The Bone Garden
The Cemetery in Hoodoo
The Cemetery is one of the practices that many new comers to Hoodoo are uncomfortable with. There seems to be an instinctive taboo in people to avoid "playing around" in the cemetery, with many explanations as to why. When I first started cemetery work, many years ago, I myself experienced that feeling of taboo....that I was doing something "wrong." But as I began to understand more of exactly what the cemetery is, both literally, metaphorically, and metaphysically, a whole new world opened up to me as well as a grand source of spiritual assistance.
The cemetery itself can be seen as a macrocosm of the entire universe. All of creation is in constant flux - birth, preservation, and death. This can be seen in the cemetery, where all souls pass to the beyond. The flesh is dropped from the frame, as the old song goes, and the body returns to the earth from which it came.
Out of the decay of the cemetery arises new life - the life of the spirit, removed from mortal bounds, as well as physical creation sprouting from the remains of the dead. The grass, the flowers, the trees, everything that grows in the cemetery, is fed on the essence of the dead. The animals that feast upon the grass, such as the rabbit, or the bird that feasts on the worm (which in itself, feasts upon the dead) are great sources of spiritual power.
The Rabbit is one of the best examples, as the true lucky rabbit's foot is the left hind leg of the graveyard rabbit.
The graveyard Snake, as another example, is reported to be the Devil himself, according to interviews by Niles Newbell Puckett in his magnificent work "Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro." I myself have also heard similar things from practitioners in the south.
The Trees in a cemetery are some of the best gateways to the spirit world. A Santera of my acquaintance spoke of the Orisha Oya as being the wind in the trees of the cemetery. Maman Brijit in Haitian Vodou often has a sacred pile of rocks near a tree in the cemetery.
Then there are many local stories, about powerful beings inhabiting the trees in cemeteries, especially trees which have been used as gallows. The trees feed upon the bodies of the dead, their roots reaching deep into the caskets. In practice, the following can be considered when working with trees in the cemetery:
- The largest tree in the cemetery, especially if it is in the center, is known as the "conjure tree."
At this tree, general offerings may be left to placate the spirits of the cemetery and branches and twigs from it (especially if fallen upon the ground) can be used with great efficacy in constructing dolls for ritual work. The bark of this tree may be powdered, and used as a sachet powder to link to the spiritual force of the cemetery. If the tree happens to be a pine for example (or any tree that produces a resin) the resin can be burned on coals as incense to call the dead. I suggest doing this outdoors in the cemetery itself, for obvious reasons. The leaves may be steeped in strong vinegar, with sulfur and red pepper, and sprinkle about an enemy's doorstep to cross them.
The roots may be carved into "fetishes" as well, and kept in mojo hands, to connect to the power of the cemetery. But before any of this can be done, you must know how to enter the cemetery properly. This is the procedure which I use, and have been taught:
- Knock on the gate of the cemetery. If there is no gate, knock on the ground before entering. Drop three pennies, and ask the Head Man (the guardian spirit of the cemetery, the first person buried in most cases, though in some older cemeteries, a dog was buried first, under the belief that the first thing buried in the cemetery had to stay around and open and close the gates for the other dead, until Judgment Day and could not move on to the afterlife.)
If you feel you have been giving permission, proceed, if you have not, then turn back. I usually receive the sign of the wind kicking up, giving me the okay to enter.
-Proceed to your work. If it involves a grave, you must knock on the tombstone three times and call the person's name, and bury a shiny dime (some say 3, others 7: the numbers vary practitioner to practitioner, but at least a dime) as payment for listening, and for any dirt you may take.
Speak to the spirit in the grave by name, tell them what you're asking for, and if it involves them going out to do something, take some dirt and explain you're going to sprinkle it on the target area where they are to act. If you're going to a tree, leave a coin, or pour wine, beer, whiskey, anything as an offering to the tree and the spirits who dwell within it. Knock on the tree trunk, to "wake up" the spirit or spirits within the tree. These procedures go for grass, plants, or anything else that may be in the cemetery.
For animals, you must address the Head Man; as for the graveyard snake, you never kill it, as it is said to be the Devil and if you do, harm will come to you and you will never be able to work any hexes.
-When leaving the cemetery, you close the gate if you opened it and knock three times again. If there is no gate, you knock on the ground three times again. When leaving the cemetery, never look back under any circumstances.
Now if the cemetery contains such powerful spirits, then obviously there must be some danger, right? Correct, and that is what we will cover now.
-Why do we not look back when leaving the cemetery? The belief is that the spirits will then catch your eye and follow you home. Think of the all too common proverb (or cliche) "The eyes are the window of the soul." This is one reason the bluish/purple glasses are worn by many Low Country root workers, amongst other reasons.
-Many workers who are Catholic wear a blessed rosary around the neck, as a form of protection. Others wear a crucifix, and Protestants often wear a cross.
-Often individuals will do a "ritual cleansing" once they leave the cemetery. Some, inspired by Mexican folk magic, will use an egg, others Florida Water, Hoyt's Cologne, or Holy Water.
Some practitioners mix Holy Water with one of the aforementioned colognes. Some use incense. Whatever you use for cleansing, throw it back into the cemetery afterward, so you don't carry whatever negativity that may have attached itself to you, home. Also the "smell" of the cemetery is offensive to certain spirits you may work with, so cleansing it off yourself is best. When home, take a salt water bath.
-Sprinkling blessed salt all over yourself, and throwing it behind you is another way to keep things from following you home. But be cautious - if you're taking dirt to "send a spirit" then you don't want to do this. In fact, I would say if you're calling a spirit at all and bringing it with you by means of the dirt, wear the rosary and glasses, and do the bath afterward. Many practitioners won't bring the dirt home, but take it directly to the destination.
If you're a practitioner, and have no access to herbs, roots, candles, and what not, as long as you have a cemetery, you can accomplish anything. Build a relationship with the cemetery, and the spirits that dwell there. Adopt abandoned graves and tend to them - keep them clean, bring them flowers and offerings.
The abandoned grave is truly the Anima Sola (Lost Soul), though not all graves contain the original occupant. Love, money, revenge, uncrossing, obtaining a job - this all and more can be obtained through the cemetery. Here are a few examples:
-For Love: Find a couple that have been buried side by side, and invoke them for that purpose, and obtain dirt between the graves, where the hands would be, as if the dead were holding hands. This can be sprinkled from the home of your love, to your home, to bring them to you. It can also be placed within a mojo hand with name papers or personal concerns.
-For Uncrossing: Find a grave, and knock on the tombstone, etc. Speak to the person and ask them to remove the curse on you. Tell them you're going to pay them to do it, and offer them whiskey. Rub yourself head to foot with a branch of cedar and bury it.
-For a Job: Go to the conjure tree, and take a chunk of bark off for that purpose, wrap it around a name petition paper, spit on it, and place it within a green flannel bag for a job drawing mojo
-For Revenge: Find the grave of a murderer, or someone who died badly, and invoke their spirit. Throw the dirt where your target will come in contact with it. If you can put it in their jacket pocket, so much the better.
I hope this gives you an idea of the spiritual treasury to be found within the bone yard, and will encourage you to explore further within the cemetery. Tread lightly, because every inch of ground you walk upon is infested with spirits. Be cautious, but most of all, respectful, and you'll be sure to obtain your desires.