I am a reader, spiritual healer and rootworker. I was born with psychic ability, a talent for “tuning in” to unseen things around me. Although, it was many years before I decided to stretch my intuitive muscles. My mother has psychic ability as well, but it is on rare occasion that she mentions it to anyone and she doesn’t set out to actively use it. She says my great-grandmother was the same way. As for my maternal grandmother, it either skipped a generation or she never admitted it to anyone.
In fact, I prefer to term ‘intuitive’ over ‘psychic’ – probably because of how movies and television have portrayed psychics. When you tell someone you are psychic, the first thing they want to do is close their eyes and say to you, “okay, what am I thinking?” Sorry, it doesn’t work like that for everyone – hardly anyone, really. For me it is the act of tuning in to extra information that most people are not aware of.
I have been interested in and studying magical traditions for 30 years. My family has lived in Kentucky for well over 300 years, primarily in rural communities and secluded farms. It wasn’t until my parents generation when the family finally ventured out into living in larger cities. While I grew up in mainly Protestant surroundings, there were always elements in the homes of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers that were distinctly “magical”, some that they knew about, others that were simply thought of as down-home country traditions. To them, these little superstitions had nothing to do with Appalachian folk magic or witchcraft, or hoodoo- at least, to their knowledge (as far as I know).
The women in these rural Kentucky communities who placed blue bottles in the kitchen window did so because that is what their mothers and grandmothers had done – not because they knew that blue bottles in the window repelled negativity. When my Grandfather gave me a bit of pyrite (fool’s gold) to carry in my pocket to bring me good luck with money, I don’t think he was aware that pyrite is a powerful amulet used in hoodoo and folk magic and used for the exact same purpose.
As a teenager I discovered that the only books available to me dealt with what is now called neo-paganism. And, instinctively, I never quite connected with everything they had to say. Wicca is a good example. There have been many times over the years when someone referred to me as Wiccan because of some of my beliefs and practices. Wicca is a religion that is has been around since about 1954. So, as I grew older and learned more, “tuned in” more and studied more, I realized that my thoughts and rituals pre-dated “neopaganism”. Travel back 200 years and ask the old woman in the Kentucky hills about: the three-fold law, reincarnation or if she had an athame – she would have no idea what you were talking about. The American folk magic that has been practiced for hundreds of years in Appalachia has a strong Protestant background with Irish and British origins. It was then blended with Native American rituals and beliefs into a uniquely American folk magic tradition using a lot of the herbs, roots, and flower that are native to this country. Add to that the influence that African Americans contributed and you have a unique brand of Southern magic.
Hoodoo (not to be confused with Voodoo) was originally an African-American practice, although there are hoodoo practitioners of many races today. Practitioners of hoodoo, also known as conjure, are often known as ‘rootworkers’ and was (and is) more predominant in the South. Folk magic differs from region to region, relying heavily on local stories, traditions, teachings, and superstitions. Having always lived in the South, I must admit that my region of the country has greatly influenced my train of magical thought.
I was attuned as a Reiki practitioner in 2001, became a Certified Aromatherapist in 2005, then furthered my study in essential oils and became a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist in 2009. I have been making natural soaps, lotions, bath oils, and other natural products since 1999. My retail company for these products is aromagregory.com. I took the name Papa Gee as my root worker name. A few years ago, I attended college classes for the first time and the younger students took to calling me “Papa Greg” – I guess they were preparing me. In 2013, I signed up to take Catherine Yronwode’s Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course (Lucky Mojo) and became a Graduate of the course in 2014. The course taught me to look beyond my knowledge of Appalachian folk magic and learn more about the African American style hoodoo.
So, allow me to sum up how I approach what I do. When I refer to rootwork, I am talking about African-American style hoodoo. Raised Protestant, I found I was drawn to Catholic services and was finally baptized into the Episcopal church in 2016 – a blend of both worlds. Yet, I still look at the world through the eyes of a tree-hugging Pagan. But, one thing I do know how to do is focus and compartmentalize – when I’m working hoodoo, it is just hoodoo. When I am in the Catholic church, I use the Catholic Bible. When in a Protestant (was raised Baptist) church, I have my King James Bible. When I attend a Pagan ritual, I take off my shoes and ground with the earth.
Now, when I talk about witchcraft or practical folk magic, I mean MY brand of Folk Magic – a magical recipe that consists of a base of my deep-rooted Kentucky heritage, stirred with everything I have learned from people and books, peppered with hands-on practice, and salted with my own intuition. For me, personally, what I do is a mixup of my gift of intuition, my strong knowledge of herbs and oils, and the belief that elements we don’t always understand (some call it magic) surround and influence us every day.