How to Work with Numbers


Numbers are powerful. Sited in magical and religious texts for centuries, the ancients repeatedly acknowledged the influence of numbers, even going so far as to ascribe special symbolism and qualities to them. Even today, cultures the world over refer to and revere numbers. Thousands of people study and swear by the divination system called “Numerology” to plan events, name children, and to find a mate. Totaling in the millions are the practitioners of Feng Shui who align their lives based on their personal pa kua numbers. Even setting aside all cultural beliefs and addressing the hard science of numbers, one can find more evidence for their power than the ancients could have ever imagined. Ask any physicist about the role numbers play in the universe. They will tell you that everything about our physical state of being is made of numbers, expressed in terms of mathematical equations, even our own bodies. Given such confirmation, one can easily see how numbers can play a significant role in the accomplishment of successful works.

When discussing the magical properties of numbers, most will only consider the numbers one (1) through nine (9) and then maybe the numbers that are repeated, e.g. 11, 22, 33. While the numbers that are symbolic will vary from culture to culture and indeed even from person to person, for the purposes of this article, I will be focusing on the numbers that are significant in hoodoo/rootwork. That is to say, significant in hoodoo/rootwork as I have been taught and have come to understand through my own practice of it.

The Number One

While not really used in hoodoo/rootwork, the number One (1) is always implied, acknowledged as the Creator/s through which all things are possible. There is no “everything else” without the One.

The Number Two

Two (2) is the sum of One (1) and One (1) coming together. We are made in the likeness of our Creator/s, so we are, in and of ourselves, Ones (1s). When we join, we become a new entity, Two (2). This is why there will always be two components in any work meant to create, reinforce, or destroy love. While practitioners of polyamory would disagree with this arrangement, for the purposes of hoodoo/rootwork, romantic love and unions of all kinds are always expressed by the number Two (2). Examples of this would be the inclusion of two lodestones in a love drawing mojo or two Balm of Gilead buds in a reconciliation honey jar.

The Number Three

Foremost, the number Three (3) symbolizes a triad or holy trinity. For the vast majority of hoodoo/rootwork practitioners that are Christians, that Three (3) symbolizes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Additional symbolism would include the trinity of the Holy Family — Mary, Joseph, and their son Jesus. Similarly, our personal triad or trinity could be considered the Mind, Body, and Spirit.

In more mundane terms, Three (3) is seen everywhere. Three (3) is a complete cycle — beginning, middle, and end, and that is reflected at the very core of our existence — birth, life, and eventually, death. Everything in the world that we can touch is composed of three dimensions. There are three instances of time — past, present, and future, three kingdoms of matter — animal, vegetable, and mineral, and the three segments that make up the day — morning, noon, and night. The list goes on!

Ultimately, the number Three (3) in hoodoo/rootwork represents the completion of a work and its persistence in time and space. A thing is done three times, and it is made manifest. This is why practitioners will often say that the least amount of times a thing should be done to ensure success is three, e.g. reciting a Psalm three times, or bathing three mornings in a row, or using three ingredients in a spiritual bath or mojo. Just like the old saying goes, “Three times is the charm.”

The Number Five

Associations with the number Five (5) are abundant and extend into antiquity. Let us first acknowledge the common idea that the number Five (5) represents the five metaphysical elements that make up the world; those elements being earth, air, water, fire, and spirit. The well-known symbol of Paganism, the pentacle, is based on a five-pointed star that represents those five elements. Therefore, it is not uncommon in ritual to have representations of those five elements present in ritual to add balance and power to the proceedings.

We also see the number Five (5) being portrayed as the Quincunx and the Cosmogram, mystical symbols marking sacred space and communication between this world and the world of the unseen. In hoodoo/rootwork the number Five (5) is represented in the pattern referred to as the “five-spot.” Indeed, this pattern is just a carryover of the Quincunx and the Cosmogram, but in hoodoo/rootwork it represents the crossroads; the crossroads being the sacred space where what is above and what is below are made One (1). Like the number Three (3), the number Five (5), when utilized in the five-spot formation, is applied as a symbol of completion. In this way, petition papers are often marked — a dot in each corner and a dot in the middle to seal the work. We see this five-spot pattern again when property is protected with railroad spikes, again one in each corner and one in the middle. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for a mojo bag to be dressed in a five-spot pattern or the candles on an altar to be placed in a five-spot setup. And lest we not forget, the crossroads itself, a place where many rituals are performed and many ritual remains are tossed or interred to complete the work. Last but not least, for those hoodoo/rootwork practitioners of the Christian faith, the five-spot can also be seen as a reference to the cross upon which Jesus died; a potent symbol of completion, demonstrations of the miraculous, and faith.

The Number Seven

Possibly no other number on earth is given more magical recognition than the number Seven (7). Religious texts of all types mention the number Seven (7) over and over. (It’s mentioned 735 times in the Bible alone.) Acknowledgment of the number Seven (7) as being particularly holy and one of great power and influence goes all the way back to Babylonian times, if not further. It is a number that is nearly universally seen as having the capacity to make positive things happen. Naturally, seven has a favored place in hoodoo/rootwork as the go-to number for luck in all areas of life and particularly, luck when gambling. Again, we see things such as bathing seven times to bring luck in love or money, or picking multiples of seven when playing the lottery.

The Number Nine

The number Nine (9), being the square of the number Three (3), has extra power to get things done. Notice I said, ‘get things done.’ I didn’t necessarily say that those things would be good for all parties affected. As often is the case in hoodoo/rootwork, to get the results desired it is often necessary to make others do something they may not otherwise be inclined to do. So, when the time comes to reconcile, dominate, control, and gain mastery over people and situations, the number Nine (9) will be employed in all the usual ways, e.g. bathing for nine days, reciting prayers nine times, or writing and covering a target’s name nine times on a petition paper. To a more severe extent, the number Nine (9) is also used in works of reversal and cursing, e.g. the use of nine coffin nails in a destruction bottle. Conversely, the number Nine (9) can also be used when works of protection are needed, such as the laying down of nine devil’s shoestrings on the path to one’s door or the coins left as payment for graveyard work being in denominations of nine.

The Number Eleven & Its Combination with Other Numbers

The number Eleven (11) appears in hoodoo/rootwork, but always in combination with the numbers Seven (7) or Twelve (12). Like the number Seven (7), the number Eleven (11) is lucky in gambling, particularly in dice games like craps where a roll resulting in a seven or an eleven is a winner. The number Eleven (11) is also featured in the name of the famous 7-11 Holy Oil, which is based on the recipe given in the Book of Exodus. In regards to this choice of naming, I suspect, but have no proof, that the use of the numbers Seven (7) and Eleven (11) in this oil’s name makes reference to God/Jesus and the apostles (excluding Judas).

Furthermore, since the number Eleven (11) is also said to symbolize chaos, disorder, but ultimately judgement, it makes sense that when the number Eleven (11) makes another appearance in hoodoo/rootwork it is in conjunction with court case and justice workings, e.g. the eleven sage leaves in the shoe trick. (The eleven leaves represent the apostles, and the twelfth leaf that goes by itself into the other shoe is said to represent Judas.) In this way, the number Eleven (11) is working as a subset of the number Twelve (12), although the twelfth member is effectively being shunned.

As a point of interested it should also be noted that in numerology the number Eleven (11) is considered a Master Number, as are the numbers Twenty-Two (22) and Thirty-Three (33). Thirty-Three is considered the most remarkable of the trio as it is the age at which Christ died, and it is considered the number of the Master Teacher. Go figure.

The Number Thirteen

The number Thirteen (13) has always gotten a bad rap due to its association with the Last Supper, but in hoodoo/rootwork it is somewhat redeemed. Undoubtedly, it is a number that has a dual nature that some people can tap into and others just leave alone. In hoodoo/rootwork, the number Thirteen (13) signifies the end of one cycle and the beginning of another, like the end of a run of bad luck and the beginning of a run of good luck. Therefore, it is most frequently used in rites of purification, uncrossing, and protection, especially in instances where conditions are particularly persistent or long-standing. In addition, hoodoo/rootwork turns the negative connotation of the number Thirteen (13) on its head by utilizing it for good luck in gambling. The general idea being that it is “so bad its good,” or that it’s “bad for you, but lucky for me,” or “I can, but you can’t.” That same idea of “bad for you, but lucky for me” can also be extended to encompass its use in crossing works. Since most of the planet thinks the number Thirteen (13) is evil, the dual nature of the number Thirteen can again be working for you, but not for them.

Multiples of These Numbers

It is very common in hoodoo/rootwork to perform multiple courses of a given working to reinforce its power or to continue its effects. Therefore, it’s not unusual to see something like an uncrossing bath taken for thirteen days in a row, each month, for a total of thirteen months. In this way, the multiple iterations of the work build a momentum that makes the desired outcome more likely with each subsequent repetition. As they say, “Energy flows where attention goes” and with that kind of attention, you can bet that movement around an issue will be a forgone conclusion.

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