Morganna and Barbara are happy to welcome back to the podcast, Allison Jornlin! In her third episode with us on the subject of unsung female paranormal investigators from history, she talks about Zora Neale Hurston.
Most folks know about Zora from her fiction, especially her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, but she did so many other things besides write wonderful novels, plays and short stories. She was also an anthropologist who was a colleague of Margaret Mead and who worked with pioneering anthropologist Franz Boas. In that capacity, she also became a folklorist and a paranormal investigator when she went to collect and document folktales, herbal remedies, and spiritual practices of the New World African diaspora.
She was initiated into voodoo and worked with conjure doctors, houngan, and other spiritual leaders in Jamaica, Haiti, and New Orleans. She was given the name, “Rain Bringer” at one of her initiations after fasting for three days and lying face down on a couch in darkness for three days. She had visions during her initiatory fast, but she didn’t report what they were.
However, many paranormal happens did occur to her and around her and Allison, Morganna and I talk about a great many of them. She also was the first academic to believe that zombies were real, and were created by the use of some sort of poison or drug, though she couldn’t find out what it was. Decades later, following up on her instinct about the creation of zombies, anthropologist Wade Davis found out at least part of the secret of the zombie making poison and wrote about it in his book, The Serpent and the Rainbow.
There’s lots of fun to be had here, great true ghost stories and conjure stories as well as weird asides about obscure laundry chemicals. Yes, you heard it right. Laundry chemicals.
The other books we talk about in this episode are Of Mules and Men and Tell My Horse, both by Zora Neal Hurston and Zora Neale Hurston on Florida Food by Frederick Douglas Opie. (Allison highly recommends the Audible version of Of Mules and Men)
I mistakenly referred to Ntozake Shange’s memoir cookbook, If I Can Cook/You Know God Can as being by Zora. I have read both books, and they are right next to each other on my shelf of African diaspora cookbooks (yes, I have a shelf of them) and they are both excellent.
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