The New Orleans All-Purpose Conjure Oil
Van Van oil is one of the classic purpose-blended oils alternately known as Hoodoo, Conjure, Mojo, Dressing, Anointing, Conditioning or Magical oils. These oils have purported properties to bless your intention, most of them are extremely specific, such as Court Case Oil, But Van Van is different. It’s the multi-tool of oils, good for a variety of uses. Even the name of Van Van has a unique history, and no, there is neither Vanilla nor Chevy in Van Van…
The herb we call Vervain (Ver-VANE), is pronounced something like (vurh-VaHN) in French Creole, which then became Americanized to Van Van. Vervain is also known as Lemon Verbena. Although Vervain Essential Oil is sometimes listed as an ingredient, it is hard to come by and expensive, and Van Van is more often a blend of other oils, with Lemongrass listed as the main ingredient, and Vervain as a substitute or additional ingredient.
The signature scent of Van Van is clean and crisp, and comes from the variety of oriental grasses which make up the formula. Lemongrass is the central ingredient, a plant which brings great magical flexibility to the table. The other oriental grasses used to round out the Van Van formula have qualities similar to lemongrass, but broaden the scope in different directions, create depth to keep the formula grounded, and give the scent a deft touch. The result is a blend that is powerful without being overpowering, both energetically and to your senses, which is a tribute to how the formula was created.
Van Van oil originally appeared in New Orleans Louisiana, specifically in the West Bank district of Algiers, across the river from the French Quarter. It was so widely used in the last century, that it was said you couldn’t turn a corner in Algiers without smelling the scent of Van Van. A number of other oil recipes, such as the red Fast Luck oil come from Algiers, and for good reason.
Algiers – a Cultural Blend
Algiers is considered sacred by many Hoodoo rootworkers and New Orleans Voodoo practitioners. Thus, the recipes for oils and powders from the district are famous. Algiers is the second oldest area of New Orleans and became a place where various cultures and traditions mixed. The area has the dubious distinction of being the location where slaves were sent and held before sale. This had a major impact on the culture and demographics because the African Peoples mingled with the Native Americans.
Both cultures shared their knowledge of plants in their healing and spiritual systems, first in an underground trade among the original peoples, and later in Hoodoo drug stores which catered to people of any race or background who came looking for cures. Because Algiers was such a crossroads, there are other cultural influences, as well… French Perfumers (who would have had access to the Vervain Essential Oil which gives Van Van its name), Romany (Gypsy) magic and Cajun folk healers, and a dose of Catholic and Baptist influences can be seen, as well.
Van Van – a Multi-purpose Oil
If you want a main go-to oil, if you want an oil which is flexible enough to combine with other, more purposed ingredients, or if you are just frugal and want a single oil to use to dress your candles, mojo bags, spellings, then Van Van is a classic choice for an all purpose hoodoo or conjure oil. But you want to make sure you get a good quality oil if it’s going to be your primary energetic partner, and when you use it, you really need to have a strong focus to guide all that energy.
If you are shopping for Van Van, remember that any good traditional hoodoo dressing oil will contain real herbs and curios, such as our Organic Van Van oil which contains the Organic Lemongrass plus prosperity-drawing pyrite chunks. Of course, you could make your own (more on that further on).
Van Van Oil is a favorite Louisiana standard for:
- banishing and clearing evil
- ritual preparation
- Turnaround – bad luck becomes best luck, and poor investments turn into abundance
- good luck in money, business, gambling and love
- as a road opener
The secret to this flexibility is the combination of oriental grasses and other ingredients which go into Van Van. Each brings something to the table. The chief among the ingredients is Lemongrass, and that also helps to explain the flexibility in the formula.
What makes Van Van Work?
The classic combination for Van Van Oil is: Lemongrass, Citronella, Vetivert, Palmarosa, and Gingergrass and sometimes Lemon Verbena or Patchouli. Palmarosa and Gingergrass are actually from the same plant, but the extraction process is different. I’ve even seen a note that someone adds cinnamon for a little extra heat (and money draw). Lucky Mojo puts tiny chunks of pyrite in their New Orleans Style Van Van Oil mix for added prosperity, as well. To make Van Van Oil, you can use essential oils or a combination of essential oils and botanical ingredients. If you are wondering where we got the formula for Van Van, or how to make your own, check out these links:
- we found an old usenet archive of recipes.
- and another on a Hoodoo Conjure Formulas page.
- Then there’s this article on Making Your Own Conjure Oils
- New World Witchery has suggested ratios, though they are rather flexible (5-10 parts, etc.)
Van Van Ingredients and their properties
Lemongrass is linked to the Planet Mercury, which not only makes it fast acting, but flexible (or mercurial). Like other citrus grasses, it has a powerful cut and clear effect. But since Mercury is the planet of wit and communication, it has other benefits. Van van will help your communications be clear, smooth out any misunderstandings, and draw people to join in your purpose, just as a great speaker will inspire you to support a cause. So whatever your endeavor, you want some of that energy to help you reach your desired conclusion.
This link with Mercury also means Van Van Oil is a great helper for Mercury Retrograde – when communications tend to get messed up or confused. Lemongrass is even an aphrodisiac in some Eastern cultures, so Van Van can be used in love-drawing work. It could also be used as a personal scent for people who want something clean and fresh rather than floral.
Citronella takes it a step farther and forms a protective barrier. Just think about how citronella candles are used to keep mosquitoes at bay, and you get the idea. Citronella is said to cleanse and clear the aura, strengthen the life-force, and attract helpful spirits. This helps clear away, and keep away, negative energies or even people that pull us down. The result is, with the bad kept at bay, the good can come our way.
Palmarosa and gingergrass (which come from the same plant, Cymbopogon martine) are muskier, with something of a geranium scent. This augments its ability to draw in fortune specifically of the monetary kind, and this drawing effect also has a slight sexual connotation. It’s uplifting and bright and like the moon reflects the sun, your mood reflects this sunny optimism. With this tip towards the positive, you also open yourself up to good luck and are much more attractive to friends, customers or potential lovers.
Vetiver is the muskiest of all, with strong earthy tones, it is used in folk magic for its purported ability to provide safety and increase financial resources. Earth has connections to abundance and prosperity through fertility, plus there is a strong sexual current again. Vetiver in love magic helps to focus the love work toward something a bit more in your root chakra, mixing the physicality Earth and the adoration of Venus energy to give the attraction some depth and sensuality.
Using Van Van Oil
Maybe you have a specific goal in mind and use Van Van to give you intention that energetic push in the right direction and open the way. Maybe you will wear it as part of your personal scent just to add a little extra positive possibility to every encounter you have, whether personal or professional. Maybe you are preparing for a New Moon or full Moon ritual and you want to elevate the energy and keep your aura clear and strong. Or perhaps you just want to sit and meditate, opening your awareness like a flower. Use Van Van to:
- Dedicate your altar.
- Anoint candles for clearing (white), communication (blue), protection (black) or luck (green… luck of the Irish), love (red or pink) etc.
- Charge up amulets, bags and lucky charms.
- Anoint a gift so the good you freely give returns to you in spades.
- Before signing an agreement or sitting down to cards, or doing anything you need a bit of luck for, dab a little on your hands and rub them together.
- If you don’t have any Chinese wash and you want to clean out that bad vibe, just put a little in your bucket of wash water.
- Anoint your pen, computer, tablet, cell phone (just a touch is all you need), etc. during Mercury retrograde to help prevent any misfires in communication
- Be creative, Van Van is flexible!
Finally, every practitioner’s cabinet would benefit from Van Van Oil, it covers most of the bases of positive Magic: Love, Luck, Prosperity, Clarity and Protection. You can even add a little bit to a floor wash (along with a straw or two from a used broom) for a complete home or business cleanse. Wash away the old, or the bad to bring in the new. If nothing else, it’s great to have something to help offset the symptoms of Mercury Retrograde.
If you’ve never tried it, we invite you to pick up a bottle of Van Van Oil today! If you have a favorite use of Van Van or a blend, please share it with us, and do share this article on your favorite social network.