Mojo is a term commonly encountered in the African-American folk belief called hoodoo. A mojo is a type of magic charm, often of red flannel cloth and tied with a drawstring, containing botanical, zoological, and/or mineral curios, petition papers, and the like. It is typically worn under clothing.
Types of mojos
Mojos are made for all sorts of purposes, many of them documented in blues
- In "Spider's Nest Blues" by Hattie Hart and the Memphis Jug Band, Hart wants to go to New Orleans to get her toby (mojo) "fixed" because she is "having so much trouble" -- the mojo is protective and its power is wearing off, as witnessed by the "bad luck" she is having.
- In "Mojo Hand" by Lightnin' Hopkins, the singer complains about a woman who is "always raising sand" (causing arguments and fights) and he wants to get a mojo hand so that the women will "come under [his] command" -- in other words, he wants to rule, control, and dominate a woman instead of being the target of her bickering...or at least influence her to be more subdued.
- In "Louisiana Hoo Doo Blues" by Ma Rainey, the mojo is protective of an established love relationship and the singer is going to Louisiana to get a mojo hand because she's "gotta stop these women from taking my man."
- In "Little Queen of Spades" by Robert Johnson, the woman has a mojo and uses it to gamble at cards and win, and the mojo explains her otherwise inexplicable winning streak: "everybody says she's got a mojo, 'cause she's been using that stuff".
- In "Hoodoo Hoodoo" by Sonny Boy Williamson I, the mojo is used to break up a love triangle: "I'm goin' down into Louisiana and buy me another mojo hand, all because I got to break up my baby from lovin' this other man."
- In "Mojo Boogie" by J. B. Lenoir, the narrator is given a jack (mojo) by his aunt but doesn't know how to use it: "I got one jack, sure is crazy / My aunt forgot to teach me, just how to operate it / I went to a night club, I was squeezing it tight / I believe that's the cause of them people's start to fight ." The mojo in this case causes people to quarrel.
- In "Hoodoo Lady Blues" by Arthur Crudup, the mojo is again protective of a relationship by causing a break-up with an outside lover. The narrator asks, "please give me a hoodoo hand; I wanna hoodoo this woman of mine, I believe she's got another man." As with Lightnin' Hopkins, what bothers the man is not sexual, rather it is the woman's argumentativeness: "Now, she squabbles all night long, she won't let me sleep / Lord, I wonder what in the world this woman done done to me."
- In several songs -- notably "Scarey Day Blues," "Talkin' to Myself," and "Ticket Agent Blues" all by Blind Willie McTell -- a woman has "got a mojo and she's tryin' to keep it hid." The hidden mojo is a metaphor for her hidden genitals and the male singer says that he's "got something to find that mojo with." The bag or purse-like mojo symbolizes female genitalia, and in this very sexualized sense, mojos are more often associated with women than with men. Preston Foster's "I've got my mojo working but it just don't work on you" was not intended as a song for Muddy Waters, and the first recording of that song was by a woman, Ann Cole.
- Interestingly, it seems "mojo" could imply all its meanings at the same time. This is exemplified in "Take Your Hands Off My Mojo," by Leola B. Wilson and Wesley Wilson recorded in New York on February 17, 1932.
- In "How I Met Your Mother", season 3, episode "The Yips", Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) loses his 'mojo' and heads to the Victoria's Secret Fall Fashion Show party to try to get it back, but he's put to the test when he meets Heidi Klum.
- In "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" Fat Bastard steals Austin's mojo
- In "L.A. Woman" by the Doors, mojo is rising, just before "riding, riding." "Mr. Mojo Risin'" is an anagram for Jim Morrison and it came about because during the 1960s, Morrison apparently heard the word "mojo" on a recording by the Mississippi-born Chicago-style blues singer Muddy Waters, one of whose most popular songs was, "I Got My Mojo Working."