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Graveyard Dirt

To: alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,alt.lucky.w,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.pagan.magick
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Re: Graveyard Dirt
Date: Sun, 06 May 2001 23:17:51 GMT

Kevin Filan wrote:
> Connie Gilbert wrote:
> >
> > Merry meet all,
> > I can't help replying. In old spells, usually ingrediants are in 
> > code and usually the ingrediants are really herbs. Graveyard dust 
> > can be powdered Mullien or Mugwort. Graveyard dust is not really 
> > dirt.

Mullein is known as "graveyard torches" or "witch's candles" because it
grows well-spaced in dry, waste ground and if dipped in oil or lard, the
stalks will burn like torches. 


That story was started in the 1940s by suppliers who wanted to make
money but were afraid to violate the laws regarding tampering with
corpses or graveyard desecration, especially in interstate commerce. The
earliest catalogue in my cokllection that mentions mullein as graveyard
dirt dates to World War Two. By the 1960s,, when i was coming up, you
could still buy real graveyard dirt from any small occult store -- but
ALL the mail order houses and the stores that stocked their
mass-produced products -- sold you either talcum powder or powdered
mullein leaves for graveyard dirt. 

The commercially-originated lie that "graveyard dirt" is somehow an old
witchcraft code term for mullein was later picked up and carried as an
urban myth extensively in the white Anglo-Saxon neo=pagan community. It
actually forms part of the myth of the "burning times" in that it
perpetuates the hostorically discredited notion that witches must speak
in code or rish death. (But if you are trying to avoid being burned at
the stake, why use something ILLEGAL like graveyard dirt as code for
something innocuous like mullein leaf???) This myth of a witchy "code"
is still perpetuated through the books of well-meaning but ignorant
people and it is just ... well, not true.

> Hmmm... I've heard mullein referred to as "graveyard dust" and have
> gathered that it is used in workings with the dead.  But I've also 
> seen recipes and spells where "graveyard dirt" meant exactly that 
> ... dirt from a graveyard.   (If they were using "graveyard dirt" as 
> a code for herbs, why did they include instructions to leave coins 
> and rum at the churchyard gates, or at the headstone, as payment for 
> taking the dirt in question?)

Right, on Kevin. If graveyard dirt were a secret code for mullein, 
would Harry M. Hyatt have interviewed HUNDREDS of people in the late
1930s who told him the proper ways they knew to collect and pay for
graveyard dirt -- and NONE of them mentioned mullein? 

Take the dirt from the seventh grave from the gates, from the third
grave on the left, from any grave; make sure you get it from the grave
of a murderer, from the grave of a baby, from the grave of someone who
loved you; collect it at the foot of the grave, the head of the grave,
from the head and foot both, from over the corpse's heart; pay for it
with a dime, with three pennies, with a measure of rum, with a measure
of whiskey; dig it with a silver spoon, dig it by hand only and use no
tools -- their instructions vary, but they ALL are speaking quite
frankly of literal graveyard dirt -- some even calling it "that old
yellow graveyard clay." 

> Check out Cat Yronwode's site ( for more
> information on graveyard dirt.

The exact URL for the page on goofer dust and graveyard dirt is

Hyatt wrote six very large books on magic and herb lore as it existed in
the early 20th century, before the onslaught of the mail-order houses
and the neo-pagan fad for cutesy rewrites of traditional witchcraft as a
form of goddess-worship. These books as a whole comprise a grand total
of 5,500 pages on which are printed 23,000+ individual magical spells
collected during interviews with about 2,300 actual practitioners of
witchcraft and magic. Hyatt made up nothing. He simply recorded and
transcribed the sp[eech of his informants. The spells are presented as 1
volume of Germanic, Irish, English, African-American magic ("Folk-Lore
from Adams County Illinois") and 5 volumes of African-American magic
("Hoodoo - Conjure - Witchcraft - Rootwork"). For more information on
Hyatt's work, see

Harry Hyatt preserved the TRUE SPEECH of our elders -- and all the
contemporary book authors in the Llewelyn stable with their mullein and
mugwort cannot erase those words. 


cat yronwode 

Hoodoo in Theory and Practice --
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     Copyright (c) 2001 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.

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