Quick Note: Interview with a Hoodoo Man

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 10, 2011 — 41 Comments

Have you ever read one of those articles about a sacrifice done in a graveyard and wondered who, exactly, does that sort of thing? Well, after a sacrificed rooster was found in a graveyard at Cocoa, Florida, hacked Facebook pictures traced the ceremony back to Christos Kioni, a “living legend” and “two headed” root doctor/spiritual coach. Florida Today interviewed Kioni to find out about his beliefs, and why he conducted the graveyard ceremony.

Kioni was hired by a woman in her 30s pleading for help. He said someone put roots — or a spell — on her, leaving her welted with skin lesions, swollen legs, jaundice and heart problems. “[the spirit of Jonathan Davis, the grave where the ceremony was performed] is very strong. He’s calling people to his grave. He was a warrior,” Kioni said. “His mother should be proud.” Just before sundown, a time when hoodoo practitioners believe the world transitions between life and death, Kioni presided over the sacrifice. The rooster was washed in scented water, perfumed with oils and prayed over as candles flickered. “We presented it to almighty (God)…but I did not deface a grave. This is my religion,” he said.

What isn’t mentioned in the article, but is mentioned in Kioni’s own Youtube channel, is that he’s a initiate into Palo Mayombe. The various threads of Palo are often misunderstood, and often sensationalized as the “dark side of Santeria” due to its willingness to engage with necromancy. Considering the reactions Palo can receive, its not too surprising the root doctor didn’t mention that part of his spiritual resume. One of the most interesting things about this profile/story on Kioni is his own account of how he entered into the world of root work and hoodoo.

“Curiosity and love of God led him to the seminary, he said. He later joined Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination that promoted speaking in tongues, prophesies and spiritual warfare. He became a pastor, but later left organized religion and got into what many Christians consider the forbidden worlds of witchcraft and divination. He has since built what Anderson called a worldwide audience in the hoodoo community.”

I have commented before on how close the Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal forms of spiritual warfare are to traditional magic as Pagans and other practitioners understand it, and here we have confirmation of something I’ve often wondered: do Christian spiritual warfare techniques ever lead someone into magic? The answer, at least in this case, seems to be yes. I would recommend reading the entire profile, as its not often that traditional news outlets are able/willing to track down and interview root workers, and other practitioners, when they cause controversy with their rites.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Me

    do Christian spiritual warfare techniques ever lead someone into magic?

    Absolutely. When a stadium in el Paso is filled to the rafters with worshipers praying to exorcise the ‘Demon Nary, Queen of Heaven’ Yes.

    And the megaChurch in Clorado, the one presided over by meth and rentboy preacher Haggard, paritioners walk the streets praying to exorcise the demonic forces in the people living in the areas. Yes.

    Christian extremists practice magick. Much of it a dark magick.

    • AnonGuest

      it’s so funny they think they can get in Jesus’ favor by kicking around his mother.
      Hello, that’s just stupid.

  • My opinion: There must be away to respecting the living along with the dead. I’m of the thought cemeteries not only holds power of the dead but tangible monuments are for the living. Why not speak with the living prior to performance on the site? Seek permission or understanding. I’m sure this man is deeply apologetic. I’m sure many practitioners who hold rites in ceremony may not have issues if the same findings were found at their love ones stone. However, I am sure many practitioners would at least have that curiosity of if the rite is for evil or goodness? I know I would like the right to determine who can use my ancestor’s grave for ceremony and who cannot. I would like the right to know if the ceremony is to heal or cause harm. I would like to know if the practitioner truly knows my departed ancestor or not. I would like that respect. If the living family couldn’t understand and decline usage than why not turn to one’s own ancestors (there are many) to act as substitutes. I mean this with all respect.

    • Conjurewoman Pilarr

      I practice hoodoo. Hoodoo is a system of magic, not a religion. When ever any “job” (as it is called in hoodoo) or “working/magic” is performed in a grave yard, the spirit of the dead is always asked for her/his permission and/or assistance. Most times the answer is “no.” So another spirit of a departed is asked. The spirit assisting is paid in a method that is proper according to the spiritual path of the person performing the “working.” Respect is of high importance!

      • Thank you, Conjurewoman. I never stated that Hoodoo is a religion? I’m well aware that hoodoo is the actual “work”/system of magic mostly using plant roots. That being said, I understand the respect for the dead but what about the living? A prime example is that my grandfather’s graveyard was broken into and his skull was removed (this is not in the United States). The fact that his spirit came to me and told me of the disrespect upsets me. It disrespects me. So, stating that all practitioners of certain “work” use respect is not totally truth. In certain traditions there is an anointed family member that acts like the medium, shall I say. What I’ve found that many practitioners that don’t reside in a heavy populated community of knowledge of traditionalist assume too many things. Assume the family of the decease doesn’t understand the faith. Even times act like they know the decease figuring that that person is not “pagan” like them. Especially in America where majority are Christians, American Christians who don’t hold ancestor worshipping. Often times the decease will say “no’ for many reason. One of the reasons is that they know their living family member frequent the site and would be so distraught to see the gravesite the way the practitioner left it. I ask of you… the woman seems like a loving mother. She obviously grieves for her son. It appears that they were close. That he was a compassionate man who is willing to help others… with all this, would you believe that his spirit wouldn’t know that this would cause his mother more grief and pain? Would he have given permission knowing that his mother would be distraught? Knowing that she visits frequently? Similar to how the individual who took my grandfathers skull didn’t know my grandfather… I wouldn’t be upset nor would our family… we just rather be informed ahead of time, given the option, and decide ‘yea” or “nay” Basically, I am using empathy of both the living and the dead. The dead and the living are never separated. At least that’s most belief system that observes the departed. Blessings!

        • Conjurewoman Pilarr

          You wrote, “I never stated that Hoodoo is a religion?” No, you didn’t, Jacquie. Was just informing in case you did not know. (gentle smile)

          I do agree with you about your grandfather. If I were a wagering person, I’d wager that the person who vandalized your grandfather’s grave, did so without any permission whatsoever!

          Where ever one goes, what ever any one speaks about, there are always exceptions to the rule. So, yes, **most** or the majority of the time, “respect” is most important to the spiritual practitioners and those that practice hoodoo as well. “Blanket” statements are always incorrect. Thank you.

          You write, “…would you believe that his spirit wouldn’t know that this would cause his mother more grief and pain? Would he have given permission knowing that his mother would be distraught? Knowing that she visits frequently?”

          Who am I to say?? I cannot speak for this departed spirit. In addition, any attempt may be incorrect on my part or misunderstood by others. I am not evading your questions at all. I’ve worked with the spirits enough to know.

          I completely agree with you in that the “dead and the living are never separated.” Having an understanding of this, is it not possible that the spirit would comfort, healing and send understanding to “the mother?”

          I was not there. I did not communicate with this spirit. With great respect, I can only speak from personal experience. So please know that I write only my personal perspective and from my knowledge of hoodoo and my belief system. Within my belief system, it is very possible indeed that the spirit gave complete permission.

          • Thank you, Conjourwoman, for edification and sharing your acknowledge of your belief system. I’ve altered my ‘work’ based on many factors. One prime factor is that I’m not residing on the lands where the living would most likely understand. I’ve altered many things due to respect of both the living and the dead. I personally would feel that as a medium to a spirit who has a living family member who doesn’t really understand, for me to be there to assist them in understanding and explain. Even explaining that’s what your beloved departed would like. If both living and departed cannot come to an agreement, I would personally not get involved. That’s just me. Even if one doesn’t have a strong connection to any of their ancestors (which there is a lot so it’s rare). At least search for a spirit in the cemetery whose gravesite looks like it has not been attended to in years. There are plenty of cemeteries that have been around since the 1800’s. To simply avoid living and dead chaos. Yes, the caretakers of the cemetery maybe upset but the upset doesn’t run deep than familial.

            Currently, I’m working on teaching my familial youth alternative ways due to the fact that my living family today wishes to be cremated. There are ways to summon, repay, and the likes with the dead that doesn’t involve actual cemeteries unless one is seeking the assistant of a specific deity of the cemetery. In which many, as in deities-intermediaries, of my acknowledge are also found in other places. As the African and European workers had to adapt to their new land in the United States… so we can adapt. Our ancestors adapted… why can’t we? Many have, this I know. Especially in our day and age. I guess that’s where I am coming from. Although I do respect those who desire to keep it traditional.

    • D.R.

      The family called this “horrific” but the man who did it says the spirit in the grave told him it was okay. Who do you think is right? I say the family knows their son better that this man does. He sounds as self-deluded as all the rest of of the “God told me to do it” types who rape, torture and kill on the advice of the “voices” they hear in their own mixed-up minds.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    “welted with skin lesions, swollen legs, jaundice and heart problems”

    The first thing he should have done is found out if she’s seen a doctor, and send her to one if she hasn’t. This could be a straightforward, if troubling, medical problem.

  • I don’t wanna hear word one about “animal sacrifice” from anyone who eats fast-food chicken, or buys a fryer from Tyson’s.

    • Harmonyfb

      Oh, my goodness, Alice, we actually agree on something! 🙂

    • Thank you Alice; definitely my sentiments.

    • D.R.

      With all due respect, “A.C..” this is not about vegetarianism or animal husbandry. Please sign the petition against ritualized animal cruelty: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/514/117/236/ (Warning, the petition contains the picture that USA Today would not print.)

      • Starsong_dragon

        Wait, he burned it ALIVE? I have no problem with HUMANE animal sacrifice. But that sounds like torture. Did he actually say himself that he burned it alive? (I can’t watch the video, my computer doesn’t have sound right now)

        • Harmonyfb

          I also must have missed THAT little tidbit. That’s not OK – like you, humane animal sacrifice is cool…torturing an animal by setting it on fire while alive is not. 🙁

          • D.R.

            Yes, Starsong_dragon and Harmonyfb, he actually said that he set the animal on fire while it was alive and that he deliberately burned it to death. This was not on a video. It was on his Facebook page. Eddy Gutierrez posted an attachment below to a screen-shot of the Facebook page. Scroll down to Eddy’s post with the blue lines on it, click on that and it will open up large. That’s what we all saw when Dr. Kioni put it on his Facebook page. You can read what he said about it, too. He said he burned it alive.

      • Devil Tiger

        and how exactly would that do anything. and why would anyone bother other than for sentimentality’s sake, which is just another word for weakness.

        • D.R.

          Devil Tiger, bringing an illegal act to the attention of law enforcement is not “sentimentality” or “weakness.” The petition is being delivered to the agency responsible for stopping crimes of animal abuse and torture in the county where this occurred. The petition is at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/514/117/236/

  • MMcG

    The problem is not that he performed “animal sacrifice” but that he burned a bound animal ALIVE, which is NOT a part of Palo Mayombe, or at least according to a priest of many years of my acquaintance. Animal sacrifice is legal in the US, when it follows certain guidelines to assure a humane death, but this barbaric act broke all of those guidelines and was in fact illegal. I don’t care what “religion” you use as an excuse, burning a captive animal alive is cruel, barbaric, and should be (and MUST be) abolished. Eating an animal which has been humanly slaughtered is one thing; torturing one for a ritual is another.

    • D.R.

      You got that right, MMcG. Animal sacrifice is legal. Torture of an animal is against the law. What he did, or said he did until he saw that the law was on his tail, was on the dirty same level as cock-fighting, dog-fighting, and setting kittens or puppies on fire.

  • AnonGuest

    “He said it was not the imposing 6-foot-5 statue installed at the grave by the family that portrays Davis as a guardian angel that drew him, but rather Davis’ spirit.”
    No offense meant the Dr. and I think he’d had been sincerely not meaning to hurt his mother’s feelings and I believe the apology, too, but it’s slightly hard to believe partly from that sight he didn’t decide to check with that spirit.
    It is sad and I’m sorry to hear this brought any further grief upon the family.

  • This is a interesting article about this incident on ATR blog The Mystic Cup: http://blog.themysticcup.com/santeria/case-burning-chicken-politics-money-religion-ride-cart-whirlwind

  • Anonymous

    I’m having an issue with TWH–viewing it on my iPod works just fine, but on my computer I get a 404 every time. Any idea why this might be happening?

  • Thank you to Drac Uber for providing a link to the article from mystic cup-I think they summarize a lot of the points of this nicely. For the writers and readers of this article I would like to point out a few things: 1.) the act of trussing up a rooster and setting it on fire while its still alive is not part of any ritual sacrifice-not in Palo and certainly not in Hoodoo which is not a religion at all. This is a cruel and abusive act that is and should be illegal. 2.) I said it again but it requires repeating-Hoodoo is not a religion-it is a set of folk magic practices that are practiced by many different people who follow many different spiritual paths. 3.) Another commenter suggested that given the client’s condition, she should have been asked to see a doctor-and I strongly agree with this. Any ethical worker would have required that she get medical treatment for the physical issues.

    Whether you eat meat or not is really beside the point here-calling on religious protection for an illegal act that is not recognized in any formal or protected religion is not ok-and should be of especial concern to Pagans, Heathens, Wiccans and others who do have to go to battle for their right to freedom of religion on a recurring basis. A group of concerned workers within the greater rootwork community have signed the following petition concerning this affair and I recommend that anyone who feels moved to do so sign it as well: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/514/117/236/

    • Conjurewoman Pilarr

      Good Greetings, Miss Bri. You wrote, “3.) Another commenter suggested that given the client’s condition, she should have been asked to see a doctor-and I strongly agree with this. Any ethical worker would have required that she get medical treatment for the physical issues.”

      There is great assumption here. How can anyone know whether or not the “client” was **not** advised to seek a medical doctor? Most and I repeat, most times when a person seeks spiritual assistance for a medical challenge, or any other challenge for that matter, it is when all other avenues have been exhausted.

      • That is true Conjurewoman Pilarr-and note that I am not claiming the individual involved did not advise his client to seek medical attention-I was emphasizing that point made by a fellow commentator because no matter where you fall on a situation like this-I feel its imperative that the medical component of cases like this be noticed and that proper treatment is sought out-hope that clarifies!

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Good Greetings, Pilarr. I was the commenter who made the remark about going to a doctor. In my original text I said that *if* she had not seen a doctor she should have been sent to one. Bri truncated that part in transcription. Blessed be.

  • Albert

    this guy may claim to be a living legend, but he sounds more like a fraud to me. His own community is speaking out against him. The very person who won rights for the ATRs to practice animal sacrifice is decrying his actions. It seems now he’s got two choices: either lie and say that he didn’t torture the animal by burning it alive (which is illegal and not sanctioned by his religion) which means he’s a liar and a fraud, or lie to the authorities and say he didn’t do it which means he’s not nearly the “living legend” he claims to be. Either way he comes out a liar.

    What type of person would committ such an act then post it on his facebook–this guy’s obviously just after promoting himself and making money.

    • D.R.

      Albert, “What type of person would committ such an act”? Did you listen to his video up-top this page? He says “Soccer Moms” pay for his services which can be purchased “on the installment plan” which translates, as “I will pretend to burn animals alive for you at 50 percent down and three monthly payments but nudge nudge wink wink I don’t really do burn them to death, all y’all Soccer Moms, they’re dead when I burn them, get it?”

  • D.R.

    Wild Hunt, you said that “hacked Facebook pictures traced the ceremony back to Christos Kioni.” How does one “hack” Facebook pictures? Sure, we all hate “hackers” and all, and he told Florida Today that his Facebook page was “hacked” but I personally saw the picture. All his FB “friends” saw it. He uploaded it, his page-friends saw it, his page-friends reported it. Control-key to save a photo is not “hacking.” Just being technical here, but the guy is trying to mystify this thing to squirm out of being caught boasting about setting animals on fire. Like, as if it took some genius to “hack” his super-private FB account.

    • Eddy Gutierrez

      He is trying to vilify the very people who called him on his crap. Here’s a screenshot of the very post he made on Facebook. No hacking involved, just a screen capture – which on a Mac is Command-Shift-3. You’ll also notice in the screen capture that his fans apparently are cheering on his illegal torturing of animals (unless the animal was already dead in which case he is a fraud).

      • cat yronwode

        Thanks, Eddy. This screen-shot is what USA Today did not want to print. “The rooster died alive in flames.” This is what hundreds of people on Facebook saw. I understand the Brevard County Animal Services officer in the article when he said it is almost impossible to catch people doing these things and that if the perpetrator retracts his statement after the fact, which Kioni did, there is no real proof and charges are difficult to bring — but there is the screen-shot that told the true story at the time when Kioni was boasting of his animal torture — before he got caught.

    • Silvia Parisi

      Seconded. I also saw the photo on his personal facebook page. I am not on his friends list, nor have I ever been. Furthermore, I have it on very good authority that what he did is NOT endorsed by the ATR community at all. He’s lying about the photo circulating from his page being hacked, and backtracking on previous claims that he burnt the rooster alive, because enough people in the ATRs stepped up and created/signed a petition to get him noticed by the law.

  • Eddy Gutierrez

    First: Kenneth Fuller was not correct – his Facebook account was not hacked. The photo was put up on his Christos Kioni account wall first – visible to all of his friends, then he shared the photo on his “Dr. Christos Kioni” (public figure profile) and was visible to all of his fans. The photo showing the evidence of his doings, as well as him boasting of his actions of animal torture, and a copyright on the photo were all visible to the public. No hacking was done, nor was it necessary for Mr. Fuller is well known for sharing photos of ceremonies with his fans.

  • Eddy Gutierrez

    Second: Kenneth Fuller claims this is a form of rootwork. Rootwork is Southern Folk Magic, and there is no part of Southern Folk Magic that involves the live immolation of chickens. Simply put this was an invented ceremony that Mr. Fuller did to impress his clients and scare his fans to make them think he was doing something powerful. Mr. Fuller is an initiated priest in Palo Mayombe, however, I can verify that this is not a valid form of sacrifice within the religion of Palo. I myself am an initiated priest in Palo (Tata Bakofula) and have 8 more years of practice in the religion that Mr. Fuller. Ritual sacrifice within Palo is done by severing the carotid arteries of the animal, making them pass out before they die. Animals are never burned alive. If Mr. Fuller is attempting to justify this act as a ceremony of Palo he is either misinformed or untrained at best, or simply lying and trying to hide his animal torture under the shield of constitutional freedom of religion at worst.

  • Eddy Gutierrez

    Third: Animal sacrifice, while a legally protected religious practice within the United States, still needs to adhere to local laws protecting the dignity of the animal, the safety of people around and hygiene of those involved. The state of Florida does not allow any form of animal sacrifice outside of the method where the carotid arteries are severed, causing the animal to bleed out and blackout before it dies. Burning animals alive is illegal in Mr. Fuller’s state where the atrocity took place.

  • Eddy Gutierrez

    Fourth: If Mr. Fuller admits to doing this ceremony then he has admitted to an act of animal torture and a sacrilegious act within the religion of Palo. If he instead says that the animal was already dead when it was set ablaze, then he is lying to his clients about the ritual work he claims to do and thinks that harming innocent animals will scare his clients into thinking he has power. Either way, his actions are deplorable and we the members of African Traditional Religions, as well as our allies in the Pagan community, should stand together to expose what Mr. Kenneth Fuller (a.k.a. Dr. Christos Kioni) has done as reprehensible and unacceptable.

    • D.R.

      Thanks, man. That’s what I was saying. He is either lying or he has to go to jail for burning animals alive. Either way makes him wrong and it looks like he would rather be called a fraud than go to jail for animal torture.

  • Devil Tiger

    I know you more respectful people like to ask permission of spirits, but grow up, We have the power here and our greatest duty is merely not to get caught using it which this man has completely and utterly failed there. I’m of the opinion that the moral issue here is not a matter of whether he asked the dead permission but rather how he can justify increasing public antipathy for the practice of Hoodoo (not my cup of tea but more power to him for following a path to greater awareness and power).

  • It’s not “spiritual warfare”, per se, that serves as a bridge between Pentecostalism and magic, rather it is the fact that Pentecostalists reject the so-called Doctrine of Cessationism, according to which the miraculous events described in the New Testament (and especially the so-called “charismatic gifts”) simply no longer occur in the modern world.

    Although the idea of cessationism is today often associated with the split between charismatic and non-charismatic Christians, it originally arose as part of the split between Protestants and Catholics because Catholics, very reasonably, asserted that if God really intended for a new Church to be established, that He would send signs and wonders, as he did back when the Church was first established. The Protestant response was, in essence, to simply claim that God doesn’t bother with all that anymore.

    Any form of Christianity that accepts the contemporary possibility of the kinds of “miraculous” events described in the Bible (healing, prophecy, direct communication with God, etc) obviously encourages “magical thinking”. When this kind of magical thinking is combined with Christian dualistic thinking about Satan and his Demonic minions, that is what leads to conceptions about spiritual warfare. But that kind of dualistic thinking very literally demonizes most of magic.