On the 2021 spring equinox, my husband and I were standing in line (six feet apart from everyone) in the Long Beach Sun. We were behind two friends with very distinct laughs, across the street from a university’s florist department, and next to an ice cream seller in a tux ringing a bell. Eventually, we got into the Long Beach Antique Market.
This market had around 500 sellers of thrift items and antiques. With $200 in $20s, I was specifically looking for altar and witchcraft items. And I was not let down. I got everything from dried plants to altar decor to animal bones.
Many people ask me about witchcraft on a budget. If you’re reading this, then you probably know how expensive some magic tools and metaphysical shops are. But everyone can practice magic with little to no money. To prove it, I’ve made a list of witchcraft and Pagan supplies that you can buy at thrift shops, antique stores, and flea markets.
These items are divided into four categories: spell ingredients, witchcraft tools, altar items, and storage. You’ll find some crossover; for instance, the vials that I mention in Storage are also decorating my altar. At the end, I’ll show you how much you can decorate an altar with thrifted supplies.
These are items that you can potentially use in spells.
These include divination tools, books, and other items that you might use for spells, but not in them.
Whether you are religious or not, you can put some of these items on your altar.
These include jars, shelves, and other materials to store your magic supplies when not using them.
Building Altars with Thrifted Items
When I got back from the Long Beach Antique Market, I challenged myself to decorate my altars using mainly thrifted supplies. It was easier than I expected; at least 70% of each altar was bought secondhand.
If this looks like a lot of supplies, remember that I’ve been practicing for over ten years. I’ve visited a lot of antique stores and gathered supplies over time. Not all of these were from the Antique Market.
I have three altars, all on my dresser. I will name all of the items on each that were thrifted.
Altar #1: Wiccan Altar
Thrifted items: the Goddess statue, teapot, both pink bowls, amethyst grapes, opal apple, books, white vase, dried eucalyptus, air plant and its holder.
Altar #2: Death Witchcraft Altar
Thrifted items: coyote skull, glass vial (holding cemetery water), perfume bottle (holding spirit oil), pink container (holding graveyard dirt), black offering bowl.
Altar #3: Hades Altar
Thrifted Items: mythology book, glass jar with bone, black frame, coyote skull, green glass bottles, dried plants, amber medicine bottle.
Did I Miss Anything?
Do you go thrift shopping for magic supplies? What have you bought? Did I miss any items? Let me know in the comments below!
Back in May 2020, I wrote a post about planning my interfaith Pagan and Christian wedding. A few of my readers pitched in with ideas about how I can incorporate both religions or shared struggles with their own weddings. I never revealed what we did or how it went to the readers who spent time helping me.
Today, I’m going to cover what we actually did, rather than ideas of what we could do. Hopefully, this will give people ideas for their own wedding or another celebration where you need to combine religions. My husband and I made the ceremony as religiously-neutral as possible, not explicitly leaning toward Christianity or Paganism. If that sounds interesting, read on.
Also, because this is a Pagan blog, I’m going to focus on how I subtly incorporated Pagan aspects into the wedding.
All wedding photos are from Emily Saenz. You can find her on Instagram @heyemilysaenz or her website.
Making the Handfasting Cords
The first part, which I did not cover in the last post, was making the handfasting cords. While you can buy cords online, I wanted to make my own. I created four cords to represent the elements earth, fire, air, and water. The colors and designs of the ribbons reflect those. If you want a tutorial on making handfasting cords, let me know in the comments.
I also put charms on the cords that represent both faiths. Every cord had two charms, one on each end. Here is what I put on:
The Religiously Vague Ceremony
As I mentioned in the previous post, my husband and I wanted a short, “non-denominational” ceremony. We wanted the ceremony to be about us, not about religion. On the bright side, we did not need to plan much for this. The officiate takes care of it--who, in this case, was my grandmother.
We told my grandmother that we wanted a brief history about handfasting and why we chose it. She then chose a spiritual quote from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran which she thought reflected us. (Good thing she studied psychology and religion!)
During the ceremony, the officiate explained our reasons for the handfasting. Then, my parents and the groom’s parents each tied a cord. This symbolized both families coming together. While they tied the cords, the officiate recited the quote.
After, we removed the cords and recited our personal vows. We then exchanged rings, and viola! The ceremony is done and we get to party.
A Memorial for the Dead
Just by reading the title of this blog, you’ll understand that I work with the dead. Honoring ancestors is important to me, especially family members who were not there to celebrate my wedding. One was my grandfather, husband of the officiate.
I wanted a way to commemorate the dead. Some people weddings provide photos of the deceased, but we did not have time. Because of the uncertainty with the pandemic, we confirmed with our venue about two months prior and had to rush some things.
Instead, I purchased a memorial plaque from ThePaintedHedge. It came with a candle to light in honor of the dead. Next to it, I wrote down the names of the deceased family members and put it in a frame.
This memorial stood next to the sweetheart table during the reception. People seemed to appreciate it, especially my grandmother.
Because our ceremony was religiously vague, I found personal ways to express my Wiccan beliefs. One was jewelry. Long before the wedding, I had purchased formal Pagan jewelry from the Etsy shop Sheekydoodle. Check them out if you want something similar.
For the necklace, I chose the simple pearls with the pentagram. It complemented the simple wedding dress without overpowering. I also wore a hair comb in the symbol of the Goddess. Not to get all Wiccan on you, but marriage tends to be an obvious marker of the transition from maidenhood to adulthood. Since the Goddess has undergone all stages of life and holds our hands through change, I wanted Her there with me. This hairpiece is from Ayreeworks.
I also brought two sets of prayer beads. Initially, I was not going to do this. About a month before the wedding, I worked with my therapist on preventing “wedding amnesia.” This is when the bride or groom feels so stressed and rushed that they forget most of the day. In other words, it was something that I absolutely did not want.
My therapist recommended that I could practice mindfulness by holding something. Whenever I felt anxious, I could focus on the object’s texture or appearance. This slows down the mind and gives it time to develop memories. She asked if I had any religious object to hold, and I brought up my prayer beads.
The first is a pair of Wiccan selenite beads from Sheekydoodle (same as the necklace). I clung to these while getting ready, when my nerves were highest. It really helped to ground me--that plus planning plenty of downtime and walking outside every so often.
The second pair were my Hades prayer beads from Hearthfire Handworks, whom I highly recommend. I wore them around my wrist during the ceremony and reception. As a Hades devotee, I wanted Him to be involved with the ceremony somehow, even if I was the only one who noticed.
And yes, these methods worked. I remember almost everything from my wedding day.
The Bouquet and Other Small Aspects
While I was planning the wedding, I asked some friends on a Pagan discord server how I could incorporate more of my faith into the wedding. People mentioned the flowers, which was a great idea! But by that point, I had already settled the florals and could not change them.
My friends then asked what I had planned. My florist, Molly Zager, brilliantly incorporated artichokes into the bouquet. Jesse from Tea with the Gods mentioned that artichoke is an aphrodisiac, an unexpected symbol of Aphrodite. That worked out!
On top of that, the bouquet was green and purple. I chose these colors because I enjoyed them, and I did not expect people to connect them to Hera. The Goddess of marriage is commonly represented with a peacock--purple and green! I really enjoyed this accidental connection and used it as a springboard to start working with Hera.
Now, I want to mention some other things that I neglected in the previous post.
The venue was one of the few wedding aspects that I refused to budge on. I loved Sacred Mountain. It was in a town that my husband and I used to camp at before we got engaged. Plus, it was quite literally on a mountain. Both of us wanted a lot of trees and greenery; getting married in nature was a must for me. Grass, wind, and trees bring us closer to deities than churches, in my opinion.
Our circle arch had some symbolism. This came with the venue, but it reflects the magic circle that is often cast during Wiccan weddings. We did not cast a circle during the ceremony, but we did have a circle arch covered in florals.
Lanterns also came with the venue and were incorporated into our decor. The bridesmaids carried white lanterns filled with flowers, and after the ceremony, these were reused as centerpieces. It saved money and gave off a “witchy” feel.
Other Ideas That We Did Not Incorporate
What Do You Think?
Would you incorporate any of these ideas into a wedding? Or do you prefer a split ceremony with both Christian and Pagan rituals? Let me know in the comments below!
I talk a lot about healing the dead in death witchcraft, and today, we’re going to cover some spells that help people do that. These three spells are specifically designed for honoring and emotionally assuaging the dead.
As regular readers know, I tend to pull my magic from ancient sources -- the Greek Magical Papyri, ancient Egyptian Coffin Spells, and first-hand accounts of Irish folklore from the University of Dublin, among others. I take (what we know of) these sources and reconstruct them into a modern spell. Here, I’m going to do the same thing while detailing my process.
For some of these ingredients, I listed potential substitutions. The correspondence list is at the end of the post. If you’re wondering why certain substitutions work, or why I used these ingredients, check the bottom of the post.
Offerings Made From Graveyard Dirt And Honey
Essentially, you are going to take graveyard dirt and dried herbs and bind them into tiny balls with honey. You can place these offerings in cemeteries or on graves.
First, grind all of your ingredients with a mortar and pestle. Lay them out on a paper towel, and use the honey to glue them into tiny balls. Your hands will get sticky.
Leave then on a paper towel to dry. I recommend keeping them in a plastic bag with little air so they won’t fall apart. These make convenient, subtle offerings for cemetery spirits.
Spirit Work Oil For Necromancy
Oil blends have been used in magic and funerary practices for centuries. From embalming corpses in ancient Egypt to applying flying ointments in medieval witchcraft, oils have a long list of uses. Many are also used for spirit work.
Here, I took influence from Abramelin Oil. This ceremonial anointing oil has a long magic history, from ancient Judaism to the Golden Dawn to Aleistor Crowley’s Thelema. Since I am not a part of any of those traditions, I changed the recipe to better suit death work.
I kept the base of olive oil, myrrh, and cinnamon, because all of these ingredients have strong connections to necromancy (see the correspondence list at the end of this post). Instead of cassia and galanga, I compiled some other herbs commonly used in death witchcraft. I also added some graveyard dirt, since I found that it boosts the power of any spirit work oil I make.
Here's what you'll need:
I ground the dried herbs in a mortar and pestle before adding them to the container. After, I included the graveyard dirt, cinnamon oil, and olive oil. As I made it, I gave a substantial offering to the dead (mainly the soul who offered the dirt) through candle light and burnt herbs.
Then, I placed the oil on Hades’s altar for blessing. I kept it there for three days, giving Him an offering each night. You don’t have to do this, but I found that divine blessing empowers my oils so much more.
This oil can be added to water for scrying, consecrate tools, applied topically for spirit sense (in small doses), or given as an offering. In the next spell, I’m going to use the oil to anoint a candle.
Some have asked whether you need to strain the oil. Since we’re not using this oil for cooking or hygiene products like soap, you don’t need to strain it. However, you should seal it in an airtight container and watch for any mold, just like any other infused oil.
Healing Candle Spell for the Dead
I don’t think that I need to provide any historical reference for this spell. Candles have been used to honor the dead for a millennia.
Here, think of a specific soul that you want to heal or honor in some way. I recommend getting an item that links to that person, such as their graveyard dirt, a photo, or a belonging. If all else fails, carve their name onto the candle before anointing it.
Grind the dried herbs with a mortar and pestle, and lay them out on a paper towel. Anoint your candle with the oil; I used a Q-tip for this. After the candle is covered in oil, roll it on the dried herbs. They should stick to the candle. Place the candle near the soul’s object and light it.
As with any candle spell, watch the flame! This spell tends to create a very high flame (which is good; that means it’s effective). If the dried herbs catch fire, it might grow too big to blow out. Keep some water around just in case.
Why I Chose These Ingredients
** These herbs can be toxic in large amounts. Do not use while pregnant or if you have seizures.
These Related Posts That Might Help
Do you have spells to heal the deceased? Would you have used a different ingredient or method? Let me know in the comments below.
Pluto’s Gate was a cave that led deep underground, surrounded by bubbling hot springs. Priests would lead animals into the cave as offerings. Onlookers heard the animals panic before a loud thud, and the priest would drag out a dead cow, goat, or lamb. Birds that landed on the cave would eventually suffocate and die. Only priests could enter, and when they did, they experienced visions of the Underworld and the dead.
It’s no wonder why people assumed that this cave led to the Underworld. But in 2013, Italian archaeologists found another explanation. The nearby hot springs emitted toxic gases, specifically CO₂, which made up 91% of the air in the cave. This much CO₂ is deadly and causes vivid hallucinations.
Although Pluto’s Gate has a scientific explanation, it still portrays a universal trope in folklore: real-life locations that lead to the land of the dead. Some cultures call this the Otherworld, Heaven, Hell, or afterlife; I’m going to use the term “Underworld” for simplicity.
There are many other locations that are said to connect to the Underworld, where witches and magicians can more easily speak to the dead. I am going to cover many of these locations here, and how you can use them.
Crossroads are commonly known as a “thin place” where ghosts, faeries, witches, the Devil, and other spirits appear. You can find stories of the crossroads in Denmark, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Brazil, and the Kingdom of Kongo. In spirit work, crossroads are so prevalent that the ancient Greeks dedicated a Goddess to them--Hecate.
Some rituals require people to visit the crossroads at certain times, such as at night or on All Hallow’s Eve. Whenever the magician arrived, they usually performed divination. Crossroads were said to connect people to ghosts and tell magicians when people will die.
According to Welsh folklore, if you stand in a crossroads and listen to the wind in the trees, you will hear the names of people who will die. People in the Scottish Highlands would sit on a three-legged stool and wait for ghosts to whisper these names into their ears. In Denmark, practitioners made a triangle with their horse cart and called a ghost by name. They could then ask the ghost three questions.
Because of its associations with the afterlife, crossroads often appeared in funeral processions. In Finland and Wales, the deceased was carried across crossroads during the funeral to protect it against witchcraft and prevent the spirit from haunting the living.
Nowadays, many people visit crossroads to practice spirit work, especially in traditional witchcraft and Hoodoo. Many leave offerings for spirits at crossroads, while others go there to practice divination. Some say that you can dispose of spell ingredients at crossroads, while others go there to perform certain spells, such as hedgecrossing and traveling to the Underworld.
Cemeteries and Graveyards
We all knew that cemeteries and graveyards would be on the list, but I have to mention them. Many, many cultures speak of ghosts that walk around in cemeteries. In ancient cemeteries, everything from the iron gates to the type of trees planted were meant to prevent the dead from haunting the living (see: Trees in Cemeteries).
In traditional necromancy, otherwise known as reanimation necromancy, practitioners aimed to put a person’s soul back into their body. According to authors such as Ebenezer Sibly, necromancers needed a fresh body to do this, usually no older than three days. The necromancers would approach the corpse at sunset, midnight, or on a full moon. They would cast a circle, light (usually poisonous) incense, and perform rituals to reanimate the body and speak to it.
Most people do not practice this anymore because (1) digging into a grave is illegal, (2) entering cemeteries at night is usually illegal, and (3) it’s just flat-out disrespectful to the deceased.
Instead of performing necromancy at cemeteries, modern-day practitioners go there to collect graveyard dirt, speak with local spirits, clean graves, and give offerings. I’ve covered these topics already in these posts: Magical Uses for Graveyard Dirt and How to Commune with Spirits While in a Graveyard.
As you could probably tell by the Pluto’s Gate story, caves are often linked to the Underworld. After all, many of the ancients believed that the Underworld was literally right under their feet. Necropoles, graves, and burial sites were all underground--as are caves.
Stories of caves leading to the afterlife date back to ancient Babylon. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh entered a cave on Mount Mashu to cross the Sea of Death and enter Paradise. Across the world, the Mayans performed religious rituals in caves along the Yucatan Peninsula, believing that they connected to the Underworld. When a person was born, they emerged from the Underworld; when they died, they returned to it.
One thing to note is that, in most cultures, caves are perceived as dangerous, not just physically but spiritually. People who entered the Underworld were unlikely to return. In Ireland, caves were not only houses for ghosts, but for fae. The ancients warned children not to go near caves, or else they could get kidnapped by the fae. In England, people carved “anti-witch” marks into caves to prevent witchcraft, many of which still exist today. Because these spiritual sites were so risky, the only people who inhabited them were shamans, priests, or oracles.
Although records upon records of folklore associate caves with the Underworld, modern practitioners do not use caves as much. Certain caves see practitioners arrive for a ritual, but other than that, not many people use caves for magic.
In Germany, Russia, France, Italy, and many other countries, bridges are viewed as a “thin place” that ghosts frequent. Most often, the bridges that attracted practitioners were called Devil’s Bridges. These stone arch bridges had an unusual shape, and the ancients claimed that the Devil himself built it.
Some believed that witches and other magical practitioners would cross bridges during the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt was a procession of spirits from ghosts to fae that occurred many times throughout the year, usually around Yule. Because bridges are seen as routes to the Otherworld, many people use them for hedgecrossing or astral projection.
If you’re familiar with Greek mythology, then you know about the river Styx carrying souls into the Underworld. But the Greeks were not the only culture who associated rivers with the afterlife. In Japanese Buddhism, souls have to cross the Sanzu River to reach the afterlife. The ancient Egyptian Underworld, Duat, included rivers similar to real-life Egypt. In some traditions, Mesopotamian Underworld, Kur, also had a river.
Now, rivers leading to the Underworld (like Styx) and rivers in the Underworld (like the other four rivers in Hades) are two very different things. Nonetheless, a lot of people associate rivers with the realm of the dead. Many who have hedgecrossed to the afterlife describe rivers, and I knew one death witch who used her bath to travel to the afterlife.
Unlike other locations on this list, Underworld rivers were not usually equated with real-life locations, like the Nile. They were deemed to be entirely different rivers, possibly similar or identical to the physical world, but in another realm.
That has not stopped people from experiencing hauntings around rivers, especially in the U.S., where many rivers were sites of Civil War battles. You might have some luck connecting to ghosts by rivers; at the very least, you will meet local land spirits there.
In many cultures, rainbows connect the living to the dead. From Germany to Hawai’i to Australia, many cultures viewed rainbows as a way to connect humans to spirits and Gods.
In terms of deceased souls, folklore from Austria and Germany said that children’s souls ascended to Heaven through the rainbow. Unborn children also reached the afterlife through a rainbow serpent, according to Australian Aboriginal mythology.
Nowadays, the rainbow holds many other meanings, from gay rights to miracles to God’s promise after the flood. Some practitioners perform certain religious and spiritual rituals during rainbows, or use the symbol of the rainbow in their work. Others gather rainwater when a rainbow appears, believing that deceased loved ones send them a rainbow to let them know that they’re okay.
Other Notable Locations
While I was researching, I came across some other locations that are associated with ghosts, mainly through urban legends. There is not enough information for these to have a full section, but I want to include them because they’re interesting.
Many ancient civilizations perceived real-life locations as connecting to the Underworld, including caves, rivers, rainbows, and bridges. These places were known as a “thin place” where people can more easily sense ghosts.
Modern practitioners can use this to their advantage by performing divination there, giving offerings to local spirits, or gathering tools from there such as graveyard dirt.
Is there any location that you associate with the dead? Or do you go somewhere to practice your Craft? Let me know in the comments below!