Years ago when I first started to practice the Occult, I learned a lot from some simple chapbooks by Anna Riva especially where making Gris-Gris bags were concerned. These bags were comprisd of roots, herbs, stones, metals, medallions, feathers, animal parts, bones, coins, nails, dung, you name it, there’s a use for it in a bag.
Gris-Gris is French for gray-gray and these bags typically made of (but not limited to) cloth usually of flannel due to its availability & inexpensiveness in the deep south back in the slave days. Gris-Gris goes by other names such as Juju, Toby, Mojo Hand or simply Mojo, Charm Bag or Trick bag. In the Tennessee area, these were referred to as a Nations Sack.
The bag is in a manner of speaking a spell whereby all of its components are gathered together & then the bag is created for the client using the items gathered. The items are added after having been prayed over, inserted and then the bag is sewn up tight. It then goes through a process of empowerment whereby the practitioner has certain prayers to say over it, blessings to give & the Spirit of the bag is awakened to do Its job.
There’s a time honored tradition of adding relics belonging to the individual the bag is made to represent. Thus if the trick is made for you, then you add a few strangs of your hair or finger nail parings or if it is for someone else, you add THEIR hair & so on. This is done to tune the bag to the person it is supposed to affect. Thus if you wish to make a protection bag for your son or daughter, then you add something like a couple of hairs from their head to the bag.
Essentially a bag is a portable, 24/7 acting spell that never shuts off. Why? Because a Spirit takes up residence in the bag which then powers it. In a way, the bag is a microcosmic universe for the Spirit to dwell in and the relic is the tuning ingredient that the Spirit uses to target the person with.
Some people simply write a name on a piece of paper 9 times & put that in the bag. While that is an old Hoodoo method I can assure you it is nowhere near as effective as hair, nail parings (or even dead skin from the person) is. Relics taken from the body of the person the bag is intended for have that esoteric link to make them really effective.
When we think of these tools, we usually think of old Spiritual practitioners or Root Doctors who practiced thse arts in days long past such as Dr. John, Dr. Yah, Senite Dede and of course Marie Laveau herself. The height of these practices was in the early 1800's in Southern Louisiana.
A friend of mine, Clifford Hartleigh Low, turned me onto the fact that Agrippa refers to these bags as ‘Suspensions’ in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, book 1, chapter 46. They’re suspended around the neck of the individual and Agrippa gives several suggestions for making one such as for leadership which is made by using Solar (planetary) associations made with Bay Laurel leaves wrapped in a lion’s hide or that of a bag of yellow silk.
Here’s one direct from Agrippa: “Also it is said, that if a woman take a needle, and beray it with dung, and then wrap it up in earth, in which the carkass (carcass) of a man was buryed [buried], and shall carry it about her in a cloth which was used at the funerall, that no man shall be able to ly [have sex] with her as long as she hath it about her.” (Quoted direct from www.esotericarchives.com)
Clifford suggests that this means Graveyard Dirt, a needle, and dung you then put in a bag made out of black mourning garments. I took the cloth to mean a burial shroud which is what they used in the old days but today it could be to use material that the corpse was actually buried with. Of course that means to get these garments, you have to dig up the grave and disturb the dead - not a wise idea. This is one of those rare times when substituting simple black cloth for the original ingredient would be acceptable.
The problem with Agrippa is that often his translations into English are poor or as Clifford suggests, “Agrippa had a very circuitous manner of writing” and without a doubt that has a lot to do with the translations of his mammoth work. Thus you have to use your noggin when reading Agrippa and remember that it was written in a day & age where English was spelled differently and some words would have to be substituted with what was used then to make sense.
So we can see that the idea of suspending a corded pouch around one’s neck is not just the province of the Hoodoo folk from the Deep South. This sort of Sorcery was well known in Medieval times and used by the Magicians of the day. They referred to it as ‘Natural Philosophy’ which has to do with the Occult & Spiritual nature of the world around us. Think of Natural Philosophy as the Hoodoo of the Medieval Magicians.
When we look at the lore Agrippa collated for his Suspensions, we know that it comes from such things as crystals & stones, trees & plants, fish & shells and so on. These were typically categorized according to things like the Four Humours, the Four Elements, the Seven Celestial Planets and so on.
It seems that Tricks weren’t lost on the Old Dead Guys like Agrippa though they and their surviving instructions are overly worried about Planetary alignments via Astrology. Lovely. Problem with that is some planets like Jupiter may not have a favorable alignment for more than a year or two! That’s a pain! Old time Spiritualists simply make the bag as needed for the client at the time it is needed.
While this is not intended to be a how-to article, realize that modern day practitioners can bypass these Astrological restrictions by thoroughly consecrating the cloth bag itself, each item to be put into the bag, then the finished bag. Then you simply summon the Spirit of the bag, instruct it on its duties and that's it.