Pokeweed (phytolacca Americana)

Pokeweed root, aka cancer root, chou-gras, inkberry, poke salat. If you’re familiar with this plant, phytolacca Americana, you probably either love it or hate it. It can arouse strong feelings and incite epic comments-section battles – about whether you should eat it, and if so how to prepare it, and whether you can/should use any part of the plant except the youngest leaves and shoots — even whether it’s safe to handle the fresh root without gloves and safety glasses.

I’ve heard of Native American tribes using it for love work, but not, I think, in this region. And I’ve heard of people using it for courage, but again, not in this region. Around here, it is and has been overwhelmingly used as pain medicine, esp. for rheumatism, and for uncrossing and protection, and then the young leaves and shoots cooked and eaten as a sort of spring tonic. (Please do not eat pokeweed without doing your research first.)

Historically, the root’s been a prized ingredient for spiritual baths to take off unnatural illness and crossed conditions. But it is true that it’s quite toxic and that some people can be esp. sensitive to the sap, and its bevy of poisons includes proteinaceous mitogens, which I don’t love, so I don’t *personally* use the root in baths for clients. Long tradition of it, though!

The purple berries make lovely ink. The internet says ferment the juice and the ink will be brown but it will stay. But you can get a decent red if you fix it with alum and it will last a while.

Part of A Bayou Hoodoo Herbal.


first draft: 10 Sep 2021


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St. Bartholomew Altar Service & Talisman – Uncrossing, Protection, Cast Off Evil, Spiritual Cleansing, Road Opening

This is a three-day service beginning the night of August 24th, the feast day of St. Bartholomew. There is some wiggle room and you can join up after the work starts as long as you see that there are still spots left and it doesn’t say “sold out.”

St. Bartholomew is the patron saint of bookbinders, butchers, tanners, and cheese makers. Some very brief and pretty confusing scriptural references mean he’s numbered among the original apostles, so we don’t know that much about him as a historical figure. But as is so often the case, rich folk traditions have filled in the gaps.

His strong association with knives and sharp things has a gruesome origin – he’s said to have been martyred by being skinned alive – but today he’s associated not just with the literal cutting of things but also with cutting *through* things more figuratively. So his devotees might call on him if they’re undergoing surgery, or if they need to “cut through” a web of lies or obfuscation to see clearly into the heart of a matter.

Folks who work in restaurants, delis, and kitchens call on him as a patron for any number of employment- and career-related petitions, from obtaining regular work to avoiding work-related injury.

You can also call on him for strength and protection when you need to resist the wiles of the devil or free yourself from negativity, evil, crossed conditions, and various kinds of temptation.

During this work, I will be creating an amulet called a St. Bartholomew’s Cross. I’ll make a few extras to offer separately later on in the shop, but if you want to guarantee you get one, you can book this service and add the amulet option, and it will go out in the mail to you when it’s finished (which you should allow at least ten business days’ for from completion of this service).

This cross comes from the Spanish Cyprianic grimoire tradition and is used for uncrossing and protection. Its power has also traditionally been invoked against lightning storms, to help women in labor, to remove the evil eye and crossed conditions, and to help clear the way, opening roads and removing obstacles. St. Bartholomew’s devotees who carry this cross and pray his prayer regularly are said to have the escort of the Virgin Mary as psychopomp at the hour of death to avoid the torment of devils and be guided to heaven.

The handmade wooden cross, which takes several consecutive days to make in a ritual setting with a very specific list of components and ingredients, will come in a hand-sewn bag with accompanying dried herbs. So this is a full-blown, handmade, artisan charm bag or mojo bag type of setup, not just a holy medal and a few grains or leaves slapped into a cheap bag or something like that.

If you join up after midnight my time on the 24th, it’s totally fine – your work won’t technically have started on St. Bartholomew’s feast day in that case, but there’s actually nothing in the old Cyprianic grimoires that says this work has to be done at a certain day/time/time of year. It just has to be done the right way. And the cross has to be made the right way. And since that takes *days,* this altar setup is going to be up and working for some time. 

Read more or book your spot at Seraphin Station.


Thanks to my irreplaceable assistant Sonia for her help with the Spanish research and her input on St. Bartholomew traditions from her family’s neck of the woods!

Black Destroyer, or the Greased Pig of Cunning Evasion

Black Destroyer formulas are designed to help people clear serious messes out of their lives, protect their homes, and stop curses, evil, and resentment dead in their tracks.

At least that’s basically what the Anna Riva brand bottle said when I bought one 20+ years ago. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that Alleged Powerful BLACK DESTROYER FOR RITUALS was basically a 4 oz bottle of perfumed mineral oil dyed black. (An oddly sweet perfume, too, given what the formula is supposed to be for.) It was as botanically powerful as a crumpled Pepsi can.

Well, I wanted it to exist, and near as I could tell, it didn’t, not in any big stores anyway, so I borrowed the name and made up my own formula for it (in 2002, according to this note in my formulary notebook from then).

I also made mine in a mineral oil base so that anybody accustomed to using the Anna Riva brand would be on familiar territory. And you can still use it by diluting it into mineral oil and sprinkling it wherever anybody has laid crossing marks or powders or anything else for you. It’s said to neutralize that type of work and to keep evil out of your home.

This is a perfect job for black snakeroot, which I use as the basis for my version. It’s said to be effective protection against snakes, literally and figuratively, so any venomous creatures hiding in the grass waiting to bite you, be they human or otherwise.

Then I figured if I’m already traipsing around the backyard carrying a big old bucket of Black Destroyer diluted into mineral oil, it was already personal, so I might as well send that crap back where it came from. I mean, back in the day, it was pretty much a given that if you went to a worker to have some kind of trick taken off, that worker was gonna return that stuff to the sender as part and parcel of the work. I’m not one to buck tradition!

So I added some blackberry leaves, and not just any blackberry leaves – blackberry leaves that grew in the oldest corner of the cemetery down the street from where we used to live and where my daughter and I spent at least one Sunday afternoon every month for about seven years. We were *really* good friends with some of those folks buried there. (I still have dried blackberry leaves and vines from those same graves, so even to this day, every new mother bottle of Black Destroyer contains them.)

I rounded it out with a few other related ingredients and then had cause to test it out a few times because life in Atlanta was never boring. Fortunately, I’m at least competent with protection and reversing work. 😉 I was delighted. It was a romp. Worked great.

As far as I know, it wasn’t available online as an actual condition oil with actual botanicals/minerals/curios in it prior to that. I had to make it ’cause I couldn’t find it. Did the world really need another condition oil for this? Wouldn’t an existing one have done?

Well, sure, probably so. But the label had been so appealing to me and I was so disappointed when I got it home that I just really wanted this one to exist. Plus, Anna Riva probably got all her stuff from *somewhere,* however watered down or bastardized it ultimately ended up. I like to think that this formula  did have botanicals in it, or at least minerals or something like turpentine, before Anna Riva and Indio got ahold of it. I like to think there was a Black Destroyer once and now it had at least an echo of a new lease on life. (Somebody out there might know if it really did, but that somebody still isn’t me. If you do know, please drop me a line, though, so I can learn too!)

A few years later, an infamous plagiarist of other workers’ writing ripped off my description, in some spots word for word, and started selling this, though Lord only knows what she put in hers. From there it kind of took on a life of its own, as these things are wont to do, and now you can find it all over the place, but from textual analysis and timelines, I suspect most of the listings offering it as an actual condition oil with botanicals in it derive from my or Infamous Plagiarist’s item descriptions. If they mention “messes,” “dead in their tracks,” and a candle spell done with a saucer, you can count on it – I didn’t invent Black Destroyer oil. I just made up my own shit related to it. But that candle spell was mine.

Silly plagiarists.

In any case, this formula is made according to traditional hoodoo correspondences. You can sprinkle it on tricks laid by enemies to kill the trick, and it’s used for jinx-breaking and to protect you and your home from envy, resentment, and negative intentions aimed your way.

If Fiery Wall of Protection is the better-known and slightly spicy go-to formula, the Flaming Shield of the Angels that keeps your enemy at a safe distance from you, then Black Destroyer is the lesser known and slightly pungent Greased Pig of Cunning Evasion that makes your enemy trip in a puddle and splash pig crap into his own face. I credit the blackberry leaves and a couple of mischievous graveyard friends for a lot of that  🙂

Comes in a half ounce bottle. Will not smell like perfume or Bath and Body Works.

You can see some comments and usage suggestions from 2009 archived in the Big Lucky Hoodoo blog.

Available at Seraphin Station.