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The meaning and origin of the expression: Got my mojo working

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Got my mojo working

Meaning

My magic charm is working.

Origin

In the early 20th century mojo meant voodoo or magical power, specifically one which gave the mojo's male possessor a sexual power over women. More recently, this has been extended to mean power or influence of any kind. The term was widely used in the US black communities at that time. In 1926, Newbell Niles Puckett published this definition in his Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro:

"The term mojo is often used by the Mississippi Negroes to mean 'charms, amulets, or tricks', as 'to work mojo' on a person or 'to carry a mojo'."

got my mojo workingMcKinley Morganfield, a.k.a. Muddy Waters, would have heard work mojo as he was growing up in Mississippi. His well-known blues classic Got my mojo working, 1957, was the song that introduced the term to the wider world:

Got my mojo working, but it just won't work on you
Got my mojo working, but it just won't work on you
I wanna love you so bad till I don't know what to do
I'm going down to Louisiana to get me a mojo hand
I'm going down to Louisiana to get me a mojo hand
I'm gonna have all you women right here at my command

The 'mojo hand' would be a reference to a magic talisman - something like a lucky rabbit's foot. Waters' version is a modification of the original lyric written by Preston Foster and first recorded by Ann Cole in 1956, which indicates that mojos were thought of as lucky charms for women as well as for men:

Got my Mojo working but it just won't work on you
Got my Mojo working but it just won't work on you
I want to love you so till I don't know what to do
I got my black cat bones all pure and dry
I got my 4 leaf clovers all hanging high
I got my Mojo working but it just won't work on you
I want to love you so till I don't know what to do

Muddy Waters had, like several others, used 'mojo' in earlier lyrics, for example, Hoochie-Coochie Man, 1954:

I got a black cat bone, I got a mojo too
I got John the Conqueror, I'm gonna mess with you
I'm gonna make you, pretty girl, lead me by the hand
Then the world will know, the Hoochie-Coochie Man

Mojo is also recorded as meaning cocaine/heroin etc. In Pollock's The Underground Speaks, 1935 he records Mojo as "any kind of poisonous habit-forming narcotics (dope)".