L is 54. He was born in Chicago, Illinois. He was in the Army in his 20s and now works in private personal security. He studied theology in college. He told me this story about his Haitian great grandmother in person.
“My great grandma Hattie, on my dad’s side, um… she used to practice a form of Haitian voodoo like if she disliked someone in the community… they lived in Turle, Arkansas… she would take chickens and drain their blood and bury the chicken head and curse you, like in the yard and if she wanted you to change your behavior she would do this ritual… mind you we ate the chicken after she used it for the ritual. We called it voodoo… we hardly understood what she said because she had a heavy accent and I didn’t spend a whole lotta time with her because there’s not a lot to do in Turle, Arkansas. She came from Haiti in the 1930s or something and married my great grandfather in Arkansas… they were sharecroppers… so yea… if she had an issue with you she would perform her hex.”
Ritual sacrifice is common in Voodoo and other religions. Cooking and eating the sacrificed animal is also a common practice. For more information on Voodoo with a focus on how the religion has been misconstrued and misrepresented, particularly by Western Media, see FERÈRE, GÉRARD A. “HAITIAN VOODOO: ITS TRUE FACE.” Caribbean Quarterly, vol. 24, no. 3/4, 1978, pp. 37–47, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40793401. Accessed 25 Apr. 2022.
“Hahah in retrospect it sounds ridiculous — yelling ‘Whammy whammy whammy’ while wiggling our fingers. But man we took it so seriously, you didn’t just do that shit light-heartedly, that was a big deal.”
When the informant was in 2nd grade, there was a gesture children at school could perform to curse another person. It involved placing one hand over the other with palms down, interlocking the fingers, extending the arms to point at the “target”, and saying “Whammy” three times in a row. It would supposedly give that person terrible luck. It was only performed in serious cases of disliking someone, not to be taken lightly. There was no way to break the curse.
This friend of mine said he learned the gesture from his older brother, who claimed it was something passed down for many years. The curse was taken most seriously by his own friend group but not ignored by others. The nature of the “bad luck” or the curse isn’t clear, but the implications were severe. They wouldn’t do it to eachother but to people outside of their friend group. They performed it for only about a year before they stopped doing it. He claims they simply outgrew the concept of it.
“Cursing” or “hexing” other kids on the playground definitely seems like a widespread thing, especially around the age of 2nd graders. In part it seems to be a way to cope non-violently with someone you dislike, but also has a lot of tones of exclusivity associated with it. In this particular case it was performed primarily by one group (my friend and his group) but recognized by people outside of the group. Around that age, a lot more aggression crops up and kids get in fights, form exclusive groups, and deal with new confrontational issues. With schools and parents obviously trying to diminish this resulting in physical altercations or anything beyond children disagreeing with eachother, it seems fitting that kids would find indirectly harmful ways to affect someone, e.g. casting a curse that gives a target bad luck. Then, the things that happen to the person aren’t the fault of the curse-caster, but rather the curse itself.