RITUAL COLLECTION OF GRAVEYARD DIRT
Methods by which one pays for graveyard dirt vary from worker to worker, but the principle is always the same. You have to get in touch with the ancestral spirit and make a respectful application and payment. Beyond that there are numerous details -- whose grave, the kind of death they died, where the grave is located with respect to the cemetery gates, whether you dig from the head, the heart, or the feet, whether you leave dimes or pennies or whiskey or a combination, and how you place the with respect to the grave. Because i collect graveyard dirt quite often, i have had the opportunity to try ewach of the different forms of the ritual that i have been taught -- and i have found them to be equivalent in practice, with one exception: i have come to appreciate the advice to get dirt from the grave of a soldier, because such dirt is from the grave of one who was unusually strong and obedient.
HOW TO USE GRAVEYARD DIRT IN SPELL-WORK
There are basically three ways that Graveyard Dirt is employed in hoodoo: in spells of protection, in enemy tricks, and in coercive love spells . Despite its inclusion in such harmful formulas, graveyard dirt is not evil per se, and it has uses all its own that reflect its venerable stature in the African religious practice of ancestor veneration.
In African-derived magic such as hoodoo and Obeah, graveyard dirt is an important "magical link" (in the Crowleyan sense of that term), because of the powerful culutral beliefs centered around the role of the dead in rituals of invocation. This was and remains especially true in the Kongo, from whence most African-American slaves came, and in West Africa, where most Afro-Caribbean slaves came.
(You may find veneration of ancestors rather misleadingly called "ancestor worship" by earlier Western scholars, and you will often see it referred to in that way in books published in English prior to the 1990s, but American and Eurpeoan scholars have recently come around to using the more accurate African term "ancestor veneration," due to their contact with Africans who have entered academia and gotten on the internet .. and still practice ancestor veneration.)
In Palo Mayombe, a mostly Cuban and Brazilian survival of Kongo religio-magical practgice somehwat admixed with Catholicism, the dirt from graves is kept in a "prenda" on an altar.
In hoodoo, as in African magic and in Palo, graveyard dirt can be used for good or for ill. There are several well-known love-spells that utilize graveyard dirt, and just as many spells to hold someone down or restrain them in some way (what British people might call a "binding spell".
In hoodoo, the ritual of collecting graveyard dirt -- by the practitioner him- or herself -- is called BUYING graveyard dirt. The usual payment in the US, since the 19th century at least, has been a silver dime, preferably a Mercury dime (this brings up thoughts about that earlier thread about Mercury / Hermes / Eshu / Nbumba Nzila / Eleggua). Customs vary, but generally the dime is offered to the dead in the entire graveyard or to the specific spirit from whose grave one will dig the dirt.
If one wished to do harm, one might buy the dirt of someone who "died badly" -- before their time, through execution, or so forth, because their spirit, once invoked, would be inclined to perform evil deeds with little compunction. If one wished to bring about love, one might buy the dirt from someone who loved one in life (a relative or a deceased spouse, for instance) because their spirit, once invoked, would be inclined to help one achieve lasting love. Some workers prefer dirt from a baby's grave, because they say that the spirit thus invoked is malleable and biddable; but others say it is too weak, being young, and will not prove as effective as dirt from the grave of an adult.
This practice of the individual buying dirt from a graveyard led early on in hoodoo to the root worker / herbalist buying the dirt and then re-selling it. No stigma is attached to this practice, but the re-seller may be questioned closely as to whether the dirt was properly "bought and paid for." I have ads in old catalogues in my coillection dating back to the 1920s in which graveyard dirt was offered for sale to the African-American community, so this is not a recent phenomenon. -- like most of the merchantile aspects of hoodoo, it arose as urbanization made the personal gathering of symbolic ingredients difficult to achieve. The price of graveyard dirt is usually nominal -- it's dirt cheap.
Neo-pagan authors such as Scott Cunningham have written that graveyard dirt is "just code" for certain herbs, such as mullein, but this is easily proven untrue by simply asking the average root-worker. In the African-American cummonity (if not the Wiccan community) graveyard dirt is dirt from a grave that's been ritually "bought and paid for."
HARMFUL SPELLS EMPLOYING GRAVEYARD DIRT
Graveyard Dirt -- along with powdered sulphur, salt, powdered snake heads or snake skin "sheds," red pepper, black pepper, powdered bones, powdered insects or snails, greyish herbs such as mullein or sage, anvil dust (the black iron dust found around a blacksmith's anvil), and magnetic sand -- is a common ingredient in Goofer Dust, and thence in Hot Foot Powder and Crossing Powder, all of which are materials used in harmful tricks.
In some Graveyard Dirt spells -- like similar tricks involving Goofer Dust, Hot Foot Powder, and Crossing Powder -- the intent is to harm someone, and the graveyard dirt is used to symbolize death to the enemey. Spells in which a doll-baby representing the enemy is placed in a miniature coffin and buried in a graveyard fall into this class, as do spells in which a black candle symbolizing the enemy is deliberately extinguished by turning it upside down into a saucer of graveyard dirt.
are quite African in character, deriving from African foot-track magic, a form of sorcery in which one "hurts" or "poisons" a victim "through the feet." Undoing the jinx may involve ritual bathing, floor washing, or sweeping to remove the Goofer Dust. Sprinkling salt in the corners of the house is also an antidote.
In harmful spells like the above, the dirt is best collected from the grave of a sinner or someone whio "died bad," that is, a criminal or the victim of a violent death. Some people like to use dirst from the graves of soldiers for such work, too, because they say that soldiers are brave and foillow orders.
GRAVEYARD DIRT FOR PROTECTION
The deployment of graveyard dirt in protection spells may specify that the dirt come from the grave of a family member or a friend. In these cases the spirit of that person is protecting you or your home. This is again a link to ancient African beliefs and practices, in which ancestor veration is a key component of how one relates to the spiritual world.
GRAVEYARD DIRT LOVE SPELL FOR ATTRACTION
The third class of graveyard dirt work consists of coercive love spells in which dirt from the grave of someone who loved you is used to ensorcel and enthrall a living lover.
In 1998, Dana (firstname.lastname@example.org) posted this love spell to usenet:
You need green paper, vandal root, and dirt from a graveyard. You write your name and the guy's name on the paper, put the vandal root and graveyard dirt in the center of the paper, wrap it up and leave it under your bed.
I got this spell from a spell book published by Baron Blanc in Sydney, Australia. Please understand that (in the book's words) "it is one of the most powerful love spells and should be undertaken only after other love spells have failed. Not for the faint hearted."
Miss Dana's post provoked long discussions in usenet concerning why someone would use graveyard dirt in a love spell , so i'd like to add some commentary:
I myself have never used this love spell , but i can tell you that it does have quite a bit of historical basis behind it and there are people who say that it has worked for them. The trouble is, the spell as related in Miss Dana's book just calls for any old graveyard dirt, and the way i was taught, that is not quite right.
The man who gave me my version of the Graveyard Dirt Love Spell -- and he was no "Baron" from Australia, but 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. I never did it, though.
The idea behind this spell is that the dead one who loved you will work on the live one who does not love you yet, and will set their mind to thinking of you. That's why you want the dirt from over the heart of one who loved you -- you want their spirit on your side, working on the mind of the one you love.
The vandal root called for in the spell is a root with alleged powers to aid in establishing contact with the dead and it is said to create spiritual contacts with the other world. This reinforces the idea that the graveyard dirt should be from a grave that holds meaning for you, not just any old grave.
In the 1930s, Harry M. Hyatt collected information about hoodoo from 1,600 African-American informants, and one of them gave him a variation of the Graveyard Dirt Love Spell. It is simpler than Baron Blanc's version, in that it does not include the Vandal Root, but it is also much more direct because rather than hide the materials under your bed, as Baron Blanc suggests, you sprinkle the graveyard dirt on yourself when you go to be near the one whom you wish to attract. This is the way i was told to do it, too.
You can find this 1930s version of the spell collected by Harry M. Hyatt -- in the informant's own words -- on my web page about goofer dust. It is spell #659, but i suggest that you read the entire page first; don't just skip to that part.
Incidentally, the person who gave this love spell to Hyatt noted that it only works as long as you keep using the Graveyard Dirt. In other words, it only works while the spirit of the dead person is helping you.
There is a place where darkness and beutay meet.
Where romanticism and love are a strength
and were the seemingly delicate shine with thier own