You are on page 1of 15

THE CROSSROADS IN HOODOO MAGIC and THE RITUAL OF SELLING YOURSELF TO THE DEVIL

The crossroads -- a place where two roads cross at or about at right angles, otherwise known as "the forks of the road" -- is the subject of religious and folkloric belief all around the world. Because the crossroads is land that belongs to no one, a place outside the borders of town, it is considered a suitable site to perform magical rituals and cast spells. The use of the crossroads as an impromptu altar where offerings are placed and rituals performed is widely encountered in both European and African folklore. In ancient Greece, marker stones commemorating the god Hermes in his priapic form were set at the crossroads. In ancient Rome the similar god Mercury was the crossroads guardian. In India, the god Bhairava, an older version of great god Siva, is said to guard the crossroads at the outskirts of villages. Stone phalluses and statues of Bhairava's watchful eyes are erected to represent him as a guardian of the boundaries. In Guatemala, the old Mayan underworld Lord Maam, under his Catholic Saint guise of Maximon or Saint Simon, is generally depicted seated at a crossroads in a chair, just outside a church. In Africa, almost every cultural group has its own version of the crossroads god. Legba, Ellegua, Elegbara, Eshu, Exu, Nbumba Nzila, and Pomba Gira are African and African-diaspora names (in several languages) for the spirit who opens the way, guards the crossroads, and teaches wisdom. European tales of, by, and about European musicians, dancers, and others who seek physical dexterity selling themselves to the Devil are legion, frequent, and commonplace. It could be argued, and HAS been argued (not by me) that all instances of this belief in African American culture are simply cultural borrowings from European sources. One of the things that gives traction to the idea that Black folks borrowed the concept from White folks is that we have evidences of such beliefs going back in Germanic cultures far earlier than we see them among enslaved Africans in the Americas. That doesn't prove much, though, as we have little early evidence of African beliefs in situ from those early peiods.

the most neutral way to dispose of remnants such as leftover candle wax. for not all crossroads gods and spirits are tricksters (unreliable." he need not be conceived as borrowing from African American sources. Germanic idea of becoming the Devil's bond-servant (and here we mean Der Teufel. because he can just as simply have been using his own Anglo-Germanic roots-sources for the inspiration. see "The Devil's Sooty brother.) If a job such as a Follow Me Boy Spell is worked to link two people. the shoemakers' elves of Germany. ritual items are thrown into a series of crossroads leaving town. throw it into the intersection.  In hoodoo practice. It is given in full. incense ashes.grimmstories. American beliefs about the crossroads are many and they come in numerous variations. we DO have European sources in early folklore. to put it bluntly. then the trick may be laid at every crossroads between the home of the practitioner and lover's home. Contrariwise. or ritual bath water is to carry everything to the crossroads.the water dwelling kapi of Japan.trickster gods. the old pagan woods-devil. to push the hated person out of town and to act as ." Grimm's Fairy Tale #100.Regardless. and the wide-ranging Coyote of Native Americas being prime examples of trickster gods and spirits who do not inhabit crossroads. and.com/en/grimm_fairy-tales/the_devils_sooty_brother Some modern anthropologists have given these crossroads gods a new collective name -. There are two major themes regarding crossroads rituals in the AfricanAmerican hoodoo tradition. footprint-dirt. not Satan) remained strong in German folk tales long afer Christianity added the "soul" and "Satan" elements to the story. This old. pre-Christian. that is. in English. deceitful) and not all trickster gods or spirits are crossroads gods -. here: http://www. or burying them in one's yard for drawing influences toward one. after one completes a "job of work" or magical ritual. While these customs may contain an admixture of European folklore. (Alternative methods for the disposal of ritual items include throwing them into running water for get away or moving spells. in at least one form of Hot Foot or Drive Away Spell. clever. each crossroads will be marked with ritual artifacts to cement the bond and draw the desired one closer. they are primarily derived from African antecedents. turn and walk home without looking back. taking them to a graveyard for hard-core enemy work. In my opinion this is a misnomer. For an example. when a white musician like Charlie Daniels writes and performs a country-rock piece like "The Devil Came Down to Geogia. including musical talent.

When drawn this way. As this ritual is usually described.guards against his or her return.  Not all hoodoo rituals take place at an actual crossroads. Also. plus four identical pieces of herbiage -. he will ask to borrow the item you wish to learn. Kemble called "The Hoodoo Dance" documents the practice. dancing. you will hear them spoken of like this: "You lay down your salt in the four corners and in the center. the pattern is not called a cross-mark but a "five-spot.to play a musical instrument. for instance. either four large Clematis flowers or four carefully opened banana (plantain) skins. On your successive visits you may witness the mysterious appearances of a series of animals. with a mere five dots rather than with two crossing lines. presumably an offering. He will show you the proper way to use the item by using it himself. On your last visit. If you look closely you will see at the center of the dance floor a clearly marked portable crossroads or five-spot: A piece of cloth is laid on the ground and at the four corners of the cloth are set four candle-sticks with burning candles. When he returns it to you. you will suddenly have the gift of greatness. known as an "X" or "cross-mark.a big old X-mark -. guitar.  The crossroads is the most popular place to perform a specific hoodoo crossroads ritual to learn a skill -.and wait at the crossroads on three or nine specified nights or mornings. the dots go at the four points where the crossing lines would touch the circumference of an imagined circle and at the intersection or center-point of the circle. The man who meets people at the crossroads and teaches them skills is sometimes called "the devil" He is also called "the rider. many practitioners make use of what can be called a "portable crossroads" or circle with a cross inside. If you are not afraid and do not run away.judging from their size and shape." generally. public speaking. A 19th century pen and ink drawing by E. W. there is a version of the Crossing Spell in which Graveyard Dirt is buried at a crossroads." Although folklorists tend to call the pattern a "quincunx" and some anthropologists use the term "cosmogram. but when laying tricks or casting magical spells. The cross-mark may br drawn on the ground or on a personal altar with sachet powders or it may be created quite subtly." the "li'l ole funny . like the five-spot on dice" or "Sprinkle your powders in the form of a cross-mark inside a circle" or "They'd lay out powders by the door -." in actual conversations with real practitioners. In the latter case. or whatever one chooses.to trick you. fiddle. you bring the item you wish to master -. At the center-point of this portable crossroads is a small bowl heaped full of herbiage. or to become proficient at throwing dice. a " big black man" will arrive. deck of cards. or dice -.your banjo.

spoke with the blues scholar David Evans about Tommy's sudden guitar playing skill and Tommy's claims about it. the blues singer who publicly made this claim was Robert's rather less-well-known contemporary and friend Tommy Johnson. NOT ROBERT JOHNSON The crossroads ritual is currently best known in popular American culture through the recent acceptance of a spurious legend that the famous 1930s blues singer Robert Johnson claimed that he had learned how to play guitar by selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads. Note that LeDell did not say that Tommy Johnson called the crossroads spirit "the devil" and he did not mention selling his soul. not a brown-skinned ("coloured" or Negro) person. not related to Robert. In other songs he made it clear that he was familiar with and practiced hoodoo: In "Hellhound on My Trail" he mentions Hot Foot Powder. Eshu. where a crossroads is. . in "Come On In My Kitchen" he refers to a woman's nation sack. His account of the ritual is typical of others collected throughout the South. somewhere in Mississippi." but it is about hitch-hiking. This African-derived crossroads ritual is one of the most widely distributed beliefs in African-American folklore and is practiced throughout the South. Because he shares qualities with and derives from a number of African crossroads spirits (of whom Legba. "If you want to learn how to make songs yourself. That's the way I learned to play anything I want. It is the subject of the rest of this essay. shown here. Tommy Johnson's brother. Tommy Johnson is remembered for his classic recording of "Maggie Campbell Blues.com) for sourcing this material. and Pomba Gira are some African and African-diaspora names). And then he'll play a piece and hand it back to you. and in "Little Queen of Spades" he describes how his lover uses a mojo bag to gain good luck in gambling." LeDell Johnson." from "Tommy Johnson" by David Evans (London: Studio Vista. but that is utterly unheard of in the oral folk tradition." black in this case meaning the actual colour.boy" or "the big black man. Ellegua. it is a common scholarly conceit to equate the crossroads "devil" with Legba.. not magic. did record a song called "Crossroads. You have your guitar and be playing a piece there by yourself.] Robert Johnson. IT WAS TOMMY JOHNSON. be sure to get there just a little 'fore 12 that night so you know you'll be there. Elegbara. In truth.A big black man will walk up there and take your guitar and he'll tune it.. Get there. Nbumba Nzila. you take your guitar and you go to where the road crosses that way. [Thanks to Debbie Sexton (Ginger5904@aol. 1971).

i must repeat that Robert Johnson never claimed he worked the crossroads ritual. Needless to say. and to learn how to lay tricks (cast spells). many people have done it. This is not to say that he did not do so -." Finn followed Palmer's lead and attributed the Tommy Johnson crossroads story to Robert Johnson -. and not only because they wanted to learn to play the guitar. Palmer and the other European-American writers who propagated his fictional story.the symbolism involved in them is highly complex and of a nature which makes it highly improbable that they were simply things he 'picked up. took Palmer's myth-making even farther into fantasy-land when he claimed that hoodoo existed as a hidden "cult" in rural Mississippi during the 1930s. to become good at throwing dice.But hoodoo is an entire system of belief and the ritual whereby one learns skills at a crossroads is only one of thousands of practices that are part of the hoodootradition.. Unfortunately. the time in which Robert and Tommy Johnson were friends. However. however." and then painted false "spooky" images of those who received the gift of learning. were unfamiliar with the teacher at the crossroads and they conflated Tommy Johnson's "big black man" with Goethe's Mephistopheles in "Faust.but then he leapt to the entirely unsupported conclusion that "It is doubtful whether Johnson could have written the lyrics of songs without having been initiated into the cult.. SATANIC RITUALS IN SUNFLOWER COUNTY? HELL. in the interest of accuracy.) In his book "The Bluesman: The Musical Heritage of Black Men and Women in the Americas. Palmer's take on the black man at the crossroads does not accord with oral histories collected in the South in the 1930s.for many. Julio Finn. but to become proficient on other musical instruments. to improve their skills as dancers. but he himself apparently did not claim that he used the crossroads ritual to gain mastery of the guitar. NO! Another writer.'" . (I just shake my head when i read things like this. Tommy Johnson did. Robert Johnson worked hoodoo and believed in it. they took their cue from "Faust" to cast Robert Johnson into the role of a tormented and tortured soul doomed to suffer the wrath of God. As far as i have been able to determine it was a writer named Robert Palmer who bears the responsibility for transferring Tommy Johnson's crossroads story to Robert Johnson. probably because Robert Johnson was so much better known and Palmer thought it made a better story. It particular.

4766-page collection of folkloric material gathered by Harry Middleton Hyatt.Rootwork. Furthermore. the crossroads spirit is not Satan. No "black arts" in the medieval European sense are needed to call upon him or gain his favour. harmful. and even newspaper ads. deceptive. as the European-American Christian devil is believed to do.common. He was a teacher of manual dexterity and mental wisdom. Some Christian blacks of the early 20th century themselves confused the issue by calling the entity one meets in the ritual "the devil. WHO WAS THAT BLACK MAN. as will be demonstrated below and is also shown on my web page about the history of hoodoo.This is so uninformed that it is laughable. When African-Americans born in the 19th or early 20th century told interviewers that they or anyone they knew had "sold their soul to the devil at the crossroads. as will be seen below from several examples. the "Adversary" to the monotheistic god in the Jewish. the opener of the way." and it is precisely something that can be "picked up" from family members. but suffice it to say that hoodoo was -." it requires no "initiation." a 5-volume. primarily between 1935 and 1939.g. He is a revered spiritual entity from a polytheistic religious system.and is -. The traditional colours assigned to the African crossroads spirit are red and black.Witchcraft . . Satan. WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT THE CROSSROADS The following documentation on the crossroads ritual comes from "Hoodoo Conjuration . or cruel in the sense that the Judeo-Christian devil is. He is a teacher and guide. and Islamic religions). so it is easy to see why Christian slaves and their masters conflated him with "the devil" (e. everyday folk belief in African-American communities. hell-bound anti-Christian. However. wealth. local story-tellers. It is not a "cult. The confusion arises in the eyes of white interpreters who don't understand that the crossroads deity is a survival from polytheistic African religions and that he has been assigned the only name he can be given in a monotheistic religion. the crossroads deity did not grant good fortune. Nor is he evil. ANYWAY? The specific idea that rural blues musicians "made pacts" with "the devil" for earthly good fortune is an oft-repeated misunderstanding of the crossroads ritual. Christian. or power. and the spirit himself is given offerings of alcohol and sacrificed animals." they did NOT intend to convey thereby that the person in question was an evil." but i have found no evidence that they ever called him "Satan" or "made pacts" with him in the medieval European sorcery tradition exemplified by the Faust legend.

354.Conjuration . please take a moment to open and read the supplementary page called "Hoodoo .* An' ev'ry time yo' throw 'em out *pop yo' fingers* -."Dat ah may be lucky in my travels" [quotation?]. Son an' Holy Ghost. Don't care what you see come there. (That will teach you how to be a good gambler?) Yes. If ah want tuh go gamblin'. otherwise it is essentially the same at any crossroads ritual. Ev'r time yo' throw 'em out pop yore fingers an' aftah while yo' see de sun rise. an' yo' stay dere an' shook dem dice at dat crossroads until de sun gets up where yo' kin see it.] {Note that this spell starts in a cemetary and concludes at a crossroads.Rootwork" by Harry Middleton Hyatt.Witchcraft . Just stay there for nine mornings and on the ninth morning there will come some rider riding at lightning speed in the form of the devil. then go to some fork of the road and each morning sit there and try to play that guitar. it will rise jes' a little bit up. If you want to know how to play a banjo or a guitar or do magic tricks. he seems not to have transcribed the speaker's dialect as he did with later informants. North Carolina. You have to go to the cemetery nine mornings and get some of the dirt and bring it back with you and put it in a little bottle. Ah'll do this -. [Fayetteville. (14). thrown 'em out. don't get 'fraid and run away. You stay there then still playing your guitar and when he has passed you can play any tune you want to play or do any magic trick you want to do because you have sold yourself to the devil. [Ocean City.} 349. go to a crossroads 'fore de sunup and have de dice in yore han's. an' look at de sun when she start tuh peepin' up. Ed." means he recorded the interview on an Edison cylinder. after yo' done say de names -.IMPORTANT: If this is the first time you have encountered Hyatt material at this web site.] {The code number 14 marks this as one of Hyatt's earliest informants and "Ed. 2547:3). It will rise jes' a little bit up. Ah'll do this *In de Name of de Father.thrown 'em out. you have to sell yourself to the devil. Maryland. (1415).yo' see. The mention . Ah used to be a gambler but ah quit it.

in case dis is whut chew wanta do. a cow. jis' about crack of day -. Each account gives a variant list of animals. North Carolina. a bear. a cat. Maryland (entry 355). if yo' wanta learn hoodooism. [Mobile.937:3). a black bull. An' he'll tune up an' hand it back to you and you start to play . The things that "you may see come there" at the crossroads are not listed by this informant.] {Re: the "things" that "will come 'fore yo'" in the above entry.] 356.go dere de third day but it's got'a be in de night. (656). See."} 363. Yo' go jis' onest. This variant is also unusual in that the mere passing of the rider is sufficient -. (241). See. "wouldn't be no females"). not a hen. you jis' give up to it. and a horse. a lamb. some of the black animals are replaced by black . Now de fo'ks of de road -. but are explained below. if you wanta learn hoodooism.of Graveyard Dirt as an offering placed at the crossroads is interesting here and relates to another informant's displacement of the entire ritual from a crossroads to a cemetery.an' start a-pickin' at de guitar. You can pick any song you want to pick. jis' commence dawnin' day. 239:4. Alabama. For instance in entry 359. "If you wanted to be a dancer. You go out there [to the forks of a road] about four a'clock. but most commonly mentioned are a black chicken. Go dere -. twelve 'clock in de night. a different black animal appears and on the last midnight (or sunrise) the " devil" or "big black man" appears and fulfills the request.jis' somepin will pull it from you. a sheep. not a duck. One informant in Snow Hill. An' they says de devil came out an' take it -. In a couple of accounts. "And he'll tune up [your guitar] an' hand it back to you and you start to play. a rooster. Git chew a bran'-new silver fo'k an' git to de fo'ks of de road an' git down on your knees an' stick dat fo'k in de groun'. an' anything on earth yuh wants tuh learn an' know. [Wilmington. a lion. carefully specifies that all the animals will be male (a drake. you go to de fo'ks of de road.in most other versions the "black man" borrows the instrument and tunes it up or plays upon it. But chew got'a be dere zactly twelve 'clock -. depending on the informant).now. see. Other animals named are a snake. Hyatt collected many. things will come 'fore yo' an' tell yo' what to do. and a black dog. many accounts of the crossroads ritual in which it was said that on each successive visit to the crossroads (at midnight or dawn. thedevil would come himself and strike a step" and entry 363.yo' leave home zactkly five minutes of twelve an' have yo' a fo'k.

have some de young ones to knock his eye out. You git de drumstick an' de eye -. dey way fo' yo' tuh do -. [Elizabeth City.. Dey say "The Ole Blind Rooster. then after that the devil sends something else in the shape of a bear and after that he comes himself and takes hold of your hands and tells you to go on in the world and do anything that chew want to do. But 'fore yo' evah go tuh to learn yo'self.. You go to the fork of the road on Sunday morning before day. The ritual slaughter of a black rooster who is blind in one eye is described in full in entry 341. a thundering. There are remnants of sacrifice and ritual food preparation in some entries. chew know.. but have somebody else tuh do it. The piece is too long to quote at length.. nine Sunday mawnin's. but here's are some excerpts.for the lyrics often contain the line "We will kill the old red rooster when she comes.de fo'ks of de road.. Don' do it chewse'f. a special desire. for instance. go there for nine times in succession before the sun rise and make a special wish.take de eye time yo' kill him and bury it undah yo' step an' let nobody know whut chew done wit' it.weather conditions -. an if he ain't blind. These stories are simply too long for me to transcribe here. and whatever you want to do. that . a horse that has been beheaded in entry 355). go to a road nine Sunday mawnin's -.Yuh kill de rooster and eat him.."} . is obviously part of the "black animals at the crossroads" series. North Carolina. then the devil comes there.a smoke. When He Comes" {The informant may be recalling the popular song "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain When She Comes" -. although it does not name or describe the "things" that will come before the postulant. but don' eat none of it yo'self. from which the flesh was eaten by someone else. if it's to be a conjure or to be a bad person. First comes a red rooster.{Elsewhere in the interview the informant makes it clear through repetition that by "the drumstick" he means the leg and foot bones (still attatched to each other). not black} 333. see.Ah reckon yo' heerded dat ole song -. but the ritual given above.} 341 {excerpts} If yo' want tuh learn to pick a guitar. a rain. the animals were sacrificed at the crossroads.} {Here is a lone entry in which the rooster is red.git a rooster. (182)] {It seems as if in some of the original African versions of these rituals.dey say long time ago it was named atter [after] [what a] root worker done.

yo' know. North Carolina. Yo' ketch him alive an' carry him to de fo'k of de road. Both of 'em have tuh be public roads. {The informant goes on to describe how you place the rooster leg-and-foot at the crossroads and it will turn around end-for-end. (Do you do anything with that chicken?) De chicken. anything yo' wanta learn.it would ring right on.} Well.a "mou'nful and pitiful" sheep.and on the final Sunday. but in the end will teach you to pick guitar. (1438). he have tuh be live. ah don't know if it wus de devil or not. yo' kin take a black chicken an' go dere fo' nine mawnin's.] {Here is a version in which the sacrifice of the rooster seems to have been intended and then passed over somehow} 340. but tell de truth 'bout de thing. (1415). a "li'l ole funny boy" who will "play all dumb" when you speak to him. an' on de ninth mawnin' he'll meet chew dere." this informant had an interesting opinion. to de fo'k of de road. wanta learn tuh play de guitar. and that the "step" is the back door step. well. Jes' lak if yo' wanta learn some tricks. It wus a black something othah jes' 'bout dat high -sorta mind me of a dog. [Fayetteville.both of 'em public roads each way. Yo' take dis chicken an' go dere fo' nine mawnin's an' on de ninth mawnin' de devil will meet chew dere.. 2528:3. Ah have been where ah could lay de guitar upside down an' stan' beside it -.Ah got playin' so's ah could play anything ah want.. a lowing cow -.. {As to the identity of the "li'l ole funny boy. yo' know. not no blind roads. people say yo' meet de devil. jes' right round 'bout three a'clock an' when yo' go dere." [Fayetteville. North Carolina.. under the boy's tutelage} ... 2581:1. forkin'. not the one at the front door} Den yo take de drumstick an yo' go down to de fo'rk of de road Sunday mawnin' 'fore day. Then on the successive Sunday mornings there will be animal visitors at the crossroads while you pick guitar -. An' he will learn {teach you} -. Have yo' a further road -. The informant claimed he had worked this ritual himself and he said that after a while. an' yo' go fo' nine mawnin's.the "eye" is the rooster's unblinded or remaining eye. He had han's lak a dog when ah fus' seen him but fust and last his han' wus jes' lak mine only it wus jes' as hot as could be. Dat's true.] .well.

] {Informant #125 was Mr. Dogwood is often associated with the crucifixion of Jesus.and also you can do by goin' to the woods.for nine mornings at one partic'lar hour in de morning. and possibly others in Princess Anne. #129. It's a very he'd [hard] thing tuh do. #133. Maryland. the trees and bushes associated with this in other entries in the Hyatt collection are the holly. yo' gotta meet dere at nine a'clock fo' nine Sunday mawnin's at de crossroads.had he carried it out. and on the ninth morning the devil'll put in his appearance or some of his imps and give you the power to accomplish what you want to do.} 9 SUNDAY MORNINGS GO TO CROSSROADS AT 9 O'CLOCK READ VERSE FROM PSALM 36 (?) 136 (?) 9TH SUNDAY YOU MEET STORM. And this one boy did do it. Go down to a crossroad. he was on his ninth morning. a waiter in the town who became a contact man. The evergreen holly is well-known as a holy plant of the Celts.WIND . Huckleberry is used in hoodoo for gambling luck ("huckleberry luck"). An' this boy did do it -. And when a big black man came from behind a pine tree and come to him alaughin'.ANYTHING YOU WANT 10550. I had a party to tell me tha' chew could go to a four crossroad -. (125). but yo' gotta meet at dis same place at de same time of day. Jes' lak ah say ah'll be dere at nine a'clock.347. #130. (See also entries 820-1).SNOW AFTER THIS YOU CAN DO TRICKS . And there's a certain location in the woods tha' chew kin do it. [-] Maddox. where a road crosses. An' yo' gotta read a verse out de Bible. later adapted to Christian symbolic purposes. [Princess Anne. the person who wants to learn to play an instrument or to win at dice or cards goes to one of these trees until the black man arrives and meets him as he would have at the crossroads. especially to bring on dreams of lucky numbers. An' meanwhile ah come an' maybe somebody try tuh hol' him off. but he -. When yo' thought of doin' one thing fo' nine Sunday mawnin's it's a good long while. 38:1. so informant says. and dance and sing and put on a little program such as you're able to do." mentioned above.} {As to meeting the black man at "a certain location in the woods.what is called a four-way road [a crossroad] -. the dogwood. . brought in informants #127. RAIN . happened 1934. In these less common versions of the ritual. and the huckleberry. I believe that these "sacred tree" variants are European intrusions or inclusions into the African crossroads ritual. he couldn't stand it and he run and left it. nine Sunday mawnin's.

3: O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.} Psalm 136 1: O give thanks unto the LORD. . i do not know. didn't comment on the latter. Well' yo' start wit dat an' yo' read it fo' nine Sunday mawnin's. Also. diff'rent. Yo' cain't tell exactly whut's it goin' be. 4: To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever. Yo'll meet trouble dere. an' ev'ry verse ends dis chapter heah wit de same thing. an' ev'ryone ends wit de same words . yo'll do whut chew wanta do so fur as tricks is concerned an' wit'out bein' religious atall. de ninth mawnin'. storms. rather appearing in the form of dark clouds and storms. it is Psalm 136. in which each verse ends with the same words ("for his mercy endureth for ever").Car.] {Note that this is one crossroads ritual in which "the Devil" is not named.the 136th Psalms. for your soul-selling convenience. high winds or sompin of dat sort. N.(Do you know what the verse is?) It's de 36 Psalms. [Wilson. but here is the Psalm. 2: O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. not Psalm 36. But chew kin do anything yo' wants tuh do. an Anglican minister. 5: To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever. de same words. But anyhow yo' continue wit it an' when yo' git through wit it. 6: To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.. 2655:3. 7: To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever. (1476). an' de ninth [Sunday] mawnin' yo'll meet what yo' didn't expect. for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Why Hyatt.

19: Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever. 16: To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever. 13: To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever. 15: But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.8: The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever. and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever. 14: And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever. 11: And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever. 17: To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever. 20: And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever. 21: And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever. 10: To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever. 22: . 12: With a strong hand. 18: And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever. 9: The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.

attributed to the evil element in the cult ... no burning punishment in hell after a preturnaturally successful or ill-spent life. there is never a Faustian moral at the end of the story." Newbell Puckett's "Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro" (University of North Carolina Press.for no exchange whatsoever than that you have faithfully and without fear attended upon the crossroads for the proper number of days or nights -. "ME AND THE DEVIL" One thing is fairly clear in all of the African-American crossroads tales collected by Hyatt -. 26: O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.. Take your banjo to the forks of the road at midnight and Satan will teach you how to play it ." he did not belong to an organized or even a personal Satanic Religion. A New Orleans conjurer described the procedure to me as follows: If you want to make a contract with the devil..the "rider" or "black man" will teach you what you desire. 1926. you may pay the crossroads spirit with a silver coin for his lesson or -. 25: Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever. 23: Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever. When Robert Johnson sang "Me and the Devil was walkin' side by side.Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.the "devil" at the crossroads is not really "the Adversary" or Satan of JudeoChristianity. free of charge. 1968) contains the following: Conjuring represents an African survival.. and it is worthy of note that part of this former religion was not entirely abandoned but merely given a subordinate part in the new system [Christianity]. 24: And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.. Although some informants say that you "sell your soul" to gain a skill. i. And it wasn't only Hyatt who collected such tales of the "teaching devil.. Playing the fiddle or banjo is thought to be a special accomplishment of the devil . Take ..e. reprinted by Patterson Smith.. first trim your finger nails as close as you possibly can. In the non-"soul-selling" variants.

. He takes your offering and then he teaches by example and transference of power.. After doing this for a time he will seize your fingers and trim the nails until they bleed. but you have sold your eternal soul to the devil and are his in the world to come.. Sit down there and play your best piece. gaining a proposal of marriage. You will be able to play any piece you desire on the guitar and you can do anything you want to in the world.a black cat bone and a guitar and go to a lonely fork in the roads at midnight.. Then the devil will hand you his instrument to play and will accompany you on yours. Neither Puckett's New Orleans conjure doctor nor Hyatt's many informants throughout the South related stories that involved improving the love life. dim at first but growing louder and louder as the music approaches nearer . By and by you will hear music.. Even the dice-throwing story is not a prescription for "good luck" but rather an instructional tale about how to refine one's manual skill. That is. finally taking his guitar back and returning your own." In fact.. The man at the crossroads does not steal your soul or condemn you to perdition or make any unholy bargain with you. manual. do not look around. thinking of and wishing for the devil all the while.. discovering a hidden treasure. but rather about being granted certain specific skills of dexterity. "Yes. After a time you feel something tugging at your instrument . the stories are not about general wish-granting. His music will become fainter and fainter as he moves away .. Keep on playing. or achieving physical healing." The key word here is "teach.and the specificity of the crossroads spirit's power is quite apparent: He is a TEACHER spirit who will accelerate one's mastery of mental. Hyatt asks if the ritual "will teach you how to be a good gambler" and the informant says. eliminating a rival.. these stories seem to be prescriptions for a way to contact a specific. and performing arts. helpful spirit -. Let the devil take it and keep thumping along with your fingers as if you still had a guitar in your hands. exacting revenge on another person.. often musical in nature.