Dr. Buzzard sat front and center in the courtroom, ready to defend his client. He loudly chewed on a piece of root while glaring at the judge, his eyes darting between his client and the stand of jurors.
But he wasn’t smacking on the root because it tasted good. He was imbuing it with a particular taste of power.
The chosen root was High John The Conquerer, and in Hoodoo, chewing root was a powerful courtroom ritual conjurers used to help alleviate or lessen sentences.
Dr. Buzzard wasn’t the only one with this belief—it’s an ancestral one.
The power of saliva stretches back to the continent where, historically, the munkwiza plant was used similarly in the Kongo. It was ritually chewed, and the juice was spat to circle whoever required spiritual protection from enemies.
There are many beliefs and practices involving saliva across the diaspora. The Yoruba believe that our spit contains àse, the lifeforce energy that inspires action. According to historians, spit also has a special spiritual status for the Bakongo, Bambara, Igbo, and numerous other African ethnic groups transplanted to America.
Our people have always believed in the power of the tongue, but our mouths hold more magic than we may realize. When we lean into ancestral ways of being, we’ll remember that we’ve always been able to protect ourselves and our community.
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