Monday, January 16, 2012

interview with Khi: artist, shaman, hoodoo rootworker (part 1)

I've gotten several requests to profile a hoodoo practitioner here on blackpagan.com, so here it is. I'm very excited to present artist and shaman/hoodoo rootworker Khi Armand, who offers spiritual services through his Brooklyn-based business Conjure in the City. Khi is a very talented, soulful, intelligent -- and busy! -- brotha, and this is a great frickin' interview, so without further ado: 

What is your name, age, what do you do for a living?
My preferred name in this lifetime is Khi Armand. Khi is a riff on "Chiron," the Greek centaur of mythology who provides the Western world with a glimpse of the Wounded Healer archetype. Armand was gifted to me by an actor I was working with in a show I wrote and directed during undergrad. 


I'm 25 years old and am the sole proprietor of Conjure in the City via which I offer services as a Psychic Intuitive, an Urban Shaman, and a Hoodoo Rootworker. I'm also an interdisciplinary artist, am the associate editor of Hoodoo & Conjure Quarterly, and am an MA candidate in Performance Studies at New York University.
What is your spiritual path and how did you get into it? What are some of your influences, how long have you been a pagan (if that is how you self-identify)?
I definitely find affinity with the Pagan community and publicly identify as such quite often. I think a more accurate term to describe my spiritual path would be Shamanic, which I consider to be somewhat pre-Pagan, less Eurocentric, and more indicative of my role in this lifetime.


Can you describe the evolution of your spirituality, briefly (for instance, I went from secular>atheist>Christian>dabbled in Rasta>Vedanta/Buddhism>Christian>now pagan eclectic with elements of all the previous).
Evangelical Christian > Christian > Spiritual > Atheist > Spiritual > Wiccan > Eclectic Pagan > Shamanic with numerous elements of Eclectic Paganism. It gets a little tricky because I'm a professional Hoodoo Rootworker who works with a number of different Spirits (including some little known ones from the Unnamed Path, the Shamanic tradition I'm an initiate in). I work with them magickally but the magick is devotion as well. 


I think that modern Paganism as it is known in the West is still hung up on whether or not magick is religion as we are conditioned toward the Christian binary of separating the physical from the spiritual. Magical practice is indeed religious / spiritual - it is communication. Finding out what your needs and wants really are and finding out how to get them met is highly spiritual work that may seem simple at first, but actually brings up so many questions of desire, entitlement, longing, passion, disappointment, and fulfillment. 


Getting laid, having money, reaching for success - these aren't just ego-driven. These are parts of soul work - our desire for them, our paths toward getting them, what we do with them when we have them, and whether or not they are actually fulfilling for us in the long run.


Which gods do you work with/worship/honor? And can you describe some of your practices?


I work first and foremost with my Ancestors. I refresh their altar once a week with fresh water, whiskey, a new candle, and hot sweet coffee. Everything - I mean everything - changed about a month or two after I started honoring my ancestors. If you're looking to be more in the groove of life, if you're looking to increase your intuitive abilities, and you want more support as you move toward your life's purpose, start an Ancestor altar. I can't suggest it highly enough.
In the Unnamed Path, a Men-Who-Love-Men shamanic tradition, I'm an initiated priest of the Dark Goddess. I perform devotions to her regularly and she's a major part of my life. I work with the three other deities of the tradition as well.
I work with Maximon (San Simon), a Guatemalan deity, everyday. He gets a cigarette, fresh water, incense, and a lit candle. Once a week he gets the works - candy, tortillas, etc. He's a badass.
I also work with Elegua, Ogun, and Yemaya of the Orisha tradition and a host of Saints and Spirit Guides. When you're doing this work for a long enough time, you can really cultivate a whole family on the other side. It's kind of out of crazy, but it's really awesome too.

Do you follow the wheel of the year?
LOL, in my heart, yes. It's been a long time since I've celebrated a Sabbat of my own accord, but I fantasize a lot about doing so again. I really like attending public rituals though and I think that when I move into a larger space I might begin to host them again.
How do you incorporate your spirituality into your every day life? For instance, I meditate each morning, I go into the woods at least once a week, I have ritual during the moon cycles, etc. What do you do?
I honor Maximon, pour my heart out to / pray for / pray with my Ancestors, and bathe with spiritual cleansing elements like Uncrossing oil that I've added to my shower gel. I say affirmations, give offerings to different Spirits depending on the day, and anoint myself with oils and intake herbal medicines that correspond to my own goals. I maintain a meditation practice and go to the park as often as possible.
Do you have folks that you circle, practice ritual with? 
I don't right now but I absolutely will very soon. I can feel it coming. With a cat. That's coming soon too.


You do hoodoo magick, both personally and for a living. How is that related/intertwined with your spirituality?
It's all related. It's a life of devotion, paying attention, trusting, and applying my will and intention to my life and the lives of those that come to me for assistance. It's literally my job to remain connected and to combine my craftsmanship with a submission to the answers that I'm being given by my Spirits and the tools I work with. 


Often, when I begin a work, I'm transported into a trance state in which I'm told everything that needs to happen. Next thing I know, candles are burning and things are poppin'! The Spirits are incredible, real, and necessary. I'm working on a mojo hand, a type of talisman, for a client who wants business success, and I'm being told that Angelica Root needs to go in it because she currently lacks the sense of self-empowerment that will be crucial in her reaching this goal. A gay man is looking for love and affection and I'm being told that Mastery Root's perspective is needed here because his head is not in alignment with his heart and he needs to cultivate self-love in this process. Neither of these are correspondences you'll find under the respective headers of financial success or love drawing, but they provide the medicine - the perspective - that is necessary for the situation. I don't know the difference between magick and spirituality - I simply don't.


In your hoodoo work, you help people manifest the things they want in life whether that’s a job, a new relationship, ways of getting unstuck. Can you talk about how you’ve personally benefited from rootwork?


My Spirits urged me to do a spell on myself for peace and calmness a few weeks ago, though I couldn't really understand why. I think it's the main reason I'm surviving the crunch time of finals right now, lol. But yeah, rootwork / magick attracts money and opportunity to me on a regular basis, has unblocked my life when its felt incredibly stuck (you can read an article about that in Issue 3 of Hoodoo & Conjure Quarterly) and has been a major part of my healing old emotional wounds. 


I've gotten jobs, apartments, sweetened employers to increase my pay, and more. Hoodoo and magick can be applied to any situation. The trick is to apply the right amount of energy at the right time to the right spot. Like a ninja.
Hoodoo makes use of Christian symbolism. Can you explain how someone can work within this system of magick and not be a Christian?


I know tons of Hoodoos who don't use Christian symbolism. Hoodoo is derived from Congo magick and religion and is not Christian in origin. Colonized people do lots of things to survive and perform their practices with dignity, syncretism not the least of them. Hoodoo spells can be rich in their use of Psalms (which I personally find to be beautiful and powerful incantations) and Christian symbolism, but they also draw on Jewish and American Indian influences. Hoodoo is more characterized by its emphasis on odd numbers, its use of personal concerns and foot track magick, repetition within a spell, and other elements. You can alter your Hoodoo spells to suit your religious practices, no problem. They'll still work. I do and I don't - depends on how I feel and the working I'm doing. I might be a queer shamanic healer but Jesus is still alright with me. Wait -- wasn't he all those things too? ;-)


You mentioned how growing up in the Protestant church you were surrounded by “elements of conjure.” Can you tell me a bit about that, and about how your religious upbringing informs your work and spirituality today?


Oh, the anointing of heads with olive oil, the fervent praying, the speaking in tongues. All of these have carried over into my work today, though now I'm more inclined to use a Crown of Success or Blessing oil blend when anointing someone's head. Speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, can be an excellent way to build up power with the voice without having to focus on the words you're saying - you're being guided by Spirit and can focus instead on seeing "those things that be not as though they were." (Romans 4:17)


Is your family accepting of your being pagan?


I think at this point my family is accepting of me being "me." My parents say that they always saw great things for me and I think now they've settled into the fact that the life I'm living now is part of that road. They just didn't think it was going to look this way, I'm sure. They're very proud of me as a person and are incredibly supportive and available.


Is it possible to learn witchcraft from a book or is it necessary to learn from someone personally?


You can learn to be a good magician from books, but it will take many years of fun hard work and trial and error. I'm still learning and will never ever stop. It's a life long journey. Hands-on apprenticing can be an awesome shortcut, but you'll still need to find your own style.


What advice would you have for that kid in Iowa, living in their fundamentalist Christian parents’ home who wants to get into magick or some alternative belief tradition but doesn’t know anybody where he or she lives and needs to keep it a secret?


That's a tricky one - the rebel in me says to learn all you can via the internet and try to cover your tracks, but I don't know what's at stake. For some it could be a small punishment but, for others, it could mean being shipped off to a brainwashing camp. The truth is that the Spirits call who they call and it would be up to this individual to weigh how much they feel the need to learn and participate in Earth-centered practices and be honest. 


Can they wait until adulthood? I was in a similar predicament and I couldn't wait. This was the path for me, I needed it like air, and I hid my witchcraft books under bushes at the local park in grocery bags. I couldn't wait and it cost me - and it was worth it.


That's it for now, and I hope you all enjoyed the reading. Thanks for stopping by, and do come back next week for part two of the interview, in which Khi talks about race and paganism, and the practice of earth-centered religions in urban environments, among other topics. Meanwhile, here's his facebook.

5 comments:

  1. Great interview with a special brother!

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  2. Awesome interview. Really interesting and intelligent man!

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  3. Wonderful interview with a wonderful person. Khi, I'd direct the hypothetical magical kid from a Fundamentalist family toward the hoodoo way -- sneaky tricks with Jesus and the Psalms, starting with protective work. Then a sugar jar on his family -- kept in his pocket at all times! -- to sweeten them toward the way he NEEDS to live his life.

    I'm glad you now have the freedom to live as Spirit directs.

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  4. I'm so glad you all enjoyed the interview with Khi. Thanks for reading and stop by again!

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  5. Loved this interview....gonna check out the rest of your blog.

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