One of the traditional services of a conjure woman is dream interpretation, sometimes with the help of one of the many dream books available (such as Aunt Sally's). Dream books not only said whether seeing a certain thing in a dream was good or bad, but assigned numbers to those things. If the conjure practitioner is intuitive, then the dream book becomes a starting point like, say, a deck of tarot cards or thrown possum bones.
Dream books were used by those playing the numbers (policy) to pick the numbers they would play based on their dreams and the numbers assigned to dream objects by the book. Policy was considered a mean game because it gave hope and took money from those who needed hope the most and who had the least money to lose.
They complained that hoodoo and policy worked together. The conjurer (also called a root doctor) interpreted dreams with or without a dream book, giving the numbers a supernatural connotation. This led more people to gamble. Conjurers also offered a variety of spells, charms, and oils to increase one's luck.
Policy games were often rigged, especially when those who supposedly selected the numbers from a policy wheel or bodega balls erased any numbers that had been used for big bets before sending the results out to the policy shops where people placed their bets.
People, of course, played all kinds of numbers--birthdays, street addresses, hymn numbers on the board at church, and random numbers they saw that just seemed lucky. Policy was and is illegal unless the government runs it and calls it the state lottery.
I wonder how many people buy dream book reprints on Amazon and elsewhere and use them when they buy their Powerball tickets.
"She arrived on Rosebud, her red Schwinn Phantom with baskets and bells. The baskets carried a black purse, a sack of potatoes, two canning jars of pole beans, and a smoked ham in a stockinette. She was singing, talking a song under her breath really, called 'The Blues What I Am.' My Conjure Woman always told folks she knew the blues in spades because so many people brought them to her door."
OCLC Number: 933299525
A novella about a conjure woman named Eulalie and a black cat named Lena who make magic in the piney woods near the Apalachicola River in the Florida Panhandle.
She knew candles and she knew spells, and she knew the purpose of every plant in the piney woods including Whortleberry, Golden Seal, and John the Conquerer. Hoodoo in Eulalie's hands was a powerful force to be reckoned with. Folks crossed her at their peril.
The Klan didn't know what it was up against.
"The story is set in the Florida panhandle in the 1950s in a society dominated by racism, and tackles the serious issues of white violence, rape, day-to-day prejudice and mother/daughter relationships. This is a book that packs a lot into its 166 pages. Despite this bleak subject matter the book is beautifully written, allowing this Brit a vision of a place which the author knows well and clearly loves. The contrast of the natural beauty highlights the ugliness of human behaviour." - Zoe Brooks' Magical Realism Blog
“The novella’s tone and themes are similar in many ways to To Kill a Mockingbird, but with a heavy dose of magical realism. The story is engaging, with complex and believable characters, but I found it at least as fascinating as an account of traditional Southern black culture.” – Into the Wonder
“I found the characters well defined, believable, and they fit into the era the book was written to be in. Eulalie claims to be older than dirt, is full of gumption and spitfire. She has had a hard life and won’t take guff from anyone and she means to set things right.” – Big Al’s Books and Pals
Amazon Author's Page
How Lena the cat sees herself.