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In the 1930s, some practitioners used the noun "hoodooism" (analogous with "occultism") to describe their work, but that term has dropped out of common parlance.Hoodoo is also an adjective ("he layed a hoodoo trick for her") and a verb ("she hoodooed that man until he couldn't love no one but her").The "doctor" he describes was both an herbalist and folk-magician.A remarkable blues song in which the word hoodoo is used as a noun, as an adjective, AND as a verb is "Hoodoo Lady Blues" by Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, recorded in October 1947 for Victor Records.(The transcription is by Gorgen Antonsson, [email protected], and Alan Balfour, [email protected]): "HOODOO LADY BLUES" Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup Believe I'll drop down in Louisiana, just to see a dear old friend of mine Believe I'll drop down in Louisiana, just to see a dear old friend of mine You know, maybe she can help me, durn my hard, hard time.You know they tell me in Louisiana, there's hoodoos all over there You know they tell me in Louisiana, there's hoodoos all over there You know they'll do anything for the money, man, in the world, I declare.In some accounts the problems onboard these vessels were attributed to an evil spirit or presence.Those who attribute the word hoodoo to Irish or Scottish seamen say that is is a phonetic transliteration of the Gaelic words Uath Dubh (pronounced hooh dooh), which means dark phantom, evil entity, or spiky ghost.
Hoodoo is used as a noun to name both the system of magic ("He used hoodoo on her") and its practitioners ("Doctor Buzzard was a great hoodoo in his day").
Eoghan Ballard has made an interesting argument that the word hoodoo derives from the Spanish word for "Jewish." Although this sounds unlikely on the face of it, there is some precedent for the idea: Among Cuban practitioners of Central African Mkisi-worship -- which is called Palo ("Sticks") in Spanish, due to its use of woods, roots, and herbs -- there are two major groups, those who practice Palo Cristiano (Christian Palo) and those who practice Palo Judio (Jewish Palo).
In this context, the word Judio (pronounced hoo-dyoh) does not refer to Judaism per se; it refers to the fact that the adherents of this subset of Palo are unconverted to Christianity -- they retain African symbolism in their practice and, like the Jews, they have refused to give themselves over to Christianity.
It is Eoghan's theory that the word hoodoo may derive from the special sense in which this Afro-Caribbean Spanish term Judio is used in Palo -- and would thus refer to African slaves who refused to renounce African customs and practices.
Some writers have said that the word "hoodoo" is a corruption of the word "Voodoo," but that seems highly unlikely.