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The Long Overdue Magic of the Hoodoo Tarot by Tayannah Lee McQuillar

Hoodoo, also known as rootwork or conjure, is a spiritual tradition and folk magic practiced primarily by African Americans in the Southern United States. Its roots lie in West and Central African spiritual beliefs blended with elements of European folk magic and indigenous knowledge of plants and herbs.


  • Enslaved Africans brought their spiritual practices to America, but these were often suppressed due to religious restrictions and fear of rebellion.

  • Hoodoo emerged as a hidden and adapted form of these practices, using readily available natural materials and incorporating elements of Christianity to disguise its true nature.

  • Hoodoo practitioners, known as rootworkers, conjure doctors, or conjure man/woman, offered practical solutions and spiritual guidance for everyday problems, from illness and love troubles to protection and prosperity.

  • Despite attempts to demonize it, Hoodoo survived and thrived within Black communities, passed down through generations through oral tradition and family practices.

  • In recent years, Hoodoo has gained wider recognition and appreciation for its rich cultural heritage and potential for personal empowerment and healing.

Hoodoo is characterized by the following elements:

  • Focus on practical applications: addressing real-life concerns through rituals, spells, and herbal remedies.

  • Connection to nature: utilizing plants, roots, and minerals for their symbolic and practical properties.

  • Ancestral veneration: seeking guidance and protection from deceased ancestors.

  • Belief in spirits and energies: working with both benevolent and malevolent forces to influence outcomes.

  • Importance of personal responsibility: taking ownership of one's actions and choices.

The 78 Card Tarot Deck for Rootworkers

Tayannah Lee McQuillar is a Tarot consultant, Cultural Anthropologist, and Scholar of Religion. In this deck she tackles Hoodoo through the Tarot System. I present to you her work, the Hoodoo Tarot. I applaud her efforts to merge historical Hoodoo within the structure of the Hero's journey through the lessons of life here on earth. In the guidebook, McQuillar addresses the irresponsibility of current practitioners who claim proficiency in Hoodoo without knowledge of it's heritage, it's culture, and its rebellious aspects. She discusses the origin of Hoodoo and the forms of divination traditionally used in Hoodoo which include cleromancy, cartomancy, natural or judicial astrology, augury, and oneiromancy.

The structure of the Hoodoo Tarot is based on the extended family unit, which was the traditional familial structure of the vast majority of Indigenous people. The Major Arcana (major keys) consist of the Elders, which are the foundation of the family. The Elders in the indigenous communities serve the same purpose as the Major arcana: to transmit old-age knowledge and wisdom via the use of complex symbolism and story.

The Family is equivalent to the court cards in standard tarot decks. The family and court cards share a similar purpose in that they both represent people or personality types. The Minor arcana (minor keys) consist of the community, which reflects the lessons of the elders regarding mundane life experiences. In this deck, rather than the pentacles, swords, cups, and wands, we have sticks (primal energy, power, passion, authority), baskets (love, emotions, healing), knives (ideas, thoughts, beliefs), and coins (wealth, security, protections).

Rootwork is also an essential part of this deck. The author chose plants that were frequently used by rootworkers in the past. The majority of the plants listed in the guidebook are indigenous to the southeastern United States.

Hoodoo Spreads:


*Please note that the author includes a sample reading to help you understand how to analyze the spread.


*Please note that the author includes a sample reading to help you understand how to analyze the spread.

Notable Mentions in the Major Arcana:

Card 19 - Traditionally The Sun - BIG MAMA in the Hoodoo Tarot:

"I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. - 2 Timothy 1:5.

Card 13 - The Death Card - Ancestors in the Hoodoo Tarot

"The eye [that] mocketh at [his] father, and despiseth to obey [his] mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it. - PROVERBS 30:17

While there many fears and misconceptions about Hoodoo, Hoodoo is an empowering spiritual practice. Hoodoo empowers individuals to take control of their lives and address challenges proactively, both practical and spiritual. It offers tools and practices for personal growth, healing, and protection, fostering a sense of self-reliance and inner strength. Hoodoo connects individuals to their ancestry and cultural heritage, providing a sense of belonging and community within the African American tradition. It fosters respect for nature and the interconnectedness of all things, promoting harmony and balance in personal and collective well-being.

Hoodoo offers practical solutions to everyday concerns, from attracting love and prosperity to protecting from negativity and promoting healing. It emphasizes resourcefulness and using readily available materials, empowering individuals to navigate life's challenges with creativity and resilience.

Hoodoo provides a framework for understanding and interacting with the spiritual realm, seeking guidance and support from ancestors and spirits. It encourages self-reflection and personal growth, promoting inner peace and a sense of purpose in life. Hoodoo is a culture, an inheritance, with a distinct lineage in North America. If you are interested in learning more about Hoodoo this is a great way to connect and learn more about this practice.


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