The Magic of Dirt

Dirt is one of the most useful and versatile conjure tools, in my opinion. I enjoy incorporating dirt into spell-work and I am always learning more about its uses from other practitioners and from personal experimentation. It's relatively easy to get, no-one misses it, and is magically potent. What's more is that once you begin understanding the folk-magical and traditional african thinking behind the uses of dirt in spiritual work you are able to get increasingly creative with the ways that use it and where you collect it from. The use of dirt entered the New World traditions from these system's african roots, where a mythic preoccupation with the earth, the dead, bones and their commingling with the land had a profound impact on the way the stuff was viewed. Although it must be mentioned that dirt as magical substance does see a fair amount of use in the grimoires, and in european folk magic.

I will never forget as a teenager slowly driving past an informal settlement  watching- what pejoratively is called a "squatter-camp" back home - being demolished. These settlements are just tiny tin shacks where people who have no other options live. The people were away from home working and when they got back home everything had been flattened by bulldozers, along with all the contents. A Zulu woman whose home had been annihilated was sobbing horribly repeating over and over "now, our tears have have nowhere to fall".

Our tears have nowhere to fall.

This phrase has haunted me ever since that time, poignantly describing the place of earth and land in african thought. For this woman not even something like grieving or loss could be expressed adequately without her tiny piece of dirt. That image of dirt mingled with tears truly etched the power of the soil in to my mind. Ancestral land in particular is of vital importance and one will find pilgrims traveling thousands of kilometres inland or from big cities to distant rural areas, to visit ancestral land. This is done when a terrible calamity strikes a family, a child is deathly ill, or there is some other grave need. The ancestors need to be petitioned right there on the land, sacrifices need to be made there and doing so anywhere else will not placate an angry ancestor. Similarly, when a great blessing befalls the family such as a good job or recovery from illness - a journey to the land is crucial, so that thanks can be expressed, or else the ancestors might take back what was given. Of course in the New World traditions people were ripped from the african continent, so traveling in this way became impossible and new ways had to be found.

You can see how dirt then becomes an important link in african magical thinking. In hoodoo, graveyard dirt probably sees the most frequent use in spellwork, but foot-track dirt, crossroads dirt, the dirt from an enemy's backyard, police station dirt, or court house dirt is often called into use also. It is understood that the dirt holds the quality or power of the place where it was collected and by adding it to the spell-work you are calling the influence of that place into the work, or influencing it in turn. Graveyard dirt in this way then becomes a link to the spirit from whose grave it is collected and a means to bring that spirit's influence into a spell, providing that the dirt has been bought and paid for. Similarly, foot track dirt then is a strong link to the person who made the track. Often stealing some dirt from an enemy's yard or place of business is the only link you can find to them - and it's a good one when all you might have is a name otherwise.

A particular trick of mine is taking some foot-track dirt and mixing it with other kinds of dirt and then employing the blend in bottle spells or other spellwork. I own dirt  which I collected from a frightening victorian mental asylum  back home and mixing it with the foottrack dirt can be an effective way to drive someone a little crazy. Similarly, I have in my arsenal dirt from a fort, a hospital, a bank, a castle dungeon, the site of a violent car wreck. You see where I am going with this?

However, the next question is how on earth do you even collect foot-track dirt in this day in age what with all the concrete and paving everywhere? I have gone to enormous lengths to try and capture a proper foot track to try and pull off one of those old-time foot-track spells. It's really hard unless you live in a rural area with a lot of dirt roads around. I have even gone so far as to sprinkle a layer of dirt across a doorway and call someone out so that they might step on it. But people have built in spiritual protection mechanism, and every single time I have tried this the person has carefully stepped over the dirt so as to not stand in it. Frustrating! 

However this doesn't mean one is entirely unable collect foot track dirt, even though you might not be able to capture the entire footprint. There is always some dirt on the ground and if the target walked somewhere very recently I sometimes take a dust pan and hand broom and sweep up some of the dirt from the area. It's not as strong as a real footprint I bet, but it's better than nothing at all and I have found has a certain efficacy in spells that call for foot track dirt.

A Handy Dirt-Based Spell

Here is straightforward spell to get rid of an unwanted influence or person, adapted from the testimony of a Hyatt informant. It originally was devised to get rid of unwanted debt but I have discovered it works well for anything you would like to part ways with. What's cool about it is that the spell demonstrates neatly how we can harness the sympathetic forces in our environment by means of simple yet skilful magical gestures:

Search for a dirt road that forks into two roads - like this: Y
Find a stick and write your own name in the road splitting off to the right. Write the name of the person or thing you want to be rid of in the road splitting to the left.
Take some dirt from each side home with you in your pocket and when you get home mix the two kinds of dirt together with some sulphur and then burn the mixture calling your intention into the work while doing so.

The burning sulphur breaks the link between the two parties sending each on their own way. This spell can be hastened by reciting the appropriate psalms or petitioning spirits during the burning phase to help expedite the effect. Remember, burning sulphur smells pretty bad so you might want to do that out doors. Dispose of the remains at another crossroads.


  1. Great info, St. B!

    Your mental asylum dirt gives me the heeby-jeebies from here!

    I am trying to get into the habit of remembering to acquire dirt from locations that call to me. I did a bit of that in NOLA, though there are still places there where I was unprepared for buying dirt.

    I do have some sand from the Sphinx in Egypt that I asked a friend to collect for me while she was there. From time to time, when it intuitively feels right, I will add a few precious grains to a spell that I feel needs an extra boost.

    I need to put together a little dirt collecting kit and make sure I have it in my purse with me at all times, and especially when I travel to special places. And you're right that urban living makes for new challenges when getting a good sample.

  2. wow, that is a haunting image to see as a child. I cannot even imagine what it would be like.

    I love getting the dirt on how you work with dirt.

  3. Excellent post! If you want inexpensive magical ingredients, they don't come a lot cheaper than dirt. The ground picks up the energies of events which take place over or near it and can become a powerful part of a wanga.

    Your story about the Zulu squatter camp was really moving: I've never heard that phrase before and now that I've heard it I don't think I will ever forget it.

  4. Asylum dirt? Awesome. That's going on my list. No shortage of spooky mental hospitals here in the UK.

    Hmmm. Suddenly realising that last sentence maybe tells me a quite a bit about the British people. :)

  5. One Question:
    Hospital dirt would be good for health (healing) or would be bad ? (all the suffering and death reunited?)

  6. I think it would really depend on where and what hospital it is collected. Generally it is used for healing work though, because of the association of hospitals with recovery, but I suppose if you got some from in front of scary urban ER it might be possible to use it to cause accidents. Similarly dirt from clinics that treat chronic illnesses such as terminal cancer might have different properties, you know?

  7. Really enjoyed your post, but I was wondering how do you go about collecting dirt from different places as far as "buying" goes. Do you follow the same procedures as buying graveyard dirt in paying and giving an offering or do you just collect it? Thanks for an light you are able to shed on this matter.