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.