Evil Tricks

7:55:00 AM

I've been focusing a lot on hexcraft here at Via Hedera over the last year, and I wanted to transition out with a few final thoughts on hexes, curse charms, and tricks. Working 'evil works' and 'evil tricks' are simply part of the practices within witchcraft and within American folk magical traditions.  It is as much a part of our new world identity and cultural history as love charms, protective charms, divination, and healing.  Hairballs, black bottles, nine nails, garlic, and pepper- this is how we do things in our collective lore. Cross-culturally, shared between African, European, Asian, Indigenous and all other contributors to the American cultural fabric, are charms which hex and avert and do evil things to one's enemies. Depending on where you go and what demographic you're talking to, the landscape of American folk charms regarding hexes and protective-averting charms (the same materials often being used for both purposes) changes shape but is always there, even when buried deep in near-forgotten lore.
Hexcraft is, to put it simply, an art.  It is an art many of us should be acquainted with. I'm of the opinion that part of what makes a witch a witch as opposed to any other kind of practitioner is the willingness to balance between opposed forces; an acknowledgment of the inherent ambiguity of things as well as an acknowledgment of the self some call 'the shadow'. That's not to say witches need to have vengeful hearts and ill intent- I'm saying that a witch is historically defined by their moral ambiguity, as well as a willingness to dare. I dare you, traditional witches of the Americas, to remember the darker aspects of our craft as it was delivered, regionally developed and cross-culturally propagated amongst the shared culture of the early new world. The immigration and synchronization of folk magical charms from around the world have created some unique and widespread superstitions here, as well as traditions of magical practice.  Love magic, divination, protection charms, and yes, hexes, are the core components of the magical traditions of our people. I dare you to look into the dark things and find a connection there. Those dark materials are many, and wonderfully simple too...
For your Saturn's Day pleasure this waning moon, some literary quotes and personal notes on American hex materials...

Hair (cattle or human)-"Randolph notes witch balls described as being the size of a marble made of black horsehair and another one made of black hair and beeswax that was rolled up into a hard pellet.  The belief is that a hairball (or witch bullet) could be thrown or shot at a person by a witch.  This hairball (or bullet) would be found on the body of anyone killed by this method."- Gerald Milnes, Signs, Cures, & Witchery: German Appalachian Folklore (p. 168)

Dirt of tracks- "And by a variety of charms involving a person's tracks you may make him stagger or paralyze him, make him follow you or leave."- BA Botkin, Southern Folkways



Dirt of Grave- “There are many ways to conjur, I knew a man that was conjured by putting graveyard dirt under his house in small piles and it almost killed him, and his wife.”- Folklore from the Working Folk of America by Tristram Potter Coffin, ‎Hennig Cohen



Nails (iron) of railroad and coffin- “If a thief's trail is found, a nail from the coffin in which a corpse has decayed, driven into the track with three blows, will produce the same effect as if it entered the robber’s foot.  Fasten a string around the nail’s head so that it can be drawn out when requisite; otherwise the man will die."- Folklore of the Mountain Whites of the Alleghenies, Journal of American Folklore


Needles (iron, devils club, cactus), Burrs, Tacks, Spines, Thorns, Pins- "A small red flannel bag filled with pins, small tacks, and other things, and buried under a gate-sill made a horse refuse to enter the gate."- Journal of American Folklore

Red Pepper- "Too hoodoo a person, put an old shoe full of red pepper under his house." Kentucky Superstitions by Daniel Lindsey Thomas

Sulfur- "Sulfur is a naturally occurring mineral that, in powder or dust form, is used to do evil work."- Catherine Yronwode, Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic


These can all be used in curse dolls, witch bullets, witch bundles and balls, witch bottles, black bottles, hex bags and any number of talisman. Do so in numbers of nine, on or nearest the full moon, in a dark place such as a cellar, basement, graveyard or garden, between midnight and one a.m, on a day of particular power for charms such as a Tuesday or Friday at a time of power; May Day, Midsummer, Halloween, New Years, etc.

And to counteract the tricks...

Mustard Seed (black and yellow)- "If one sprinkles mustard seed around his bed, he will not be troubled by witches." Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore
Horseshoes (tossed, hung, burned in fire, left in tracks, hidden in rafters, etc)- "Horseshoes when nailed on doors or posts for good luck, are placed with the round part uppermost. No witch or evil spirit can enter when they are so nailed."- Superstitions of Central Georgia; Journal of American Folklore Vol 12.

Anvil dust- "A piece of lodestone, a piece of brimstone, and a spoonful of anvil-dust put into a flannel sack and worn in the pocket, is a charm for good luck."- Cora Linn Morrison Daniels, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World

Garlic ropes and Onion strings- "There is the garlic sack; onions; stockings; the bag or sack with hot bacon and pepper; the crucifix; medals which have been blessed; a parchment containing prayers, etc; bones, teeth and many other items- all more or less "witch" charms."- A. Monroe Aurand, The Realness of Witchcraft in America
Nails- "To pin bad luck, drive a rusty nail in the front doorstep."- Journal of American Folklore Vol 12.

           There are a lot of tools referenced in the folklore of the Americas, especially in the regions of the early colonies and earliest states.  Those that promote the power to hex or protect from hexes can tell us a lot about how our ancestors viewed the world, how they utilized the tools they had around them, what they valued and what they feared from their neighbors, from their friends and families.  Even if you choose never to implement these charms in your work, these tools have powerful uses in protecting oneself and they have a lot to teach you about the what this world of witching will do.  I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate these simple components to hex charms, and I hope you will too.

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