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!
I talk a lot about healing the dead in death witchcraft, and today, we’re going to cover some spells that help people do that. These three spells are specifically designed for honoring and emotionally assuaging the dead.
As regular readers know, I tend to pull my magic from ancient sources -- the Greek Magical Papyri, ancient Egyptian Coffin Spells, and first-hand accounts of Irish folklore from the University of Dublin, among others. I take (what we know of) these sources and reconstruct them into a modern spell. Here, I’m going to do the same thing while detailing my process.
For some of these ingredients, I listed potential substitutions. The correspondence list is at the end of the post. If you’re wondering why certain substitutions work, or why I used these ingredients, check the bottom of the post.
Offerings Made From Graveyard Dirt And Honey
Essentially, you are going to take graveyard dirt and dried herbs and bind them into tiny balls with honey. You can place these offerings in cemeteries or on graves.
First, grind all of your ingredients with a mortar and pestle. Lay them out on a paper towel, and use the honey to glue them into tiny balls. Your hands will get sticky.
Leave then on a paper towel to dry. I recommend keeping them in a plastic bag with little air so they won’t fall apart. These make convenient, subtle offerings for cemetery spirits.
Spirit Work Oil For Necromancy
Oil blends have been used in magic and funerary practices for centuries. From embalming corpses in ancient Egypt to applying flying ointments in medieval witchcraft, oils have a long list of uses. Many are also used for spirit work.
Here, I took influence from Abramelin Oil. This ceremonial anointing oil has a long magic history, from ancient Judaism to the Golden Dawn to Aleistor Crowley’s Thelema. Since I am not a part of any of those traditions, I changed the recipe to better suit death work.
I kept the base of olive oil, myrrh, and cinnamon, because all of these ingredients have strong connections to necromancy (see the correspondence list at the end of this post). Instead of cassia and galanga, I compiled some other herbs commonly used in death witchcraft. I also added some graveyard dirt, since I found that it boosts the power of any spirit work oil I make.
Here's what you'll need:
I ground the dried herbs in a mortar and pestle before adding them to the container. After, I included the graveyard dirt, cinnamon oil, and olive oil. As I made it, I gave a substantial offering to the dead (mainly the soul who offered the dirt) through candle light and burnt herbs.
Then, I placed the oil on Hades’s altar for blessing. I kept it there for three days, giving Him an offering each night. You don’t have to do this, but I found that divine blessing empowers my oils so much more.
This oil can be added to water for scrying, consecrate tools, applied topically for spirit sense (in small doses), or given as an offering. In the next spell, I’m going to use the oil to anoint a candle.
Some have asked whether you need to strain the oil. Since we’re not using this oil for cooking or hygiene products like soap, you don’t need to strain it. However, you should seal it in an airtight container and watch for any mold, just like any other infused oil.
Healing Candle Spell for the Dead
I don’t think that I need to provide any historical reference for this spell. Candles have been used to honor the dead for a millennia.
Here, think of a specific soul that you want to heal or honor in some way. I recommend getting an item that links to that person, such as their graveyard dirt, a photo, or a belonging. If all else fails, carve their name onto the candle before anointing it.
Grind the dried herbs with a mortar and pestle, and lay them out on a paper towel. Anoint your candle with the oil; I used a Q-tip for this. After the candle is covered in oil, roll it on the dried herbs. They should stick to the candle. Place the candle near the soul’s object and light it.
As with any candle spell, watch the flame! This spell tends to create a very high flame (which is good; that means it’s effective). If the dried herbs catch fire, it might grow too big to blow out. Keep some water around just in case.
Why I Chose These Ingredients
** These herbs can be toxic in large amounts. Do not use while pregnant or if you have seizures.
These Related Posts That Might Help
Do you have spells to heal the deceased? Would you have used a different ingredient or method? Let me know in the comments below.
Pluto’s Gate was a cave that led deep underground, surrounded by bubbling hot springs. Priests would lead animals into the cave as offerings. Onlookers heard the animals panic before a loud thud, and the priest would drag out a dead cow, goat, or lamb. Birds that landed on the cave would eventually suffocate and die. Only priests could enter, and when they did, they experienced visions of the Underworld and the dead.
It’s no wonder why people assumed that this cave led to the Underworld. But in 2013, Italian archaeologists found another explanation. The nearby hot springs emitted toxic gases, specifically CO₂, which made up 91% of the air in the cave. This much CO₂ is deadly and causes vivid hallucinations.
Although Pluto’s Gate has a scientific explanation, it still portrays a universal trope in folklore: real-life locations that lead to the land of the dead. Some cultures call this the Otherworld, Heaven, Hell, or afterlife; I’m going to use the term “Underworld” for simplicity.
There are many other locations that are said to connect to the Underworld, where witches and magicians can more easily speak to the dead. I am going to cover many of these locations here, and how you can use them.
Crossroads are commonly known as a “thin place” where ghosts, faeries, witches, the Devil, and other spirits appear. You can find stories of the crossroads in Denmark, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Brazil, and the Kingdom of Kongo. In spirit work, crossroads are so prevalent that the ancient Greeks dedicated a Goddess to them--Hecate.
Some rituals require people to visit the crossroads at certain times, such as at night or on All Hallow’s Eve. Whenever the magician arrived, they usually performed divination. Crossroads were said to connect people to ghosts and tell magicians when people will die.
According to Welsh folklore, if you stand in a crossroads and listen to the wind in the trees, you will hear the names of people who will die. People in the Scottish Highlands would sit on a three-legged stool and wait for ghosts to whisper these names into their ears. In Denmark, practitioners made a triangle with their horse cart and called a ghost by name. They could then ask the ghost three questions.
Because of its associations with the afterlife, crossroads often appeared in funeral processions. In Finland and Wales, the deceased was carried across crossroads during the funeral to protect it against witchcraft and prevent the spirit from haunting the living.
Nowadays, many people visit crossroads to practice spirit work, especially in traditional witchcraft and Hoodoo. Many leave offerings for spirits at crossroads, while others go there to practice divination. Some say that you can dispose of spell ingredients at crossroads, while others go there to perform certain spells, such as hedgecrossing and traveling to the Underworld.
Cemeteries and Graveyards
We all knew that cemeteries and graveyards would be on the list, but I have to mention them. Many, many cultures speak of ghosts that walk around in cemeteries. In ancient cemeteries, everything from the iron gates to the type of trees planted were meant to prevent the dead from haunting the living (see: Trees in Cemeteries).
In traditional necromancy, otherwise known as reanimation necromancy, practitioners aimed to put a person’s soul back into their body. According to authors such as Ebenezer Sibly, necromancers needed a fresh body to do this, usually no older than three days. The necromancers would approach the corpse at sunset, midnight, or on a full moon. They would cast a circle, light (usually poisonous) incense, and perform rituals to reanimate the body and speak to it.
Most people do not practice this anymore because (1) digging into a grave is illegal, (2) entering cemeteries at night is usually illegal, and (3) it’s just flat-out disrespectful to the deceased.
Instead of performing necromancy at cemeteries, modern-day practitioners go there to collect graveyard dirt, speak with local spirits, clean graves, and give offerings. I’ve covered these topics already in these posts: Magical Uses for Graveyard Dirt and How to Commune with Spirits While in a Graveyard.
As you could probably tell by the Pluto’s Gate story, caves are often linked to the Underworld. After all, many of the ancients believed that the Underworld was literally right under their feet. Necropoles, graves, and burial sites were all underground--as are caves.
Stories of caves leading to the afterlife date back to ancient Babylon. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh entered a cave on Mount Mashu to cross the Sea of Death and enter Paradise. Across the world, the Mayans performed religious rituals in caves along the Yucatan Peninsula, believing that they connected to the Underworld. When a person was born, they emerged from the Underworld; when they died, they returned to it.
One thing to note is that, in most cultures, caves are perceived as dangerous, not just physically but spiritually. People who entered the Underworld were unlikely to return. In Ireland, caves were not only houses for ghosts, but for fae. The ancients warned children not to go near caves, or else they could get kidnapped by the fae. In England, people carved “anti-witch” marks into caves to prevent witchcraft, many of which still exist today. Because these spiritual sites were so risky, the only people who inhabited them were shamans, priests, or oracles.
Although records upon records of folklore associate caves with the Underworld, modern practitioners do not use caves as much. Certain caves see practitioners arrive for a ritual, but other than that, not many people use caves for magic.
In Germany, Russia, France, Italy, and many other countries, bridges are viewed as a “thin place” that ghosts frequent. Most often, the bridges that attracted practitioners were called Devil’s Bridges. These stone arch bridges had an unusual shape, and the ancients claimed that the Devil himself built it.
Some believed that witches and other magical practitioners would cross bridges during the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt was a procession of spirits from ghosts to fae that occurred many times throughout the year, usually around Yule. Because bridges are seen as routes to the Otherworld, many people use them for hedgecrossing or astral projection.
If you’re familiar with Greek mythology, then you know about the river Styx carrying souls into the Underworld. But the Greeks were not the only culture who associated rivers with the afterlife. In Japanese Buddhism, souls have to cross the Sanzu River to reach the afterlife. The ancient Egyptian Underworld, Duat, included rivers similar to real-life Egypt. In some traditions, Mesopotamian Underworld, Kur, also had a river.
Now, rivers leading to the Underworld (like Styx) and rivers in the Underworld (like the other four rivers in Hades) are two very different things. Nonetheless, a lot of people associate rivers with the realm of the dead. Many who have hedgecrossed to the afterlife describe rivers, and I knew one death witch who used her bath to travel to the afterlife.
Unlike other locations on this list, Underworld rivers were not usually equated with real-life locations, like the Nile. They were deemed to be entirely different rivers, possibly similar or identical to the physical world, but in another realm.
That has not stopped people from experiencing hauntings around rivers, especially in the U.S., where many rivers were sites of Civil War battles. You might have some luck connecting to ghosts by rivers; at the very least, you will meet local land spirits there.
In many cultures, rainbows connect the living to the dead. From Germany to Hawai’i to Australia, many cultures viewed rainbows as a way to connect humans to spirits and Gods.
In terms of deceased souls, folklore from Austria and Germany said that children’s souls ascended to Heaven through the rainbow. Unborn children also reached the afterlife through a rainbow serpent, according to Australian Aboriginal mythology.
Nowadays, the rainbow holds many other meanings, from gay rights to miracles to God’s promise after the flood. Some practitioners perform certain religious and spiritual rituals during rainbows, or use the symbol of the rainbow in their work. Others gather rainwater when a rainbow appears, believing that deceased loved ones send them a rainbow to let them know that they’re okay.
Other Notable Locations
While I was researching, I came across some other locations that are associated with ghosts, mainly through urban legends. There is not enough information for these to have a full section, but I want to include them because they’re interesting.
Many ancient civilizations perceived real-life locations as connecting to the Underworld, including caves, rivers, rainbows, and bridges. These places were known as a “thin place” where people can more easily sense ghosts.
Modern practitioners can use this to their advantage by performing divination there, giving offerings to local spirits, or gathering tools from there such as graveyard dirt.
Is there any location that you associate with the dead? Or do you go somewhere to practice your Craft? Let me know in the comments below!
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:
In 2007, researchers from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, tested how color influences pain. They set up participants to feel mild electric shocks. Before shocking them, they showed the participants one of six colors. When participants saw the color red, they felt more pain than when they saw green or blue. It makes sense; many people associate red with burning, bleeding, or inflammation.
During a later study in 2016, French scientists found that color has a physiological effect on people. Participants who stared at red had higher testosterone levels, and they tended to feel more dominance and arousal.
It is no secret that color affects us emotionally, psychologically, and physically. Color is important in every system of magic, no matter where or when it comes from. That is why color magic posts are so popular...and why so many of them are wrong.
The Fault of Color Correspondence Lists
If you look up almost any witchcraft website or book, you will find correspondence lists. These lists are meant to be easy resources for people to glance at when they need it. As a result, most of these associate colors with single nouns. For example, you might see the color “red” with correspondences such as “fire,” “sex,” “passion,” and so on.
But these lists only scratch the surface of what colors mean and how they affect us. I’m willing to bet that the two studies I cited earlier told you more about red than any of the correspondence words in the previous paragraph.
To be clear, I’m not trying to start beef with people who create color correspondence lists. These lists can be great starting points to inspire people and get them thinking about color. But what I am saying is that, in magic, color has so many associations that further research is imperative.
Colors Have Contradictory Meanings
Pop quiz: what is the most common wedding dress color?
If you live in the U.S. or Europe, you probably answered white. If you hail from China or India, you probably said red. And if you’re familiar with wedding culture, you probably said that dresses came in a variety of colors until Queen Victoria popularized white in 1840.
But this question isn’t about the wedding industry. I’m trying to point out that every culture has a different association with colors. And depending on the culture you reference, you might find that a color means more than you think it does.
Let’s return to white. Many people who grew up in a Christian household end up associating white with purity. But if you lived in China, you would find that white is commonly associated with death. White chrysanthemums frequently appear on caskets, and some people even wear white to funerals (not often, but it does happen). Meanwhile, Finnish folklore says that seeing a white animal--especially albino--is an omen of death.
You might say, “But isn’t black the color of death?” In many cultures, yes. If you’ve seen ancient Egyptian art, you’ve probably noticed that chthonic deities (including Anubis and Thoth) are portrayed with black bodies. But in the same culture, black is associated with fertility because the Nile banks turned black when they became moist. In fact, one of Egypt’s nicknames was Kemet, meaning “the black land.” That’s two seemingly contradictory meanings within the same civilization.
When I look at color correspondence lists, few take culture or religion into account. You have no idea which culture the author is from. You can only assume that, wherever they’re from, red means “passion.”
Even Emotionally, Colors Have Different Meanings
When I look up color correspondences, I often see people cite emotional implications of colors. For example, many people will say that the color blue is calming because of its associations with water. Several psychology studies have reported on color’s emotional associations, and even they have come across mixed results.
Remember that 2007 study I mentioned where seeing red resulted in more pain? You might be surprised to learn that a different study recorded the healing powers of red. In 1996, researchers gave participants placebo painkiller pills of different colors. Warm-colored pills ended up working better than cool-colored pills.
On top of that, each color created a different effect. When participants took a blue or green placebo pill, they felt more calm and tired. But red, orange, and yellow pills were more stimulating.
The contradictory meanings of colors do not work against magic; they work for it. Depending on the spell, a red candle can heal someone, seduce a partner, or curse an enemy. The power stems from the practitioner and how they use it.
Create Your Own Correspondence List
.Before I continue, I want to shout out my friend Lumi who gave me the advice that I’m about to tell you (and for just being fantastic). If you want to learn more about color or art magic, visit her Instagram @artbylumi or her Tumblr @artwitchpath.
To kickstart your color magic journey, create your own correspondence list. With paint, pens, or whatever medium you prefer, jot down every color of the rainbow. I recommend doing different shades too, as light green and dark green could mean different things to you.
Do not worry about folklore or magic yet. Just write down what you think of when you see that color. Is it calming? Scary? Do you associate colors with certain deities or seasons? Approach this as an intuitive writing exercise.
If you need help starting, check out this Instagram poll that I put on my story this week (@death.witch.envy). This is what my followers had to say about certain color associations.
Do you agree with these results? Do you disagree? Can you think of another color that is more calming, happy, negative, or healing?
At the end of this post, I’ll show you my working color correspondence list. I used paint swatches and wrote all associations I could come up with. Hopefully, it will inspire you.
As You Research, Add to Your List
As you study your Craft, you’ll likely find colors along the way. Update your correspondences as you learn. The more you work with color in magic, the deeper of an understanding you’ll get.
Also, do not feel pressured to write down the meaning of blue in every single culture or religion. Try to focus on what you are practicing. I mentioned some Chinese associations earlier, but my religion and ethnicity are not Chinese, so I do not use those in my practice. Instead, I focus on ancient Greek, Irish, Sumerian, or Egyptian correspondences, depending on the spell or deity I’m working with.
Whenever you perform a spell or ritual, write it down. Include which colors you used in candles, pen ink, flowers, etc. Did the spell succeed? Did it not? This is why I always recommend writing down rituals; it’s the best way to learn what works and what does not.
For more examples, check out my color correspondence lists below.