A Magic Talisman
DescriptionAlternaive American names for the mojo bag include hand, mojo hand, conjure hand, lucky hand, conjure bag, trick bag, root bag, toby, jomo, and gris-gris bag. In the Memphis region, a special kind of mojo, worn only by women, is called a nation sack. A mojo used for divination, somehwat like a pendulum, is called a Jack, Jack bag, or Jack ball.
The word “gris-gris” looks French (and in French it would mean “grey-grey”), but it is simply a Frenchified spelling of the Central African word gree-gree (also sometimes seplled gri-gri). Gree-gree means “fetish” or “charm,” thus a gris-gris or gree-gree bag is a charm bag. In the Caribbean, an almost-identical African-derived bag is called a wanga or oanga bag, from the African word wanga, which also means “charm” or “spell” — but that word is uncommon in the USA.
The word “conjure” — as in “conjure work” (casting spells) and “conjure woman” (a female herbalist-magician) — is an old alternative to “hoodoo,” thus a conjure hand is a hoodoo bag, one made by a conjure doctor or two-headed doctor. Likewise, the word trick derives from an African-American term for spell-casting — “laying tricks” — so a trick bag is a a bag that contains a spell. Similarly, “wanga” is a West African word meaning a spell, hence a wanga bag is a bag containing a spell.
The word “hand” in this context means a combination of ingredients. The term may derive from the use of finger and hand bones of the dead in mojo bags made for various purposes, from the use of a rare orchid root called Lucky Hand root as an ingredient in mojo bags for gamblers, or by an analogy between the mixed ingredients in the bag and the several cards that make up a “hand” in card games.