How To Visit A Graveyard

I have at long last found an amazing local graveyard, and as I walked around it, I wanted to write some encouragement for you to go graveyard hunting!

It’s one of my fave hobbies. Its not only a great way to feel ghosty, but also to connect with your local area, learn some history, get out doors, and be immanent. I especially want to encourage my copingkin followers, or ghosts with mental health troubles, to go visit your local graveyard. They are such peaceful places, and a great excuse to go for a walk.

1. Respect the living
The dead don’t care, as far as I can tell. Graveyards are for the living, and the living get pissed. Dress down - leave the black lace parasol at home. No pagan stuff or rituals unless what you are doing is indistinguishable from “a nice walk”. No make-outs. If you see another person - or as often happens, a funeral - simply make yourself scarce. Finally, if you are taking photos, avoid any graves from the 1940s or later - as they may have living relatives.

2. Good things to bring: good shoes, graveyards can be uneven to walk on. A camera. I like to bring plastic bags and gardening gloves. Appropriate weather gear. Some tissues - many yards will have toilets, but they aren’t always kept regularly.

3. Take care of your graveyard, and it will take care of you. I like to litter-pick as I go, as a way of saying thank you; I often stand planters back upright or clear away stones and debris obscuring a name (never do this at Jewish cemetaries, as leaving a rock each time you visit is a custom - it’s normal to see small piles of stones on their flat stones)

4. Photos look best with high contrast between light and shade. Overcast days and midday sun are only really good if you want a personal record of a cool stone you’ve found. For the dramatic, I-can’t-believe-how-easy-this-is photography, the long magic hours as the sun comes up and down gift you gold light, intense contrasts and deep black shadows. Even if you plan to make finished stills B&W, they will look better taken on a sun&shade day.

5. Cool things to look out for:
* People from different eras.
* People from different cultures, representing waves of immigration to your area.
* terrible poems
* symbols on gravestones, such as the anchor or Mason’s compass
* people who died in unusual ways, including War graves
* new features such as crematoria, ash gardens, children’s areas, chapels of memory, crypts etc
* nature - trees, birds, etc. Yew trees are traditional.

Every graveyard I go to now, I spot something new. Last week, I found a graveyard with a sign up about their “grave reclaimation” program, the rules they follow to reuse old graves for new people. You can see as you walk around graves with “chosen for reclamation” signs on them; if no family member challenges them in over a year, the graves will be taken down.

There is always something new to discover.

Okay, let’s get something straight here: 

Día De Los Muertos is not “A Mexican Halloween”

If you did not know that, it is alright it is not your job to know everything about ever culture but allow me to explain exactly what Day of the Dead is: 

  • Día De Los Muertos/ Day of the Dead is a celebration but not so much of one like Halloween, 
  • In the mornings there are typically parades all filled with laughter, dance, beautiful decorations, and music of course it is fun we celebrate the life we have
  • But we don’t paint our faces and go parading down the street for nothing, its not a thing we do just because it is fun 
  • We MOURN
  • We honor those who has passed and made the journey to the afterlife
  • Each year families to to Grave sights (which are NOT for your aesthetically pleasing selfies please) to pay respects and visit those who have already gone
  • Mexicans and Hispanics are very family oriented people, at the grave sights you can often hear mother wailing out for their children who passed too soon or men knelt over their mother’s grave sobbing and of course children crying for their parents
  • People pray and cry out, they sob and scream
  • Yes it is a day of remembrance and we honor them but it is still painful, we miss those who once walked with us
  • Families and friends typically bring favorite food, flowers, drinks, etc to the graveyards 
  • Do NOT make fun of that. Please.
  • DON’T post skeleton memes aimed at Day of The Dead, the calavera/sugar skulls are meant to represented the parted souls of loved ones with names etched onto the forehead and the skulls painted on our faces are meant to ward off more death
  • DON’T disrespect grave sights, this is an obvious thing not to do people 
  • DON’T  celebrate if you do not intend of respecting and honoring those who have passed and just want it as a second Halloween 
  • DON’T mock people celebrating or any of the traditions 
  • DON’T mess the with petals, those orange petals are from a flower called  cempoalxochitl, and they are meant to help guide the dead back to their homes so their spirits can too visit 

Don’t get me wrong Day of the Dead isn’t always sad it is also fun and amazing and beautiful, we not only honor those who have gone but we celebrate those who have lived this long, we celebrate the life we have and acknowledge the fact we made it this far, death is a natural cycle, death will take us all one day but not today, and that is the reason why we celebrate! It is a beautifully melancholy holiday, and remember Day of the Dead is actually multiple days do please be mindful!

Racist Stereotypes About Magic

Someone asked me today whether it helps to replace the racist terms “white magic” and “black magic” with “positive magic” and “negative magic.” While that’s a lovely idea, unfortunately, it doesn’t entirely fix the underlying problem…

The notion of “good” and “bad” magic does, in fact, go beyond the terms “light” and ”dark” or “white” and “black.” If you replace the words with “positive/negative” and then refer to “death magic, graveyard dirt, curses, and animal sacrifice” as “negative” then you’re literally calling lots of Africana traditions and other practices or religions “negative.” That’s part of why they were called “dark” in the first place.

Let’s break down some of these stereotypes of “bad magic” one by one:

Ancestors are really foundational to African religions and to the magical practices and diasporic religions that developed from them. Working with ancestors is technically “death magic” since you’re working with the spirits of your family who have passed away. But really there’s nothing evil or wrong with that, it’s lovely! Gathering graveyard dirt is a way of connecting with ancestral spirits because in many African religions, the earth and one’s ancestors are interconnected. Goofer dirt/graveyard dirt is a part of that spiritual and material interconnection. These sorts of practices are often labeled “evil”  and “creepy” when removed from the sophisticated and rich spirituality of their actual cultural contexts then misunderstood.

These negative stereotypes even apply to cursing and animal sacrifice. Many think “it’s a given that those things are wrong or unethical,” which comes from an uninformed Eurocentric set of assumptions. I personally don’t curse, but I am curse-positive because I support anyone’s right to choose to curse. Curses, jinxes, hexes, and crossing magic are a big part of the hoodoo tradition because it’s a tradition developed by black people during slavery, many of whom used magic for self-defense against their slave masters and oppressors. For black people, fighting this oppression with magic has been a way of regaining agency in a world of slavery, segregation, and systematic racism for centuries. When people just label “cursing” as “bad,” it completely ignores the context from which that developed and still exists for rootworkers and the magical traditions of marginalized groups all around the world as well.

Finally, with animal sacrifice, that’s been a part of many African religions for a long time and is still a part of how many practitioners of diasporic Africana religions (including myself) make offerings to their deities. It’s not just slaughtering animals in a careless way and then disposing of their bodies as waste… At least within the Ifá tradition, I know that the animals are treated ethically with great care and appreciation. They are killed because their ashe (energy) and spirits return to Olorun to send your message and the ashe to the orishas, where they will rest in peace afterwards. They are killed in an ethical manner similar to halal/kosher slaughter (as quick and painless as possible) and deeply appreciated and blessed by all involved. Typically, they are eaten afterwards as shared communion with the orishas or put into the wilderness to return to the cycle of life and be eaten by animals. They aren’t wasted or forgotten. They are treated far better than most animals that are eaten at a dinner table every day, many of whom are horrifically butchered and taken for granted. (I’m a vegetarian btw!)

So as for replacing “white/black” terminology with “positive/negative” to refer to magical traditions and practices, I think it all depends on what you’re calling “negative” because if it’s based on popular stereotypes of what’s “bad,” it’s still going to end up perpetuating racist stereotypes.

What’s the alternative? Personally, I refer to specific practices that I would or would not do myself rather than lumping them all into one group and putting a judgment on it. In other words, I don’t talk about the notion of “bad” or “negative” magic at all. For instance, if you don’t like working with the spirits of the deceased, you could just say “personally I don’t practice that” instead of labeling it “bad” as a blanket judgment on other people’s practices without knowing the context.

My magic is my business, your magic is your business, but it’s everybody’s business to put an end to racist stereotypes in the way we conceptualize and talk about magical practices and traditions.

Sword and Shield Graveyard/Spirit Jewelry

I am a graveyard witch and I work with spirits/ghosts daily. I’ve been doing this for over a decade and though I consider myself experienced, safety is still my top priority.

And it should be yours as well.

Therefore, I decided to share (most of) the enchanting ritual I did for my iron graveyard jewelry.
Or, my “sword and shield”, as I like to call them. They are enchanted to work as a sword (the ring) that provides “offensive” protection, and a “shield” (the pendant/necklace) that provides defensive protection.

I use this potent version of protection because I work with spirits so often off my own property and can be more vulnerable when not in my own house.

If you want to learn how to enchant a piece of jewelry to protect you when working with spirits, you’re in the right place!

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