Let’s break down how to set up an altar or workspace for Harriet “Mama Moses” Tubman with her offerings and ways to connect and commune with her sacred spiritual force. It is most beneficial in many spiritual traditions—as a basic premise—to create an altar or shrine to not only honor but also please the intended spiritual entity. This is a place to commune and work with the spirit whether at home or out in nature, a portal to their realm. Not everyone can build a large shrine to Mama Moses with all of her tools and items, but small altars can still be quite effective.
CLEANSING YOUR SPACE
It is standard practice to cleanse your space before you set up your altar. Making the space sacred will change the energy of it so that when you place your items there, it will be ready for a spirit’s presence. It’s good to enlist Florida Water or Hoyt’s Cologne, both commonly used colognes with a high alcohol content and strong aromatic quintessence, by sprinkling the surface and area with one. Holy water sprinkled or incense wafted about the area is also a good practice to do just before building a shrine to Mama Moses. Better yet, enlist more than one of the aforementioned. Burning incense will also remove any residual energetic charge in the area you want to dedicate to her—or any shrine for that matter.
It is worth noting that Hoyt’s Cologne is the traditional means used most by North American hoodoo and conjure workers, commonly found in certain barbershops and salons. Florida Water comes from the more Caribbean- influenced communities and cultures. With the proliferation of ATRs (African Traditional Religions) and those that appropriate them, Florida Water has become the far more popular concoction in this modern era.
Your altar, shrine, or workspace to honor Mama Moses can be any surface or place that you have available—even a shelf will do. The shrine is akin to an ancestor altar, a place that houses items that the intended spirit was fond of and would bring them comfort and familiarity when they are present. You can use fabric to cover the surface or not; it’s up to you and the creativity you are inspired to. There are shrines to Mama Moses that are small wooden shelves with some of her tools and larger ones that have all the accoutrements we will list here for her as well as skulls and skeletal decorations to represent the dead.
There are folks that house her in a pot or cauldron similar to the way of working with the Caribbean spirit La Madama. Then there are folks like me with an entire house dedicated to her with shrines to Mama Moses and her Followers throughout. It’s really up to you, and it will undoubtedly change as time and the manifestation of spirits grow.
Your shrine, whatever form it takes, is a space that is dedicated to Mama Moses and her Followers. It is a place where you can go to focus on her blessings and spirit and a nexus that will be a portal to the inspiring world of her and the spirits of the U.G.R.R. The shrine to Mama Moses is a location where you can give her prayers and offerings and you can ask blessings of her and seek her favor for your needs. At the very least, for starters, a photo of Mama Moses, a glass of water, a candle, and the conjure symbol will be enough to get your space in a position to honor and please her.
The items and tools listed below can be used to create an altar or workspace to commune with and revere Mama Moses and can be left as-is or added to as your shrine grows. As time and familiarity bring you into your work, don’t question whatever presents itself or speaks to you as a tool, item, or image for her altar: that is spirit talking.
-A photo of Harriet Tubman. There are a few wonderful ones out there, but the photos in this book are my favorites.
-A glass of water. This is paramount for most spiritual traditions that honor the glorious dead. Water is life and can quench a spirit’s thirst.
-A candle. Preferably use a jar or seven-day candle; they are the safest and last the longest for a shrine and altar. There is no wrong color of candle for her, but white candles are my favorite for working with Mama Moses.
-The conjure symbol for the spirits of the U.G.R.R. This can be on paper, in a frame, or drawn out on a surface within the shrine.
-A Bible. Mama Moses was immersed in Christianity. Whether you consider her Evangelical, Methodist, or Presbyterian, she was devout and drew inspiration in particular from the Old Testament.
-A Christian cross. Again, Christianity was foundational to her spirituality; it is something that will please her spirit and show you understand and respect her devotion.
-African carvings, statues, or masks of Ghanaian and Ashanti origin if possible. Nana Tubman also practiced African cultural traditions and is a Queen Mother.
-An image of the “Freedom Seeker.” This can be on paper, in a frame, or drawn out on a surface within the shrine.
-Earth or rocks/pebbles from any of the many locations, statues, and plaques connected to the U.G.R.R. across North America.
-A gourd. She was reputed to carry a gourd-like pouch that contained roots, herbs, and other curios or “charms.” Any dried hollow gourd would be good, potentially filled with herbs, roots, and whatever else may speak to you as you work with her.
-A small jar of river, swamp, lake, or marsh waters that were part of the U.G.R.R.
-High John, Dixie John, or Chewin’ John root.
-Healing, medicinal, or magical herbs. These could be bay leaves, wormwood, or devil’s shoestring.
-Photos of any of her U.G.R.R. colleagues and fellow warriors. Some examples would be John Brown, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Thomas Garrett, and William Still.
-A lantern. It can be a small one, either candle or battery lit.
-Images and symbols from the “Freedom Quilts.”
-A toy gun. Some of us do include replicas or toy guns on her shrine. She carried a revolver for much of her conductor days, as well as brandished a musket during the Civil War. It’s a tool that brought her safety and protection, and she was a warrior.
Adapted, and reprinted with permission from Weiser Books, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, Conjuring Harriet “Mama Moses” Tubman and the Spirits of the Underground Railroad by Witchdoctor Utu is available wherever books and ebooks are sold or directly from the publisher at www.redwheelweiser.com or 800-423-7087.
For a review of Conjuring Harriet “Mama Moses” Tubman and the Spirits of the Underground Railroad click the book title.