Graveyard Dirt for Protection
This is the first article on the “Spirit Work 101” series, where I will give a brief introduction on how to get spirits to help you. This article walks you through the use of graveyard dirt for protection magick. Please note this is only my personal approach, partly learned with a fellow spirit worker friend from a completely different tradition. There are countless ways to use this kind of ingredient for protection that stem from many traditions around the world. By teaching you my own personal method, I am not implying all these other methods are wrong. Please feel free to experiment, within reason.
Noting first of all: this blog is about spirit work. Mine is essentially an agnostic path, meaning I don’t work directly with deities – I’m indifferent whether or not They exist or influence me. I deal with lesser spirits, such as human spirits. If that is also your thing, you could benefit from reading on.
A wee note about ingredients:
Personally, when using someone else’s “recipe”, I believe in adapting it to your own environment. This friend who taught me the basic spell is from an Afro-diasporic background, so he included things like tobacco among the ingredients. It definitely works for him, because he deals with spirits in his own tradition who are well used to tobacco as a sacred herb; mine is different though! So I replaced it for heather (another herb you can “smoke”, and it has that sacred meaning to the spirits I work with, the Picts). If I offered my Picts tobacco maybe they would look at it and be like “cool! An exotic gift”, and just treat it like a normal item of consumption. That’s why it’s very important, before you start working with spirits, to really take a moment and find out what culture resonates more with you, and fully commit to it in your magic without just appropriating carelessly.
Am I saying everyone must belong in one only tradition? No. Of course syncretism is a thing. It’s fine. In this article, I am specifically talking about working with known, established, human, spirits. So this isn’t about yourself, as a bone-and-flesh living person here and now. This is about the spirits you’re working with. Generally speaking, they tend to be ancient, or at least tribalistic. Mine are Picts. Yours could be Bronze Age Swedish guys, or a specific Native American tribe who likes you, or the Roma people, or African Congos, or wherever.
In my opinion, you should have a relationship with an established spirit community, before reaching out to random people in the cemetery. This is important for 2 reasons: 1) appropriation only creates confusion and weakens your magic, and 2) when you already trust a specific spirit community with a specific energy and culture, they can protect you whenever you’re talking to spirit “strangers”. Just in case these strangers happen to be harmful.
Graveyard dirt can be used for a lot of different purposes beyond protection. I am only introducing you to one of them. Regardless, it is always recommended to “pay” for it appropriately. Usually, the grave belongs to a total stranger, and with strangers it’s good to be extra careful. A few pennies left next to the grave is usually all you need. The offering is immaterial and quite discreet (it looks like you dropped them), so if a passerby picks it up and spends it somewhere, don’t worry.
Now it’s time to collect a wee bit of dirt. Which dirt should you harvest?
Would the person consent?
Secondly, would this person consent to help you? That’s an important question to ask. Was the person a fundamentalist Protestant in life? If so, unlikely. Was the person an atheist? Then it’s worth a shot. Lack of religious belief often also means lack of attachment to a rigid set of morals against “helping people supernaturally”. I’m sure a lot of atheists would gladly work magic during life if proven that “it exists”. So maybe after death, they’d be open to it. I’ve had success with atheist spirits before.
Was the person Catholic or Orthodox (or other sect of Christianity that welcomes spirit work with saints etc)? Then it’s most certainly fair game to gather dirt from their grave site. I live in Ireland, so it’s quite easy to find graves of Catholic people. This rule of thumb is also valid for Buddhists and other religions that also welcome spirit work without judgement. Though many Buddhists are cremated and don’t end up in a graveyard at all.
Are they available to help with protection?
Next thing to determine is whether or not the spirit from the grave in question is available. The answer to this tends to be quite intuitive. I am a natural psychic so I simply ask and/or look for energy signatures that will tell me whether or not a spirit is present. We don’t know what happens after death (no, not even psychics like me). We have a vague idea that some people reincarnate, other people probably go elsewhere, others “stay” and are available to work. Don’t ask me how, why, or how often. I don’t know. Death is a mystery.
Other people rely on dowsing, or traditional forms of divination. Whatever your method, see if the spirit is actually there to help. Some graves are abandoned, and nothing can be felt in them (yes, even certain graves people still visit and grieve at!) because maybe the person who passed is now somewhere better, or reincarnated, or whatever. Dirt from abandoned graves is often useful, but for protection specifically, I recommend having the back up of an actual spirit behind it.
Other ingredients that aid in protection
As I said, they can vary. Adapt if you must. I’ll explain each ingredient’s function, so you can tailor yours. You’ll need:
- A piece of brown paper (the “environment” where your unwanted invader will be stuck)
- Pen (impersonal medium to stick their name)
- Valerian and feverfew (herbs that induce sleep)
- Graveyard dirt (strong protection)
- Crossroads dust (indicates a liminal place)
- Alcohol (offering to your usual spirit allies)
- Heather (or tobacco, or white sage, or juniper, or woad, or whatever your usual spirit allies agree is a sacred cleansing herb)
- Red, white and black thread (for binding the spell together)
- A distracting book (Alice in Wonderland or something)
Write the name of the person you want to stay away. If it’s a group of people, write all, or maybe their collective name. This also works against dead people, not only living ones. It isn’t a hostile spell, just protective. (Goes without saying: there’s no use in working this spell if you keep communicating with this person/people. Cut communication first. The spell will make sure to distract them from looking for you again and/or protect you against their energy).
Add all ingredients on top, except the 2 offerings. Wrap it on all 4 sides, tie with thread.
Once all is done, go to your altar or usual [spiritual] working place, let your usual spirit allies know they’re welcome to help, and offer them the alcohol. Light the cleansing herb, or let it smoke over a candle. Offer that too. Grab the spell and bathe it in the alcohol / smoke.
Finally, put it inside the distracting book and leave it there.
As you can see, most of this post was dedicated to graveyard etiquette and the essentials of spirit work. The spell itself is very simple, anyone run through the motions in five minutes, but unless you pay careful attention to the etiquette and methodology, it won’t actually work.
Most of these workings that only involve human and plant spirits tend to be simple. The secret to success isn’t actually in how many elements you add, or how many steps there are to the process – it’s in understanding the ins and outs of communication with spirits in the first place. That is a skill I could not teach in one blog post, it takes practice and a lot of failure. From selecting the appropriate ingredients (not just the easiest to buy / most practical) to finding the best allies (including the best grave), it can take a lot of effort and isn’t easy at all, however simple it may look. When you take effortless shortcuts, you’re also cutting down on the power of your magic. There usually aren’t exceptions to this rule.
Also worth noting, usual allies can and should have a dedicated altar or sacred space inside your home. I wouldn’t recommend doing the same for a “stranger” spirit, like the one you may find at the cemetery, though. This is quite similar to the way you relate to living people: your family lives with you 24/7 and that’s grand. A stranger may visit every now and then, but if they start coming too often, they have to pay rent.
My own personal way of working with stranger spirits is the following: I leave all offerings to them outside (like this lovely cup of tea), and also dispose of the material part of them outside. They can come in briefly (like in the shape of the dirt inside my spell), but never like my usual allies. Dead people’s energy, in general, isn’t very good for you. That’s why it should be kept to a minimum in personal spaces.
If you found this helpful, let me know. Suggestions are also welcome. I wish you good luck, and I’m available in case of questions. Happy witching!