Interview with Tim Burlingame
By Chelsea Morning
Find out about Hoodoo folklore, rare mojo bags he’s made, and if he would get on a Wheel of Death
Authentic as the stones, roots, and bones of the earth, Tim Burlingame, brings with him a presence of kindness, realness, and a genuine warmth. Surrounding himself in an environment of plants, elements, animals and lore, he is a curios, a talisman, a walking, talking, breathing charm of good luck, protection, and prosperity. Self-taught, knowledgeable, and skilled in the practice of rootwork, he’s a maker, not just of Mojo Bags, but of customs and traditions, carrying on the stories and magic of the our past, and distant lands, connecting us to an array of spirits and the elements of our earth. I was so curious during this interview, that I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for the answers to all of my questions, and Tim, a true folklorist, doesn’t disappoint.
When and how did you start getting interested in herbs and their magical properties?
It's all pretty mundane, actually. Probably ten or eleven years ago, I had seen several movies and television shows with plots involving Hoodoo, and was curious about what it was and the authenticity of its presentation. So through the internet and library, I gained a basic understanding of Hoodoo and its principles. For fun I started making mojo bags for my friends. Eventually I started stocking up on Hoodoo and African American folklore books, learning as much as I could. Hurston, Hyatt, and Yronwode were my main sources, but my library is becoming fairly extensive. I've actually become a bit of an amateur folklorist, with a primary focus on African American and slave culture.
Your mojo bags are based in Hoodoo folk magic, can you tell us about the cultural influences and the basic spiritual beliefs of Hoodoo?
Hoodoo has a long history of assimilation. It is an eclectic blend of the beliefs of many cultures, all adapted for use by common people with little money or property, to exercise control over their lives.
The basic concepts of Hoodoo are that there are spirits that can either help or hurt us, depending on the will of the practitioner, and that certain objects have magical attributes that can be used to these ends. There is no strict morality enforced in Hoodoo, but most practitioners tend to be moral people, only working to better the lives of themselves, friends, and family.
Africans brought their religions of ancestor worship and root magic to America on slave ships. To hide these beliefs from their masters, who disapproved of and punished their practice, they integrated Catholic ritual and Mexican Santeria into their own magical system. Many of their traditional roots had to be replaced with those of the native plants, and the use of bones, minerals, and animal curios were adopted from Native American Animism. European green magic, Hebrew Kabbalah, and Pennsylvania Dutch Pow-wow magic were later integrated into Hoodoo tradition through various grimoires and pamphlets from mystics, travelling salesmen, and mail-order catalogs.
The Mojo Bags we carry at Chicory Hill Herbs are: Money Drawing, Keep-Away, Love, Protection, Favor & Success, and Good Fortune. Would these be considered to be authentic vegetable and mineral Hoodoo curios? Can you explain what vegetable and mineral curios are and how they are effective in helping to attain success or improve the lives of those who carry them?
They are authentic, made in the Hoodoo tradition. Everything I use in my mojos can be found in a book, article, or essay from reliable sources. I take pride in this, as you will often find sellers online who blend Hoodoo with Voodoo or Wicca, or even make things up completely, and claim authenticity.
What we call curios are simply objects that are believed to hold their own inherent power to magically help or harm. They can be roots, herbs, minerals, seeds, et cetera. Their powers or affinities can be based on folktales, behavior or attributes of their source, or sometimes simply what they look like. In most cases, any curio can stand on its own as a charm, but several items with similar abilities will work together for stronger results.
I’ve read that Mojo Bags shouldn’t be considered to be inanimate objects, but rather a spiritual ally. It's also been stated that mojo bags should be given a name, just as we all were when we were born. Do you feel this is important or not important to the potency of the bag?
Yes, the mojo is treated as a living thing; a beneficial spirit that should be nurtured and cared for. Some people like to share a name with their conjure hand. I might call my mojo for favor "Little Timothy" so there is a more direct connection between the bag and myself. To gain a stronger bond with the object of my affection, I would name a love bag after him or her. I leave this out of the instructions in my mojo packaging because there is limited space and I try to keep it as simple and user-friendly as possible for the new practitioner. I include more in-depth instructions with custom orders.
Naming your mojo isn't strictly necessary. Care and feeding, however, is. Oils, perfumes, and contrary to some people's sensibilities, urine or sexual fluids, are all ways to empower any Hoodoo charm, be it a bag, doll, petition paper, or spell.
You also do special orders! Will these often incorporate rare or more difficult to obtain items? What are some of the more in-depth mojo bags you’ve created?
They can, as there is more flexibility with price and the amount of time I have to make them. Another liberty I have is the use of animal curios. I avoid their use at Chicory Hill out of respect for their beliefs, but they are an important part of some Hoodoo work. Of course I discuss options with the customer beforehand.
I put together a "fiery protection" mojo, which reflects psychic and magical attacks back to the sender. Among other items, it contains a ling nut, also known as devil pod, which is difficult to find in the United States at a reasonable price. My favorite though, is what I call "The Winning Hand". It's for skill with the hands, either at work or while gambling, and I've only made one so far. It contains five hand-related curios, the rarest and most unique of which is a human finger bone, legally obtained of course.
10 Little Questions (because it’s the little things that mean so much)
What’s your favorite sound?
The crackle and roar of a fire.
What smell do you love?
The exceedingly mild aroma of the flower that blooms on our cactus once or twice a year. Its rarity makes it seem so much sweeter.
What animal would you like to have a conversation with?
Would you ever agree to being secured to the Wheel of Death, while an expert knife thrower, threw knives at you?
Absolutely, without a second thought.
Where’s your happy place?
On the couch with a cat and a book.
What are you currently reading?
The Bartitsu Compendium: History and Canonical Syllabus
What’s your favorite herb?
Tobacco. It holds a sacred place in Native American beliefs, and I have always found a pipe to be meditative, in much the same way, I hope, as it is for them.
What’s your favorite essential oil?
What gemstone do you love?
What is the universe trying to tell us?
That things can be right again if we change our course now.
You can contact Tim for questions or special orders at: BurlingRoots@gmail.com