In the American South at any Botanica, or Magic Shoppe, you always find an assortment of powders and oils. Some of the more common have names such as “Law Stay Away” or “Win A Court Case.” The intent is, of course, to help people avoid legal trouble and to beat any court case that they are already a part of. This has been an integral part of Vodou and, in the examples above, Hoodoo. In fact it is found all over the world. An example from the English version of Ennahar Onilne:
Do not be surprised if you ever come across a Herz (talisman or amulets), a tuft of hair or pieces of sugar in a court. These are only the remains of some strange rituals practiced by some Algerian women in order to avoid prison for their relatives.
All means are good for the poor mothers who want to avoid the hole for their children, who face prison for a particular crime or offense. As if the lawyer is not enough, they want to increase the chances that their children benefit from the release, return to the heat of the home instead of going rot in a cold cell.
She gives a Harz (talisman) to her son so that he leaves prison in Bab El Oued
Believing firmly that it works, some women resort to all sorts of magic to save their offspring from the tentacles of justice, even the African voodoo if necessary, provided that their beloved sons do not go to jail.
Many may question the ethics behind this. Is it wrong to use Vodou to free a person from the grasp of justice? This central question revolves around the assumption that in a court case it is truly justice that is being served. Recall that in Haiti, Vodou was used to protect black slaves from the justice of their abusive white masters. If they broke a rule, they would be subjected to a trial and punishment often involving the torture of a whip. In the example above, in the prisons of Algeria, it may be safe to assume that we are looking at exactly the same type of justice.
It would not be ethical to use Vodou to free a rapist or murderer. I think we all agree on this. But in countries where the justice system is a complete mockery I sympathize with those who find ways to fight against the odds. Even in countries such as the Untied States, where due process is promised and courts considered reasonably fair, we see new people every day being set free based on DNA evidence – from death row nonetheless – for crimes they did not commit.
Is it fair to use Vodou to win a court case? Every situation has to be evaluated differently. No two are the same. I cannot say for certainty that this is always wrong nor can I say that it is always right.
But one thing is for sure – it does work. If it did not, the police officer in the above example would not have been so quick to arrest the woman for slipping her son a lucky talisman.