Magic awaits at Lucky Mojo Curio Co. in Forestville
Just like many of the early hoodoo shops of rural America, the Lucky Mojo ? Curio Co. in Forestville is tucked away and under the radar. It doesn’t have advertisements inviting shoppers to stop by, or a storefront with a sidewalk leading to the door. Just discovering the old-fashioned emporium is part of the magic.
Visitors, especially those with open minds, will find a world of good and evil spells, where the powers of herbs, oils, incense, powders and bath crystals can be used for blessings or curses. Beware, scorned lovers or despised ex-spouses, there are potions concocted for payback.
Mostly, though, the clientele hopes to improve their chances for love or financial success. Items related to love and money, including herb-infused oils like “Crown of Success” and “Love Me,” are top sellers at the Lucky Mojo.
The shop, said proprietor Catherine “Cat” Yronwode, is more of a “glorified” showroom for the mail order and online hoodoo business she runs with her husband, Nagasiva Yronwode, and their 15-member team of full- and part-time employees.
The Lucky Mojo has been referenced in a feature article in the Wall Street Journal, profiled on the History Channel’s one-time show “Weird U.S.” and listed in the book “The Spinster Sisters’ Guide to Sonoma County.”
Offbeat and off the beaten track, the shop carries a wide range of items that faithful fans use for protection, to increase luck or to stave off negative forces in various manifestations - or to work against others.
For luck, there’s the 2-ounce “Special Dice Oil,” containing a pair of miniature dice, and used as a hand or hair rub oil by gamblers and crapshooters. The $8 price could pay off at the casino.
To break up a marriage or curse a couple, there is a $6 bride and groom candle, in black. It also can be used to repel evil. Various colors of the figural candles serve different purposes, some for reconciliation.
Visitors also can find spell kits, such as the “Kiss Me Now!” package containing a mixture of love herbs, a special candle, incense powders, a sachet powder, bath crystals and a mojo bag that includes a metal heart charm. The seven-day spell encourages magical activity to attract the attentions of a desired love interest.
Spell kits, with detailed instructions, “are like buying Bisquick instead of starting with flour,” Catherine said.
The Lucky Mojo makes no guarantees. Those with hoodoo familiarity and practice “do develop a skill sense for it,” Nagasiva said.
“You get a sense of how everything is used and then it’s a matter of repetition,” Nagasiva said. Others “can contract with someone who might do it for you.”
The Lucky Mojo is located on an old homestead, not quite two blocks north of downtown Forestville. A barn, a Victorian farmhouse and a diminutive church are situated on the 2-acre property, where many of the business’s herbs are grown. A real human skeleton known as Lefty and a grand 6-foot-tall wizard with a crystal ball in his upraised hand are among the larger curiosities inside the shop. The wizard, like Nagasiva, wears a long beard and headdress.
The well-stocked shelves feature some 5,000 items used for hoodoo, also known as conjure and rootwork. A form of traditional African American folk magic and spiritual belief systems, hoodoo also incorporates regional influences from Scotch-Irish, Germanic, Native American and Jewish cultures, among others.
“Hoodoo has been inclusive,” Catherine said. Practiced by slaves in the Deep South, hoodoo was introduced across the country during the Great Migration.
At the Lucky Mojo, visitors over the years have added coins, candles, photos and mementoes to its love and money altars. People come from around the world to the tiny west county town, steering their cars up a narrow driveway lined with mature trees and shrubs, walking along a winding path adjacent to a charming G-scale garden railway and finally opening the door to a shop filled with spiritual supplies and curiosities of the occult.
“It’s kind of a destination,” Catherine said, noting travelers have come from as far away as Nigeria and Australia.
The Yronwodes drive an art car, dubbed the “California Mojo Car,” decorated all over with numerous lucky, magical and religious statuary. It’s sometimes parked on a nearby street, giving passersby a glimpse into the magic waiting at the Lucky Mojo.
In addition to ingredients for potions and spells, guests will find curiosities and collectibles for sale (and show) that Catherine has amassed, including hundreds of amulets, or magic charms.
A display case below the cash register offers teacups with astrological designs and other symbols for use in reading tea leaf patterns. The register is an attraction itself, an early 1900s-style National-brand beauty. Behind and just beyond the register, employees handcraft and package many of the hoodoo items, with rows of jars lining old-fashioned cupboards that lend an old-world feel to the Lucky Mojo, founded in the 1990s.
The Lucky Mojo has nearly ?24,000 followers on Facebook; produces a monthly newsletter; conducts an educational online forum with thousands of posts from users; and, since 2004, has been providing free readings and information during the weekly podcast “Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour” via the web and through Blog Talk Radio, a show Catherine co-hosts. More than 2,100 students have taken her 52-week “Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course,” geared for those interested in becoming professionals or running their own hoodoo shops.
Catherine, who grew up in Berkeley, has been interested in hoodoo since her childhood in the 1950s. Nagasiva, younger by more than ?10 years, began studying the practices in his early 20s.
In addition to running their store and mail order and online business, the couple publish books and host workshops and special events, with Nagasiva sometimes ringing an outdoor peace gong to open and close ceremonies. Catherine, a veteran writer, editor, publisher and graphic designer who has operated several creative enterprises (including Eclipse Comics, with a former husband and brother-in-law), has long been regarded for her hoodoo knowledge.
Of the 36 books published by the Yronwodes’ Lucky Mojo Publishing (founded in 2002), Catherine has written about a quarter of them. Her popular “Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic: A Materia Magica of African-American Conjure” details botanical information about hundreds of roots, herbs, minerals and zoological curios used in hoodoo, plus spells, tricks and magical recipes.
She and other practitioners conduct spiritual readings at the Lucky Mojo and in the Missionary Independent Spiritual Church on the property. The 6-by-6-foot interdenominational church, standing 12 feet high and complete with a stained-glass window, is a replica of the original on the property that was destroyed after it caught fire from burning candles. Supporters contributed to an online campaign to rebuild the tiny house of worship.
“We have a lot of fans around the world,” Catherine said.