Whenever I come across a person from the Neopagan community, especially those who hold the Western and New Age interpretations of Karma, I often get into discussions about the role of ethics in hoodoo and conjure. When I explain to such people that hoodoo does not have a concept similar to the Three-fold Law they often tend to become rather superior and look at anything I say afterwards askance.
To some people the very idea that the Universe, or Deity is not going to slap you on the hand the second you put something out there that does not fit the criteria of rainbows and butterflies is simply appalling if not down-right unethical. To these people hoodoo, which holds to the paradigm that conjurers and rootworkers are mature enough to figure things out on their own without an infintile system of reward and punishment, is nothing more than flat-out dark magick. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I am not going to touch on the history of hoodoo, nor its religious influences (for more on the topic of hoodoo's history check out catherine yronwode's online book). Instead, I am going to point out one salient fact that the critics who decry conjure's lack of concept of karma are missing: hoodoo is magick. That's right, it is a system of *magick,* not religion. Not just any magick, but one that is ultimately pragmatic.
Pragmatism is a strong part of many magical traditions and hoodoo exemplifies this. What purpose is there for magick if not to help right wrongs, to help find a person happiness, to bring about a nurturing relationship, or financial success? The rootworkers is a deeply spiritual person, but a person who's not so far up in the clouds that they forget where their feet are.
Now does that mean that hoodoo is a "do whatever you want" type of a system? Absolutely not. People fail to realize the hoodoo has an inherent doctrine of ethics that should not be overlooked. A conjurer or root doctor works with divination methods in order to see all the facets of a situation and the implications and consequences of any magick that they decide to throw into the mix. This is done with a clear understanding that they are answerable to higher power, be it the Universe, God, or their Higher Self. The idea is clear; if you cannot justify your actions objectively then you have no right doing what you plan on doing. It is for this reason that conjurers turn to divination.
Hoodoo and conjure accept that spiritual and magical power is not only able to, but should be used in order to help things like justice, love, fortune, and success along. It is after all the right of man to be happy and prosperous. That doesn't mean you start using magick to steal from your neighbors, but it does mean that if your neighbor is a rapist you send his or her butt straight to jail.