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it works backwards as well as forwards, sometimes

      Daddy shook his head kindly. “No, honey, you wrong. Pizen ain’ to be trusted. Sometimes, it works backwards as well as forwards, you might be de one to dead. Hatin ain’ good for you, neither. It’ll pizen you breast milk an’ make you baby sick. It’s better to go easy wid conjure. You must stop frettin an’ bein scared. Keep you belly full o victuals, make you mouth smile, laugh an’ be merry if you can. Don’ never let people see you down-hearted, or a-hangin you head, an’ lookin sorrowful. Dat ain’ de way. No. Mens don’ crave a sorrowful, sad-lookin ’oman. Don’ never let a man feel sorry for you if you want em to stick to you.”
      He got up and went out of the door into the yard and Mary could hear him puttering around, scratching in the earth as if he were digging up something. Presently he came back smiling and poured her out a cup of tea from another one of the several pots boiling on the hearth. “Drink dis, honey. It’ll do you all de good whilst I fix you someting to try. If July ain’ conjured too bad already e won’ never get shet o’ de spell we’ll work on em. I ain’ never seen no man get loose from a ‘oman what wears dis mixtry. It’s de powerful-est one I knows.”
      Daddy took a needle and stuck the little finger on her right hand and took a drop of her blood on a wisp of cotton. “You right hand is de strong hand, honey," he said. “It’s de hand what catches an’ holds.”
      Then he took a bit of skin from her left heel. “Dis is de foot what walks fastest, honey.”
      A bit of toe-nail from a toe on her left foot was added to one hair plucked from her left arm-pit as near to her heart as she could get it. These were all mixed with some sort of conjure root and tied into a tiny scrap of white cloth with a string long enough to go around her neck. Daddy Cudjoe was excited. His eyes shone and sweat ran down off his forehead as he handed the bag to her with a high crackling laugh.
      “Put em on, gal. Wear em day an’ night. If e don’ work, den I’ll quit makin’ love charms for de rest o’ my life. Dat charm is a man. Great Gawd, yes. E’s a mans o monkeys, honey.”
      As Mary took it her heart began beating violently. Lord, yes, she could feel it was strong! Now she’d hurry home with it for July might by some chance come back on the regular boat this afternoon instead of waiting for the excursion boat to-night.
      “How much I owe you, Daddy?”
      “Honey, you don’ owe me a Gawd’s ting but a sweet smile. An’ I wish you all de luck in dis world. I hope you will get you husband back an’ keep em de rest o you life.”
      The old man really seemed grateful to her for coming to him. Perhaps he was lonely, living so far off by himself.

ex Julia Peterkin, Scarlet Sister Mary (1928) : 123 : link (hathitrust)

Julia Mood Peterkin (1880-1961)
wikipedia : link

30 March 2024