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In some accounts the problems onboard these vessels were attributed to an evil spirit or presence.Those who attribute the word hoodoo to Irish or Scottish seamen say that is is a phonetic transliteration of the Gaelic words Uath Dubh (pronounced hooh dooh), which means dark phantom, evil entity, or spiky ghost.In the first place, Voodoo is a West African religion that was transplanted to Haiti (see below) and hoodoo is a system of primarily Central African magical belief and practice.
For instance, in Dorothy Scarborough's book "On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs," (Harvard University Press, 1925), a field-collected version of the old dance-song "Cotton-Eyed Joe" tells of a man who "hoodooed" a woman.(It is "spiky" because Uath -- hooh -- is, additionally, the Gaelic name for the spiky Hawthorn or May tree.) A Gaelic origin for the word hoodoo would also explain why a certain type of eerie geological rock formation across the Americas is similarly called a hoodoo -- Irish trappers and traders saw these weird objects as personified demons.A Gaelic origin for the word hoodoo does, believe it or not, make sense in terms of African American history, for a large percentage of American sailors during the 19th century, especially before the Civil War, were African Americans, and they mingled freely with Irish sailors in the Atlantic shipping trade and in seaports from New York to New Orleans.However, its earliest usage in America is connected with Irish and Scottish sailors, not African slaves.in the mid 19th century, ships that had suffered a series of ill-fated voyages and mishaps were called hoodoo ships or were said to have been hoodoo'd.Spoken: Yeah, man, play it for me [followed by guitar solo] "Now, Miss Hoodoo Lady, please give me a hoodoo hand; "Now, Miss Hoodoo Lady, please give me a hoodoo hand; "I wanna hoodoo this woman of mine, I believe she's got another man." Now, she squabbles all night long, she won't let me sleep.Lord, I wonder what in the world this woman done done to me.Other regionally popular names for hoodoo in the black community include "conjuration," "conjure," "witchcraft," "rootwork," "candle burning," and "tricking." The first three are simply English words; the fourth is a recognition of the pre-eminence that dried roots play in the making of charms and the casting of spells, and the fifth and sixth are special meanings for common English words.Hoodoo is used as a noun to name both the system of magic ("He used hoodoo on her") and its practitioners ("Doctor Buzzard was a great hoodoo in his day").In earlier times a "hoodoo ship" was a term applied to a "ghost ship," that is, one found drifting with no crew.From there it became a more general term meaning a cursed or bad-luck ship.