Friday, May 20, 2011

Fun with research

I love research, it's one of my favorites things about creating a fictional world. This is especially fun for the Mojo books - Mojo Queen which just came out and yes I am totes giving a buy link, and the follow-up Red House which is my current work in progress. For these books I have researched chaos magic, hoodoo, the magical properties of various roots and herbs, the Battle of Franklin which was a major battle here in Tennessee during the Civil War, ghost-hunting EMF devices, the old Tennessee State Prison in Nashville, and various drink recipes for my beverage loving vampire sidekick. Fun times!

My latest source for research is actually a book I've had for years that I am now re-reading. Blue Roots: African-American Folk Magic of the Gullah People is a volume I've had shelved with the music books for some time. Okay, no, the book isn't technically about music but it just seemed to fit there better than with the rest of the general non-fiction. The Gullah of coastal South Carolina and Georgia are descended from slaves that were able to retain much more of their traditional African culture due to being fairly isolated. The antebellum plantations in those semi-tropic Low Country areas primarily grew rice, with most of the white owners and their families withdrawing inland during the mosquito-infested summer months that brought widespread malaria. Between how labor intensive rice production was and the "white flight" of half the year, blacks were actually the majority population. With less interference from the white owners, slaves were able to hold on to  more of their African customs and beliefs. One of those customs was having root doctors in the community, folk who worked with herbs, roots, and the spirit world to create magical charms. Charms for protection, good health, love, gambling, crossing an enemy - the same kind of stuff as the hoodoo that thrived underground throughout the Mississippi Delta region and other places.

It's pretty interesting stuff and I'm enjoying reading the book again. My main character Roxie is trained as a root worker but she's worked as a paranormal investigator, dealing with hauntings and such instead of the more traditional work of a root doctor. I thought I would begin to touch on some of that tradition a little bit in this second book. I do have a specific reason for reading up on Gullah folk magic but you'll have to wait for Red House for that.

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