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Hoodoo History Walking Tour

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Tony Kail is author of the book A Secret History of Memphis Hoodoo: Rootworkers, Conjurers & Spirituals. On Saturday, he'll lead a walking tour of hoodoo points of interest down Beale Street. But, he warns, this not a ghost tour or a tour of horrors. Rather, this is a historical tour.

Walking in Memphis — hoodoo-style
  • Walking in Memphis — hoodoo-style

Kail originally got into hoodoo after he met the grandchild of a rootworker, a healer in the African tradition. He was fascinated and then discovered that Memphis has a particularly rich hoodoo history. He says that a noted folklorist chose to study hoodoo in Memphis because of the number of rootworkers here.

"Memphis has its own flavor," he says. One particular-to-Memphis take was on the mojo bag, which in Memphis was called a nation sack. In Memphis, the nation sack was worn almost exclusively by women to keep a man faithful or for protection. A nation sack might contain little bits of eggshell or coins. It was worn under a woman's clothing. Blues legend Robert Johnson sang about taking a women's last nickel out of her nation sack.

Kail says that hoodoo differs with voodoo in that voodoo is a set religion with priests and priestesses. He says that hoodoo deals in healing and conjuring.

The tour will start at Robert Church park and work its way up Beale, culminating at A. Schwab. Kail says hoodoo supplies were sold to rootworkers from A. Schwab's as recently as the late '70s. He says there are still rootworkers conjuring today.

Kail says studying hoodoo is a personal passion. "I feel the need to preserve this," he says.

Hoodoo History Walking Tour at A. Schwab's, Saturday, October 20th, 1 p.m., $20

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