The Power of Dirt in Hoodoo Magic, Spells & Rituals

Hoodoo is a unique blend of spiritual practices and knowledge of the earth that is steeped in magic and mystery. Created during the horrors of slavery, Hoodoo blended traditional African spiritual beliefs, botanical knowledge, along with elements from other religions to produce a type of “folk-religion”.  Continually passed down from generation to generation, both orally and through the practice of spells and rituals, Hoodoo continues to fascinate practitioners and scholars alike.  Elements from the earth, like plants, roots, resins, stones and dirt are central in the practice of Hoodoo.  One of the most powerful ingredients in Hoodoo is “dirt”.  Practitioners (known as rootworkers, conjure doctors, Hoodoo doctors, and by many other names) use the earth’s dirt in a variety of spells and rituals.  As part of the earth, Hoodoo practitioners use dirt to connect the powers of the earth to the powers of spiritual forces.  In other words, dirt is a way to connect the “natural” to the “supernatural”

First, let’s explore different ways that Dirt is used in the practice of Hoodoo. After which we have real spells, that use dirt, for fidelity, protection success and cursing.  


Dirt from Graveyards, Churches, Banks, Courthouses, Crossroads and other Locations 

The dirt from a specific location links the practitioner to the type of spiritual energy generated at that location. Hoodoo practitioners take dirt from a specific place, believing that the energy from that place is channeled into their spell. Locations such as graveyards, churches, and banks are believed to hold significant magical power.  For example, church dirt offers blessings and spiritual protection, bank dirt is used to draw in prosperity and abundance, dirt from a courthouse is used to influence court proceedings, and dirt taken from a crossroads might be used as an offering, to break curses or to remove obstacles. In Hoodoo, dirt connects spiritual forces, nature and magic. When used in a spell or ritual, the practitioner connects with the energy of the dirt, in an effort to get the desired outcome. 

Talia Felix writes the following from her book Conjuration: Hoodoo Spells from 1800 to 1920,

“...dirt, in particular, was not seen as powerful unless it was taken from a specific location            like the meeting point between the shore and the water or from the center of a crossroads”.


Graveyard Dirt

The use of Graveyard Dirt in the practice of Hoodoo comes from African spiritual practices. According to Jeffery E. Anderson, in his book Conjure in African American Society,

“One of the most influential forms of African Charms were the minkisi of the Kongo.               Manufactured by magicians, minkisi were positive beings inhabited to protect their      owners from    spirit-induced -induced illness. Like Gregory bags, gbo, and related        northern West African Charms, they frequently took the shape of packets. Unlike charms             of other areas, however, minkisi often incorporated the spirits of ancestors in the form of        dirt from graveyards…..”.

Dirt from a graveyard has an undeniably strong connection to the spiritual world as well as to the natural world.  Hoodoo practitioners harness the magical properties of graveyard dirt, in spells and rituals seeking to connect spirits and ancestors from the other world to the real world. Used in a variety of spells, including protection, cursing and love, graveyard dirt seeks to gain the favor and power of long past spirits to help manifest intentions. 


Goofer Dust

Goofer dust is used in different types of spells.  It is a mixture of different ingredients (depending upon the intention), with dirt from a specific grave. It is believed that dirt from graves of criminals and “bad men” has certain powers, while dirt from the graves of “good people” has other powers.  Commonly used in cursing, hexing, or “crossing” spells, Goofer Dust also sometimes used in protection and banishing rituals. Often times Goofer dust includes crushed insects, small reptiles, herbs, or powdered minerals.


Foot-Track Magic

Personal Concerns

In Hoodoo, personal concerns are items from a specific person, like hair, nails, bodily fluids, or clothing that link that target to the practitioner.  This idea comes from the concept that an individual leaves behind their energy in their personal concerns. One type of personal concern used in Hoodoo is Dirt left by the footprints of a certain person.

Referred to as “Foot Track Magic”, the dirt from where one stepped is used to target that person. These “tracks” are collected for either beneficial or negative magical intentions. To perform Foot Track Magic, a practitioner must collect the dirt or dust from where their target walked.  Then that dirt is used to connect to the target and, depending on the intention, the dirt is incorporated into the spell.


Laying Tricks

Identifying where someone will walk in the future is another form of Foot Track Magic.  When a magical item or substance is placed directly in the path where the target will come into contact with it in the future, the practitioner is Laying Tricks.  This type of magic can be used to cause either good or harm to befall the target (Yronwode). 

There are as many ways to play tricks with a person’s tracks as there are practitioners.   As Via Hedara so eloquently writes in her book, Folkloric American Witchcraft and the Multicultural Experience, A Crucible at the Crossroads,

“Track-Tricks could be the herbs, salt, soil, hair, graveyard soil, nails, thorns, bottles, bags, balls and papers we leave in the tracks of a person, or they could be the tracks  collected themselves which were tampered with in some way (being roiled, buried, burned or otherwise sweetened or harmed).


A selection of spells and rituals, each of which uses dirt for a specific.


Dirt Spells in Matters of the Heart



  1. To keep someone faithful, scrape the dirt from a target from heel to toe and keep the dust for as long as you wish to maintain their presence. (Felix)
  2. To keep a woman from cheating, sprinkle pulverized shameweed, otherwise known as the sensitive plant, and she will “close” up. (Botkin)



  1. To remove a love rival, take the dirt from where the rival walked. Scrape the dirt up from heel to toe, and then throw it in a river. (Felix)
  2. To make someone “hot” for you, take the tracks from where they stepped and sprinkle it onto a red ant hill. (Picket)
  3. To make a man follow you, get an empty snail shell and fill it with the dirt from his foot tracks, plug it with cotton and carry it on you. (Pickett)
  4. To have a man return to you, take an article of his clothing and bury it in a grave. Ask the spirit of the deceased to help you bring him back. Leave it there for three days. On the third day, during the night, return to the grave and unbury the article. Grab a bit of dirt from the grave. Mix this with salt and place over the door. In nine days, he should return to you. (Haskins)




  1. To Break up a man and woman, take dirt from the woman’s tracks and place it in a piece of paper. On top of it sprinkle dog hair, cat hair, gunpowder, sulfur and a lodestone. Fold it from east to west and throw it over your right shoulder into a body of moving water. As you do this, tell them to go. (Pickett)


Use Dirt for Business Success


  1. Take dirt from a graveyard and silver money and place it in tin foil. Fold the tinfoil towards you as you make your wish and state the following, “ In the name of the Lord.” (Felix)
  2. Go to the graveyard and get nine handfuls of dirt. Mix this with brimstone, red pepper and sulfur and salt. Burn the mixture and pray for success (Haskins)


Using Dirt to Curse, Hex, & Banish


  1. Graveyard dirt sprinkled around a targets home could cause illness (Felix)
  2. To paralyze an enemy, pick up the dirt from his tracks in cloth and place it over your door. (Pickett)
  3. To cause headaches, take graveyard dirt and put it in a small bag. Place this under their pillow. (Haskins)


Use Dirt to Escape, Flee, or Get the Dogs off Your Scent


  1. Dig the dirt from a graveyard with your left hand and walk backward. Sprinkle the graveyard dirt in your tracks and discard the remaining over your left shoulder. (Pickett)


Get Out of Jail Using Dirt


  1. Get nine (9) handfuls of dirt from a recent grave. The dirt should be gathered a foot and a half from the headstone, Combine the dirt with sulfer, red pepper, and brimstone. This is to be burned in the prisoner’s home.




  1. Walk backward from your house for nine (9) steps, Do not look back. Then, walk forward in the same tracks and when your reach the door, place a mixture of red pepper, saltpeter, and sulfur (Haskins)



Burke, David. Grave Dirt in Afro-American and Afro-Caribibbean Slave Magic, Academia. August 10, 2023.

Yronwode, Catherine, Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by Catherine Yronwode: Foot-Track Magic, Accessed 10 Aug. 2023. 

Felix, Talia. Conjuration: Hoodoo Spells From 1800 to 1920. Talia Felix, 13 Sept. 2016. 

Haskins, James. Voodoo & Hoodoo : Their Tradition and Craft as Revealed by Actual Practitioners. Bronx, N.Y., Original Publications, 2005. 

Anderson, Jeffrey E. Conjure in African American Society. LSU Press, 2007. 

Newbell Niles Puckett. Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro. The University of North Carolina Press, 1926.

Via Hedera. Folkloric American Witchcraft and the Multicultural Experience. John Hunt Publishing, 26 Feb. 2021. 

Benjamin Albert Botkin. A Treasury of Southern Folklore. Crown, 1949.









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