Grave Dirt: Bring Up Your Dead

I was asked on the Book of the Face how I collect dirt, and one on hand it’s really easy, do it however you want, on the other hand, if it’s not something you do I guess it’s helpful to know how others do it, so I thought I’d explain that.

There are (in the system I work with) three basic types of dirt: Grave dirt, Nest dirt, and Goal dirt. (I guess, last one was never named. Also there is Graveyard dirt, which is somewhat like Nest dirt, though elements of the other two now that I’m thinking about it)

The one most occult folks focus on is grave dirt. Whether it is a family member, a famous person, a spirit ally, or random grave, there are lots of uses for the dirt, which I won’t get into here, let’s stick with method. (Also, I reached my word limit talking about Grave dirt, I guess that’s the only one we’ll look at now, but hey, at least Goal dirt is already written, so you’re guaranteed a post on that)

My kit: Incense, lighter, spoon, containers with labels, and cigarettes, all stored in a zipper sandwich bag

My kit: Incense, lighter, spoon, containers with labels, and cigarettes

To collect grave dirt you need three simple things: offerings, a container, and a spoon. Being how I am I actually have a ritual spoon for this…and by that I mean one that I’ve only ever used for dirt collection and I keep in my backpack at all times. In fact, all three things in my bag at all time. (They didn’t used to be, but some spirits I’m dealing with have me doing a lot with dirt right now…)

The offering is a bit subjective. If you know the person it could be something appropriate to them. When collecting dirt from my Grandma’s grave I took her vodka and a cigarette, cause that’s what she liked. For my other Grandma I’d take flowers, specifically chicory, dandelions, or anything else that grows on the side of the road. For a soldier you could take toy weapons, poppies, whatever. A lot of people offer coins, and mention the Greek tradition of leaving coins for the ferryman. Personally, I think that is fairly silly. Sure, it worked in Greek culture, and pagans who still follow it would appreciate it, but my Grandma would look at me like I was a goof if I thought two quarters would be a good offering. (But being my Grandma she’d take it and thank me I’m sure) I get the reason, I just think it’s too esoteric for most people. If you don’t know the person, or don’t know what they’d like the big five offerings you can give become water, food, incense, candles, and energy.

Approach the grave, centre and still yourself for a moment, just let the world drop behind you a bit, and then set out the offering on or beside the grave. Depending on your skill/inclinations you can either just talk out loud to the spirit, or actually do a bit more work to call them up. On a simplified level I usually put my left hand on the ground and project a tendril into the earth until I find the urn or casket or a sense of presence, then feeding a bit of energy down that line I draw them up, gently asking that the join me, or at least communicate with me. (The latter is because some really like to be rooted in their remains and would rather talk from below than on the surface, I don’t know why, I didn’t expect it until I encountered it)

Give them the offering. If you know how you can either multiple it, or shape it. The advantages to water, incense, and to a lesser extent candles is they’re fairly good at taking the “imprint” of offering visualizations. So if you create a visualization of an offering water/incense/candles are a good way to ground that offering in our reality and keep it stable. Energy is of course even more malleable, you can offer it however you want, I use a variation of a Shinto method. I clap three times, loudly, but not too hard, but enough to make a clear sound. With the first clap I see the sound clearing away discordant energies, the second more fully calls the spirit into the place, the last is a welcome announcement ‘ah you’re here.’ Then I rub my palms together and hold out my hand as if I was holding a ball in my hands. Aside from the meanings of the clapping, by clapping and rubbing your hands you bring blood, and thus energy, to the surface of your hands, which you can then naturally let pool in the bowl of your hands, or you can will it out.

Now that they have been called, and given the offering you can actually talk with them more directly. This is totally up to you; do you just think it, or speak it, do you chit chat or get straight to business? While thinking works, I find the vocalization carries more energy to them, so the messages are more clear, and oddly so are their responses, and at least in a cemetery talking to a grave isn’t unusual. Explain to them that you’re going to take a portion of their land/grave (my grandmother calls her grave her “property”), and if you have a specific request/intent you can explain that, or you can just explain it’s for connecting with them. Wait to see if they agree, depending on your level of communication they might say it, or you might get a sense of yes/no, if you can’t even get that ask for a small sign “If it’s yes touch my right hand, if it is not touch my left.” If it’s a yes, just take a spoon of the dirt, and you’re good. Usually I touch the dirt first and say something like “This is the spot I’m taking if you would bless it for me” to just draw their resonance into it a little more. If it’s a no, either give up, and thank them, or see if you can convince them, maybe they want another offering, maybe they want you to visit more often (yes Grandma…) or something, sometimes it’s a firm no, other times there might be some negotiation.

Put it in your contain, seal it, and label it. (Okay, I label them, because I don’t use all the dirt at once in many cases and don’t want them getting mixed up, and I occasionally grab samples from more than one place in a day, and again don’t want to confuse them.)


6 Responses to Grave Dirt: Bring Up Your Dead

  1. JM says:

    Gee I miss graveyards. Being a Iyawo means no graveyards for a year 😦

  2. polyphanes says:

    In the Palo tradition I’m in, when you enter and leave a graveyard, you throw nine pennies into the gate (so a total of eighteen pennies). It’s an offering to Centella Ndoki, the Palo “version” of Oya, whose number is 9 and who lives at the graveyard gate; you pay her a toll to safely enter and leave the graveyard, lest you be seen as stealing the dirt or be at risk of taking something with you you didn’t mean to. You do the same thing at any grave you take dirt from, too, so my pockets tend to be weighed down with loose change when I go dirt-gathering.

    • Kalagni says:

      Canada got rid of the penny a few years ago, so that won’t work here :-p (Sidenote: Before pennies were removed from circulation I actually went out of my way to collect the older ones that had a lot of copper in them, because they’re still good for magickal reasons.) Also, how can you sneak around in a cemetery with that many coins jingling?

      That being said, in this system you pay the Lord of the Graveyard (yay sexism, cause really its a Lord and Lady most of the time…yay binary…) if you’re taking Graveyard dist, but if you’re just taking it from a grave you don’t need to deal with the Lord/Lady or the Guardians

  3. […] Since my last post on dirt ran long I decided to split it into two sections. Previously I talked about grave dirt, this time I’ll talk about goal dirt. I wish it had a better name, but it’s simple and gets the point across. […]

  4. […] talked before about collecting dirt, here and here. This is how you connect the plant to different places. Follow the method I mentioned (or […]

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