HIGH JOHN THE CONQUEROR ROOT magical properties – Often used in mojo bags, High John is a must for African American folk magic. For mastery, power, drawing luck, masculine energy, sexuality, money, strength and is sometimes used in domination spells. Also used to boost the energy of a potion by its inclusion. Wash hands with an infusion of High John before games of chance and gambling.
Ipomoea jalapa, also called Ipomoea purga, is a species of Ipomoea that is related to the morning glory and the sweet potato; its root is commonly referred to as High John the Conqueror or John the Conqueror root. The name bindweed or jalap root describes the plant in various regions. It smells good, like the dirt, but it’s a powerful laxative (do NOT ingest!) In folk magic, however, it has a different function: as a component of a mojo bag. Typically, it is employed in sexual spells of various kinds, and it is also thought to provide good luck when playing the slots. The dried root looks like a dark man’s “family jewels,” which may have contributed to its reputation as a sexually magical herb. Therefore, when the root is used as an amulet, it must be complete and undamaged. Pieces and chips of dried root are combined with oils and washes to create magical concoctions.
John the Conqueror is a legendary figure in Afro-American tradition. He is also known as High John de Conqueror, John, Jack, and many other names. In American folklore, particularly in the hoodoo school of folk magic, he is linked to the roots of Ipomoea purga, known as John the Conqueror root or John the Conqueroo, which are believed to possess magical properties. Two of Muddy Waters’ songs, “Mannish Boy” and “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man,” both feature references to him as Johnny Cocheroo. Both “Mannish Boy” and “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man” feature the lyric “I guess I’ll go down/To old Kansas too/I’m going to bring back my second cousin/That little Johnny Conqueroo.”
John is rumored to have rode a giant crow named “Old Familiar” in one incarnation, while in another he is the son of the king of the Congo. While in the Americas, he became a slave. He was a slave, yet it couldn’t break his will. Even though he was the victim of numerous practical jokes during his life, he managed to live on in tradition as a reluctant folk hero, a mischievous character of sorts. Br’er Rabbit, from the Uncle Remus books by Joel Chandler Harris, is akin to High John the Conqueror in that they both triumph over their enemies. High John de Conquer” appears in Zora Neale Hurston’s collection of folktales, The Sanctified Church.
High John the Conqueror
African American conjure and hoodoo practitioners use a mystical, spirit-embodying root called John the Conqueror. High John the Conqueror root is carried in the pocket and rubbed when needed. It is also kept in the home as an amulet, fed or dressed with various substances, boiled to make baths and floor wash, soaked in whiskey, oils, and perfumes for an anointing substance, or used to make mojo bags and lucky hands, which are charm collections. One chews another root known as Chewing John the Conqueror and spits the juice near the target or circumstance they want to influence.
Practitioners turn to John the Conqueror for defense against adversaries and evil spirits, good fortune in commerce, gambling, and money matters, employment, a favorable outcome in legal matters, and success with women. All of the John roots are not consumed medicinally.
Some species of wild morning glory (Ipomoea), Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum), beth root (Irillium), and Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), which are all native to the southeastern United States, may have been used as John the Conqueror in the past. A few practitioners still gather John the Conqueror roots from the wild, but most order online or from a spiritual supply store. These shops sell an ancestor of the morning glory, Asiatic galangal (Alpinia galangal), which is sold as Chewing John, and Mexico jalap root (Ipomoea jalapa), which is sold as High John the Conqueror.
African religious and magical rituals are likely the source of African American root charms like John the Conqueror. According to these traditional belief systems, every natural item possesses an innate spirit that can be called upon to assist humans. The largest ethnic group to be sold into slavery in the US mid-Atlantic states, the Kongo-related peoples of Central Africa, combined twisted, swollen, phallus-shaped roots, signifying strength and masculinity, into the charm collections known as minkisi. To fend off adversaries and spot sorcerers, people chewed and spit the roots of munkwiza, a plant in the ginger family.
According to the appellation High John the Conqueror, this mystical root is home to a powerful spiritual being. High John may be compared to Funza, the Kongo deity of masculinity and power. Moreover, High John can have West African roots. He resembles Gu, the Fon and Yoruba warrior spirit of iron and fighting, in his capacity as a guardian against human foes, authorities, and evil spirits. He is associated with Eshu, the trickster spirit that controls chance and crossroads, because of his role as a luck-bringer in the worlds of gambling, business, and money. He is related to Shang, the dashing and virtuous spirit of thunder and lightning, in his capacity as a conqueror of women.
Zora Neale Hurston compared the African American trickster hero Old John, who was a man of immense strength and cunning, to the indwelling spirit of the High John the Conqueror root. A cycle of folktales featuring Old John and his foe Old Master is similar to the more well-known Brer Rabbit stories. Some folklore writings claim that the figure of High John is identical to St. John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus, gave sermons in the desert, was tempted by the devil, and overcame him.
A great hoodoo practitioner who rose to fame in followers’ imaginations as this African spirit’s precursor could also have been High John the Conqueror. High John the Conqueror would seem to be a mash-up of African deities, a mythical slave trickster, and a Christian saint, probably coupled with one or more strong conjurers. He is the indwelling spirit of a magical root. High John personifies a powerful, dark, virulent, masculine spirit that defends his followers and bestows success, money, and luck upon them in all of their potential manifestations. He stands for the strength and empowerment of African Americans in surviving slavery, as well as the racism and poverty that followed.