The Secret Keys of Conjure: Unlocking the Mysteries of American Folk Magic by Chas Bogan is unlike any other book that I’ve ever read on American Folk Magic. This doesn’t surprise me at all, as Chas has been a well known researcher, teacher, and authority on the subject – despite his humble, respectful, and reverent approach to the practice. He is a professional Conjure doctor who practices at his store, the Mystic Dream. He is an initiate and practitioner of various metaphysical traditions, teaching classes on Conjure and Feri at the online school of which he is a founder, Mystic Dream Academy, as well as at conventions and festivals.
The term “Conjure” is used as an umbrella term to describe the underlying similarity of these American folk practices, and not their differences. America is an extremely diverse place and has often been called the “melting pot” of the world, being a place where different cultures mix together in a way that is rare when compared to other regions of the world. As such, this has had a huge effect on American Folk Magic. In the introduction, Chas writes that, “Regionally, people from across the country bring their own homespun traditions to the table, and we find distinct influences such as New Orleans Hoodoo, Appalachian Granny Magic, Ozark folk magic, Low Country rootwork, and others, many of which do not possess a descriptive name but whose practitioners refer to it simply as the work, or jobs, or something similar.” He also states that “Many magical beliefs and customs can be traced to Native American, African, and European traditions, which were integrated into Christian iconography and celebrations either to hide practices considered heretical or to integrate the old ways with the dominant religion.”
Jacki Smith of Coventry Creations expressed my feelings well in her foreword to the book writing, “When I first started reading The Secret Keys of Conjure: Unlocking the Mysteries of American Folk Magic, I literally started jumping for joy because THIS IS THE BOOK I WANTED! This is all the information rolling around in my brain unconnected and unfinished. Chas did it. He connected these traditions in a way that breathes life into the experience. He took the power of the oral tradition and brought it to the black and white page.” I completely agree with every word she wrote.
This is perhaps the most comprehensive book on American Folk Magic traditions that I’ve read. While there are some good books on the subject, nothing feels as complete as this book as most books on the subject either focus on one tradition of Conjure or a specific aspect or practice of a Conjure tradition. Instead Chas presents a great overview of the practices, lore, tricks, curio, and practical workings of American Conjure that is sure to help anyone who is involved or seeking to learn about these practices. If I were to recommend only one book on folk magic, this would definitely be it.