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Hoodoo in the Old Tradition

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"Nation Sack" -  A "Marketeered Fabrication" ?

Much has been made of the so-called "Nation Sack." Hoodoo web sites offer alleged definitions, descriptions and history of this "type of mojo."  The most extensive  discussion and inaccurate description of "nation sacks" is at the website  The discussion at  that  site  has  passed on  incorrect information about the Old Tradition Hoodoo amulet known as the "Nature Sack."  

The nature sack was carried by African American women throughout the Black Belt South and  was used to control their man's "naycha" (nature) a term which, in African American core culture, means the equivalent of sexual virility. A man who has "lost his nature" can not achieve an erection, or has difficulty with such. A great insult to an African American or Southern man would be to say "you ain't got no naycha."  African American men were terrified of the "nature sack" and would rarely go near one if given the opportunity.

Because a woman in possession of a nature sack would rarely expose it to anyone, it was often used as a hiding place for money or any valuable that a woman wanted to conceal. Most men would not go near a nature sack even if they stumbled upon one. Because sexual virility is significant, and was believed to be controlable using Hoodoo, we get the marketeered ads in black print media asking "have you lost your nature" as well as  ads which promise "nature restored." The "nature sack" type of "mojo," as well as other devices and recipes, were used by women all over the Black Belt South to insure their man's sexual fidelity. It was tied and used in every locale that had a significant sized black population, not only in Memphis, Tennessee as stated in other discussions of this mojo. The idea that it was confined to only one city, is in itself questionable and sociologically simplistic. If this is true that it existed in only Memphis, then what forces kept it from spreading to other cities? as did all other Hoodoo recipes that were not regionally specific because of the flora of the area.  Even then as with the Gullah use of the "life everlasting" plant the traditions were regional and not confined to only one city. 

Nature sacks were exclusively controlled by the midwives/conjure women who instructed their clients in how to "tie" a "natcha sack."  The nature sack, to be effective, had to be tied during coitus, preferably at the moment of male ejaculation or as close to it as possible.  The procedure required that the woman be on top of the man so that she could reach around behind his head, slip her hands under the pillow, and tie the final knot of the already prepared mojo.  The nature sack was placed under the pillow before she lured him to the bedroom. Let us go on.

How does one get from "nature sack" to "nation sack"? Let me explain. First, let us consider the pronunciation patterns of African Americans at the turn of the 20th century.  Having been denied access to education and standard English pronunciation patterns, most blacks would not have enunciated the final consonant sound in the word "nature."  They would have said something like "naycha" (naay-cha) but certainly not "nature."

Hearing this pronunciation, whites assumed that blacks were mispronouncing the only thing similar that whites were familiar with, the tent show preacher's "donation sack" also known as a "nation sack."  Here whites corrected what they thought was a mispronunciation of 'nation sack' while conflating the "donation sack" with the African American "nature sack."

Second, the so-called "nation sack" is mentioned only once in the thousands of pages collected by Hyatt. Did Hyatt put words in his informants mouth?  Did his presence as a white male interviewer cause the "interviewer effect"? With this in mind, it appears that what was confined to Memphis was not the "nature sack" but rather  a regional misinterpretation of the "nature sack."

Third, blues legend Robert Johnson's lyrics are also offered as "evidence" of the "nation sack's" existence in only one city, Memphis, Tennessee. Once again I offer that here, as with Hyatt, the black southern speaker's English was corrected by the white observer/interviewer.  Johnson's wife hid something in her "nature sack" because she knew that he would not touch it. Neither Johnson nor his wife would have pronounced their final consonants, so someone corrected his English.  Or he responded to well understood, white expectation and pronounced the word "nation" as the whites expected him to. This sort of thing happened frequently.  Even today, Blacks still modify the way they speak when they are talking with someone who is white and appears to be educated.  Even Southern whites do it when talking to "yankees" or folks from "up north." Also, this is the case with other research by whites on blacks.  Something similar has happened with the research on a slave children's game known as "Mr. Cootah" (Mr. Cooter in standard English) once again the final consonant is not pronounced, yet researchers describe this game as "Mr. Cooler." I ask you, would an uneducated, enslaved child be careful enough to pronounce that final consonant "r"? NO, they would not. I'm a well educated African American and even I don't pronounce my final consonants; so you know that an enslaved African American child in 1859 would not. Nor would Robert Johnson, Nor would any of Hyatts African American informants. There is no such thing as a "nation sack."

Marketeers who want to appear knowledgeable, and corner the Hoodoo sales market describe this "exotic" and little known type of mojo to impress those less informed.  Unfortunately all the descriptions of the so-called "nation sack" get it WRONG.  If they knew the culture they purport to have experience in they would know that the "nation sack" does not, has not and will not exist in authentic Hoodoo.



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