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Mojo

From Academic Kids

For other uses, see Mojo (disambiguation).

Mojo originated as a term with a specific meaning, but in the late 20th century became a very fluid term with many different meanings. It originated as a reference to a type of magic charm. The word traces its origins to Africa and entered the English language in the late 19th century or early 20th century through use by African Americans. It reflects the belief, common in many cultures, that some people have the ability to influence others to their own advantage, by casting spells or hexes.

In African-American folk beliefs, especially in the rural U.S. South early in the 20th century, a mojo was a small bag worn by a person under the clothes. Other names for these mojo bags, or for specific types of mojos, include mojo hand, conjure bag, toby, and nation sack. Such bags were thought to have supernatural powers, such as protecting from evil or bringing good luck. The mojo bag usually contained a mix of herbs, powders, sometimes a coin, and other objects thought to promote supernatural action or protection. The use of mojo bags is a characteristic of the southern United States magical tradition of hoodoo.

References to mojos are common in early to mid-20th century rural blues songs. Some of these blues tunes were covered by white rock & roll bands in the 1960s. The tunes thus reached audiences unfamiliar with the rural African-American folk beliefs referred to in the lyrics of the songs. The exposure to uninformed audiences led to misunderstanding and additional uses of the word: usually, to refer to male virility, libido, or the penis. This misunderstanding was popularized by Jim Morrison of the Doors, who named himself "Mr. Mojo Risin'" — an anagram of Jim Morrison — in the song "L.A. Woman". This understanding of the word was turned to comedy in the 1999 film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Some other slang meanings of mojo in common use include: charm, charisma, karma, cocaine and thing (as in "Gimme that mojo!").

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