Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

It is hard to believe that black pepper, which seems common to most of us, was once a prohibitively expensive spice in the Western world.  Even in the late 17th century it was still considered dear and it wasn’t until colonization of the New World made it possible for Europeans to grow their own pepper that it became a regular additive to everyday foods.

Not surprisingly, pepper’s original hard to get nature made it a key ingredient in certain magickal disciplines.  Hoodoo in particular, which was predominantly practiced by the poor and enslaved, saw the spice on the master’s table as a way of getting a little of its own back.

Many jinxes and curses in hoodoo involve what is known as “throwing for a person”.  In other words throwing or placing a prescribed mixture where a person will have to step over it.  This will cause the person to pick up the curse and walk with it until it either does damage or is discovered and lifted.  Black pepper, interestingly, can be used both to fix the jinx, and to keep it from harming you at all.

A simple throw that some people I know swear by involves a mixture of half black pepper and half salt.  This spice mix is kept near the front door, usually in a decorative bottle or box, and a handful is discreetly thrown after any visitor that is not welcome back.  To reinforce the jinx, the mixture is swept off the porch in the direction of the offender with the owner of the home’s favorite broom.

A bottle spell involving pepper was said to be popular with slaves, particularly those who worked in the master’s house and had access to “personal concerns”.  Such things as fingernail or toenail clippings, hair or any other item from the body of the person to be jinxed (imagine what a hairdresser, barber or maid who emptied chamber pots in the morning would have access to, for instance) would be obtained on the sly.  These would be mixed with black pepper, red pepper, salt and sulphur and put into a bottle or jar.  The container would then be secreted in a spot, like under a doorstep or a loose floorboard by the bed, where the person would step over it regularly.  This would cause the person to waste away painfully, lose money and fail in love until the bottle was removed and destroyed.

On the other hand, black pepper was thought to be a preventative for throwing and foot track magick as well.  A person simply had to sprinkle finely ground black pepper in their shoes to make their track invisible to any jinx.  As noted in the previous post on them, silver dimes were sometimes placed in the shoe.  If the dime turned black it was a sure sign that someone had thrown a trick at you and appropriate precautions should be taken.

In Wiccan and Druid magick, pepper seems to be less versatile.  Here you find it added to amulets and talismans to ward off the Evil Eye, and scattered around homes to dispel evil.  Voila ~

Header: The Chore by Thomas Anshu c 1888


Timmy! said...

I had no idea pepper was so powerful, Pauline.

I prefer to scatter it over my food, but, hey, whatever works...

Pauline said...

Useful and tasty; what more can you ask from a spice?