Root Works


About the Series

The term "root work" refers to the West African tradition of ritual magic and herbalism that emerged in the United States in the mid 18th century as part of the spiritual practice of Hoodoo, or conjure. Root work as magic combines the folk medicine of Western and Central African slaves with the potent form of Old Testament Christianity that thrived in the Mississippi delta in the 19th and early 20th century. Its themes and traditions permeate the relics of southern American culture from the blues to the revival tent.

This tradition is the inspiration for the Thyrsus Press Root Works project, a forthcoming series of printed poetry/art packets concerned with plants and their ethnobotanical uses. Individual contributions may come from the worlds of hoodoo, herbalism, gardening, literature, ritual, perfumery…. or anywhere that plants and people interact and overlap.  Contributions may be literal, practical, metaphorical, historical or magical.  Each packet will focus on a different plant species with a documented history of medicinal, experimental, or ritual use. Each issue will printed on letterpress, etching press and a button machine.

We welcome submissions of any kind but would be more likely to consider work on the shorter side - i.e. less than 2 pages. Send us email at or use the contact form on our submissions page. 

Issue 1: Angelica

Angelica nomata
Nightmare's enemy 
Get Masterwort loadstone onyx lead
Especially near running water
Lettish Curonian Selonian song
In the greenwood shade of Marais Poitevin 
Chartreuse vermouth 
A sudden fright - bark of a dog
Archangel Michael, defend us
Root, Oh Holy Ghost!
Cheered and checked
High John and the Devil's daughter
Angelica nel lume della luna
Never come back no more, no more
Green phloem temple umbel, stalk
Expel the wicked do not fret
Loss of shadow loss of soul
Innocence proved
Curandero susto espanto
A little while and the wicked will be no more

"My rider's got a mojo, and she won't let me see. Every time I start to lovin', she ease that thing on me. She's tryin' to fool her daddy, she's tryin' to keep that mojo hid. But papa's got something for to find that mojo with. She got four speeds forward and she don't never stall. The way she bucks on her hips, it would make a panther squall."

- Blind Lemon Jefferson, Low Down Mojo Blues, 1928