As simultaneously being participant (artist 0) and ‚supervisor’ of this sequence, I was in the lucky position of being presented all steps in the infection chain like on a sushi rotation. So, I couldn’t help to see the issue of ‘black magick’ weaving itself thru all contributions (almost all, that is …) … thus, in the end I concentrated on this congruence (safety measure, while also listening to hendrix’s ‘voodoo child’), and came up with ‘all points to this’ … 

… all signs point toward this: 

the name of the gesture that turns ‘to obsolete’ and ‘to celebrate’ into one continuous gesture is VOODOO.

Only a ‘Black Secret Technology’ can save us all … so we better be grateful!

And it’s always been like this …

On April 22, 1721, the smallpox epidemic arrived in Boston from the West Indies with the H.M.S. Seahorse, making its return after the last great epidemic of 1702. A disease increasing in lethal destructiveness, its control and treatment became an ever more pressing medical problem. On May 8, the Boston Selectmen – the board of officials elected to administer the public business in Boston – noted in their minutes that

a Certain Negro man is now sick of the Smal pox in the Town, who came from Tertudos in His Majesties Ship Seahorse, which renders it likely that distemper may now be on board of that Ship. Therefor for the preservation of the Inhabitants of this Town, Voted that John Clark, Esqre., be Desired to go on board his Majesties Ship Seahorse and Report in what State of health or Sickness the Ship’s Company are in, Espetialy with respect to the Smal Pox or other Contagious Sickness.

It was also noted that “[a] Certain negro man Servant to Capt. Wentworth Paxton of Boston is now Sick of the Smalpox at his masters House”. The Board of Selectmen posted guards outside houses where the disease was suspected to have taken hold, and a law was passed to control that “the Streets & Lanes within this Town be forth with Clensed and the Dirt removed to prevent the Small pox spreading”.

Whereas the ‘common recipe’ against smallpox [in addition to isolation, repentant prayer which Mather also advised] was bleeding, purging and vomiting, Mather’s approach to the epidemic was based on a combination of ‘first-hand’ observations and readings in scientific literature. He was first introduced to the method of inoculation by his slave Onesimus, who was presented to Mather on December 13, 1706, as a gift of his “Flock,” and whom he felt the obligation to turn into “a Servant of Christ”. In a letter of July 12, 1716, after reading in the Philosophical Transcations of the year 1714 an account by Emanuel Timonius about smallpox inoculation as practiced in Constantinople, Mather remembers: 

I do assure you, that many months before I mett with any Intimations of treating ye Small-Pox, with ye Method of Inoculation, any where in Europe; I had from a Servant of my own, an Account of its being practised in Africa. Enquiring of my Negro-man Onesimus, who is a pretty Intelligent Fellow, Whether he ever had ye Small-Pox; he answered, both, Yes, and, No; and then told me, that he had undergone an Operation, which had given him something of ye Small- Pox, & would forever praeserve him from it; adding, That it was often used among ye Guaramantese, & whoever had ye Courage to use it, was forever free from ye fear of the Contagion. 

It is not clear if Mather asked Onesimus about the procedure of inoculation in 1706 – in a diary entry, he only mentions the acquisition of his new servant – or later; yet, Mather’s crusade against the smallpox can be justly said to have begun in that very moment. 

In a later tract by the Boston physician Zabdiel Boylston, a practitioner with no medical degree who had learnt the practice as an apprentice to a local physician, Mather states that he confirmed his slave’s account by interviewing other African witnesses on the matter.

He had asked a considerable Number of Africans in this Town, who can have no Conspiracy or Combination to cheat us. No body has instructed them to tell their Story. … And I don’t know why ’tis more unlawful to learn of Africans, how to help against the Poison of the Small-Pox, than it is to learn of our Indians, how to help against the Poison of a Rattle-Snake. 

Grounding his insistence on the need for testing the procedure of inoculation on these references and personal observations, Mather, in his 1716 letter, announces that “[f]or my own part, if I should live to see ye Small-Pox again enter into or City, I would immediately procure a Consult of or Physicians, to Introduce a Practice, which may be of so very happy a Tendency”. Mather recounted all the incidents [as well as ‘recycled’ a lot of the material of his letters and tracts] in his 1724 work The Angel of Bethesda. This treatise, which is named after a description in John 5:2-4, is an outstanding example of his attempted synthesis of religion and medicine.

Thus, when the smallpox epidemic returned to Boston in the spring of 1721 Mather, having been concerned for many years with the study of inoculation based on the accounts both in the Philosophical Transactions and of the interviewed Africans, was prepared to take action. In his diary, he notes on May 26, 1721: 

The grievous Calamity of the Small-Pox has now entered the Town. The Practice of conveying and suffering the Small-Pox by Inoculation, has never been used in America, nor indeed in our Nation. But how many Lives might be saved by it, if it were practised? I will procure a Consult of our Physicians, and lay the matter before them.

Zabdiel Boylston, the only physician in Boston Mather could convince to try the inoculation procedure, wrote that Mather made a transcription from “the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, the Accounts sent them by Dr. Timonius and Pyllarinus of inoculating the Small-Pox in the Levant, and sent them to the Practitioners of the Town, for their Consideration thereon.” 

After a few days of hesitation and a further, personal letter by Mather, Boylston inoculated his son and his two slaves on June 26. In Boston, controversy immediately erupted, but Boylston, observing successful inoculation with his first patients and urged on by Mather, went on and inoculated fourteen persons within the next 6 weeks, including two more of his own sons and Mather’s son Samuel. Despite the protests of the public, in particular the Boston medical professions, and the action taken against him by the Selectmen, Boylston continued to inoculate throughout the smallpox epidemic, backed up by Mather and the Boston ministry. By February 26, 1722, Boylston had inoculated 242 individuals, of which only six died, and these deaths may have been due even to previous infections or to causes other than smallpox. In Boston altogether, of the approximately 5,800 infected people during the smallpox epidemic, about 840 persons had died. Thus, against a mortality rate of 2.5 per cent among the inoculated persons, there was an overall mortality rate of 15 per cent among the people ‘naturally’ infected. The statistics proved Mather and Boylston right. The inoculation experiment ultimately was a tremendous success. 

In connection with both the ‘untimely’ knowledge of inoculation and the Body|Politic, it is important to note that Mather relies on the testimony of his own slave, Onesimus, as well as on the reports of other African slaves in Boston. In The Angel of Bethesda, Mather ostensibly takes pride in his ‘field work’ with the African slaves. His report also provides one of the earliest instances of a literary approximation (and ridiculization?) of Patois or ‘Creole English,’ thus adding authenticity to the testimony:

I have since mett with a considerable Number of these Africans, who all agree in One Story; That in their Countrey grandy-many dy of the Small-Pox: But now they learn This Way: People take Juice of Small-Pox; and Cutty-skin, and Putt in a Drop; then by’nd by a little Sicky, Sicky; then very few little things like Small-Pox; and no body dye of it; and no body have Small-Pox any more. 

Slaves – if they were regarded as belonging to the Body|Politic at all – were situated at the outer extremities of that body, mere hands and bodily working power, with no access to knowledge whatsoever. The more noteworthy is Mather’s decision to base his arguments on exactly these testimonies. Kittredge in fact calls it “one of the most remarkable features of Mather’s advocacy of inoculation”, and Beall and Shryock point out that “there entered into the situation what might be termed an African background to American culture”. When the Boston pro-inoculation ministers where criticized for adopting knowledge used by African slaves, Reverend Benjamin Colman responded by saying that white citizens must “be willing from the poorest slave in town,” and Mather and Boylston openly and offensively denounced any stance promoting that it would be ‘unlawful to learn of Africans.’ 

In a letter to his London friend and correspondent Alexander Stuart, commenting on Mather’s statement that “[t]he more plainly, brokenly, and blunderingly, and like Ideots, they tell their Story, it will be with reasonable men, but the much more credible”, Douglass ridicules Mather’s African sources and his reliance on half a Dozen or half a Score Africans, by others call’d Negroe Slaves, who tell us now (tho’ never before) that it is practised in their own Country. The more blundering and Negroish they tell their story, it is the more credible says C.M.; a paradox in Nature; for all they say true or false is after the same manner. There is not a Race of Men on Earth more False Lyars, &c. Their Accounts of what was done in their Country was never depended upon till now for Arguments sake. … O Rare Farce! 

… and it’s always been like this, that, despite being the cure and hope for us all, PoC, the bearer of the Black Secret Technology, have forever been denounced … 


Well, I stand up next to a mountain

And I chop it down with the edge of my hand

Well I pick up all pieces and make an island

Might even raise a little sand


Cause I’m a Voodoo Child

Lord knows I’m a Voodoo Child baby

If I don’t meet you no more in this world then uh

I’ll meet ya on the next one

And don’t be late

Don’t be late

Cause I’m a Voodoo Child Voodoo Child

Lord knows I’m a Voodoo Child

Hey hey hey

I’m a Voodoo Child baby

I don’t take no for an answer