Spring is here and many are returning to the garden. I am fortunate enough to live in a climate where I garden pretty much year round. This tends to dampen my enthusiasm for spring, in this part of Texas spring is a three week precursor for the hell of summer.I actually prefer the half of the year where the temperatures drop below 90. Despite these reservations, I do still enjoy getting into the dirt.
And when I say get into dirt, I am actually inviting you sit a spell and let me bend your ear, or captivate your mind with the wonders of dirt.
Prima Materia Magica
Over at Hotel Vast Horizon, Aidan wrote about Philosophy & Theory of Sorcery/Magic/Sacred Arts/Prayer where he uses a meadow as an analogy for the totality of experience. What struck was this snippet, "It’s full of vibrant life. Soil bacteria, microbes, fungi, teeny tiny insects & creatures from very small to huge."What I particularly love about this is the acknowledgement of the parts that make the whole. This why I consider Dirt to be Prima Materia Magica, it contains parts of the whole. Everything that ever was, is and will be started as dirt and will end up as dirt. Dirt births us, sustains us and embraces us in death, and it does so for all of life.
As people begin to tend there gardens I hope they take a moment to nurture their dirt. Dirt is a community of bacteria, fungal mycellium, and microbes. These are the things that along with minerals will help your plants grow. Love your dirt. To acquaint yourself with the primacy of dirt try this simple exercise:
- Go outside and dig up a handful of dirt.
- Put it in an open container.
- Smell the dirt every morning.
- Do this for a week.
- Write about your experience.
When it comes to dirt Magic it is hard to know where to begin, so I will start with the dirt beneath me.Quite simply dirt is the flesh of the Mother and as such a connection to her. Through this you are connected to the entire web of life and death. Since I work with both hands I will talk about how dirt can harm and heal. There are many uses of dirt in many traditions, but I will confine myself to HooDoo and Santeria, the two traditions with which I have the most knowledge and experience.
This is by far the most popular dirt used in magic and it has a wide variety of uses, although the two that seem most common are protection spells and harmful spells. I personally use it in rites of necromancy amongst other things. The important thing about graveyard dirt is to obtain it in the proper manner, in HooDoo this is called buying the dirt. If you want to know more about that I strongly recommend The section on Graveyard Dirt at Lucky Mojo as a good start.You will also find information about the different types of dirt to be had in the graveyard. As an example if you are going to use graveyard dirt in a love spell (it happens), then you probably don't want collect it from a murderer's grave, that sort of thing.
The dirt of the Crossroads has the power of the Crossroads itself, the power to bring about change. This dirt can be used as a proxy for the Crossroads as well. A colleague keeps some on her altar, in a cauldron with a miniature stang so she can access this power at anytime. She does have to recharge with fresh dirt about once a month. Crossroads dirt is also used in protection work and banishings. On the other side it is used to "Cross" a situation or even to cause great indecision in a person. always leave an offering when taking dirt from the crossroads.
Track Dirt comes from the path any animal makes in the dirt. Some dirt from the animal track will have some energy from the animal in it. In the case of all animals other than shod humans there is liminal quality to this dirt, it is literally the point of contact between that organism and the Mother. This could be used for anything from shape-shifting to spirit communion. It will depend on what animal made the track and your relationship to that animal as to how you choose to use it.
This is exactly what it sounds like, dirt form the grounds of a church. Again this is a dirt that is used in a variety of ways, but mainly either as a blessing or as a curse. Some also use it to communicate with Angels or Underworld Spirits. Traditionally dirt from Catholic Churches is used as most still sanctify the land before the church is built. I wonder if Synagogue dirt could be used the same way?
Other Dirts are used in a contagion type of way, in that where the dirt comes from will exert influence over that energy. Some examples are:
- Bank Dirt - Prosperity
- Library Dirt - Knowledge
- Racetrack Dirt - Gambling
- Courthouse Dirt - Legal Issues
Geophagy literally means earth eating. I have cousins in East Texas who ate dirt. I used to believe this was just some quaint southern thing, but then I found out about diatomaceous earth and bentonite clay. While researching these topics I came across a New York Times piece, Southern Practice of Eating Dirt Shows Signs of Waning, again I was confronted with the image of southerners eating dirt. More research yielded this nugget from Berthold Laufer (love that name), simply titled "Geophagy". That was written in 1930 and as far as I know, there are not many papers that attempted to present such a comprehensive picture of the practice, which is Global.
Now, however, the internet seems to be teeming with information on the topic, even mainstream news has covered the topic in a more positive light. Then I hit the Mother Lode, that kernel that had eluded me for so long, evidence of ritualistic geophagy. In section 23.3.3 (yes I like that number) of Soil and Culture , edited by Edward R. Landa, and Christian Feller, several examples are cited, most exciting is a reference to present day Guatemala. In Guatemala, small clay tablets are baked with crosses and other symbols and consumed in much the same way as the Host in communion. At Esquipulas Basilica, pilgrims gather to venerate Christo Negro, or the Black Christ. Kaolin clay, which is used in Kaopectate, is baked into the aforementioned clay tablets and consumed.
I personally incorporate geophagy into some of my rites. It gives me a certain connectedness to works involving earth energies, and aids in shape-shifting. I have used diatomaceous earth and bentonite clay, both with profound effects. When it comes to geophagy, I say, "Eat Dirt!"
In addition to geophagy there are other ways one can incorporate dirt into their practice. Some of the methods I use are Point of Contact, Powders(Polvos), and Sachets. Each of these techniques is useful in different ways and I will attempt to briefly describe each.
A point of contact is a magical link, which works along the lines of quantum entanglement. To connect to the power of a place take some dirt. This technique is more powerful if it comes from a place of power. Always when taking dirt ask permission. Of whom? The spirits of the land, the crossroads, the graveyard, and sometimes the property owner. This why dirt is powerful, is stores energy, it is the ground of all things.
Powders, polvos en Español, are made with herbs, magnetic sand, salt, cobwebs, dirt, seeds, seashells, and anything else that can be ground up into a powder. Normally one uses an odd number of ingredients, the reasoning behind this is intriguing. Basically even numbers are balanced or settled, whereas an odd number is active or unbalanced. In order to push a work you must upset the way things are and shape how things will be. Information on this is everywhere, but I strongly recommend Catherine Yronwode's big green book, Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic: A Materia Magica of African-American Conjure. You leave powder anywhere you believe your mark will be.
Sachets, mojo bags, and nation bags work on similar principles, but for different reasons, do a search you'll find all sorts of information. Just start reading Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by Catherine Yronwode at the aforementioned Lucky Mojo. One either starts with a cotton or flannel (sometimes silk) drawstring bag, picking a color suitable to the work. Certain items are added to the bag, again in odd amounts. The bag is then fed over time. This involves either oils or powders being applied to or into the bag. This bag is carried to bring the work directly to the person.
I am sure there are many more ways to work with dirt, I have only scratched the surface. The key as always, is to experiment and communicate with your guides. They will show you things about dirt you never imagined. Right there in the garden and at your feet the most profound of the Mysteries; Dirt.
This is the trailer for Dirt! the movie, if you have not seen it, please do, it will change everything about how you see dirt. Life's a garden, dig it.