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 never been one to drink or smoke weed. However, I have been smoking herbs for years. While herbs can produce a hallucinogenic or sedative effect, they are not as strong as other drugs. That makes them ideal for a lot of people who don’t want to feel high but want some assistance in magic.
Herbal smoking blends can aid magic in many different ways. They can enhance psychic vision, induce trance states, promote sleep, and relax the body. Herbs are also cheaper and more accessible than other smoking ingredients.
In this post, I’ll talk about some magical smoking herbs and how you can use them for spirit work. I will not mention weed, tobacco, or other drugs because I don’t have experience with them. I’ll dive into correspondences first; then, I’ll discuss blends and uses for anyone who wants to try herbal smoking.
Chamomile: Chamomile frequently appears in tea recipes to improve sleep and dream work. In smoking blend, it also enhances prophetic dreams and divination. Smoke it to induce vision and bring about clarity during times of spiritual confusion.
Many like chamomile in smoking blends because it is gentle and has a nice flavor. The ancient Egyptians associated it with the Sun God Ra, but others associate it with the Moon for its dream enhancement.
Coltsfoot: Coltsfoot is a common base for herbal blends because of its neutral flavor and relaxation effect. In magic, people burn it to induce visions. This not only helps divination, but also wealth and business spells where you can use some prophecy.
Coltsfoot is also a love charm and works in Venus magic.
Damiana: Although damiana is a well-known aphrodisiac in its native country of Mexico, it also aids spirit work. When burned, damiana sharpens one’s psychic vision. Any kind of spirit work that includes visions–such as psychic dreams, scrying, and astral travel–can benefit from damiana. So can any magic associated with Venus.
Damiana works as a base for smoking blends. It is also a mild hallucinogen. However, hallucinations tend to occur around 200 mg, so you’d have to smoke A LOT for these health consequences.
CAUTIONS: Can affect blood sugar levels.
Lavender: Lavender is a well-known magic ingredient that promotes sleep, calm, and love. In smoking blends, it relaxes the body. Since lavender is associated with the element of air, its smoke can also help people see ghosts and other spirits.
Lavender is also used in glamors. Smoking it can make you appear more attractive and help you feel joyous. Many love adding lavender to smoking blends simply for its smell and flavor. It is governed by Mercury and assists with purification and protection rituals.
Lemongrass: You might have heard that lemongrass tea can progress psychic powers; smoking it can do the same. Since this plant is ruled by Mercury, it improves psychic skills from divination to glamors.
Lemongrass has a slight lemon smell that makes it relaxing, and it can even help people sleep. I often include this herb in blends for flavor.
Marigold: Marigold, also called calendula, was well-known in ancient rituals. It appears in Dia de Los Muertos, on the altars of Hindu deities, and in Aztec and Mayan ceremonies. In smoking, it has a sweet citrusy flavor that relaxes the body.
In magic, it promotes spirit sight and visions. It is known to produce clearer and less frightening visions. Smoke it prior to trance work and scrying. Like rosemary, marigold is a fire herb associated with the Sun.
Mugwort: Mugwort has many uses for a spirit worker; magicians drink it as a tea before divination and wash divination tools with it. When smoked, mugwort can aid psychic workings, induce lucid dreaming, and help hedgecrossing. As a hallucinogen, it has a long history in spirit work and is associated with the Moon.
Mugwort can give you the “burning” feel in your throat. To prevent this, dampen it a bit before smoking.
CAUTIONS: Can cause nausea and is toxic in excessive doses. Do not use if you are allergic to daisies.
Mullein: Mullein is a mild sedative that many people smoke to relax their lungs. Magic-wise,its smoke is said to summon the dead; the Romans used them to make torches during funeral processions. Because it has the nickname “graveyard dust,” many people falsely claim that it is a substitute for graveyard dirt. (To be clear: it is not.)
Mullein is often hung, carried, or put in pillows to dispel evil spirits. In smoking, it calms and centers the spirit, which can help you with astral work, prophetic dreams, and divination. Practitioners debate over which planet rules it; Agrippa said it was Mercury, but Culpeper claimed it was Saturn.
Because mullein has little effect when smoked and a gentle smell, many use it as a base. It works well with any herb on this list and has few side effects.
Passionflower: Passionflower has a fantastic flavor and sedative effect. Unlike similar herbs, it can produce a “high” in large enough amounts.
Magically, passionflower aids sleep and brings peace. Many place it around the home to relieve troubles, and you might feel calmer after smoking it. Ruled by Venus and water, passionflower is a great addition to almost any smoking blend.
Rose: Although many label rose as “the love herb,” it has many other magical properties. Its soothing scent can relax people and relieve headaches. In teas and smoking blends, rose induces prophetic dreams.
Rose can be smoked before bed or before a ritual that requires a calm head and concentration. It’s a water herb associated with Venus.
Rosemary: Rosemary is a common incense in magic. Many burn it prior to magic to purify the area, but it can also boost divination. If you want an answer to a question, burn rosemary and inhale the smoke. The herb will grant you psychic clarity. The ancient Greeks associated rosemary with memory and would toss sprigs into graves. Using it in spells might improve your memory.
Rosemary is often paired with juniper for a purification incense, but I don’t recommend smoking juniper. The berries are incredibly oily and produce a lot of smoke! However, you can combine rosemary with other cleansing herbs prior to rituals. It’s a fire herb governed by the Sun.
Spearmint: The scent of spearmint increases psychic powers and intuition. It is a popular smoking herb for its flavor and ability to relax the lungs.
Spearmint can pair with any spirit work blend, but it also supports meditation, healing spells, and love spells (hence its association with Venus and water). If peppermint is too strong for you, try this.
Wormwood: The smell of wormwood is said to increase psychic powers. Many budding magicians carry or wear it for this purpose. Burning it attracts spirits, including the dead. The ancient Egyptians created inks with wormwood and wrote to the deity Bes as a form of divination.
Wormwood also has a protective element, especially when combined with mugwort. It is ruled by Mars.
CAUTIONS: While wormwood is not hallucinogen, it can be toxic in large amounts.
Three Herbal Smoking Blends
Anyone with the proper knowledge of herbs can create a smoking blend. But I have a few personal recipes to get you started.
I divided these blends into “parts” instead of grams and teaspoons because I don’t know how you smoke herbs. You can adjust the measurements to your smoking device.
Advice for Creating Herbal Smoking Blends
If you want to create your own blend, here are some tips.
Did I Miss Anything?
Is there anything else people should know about herbal smoking blends? Do you have a favorite ingredient that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!
Related Blog Posts:
When I was 16, I got my first job at my hometown’s new spice and tea shop. During training, a corporate representative showed us every spice, herb, and tea, and what it is used for. Customers usually came in with cooking or health questions, and we had to know the answers. Although I was trained in magic at the time, I never imagined that this knowledge would benefit my Craft.
This is a long-winded explanation for “I used a lot of herbs in witchcraft.” However, I’m not alone; herbal grimoires and encyclopedias are prominent in the occult community. Today, I’m going to discuss how herbs can aid death witchcraft.
How To Use Herbs in Death Witchcraft
Herbs have been ingredients in necromancy, ancestor work, and other forms of magic for thousands of years. They have multiple uses–I’ll give you an abridged list.
Herbs and Correspondences
Here, I will list herbs that I frequently use in death witchcraft, along with their correspondences. Correspondences stem from a mixture of personal experience, historical use, and folklore. Note that I will not mention trees here; I have already covered trees in another post. I will not mention cooked/baked foods like bread, but I will cover naturally-grown foods like fruits and vegetables.
How Do You Use Magic Herbs?
Have you ever used herbs in death work? Did I miss any noteworthy herbs or plants? Let me know in the comments below!
Since autumn is rapidly approaching, I am refreshing my home protection spells. I do this every year before Samhain, when I perform my most elaborate spirit work.
Protection spells, also called wards, are essential for any magic path, but especially spirit work. Have you ever heard about ouija board sessions gone wrong? Or poltergeist hauntings? Or a long streak of bad luck? Wards prevent those from happening.
If your wards are strong, you won’t have to worry about spirits following you home from a graveyard or hexes reaching your family.
Here are three protection spells that have aided me in the past. As with my post Three Death Witchcraft Spells to Heal the Deceased, I will list the ingredient correspondences at the end of the article. I recommend reading that list; spells always have more power if you understand the purpose of the ingredients.
Note: These are NOT banishing spells. They are not appropriate for someone who is currently being haunted. Wards are specifically performed to prevent attacks, not end them.
Candle Protection Spell
Candle spells are the most common form of wards I see. I believe that candle magic is popular because it is so accessible. Similarly, I have developed one that involves equally accessible ingredients: cooking herbs.
You will need:
Mix equal parts of dried dill, oregano, and parsley. If they are not already in small pieces, use a mortar and pestle to grind them.
Anoint your candle with the protection oil. Lay the dried herbs out on a paper towel, and roll the candle over them while it is still wet with the oil. The oil will stick the herbs to the candle.
Light the candle, and burn it until you can do it no longer. I created my other two protection spells while the candle was burning.
NOTE: Keep a close eye on the flame. As with any herb-covered candle, the fire could spread to the dried herbs and quickly burn out of control. Keep a glass of water nearby.
Protection Oil for Windows and Doors
When I was first learning witchcraft, my magic teacher showed me how she rubbed oils on her window and door frames. This is not a new concept; many cultures, from the ancient Egyptians through the Middle Ages, rubbed oils on doors and windows.
More commonly, people would hang, plant, or scatter herbs near their doors for protection. Oil blends are easier because they are subtle and can work in any home, including college dorms and apartments.
Clean and consecrate your container. I used a vintage perfume container that I found at a thrift store. You can cleanse the vial through many methods, from crystal charging to moon water. Personally, I consecrated it with myrrh incense.
Combine the oils with two parts rose geranium, one part lavender, and one part frankincense. For example, if you use two drops of rose geranium oil, pour one drop of lavender and frankincense oils. I did ten drops of rose geranium and five drops of the other two.
Leave it on your altar overnight to charge. I placed mine on a wooden Goddess symbol. If you perform this spell during a full moon, you may charge it with the moonlight. Do NOT charge it in sunlight; the light will degrade the oils.
The next morning, take your oil vial outside with a cotton ball. Place the oil on a cotton ball and rub it along your door and window frames. If you live on the second floor or above, you may do this inside.
Try to rub the oil on all four corners, if possible. You do not have to cover entire doors in oil. A little bit goes a long way.
Refresh this spell every six months.
Graveyard Dirt Protection Powder
Graveyard dirt has many magical properties, which you can learn more about in the post Magical Uses for Graveyard Dirt. One of its properties is protection, especially when it’s from the grave of a loved one (such as Goofer Dust in Hoodoo).
Use some from a reliable spirit whom you’ve worked with before, such as an ancestor. Think of it this way: which spirit do you want guarding your home?
This is a warding powder made with graveyard dirt.
Ask the spirit’s permission to use their dirt in a protection powder. When you have permission, combine the dirt with black salt (not cooking black salt--witches’ black salt. Learn more in the next section).
Add juniper berries and grind in a mortar and pestle. Pour two to three drops of patchouli essential oil, and mix. Keep this powder in an airtight glass container.
Scatter the powder around your home, especially the front and back doors. If you live above-ground, spread the powder along window sills and balconies.
Why I Chose These Ingredients
For More Protection, Check out These Posts
Which protection spells have you done in the past? How often do you need to refresh them? Have any not worked? Let me know in the comments below!
Since I had just moved to a new state, I had no idea where this grave was. I looked up some cemeteries on Google maps, and I spotted a forested cemetery with a review that said it was “supposed to be haunted.” That seemed like a solid choice.
When I drove to the cemetery, I couldn’t see it from the road. It was concealed by an abandoned chapel; I would not have noticed it had I not researched the cemetery. Shaded by trees, covered in moss, the cemetery was palpable. It was the first time I felt spooked by a graveyard.
Then, I found it. The gravestone belonged to Sarah Odell, and the cemetery was called Odell. This was her cemetery; she wanted me to know where it was.
Scrying can have some fantastic results. There are many methods of scrying and a vast array of visions to experience, which I am going to cover here.
What Is Scrying?
Scrying, sometimes called “seeing,” is a form of divination in which someone peers into a vessel and interprets visions that they see. Scrying does not require one to be a medium or clairvoyant. Like other magical practices, it simply requires the right method.
Although scrying is often associated with future predictions, it can reveal many other things. Insights into yourself, messages from spirits or deities, and sights into other realms are all on the table.
There are many ways to scry. Here, I’ll list a few of the most popular methods.
Types of Scrying:
Preparation: The Most Important Step
I know people usually skip over the “prepare” step (and I do too), but if you do not take time to do this, scrying will not go well.
Scrying doesn’t happen every time someone looks into a vessel. If that were true, everyone would have visions whenever they roasted marshmallows. The power does not lie in the vessel; it is in the magician and how they prime themselves.
Most people scry in a self-induced trance state. Author and blogger Katrina Rasbold phrased it as, “Make your mind as blank as possible.” Scrying works best when the mind is not plagued by impatience, anxiety, or expectations.
I like to smoke an herbal blend before scrying (my favorite is mugwort, damiana, and lemongrass). But you don’t have to use hallucinogens. Meditation clears the mind and can enhance spirit work. Others use music, chants, prayers, visualizations, yoga, and even dance.
You might need to experiment with a few of these methods to learn what works best. If you also practice spirit work, the preparation is similar, in my experience.
Tips for Successful Scrying
Scrying sounds simple: You just stare into a vessel and let visions come to you. But if you’ve ever tried it, you know that it’s not so easy. The mind can get distracted by the reflection, impatiences, or doubting whether your visions are real.
The best scrying advice I ever received was from the old tumblr user ofwoodandbones (oh how I miss them). To paraphrase: “You are not looking at the vessel; you are trying to look through it.” The reflections, lights, and shadows are just the surface. Your visions lie beyond it.
Here are some tips for scrying that I’ve gathered over years of experience:
What Will You See?
As with every form of divination, you should not expect to see something while scrying. Your visions could be anything from spirits reaching out to future predictions to answers for your questions.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn describes three levels of scrying, and I believe that these spell out what kind of information you might receive.
The first is “Scrying with the Spirit Vision.” These visions explain something about your inner self. For example, it might be a symbol of a situation you’re struggling with or a message that a deity has for you.
The second is “Traveling in the Spirit Vision.” During this stage, scrying transports you to a different area, whether physical or spiritual. You might see the dead in the afterlife, or you could see a nearby location that you must visit.
The third is “Rising in the Planes.” This is an insight into your spiritual process. Scrying might reveal symbols, spirits, deities, or actions that you should look into to excel in your Craft.
That said, no book or organization can interpret your visions for you. Only you can discern what your divination means and how you can use it.
Scrying requires a “clear mind” and plenty of mental and spiritual preparation. Instead of focusing on the reflection, practitioners must relax their eyes and allow visions to come to them. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.
Have you ever scried before? Has any method worked or not worked for you? Let me know in the comments below.
As many of my readers know, my grandmother passed away a few weeks ago. Ever since then, I’ve felt like there are two parts of me. The first part is the death witch side of me, which gives myself the same advice that I would give others who mourn. And the second part is me, who, for some reason, doesn’t want to take the advice.
Grieving is an intense group of emotions. When I grieve, I tend to shut down and numb myself. My current goal is to force some of those emotions out so I can make peace with them.
Ancestor altars are not just for death witchcraft; they also help people grieve. You can find versions of ancestor altars or shrines across the world, as they provide a place where one can give offerings and pray to those who have passed. That said, you don’t need to know any of your ancestors to create an altar for them.
Since I recently created an ancestor altar, I decided to share my process. Here's what we'll cover:
For the basics of ancestor worship, check out this post.
Find a Comfortable Spot
“Find a spot for your altar” seems like obvious advice, but the location deserves some thought. Your ancestor altar does not need to be a large table with a complex gallery wall behind it.
Many families place ancestor altars on a shelf. These shelves often include a dish for offerings, pictures, and other religious icons. I’ve also seen tables or shelves next to a bench or chair, so that people who grieve may “sit with” their family.
A spot on your desk, a bookshelf, bedside table--your ancestor altar can fit in any of those spots. It does not need to be big; it just needs the basics, which I will cover later.
I have a large altar table for my practice, but I had to replace one of my altars for the ancestor one. I ended up replacing my Wiccan one (temporarily--the Gods know that this is what I need right now).
While every ancestor altar is different, most contain two basic components: a representation of your ancestors, and an area to give offerings. Let’s dive deeper into these two components.
A Representation of Your Ancestors
There are many ways to represent your ancestors on your altar. The most obvious are pictures. Many necromancers and death workers display pictures of their ancestors, as both a mark of honor and a visualization to aid spirit work.
If you attended that person’s funeral, you might have an order of service (the pamphlet that details the funeral timeline). These often contain a photo or prayer for the deceased. For my ancestor altar, I displayed the order of service for my grandmother’s funeral, which included an Irish prayer.
But you don’t need photos to create an ancestor altar. Family heirlooms are also brilliant ways to portray your ancestry. Do you have a book that’s been passed down? A necklace? A card? Any object that has been passed down to you, through your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, etc. act as family heirlooms.
For my ancestor altar, I had a butterfly pin given by my maternal grandmother and a sliver cup given by my great-grandmother.
But what if you don’t have any family heirlooms? Then look at cultural representations. For example, my grandmother immigrated to America from Ireland, so the Irish blessing acts as a representation of my paternal ancestors. You might have a book in your family’s native language, a doll, a piece of art, or a plate that depicts your cultural heritage.
If you need more ideas, scroll down for several ideas in every category I’ve mentioned.
An Area to Provide Offerings
Offerings are the cornerstone of ancestor work. Even if you’ve never contacted your ancestors before, you can show that you’re thinking about them through offerings. What offerings you give depend on your culture and your practice.
Many death workers provide an area for offerings. For instance, I have a black and white leaf dish for food and herb offerings, and a brown leaf dish for incense. Foods, drinks, and incense are all common offerings for ancestors.
Another idea is to provide a candle. Many people devote a candle to their ancestors and light it whenever they want to honor their family. I have a votive candle to St. Joseph because my Auntie Mary, who was a Catholic nun, was a Sister of St. Joseph. I also have a more general ancestor candle, the one labeled “In Memoriam.”
Here are some ideas for offering areas:
If you need ideas for offerings, consider these:
About Religious Differences
Many people who read my blog have a different faith than their ancestors did. In my case, my ancestors were devoutly Catholic, and I am Wiccan. If this sounds like you, then you might wonder how you can respect both religions during ancestor work.
“Will my ancestors even like me since I practice a different religion?” is one of the most common questions I receive. The short answer is: it depends. Some ancestors will gladly work with you, and others will ignore you until you cater to their religion.
Do not answer this question before your ancestors do. You might assume that they won’t like your craft, and then when you start working with them, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Death provides a different perspective for many souls. Although my grandmother was very Catholic, he happily let me take some graveyard dirt. For him, it was like giving me a sweater for Christmas.
So what does this have to do with ancestor altars? You might want to portray your or your ancestor’s faith on your altar. In my case, I did both. I provided a rosary that I used during my grandfather’s funeral and a St. Joseph votive. But I also included a pentagram to represent myself.
Do not feel as if you have to forfeit your religion for your ancestors. If you have an ancestor who forsakes your beliefs, do not work with them. You are not required to work with every ancestor, and you are not required to ignore your own beliefs or make yourself uncomfortable.
If you want to represent religions on your ancestor altar (this is optional), here are some ideas to do so.
Your Ancestor’s Beliefs:
Including Your Practice
If you are a frequent reader of this blog, then you’re probably a death worker or interested in death witchcraft/necromancy. In this case, you might want to add some magic tools on your ancestor altar. Doing so will aid your spirit work and enhance your connection with those passed.
Before you dump every magic tool on your altar, ask yourself: what do you want to achieve with your ancestors? Do you want to just honor and remember them? If so, you might want to provide some offerings, prayers, or paper to write letters to them. Do you want to practice spirit work? If so, include a divination method and smoke blends to boost your psychic abilities.
Here Are Some Death Witch Supplies to Include on Your Altar:
Stumped? Here’s Where to Start
If you’re building an ancestor altar, then you probably want to work with your ancestors. But where do you start? I always recommend beginning with offerings.
Offerings let your ancestors know that you are thinking of them and want them to be well. Light a candle, provide some incense, give some tea or coffee. As you give these offerings, talk to your ancestors. Tell them that you want to work with them and hope that you can get along.
If you are grieving a lost family member, like I am, spend some time sorting through your emotions. Write a letter to your deceased loved one. Tell them everything you wanted to when they were alive, or how much you miss them in death. You can keep them letter or burn it.
If you’re struggling with intense emotions, try journaling. Set a timer for two minutes, and write down your thoughts and feelings. At the end of the two minutes, take an emotional break. Cry, hug a stuffed animal, smell something soothing--do whatever you need to process these emotions. And when you feel up to it, do this again.
Meditating or praying at your ancestor altar can provide some mental and emotional clarity. Imagine that you’re sitting with your ancestors, just enjoying your time together.
Do you have an ancestor altar? Are ancestors a part of your magic practice? If so, let me know what you do to honor your family. And if I missed anything in this post, remind me in the comments below.
Bones aren’t placed on altars for just aesthetics. Magicians use these bones for spirit work, magic, and divination. One of the most popular uses for bones is osteomancy.
Osteomancy, also called bone throwing, is a form of divination that is interpreted from a tossed bone set. It can provide detailed answers to complex questions, from careers to hobbies to relationships. This attention to detail makes bone throwing my preferred form of divination.
If this interests you, here’s how you can gather a bone set and start divining.
What Is Bone Throwing?
Bone divination has existed for thousands of years. In ancient China, diviners examined shoulder blades, a practice called scapulimancy. During the Shang Dynasty, people burned an ox shoulder blade and divined the cracks in it. Today, people call this pyro-osteomancy.
Evidence of bone divination also stems from Japan, Korea, Northern Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Serbia, and Greece. The form of osteomancy that people know today--which involves tossing sets of bones, shells, rocks, and other materials--likely came from American Hoodoo. In Africa and Asia, diviners would put those materials in a basket, shake them, and then toss them onto a mat or circle.
Gathering Your Bone Set
Gathering bones can be a daunting task. Some people find them in nature, and others buy them from ethically-sourced shops. If you want to gather bones, know that certain countries and U.S. states have laws and regulations against collecting bones. Even some bird feathers are illegal to take. Research your local laws before exploring.
You can also purchase bones from Etsy sellers, antique shops, or taxidermy stores. Most taxidermy stores get their bones from research or university donations as well as personal collections. Some butcher shops sell meat with bones inside. I got my set from a cattle spine that I cut and cleaned.
Along with bones, osteomancy sets also feature other materials. Shells (bones of the sea) and bark (bones of the earth) are common.
Here are some other examples of objects that many diviners include in their sets:
Diviners often include objects that they feel drawn to or have some symbolic meaning in their faith or culture. For simplicity, I’m going to call all the items in an osteomancy set “bones” from now on.
Because osteomancy sets are so varied and personal, it takes a while to curate one. Although there is no limit to the amount of items you can have, I recommend having between four and seven to start. These will give you enough variation to begin practicing.
Assigning Your Bones
Once you have a set of bones and other objects, you will need to assign each a meaning. These meanings vary by set and practitioner. Some diviners draw runes on their bones; some give label each object as a person (woman, man, nonbinary, child); and others give more broad meanings.
As an example, I’ll tell you my bones’ meanings: malice, creativity, career, passion, love, money. I also have seashells that stand for people (male, female, adult, child, etc.). The longer bones in my collection are separators that show which part of your life has a “block.” And finally, the key points to the answer.
Here is a brief list of example meanings, including ones I did not use:
These are just ideas; get creative!
You’re probably wondering, “How do I assign my bones?” This will require a bit of intuition and spirit work. Connect with the bones’s spirits to determine which one means what. The more time you spend “bonding” with the bones, the easier this will be. As a funny example, one of my bones cut me when I was cleaning it. I labeled it as the malice bone.
If you would like help speaking to your bones, check out this post: How to Conduct Spirit Communication with Bones.
How to Cast
Once you’ve assigned your bone set, it’s time to cast. Here are the basics:
How you interpret it depends on your set, the question, and how you cast.
The Many Ways to Interpret Bone
Generally speaking, people interpret the bones by how close they are to each other. For example, if they luck bone and money bone land close to each other, they might be related. Some diviners look at the shape that the bones make and determine an answer from that.
Some people set rules. For instance, I focus on the bones that land within my cloth; the ones outside are not as important to the answer. Others divide their cloth into quadrants and read it that way. I know one diviner whose cloth had butterflies, and the bones near the butterflies have significance to the meaning.
How do you set up these rules? By practicing, of course.
To the average person, a bone throwing reading will look like a pile of junk. The diviner must rely on their intuition and spiritual connection with the set to determine an answer.
Practice and More Practice
As with any form of divination, osteomancy becomes more straightforward the more you practice. The more you cast, the more you’ll have to rely on intuition.
For example, I said earlier that the key in my set points to the answer. But what happens if the key lands outside of the cloth or points at nothing? In that case, I found that the answer might not lie with the question. In other words, the asker might be asking the wrong question or need to think outside of the box.
Performing readings on yourself can be great practice. You can also perform readings for friends or loved ones.
If you have trouble connecting with your bones, spend time with them. Meditate with the bones or keep them nearby while you’re working or studying. Sometimes, spirits attached to bones take a while to open up to a practitioner. Be patient with your set, and you’ll receive helpful answers in return.
Here’s the short version of what you need to do to practice osteomancy:
Do you practice osteomancy, or another form of bone divination? What is your experience? Let me know in the comments below!
In the Middle Ages, many grimoires and religious texts were written by monks. Their apprentices would make the inks, and it was a tedious process. Magicians have been creating inks for centuries.
I’ve always been interested in making my own inks, whether it be for my Book of Shadows or protection symbols or prayers. Recently, I finally tried making my own inks, with varying results. I made two: one for spirit work and another for necromancy.
This post is less instructional and more about my own journey. My recipe is not perfect, but it worked well enough in the end. If you are interested in making magical inks, read on.
My Universal Ink Recipe
When I researched ink recipes online, I found a variety of different recipes with different ingredients and methods. But after trying a few and tinkering with them, I came up with this:
Before you start, here are some other tools that you’ll need:
What Is Gum Arabic, and Do I Need It?
I made my inks for dip pens. These are pens that I dip into ink and draw with. Because of this, I needed thicker ink, hence the four teaspoons of gum arabic. If you are making ink for fountain pens, you should use less gum arabic, around ½ to one teaspoon. Use too much, and your pen could clog.
Also--If you can find liquid gum arabic, get it! I bought it powdered, and it’s hard to stir in. The powder immediately starts thickening the second it touches liquid, and it takes a while to dissolve it. I have not tried the resin, but I imagine that it is not much easier.
It took a few tries for me to find a suitable gum arabic ratio for my ink. The same might happen for you. If you find a different recipe, let me know in the comments below!
Which Ingredients Color the Ink?
Finding the right ingredients to color your ink could be a challenge. As a general rule, if a food, flower, herb, or liquid stains your fingers when you pick it up, it’s good for ink. Here are some examples that I did not include in the recipes below:
If you steep a certain herb or flower, and it creates a specific color, it will also work for ink. Examples include chamomile, peonies, hibiscus, rose, lavender, lily of the valley, and daffodils.
But what about magical associations? After all, the entire point of making magical inks is to make them magical. Here is how I made my own ink recipes:
If you cannot decide which color to choose, check out this post about color magic and correspondence lists.
If you want your ink to have more magic, consider adding incense, graveyard dirt, moon water, tea bags, or herbs. I’ll provide some examples of how I made my own magical inks below.
Red Ink for Spirit Work
My first ink was designed to enhance spirit work. I want to use it to draw protection symbols and summoning circles, and I made it red.
First, I wrote down a list of ingredients that could make ink red: raspberries, turmeric, marigolds, red onion skins, and rooibos tea were some contenders. In the end, I settled on these ingredients:
Specifically, I added one cup of chopped beets, two tablespoons of dried rose petals, and two cones of dragon’s blood incense.
To say that this mixture smelled weird while simmering was an understatement. But it made a deep, purplish red color close to blood, which is what I wanted. After following the recipe I detailed above, here is how it turned out.
It is a light, purplish red color. I have to shake it before using, similar to other inks. If you want to make it more red, perhaps you can add more rose petals than I did.
Black Ink for Necromancy
My next ink was black, and I wanted to gear it toward death witchcraft, specifically. I’m going to use it for necromancy symbols, decorating bones, and writing prayers to my ancestors.
Although there are many ingredients that can create black ink, I settled on charcoal. It is essentially ash and appears dark enough (or so I thought).
After examining many different ingredients, I came up with this list:
As soon as the charcoal blocks hit the water, they disintegrated. Charcoal does not dissolve, but it does “melt” into the water. I only had myrrh incense sticks, so I scraped off the incense into the water. I added two tablespoons of coffee and a tiny bit of graveyard dirt.
The mixture smelled like myrrh, moreso than coffee. To remove most of the charcoal powder, I had to strain the ink a few times. The coffee seemed to dissolve right into the water.
Unfortunately, this ink turned out more brown than black. If I were to do this again, I would use more charcoal. I only used two blocks for this recipe, so in the future, I’ll use four or five. Like the previous ink, I also need to shake it before using.
Would You Create Magical Ink?
What do you think about these magical ink recipes? Do you want to make your own, and if so, for what purpose? Do you have a better recipe than me? This was my first time making inks, and I have a long way to go. Let me know what you think in the comments below.
In the early 5th century, St. Augustine of Hippo wrote a theological essay against Paganism called On the Divination of Demons. In it, he proposed the argument that all Pagan Gods are actually demons in disguise.
If you have not heard of St. Augustine, you should know that he kickstarted many arguments for Christianity. He was born 40 years after Rome officially became Christian, although most of the Empire was still Pagan at this time. Augustine’s mother was Christian and his father was Pagan, so he understood both sides. He wrote many philosophical arguments for Christianity, his largest being The City of God.
In On the Divination of Demons, Augustine fought back against the assertion that a Pagan Oracle predicted the invasion of Serapis's temple. He argued that Gods did not speak to this Oracle; demons did.
[3.7] The demons have also gained, through the long span through which their life is extended, a far greater experience of events than humans can attain, since their lives are brief. Through these capacities, which the nature of an aerial body is allotted, the demons not only predict many things to come, but also do many wonders. Since men cannot say and do these things, some judge them worthy of their service and the bestowal of divine honors, especially under the impulsion of the vice of curiosity, on account of their love of false felicity and of earthly, temporal excellence.
As a side note, Augustine also argued that future predictions were not impressive because circus performers also do things that he couldn’t understand.
[4.8] How many marvelous things have funambulists and the other theatrical specialists done? How many marvelous things have artisans and especially contrivers made? Are they really then better than men who are good and endowed with holy piety?
I’m not trying to undermine St. Augustine’s intelligence, but I laughed so hard when I read that he compared acrobatics to accurately foreseeing an invasion.
Regardless, the idea that Pagan deities are actually demonic pervades through Christian literature. We see it in sermons, theology, Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost. It is no wonder, then, that many people fear that messages from Pagan deities are actually demonic in origin.
Can Spirits Impersonate Deities?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is it depends on your method, experience level, and knowledge of the situation.
If you do not know how to fact-check the messages you are receiving, you are prone to deceit. If you are not used to the deity’s signs or how They speak, you are prone to deceit. And if you do not know which red flags to look out for, you are prone to deceit.
I find that people most often encounter this with divination. Divination is one of the best ways to contact a spirit or deity, and it is easy to fact-check by asking the same questions over and over. But if you do not know how to do that, then a spirit can easily take over your pendulum/cards/whatever divination tool.
That said, not all shocking or disturbing messages stem from malicious spirits. Sometimes, people just misinterpret signs. If a practitioner is stressed, anxious, angry, etc., they can mistake these strong emotions for intuition or divine signals. I’ve seen it happen even in practitioners with 10+ years of experience.
People often ask me if they need protection spells to contact a deity. No, you do not. I always recommend spiritual protection for people who are interested in magic, because it is better to be safe than sorry. But you don’t need a spell to know who you’re talking to; you just need to know the signs.
Red Flags to Watch For
While you are trying to communicate with a deity, watch out for these red flags. Regular readers might recognize some of these from my malicious spirits post. That is not a coincidence.
How to Guarantee That You’re Speaking to a Deity
Depending on your situation, you can try one or more of these techniques to fact-check the concerning message.
Although it is possible for a spirit to pose as a deity, it is not common. If you reach out to a deity, you more likely receive a response from Them. If you want to learn how deities can contact you, check this post.
St. Augustine made an intelligent philosophical argument in On the Divination of Demons. However, I believe that he is wrong. Pagan deities are not demons in disguise, for two reasons: