American Folklore and the Blues Black Cat Bone
The Blues is filled with mysticism, hoodoo and the power of the Black Cat Bone. Seminal Blues guitarist Robert Johnson claims he sold his soul to the Devil at the Crossroads in exchange for becoming the greatest musician ever. He is — and was dead at 27.
The Black Cat Bone still resonates today in The Blues — and the origin of the practice of removing and using the bone is mythically stunning:
Cook the body of a black cat in boiling water with white seeds and wood from the willow until the meat is loosened from the bones. Strain the bones in a linen cloth and, in front of the mirror, place the bones, one by one in your mouth, until you find that you have the magic to make you become invisible. Keep the bone with the magic property and, if you want to go somewhere without being seen, place the bone in your mouth.
It seems the trick to extracting the Black Cat bone is to boil the cat alive to preserve its magic. Don’t try this at home! We’re looking back through history and not giving you the recipe for divining a Black Cat Bone.
I’ve heard other stories that the Black Cat Bone is revealed to be the one bone that rises to the top of the boiling water.
Or the Black Cat Bone is the first bitter tasting bone after the boiling.
I’ve also been told if you throw all the boiled bones into a Northern flowing river — not a convenient thing to find in the world — the Black Cat Bone is the first bone to float Southward. I don’t think that test works in reverse.
The supernatural strength the Black Cat Bone gives the holder of the bone the power of invisibility — so you can control and scare people and get information — and you can also resurrect a dead lover.
Revenge. Control. Yearning. They all sing for The Blues. Here’s proof as the impossibly talented Albert Collins performs — “Black Cat Bone.”
Johnny Winter conjures up his Black Cat Bone:
Slide guitar master Roy Rogers — of the John Lee Hooker Band — also gives his Black Cat Bone a scream:
The Blues is deeply steeped in historic Southern Mysticism, Black Magic and Ritualistic Healing — the Holy Trinity of True American Folklore — and all those cultural totems make The Blues melodies and rhythms pounce into an ethereal manifestation that mere mortals can never quite understand, but can never really forget in the marrow.