Hey there occulties,
It's time for the contest edition of Questions You've Asked me! :)
Grand Prize Winner (PS)
Q: You frequently have said that a personal concern could not be reused and I was wondering why this was the case? I've seen on 'certain message boards' of people claiming they have laminated personal concerns so they could reuse them indefinitely, and their 'experts' seem to think this is acceptable. I'm more inclined to agree with your 'one and done' mentality of personal concerns, but was looking for a more in-depth explanation.
A: Sometimes I think of a biological item as something similar to a DNA sample...which is to say, as being similar to other forms of forensically or physically identifying someone. So, for example, if we were using this hair or this nail clipping to identify a missing or dead person, or a criminal, we could use certain tests on the item - given it's condition is acceptable for such testing - to identify someone using tests on the item to give us the DNA information. In this respect, if certain events happen to the biological sample, the DNA can no longer be used because the item is degraded, and we can no longer find that information. This can happen intentionally (I've heard bleach can remove DNA results or skew them,) or naturally (I've watched programs where an old sample on a cold case had degraded past the point of being usable just from being stored too long or stored improperly.) HOWEVER, I think we can all conclude, through modern science, that a DNA sample (a good one,) is a strong identifying marker for whomever it belongs to. So, in that respect, a fresh drop of blood is a stronger link to a person than a photograph is - one is more unarguably belonging to- and coming from- the desired person. In fact, better witness samples ARE fresher, they ARE a hair with the follicle still attached (rather than a piece of hair,) - so they are very similar to collecting the "best DNA sample" if we were forensic investigators. ;)
Keep this in mind, because I'm going to bring up another point before totally answering. ;)
Also, when we use a biological item in Hoodoo, - assuming it's not being placed in a dolly, or inside of a candle, or similar, which would mean it might get destroyed or we would have to destroy the ritual item, - we often place this within a name paper. To unfold the name paper and remove the item (which should properly be folded INTO the name paper,) for reuse is actually destroying the link to the target. The item is supposed to be left in the name paper or in the ritual item as a link to the target.
However, let's assume, for argument's sake, that the item in question, being laminated, is not being folded into a name paper, and is not being pulled out of a ritual item. ;) Also, as above, let's treat the biological item as if it's like DNA evidence - that it can be "contaminated" or degraded past being usable...
Basically, when we work on an item, each time we are "transforming" the sample. As I'd said above, if I use bleach on, say, blood evidence, I can strip the DNA information out. Similarly, while I'm not only removing the link to my target by retrieving the witness sample each time, I'm also working with a "dirty sample," especially if I am not reusing it for EXACTLY THE SAME WORK. I've "contaminated" the sample, in other words.
Let's say I want to work on a man I'm enamored of. I get a hair off of his head, and I laminate this. First I cast a spell to make him lusty. Well, he gets lusty as all hell, but he's not lovey enough. So I reuse it and make him romantic, and that works for a few weeks but he breaks things off with me. So I then use it for obsession work. Now, each time I work on him, I'm putting my energy into his witness sample. Assuming I am not harming my own work by removal of the sample (which I am,) I'm also working on myself a bit more each time. So, both of us get obsessed on this third round, we reunite, but he's not a nice man and he sleeps with my sister, and I break things off. I then use the hair for cursing....well, erm....How much of me is in there? I'm degrading the sample with each use, and putting my own energy in, and I'm probably effecting myself as well. Anyone who's at a point where they feel it's normal to laminate a hair of a target probably got this way because they are (inadvertently) working on themselves - they are making themselves fall further in love with the target, or placing themselves under obsession to the target. Further, that plastic is picking up energies from EACH AND EVERY SPELL, so presumably, even if the practitioner/petitioner is not using a witness sample of their own (ie their own hair, blood, etc.) - which if they do add that in, they are SPELLCASTING ON THEMSELVES and intensifying their own feelings for the target, - then they are possibly working on themselves and definitely affecting their past work by reusing a "contaminated" or "used" sample.
Just like your ritual surfaces need to be cleaned regularly (because they pick up energies, just like your stove top and your pots and pans need to be wiped down from getting bits of food on them,) to ensure you're not mixing the energies up, so would this item need frequent cleaning, AND each time you're using it, you're altering it energetically, so at some point, it's not only unusable (again, assuming you're not destroying a spell for pulling it out each time,) it's also filthy with spell energy or, perhaps, inert from being overly cleansed.
While it's not always the best link to a target, this is why I really really love electronic photos. We can print them out as we need to, and it does NOT matter if we dispose of the item when it's used once! ;) Heck, I print out a contact sheet of images for each client's problem because I can just tear a new sample off of the page as needed. ;)
Further, if someone is at a point where they want to "preserve" the biological link, a better method might be to snip just a teeny tiny bit of it away and use it in each spell, disposing of it in the proper manner with the rest of the ritual remains. There only needs to be a tiny bit of the item - not the whole hair/nail/etc (unless specified.)
Personally, I find reusing an witness sample to be similar to wiping your bum with a hand-towel, then right after, using the same towel to wipe your face. You wouldn't do something icky like that...so why are you reusing degrading DNA witness samples, because it's about as healthy for your spellwork as washing your face with a towel you washed your poopy butt with. ;)
Also the short answer here (because every deserves a short answer, ha!) is I was taught never to reuse a witness sample ever. ;) I have NEVER heard an "expert" recommend it's reuse, and I invite whichever "expert" is saying this is kosher to let me know why they feel it is so. I'd love to have an intelligently-based conversation on how 1.) plastic laminate is not being infected with spell energies as it's reworked (as well as the laminated item,) 2.) how pulling the item out of a spell is not effecting the spell or the witness sample, and 3.) why they feel this is an acceptable method to work (by which I mean how they came to these conclusions;) as I've honestly never ever ever read or heard someone say that they should reuse a personal item - not ever in 25+ years of spellcasting. If it's an item inside of a doll or a bag, then it makes sense, but you're not pulling the item out of the doll or the bag - you're reworking the same energies on a ritual creation in that case.
Second Prize Winner (JB)
Q: When working a target for Love purposes is it better or necessary to ritually cleanse both the target and the receiving party before you do the work so that the work will take effect? Some people are protected that is why I ask.
A: It can't hurt to do that, though I would balk at calling it necessary.
I would say the best thing ever in that situation is to KNOW YOUR TARGET. ;) There are a lot less protected people in this world than we'd choose to believe, and it's also been my observation that many people often over-estimate their target's ability to withstand magical influence. (Admittedly, some people under-estimate their target, too - it's just weirdly a smaller percentile.) ;)
For example, many people will ask me "Cat, will (target) know I am working on him/her?" Considering a large majority of people don't even realize there is a study of the occult in modern times (they tend to believe it's something like there are a few kids who really like Harry Potter movies or satanic heavy metal, etc,) much less that there are those who practice spellcraft, it's very unlikely they would even consider that as a cause.
So, steering this back to your question, let's assume that the would-be target DOES know spells or has some form of spiritual belief that would armor them against magical influence - that they ARE NOT the average person who would not have this sort of defense. So, in this case you have to look at this like you have to get past some sort of spiritual armor. Cleansing them isn't going to remove the armor - you have to get in...so...
If they know spells, you might want to use confusion techniques before applying love magic. By using confusion, you are making them "not notice," what's going on. I sometimes will use poppy seed as an ingredient in love spells if I feel the target is difficult to influence or if I feel they are of a type which is sensitive to spell energy. Poppy seed tends to make the target easier to influence and more compliant.
If they have been spellcasted upon by someone else, you might want to remove the work on them. This can be done with a spiritual cleansing.
If you're trying to combat actual armor against spell influence, that could be more difficult. It really depends on what you're up against. The idea is to get "under the armor" and influence them anyhow, but depending on their defenses, that could sound easier than it is. A strong cleansing, AND confusion techniques might work, but if they are protected enough (which is to say, probably smarter and better than most at spells,) you might just keep hitting a wall, or even worse, have them recognize what you're doing. While some people might be flattered if it's a love case, others will view it as an attack and attack back.
HOWEVER, if you're just working on the "average bear" sort of target for love, I recommend doing some road opening work before beginning. It will clear off any obstacles to spell manifestation without negatively impacting your work or the target. MOST people will have no idea you're using love spells on them, and this should clear away anything acting as an obstacle without having to do a thorough cleansing.
Third Prize Winner (AG)
Q: You often point out the importance of charging candles, or at least visualizing your goals while holding your ritual candle, which I whole-heartly agree with. Though I've read elsewhere where individuals felt 'charging' is a Wiccan concept that has no place in hoodoo, they claim that it is prayer that infuses the candle. Honestly, it sounds like the same thing that is simply being labeled differently: focusing energy into a candle vs focused prayer into it. My question is if there are any other concepts, rituals, practices, etc from other magical traditions/beliefs that you incorporate into your hoodoo that you feel give you better results?
I guess the short answer is that prayer and focus of will and charging are pretty similar, yes. However, the answer is much longer and more involved. ;)
While the terminology I use might be more "modern" than "ancient," it doesn't make it "Wiccan." ;) I am a bit of a traditionalist myself, but occult practices do evolve over time, and to deny that is to deny that it is a living field of study. This isn't us studying Latin or an extinct species - this is a living corpus of knowledge, - so it can, will, and does evolve over the centuries.
Allow me to digress...one thing taught to me via Catholicism was an instruction on prayer, which basically was that without one being properly focused when in prayer, that prayer had no meaning. The idea that certain prayers, having been said with great faith and devotion over the centuries, carried more strength than others definitely was said to us, but that if we spoke to God or to the saints that without it being sincere, focused, and done with a certain mindset could mean our prayers would not be heard. So, saying an Our Father might grant some blessing as it carries so much energy, but just saying "Hey, St Joe, I could like, really use your help right now because I totes want to get out of wood shop class," is probably not going to effect a situation either way. I'm not sincere, I'm not focused - I am not apt to get help.
Last I checked, while the Catholic church DOES believe in demons and in exorcism, they'd probably balk at their priests being called magicians (despite holy mass being a huge magic spell,) yet here they are telling their adherents how to PROPERLY FOCUS THEIR WILL like one would when spellcasting. If my brain is all over the place and I'm not focused while doing a spell candle, I'm not going to be successful. If I am focused while doing a spell candle, if my intentions are pure (in the sense that they are not contaminated with other thought, with doubt, or with fear,) then I am probably going to be successful. If I pray (just speak) words without pure intention (that is without a clear mind, thinking of other things,) my prayer will not be apt to be successful because I am merely speaking words with no power behind them, but if I pray with pure intention, I am more apt to receive that which I am seeking...so that sounds really similar there, right? Magic/prayer...very similar indeed.
If I were to "pray properly," I would keep the image of what I wanted in mind, perhaps even "seeing it" in my mind's eye as moving towards God/the Universe towards materialization, while I'd be speaking as sincerely as possible to God, the spirit, the saint, etc, and so in many ways this is very much the same as "sending energy."
So, when I instruct others to "charge" the candle, rather than just "focus and pray while focusing" (which I also instruct people to focus while doing their chant,) I am actually doing this for the reason that I believe many neophytes are too nervous or unfamiliar with spellcasting and this focused energy helps give their spell more "ooomph." For a practiced spellcaster, it certainly doesn't hurt to imbue an item with focused energy, either. What is happening when this energy is focused and "sent into" an item (which, honestly, I equate this more with reiki than with Wicca, but maybe that's just me,) prior to the working is that you are filling the item with intention, and this energy is working on your behalf. So both the chant/prayer and the item itself are sending out spell energy.
Considering Hoodoo also has had healers who do a "laying on of hands," which would be a spiritual power working through them, what in the heck to these folks claiming "sending energy is Wiccan," think those Bible-using folks were sending through their hands other than SPIRITUAL ENERGY? I mean, I'm sure they felt it was the energy of God working through them and going into the sick person, but I really doubt that people doing this work well-before Wicca was even a blink in Gerald Gardner's eye less than 100 years ago believed they were practicing a religion that didn't even exist yet. ;)
Furthermore, if we refer back to our ancient forbears, people who even predate modern Hoodoo, we need to consider that these people were often initiated into their job as a magician or a priest, and that certain things which I might speak to another magician in regards to instruction on a particular working are not the same thing I'd say to a stranger who I do not know their level of learning. For example, speaking to another practiced, advanced expert on lighting a seven day candle for love on a particular case I might say: "Use 3 different love oils, but only one with lust as a trigger, because it can't be that 'horny.' I'd lean towards forgiveness and emotional love on the herbs. Don't put both the petitioner and the target in there, just use the target, but make the name paper out the usual way." I don't need to list what I mean in regards to oils. I don't need to list herbs. I don't need to explain a name paper "the usual way" for love. I also don't need to tell them what I mean by any of it. If I was speaking to a neophyte, the above will not cut it at all in regards to instruction. ;) BUT there are plenty of grimoiric texts (the Greek Magical Papyrii for example,) in which language is abbreviated, and even certain parts of the ritual written as "the usual" because a contemporary using that text would have known without having to be instructed what to do. To say these people never used focus and will and only used "prayer" without focused will is without merit.
Sorry if that was a bit all over the place. ;) Basically any focusing of the will and visualization is a form of sending energy. I'm really almost 100% certain that people have been doing this for over a millennium before Wicca was even a thing. That the most effective use of prayer is similar is not a coincidence, so you're right to say that they are about the same thing.
I will also be posting some "Honorable mentions" in the next day or so. :)
Things that didn't qualify... As usual, I do not teach you how to raise spirits, I do not teach death curses or break up curses, and if it was answered in the QYAM category (especially more than once,) I may have replied to you personally in a few cases, but it did not qualify.
Thanks everyone for participating! I really appreciate everyone's entries, and hopefully we can do this again next year! :D