The Magical Girl Guide to: Death Witchcraft
Death is a daunting and controversial topic in society.
Sure a lot of our generation may joke about death lightly in various memes or ‘lol someone just kill me, I wanna die from this failure I committed’, but when actually confronted with death, some people start singing a different tune. We’ve all been affected by it some way or another, whether it be the death of a friend, family member, beloved pet, or an idol you adored. Reactions and how we are, in turn, affected by said death is variable.
Some take it better than others, others reel and take a very long time to recover, but it is never easy when someone reaches that inevitable ending.
As such, death witchery is a road less traveled when it comes to witches. I won’t lie and say it’s an easy path to take on. Because it isn’t, death witchcraft is probably one of the most daunting paths of witchcraft one can choose. Working closely with death isn’t for everyone and can be quite dreary on the mind, but hopefully with this entry level guide, you can really decide whether or not you truly think death witchery is a path for you.
what is death witchcraft and what do you do in it?
Death witchcraft itself is easy to define; you quite literally, work with death. That’s all there is too it. As to what is actually entailed in death witchcraft, however, it really seems to vary from witch to witch.
Some death witches will dedicate their path to finding power in death and its inevitability. Rather than fear death and the fact it is coming for them at some point, they accept it and use that to focus on cherishing the life they have. Others will focus more on caring and tending for the dead, helping them accept their deaths and moving on into the Afterlife.
Some death witches will work with death in a more physical sense of working with grave dirt and bones for their spellwork.
Other death witches cross into ancestral witch territory by using their abilities to interact and learn strictly from the deceased they are related to as well as learn about their ancestors and their past.
There are death witches that practice and enjoy vulture culture and will even tend to deceased animals, roadkill included.
It honestly depends on the preference of the practitioner and how they wish to practice death witchery.
what if i’m scared of death?
That’s perfectly fine.
You can find a number of death witches here on this site that openly admit to the fact that their start in death witchcraft was due to a fear of death. They wanted to conquer that fear and accept that death would come for them and their loved ones at some point.
I’m not saying that practicing death witchcraft will eliminate every and all fears you have concerning death, but it is one way to tackle that fear. But remember, witchcraft and magic isn’t a replacement to getting professional, licensed help.
do i actually have to work with bones?
Yes, no. It’s up to you.
Despite using bones in my craft, I personally think it’s possible to work with death without using bones. Whether it be because you personally don’t feel comfortable with or have no access to getting bones due to your living situation (ex. closeted, living with close minded family), I’ve seen different death witches discuss various materials they use other than bones in their craft.
Dead insects using their typical correspondences. (https://themanicnami.tumblr.com/post/159947126041/insect-and-non-insect-correspondences)
Dead plants and flowers. (https://the-witches-glossary.tumblr.com/post/621631918979612672/rottingdecaying-herbs-correspondence)
Crystals can be used in death magic as well, even being referred to by some as the bones of the earth. @lunaesteria even has a splendid post on various crystals and their correspondences when applied to death magic that you can read here. I also recommend reading her post about using the death of celestial bodies in death witchcraft and drawing from that death energy here.
Death is everywhere to be drawn upon in less obvious ways than just bones, so you don’t have to limit yourself to one particular tool to call yourself a death witch. Especially if you won’t feel comfortable with it. If it isn’t for you, don’t force yourself because you’ll just make yourself unhappy in the end.
which afterlife do the dead go to?
Due to the amount of afterlives in various cultures and the depictions of those afterlives, I personally believe the dead go to ones they believed in (so researching death-related customs around the world will be very useful for a budding death witch to learn about). As such, it’s always a good thing to be acquainted with the various afterlives out there from common and mainstream beliefs to more obscure, forgotten, afterlives before Christianity began to heavily circulate in other cultures.
I won’t get into every Afterlife in the universe, but I can cover a handful.
Heaven: The resting place of the souls of the good and lawful. It is also considered the throne of God and his angels. Streets of gold and gates of pearl are said to be part of this afterlife’s geography. According to the Latter Day Saint movement, there will be four levels of heaven.
Hell: A fiery pit where the souls of evil and wicked people are tormented for all eternity. It is said to have circles in accordance to the seven deadly sins and depending on which sin a person was most full of in life dictates the circle they will be in in death.
Limbo: Where the souls of the innocent but unbaptized go after death. Whatever the reason they weren’t baptized, they neither deserve the beauty of Heaven nor the punishment of Hell.
Purgatory: According to wiki, Purgatory is an afterlife of those who “die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven or the final purification of the elect.”
Jannah: Literally translates to ‘paradise’ or ‘garden’, in Islam this is where the souls of the righteous go after death. The Quran says that in Jannah, people will be greeted by angels from gate to gate. It is also described to be lavish full of gardens and springs and mansions and each person is adorned with bracelets of pearls and gold. But in Hadith, it is described to have eight principal gates guarded by angels. It is said in this version of Jannah that people will still be the same age they were at the time of death and in the same social standing. There are four rivers mentioned named Saihan, Jaihan, Furat, and Nil in Jannah’s geography.
Jahannam: The home of the souls of evildoers. In this afterlife, evildoers are punished in accordance to the sins they committed when they were still alive and the suffering is both physical and spiritual. There are many levels to Jahannam and each is worse than the previous. There is also a blazing fire, boiling water, and the Tree of Zaqquim described in the geography.
Both Jannah and Jahannam are believed to coexist with the temporary world.
Sheol: Where all the dead goes, regardless of the choices they made in life or if they are deemed good or bad. It is described as a land of darkness and a considerable way from heaven.
Otherworld: Believed to be the home of the Celtic deities as well as the dead (though in Irish mythology, Tech Duinn is where the dead gather or even possibly where the dead go before proceeding to the Otherworld). I sadly wasn’t able to find much on it in terms of geography but there are plenty of stories of heroes finding the Otherworld through mounds or caves or through the western seas. It has been said the Otherworld exists alongside our own and you can usually tell you’ve entered it by seeing strange things like mist or divine creatures or sudden weather changes.
Underworld: A rather elaborate realm where the dead go after dying. Once in front of the entrance of Hades’ realm, good and bad people separate. There are 6 rivers in the Underworld as well as 5 different areas of the Underworld one can go: Tartarus, Asphodel Meadows, Mourning Fields, Elysium, and the Isles of the Blessed.
Valhalla: A realm Odin is in charge of. When warriors die in combat, half of them go to Valhalla as chosen by Valkyries. Some speculate the more heroic souls and souls of leaders end up in Valhalla that help Odin prepare for Ragnarok. Described to have a golden tree, a hall with golden shields, and filled with various creatures.
Fólkvangr: The other half of those who die in combat are taken here to Freyja’s realm. Often described as a meadow or field where more ordinary warriors go but there isn’t much out there about the geography.
Niflheim (”house of mists”) + Helheim (”house of Hel”): Where most of the dead go to that die outside of combat and Hel’s domains. Described as an icy place and cold place where people live the way did before. After Ragnarok, there will eventually be a hall in Niflheim to punish philanderers, murderers, and oath breakers. As for the rest, it isn’t necessarily described as eternal bliss but just continuing the way you were before. You can’t ever leave Niflheim, gods included, as such they are wary of it.
Rán’s Domain: There is very little information about this domain, but for those that drown at sea, they are the responsibility of Rán and go to her realm.
Egyptian (aka Kemetic)
Duat: Osiris’ domain. Described to be just the way the ancient Egyptians lived normally with lakes, rivers, islands, fields, etc for the most part. The other part includes a geography with a wall of iron, trees of turquoise, and even lakes of fire.
The Summerland: A place where the soul goes after death to rest and recuperate before reincarnating. Wiccans believe this is a place to reflect on your previous life and what you learned before going into the next with all memories of the previous life erased.
do i have to follow death-related deities?
Another term you will likely come across flipping through reading material is the term ‘chthonic’. Chthonic means ‘concerning, belonging to, or inhabiting the underworld’. In other words, chthonic deities are gods and goddesses that deal with death and chthonic entities are spirits that deal and relate to death. Most pantheon have at least one and one that a lot of us can probably list right off the top of our heads is a certain blue flamed villain from a beloved Disney classic:
But there are more deities than just Hades that deal with the deceased. However, before we dive into that list, I do want to clarify that you DON’T have to work with deities-relating to death in order to be a death witch. Sure, to some it might make more sense to hop on the chthonic-deity train if you are going to be a death witch, but you can do whatever you like when it comes to religion as long as you are going about it properly (closed vs semi-closed vs closed religions and being mindful of whether or not you need to be of a specific group or initiated into a group to practice its beliefs).
Atheist, Secular, Polytheist, Monotheist, etc. etc.
There are plenty of people that worship the Morrigan or Hades but AREN’T death witches. The same can go for death witches and opposite spectrum deities. You don’t have to worship a deity to be any sort of witch but you also don’t have to limit yourself to only chthonic deities if you are a death witch who happens wishes to follow a certain spiritual path. Do you and be happy.
But on the flip side, if you are interested in chthonic-deities, I will gladly list the open ones off as a kickstart to you doing your own research about them and their mythologies. Many of these deities can teach how to conquer fears of death and live your life more fully due to your mortality. But they have plenty to teach beyond death, especially deities that have more than one association. As always, remember to be respectful to all deities regardless of their associations. They all have something to teach.
Anubis (Egyptian): God of the Dead, Tombing, and Embalming
Clíodhna (Irish): Goddess of Love, Beauty, Healing, Sea, and the Afterlife. Queen of the Banshees
Freyja (Norse): Goddess of Love, Sex, Beauty, Fertility, Gold, Seiðr, War, and Death
Hades (Hellenic): God of the Underworld
Hekate (Hellenic): Goddess of Magic, Witchcraft, the Night, Moon, Ghosts and Necromancy
Hel (Norse): Goddess of the Dead
(The) Morrigan (Irish/Celtic): Goddess of War, Fate, Cycle of Life AND Death, Rebirth, Sovereignty, Wisdom, Prophecy, Destruction, Bloodshed, Fertility, and Fresh Water
Nephthys (Egyptian): Goddess of Death and Mourning
Odin (Norse): God of Wisdom, Poetry, Death, Divination, and Magic
Osiris (Egyptian): God of Fertility, Agriculture, the Afterlife, the Dead, Resurrection, Life, and Vegetation
Persephone (Hellenic): Spring, the Underworld, Flowers, and Vegetation
Rán (Norse): Goddess of Storms, the Drowned Dead, and Personification of the Sea
Thanatos (Hellenic): God/Personification of Death
This isn’t a complete list but a list to just get you started.
Aside from deities, some death witches tend to interact with spirits that relate to death (besides ghosts). Some notable entities of death to mention are faeries such as the dullahan and the banshee, shinigami from Shintoism, and Reapers (as in the Grim Reaper). Death witchcraft can easily be tied to spirit work depending on the death witch, but that’s a post for another day.
so necromancy-- can i actually bring people back to life with death witchcraft?
That’s a big misconception thanks to media portrayal of necromancers (and their close cousin the necrodancer).
Contrary to widespread belief, necromancy isn’t the ability to bring back the dead. No one can do that, not even death witches. So if you’re coming to death witchcraft with that in mind, I’m very sorry to say that it isn’t possible to bring back a loved one with this path. It may be hard to accept their death, harder for some than others especially, but this is a branch of witchcraft that can help you come to terms with that person’s death.
But remember, witchcraft isn’t a replacement for therapy and counseling. If you are having difficulties with accepting the death of a family member, friend, pet, etc., please look into finding professional help.
Necromancy instead is divination through the dead such as ghosts.
what’s a psychopomp?
Psychopomps are guides for the souls of the deceased to the afterlife.
Think your grim reapers and dullahans and shinigami and Underworld ferryman and other entities mentioned in mythology that guide deceased souls to the various afterlives.
how can i ethically gather grave dirt and other materials?
In the simplest way: Approach grave, Tell Spirit what you would like to use it for, If they say yes, take a light scraping and pour it into a bag. If they so no, respect their wishes.
As for the use of grave dirt, in general it can be used to communicate with the spirit it belongs to, conjuring death energy, protection, and even necromancy. There are some slight property changes depending on the grave it is gathered from, though.
For instance, if taken from the cross roads, it can aid in astral projection and past life work.
Love and happiness from the grave of a loved one, Curses if from the grave of someone who was wicked in their life, and so on and so forth.
Some firmly believe that if you use grave dirt, it must be for the spirit that has allowed you to take it. Others believe it’s fine to use it for other purposes if the spirit has given you explicit permission to use it for your own purposes. Do what feels best for you.
The same can apply to bones. I’ve been approached by a person on another blog of mine who was experiencing a lot of bad luck after picking up an animal skull they found in the forest. I told them quite simply, put the skull back as it seems the spirit of said skull isn’t happy you took it. Don’t just go in and take with your grabby grabby hands, ask and see what response you get. If you think it may help, bring an environmentally safe offering as well.
Then depending on areas you live in, even passively collecting feathers from certain species of birds is considered illegal and you can be fined a lot of money for doing so. In that case, please research your home’s laws when it comes to particular birds and animals so you don’t get in trouble while participating in vulture culture.
You can also find reputable sellers online if you would like to purchase properly cleaned and ethically sourced bones if you don’t feel comfortable gathering such material on your own.
cemetery etiquette 101 so i don’t piss of ghosts?
As one would expect, you can’t just run into a cemetery and start doing things your own way without any consideration to the spirits living there. If you are going to interact with the deceased and connect with a cemetery, you have to be respectful of those entities as well as the staff.
If the staff tells you to do something, listen to them. Do your research about the cemetery itself and the history surrounding it so you are well-prepared and when going to the cemetery, keep in mind:
If you see items such as stones and rocks atop a grave, leave it because those are offerings from someone else.
Don’t take or remove things left by their family members. Fixing something knocked over is fine, but straight up taking it is a big No-No.
A term you may see tossed around in the death witch tags is Gatekeeper, often described as the oldest spirit in a cemetery that looks after everyone. However, there are cases where the gatekeeper is a spirit that looks after everyone and is mostly just the strongest there. Giving an offering to a gatekeeper when first entering a grave is a way to introduce yourself and show you are there without meaning any harm. Use your intuition to lead you to the gatekeeper.
Please don’t walk over someone’s grave either. I shouldn’t have to write it there for the sake of common sense, but to avoid someone doing it and getting a pissed ghost on their case, I’m writing it down here.
And this should just about cover Death Witchcraft 101 to those curious about the practice. I’ve said it before, death witchery is a daunting path. Working with death isn’t easy, in fact there are even some witches that are adamant that you shouldn’t work with death by any means. Still, the choice is up to the practitioner and you should do what’s best for you.
I wouldn’t say to just jump in with death witchery, there are some paths where you should take your time researching before actively practicing it (ex. fae work and faerie witchcraft). I personally researched and studied death witchery for a year before actually delving into it in 2019 after some light pushing from a trustworthy diviner who told me I would be satisfied with the path.
So take your time, really think things over, and make the best decision for your own sake. This can be a very emotionally demanding path and because of it, I don’t recommend it to the light of heart.
2K notes · View notes