Wednesday, June 29, 2011
What is War Water?
Essentially, War Water is rust iron suspended in water. In its most basic form it is water in which cut iron has been allowed to oxidize and rust. The water and iron used depends on both the purpose of the concoction and the conjurer preparing it. To some conjurers the type of water does not matter, others will insist that it is necessary that you use thunderstorm water for the best results. Still others will insist on running water as the base, specifically water that runs in a direction away from you and your home. As for the iron used, some recipes call for cut nails, some coffin nails, and others railway spikes, depending on the purpose.
Spanish Moss (seen at right) is a flowering plant that grows on trees in the South. It has become a common additive in War Water. It rots well in water giving the concoction a putrid or *swampy*smell and also a nice black color, which some prefer.
The following is pure spectulation on my part, but I personally believe that the spanish moss is a crossover from Tar Water. Tar Water is made from bog water or swamp water and contains creosote and spanish moss. It is traditional in conjure, and often contains nails and such, as well. Zora Neale Hurston uses the words "Tar Water" and "War Water" interchangeably in "Mules and Men", and I believe over time the two recipes became intermingled. However, War Water is *not* traditional hoodoo, while Tar Water is. Furthermore, War (Mars) Water, in my opinion, should be red due to its connection with the Roman god Mars and iron.
How is War Water used?
Most accounts call for War Water to be contained in a glass jar, which would be thrown onto an enemies porch or against their door, breaking, and leaving a sharp dirty mess for them to step in. The trick would cause dicord and stife for the person or family within and eventually drive the enemy away. However, if breaking a glass jar on someone's door step does not seem feasible to you, it is not a necessity. In a excerpt from Harry Middleton Hyatt's "Hoodoo - Conjuration - Witchcraft - Rootwork," one rootworker interviewed talks about an alternative way to lay down this trick:
War Water to Run Off an Enemy:
(Well, go ahead.)
You go to the drug store and you ask for war dust.
(You go to the drug store and.)
You go to the drug store and ask for war powder.
(What color would that be?)
And dey goin' give you a brown powder.
A brown powder. He goin' give you a brown powder.
(Yes.) [Meaning - continue, go on.]
And then you'll turn back around and ask him for that war water. That's to
make you get out right now - get away from around 'em.
(I see. Well, now how would they use that war water to get you out of the
How would they nuse [use] it? They'll come by like they come to visit you -
just like some of your friends, [not] like your relatives - but supposed to be close
friends of you. They'll get into your house. When they get into your home, they
going to start and they going to throw it from your steps. You ain't going to never
see 'em because you don't have no idea of that. They'll put it in through the steps
and when they get into the house they'll just drop it down in there, but still an' all
you ain't afraid of just a little water whatmight be spilt from upstairs or somewhere
down. But it's a little vial about that long.
(And they call it war water?)
(And what will it do to you?)
It will run you away from there - you won't stay there at all.
(I see. All right.)
All you do - it's only a little simple thing, you see. You can take and go
to the drug store and ask the drug store man - it's the drug store they call the
Crackerjack Drug Store. You can't get those things without you get it out the
Crackerjack Drug Store. You see, when you get it out of the Crackerjack Drug
Store, you got to have somebody to get it what's been dealing with the hoodoo.
And they'll get it for you.
(I couldn't go down and buy it there?)
No, sir. You have to get it from someone what's been dealing with them.
(I see.) And they'll get it for you, everything what they would get. You see
ah cain't half tell you some of the things 'cause it'd take me some time to set here
and start to [laughs].
[New Orleans, LA; First Informant in New Orleans; a woman, Informant #780. Volume 2, pg. 1625]
According to this informant, it would be prefectly acceptable to simply pour the water out. In addition, I read an account of another rootworker who placed their war water inside an empty coke can. An in-law was causing constant problems for their daughter and they wished to be rid of this person, so they paid them a visit. When they got out of their car at the person's residence, they began pouring the water out like it was old coke. They poured it right up to and across the person's door step. They went inside, had a cup of coffee with the person, and then left. Soon after those within the house began to quarrel and the offending person moved out and left the family, bringing peace back to the rootworker's daughter.
Hey, rootworkers are nothing if not innovative! :)