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Hurston was an African American folklorist with a fine ear for dialect who also wrote a book on Haitian Voodoo "Tell My Horse" , so she spoke with authority when she referred to her subject as "Hoodoo, or Voodoo, as it is pronounced by the whites. Now, it could be argued that Hurston was from Florida and that she preferred the word hoodoo to Voodoo, even though the latter was the more common term in New Orleans -- but such an idea can definitely be countered by referring to an interview that Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton, an African American Creole native of New Orleans and a famous jazz musician in his own right gave to the folklorist and musicologist Alan Lomax of the Library of Congress in Morton, who was quite conscious of the recording of the interview and its historical importance, went out of his way to explain many local idioms and turns of speech to Lomax, who was a white man basically ignorant of such matters.
When Morton began describing to Lomax why a multiple murderer in New Orleans was never prosecuted, he interrupted the flow of his own words to explain his terminology to Lomax. As I understand, she was a hoodoo woman. Examples of this error are too numerous to mention; they can be found everywhere in printed folklore studies and on the world wide web. Furthermore, in collecting old African American songs about hoodoo, two things are quite apparent: For a clear example of this, see the lyrics transcriptions of two different recordings of "The Mojo Boogie" by J.
In African American communities along the Eastern seaboard, the word "witchcraft" is often used as a synonym for hoodoo. While the work described is more African than European in character, the terminology follows the old British sense of the word, wherein "witchcraft" is viewed as both a healing art and a harmful activity. However, whereas in mainstream English "witch" and "witchcraft" are purely nouns, in many black communities, "witchcraft" can be a verb when used in a negative context: Thus, a witch is said to "practice witchcraft" and his victim is said to have "been witchcrafted," rather than the mainstream English "been bewitched.
Likewise, in the Carolinas, where the word "witchcraft" is more popular than the word "hoodoo," "witchcraft" generally means harmful hoodoo magic, and "helping yourself" means performing hoodoo spells that may increase your happiness, draw money , or enhance gambling luck. It derives from the English "conjurer," but what is described is neither invocatory magic nor prestidigitation, which is what the words imply in standard English.
In the African American community, a "conjurer," "conjure," "cunjure," or "cunjure doctor" is a hoodoo practitioner, and the work he does is "conjure," "cunjure," "conjure doctoring," "cunjure doctoring," "conjuration," or "cunjeration. These stores, which were once equally often known as "herb shops" or "drug stores," stock a wide variety of products, including medical herbs, minerals, and animal curios.
Since the early s, they have also been called "candle shops," and the form of spiritual work they propagate into the black community is now known to many as "candle burning. Being "tricky means "liable to use conjure when you least suspect it," and can be heard in context in the song "Hoodoo Lady" by Memphis Minnie Lizzie Douglas: Descriptive verbs for performing harmful hoodoo spell work include to "hurt," "jinx" "trick," "cross" , "put that stuff or thing or jinx on [someone]," "throw for [someone]" when powders are utilized , and "poison" which can refer to contacted as well as ingested substances.
Curative magic to counteract these operations may be called "uncrossing" , "jinx-breaking," "turning the trick" sending it back to the sender , "reversing the jinx" sending it back , or "taking off those crossed conditions. Generally speaking, when "fix" is applied to an inanimate object -- as in "fixing up a mojo ," or "he makes fixed candles ," or "she fixed some baths for him" -- the intention is helpful and the word is synonymous with "prepare," "anoint," or "dress.
The only exception to this is in the phrase "she fixed her pussy," where the woman dresses or prepares her own genital organs in such a way that any man coming into contact will be magically captured.
In this case the intention is helpful to the woman who fixes her pussy, but manipulative to the man who thus finds that "she hoodood his nature. The reader may divine your future by means of playing cards or tarot cards, palmistry or hand reading, tea cup reading, bone reading, with a pendulum or a spirit board, or by direct second sight or prophesy. Not all readers will "work" for you or practice hoodoo, but most workers will "read for you.
The beliefs and customs brought to America by African slaves mingled here with the beliefs, customs, and botanical knowledge of Native Americans and with the Christian, Jewish, and pagan folklore of European immigrants. The result was hoodoo. The hoodoo tradition places emphasis on personal magical power and thus it lacks strong links to any specific form of theology and can be adapted to any one of several forms of outward religious worship.
Although an individual practitioner may take on students, hoodoo, conjure, and rootwork are not obviously hierarchical systems.
Teachings and rituals are handed down from a one practitioner to another, but there are no priests or priestesses and no division between initiates and laity.
Root doctors and gifted readers are widely sought after by clients. Whereas in the typical White Protestant Christian social model, especially in its more right-wing form, where magic-workers are shunned or relegated to the outskirts of the community, African-American conjures may be pillars of their community and well-respected members of their churches and fraternal orders.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many of the best workers became nationally known and people travelled hundreds of miles to consult with them. Of all the pantheon of African deities, one, variously known as Nbumba Nzila, Ellegua, Legba, or Eshu in Africa, is clearly recognizable in hoodoo: As a trickster and opener of the way, he is vaguely similar to the Teutonic pagan devil , and like that deity, he is often confused by Christians and Jews with the Biblical Satan, but he is not that entity, and many wise hoodooists know well that he is not.
Like the folk magic of many other cultures, hoodoo attributes magical properties to herbs, roots, minerals especially the lodestone , animal parts, and the personal possessions and bodily effluvia of people.
The African origins of hoodoo, rootwork, and conjure can clearly be seen in such magical customs as jinxing , hot footing , foot track magic , crossing , and crossroads magic , in which are embedded remnants of the folkloric beliefs of the Congo, Yoruba, Fon, and Ewe people whose religions in African and the diaspora are variously known as Palo Mayombe, Santeria, Lucumi, Ocha, Umbanda, Kimina, Candomble, Orisha-worship, Loa-worship, Nkisi-worship, etc.
A generic term for this class of folk-magical operation is tricking or laying down tricks. Hot Foot Powder is the name for a mineral and herb powder mix used in a sub-set of foot track magic called hot footing , drive away, or get away work.
The Hot Foot Powder is typically sprinkled around the doorway or threshold of an enemy and will cause him or her to leave home and wander the world. The "hurt" enters the victim through the feet when he or she walks over the mark or trick.
They are sometimes spit into or upon to activate them. Crossing may also include setting out crossed needles, pins, nails, or brooms to work a spell. The "crossed" or "jinxed" victim is said to suffer unexplained bad luck, often for years on end. The reason silver is protective is chemistry and chemistry is universal. Silver turns black on exposure to sulphur. Meanwhile, the moon looks silvery and is generally identified with the metal silver.
Silver turns black on exposure to sulphur -- hence, wearing silver warns of an infernal attack. This is chemistry applied to magic, it is the doctrine of signatures, and it is pan-cultural.
Hoodoo - Conjure - Rootwork: -- Definition and History
The fact that coins are often made of silver explains why silver coins are used in magic more than, say, brass or copper or gold coins -- and why there is also a widespread tradition of silver "charms" or amulets in almost every culture. Antidotes for crossing and jinxing are called uncrossing and jinx-breaking respectively, and they may entail candle-burning , retaliatory curses, and the wearing of amulets.
Crossroads magic involves a set of beliefs about the acquisition of power and the disposition of magical items at a crossroads or place where two roads intersect. African-American crossroads magic is similar to European folk-magic involving crossroads , but arose independently and probably earlier in Africa, and reflects African religious beliefs. Hoodoo -- especially in the form called "rootwork" -- makes use of Native American botanical folklore, but usually for magical rather than medical purposes.
American plant species like the John the Conqueror Root Ipomoea jalapa shown here have taken on great significance in hoodoo a significance that precisely parallels their usage among Native herb doctors. The influence that Natives had on rootwork is openly acknowledged, for the concept of the "powerful Indian" or "Indian Spirit" is endemic in conjure and crops up again and again in the names given to hoodoo herbal formulas and magical curios.
Many of the most famous rootwork practitioners of the 19th and 20th centuries came from mixed-race families and proudly spoke of learning about herbs from an "Indian Grandma. Furthermore, since at least the early 20th century, most hoodoo and conjure practitioners have familiarized themselves with European-derived books of magic and Kabbalism such as the "Albertus Magnus Egyptian Secrets" compilation, "Pow-Wows or The Long-Lost Friend," "Secrets of the Psalms," "The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses," and so forth.
The use of Moon phases in spell-casting , astrological signs of the Zodiac in magical symbolism , and Planetary days of the week for timing of magic spells and recitation of Psalms, and Prayers -- derived from Jewish and Christian magical sources -- are all to be found in conjure, and moreso among practitioners who are urban or who have had access to books on those subjects. However, although many African-American root doctors work with information about herbs and astrological magic derived from Mediaeval and modern European folklore, the typical hoodoo practitioner or conjure doctor does not place as much emphasis on European systems of word-magic gematria , number-magic numerology , or astronomical magic astrology as European-American practitioners do.
When it comes to divination systems, a few urban hoodoo and conjure readers use astrology and some read tea-leaves, palms, or cards -- but they are as likely to use a deck of 52 playing cards as a tarot set -- and they may call what they do "Gypsy fortune telling," a term that came into wide use in the black community around World War Two.
The oldest form of hoodoo divination, "casting the bones" or "reading the bones," is a direct survival of a West African system of divination with bones. The American version, rarely encountered in urban conjure or hoodoo practice today, uses a variety of chicken bones or possum bones and maintains much the same form it had in Africa. Another type of divination, in which a specially prepared mojo hand called a Jack-ball serves as a pendulum, is mainly consulted to determine whether one will have luck in gambling at a given time.
Divination from dreams is an important part of hoodoo, too. Practitioners consult "dream books," alphabetical listings in which each dream image is accompanied by a short interpretation and a set of lucky numbers to use in gambling. The popularity of dream divination in the African-American community is testified to by the fact that in , one major supplier, King Novelty Co.
Almost as many are still available today. Probably the one thing that most distinguishes hoodoo from other systems of folk magic is the centrality of the mojo bag or mojo hand, also called a conjure bag. This item, also known as a conjure hand, toby, trick bag, jomo , or nation sack , frequently takes the form of a flannel bag filled with roots, herbs, minerals, and other "curios.
There is a taboo against anyone who is not the owner touching it. While numerous other cultures also utilize personal magical bags -- the so-called "fetish" bags of Native Americans and the red woolen bags used by "witches" in Tuscany -- the mojo hand is essentially African; its closest cultural relatives are the Afro-Caribbean wanga or oanga bag used in Obeah magic and the pacquet used in Voodoo. Like European magic, hoodoo makes use of ritual candles , incense , conjure oils , and sachet powders -- to which are added, due to the African emphasis on footprint magic and spiritual cleansing , floor washes and spiritual baths.
Unlike European-derived magic, however, the hoodoo formulas for these products have no high-flown Mediaeval or New Age names such as "Astral Powder" or "Oil of Jupiter" or "Serenity Incense.
These metaphysical problems are called "conditions. These names have led many Caucasians trained in European herb-magic to think that hoodoo is "fake magic," but when the formulae themselves are examined, one will find remarkable similarities between, for example, neo-pagan "Oil of Venus" and hoodoo "Love Me Oil. Hoodoo is not the name of a religion nor a denomination of a religion, although it incorporates elements from African and European religions in terms of its core beliefs.
As you may guess by now, it is not at all correct to refer to African-American hoodoo as "Voodoo. The word "Voodoo" derives from an African word meaning "spirit" or "God. This is why many 19th century accounts of hoodoo by white authors call it "Voodoo. As recent scholarship has uncovered, Congo African retentions more closely account for patterns of belief and practice found in American hoodoo than West African retentions do -- and this Congo emphasis also accords well with demographic reconstructions of the original homes of North American slaves.
In most of these religions, as practiced in the Americas, African deities are masked with Spanish, French, or Portuguese Catholicism, and the Yoruban, Fon, and Congolese spirits Orishas, Loas, and Nkisi are nominally replaced by proxy Catholic saints, sometimes called the Seven African Powers. This is manifestly untrue, and can be demonstrated to be a fiction by anyone who cares to interview rootworkers outside of the Crescent City.
Until the s, when there was a widespread American revival of interest in African religions, the only place Voodoo had been openly practiced in the United States was New Orleans, where Haitian slaves and their refugee masters had settled after the Haitian slave rebellion of However, these few boatloads of refugees from Haiti did not constitute the majority of African American slaves in New Orleans, many of whom had been transported directly from Africa, via Spanish-speaking Cuba, or were "sold down the river" from farther up the Mississippi Delta.
One hundred years after the Haitian slave rebellion, New Orleans did have a vibrant Creole culture, but -- and this is extremely important to understand -- by the s, when scholarly folkloric attention turned to the religions of New Orleans, Voodoo had become so debased in memory that even the African American folklorist Zora Neale Hurston found no trace of it. Voodoo in New Orleans had lost any claim to being a true religion, insofar as a religion can be distinguished by the presence of a clergy and a laity, a manner of recognizing fellow congregants, a regular meeting place for worship, and a liturgical order of services in veneration of a supra-human entity.
No congregation, peristyle, house, or community of worshippers in New Orleans was practicing Voodoo and whatever remained of Voodoo in New Orleans.
There were no regular places of Voodoo worship, ordained or initiated clergy, or regular congregants.
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Instead of Voodoo, New Orleans was home to another thriving community of Christian folk-magic practitioners who called what they did hoodoo, and their brand of hoodoo was infused with concepts gleaned from the new religion of Spiritualism and the old religion of Catholicism.
Spiritualism, a religion founded in the 19th century, had become popular in black communities all around the nation.
During segregationist times, the black Spiritualist denominations began to refer to themselves as part of the the Spiritual Church Movement, rather than Spiritualism, and their churches were called Spiritual Churches rather than Spiritualist Churches, to distinguish them from white-only or segregated Spiritualist Churches. New Orleans Voodoo is a newly constructed faux-religion which has no cultural, family, liturgical, or social roots in traditional African, African-American, or Haitian religions, but traces back to literary sources instead.
Since the mid 20th century it has evolved under the hands of four major promoters, none of whom had direct lineage transmission from the previous ones and each of whom accreted a small following which took no part in the major social life of New Orleans.
Each of these promoters and their followers drew or draw upon a handful of 20th century anthropological and popular works describing Haitian Voodoo, which they use as source-books for their performances.
At best the fabrications of these promoters can be said to be historical fantasy recreations in the style of the Renaissance Faire venues in the USA, and at worst they have been a means to part sincere seekers from their money under the guise of offering exotic initiations or ecstatic worship services that are spurious at their root.
Other, less well-known, promoters have included the author and publisher Raymond J. Born in Mississippi and trained a a rootworker, she joined the Spiritual Church Movement and married a man from Belize who brought to her his understanding of Afro-Caribbean practices. Her Voodoo Spiritual Temple takes the form of its name from an eclectic Spiritual Church, and she offers a wide variety of services in both Black American and Afro-Caribbean styles.