doing their job. And to have respect for them but not ever want to see them knocking on my front door 🙂

Now would I count on him to have my back if I wanted to injure a member of law enforcement in the course of doing whatever I’m doing? No. And I would not expect him to have the back of a member of law enforcement who wanted to injure me, either, like set out with that intent. IOW, I think intent matters here, as does general moral orientation. And you know, like Santa Muerte, St. Michael is commonly depicted holding a set of scales or balances in his hand. That’s a reminder in both cases of their roles in weighing the heart or soul of an individual at the personal judgment when that person dies and/or at the general judgment day at the end of time when eternal judgment is passed on everyone who ever lived. And while they might help out with the weighing ritual, only God gets to do that ultimate judging.

Visit Seraphin Station to get a custom-fixed scapular paket to wear, carry, or hang by your doorway.

So it doesn’t actually matter what we people think. We don’t have the final say, we humans, and we are flawed and imperfect and so are our systems and governments. And that is how it can be possible that Santa Muerte is called on to protect both members of law enforcement and those who regularly run afoul of the law in Mexico. It’s not because she just adores cops or she just adores criminals. It’s because she is a champion of those who find they have to live dangerous lives on the margins of society in one way or another, and her perspective is much larger than ours. So with any saint’s. So with St. Michael. We do not have the big picture, but certainly heaven and hell are not being run the same way as FCI Talladega or Folsom Prison 🙂

Response to an email asking me to “prove I’m for real”

Big Lucky Hoodoo

…Or why legit workers aren’t even slightly interested in doing Psychic Pet Tricks for free to convince you to be their client, and what you should do instead of playing Test the Psychic.

Q: I was wondering if there was a way you could help me to prove you are genuine by maybe stating something about me that i have not told you. I want help, but I am tired of encountering all these fake psychics when i search.

A: [Name], what you need to do is not search but *research.*

There is a lot of good advice out there to help you avoid getting scammed. There is also a lot of bad advice, given by scammers themselves on their scam websites and ads. Then there’s a lot of well-meaning advice that is inaccurate, biased, or just plain ignorant. So it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff when…

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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.