I will plan to write a more thorough entry here on my blog for Harry Middleton Hyatt. This particular blog will simply address some things that are not being properly taught or communicated when it comes to his writings.
Harry Middleton Hyatt was an Anglican minister and folklorist who travelled much of the South in the latter 1930s and 1940s in an attempt to preserve hoodoo folklore and practices. Hyatt was a human being and as such he was flawed. However, Hyatt should be commended on his attempt and the work he was able the record. This said there are problems that are not being communicated to people when they come across his work. Those problems include:
1.) A focus primarily on the "black thread" of the tapestry that is hoodoo. In his volumes, "Hoodoo-Conjuration-Witchcraft-Rootwork", he seems to completely ignore any white or Native America influences. In fact he is told by some of his African-American informants that there are a good number of white workers and this seems to go right over Hyatt's head. This should have been a major hint to Hyatt that his belief in a "pure black" tradition was wrong. However, Hyatt only focused on the African-American practices and as such he missed the big-picture and was not able to see the "tapestry" that is hoodoo. I am firmly convinced that if Hyatt would have had that stoke of genius to be able to "see" hoodoo for what it truly is, a mix of African-American, Scott-Irish, and Native American practices it would have blown his mind and it would have taken his documentation and recording of the practice into a brand new direction. Unfortunately that didn't happen and Hyatt didn't have the genius to recognize what exactly hoodoo was and as such only focused on the "black thread" of the tapestry.
2.) Hyatt's black informants were of a mix of people who had good knowledge, people who had questionable knowledge, people who didn't know a thing, and people who lied and invented stories. Hyatt didn't separate or make distinctions between these different peoples. If you start reading his works then you will find some very amusing and entertaining stories that have no basis in reality. In fact, I was often left with the feeling that many of his black informants should have become writers because they told some really good fictional tales! I mean there are elaborate tales of "hoodoo initiation rites" (no such thing), hoodoo balls/parties (no such thing), hoodoo schools similar to our understanding of the Hogwarts of the Harry Potter fame (no such thing), hoodoo covens (no such thing), and the appearance of Lucifer at "hoodoo rituals" (never happened). I just hope readers who come across Hyatt's work have the intelligence to realize when one of the informants was being honest and when they were spinning tales.
3.) This is just my personal opinion and I have no evidence to back it up, but I am convinced from reading Hyatt's work that some of the informants deliberately lied, not just spun tales, but deliberately lied to Hyatt for whatever reason.
4.) Hyatt believed that the "golden age" of hoodoo had passed and believed that the marketers, the non-practicing white and Jewish manufacturers, had destroyed the tradition. He was wrong. The practice wasn't dead it just went underground and became more secretive. Also it needs to be stressed once again that Hyatt was only focusing on African-American practices and ignored the Scott-Irish and Native-American influences.
People today with no family history of hoodoo/rootwork/conjure are using Hyatt's work as if it is the "hoodoo bible" and most of what they know, or think they know, comes from Hyatt's work. Hyatt's work is good, however it is nowhere near strong enough to be used as a foundation for knowledge on hoodoo/rootwork/conjure.
So these are just some things to know about Hyatt. In the future I will expand on the topic.