"Okay. Now you know how dead time works. Dead time lasts for one hour--from an half hour before midnight to half an hour after midnight. The half hour before midnight is for doin' good. The half hour after midnight is for doin' evil."
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
John Berendt, Hardcover Ed. ©1994, page 247
Commentary: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is an account of real life events which occurred in Savannah, Georgia in the early 1980's. The story centers around the shooting death of Danny Hansford, a young man in the employ of a rich antiques dealer named Jim Williams. The story introduces many colorful characters, including Minerva who is described as the widow of Dr. Buzzard (a well known Rootworker, or Conjure Doctor) and a powerful Voodoo woman herself. After he is arrested and charged with the murder of Danny Hansford, Jim Williams hires Minerva to assist him in his case by working the judge, jury, and prosecutor to help ensure that he is not found guilty.
The title of the book refers to a specific time and place described in the narrative. Midnight being the mid-point between dead time, when the scales of justice can tip in either direction (see photo at left), and the garden of good and evil referring to the cemetery, as Minerva refers to Bonaventure Cemetery as the 'flower garden' several times.
Although the author has made the popular mistake of believing that Voodoo and Hoodoo are interchangeable (which they are not), Dead-Time as described in the book is a concept found in the Hoodoo Tradition of African-American Folk-Magic, although I have not known it to be called such. On this subject, Cat Yronwode a well known author on the subject of Hoodoo, writes
"One well-known Root Doctor from Birmingham, AL used to say that if you want to draw or attract you should perform a spell at any time day or night, when the clock hands are rising. Conversely, spells used to repel can be performed at any time day or night when both clock hands are falling. Avoid times when one hand is rising and the other is falling as this confuses the vibrations of the work."
This concept is entirely different from European based practices in which many magickal practitioners observe the Planetary Hours a method which ascribed astrological energies to the Hours of the Day and Night. To find the correct time in which to cast as spell the practitioner must determine which astrological body is in harmony with their goal and then perform their spell during the window of time that is attributed to that time.
However, in both traditions there are other timing factors to consider when deciding when to cast spells, such as the Moon Phase, Day of the Week, and Sign of the Zodiac. In addition, spells in Hoodoo are just as often cast at either Sunrise of Sunset regardless of what time actually appears on a clock.
I think that it is safe to say that the symbolism the clock hands is very clear. When both clock hands are rising, cast spells of a positive or uplifting nature; when both clock hands are falling, cast spells that are meant to cast off evil and keep enemies down. Abstain from performing magic when one clock hand is rising and another is falling.