Of all protection talismans, jewelry is by far the most popular. There are many reasons for this: you can carry it anywhere; it’s aesthetically beautiful; and it’s often discreet. From necklaces to bracelets to broaches, protective jewelry has been around for thousands of years, although it has changed forms throughout the centuries.
In this blog post, I want to dive into protection jewelry. What makes a piece of jewelry protective? How can you make one? And where did the folklore come from?
When I googled “protection jewelry,” most posts spoke about crystals and symbols. But I think we need to go back even further, to the metals.
Most jewelry is made out of at least one type of metal. In most cases, it’s an alloy (a combination of two or more metals). In ancient times, most protective jewelry was made from the seven metals of antiquity.
The metals of antiquity are gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, iron, and mercury. These were the first metals that ancient humans learned to work with. And the older the resource, the more folklore it has.
Of these metals, some were not as common in jewelry. Mercury, obviously, is a liquid and was often included in alloys. Iron has not been used in jewelry until recently due to its weight and high melting point. (“Cold iron” was used for talismans to protect against ghosts and other spirits, but these talismans were usually not jewelry.)
Speaking of alloys, many of these metals were (and still are) combined to create jewelry. Gold and silver were often mixed with copper and tin due to scarcity. Pure gold and silver were incredibly valuable, just like today.
In terms of protective metals, gold was considered to be the most valuable. Because it never tarnishes or corrodes, it was considered divine. From ancient Greece to India, gold was associated with deities and higher wisdom. Wearing golden jewelry brought you protection from the Gods, but only higher classes and priests owned them.
Silver is also a highly protective metal, but for different reasons. Its reflective surface was thought to ward off evil spirits. In the Gospel of Matthew, Judas turned Jesus over for 30 silver coins. Silver’s reflection was said to be a reminder of his betrayal to God. In the same vein, evil spirits would see their guilt in the reflection and flee.
Copper was a much more affordable metal for protection jewelry, especially in alloys. As late as the 18th century, copper has been used for protective amulets. These amulets would ward off disease, alleviate arthritic pain, guard the home, and much, much more.
According to the International Gem Society, today’s most popular jewelry metals are silver, gold, and platinum (the latter being more valuable than gold). Stainless steel is a common choice, and as an iron alloy, it is also protective.
Although the jewelry’s metal matters, it is not the be-all, end-all. Overall, the metal matters less than the shape it takes.
The vast majority of protective jewelry includes some sort of protection symbol. If you found this blog post, you’ve likely come across at least one protective symbol. Pentagrams, crosses, the evil eye, runes, and bindrunes (a combination of two or more runes) have all been used in protective jewelry.
Fascinatingly, some of these symbols have been integrated into mainstream jewelry. The cornicello is a great example. This chile-pepper-looking shape is a popular symbol in Italian folklore. Meaning “little horn,” the cornicello guards against the evil eye, or “il malocchio.” Many modern jewelers have used the cornicello, especially since minimalist jewelry has come back in style.
When I searched Etsy for protective jewelry, the most popular and common results were crystals. Although crystals have risen in popularity over the past few decades, they have always been around. Most have hundreds of years’ worth of folklore backing them.
Here are a few crystals that are especially common and/or interesting:
There are many, many more protective crystals that I can list, but that would be an entire book’s worth of information. Try researching the folklore of your favorite crystal; you might be surprised.
Not all protective jewels were crystals. Some were regular stones that were carved or enchanted for protection.
The best example, in my opinion, is the hag stone. Usually found in rivers, a hag stone has at least one hole that pokes through the stone. In British folklore, hag stones were powerful protective talismans. They were hung over doors and windows, tied to ships, and worn as a necklace to ward off evil spirits.
Arrowheads are another example. Although obsidian arrowheads are incredibly popular nowadays, they were made in specific countries that had a high amount of obsidian, such as Mexico. Others were created from different types of stone. Because they were put on arrows and spears, arrowheads have defensive and offensive magical qualities.
You’ll find that a lot of protective jewelry is made from natural stone and sometimes wood. These are not “normal” stones and wood because they have been enchanted by a magician.
Witch Bags and Bottles
In the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of protective jewelry made from tiny glass jars. These glass jars are usually filled with magical herbs and oils and sealed with a cork. They are the modern version of an ancient talisman known as a witch bag.
Witch bags were magical bags filled with magical ingredients and designed for a specific purpose. Cunningfolk, pellars, and shamans have all created and sold magical bags for one reason or another. The ingredients depended on the use and person. Some common ingredients included herbs, graveyard dirt, hair or nails, stones, and drawings of symbols, words, and prayers.
The bag was made by the magician and hung on a string. Oftentimes, people carried witch bags in their pocket or wore them around the neck. Although some people view herb jar necklaces as “New Age-y,” I believe that they harken back to the witch bags that magicians sold in the Americas and the British Isles.
This leads me to the inevitable question: What makes a piece of jewelry magical?
Imbuing Jewelry with Power
Historically speaking, magical jewelry was usually made by a magician. Many were consecrated by priests or shamans, meaning that they were devoted to a deity, saint, or spirit. By devoting the jewelry to a higher power, the magician guaranteed protection from that power.
Another method is enchanting, or filling the item with power. When it comes to magicians such as witches, cunningfolk, and brujerías, folklore says that just touching these objects makes them magical. The magician chose that specific stone or herb, meaning that it must have had something magical that other materials did not.
If these magicians had an enchantment method, it was usually not written down. These were secrets of the trade, after all. Nowadays, you’ll find many different methods of enchanting, such as bathing in incense, charging in a magic circle, or locked away for days, weeks, or months.
I want to note that enchanting is different from cleansing. Cleansing is removing (usually negative) energies; enchanting is filling the object with energy. Some magicians will use both methods, but you need an enchantment, not just cleansing.
I’d be happy to write a separate blog post on enchanting, consecrating, and cleansing. I’ve seen these terms and methods being mixed up plenty of times, which can get confusing for beginners.
Anything I Missed?
Did I miss anything about protective jewelry? Do you have a favorite protection symbol or crystal? What has worked (or not worked) for you? Please leave your insights in the comments below! I'd love to learn what others think.
When I talk to other spirit workers about local spirits, many bring up animism, the idea that everything–from rocks to streams–has a specific spirit. But even cultures that didn’t have animism still believed in local spirits. In Rome, they were called genius loci, protective spirits of specific places.
I’ve seen a lot of people recommend working with local spirits, but few mention how to do so. Let’s break this down into steps.
Research Local Folklore
The first step is to research the folklore of your local area. This includes stories of hauntings, religious spots, holidays, and urban legends.
For many people–especially Americans–this is easier said than done. Some areas, like Salem, Massachusetts, are rich in history and folklore. You won’t struggle to research folklore there. But other areas are not known for their local legends. What do you do then?
Here are some places to start:
If you want to learn more about magic and folklore, check out this blog post: Choosing Which Folklore to Study for Your Craft.
Locate Power Spots
When it comes to spirit work, doing is often better than studying. But where can you go to find local spirits? Find what author Gemma Gary calls “power spots.”
Power spots are areas that spirits like to frequent. I mentioned some of those locations while discussing haunted locations earlier. Every town, no matter how small, has a power spot or two. Experienced spirit workers can find them on their own; see the Starting Spirit Work post to learn how one senses spirits.
Yet again, folklore can tell us where to go. Although every culture and location is different, these areas frequently appear in multiple folklores: bridges, crossroads, wells, caves, cemeteries, rivers, isolated/dirt roads, abandoned buildings, churches, and other sacred or spiritual places. For more ideas, see Real-Life Locations That Connect to the Underworld.
This should go without saying, but remember to put your safety first. Don’t enter anywhere dangerous, like a cave, unless you have experience. If the area is off-limits (as many abandoned sites are), don’t trespass. Same with entering churches and cemeteries at night.
Now that you’ve entered a power spot (safely), what do you do?
Offerings tell spirits that you acknowledge and appreciate them. Many spirit workers give offerings to stay on good terms with spirits.
There are two ways to give offerings to local spirits. One method is to place the offering outside, either near your home or at a power spot. If you do this, make sure that your offering is environmentally friendly: no plastics or food that might harm wildlife. Water, herbs, breadcrumbs, and certain fruits may work.
The second method is to give offerings at the hearth. The hearth–which is not necessarily a fireplace, but the center of the home–is where people give offerings to local spirits and Gods. You might have heard of a “standing offering,” a semi-permanent offering that spirits can enjoy as they pass by. This is a similar concept.
If you don’t want to leave offerings outside, do so at the hearth or at your altar. Offer them to local spirits. Incense, food, candles, and herbs are all on the table.
Anything I Missed?
Is there anything that I missed in this post? Anything you want expanded in a future post? Let me know in the comments below.
I often get asked what “intermediate” witches and magicians should study. If you want to improve your Craft but don’t know where to start, I recommend researching folklore. It is the basis of most of the world’s magical practices.
Which folklore should you study and why? That’s what I want to explore in this post. Keep in mind that these are just ideas, and ultimately, you should pursue whatever captures your attention.
What Is Folklore?
Although a lot of people equate folklore with superstitions, it’s much more complicated. According to Wikipedia, folklore is “the body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture, or group.” The American Folklore Society expands upon this definition, saying that folklore covers “art, stories, knowledge, and practices of the people.” Folklorists study a wide range of topics, including holidays, oral stories, funerals, dances, and urban legends.
When it comes to witchcraft, practitioners study folklore for its magic, superstitions, and beliefs about spirits. This is what separates a brujería from a pellar. Brujerías pull from Latin American and Afro-Caribbean folklore, while pellars study British magic.
If you have a culture-specific path, you already know which folklore(s) to focus on. But if you have no idea, here are some options.
Why Is Folklore Important in Magic?
Before we continue, I want to argue why folklore is important to the Craft. Frankly, I would say that it’s essential. Folklore is the basis of magic in many cultures, and without it, most modern magical paths–including Wicca and eclectic witchcraft–would not exist.
For many cultures, magic is a way of preserving tradition. Many study folklore to honor their ancestors or connect to their heritage. But that’s not the only reason to choose a folklore (or a few) to study.
Although folklores have many similarities, they also have several differences. In my post Magical Uses for Cemetery Water and Snow, I mentioned that cultures have different beliefs about ghosts and water. In Thailand, Japan, and the Balkans, ghosts can inhabit water. But in Scotland and the American South, ghosts are said to avoid water–so much that people painted their porches blue so that ghosts wouldn’t enter.
(Caves are another common theme in folklore with different associations and magical significance. To read more, click here.)
In addition, cultures use different methods to achieve the same results. Honoring Russian ancestors will look very different from honoring Chinese ancestors. Both are effective and valid but require unique practices.
If you try to follow every culture’s folklore, you’ll end up getting confused and go nowhere. The history of magic, healing remedies, folk charms, and oral superstitions will reveal much about magic that you might not have known.
Which Folklore Is “Right”?
You might be wondering which folklore is the “right one.” That’s like asking which theory about the afterlife is correct; no one truly knows, and the argument gets people nowhere. Personally, I think the better question is, “Which folklore is ideal for my Craft, specifically?”
Some witches are very talented with tarot; others prefer runes. In the same vein, some people get great results from one folklore’s practices and fewer results with another. How do you know which one works best? Practice and personal experience.
If you’re American, you might think that this country has no folklore (except for Native American lore, which is available only to them). But that’s not true. Where cultures go, folklore follows. I truly believe that spirits of that culture will follow as well. American folklore has blended aspects of several immigrant cultures.
Certain spirits and deities will not work with people outside of that culture. I mentioned Native American practices earlier as a good example; so is Hoodoo. These are called “closed cultures,” and they limit initiation to people within those cultures. But many cultures are open or tied to where you live.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into some ideas about which folklore(s) to study.
Your Culture / Ethnicity
To be clear: your magical path and religion do not have to intersect. I know plenty of magicians who pull from Christian ceremonial magic but don’t pray to Jesus outside of the required magical prayers. Why do they do this? Because they find that it brings results.
Some people feel that they cannot disconnect their heritage from religion. Personally, when I research Irish folklore for my ancestor work, I dive into Irish Catholicism as well. Catholicism is so deeply ingrained in my family’s history that I cannot separate them. (I also recommend that you honor your ancestors’ religious preferences as well.) Others prefer to work with ancient Irish Pagan deities instead, and that’s also a good path. It all boils down to how you approach your culture and religion.
Where You Live
Traditional witchcraft and folk magic both rely on one thing: your local area. Practitioners speak to local land spirits, use native plants, and research the history and superstitions of that area.
But you don’t have to be a trad witch to research your local folklore. Depending on where you live, this could yield some fascinating results. It can also help you feel more connected to the land and your area’s history.
You can learn a lot from local museums and landmarks in your area. Researching local plants also tells you a lot. (Don’t go out foraging without proper guidance, though.) Libraries and bookstores often offer books about native herbs, trees, birds, and more.
Pulling from More than One Folklore
Most practitioners I know pull from more than one folklore. How does one juggle two or three folk practices? It depends on the magician and how they practice.
Whenever I work with a Pagan deity, I work within their cultural context. For instance, I wouldn’t give an Egyptian deity Greek offerings. The same goes for ancestors. In order to honor these deities and spirits properly, I have to research their history.
Much of my death witchcraft is guided by these Pagan deities, so I use ancient Pagan sources for necromancy. But I’ll use British sources for ancestor work. When it comes to more general spellwork–such as money spells, home protection, etc.--I have freedom to choose. I try different methods and figure out which is the most effective.
If I had to explain my magical practice, it would look like this:
But that’s just me. You might have a different method. Let me know how folklore impacts your Craft in the comments below.
I’ve always been fascinated with magical word symbols such as the sator square. How did these words become magical? Why are they arranged in a specific shape?
Most of these symbols are magical word squares (as opposed to magic squares that feature numbers–-see Agrippa’s planetary squares). However, some are arranged in different shapes, such as an upside-down triangle or an oval. The word squares are usually associated with British pellars and cunningfolk, as British folk author Gemma Gary recorded many of them.
But while I was researching them, I found that most of these symbols stem from two authors: a second-century Roman physician and an Egyptian Jewish mage from the 14th century. So how did these symbols end up in Britain? That’s what I want to explore in this post.
The Origin of Magical Word Symbols
Many of these magical squares and palindromes were discovered during excavations. The sator square, by far the most well-known of these symbols, was first found in Pompeii. Even some palindromes made with Greek letters were found as far north as Denmark.
However, many can be traced back to the two authors I mentioned earlier. The first is Serenus Sammonicus (birth unknown, died 212 AD), the personal physician to Roman Emperor Caracello Quintus.
Sammonicus practiced many magical remedies that he learned from his mentors and borrowed from earlier occult authors such as Pliny the Elder. His most famous work, Res Reconditae, is a series of five books featuring natural remedies. Most notably, Sammonicus recorded the ABRACADABRA palindrome and ABLANA / ANALBA. I’ll cover both of these later.
The second author is an Egyptian mage named Abraham, or Abramelin (sometimes spelled Abra-Melin). A teacher of Jewish magic, he was said to live from 1362 to 1458, although historians debate whether he actually existed.
Abramelin’s life was documented in the book, The Book of Abramelin. This 17th-century manuscript features 12 parts and hundreds of spells. But it is most well-known for its magical word squares.
Abramelin created these magic squares out of Hebrew words. However, the earliest found version of the book was in German, as he was said to live in Germany. Although the author quotes many Bible verses, he took them from a Roman Catholic version of the Bible, written in Latin Vulgate. To put it simply, these magic squares are made from Hebrew words that have been Latinized.
So how did these end up in Britain? In the 19th century, occultist Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers translated the work into English. Mathers was highly influential. As one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, he pioneered modern ceremonial magic.
Mathers’ translation, which he titled The Sacred Book of Abramelin the Mage, skyrocketed in popularity during the late 19th and early 20th century. I believe that is how these magic circles ended up in British folk magic.
Given how complicated the history is (Roman > Egyptian > Europe and beyond), I’m going to divide these symbols into two categories: Greek/Latin and Latinized Hebrew.
Greek / Latin Magical Palindromes
Latin word symbols were usually arranged within a square, while ancient Greek ones came in different shapes.
The Sator Square
Translators believe that Arepo is a name, possibly of Egyptian origin. (Arepo appears nowhere else in Latin literature.) So the palindrome translates to “The farmer Arepo has [as] works wheels.” In other words, Arepo plows with wheels, possibly with difficulty due to the connotations.
What does this meaning have to do with magic? Well…nothing, as far as I can tell. The point is less about the literal meaning and more about how the letters are arranged. The sator square is unique in this aspect; most other magical word symbols have relevant meanings. The Romans also had many other similar palindromes, so I don’t know why the sator square became the most popular.
The sator square has been put on walls, doors, churches, houses, and barns. Although it came from the Mediterranean, it has been seen as far north as France. Folk magicians often wrote it on paper and folded it to put in witch bags. The type of paper and color ink depended on the spell.
Speaking of magic, the sator square is a protective symbol. In folk magic, the sator square has also put out fires, cooled fevers, protected livestock, and removed fatigue from travelers.
The Pater Noster Square A-O
The square has paster noster in a cross shape with the A’s and O’s in the corners. The oldest evidence of the paster noster square comes from the second century; it is one of the earliest examples of Christianity in Britain.
Like the sator square, the pater noster square is a protective symbol. It’s sometimes used for healing as well. Think of it as a shortened version of the Lord’s Prayer, which asks God to keep food on the table, forgive debts, and guard against evil.
ABLANA / ANALBA
So what does the palindrome mean? The most direct translation is, “Iahweh is the bearer of the sacred name, the lion of Re secure in his shrine.” Iahweh is an Egyptian name and possibly refers to a deity. Some believe that this name is a version of God's name.
During the 5th century, Christianity was the official religion of Rome, but Pagan beliefs still thrived despite being outlawed. The IAEW-palindrome is a fascinating example of how these religions mixed in the Roman Empire.
Funnily enough, Polish researcher Joachim Śliwa noted that the scribe made a mistake. The author wrote “P” instead of “V.” Throughout history, most examples of this palindrome include the P, meaning that this spelling mistake turned into a widely-used magic symbol.
The IAEW-palindrome has been found in divinatory kits. The symbol likely connects magicians to the Gods and spirits. Sometimes, it is drawn with an Ouroboros around it.
Latinized Hebrew Magic Squares That Ended up in Britain
Most of these magical word squares were recorded in Gemma Gary’s book The Black Toad: West Country Witchcraft and Magic. I don’t know where Gary got these because she often doesn’t cite her sources. But when I researched the words, all of them came from The Sacred Book of Abramelin the Mage. Gary refers to these as British pellar spells, but they were likely used in Jewish magic as well.
The Book of Abramelin lists dozens, if not hundreds, of these magic squares. So I am not going to list all of them. I’m going to focus on a few from Gemma Gary’s books, since these have risen in popularity since the 2010s.
Unlike the previous palindromes, many of these don’t have official names. Abramelin did not name his spells, so I will reference them by their uses. All photos are from Gary's book.
Square for Love
But what does it mean? According to Abramelin, raiah is a female companion. It’s also a popular Jewish name meaning “queen of power.” Haiah comes from Arabic and means “modest,” although it could also be referencing Nith-Haiah, the angel of wisdom and magic.
Igogi is harder to translate. It might reference the Greek word agoge, which refers to the speed of music. If anyone knows Hebrew and can think of a connection, let me know.
I don’t know the translation for this square; this will be a common trend in this section. The Book of Abramelin does not translate all the words, and some of them have multiple meanings. I’m not going to act like I’m a Hebrew expert and try to translate these, but I will list their magical uses.
For Divination in General
According to The Book of Abramelin, milon comes from the Greek milos, meaning “fruit tree.” It might also come from the Hebrew MLVN, roughly translated to “the diversity of things.” Irago stems from the Greek eira, meaning “inquiry” or “question.” Lamal is “probably from Chaldaic,” and that’s all Abramelin says about it. Ogari possibly stems from the Hebrew OGR, “to swallow” or “swiftly flying thing.” Nolim is from the Hebrew word meaning “hidden or covered things.” I’m not a linguist, so I don’t want to try to translate the whole sentence.
Magicians put this symbol on divination tools or in their hat prior to divination.
For Divination, Mirrors and Crystals
According to The Book of Abramelin, gilionin is a version of the Chaldaic word GLIVNM, meaning “mirrors.”
This symbol is placed beneath or in front of the divination tool. People have used it on crystal balls, seeing glasses, magical mirrors, and more.
These magical words either have unknown meanings or are used in an unusual method. All are fairly popular in folk magic and deserve a discussion.
Magicians often write it on paper, fold it, and include it in healing bags. It is also carved into amulets that one can wear. Coral stones, metal, and birch paper are common materials to write it on.
Despite researching these words for days, I cannot find a translation of the word nalgah. If you have an idea, please let me know. But from what I can find, the word relates to spirit power, specifically the power of the serpent.
This symbol is similar to the sator square, and both symbols are written on either side of a charm for protection. It seems to draw upon the power of spirits as well.
The tetragrammaton is the five-letter Hebrew word for God’s name. As a magic symbol, it is actually three words–-or, rather, the same word written in three different languages. The first line is Phoenician, the second is Paleo-Hebrew, and the third is Hebrew.
I’m not going to include a picture because this symbol is unique to Kabbalah, a closed Jewish practice that requires lengthy study and initiation. Although the tetragrammaton is easy to find, you won’t know how to use it unless you understand Kabbalah. I can find information on how NOT to use it, but that’s about it.
Interestingly, ceremonial and folk practitioners got around this by writing the word tetragrammaton. As many know, the word tetragrammaton means “five-lettered word,” so they’re literally writing “five-lettered word” on top of other Hebrew words, assuming that everyone will know what they’re referring to. Here’s an example from Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall:
What Do I Do with this Information?
This post is a general overview of some magical word squares and palindromes. Note that each one needs to be used in a specific way. Don’t assume that one method will work for another one.
I find it intriguing that most authors will list these magical words, but not mention where they came from. In my opinion, that’s a massive oversight. There’s a lot of discourse over the use of Hebrew words in ceremonial and folk magic. Although we will never remove Hebrew from these practices, we should at least give credit where credit is due.
Many have also pointed out that these symbols were probably used before Res Reconditae and The Book of Abramelin. And I’m not disputing that. I believe there is much more associated with these symbols than we currently know. Some words, like abracadabra, may remain undefined forever. Historical evidence for folk magic, especially ancient Pagan magic, is very difficult to find.
Until we discover more, we’ll run with what we know. Those who read Hebrew might have corrections and additions to this post, in which case, please comment! We can always learn more.
Thanks so much for staying with me on this unusually long post. Hope you enjoy!
CAUTION: Cemetery water is highly polluted. Do not in baths, salves, smoking blends, or anywhere else that will go into your body.
Since I got that cemetery snow, it has melted. But I have studied and tested cemetery water for its uses in death witchcraft. These are my findings.
What Do We Know About Ghosts and Water?
I’ve read a few posts about cemetery water, and most authors give it the traditional associations with water. For instance, they would say that cemetery water can purify, cleanse, etc.
This is a perfectly valid way to analyze cemetery water. But I want to explore the relationship between ghosts and water in folklore.
In some cultures, ghosts inhabit water. In Slavic folklore, the realm of the dead and realm of the living are divided by water, namely the sea. Navia, or souls of the dead, are said to live in water.
In Thailand, ghosts called Phi Phrai are said to inhabit water. These ghosts are usually women, and they might have died with a child in the womb. If you are familiar with the Ghost Festival, you might have heard something similar. Residents of China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Singapore call the seventh month of the lunar calendar Ghost Month, when the deceased rise from the lower realm. On Ghost Day, many people will avoid water in fear that a ghost will drag them down. Shui gui, or water ghosts, are said to have died by drowning.
Depending on the culture and religion, water might have connections to the Underworld. I discussed wells, rivers, and caves in this post: Real-Life Locations That Connect to the Underworld.
But in other cultures, ghosts avoid water. In Scotland, spirits of the dead cannot cross bodies of water. When funeral processions carried a coffin to a cemetery, they would cross a bridge or walk on river rocks along the way. They believed that ghosts and malicious spirits could not follow the body that way.
The concept of ghosts avoiding water also exists in the United States. If you’ve ever been to the South, you’ve probably noticed that many porches and houses are a light bluish-green. This color is called haint blue, and it had special significance to the Gullah, African Americans who lived in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. Because haint blue resembles water, it is said to protect houses from spirits of the dead.
Depending on your Craft and where you live, water can have different associations in death witchcraft. I’ve narrowed it down to two uses: connecting to the dead and protection.
Connecting to the Dead with Cemetery Water
The first use for cemetery water is to connect with the dead. Because this water is infused with death energy, its function is similar to graveyard dirt.
Put cemetery water into death witch or necromancy-related spells. I used some in my spirit work oil and necromancy ink. Dipping a candle in it (not the wick!) and letting it dry might enhance a candle spell.
To simplify, view cemetery water as a spirit work booster. Anything you add it to should help you connect with the dead.
Another use for cemetery water is lecanomancy, otherwise known as water scrying. Since ancient Rome, necromancers have peered into water to receive messages from the dead.
To practice water scrying, grab a clear bowl (glass is ideal) and pour cemetery water into it. Make sure that the bowl is not too dark; you want to see the water. Light a candle and keep it nearby to illuminate the space. Some people put a bit of olive oil into the water, but that is not necessary. Breathe evenly, clear your mind, and peer into the water. See what the dead wish to show you.
Protection with Cemetery Water
Another potential use for cemetery water is protection. Depending on the folklore, even imitating water can protect you from spirits.
Rub cemetery water onto your windows and doors to ward your home. While leaving a cemetery, toss some water behind you so that spirits don’t follow you home. Painting certain objects in the color of water might dissuade spirits from touching them.
Cemetery water can also consecrate and cleanse. Use it to anoint magical tools and keep them safe from harm. If you feel like spirits are clinging to you or following you, pour a drop onto your clothes.
How to Get Cemetery Water
If you are interested in working with cemetery water, there are several ways you can get it. If it rains at a cemetery, collect some of the drops. You can also collect some water from puddles or sprinklers in a graveyard.
You can also do it how I did: by collecting cemetery snow. Snow and water have similar correspondences, and you can use snow in the same ways as listed above. If it snows in your area, head to a local cemetery and get it there.
While gathering cemetery water or snow, try to avoid specific graves. Water is a common offering for the dead, and you don’t want to disturb the soul that lives there. When I gathered snow, I did it near the front gate. The entrance of the cemetery belongs to the gatekeeper, a deceased soul that guards the graveyard. If you get this spirit’s permission, you can grab snow or water from there.
Can You Do the Same Spells with Regular Water?
In short, you don’t need cemetery water to practice lecanomancy. Plenty of death witchcraft spells require regular water. However, if you want a “spirit work boost,” using cemetery water will only work in your favor.
In short, cemetery water and snow have two main uses: connecting to the dead and protection. Lecanomancy, which is scrying with a bowl of water, is a common necromancy method.
You can get cemetery water from rain, sprinkles, puddles, or snow that is not on a specific grave.
View cemetery water as a spirit work booster; it’s not required for spirit work, but it will increase your chances of connecting with the deceased.
Would you use cemetery water or snow? Have you used either in the past? 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!
In 2007, researchers from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, tested how color influences pain. They set up participants to feel mild electric shocks. Before shocking them, they showed the participants one of six colors. When participants saw the color red, they felt more pain than when they saw green or blue. It makes sense; many people associate red with burning, bleeding, or inflammation.
During a later study in 2016, French scientists found that color has a physiological effect on people. Participants who stared at red had higher testosterone levels, and they tended to feel more dominance and arousal.
It is no secret that color affects us emotionally, psychologically, and physically. Color is important in every system of magic, no matter where or when it comes from. That is why color magic posts are so popular...and why so many of them are wrong.
The Fault of Color Correspondence Lists
If you look up almost any witchcraft website or book, you will find correspondence lists. These lists are meant to be easy resources for people to glance at when they need it. As a result, most of these associate colors with single nouns. For example, you might see the color “red” with correspondences such as “fire,” “sex,” “passion,” and so on.
But these lists only scratch the surface of what colors mean and how they affect us. I’m willing to bet that the two studies I cited earlier told you more about red than any of the correspondence words in the previous paragraph.
To be clear, I’m not trying to start beef with people who create color correspondence lists. These lists can be great starting points to inspire people and get them thinking about color. But what I am saying is that, in magic, color has so many associations that further research is imperative.
Colors Have Contradictory Meanings
Pop quiz: what is the most common wedding dress color?
If you live in the U.S. or Europe, you probably answered white. If you hail from China or India, you probably said red. And if you’re familiar with wedding culture, you probably said that dresses came in a variety of colors until Queen Victoria popularized white in 1840.
But this question isn’t about the wedding industry. I’m trying to point out that every culture has a different association with colors. And depending on the culture you reference, you might find that a color means more than you think it does.
Let’s return to white. Many people who grew up in a Christian household end up associating white with purity. But if you lived in China, you would find that white is commonly associated with death. White chrysanthemums frequently appear on caskets, and some people even wear white to funerals (not often, but it does happen). Meanwhile, Finnish folklore says that seeing a white animal--especially albino--is an omen of death.
You might say, “But isn’t black the color of death?” In many cultures, yes. If you’ve seen ancient Egyptian art, you’ve probably noticed that chthonic deities (including Anubis and Thoth) are portrayed with black bodies. But in the same culture, black is associated with fertility because the Nile banks turned black when they became moist. In fact, one of Egypt’s nicknames was Kemet, meaning “the black land.” That’s two seemingly contradictory meanings within the same civilization.
When I look at color correspondence lists, few take culture or religion into account. You have no idea which culture the author is from. You can only assume that, wherever they’re from, red means “passion.”
Even Emotionally, Colors Have Different Meanings
When I look up color correspondences, I often see people cite emotional implications of colors. For example, many people will say that the color blue is calming because of its associations with water. Several psychology studies have reported on color’s emotional associations, and even they have come across mixed results.
Remember that 2007 study I mentioned where seeing red resulted in more pain? You might be surprised to learn that a different study recorded the healing powers of red. In 1996, researchers gave participants placebo painkiller pills of different colors. Warm-colored pills ended up working better than cool-colored pills.
On top of that, each color created a different effect. When participants took a blue or green placebo pill, they felt more calm and tired. But red, orange, and yellow pills were more stimulating.
The contradictory meanings of colors do not work against magic; they work for it. Depending on the spell, a red candle can heal someone, seduce a partner, or curse an enemy. The power stems from the practitioner and how they use it.
Create Your Own Correspondence List
.Before I continue, I want to shout out my friend Lumi who gave me the advice that I’m about to tell you (and for just being fantastic). If you want to learn more about color or art magic, visit her Instagram @artbylumi or her Tumblr @artwitchpath.
To kickstart your color magic journey, create your own correspondence list. With paint, pens, or whatever medium you prefer, jot down every color of the rainbow. I recommend doing different shades too, as light green and dark green could mean different things to you.
Do not worry about folklore or magic yet. Just write down what you think of when you see that color. Is it calming? Scary? Do you associate colors with certain deities or seasons? Approach this as an intuitive writing exercise.
If you need help starting, check out this Instagram poll that I put on my story this week (@death.witch.envy). This is what my followers had to say about certain color associations.
Do you agree with these results? Do you disagree? Can you think of another color that is more calming, happy, negative, or healing?
At the end of this post, I’ll show you my working color correspondence list. I used paint swatches and wrote all associations I could come up with. Hopefully, it will inspire you.
As You Research, Add to Your List
As you study your Craft, you’ll likely find colors along the way. Update your correspondences as you learn. The more you work with color in magic, the deeper of an understanding you’ll get.
Also, do not feel pressured to write down the meaning of blue in every single culture or religion. Try to focus on what you are practicing. I mentioned some Chinese associations earlier, but my religion and ethnicity are not Chinese, so I do not use those in my practice. Instead, I focus on ancient Greek, Irish, Sumerian, or Egyptian correspondences, depending on the spell or deity I’m working with.
Whenever you perform a spell or ritual, write it down. Include which colors you used in candles, pen ink, flowers, etc. Did the spell succeed? Did it not? This is why I always recommend writing down rituals; it’s the best way to learn what works and what does not.
For more examples, check out my color correspondence lists below.
Last November, I was speaking to a dead soul whose grave I had tended to in the past. He was a World War I vet with a sweet wife who would only let his squadron use his nickname. He warned me that a close family member would soon pass away unexpectedly.
I presumed that he meant my grandfather, who had been struggling from brain cancer, but I was wrong. My great aunt passed away that next week. She had died overnight from an undiagnosed medical condition. For me, it was a groundbreaking moment in my spirit work journey.
This year, I spent my November trying to learn spirit work again after six months of no practice.
Spirit work is like a muscle that you consistently need to stretch. If you haven’t practiced it in a while (which happens; that’s life), then you might need to start from the basics. Meanwhile, some people have never tried spirit work and need some beginner tips.
It’s no secret that people learn spirit work differently. I personally began with energy work, but others have never done energy work and prefer to use divination only. Since I first contacted spirits 13 years ago, I have learned that what worked for me may not benefit others. Here, I’ve created a list of techniques for beginner and returning spirit workers. I hope that at least one of these methods can kickstart your journey.
Let’s start with what my magic teacher showed me: energy work. It is the practice of sensing the energies of objects and living beings. If you can feel the energies of stones, pets, and trees, then you will eventually sense the energies of spirits.
Start with a small object. I recommend using one that can fit in the palm of your hand, such as a coin, crystal, or small jar. Place it on a table, and hover your hand a few centimeters above it. Don’t touch it.
Close your eyes. What do you feel underneath your hand? A tingling? A coolness? A burning? Focus on what you feel and write it down.
Next, try this with another object. I personally recommend using a bowl of water because water has a distinct energy that many people can sense. Repeat the exercise.
The more you do this, the better you’ll get. Try it with trees, dirt, or even your bookshelf. Jot down what every object’s energy feels like. Over time, you will learn to distinguish a plant from a crystal, a table from a person, or a living entity from a non-living entity.
In the occult community, there is a lot of debate over whether meditation is necessary. Personally, I believe that meditation is not mandatory, but it can improve one’s practice. Meditation trains people to remove their own thoughts from their head. For spirit work, this can be a game changer.
Many beginners struggle to distinguish their own thoughts and feelings from a spirit. “Was that my thought, or a spirit’s? Did those candle flames really respond to me, or am I just seeing things?” Most of the time, these thoughts result from anxiety. We’re so nervous about getting an accurate reading that overthink and over-doubt.
Meditation trains us to ignore intrusive and anxious thoughts. It also calms the mind and body. The more calm you are during spirit work, the more you’ll be able to trust your instinct.
A few minutes of meditation can enhance your spirit work. If you struggle to relax your mind, try adding music or listening to a guided meditation. I use the app Calm. It has a wide range of guided meditations of varying lengths that help me when I haven’t meditated in a while.
If you meditate for just a few minutes every day, you may find that spirit communication becomes easier.
Divination is the most common method of beginning spirit work. Through divination, you can ask spirits questions about the past, present, or future. Popular divination methods include tarot cards, rune drawings, pendulum swinging, and bone throwing. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.
The downside is that it may take a while to find a method that you jive with. When I started, many people in my community recommended tarot cards. I tried it, but I was never interested in it and rarely got results.
Next, I tried using a pendulum. The same happened; I got some results, but they were not detailed enough for my liking. Later, I went from scrying to bone throwing to rune drawing. It took a lot of trial and error to find divination methods that gave me the results I wanted. This may happen to you, too.
Be patient. If your first divination doesn’t work, try another one. If you don’t get results on the first try, attempt it a few more times. Combine it with some other techniques that I list here. I highly recommend keeping a journal about your divination results. That way, you can ask a question, receive an answer, and ask the same question a few days later. See if your answers are consistent.
I will not discuss all divination methods here, but I will write about some in the future. There are plenty of other blogs who have written beginner guides for divination methods, too.
Give the Spirits an Offering
This is one of the easiest yet overlooked methods of starting a dialogue with spirits. I believe that some people underestimate the power of offerings. To demonstrate, I like to use the neighbor analogy.
Imagine that you want your nextdoor neighbor to come over to your house. Would you stand on your porch and scream, “Hey! Come over and talk to me!” Probably not. Instead, you might entice them with something. You might say, “I made brownies; would you like some?” or “Want to come over and play Mario Kart?” If your neighbor accepts your offer, then you have successfully started a relationship.
Offerings work the same way. Many spirits--even some family members--will not talk to you just because you want them to. Giving offerings is a way of saying, “I am a polite host. I respect your company and your time.”
If you perform spirit work at your altar, provide an offering before or during your ritual. To connect to the local land spirits, leave an offering outside or at your local park or graveyard. Common offerings include water, honey, stones, herbs, and flowers. Research folklore to determine which offerings are best.
The downside is that you may attract nasty spirits. I will talk more about protection during spirit work later.
Reach out for Help
Deities, angels, saints, and other spirits may help to enhance your spirit senses. According to many cultures, other entities can grant people “spirit sight,” or a variation of that phrase. In ancient Scotland, the sithean (dead souls from the otherworld) would grant people “second sight” to peer into another world. Meanwhile, other cultures said that anyone could see or communicate with the dead. The ancient Egyptians would write letters to the dead, asking them to intercede if harm should come their way.
Some magicians will conduct spells to strengthen their spirit sight. They may leave an offering to a deity with a request. They may also create an oil or smoking blend or open their spirit senses.
Returning spirit workers: If you have a spirit guide, ask them to connect you with a certain spirit. Many guides will create a link between you and a spirit or deity. They may also transfer messages.
You do not have to contact a deity, saint, goetia, or other spirit to succeed at spirit work. I am simply mentioning this for people who want a bit of extra help.
Connecting to a Taglock
In English, a taglock is a bunch of knotted hair, but that’s not what it means in the metaphysical community. In magic, a taglock is an object that connects you to another being. For example, cunning men and women used to retrieve a lock of hair from a person to cast (or break) a spell on them.
Taglocks also work for spirits. You may think, “But I don’t have anything that a spirit owns.” But you do. You have the blood of your ancestors running through your veins. You have your ancestor’s DNA in your hair and nails. (There are even spells for determining information by gazing into fingernails, but that’s another conversation.) This is why many necromancers recommend starting with ancestor work; it’s easy to connect to your biological ancestors.
Do you need a physical object? Use a family heirloom, old photograph, or graveyard dirt (if collected ethically). Many people create ancestor altars filled with taglocks to contact their family. Connect to the taglock via the energy work exercise I described above. Then try divination or prayer to reach the spirit.
Related: Spirit Guides in Death Magic
Spirit Safety Tips--The Quick Edition
Later, I will write a longer blog post on spirit work safety. But for now, I have devised a quick list of safety procedures to follow for beginners.
There are many ways to strengthen your spirit senses. Practicing divination is one of the most common techniques. If you have trouble sensing spirits, practice energy work or meditation to calm the mind. You can always receive help by using a taglock, giving offerings, and partitioning a deity or other spirit. Study up on spirit work safety before you start; it’s better to go in cautiously.
Did I leave a method out? Which method works best for you? Let me know about your thoughts on spirit work below!
If you’ve been reading witchcraft and occult books for a long time, you may have noticed that most spells and folklore trace back to ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, and the British Isles. Why do you think that is? Well, part of it is English colonialism. It’s no secret that the Brits preferred some cultures over others.
Another reason is that these cultures spent a lot of time writing things down. Other communities, such as African tribes, hardly wrote anything down. Their traditions are primarily oral, and for centuries, historians didn’t bother to record oral history.
Fortunately, this is changing. Many historians are taking the time to write down oral stories and traditions so they don’t become lost. But much of history--especially magic--has already become lost due to the lack of recording oral history.
Don’t believe me? I’ll list some examples below.
I’m writing these down because (a) they fascinate me, and (b) I want to remind people that we don’t know everything. In the occult community, some people believe that written spells survived because they work. But that’s not entirely true. Many other spells existed--and likely worked--but were never written down or saved.
What do you think about these lost spells? Do you think that we will ever figure out what they were used for? Let me know below.
The Dolls in Miniature Coffins
In 1836, three boys were hunting for rabbit burrows near a rocky formation in Edinburgh called Arthur’s Seat. One of the boys spotted a slate, and he moved it to discover a tiny cave. After digging further, the boys found some objects. They were miniature coffins, only four inches in length.
Although the boys uncovered eight coffins, but only five of them survived after the boys hurled them at each other. Yes, really. They threw around historical artifacts.
Eventually, one of the boys brought the surviving coffins to his father. After opening each coffin, the father discovered eight tiny dolls. Each one has a unique face and clothes, and some don’t have arms, likely to fit inside the coffin. At least two were pink or red, and they were carved from white wood. They date back to the 1780s.
Throughout the centuries, many people have come up with theories about the purpose of these miniature coffins. Some claim that these figures represent the victims of the nearby West Port murders, but there is little evidence to support this.
In 2018, historian Jeff Nisbet claimed to “crack” the miniature coffin mystery. He claimed that these dolls represent people who lost their lives during a political revolution. However, his theory is no more “proven” than others.
Many believe that these dolls were ingredients in a spell. Perhaps sailors carried these dolls to ward off death on their journey. Newspapers from 1836 credited “demonology and witchcraft.” What do you think the coffin dolls were used for?
The Bronze Age Bird Skull Headdress
In January 2019, archaeologists dug up several skeletons in Siberia’s Novosibirsk region. While the fully-preserved skeletons were an amazing find, the archaeologists uncovered a peculiar find. One skeleton wore a headdress of bird skulls.
Between 30 and 50 bird skulls and beaks were tied together to create the headdress, which was likely worn on the neck or collar. The bones belonged to large shore birds, including herons and cranes.
Historians nicknamed the skeleton “the Birdman of Siberia,” and they suspect that he was a priest or a shaman. According to carbon dating, the skeletons date back 5,000 years. He was likely a member of the Odinov, a culture that dominated Siberia during the Bronze Age.
Siberian researcher Lidia Kobeleva believes that the headdress had a ritualistic purpose. But what exactly was it? Was it protective? Did it connect the shaman to spirits? Was it dedicated to a deity? Perhaps all of the above.
What do you think was the purpose of the bird skull headdress?
Babies Buried with Skull Helmets
This is a strange one. In 2014, archaeologists unearthed an ancient burial site in Salango, Ecuador. The funerary mound, which dates back 2,100 years, revealed many interesting finds. But the most unusual were two infant skeletons wearing bone “helmets.”
These helmets were made from the skull fragments of older children who had died before the infants. The infants were younger than 18 months, while their skull helmets came from children between ages four and 12. Archaeologists called it “using juvenile crania as mortuary headgear.”
The children were members of Guangala, a civilization that lived on Ecuador’s coast around 100 B.C. But despite knowing when the infants lived, historians still have no idea what the skull helmets mean.
Archaeologists have many theories. One is that these helmets represent the infants’ ancestors quite literally protecting them. Others believe that the helmets protect infants in the afterlife, or that they symbolize conquering another nation. We still have no idea what these skull helmets mean.
What do you think about the skull helmets? Do you think they were a spell, or purely symbolic?
Archaeologists are skill unearthing facts about ancient civilizations. Some could have been spells, but we will never know if they actually were.
Do you think that you can use this knowledge for your Craft? Do you believe that these were even spells at all? Leave your theories below!
When I first began studying Wicca in my high school bedroom/attached laundry room, I immediately ran into tea magic. And I felt psyched! I worked at a spice and tea store and was hired for my knowledge of teas. I had tried every flavor from green pineapple tea to caramel blueberry pie white tea, and to think that I could drink a cup as a spell...Well, it sounds too good to be true.
I’m sure that others have had a similar experience. Tea magic is everywhere from YouTube videos to blog posts to social media. That’s why I must painfully admit that it is faulty.
Looking back a few years, I don’t resent myself for writing about tea magic on Tumblr. I love tea. I love the idea of tea magic. The simple solution of (1) brew a cup, (2) stir in your intention, and (3) drink is like a life hack.
But eventually, someone told me something that made my heart fall into my stomach: How come most people drink tea and receive no magical results?
“It’s the intention,” was my kneejerk reasoning. But is it? I can’t count how many times I sat with a cup of raspberry oolong and thought, “I want this paper to be gone.” I used to brood over Irish breakfast tea and wish that I would move to a different town. Is that really different from intention? It’s the same method: brew, stir, imagine your goal. And yet nothing happened. I wasn’t actually doing anything to change the tea.
Brewing tea isn’t inherently magical because people do it all the time.
Non-witches don’t get a new job offer every time they drink a cup of Earl Grey. (If they did, they’d probably stop drinking Earl Grey.) If tea magic really works--which I believed that it does--it wouldn’t produce fantastic results through the brew-intention-drink method. And why would we practice magic if not for fantastic results?
I remember resisting this idea at first. I felt like I was being robbed of a quick, easy magical ritual. But in reality, I was on my way to learn more effective tea magic that I will now share with you.
What's Wrong With Most Other Methods
Whenever I read a blog post about tea magic, I often see the word “meditation” or “meditative” thrown around. Because that’s ultimately what their tea rituals are: meditation. You brew the tea, sit with it quietly, taste it, smell it, and let your mind rest. It’s a wonderful mindfulness practice. But is it magic?
Before I continue, I won’t discount meditation in magic. It’s an important tool to clear your mind and prepare you for rituals. It has can important place in magical ritual. But just meditating isn’t casting a spell. Meditating won’t give you a significant other or keep robbers out of your home. It just won’t.
So how does throwing tea into the mix change that?
Unless you charm it--unless you make the tea magical--it’s no different than a non-spiritual person meditating with tea. The same goes for tossing tea into a bath or adding it to a recipe.
If you benefit from meditating with tea every day, do it. I would never discourage a legitimate self-care routine that improves peoples' days. But let’s not kid ourselves, either. Meditation and mindfulness are research-backed, scientific skills. They’re not the same as magic which, by definition, cannot be scientifically explained.
Please view this post as an opportunity to enhance your current tea magic. I’m not saying “get rid of it;” I’m asking you to reconsider, to make your tea rituals more powerful and less reliant on chance.
Tea in Magical Folklore
It’s no secret that tea has been used for centuries, having first been recorded in China around 350 A.D. Since then, the lines between medicinal use and folklore have blended together. For instance, the ancient Chinese would drink tea as an antidote for poison. This is likely because tea flushes out the toxins of nicotine quickly. When people felt soothed and heightened awareness while drinking tea, they likely experienced a meditative moment or great social interaction.
I’m not discarding tea’s symbolism, though. Tea culture appears in several countries across the world and is used to pay respect or come together. For instance, in Tibet, tea-drinkers would receive barley wine as well. They would dip their finger in the wine and then flick it away three times before drinking the tea. This symbol of restraint served as an offering to Buddha, Sangha, and Dharma.
Ancient Egyptian papyri, including the Ebers papyrus, listed the medicinal uses of herbs in tea. These doctors were usually priests who believed that spirits blocked channels in the human body. They accompanied tea with rituals to heal their patients.
While examining historical accounts, I divided tea into three uses: divination, offering, and what I call "spell support." I’ll explain the last term when I get there.
You’ve probably heard about tea leaf reading before. Also called tasseography, the practice tells your fortune through wine sediments, coffee grounds, or of course, tea leaves. Tea leaf divination first appeared in Scotland and the United Kingdom after the Dutch brought tea from China.
In the Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology, J. Gordon Melton details that the diviner pours the tea without using a strainer. Whoever’s fortune needs to be told will drink the tea, but not all of it. After swirling the cup around, the diviner will read the shapes in the tea leaves. This is either done through a fortune telling cup or, traditionally, by reading the shapes from the outside in. The outer rim depicts the near future, while the middle illustrates the far future.
In my opinion, tea is one of the best drinks to use as an offering. It is highly customizable, and I’ve found that certain deities and spirits enjoy different teas. However, don’t be surprised if an entity doesn’t accept tea and prefers a glass of wine.
Still, you may choose your offering tea based on the folklore and correspondences that are associated with each. I will list all of these below.
If you want to learn how to give tea as an offering, read this blog post.
“Spell support” is a term I use to describe using tea in magic. In essence, the tea itself doesn’t do much. But when you combine it with ritual, it will produce results. Hence, the tea acts more like a spell tool than a spell within itself.
So how do you transform regular tea into magical tea that produces results? Essentially, you need to combine ingredients to make your own tea. Usually, magicians use this enchanted tea to enhance divination, spirit work, or another larger ritual.
Recipes for magical teas are the best tip I’ve seen so far. The problem is that most magical tea recipes look like this:
Notice that there are no correspondences, so you have no idea why each ingredient was chosen. There are also no instructions. From this guide, we can imagine that the magician just throws each herb in and brews it. But how is that different from the average Joe making a custom cup? How is it magical?
If we really want to create a magical tea, we need to charm each ingredient. Herbs are just herbs until you infuse them with energy; then, they combine to lend you power for your future endeavors.
Here’s how you do it. First, acquire your ingredients (a guide is below) and understand why you’re using each one. Grab a sachet or tea strainer to put the ingredients in. Before you place it in, hold it, and infuse it with energy.
There are several ways to do this. One is to chant: repeat your intention over and over, and don’t be afraid to whisper, yell, or laugh. For examples of this kind of magic, read Magic Rituals without Tools.
You may also breath quickly for ten seconds (don't hyperventilate) before releasing a long, slow, laughing breath onto the ingredient. This is called the Breath of Fire. You can learn more about breath in magic through this post.
Do this with each ingredient before steeping. As the tea steeps, continue. Talk into it. Dance around. Enter a trance state that will throw energy everywhere to fully charge the drink.
Yes, this is more complicated than just steeping a cup of tea quietly. But it should lend you better results.
As a disclaimer, this method will likely not work for bigger results such as relieving your debt, changing the weather, etc. For grand spells, you’ll need a stronger method and more energy. But this may work to increase your divination effectiveness, lend you better spirit communication, give you better luck, heal you faster--the possibilities are truly endless.
Legends And Correspondences For Different Kinds Of Tea
Luck - Faith - Strength - Clairvoyance - Protection - Energy
Chinese folklore tells many versions for the creation of black tea. Almost all stories tell of a tea farmer whose tea leaves became ripe when soldiers raided. The tea was left to oxidize longer, and the farmer decided to sell it anyway. Out of pure luck, tea drinkers and traders loved it. Read the full myth here.
Because black tea has a long oxidation period, it may be used in spells requiring patience, luck, faith, or low-working magic. Its high caffeine amount (47 mg on average, still less than coffee) makes it ideal for increased alertness for divination. With its high antioxidants, black tea protects against numerous diseases, which is why I listed it for strength and protection.
Examples: Breakfast tea, Earl Grey, Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling, many Chais sold in the West
Healing - Clairvoyance - Divination - Happiness - Awareness - Protection - Offense
Green tea is believed to originate in Xing Yang Mao Jian, China, which is where its legend originates. According to the tale, the residents of the area fell to a strange disease. A girl sought treatment from an elderly man, who gave her a healing tree and told her to bring it back within 10 days. When the girl became too weak to travel, the spirit of the tree transformed her into a bird, and she delivered green tea to cure her people.
Green tea’s healing effects have been backed by science. According to studies, green tea lowers the risk of several diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and heart illness. It also aids neurotransmitters to help people concentrate and improve their mood. Plus, the antioxidants in green tea protect your brain and body from future diseases.
Green tea has less caffeine than black tea, except for Matcha, which has significantly more.
Examples: Matcha, Sencha, Jasmine, Gunpowder, Dragonwell, Genmaicha, Hojicha
Love - Divine Intervention - Mercy - Protection - Healing - Strength
Since oolong is partially oxidized, I often call it a mix between green and black tea. The legend of oolong teas surrounds a temple of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. This temple fell into disrepair, and a poor farmer noticed it everyday on his way to the fields. Despite having little resources or money, the farmer took his broom and incense to the temple and cleaned it. That night, Guanyin visited the farm in a dream and directed him to a cave. There, the farmer found an oolong tree, a treasure which he sold to his neighbors.
Oolong is clinically proven to promote tooth and bone health. It also aids the brain, heart, and skin--even relieving eczema in some studies. Don’t be surprised if oolong teas contain more caffeine than you’d expect.
Examples: Milk Oolongs, Formosa, Wulongs
Immortality - Healing - Benevolence
The legend of white tea mirrors green tea’s in some ways. In the Fuding county, near Taimu Mountain, a woman named Langu searched for a way to cure her neighbors. While taking refuge in a cave, she found a silvery tree in bloom. She made white tea from these leaves to cure the epidemic. On top of that, Langua received immortality for her kind-heartedness, and she is now looked upon as a Goddess.
Before the buds and leaves of this tree fully open, they are plucked.
White tea gets its name from the plant’s silvery-white hairs. As with many teas, white tea’s antioxidants may guard the body against diseases. As the myth predicted, studies show that white tea may prevent skin aging. It may also fight against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, insulin resistance, and osteoporosis.
Examples: White teas come in many flavors and are usually labeled as such. If you like bold, fruity or floral teas, this kind is for you. It contains some caffeine.
Herbal tea is made from herbs and flowers which have not been fermented or oxidized. Hence, there is no one legend for this kind of tea; you’ll have to look up the folklore behind the herbs used.
Most herbal teas have no caffeine with the exception of Yerba Mate (which has an interesting history--I recommend looking it up). I will not give you correspondences, because I want to encourage you to research herbal folklore yourself.
Examples: Chamomile, Peppermint, many “Bedtime” teas, Eastern Chais, Rooibos, Hibiscus
For more legends about tea, read this amazing article!
Tea magic is far more complicated than stirring and thinking about your intent. It requires the careful research of folklore and infusing the tea with energy. This can be done through magical breath or spiritual aid. Teas are also not recommended for strong, long-time spells such as relieving debt. Remember, the more you wish to gain, the more work you’ll have to put into a spell.
What are your thoughts on tea magic? Do you agree with my assessment? Please comment below.