07 January 2009

Graveyard Dirt for Magic

[Most of the following facts can be found at Lucky Mojo. And while my opinions and ideas are liberally sprinkled throughout the ultimate source is the Lucky Mojo page. I'm blogging about this mostly for my own sake; once I write about something I have a much firmer hold on it.]

I'm researching various magical methods of removing a particularly negative person from my life and that of my family. One of the things I'm currently thinking about a lot is the use of graveyard dirt in folk magic, specifically hoodoo. In hoodoo there are three uses for graveyard dirt: for protection work, for a trick involving an enemy and love spells. But there's more to using graveyard dirt than just the trick at hand. First of all, you've got to realize that by using dirt from a grave you are invoking the spirit of the deceased. You are seeking to employ the spirit of a dead person to do magical work for you. You must be prepared for this. If you use dirt from the grave of one who died violently, for instance, there's no knowing what kind of result you'll get. Some say that if you use dirt from the grave of a child the spirit will be more docile. Still others say that the grave dirt from a child will be weak, magically speaking. Most of the time, you just can't be sure. According to the Lucky Mojo section on graveyard dirt:
Unless the spirit of a grave mentally reaches out to you first -- which often happens -- the only way to learn what that spirit will or will not do for you is to approach the grave, state your proposal, and *listen* to what you are told.

If possible it is beneficial to decide, based on your intent, whose grave dirt you'll need. If you're intent involves love, protection or something positive for yourself then it's considered best to use dirt from the grave of a loved one who will kindly work for you. If you wish to do harm you might consider the grave dirt from an individual who was unjustly executed and would be filled with a desire for vengeance. The grave dirt belonging to a soldier is said to be particularly brave, strong and obedient. It really depends on your intent and what you can learn about the deceased.

Once you've made your decision, or been invited to a particular grave, you must buy the dirt. By doing this you are also employing that spirit to help you in your endeavor. There are several different forms of payment according to hoodoo lore. Some say a bright, shiny dime is appropriate, some say three pennies, some say 13 pennies, and some say a shot of booze. At any rate, the price is minimal. It is the asking and the gesture of offering payment that seems to be important.

As an aside, there is a weird story perpetuated by some new age authors that the term "graveyard dirt" is a euphemism for mullein or other herbs and has been such for hundreds of years. This is total bullshit. There are several problems with this "theory". First of all, this idea sprang from occult suppliers in the 1940s that feared the legal problems involved with interstate commerce and grave tampering and so discontinued offering real grave dirt through their catalogs. One could still buy grave dirt at a local shop, or through the local root worker, but not through the mail. What's more, there are many accounts of the use of actual, factual graveyard dirt.
Against a few modern white authors claiming that "graveyard dirt" is a secret code for mullein herb, we have evidence that the folklorist Harry M. Hyatt interviewed hundreds of black people in the late 1930s who told him the proper ways they knew to collect and pay for graveyard dirt -- and NONE of them mentioned mullein.

Take the dirt from the seventh grave from the gates, they told him, or from the third grave on the left, or from any grave; make sure you get it from the grave of a murderer, from the grave of a baby, or from the grave of someone who loved you; collect it at the foot of the grave, the head of the grave, from the head and foot both, from over the corpse's heart; pay for it with a dime, with three pennies, with a measure of rum, with a measure of whiskey; dig it with a silver spoon, dig it by hand only and use no tools -- their instructions vary, but they ALL are speaking quite frankly of literal graveyard dirt -- some even calling it "that old yellow graveyard clay."

The reason this myth has been perpetuated into the modern neopagan movement is kind of tricky. See, Europeans and Americans of European descent have a cultural taboo against messing with graves. And part of their way of dealing with that is to rewrite traditions from other cultures to make them more palatable. This is, in a word, bullshit. It is what it is and if you can't handle that you've got no business dealing with it. The way I figure it grinding up dried mullein or using talcum powder can in no way substitute for the employment of a spirit who will work for you. That seems to be a no-brainer. So, if some author makes the claim that the term "graveyard dirt" is a euphemism you can be sure they are only regurgitating what the unlearned have told them, have no real scholarship to back up this claim and are full of shit. Oh yeah, and they're probably in it for the money and their magic isn't very effective.

So, that's the basics regarding the magical uses of graveyard dirt in hoodoo. And while I think it sounds very worthwhile I have a dilemma. I live in a teeny tiny town with more churches than stores. And while I happen to live just down the road from a cemetery just across the quiet, little road are a whole slew of newly built houses full of yuppies. And I'm quite nervous about being seen, questioned and perhaps even arrested. There's actually another tiny graveyard a little closer to me, but it's fenced off out in a field. It's one of those little old family plots from an old farming family. I find those to be the most interesting cemeteries as they're usually very old and only include a half-dozen or so graves. I would like to perhaps use dirt from that particular spot but it's totally inaccessible. So, I'm in a conundrum.

After rereading the Lucky Mojo page about graveyard dirt I came across something I apparently skimmed over the first few times.
An African-American candle store owner in Oakland, California, back in the 1960s -- said to use the dirt from the grave of someone who had loved you in life. He said, "Your grandmother, mother, father; your lover, husband, or wife who passed on before you -- you get dirt from THEIR grave only, and not from anywhere on the grave either, but from over the HEART."

When I told him that all my relatives who had died were buried far away and I could not get to their graves, he said, "Everybody has had at least ONE person to love them, even if it was just a little yellow spotted dog." I told him I had once had a cat who loved me and that I knew where she was buried. "Then you can use the dirt from her grave," he said.

Now, the above is in reference to a love spell but I've been thinking about it and decided that I think I would prefer to use the grave dirt of some person or animal who had loved me for this, or any, working involving grave dirt. It just seems that, no matter what the magical intent, a loved one would be much more willing to work for me than a total stranger. Also, this idea of using grave dirt from a pet's grave could make things easier. Being that I have always lived in a zoo-like environment with many, many critters we have our own little graveyard. And as I consider animals to be just as important as humans I don't see why their spirits couldn't be of magical help. That said I'm also considering approaching my maternal grandmothers grave in the next town over. I feel pretty certain that she would be willing to help me with this particular problem. So, I've got some thinking and deciding to do.

What do you think?

15 comments:

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

Wow Woman-- Good post!

I like the idea of "a wee bit o' the Creature" as payment-- but then, i'm Irish; i would!
I find the pet gravedirt avenue interesting; just as much so as Granny or any other loved one. I see total logic in these Beings' desire to help us shun the negativity from our lives, more so than a stranger's. We know Fido loved us and would go to great lengths to help; some random murderer? Mayhap not so much...

Good job, Lady. And bet you garner as many comments as the last post...

You're doin' something right! Quite a lot, actually...

Hope my $.02 (or should i have left three...) was decent fodder for thought...

Cygnus

Livia Indica said...

Hey there Cygnus, I wondering though if I decide to use the dirt from one of my deceased critters graves what should I offer as payment? Food of some kind? Oh you're thoughts are always good!

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

Now there's an idea i hadn't thought of! Although i did have a puppy name of Popcorn what liked beer... I'd say some catnip or a good steakbone or ... you get the pic, depending on the critter... would be the way to go. Don't "skimp" here- too inexpensive not to, first off, and second think how willing they'll be (or always were)to go the extra for the extra, if ya get my drift...

Aw shucks, woman, glad my verbiage has both our minds fooled!

And 31 me arse! Still willing to smokem up with an over-the-(Magic In These)hill(s) bird like ol' cygnus? Ha!

keep me abreast...

C.

Livia Indica said...

Oh yeah, we're gonna get stoned someday and work some magic together. You're not gettin' out of that.

Brian Charles said...

Two very interesting posts, Livia! I refrained from commenting on the last one because what I know about spell work could be written on the back of a postage stamp. Not my path.

I am, however, keen to read about how your project turns out and trust that you will be successful in overcoming your current difficulties.

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

Sorry i was gone for a sec... had an idea, or rather... well, i'll let you read for yerself...

And here i was thinkin Salvia was your "herb of choice"! Ha!

I jest, surely. Else your name'd be Livia Divinorum...

And i wouldn't miss smoking haze with you for all the Manly P. hall books in print!

More soon! Promise...

Cygnus

Livia Indica said...

Brian, I'm interested to see how it turns out too. Especially since I'm trying some new things this time around. Thanks for your interest!

Cygnus, actually I did try salvia divinorum once. I'm not sure I reacted the "usual" way but I would probably try it again. Yeah, the "Indica" is kinda obvious...to some people anyway. I'll head over there to see your idea.

Griffin said...

Well if you really want to get this person out of your life, I would suggest a less arcane way.

A good stout pair of boots, a frying pan (solid bottomed for preference) and a little Scorpio sneakiness. First, while said person is asleep, take the house keys off of them. Next morning, chase 'em from the house hollerin' fit to bust and brandishing said frying pan. If they pause, a boot up the Londonderry (as in London Derry Air ;) ) usually helps.

This way you have fun, it's cathartic and you won't have to dig up a grave.

Livia Indica said...

Griffin, I'm a witch dude! "A less arcane way" does not apply to me. I'm not fit for confrontations; I have no gift for that kind of thing. Magic is my gift. And I'm not gonna dig up a grave. If I do choose to employ graveyard dirt, and I haven't made a firm decision yet, I'll only take a teeny tiny bit, not even a handful.

Greg Fletcher-Marzullo said...

Hey, Livia,

I would totally go for the grandmother route. Grandma magick is some powerful juju, because in my experience, those gals don't mess around. They've got all that mama magick in there, but then there's the protective older woman who knows all the good stuff, especially once they've crossed over.

One old method on summoning up these folks is to actually bang on the ground with the flat of your hand in a kind of wake-up call.

Do you work with the Fae regularly? That could be another route to go.

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

Livia,

the time or two i did salvia, i... won't say i didn't care for it, but i'll stick w/ mary. less expensive, more 'preictable', just generally nicer!

on the obviousness of indica... to those in the know, i s'pose :D it flows well too, the whole name.

Livia Indica said...

Greg, yeah I'm like the grandma idea more and more. If I decide on using graveyard dirt it'll be hers or a pets. I also like the idea of the wake up call, it's kinda like rapping on a door.

I've studied working with the Fae but never gone ahead with it. Interesting idea though.

Thanks for your input.

Cgynus, yeah I prefer Mary Jane to but Salvia has that legality thing going for it...at least in most states.

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

I like the wake-up call idea too, but,... thinking it could work for Fluffy as well-- after all, a wake is awake...

Yeah...why more aint NORML is beyony my feeble comprehension...

Souris Optique said...

You don't know me from Eve (so to speak) So for what a stranger's advice is worth... When I studied another African Diaspora derived tradition for a while, it was drummed quite firmly into my head that it could be very dangerous to deal with the unknown dead and that I should not attempt such... but family dead are always safe.

But that completely aside, who better than a Grandmother's spirit to fiercely defend you and your loved ones? :D

Livia Indica said...

Hi there Souris Optique! That's kinda what I thought. Even if I could learn a lot about the person they would still have been a stranger in life and could be very unpredictable. And given my inexperience with this particular form of magic I think I'll stick with deceased loved ones. Thanks for your insight.