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?