Graveyard Dirt – how to gather and use it



There’s more to collecting graveyard dirt than simply walking into your nearest cemetery with a shovel and a bottle. Learn more about appropriate collection and ways to use graveyard dirt.

Graveyard dirt – ways to use it

Graveyard dirt is a staple ingredient in many witchcraft traditions and recipes. When properly procured, a small bottle of graveyard dirt can aid you in protective work, banishing spells, and creating poppets.

Graveyard dirt has different properties depending on whose grave you take the dirt from and what you intend to use it for. Taking graveyard dirt from the grave of an ancestor is always preferred, but if you’re unable to, consider the purpose of your work.

  • Soldiers, firefighters, and police offers often have a vested interest in protection.
  • Dirt from the writers and poets is useful for work involving inspiration or creative forces.
  • Journalists are often helpful for uncovering the truth of things.
  • Teachers or educators can assist with matters of careers.
  • Sailors can be beneficial for long travels or time spent away from home.

If you’re collecting dirt for use in any kind of magical work, considering asking the individual if you can remove dirt from their grave. You may get a feeling that you shouldn’t; it’s okay to honour that feeling.

Always treat the grave site as if friends or family members of the deceased can walk up and ask what you are doing at any moment, just as you would for any reason when you visit cemeteries.

You should be able to say paying my respects and mean it.

If you’re still not certain, find the largest tree in the cemetery or  at the east-most point of the cemetery. Treat the tree as you would a grave and honour it appropriately.

When to gather graveyard dirt

If you’re collecting dirt from an ancestor, go on an occasion of importance to your chosen ancestor. A birth date or death date might be significant, but so might a favourite holiday or marriage anniversary. Knowing that the first Sunday after Easter is the day your deceased grandmother would visit four cemeteries to honour her ancestors because flowers were on sale might have more meaning to you.

In contemporary witchcraft, the full moon is a useful time for collecting ingredients designed to bring things to you. The new moon is useful for sending or banishing things away.

All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day are particularly fortuitous times to visit. Many cemeteries will have a formal blessing or ceremony during these three days.

It’s important to note any rules in your local cemetery. They are often posted near the gates or in another prominent place. Many cemeteries close at sunset or are only open to the public during certain hours. It should go without saying that it may be best to replan your visit to a small cemetery or grave site if funeral services are in progress.

Is it desecration?

Some cemeteries consider the collection of graveyard dirt to fall under desecration of the grave. You should only be taking small amounts to begin with, but be certain not to alter the landscape.

Avoid damaging fungi and plant life. In the rare event you find any insects within the dirt, please release them. The soil closest to older tombstones should also be avoided as the ground is often instrumental in keeping older markers upright.

Useful tools to bring

My recommendation is actually to use a small spoon rather than a spade, shovel, or garden instrument. Most recipes only call for a pinch of graveyard dirt anyway. A small spice bottle (perhaps with a dash of salt at the bottom) is an ideal container; you can mark on the outside when, where, and for what purpose the dirt was collected.

Show your respect – offer thanks

Concepts of exchange are common in many traditions. If you’re going to be taking dirt from a grave, it’s customary to offer something in return.

What you’re offering may depend on the person you’re taking it from.

Liquids, such as alcohol (whiskey, ciders, and vodka) are common, but if you’re unable or unwilling to utilize alcohol, a fruit juice such as apple or grape is appropriate, or a small morsel of honey.

In other traditions, tobacco leaves, burning a candle, or a stick of incense may be appropriate. Small coins or change may be placed near the grave as well.

If you’re visiting the grave of a friend or relative and happened to know the person before they passed, you may consider playing their favourite song, reading a passage from their favourite book (or a book you think they’d enjoy), or bringing a beverage they were quite fond of.

Remember the living

While it is easy to focus on death and the end of life while visiting a graveyard, please do your best to remember that cemeteries are more for the benefit of the living than the deceased. Disrespecting a grave site will have big consequences to living family members or friends who will be hurt by the image of a stranger treating the resting place of a loved one poorly.

Try to make your visit, even if brief, a positive one. Clean up any trash, straighten the fallen flags or candles near your chosen site, and keep volume on any music or conversation low.

The graveyard dirt tucked away in your bag will be all the more meaningful when collected thoughtfully.

Read more