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.
In the Book of Luke, an angel appeared before shepherds and said “Do not be afraid.” Logically, there is no reason to be afraid--angels usually bring glad tidings. But they are also intimidating because of their unfathomable knowledge and power.
Pagan Gods are the same way. They are comforting, enlightening, and honest; but They are also overwhelming. Seven years into my faith, I still feel afraid when I contact (or even consider contacting) a deity whom I’ve never worked with before.
If you feel this way, you’re not alone. I often receive questions such as, “What do I say when I pray to Them?” or “What if I do something wrong?”
Recently, I have pondered all of these questions while building a relationship with the Egyptian God Thoth. So I’m going to run through the process with you: choosing a deity, studying, and beginning your relationship.
How to Choose a Deity
“How do I decide which deity to work with?” is probably the most common question in the Pagan realm. The short answer is: Whoever you want. But I’ll address some concerns that many people have.
I have met many people who stress over worshipping a God and Goddess, or “matron and patron.” This stems from a Wiccan tradition--or rather, some peoples’ interpretation of a Wiccan tradition (see: How Do Other Deities Fit into Wicca?). If you do not subscribe to Wicca or this idea, do not feel pressured to work with two deities.
Many are interested in deities that represent an interest or hobby, such as art, sun/moon, education, or the home. This can work for some people; for instance, I first reached out to Thoth for writing advice. But you and your deity do not need to have the same interests.
Some people feel drawn to certain deities, and they don’t know why. I’ve had several people message me saying, “I feel drawn to Hades, but I have no interest in death work!” which is exactly how I felt when Hades reached out to me.
Gods and Goddesses are more complex than They seem on the surface. For instance, Hades is the Lord of the Underworld; but if you research Him further, you’ll find that He governs wealth, seasons, fertility of the land, gems, mourning, and justice. Perhaps those aspects will impact worshippers later on.
Over all, if you feel drawn to a deity, shoot your shot. You don’t need to have a reason to like a certain deity. Try the relationship and see where it goes. If it doesn’t work out, don’t fret; some deities are only in our lives for a short time.
One more thing: I highly recommend working with one new deity at a time, especially for beginners. Tackling a few Gods or an entire pantheon at once can get overwhelming.
What to Study Before Working with the Deity
Before you start giving offerings or setting up an altar, study your chosen deity. After all, you need to know what your deity prefers for Their offerings or altar.
By “study,” I’m not just talking about the myths (although those can be useful). Research how the ancients worshipped that deity. What offerings did that deity receive? Did They pop up during certain holidays? Did certain cults or occupations worship Them? Usually, the ancients did not view the deity as we perceive Them through mythology today.
One of the simplest ways to understand how the ancients worshipped that deity is through epithets. Epithets are a word or phrase that describes a certain quality of that deity. Some of Thoth’s epithets include ”He who drives away evil” and “He who created purification,” which tells me that He governs protection and cleansing.
Another method is through art. In ancient Egypt, ancients painted certain deities in specific colors. All of those colors had different meanings. Often, art also portrayed deities with an animal or object that was sacred to Them.
As you research, you might notice that some things do not translate to the modern age. For instance, Hades worshippers are not sacrificing black goats anymore. If this stumps you, look into modern worship. Pagans often talk about how they worship deities on blogs and social media accounts. You might gain some inspiration there.
One last thing. While researching, you might notice that cultures and countries all worship deities in a certain way. You must ensure that you are working with a deity with regard to Their culture. This is called appropriate worship. For instance, I wouldn’t worship Thoth in the same way I do Hades, because They are from different cultures.
How to Conduct an Introduction Ritual
Deities are like new friends: you need to build a relationship with Them, even if you are just working with Them and not worshipping. Immediately jumping into demands is rude. Because of this, I recommend an introduction ritual.
Although the word “ritual” might sound solemn and serious, it really isn’t. This ritual can be casual and lighthearted; you don’t have to use “thees” and “thous” if you don’t want to.
The introduction ritual has two main components: an offering and a prayer. By now, you should have learned about appropriate offerings through your research. If you need a foolproof offering, consider lighting a candle. It works for almost any deity. If you do not know how to give offerings, see Offerings for Deities: the Basics.
After giving the offering, begin the prayer. You do not need to recite a prewritten prayer (unless you want to). You can say it in your head, write it down, mutter it, or even sing it. Whatever feels the most comfortable.
If you don’t know what to include in the prayer, here are some ideas:
For more examples, see: If You’re Struggling with Pagan Prayer, Read This.
Many have asked how to end a prayer, or whether to use “Amen” or “Blessed be.” You do not need a sign-off like that if you would feel uncomfortable reciting it. A simple “Thank You for Your time” is good enough. You could also press your hands together, bow, or blow out the candle. These small actions might make the ritual’s ending feel more final.
If you want to conduct divination, feel free to do so. You likely will not receive a grand revelation from the deity, like a vision or voice in your head. Instead, the signs might be more subtle, such as a high candle flame or a meaningful song appearing on your playlist. If you’d like more examples, read Is It a Sign? Interpreting Messages from Deities.
If you are feeling so nervous that you can’t focus, try meditating for a few minutes beforehand. Or, wait until you feel calmer to conduct the ritual.
Also, here is an important tip: do NOT make any oaths, devotions, or swearings yet. You’ll want to make sure that you get along with this deity before becoming a devotee or something similar.
How Do You Know If You Do Something Wrong?
If you’re like me, you might be worried about doing something wrong. Nobody gets worship right on the first try. What if They don’t want to talk to you again? Or what if They end up not liking you?
In my experience, it’s pretty difficult to irritate a deity as long as you’re respectful. I’ve spilled offerings, screwed up a candle so the wick wouldn’t burn, and accidentally caught stuff on fire during rituals before (always keep a water bowl nearby!) None of those incidents broke my relationship with the Gods.
That being said, some Gods might prefer not to work with you. Or more likely, They want to work with you, but They prefer that you do certain things.
If you do something “wrong”--say, you give an offering that They don’t like, or you call Them something They don’t appreciate--you might get this “off” feeling. For example, I call Hades “Lord Hades” quite often. But when I used the title “Lord” with other deities like Zephyrus and Thoth, They didn’t like it.
When this happens, simply correct your behavior. In my case, I said, “oh my bad, I won’t call You that anymore.” Mistakes like these are not make-or-break scenarios. If you continue to act in a way that a God doesn’t appreciate, out of spite or disinterest, then you might have a problem.
If you constantly think “I’ve done something wrong” throughout the ritual, you might be too anxious. Our minds can overtake our spiritual sense when we feel powerful emotions. Take a break, work through your feelings, and try again.
Some Tips to Remember
How do you feel about working with a new deity? Did I miss anything? 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.
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. You can also add it to salves, oils, or baths. Dipping a candle in it (not the wick!) and letting it dry might enhance a candle spell. Add a tiny bit to dampen your herbal smoking blend should you want to go hedgecrossing or divine.
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!
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.
On the first week of every month, I ask my subscribers if they have any questions for me. These questions can be about witchcraft, Paganism, or anything else. This week, my subscribers sent me some brilliant questions about haunted objects, deity work, and graveyard dirt. If you're interested to learn, read on!
Have any advice on working with Haunted Objects? Some spirits attach themselves to dolls, furniture, family heirlooms, etc. Not all of them negative entities either.
Haunted objects are a complex topic because attitudes towards them vary basic on culture, location, and folklore.
To start, it is possible to bind certain spirits to objects. Binding is when you force a spirit into a certain location where they cannot escape. Traditional witchcraft features many spells binding spirits to crystals, rings, boxes, and more.
However, haunted objects are not necessarily the result of binding. A spirit might simply be attached to that object; it might hold special memory for them, or they might like to tag along with it. Ignore stories from movies like The Conjuring that say spirits haunt objects to possess humans. If a spirit really wanted to possess you, they wouldn’t need an object to do it.
If a haunted object is bothering you, place some soothing or protective items near it. When I set out jars of graveyard dirt, I’ll keep rose petals, lavender, or selenite near them, which calms the spirits enough to not talk to me every time I walk by. Protective symbols like the evil eye or sator square can be placed next to a haunted object to prevent it from moving.
If this doesn’t work, then the spirit might not be attached to that object. It’s just hanging around. On the bright side, the object is still a direct link to that spirit. Connect to the object’s energies, provide an offering, and perform divination. You’ll likely receive some information from that spirit.
Hope this helps!
What are some tips you would give to a person who just started working with a deity?
Also, the more you practice, the less nervous you’ll feel. Even after 13 years in this community, I still get anxious when I add a new deity to my worship. As you work with Them, you’ll learn how They communicate, what They like, and what They don’t like. Gods are forgiving; I have never heard of a deity throwing someone to the curb for getting an offering wrong.
Since the Gods are patient and forgiving with you, you should also act that way toward yourself. Give yourself time to learn. If a deity doesn’t respond right away, don’t fret. Relationships take time. The more you work, the more comfortable you’ll feel.
I've always felt drawn to bones, death and Hades and I've been starting to feel drawn to spring and rebirth since a few months. Here's the problem: as much as I am a spiritual person, I'm not religious. I don't believe in any kind of Gods or Goddesses, but I am drawn to their symbolism that is very important to me. Can you be an atheist wiccan or an atheist pagan? Thank you in advance.
Perhaps you can work with archetypes. I know people who work with Death as a figure to guide their death witchcraft. I also know people who use Pagan symbols--including runes, the pentagram, and the eye of Ra--without being religious. Certain belief systems, such as animism, focus on spirits instead of Gods.
Whether these terms fit you or not, remember that you do not need a label for your Craft. You can work with what you want, believe in what you want, and not have a term for it. Perhaps the term you’re looking for will come with time.
I know that, when you take dirt from a graveyard, you're supposed to ask the dead. How would I go about asking them? Should I leave an offering too? If so, what are good offerings? And finally, should I ask the living (the workers) before I take it?
These are very good questions.
I recommend familiarizing yourself with a cemetery first. Do you feel drawn to any particular spot? If so, start there.
Give offerings when and where you can. Sometimes, a spirit will attempt to speak with you when you provide an offering. Other times, you will need to sit by a grave for a while. I wrote more about this here: How to Commune with Spirits While in a Graveyard.
I was going to link an “offerings to the dead” post, but then I realized: I don’t have one! I will need to add that to my blog post schedule. For now, here is a brief list of offerings:
When you want to ask for graveyard dirt, simply ask, “May I use some dirt from your grave for ___?” It can be spirit work, healing the dead, protection, etc. If they say yes, you’ll know--you’ll feel the approval. If you sense something wrong, don’t collect it. And if you cannot tell what you feel, wait. You might need to come back or talk to the spirit more.
You do not need to ask the cemetery workers beforehand. Usually, people only take about a handful or two of dirt, which does not upset the graveyard. Do not bring a shovel, and do not take any grave items with you. Only grab what you need, and put it in a plastic bag. When you get home, find a sealed container like a glass jar or mason jar.
For more information, you might want to check out what I keep in my death witch travel altar.
Do You Have Questions?
Do you have any more questions? Did I not explain something well, or would you like more information? If so, comment below. And if you would like to participate in the next Answering Asks, subscribe!
On the 2021 spring equinox, my husband and I were standing in line (six feet apart from everyone) in the Long Beach Sun. We were behind two friends with very distinct laughs, across the street from a university’s florist department, and next to an ice cream seller in a tux ringing a bell. Eventually, we got into the Long Beach Antique Market.
This market had around 500 sellers of thrift items and antiques. With $200 in $20s, I was specifically looking for altar and witchcraft items. And I was not let down. I got everything from dried plants to altar decor to animal bones.
Many people ask me about witchcraft on a budget. If you’re reading this, then you probably know how expensive some magic tools and metaphysical shops are. But everyone can practice magic with little to no money. To prove it, I’ve made a list of witchcraft and Pagan supplies that you can buy at thrift shops, antique stores, and flea markets.
These items are divided into four categories: spell ingredients, witchcraft tools, altar items, and storage. You’ll find some crossover; for instance, the vials that I mention in Storage are also decorating my altar. At the end, I’ll show you how much you can decorate an altar with thrifted supplies.
These are items that you can potentially use in spells.
These include divination tools, books, and other items that you might use for spells, but not in them.
Whether you are religious or not, you can put some of these items on your altar.
These include jars, shelves, and other materials to store your magic supplies when not using them.
Building Altars with Thrifted Items
When I got back from the Long Beach Antique Market, I challenged myself to decorate my altars using mainly thrifted supplies. It was easier than I expected; at least 70% of each altar was bought secondhand.
If this looks like a lot of supplies, remember that I’ve been practicing for over ten years. I’ve visited a lot of antique stores and gathered supplies over time. Not all of these were from the Antique Market.
I have three altars, all on my dresser. I will name all of the items on each that were thrifted.
Altar #1: Wiccan Altar
Thrifted items: the Goddess statue, teapot, both pink bowls, amethyst grapes, opal apple, books, white vase, dried eucalyptus, air plant and its holder.
Altar #2: Death Witchcraft Altar
Thrifted items: coyote skull, glass vial (holding cemetery water), perfume bottle (holding spirit oil), pink container (holding graveyard dirt), black offering bowl.
Altar #3: Hades Altar
Thrifted Items: mythology book, glass jar with bone, black frame, coyote skull, green glass bottles, dried plants, amber medicine bottle.
Did I Miss Anything?
Do you go thrift shopping for magic supplies? What have you bought? Did I miss any items? Let me know in the comments below!
Back in May 2020, I wrote a post about planning my interfaith Pagan and Christian wedding. A few of my readers pitched in with ideas about how I can incorporate both religions or shared struggles with their own weddings. I never revealed what we did or how it went to the readers who spent time helping me.
Today, I’m going to cover what we actually did, rather than ideas of what we could do. Hopefully, this will give people ideas for their own wedding or another celebration where you need to combine religions. My husband and I made the ceremony as religiously-neutral as possible, not explicitly leaning toward Christianity or Paganism. If that sounds interesting, read on.
Also, because this is a Pagan blog, I’m going to focus on how I subtly incorporated Pagan aspects into the wedding.
All wedding photos are from Emily Saenz. You can find her on Instagram @heyemilysaenz or her website.
Making the Handfasting Cords
The first part, which I did not cover in the last post, was making the handfasting cords. While you can buy cords online, I wanted to make my own. I created four cords to represent the elements earth, fire, air, and water. The colors and designs of the ribbons reflect those. If you want a tutorial on making handfasting cords, let me know in the comments.
I also put charms on the cords that represent both faiths. Every cord had two charms, one on each end. Here is what I put on:
The Religiously Vague Ceremony
As I mentioned in the previous post, my husband and I wanted a short, “non-denominational” ceremony. We wanted the ceremony to be about us, not about religion. On the bright side, we did not need to plan much for this. The officiate takes care of it--who, in this case, was my grandmother.
We told my grandmother that we wanted a brief history about handfasting and why we chose it. She then chose a spiritual quote from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran which she thought reflected us. (Good thing she studied psychology and religion!)
During the ceremony, the officiate explained our reasons for the handfasting. Then, my parents and the groom’s parents each tied a cord. This symbolized both families coming together. While they tied the cords, the officiate recited the quote.
After, we removed the cords and recited our personal vows. We then exchanged rings, and viola! The ceremony is done and we get to party.
A Memorial for the Dead
Just by reading the title of this blog, you’ll understand that I work with the dead. Honoring ancestors is important to me, especially family members who were not there to celebrate my wedding. One was my grandfather, husband of the officiate.
I wanted a way to commemorate the dead. Some people weddings provide photos of the deceased, but we did not have time. Because of the uncertainty with the pandemic, we confirmed with our venue about two months prior and had to rush some things.
Instead, I purchased a memorial plaque from ThePaintedHedge. It came with a candle to light in honor of the dead. Next to it, I wrote down the names of the deceased family members and put it in a frame.
This memorial stood next to the sweetheart table during the reception. People seemed to appreciate it, especially my grandmother.
Because our ceremony was religiously vague, I found personal ways to express my Wiccan beliefs. One was jewelry. Long before the wedding, I had purchased formal Pagan jewelry from the Etsy shop Sheekydoodle. Check them out if you want something similar.
For the necklace, I chose the simple pearls with the pentagram. It complemented the simple wedding dress without overpowering. I also wore a hair comb in the symbol of the Goddess. Not to get all Wiccan on you, but marriage tends to be an obvious marker of the transition from maidenhood to adulthood. Since the Goddess has undergone all stages of life and holds our hands through change, I wanted Her there with me. This hairpiece is from Ayreeworks.
I also brought two sets of prayer beads. Initially, I was not going to do this. About a month before the wedding, I worked with my therapist on preventing “wedding amnesia.” This is when the bride or groom feels so stressed and rushed that they forget most of the day. In other words, it was something that I absolutely did not want.
My therapist recommended that I could practice mindfulness by holding something. Whenever I felt anxious, I could focus on the object’s texture or appearance. This slows down the mind and gives it time to develop memories. She asked if I had any religious object to hold, and I brought up my prayer beads.
The first is a pair of Wiccan selenite beads from Sheekydoodle (same as the necklace). I clung to these while getting ready, when my nerves were highest. It really helped to ground me--that plus planning plenty of downtime and walking outside every so often.
The second pair were my Hades prayer beads from Hearthfire Handworks, whom I highly recommend. I wore them around my wrist during the ceremony and reception. As a Hades devotee, I wanted Him to be involved with the ceremony somehow, even if I was the only one who noticed.
And yes, these methods worked. I remember almost everything from my wedding day.
The Bouquet and Other Small Aspects
While I was planning the wedding, I asked some friends on a Pagan discord server how I could incorporate more of my faith into the wedding. People mentioned the flowers, which was a great idea! But by that point, I had already settled the florals and could not change them.
My friends then asked what I had planned. My florist, Molly Zager, brilliantly incorporated artichokes into the bouquet. Jesse from Tea with the Gods mentioned that artichoke is an aphrodisiac, an unexpected symbol of Aphrodite. That worked out!
On top of that, the bouquet was green and purple. I chose these colors because I enjoyed them, and I did not expect people to connect them to Hera. The Goddess of marriage is commonly represented with a peacock--purple and green! I really enjoyed this accidental connection and used it as a springboard to start working with Hera.
Now, I want to mention some other things that I neglected in the previous post.
The venue was one of the few wedding aspects that I refused to budge on. I loved Sacred Mountain. It was in a town that my husband and I used to camp at before we got engaged. Plus, it was quite literally on a mountain. Both of us wanted a lot of trees and greenery; getting married in nature was a must for me. Grass, wind, and trees bring us closer to deities than churches, in my opinion.
Our circle arch had some symbolism. This came with the venue, but it reflects the magic circle that is often cast during Wiccan weddings. We did not cast a circle during the ceremony, but we did have a circle arch covered in florals.
Lanterns also came with the venue and were incorporated into our decor. The bridesmaids carried white lanterns filled with flowers, and after the ceremony, these were reused as centerpieces. It saved money and gave off a “witchy” feel.
Other Ideas That We Did Not Incorporate
What Do You Think?
Would you incorporate any of these ideas into a wedding? Or do you prefer a split ceremony with both Christian and Pagan rituals? Let me know in the comments below!