A Few Herbs Used in Root Work

Root doctor is a folklore term for a healer that uses plants, especially the roots of herbs, for their magical, healing and spiritual powers. Root working is an ancient southern tradition originating from West Africa and the Caribbean and brought to North America by slaves. Root working combines elements of herbal folklore, spirituality, magic and healing.

Root working is associated with the folk magic belief system called Hoodoo. According to author Stephanie Rose Bird in her book Four Seasons of Mojo Hoodoo "…is not a religion but a collection of folk practices involving magic and healing." Roots are most commonly used as one of the ingredients found in a mojo bag. Mojo bags are a small pouch, often made out of red flannel, which contain a variety of herbs, gemstones and personal objects that the user wears close their body as a type of magic amulet.

A few examples of some of the more popular plants used by root workers include:

Adam & Eve Root (Aplectrum hyemale) – used in love magic, happiness and fidelity spells. Due to over harvesting this plant is now endangered or threatened in many states. You may substitute Orchis spp. in its place. This plant is most often sold in pairs of male and female shaped roots.

Angelica Root (Angelica archangelica) – AKA root of the Holy Ghost or Archangel root. Used in protection spells, to cure ills and in strength and hex breaking spells.

Devils' Shoestrings (Viburnum spp.) – this roots magical uses include invisibility, good luck charm, new job, protection and spells to ward off evil.

High John the Conqueror (Ipomoea jalapa) – this plant is a member of the morning glory family. High John's magical uses include confidence, health, love, luck, money, protection, strength and success spells.

Lo John the Conqueror (Trillium grandiflorum) – the magical associations attributed to this herb include aphrodisiac, double money, spell breaking, psychic ability, love magic, love, luck, win at court, protection and health. This plant is sometimes called beth root (Trillium erectum) which, due to its slow reproduction rate, is threatened with over harvesting in the wild.

Mandrake Root (Mandragora officinarum) – this plant can be difficult to obtain. Substitute American mandrake (Podophyllum peltatum) for this endangered herb. Mandrake is traditionally used for love magic and fertility spells, courage, protection and prosperity. Human shaped roots are the most sought after for their magical potency.

Lucky Hand Root (Dactylorhiza orchids) – AKA orchid root, five finger root or salep root. Used for gambling luck, success, obtain employment, protection and love spells.

For additional information on this topic you may want to take a look at two books written by Stephanie Rose Bird. Four Seasons of Mojo; An Herbal Guide to Natural Living and Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones; Hoodoo, Mojo & Conjuring with Herbs. Both of these books are published by Llewellyn Publishing.