So, after reading a few interesting posts here on Tumblr about cascarilla, I really wanted to try my hand at creating some. I don’t practice Hoodoo, Voodoo, or Santeria* (which are the traditions from which cascarilla originates) but my decision to use it was made because I wanted to work with a blessing powder that I could create by hand, on my own. I don’t have the muscle or the inclination to grind my own flour or cornmeal, so cascarilla seemed appropriate.
When I started working at the magic shop, I got a strong urge to look into sprinkling and blessing powders. I had never even thought of or heard about them before, but as more customers started asking about them I started to come up with different uses on the fly and all that left me thinking “Wow, so, umm, these things are really versatile!”
Obviously, none of the ideas were ‘new’ I’m sure, but I wasn’t consulting any books, and only a few people; I was just coming up with the ideas as I spoke with people and so I was really intrigued with how effective the different applications I had imagined would be!
I like the idea of using flour in witchcraft, as it is a staple in so much hearthcraft, but it doesn’t ring as truly with me as cascarilla. Part of the reason I like the idea of cascarilla so much has to do with the fact that I attribute things like strength, protection, and purity with eggs. Also, eggs are just as much a part of a witchy kitchen as flour would be, so it all fits nicely.
The idea of strength, when discussing my UPG about eggs, rests squarely on the shoulders of Bill Nye. I watched this show daily when I was young, and still remember the episode where they stacked cinderblocks on fresh eggs to show their strength.
Protection comes from the obvious fact that the egg shell protects the soft, fragile life within it.
Purity has to do with the sensual aspect of the shell. I don’t usually put much stock in the black/white dichotomy, but an egg’s white shell makes it so easy to spot any dirt or imperfections, so it speaks to literal cleanliness and purity to me. Also, the texture reminds me of bare walls; nothing but a coat of primer. Nearly nude. They look like these shells are waiting to be given purpose. Like I am free to express myself as I please with them.
There are also the obvious fertility, life, and cosmological symbols that you can easily attach to eggs.
Now, getting on to the actual creation….
To my knowledge, a basic cascarilla powder is nothing but ground up egg shells. Different herbs, powders, oils, or even resins can be added (though I don’t know the specs for the when/how) to make ‘specialty’ or ‘charged’ powders, but basic egg shells is all you need to start. Wash them as best your can, and peel off the membrane inside the shells, then let them dry.
Next, you grind them up, and keep grinding, then you grind some more…then, when you’re tired of grinding, you take a break because you’re gonna have to keep grinding so you’ll need your strength.
Then you put it in a bottle. Or a jar. Or a baggie. You put your eggshell powder in a thing. Any thing.
Now, here is what I learned when making my cascarilla:
I used a bunch of eggs that were saved by our kitchen-witch at Kaleidoscope Gathering. We had eggs a few times, and she was feeding about 10 people, so there was plenty.
The problem with these shells was that they weren’t very well cared for. They got stuffed in a baggie for me to take home. This lead to two problems; firstly the shells broke apart and the pieces were too small to properly peel off the membrane, and secondly there was some dirt in there as well. So, try to keep the shells as whole as possible so you can peel off the membrane easily!
I did my best to peel off as much membrane as I could, and then got to grinding.
The first thing I noticed was that the shells were doing a stellar job cleaning out my mortar and pestle! All the black from herbs and resins in my mortar were scoured out completely! Better than when I did it with a toothbrush, and better than when I did it with salt. If you need to really clean your mortar and pestle, grind up a few egg shells in there! PRESTO! (And I guess that, there, is more of that purity thing I was talking about. Go eggs!)
Obviously I had to throw that first part of the batch out, as it was dark grey and sticky.
The next thing I noticed was that, holy hell, it smelled like burnt hair. Yeah, I guess the heat from grinding and breaking down the shell was causing the proteins in the shells to smell like burnt hair. It makes perfect sense, but you don’t think of these things until you’re trying to figure out who set your head on fire.
In the end, I finished with a goodly amount of powder, a fat blister, and a very sore wrist. Some of powder was fine and soft as talc, while most of it had a texture I can only describe as soft sand; tiny particles I could feel when I squeezed them between my fingers, but they weren’t really gritty at all.
Because I still had the membrane on the shells the texture was a bit coarser than it could have been, but was still entirely useable, and I’ve been told that getting it finer than that would involve an electric blender/grinder, which I didn’t want to use.
Having learned my lesson from batch #1, I made sure to keep my shells as whole as possible this time. It was a great idea, except that delay after delay happened and by the time I got to trying to prepare my shells, the membrane had dried completely and was almost impossible to peel out. So, again, I learned something; peels those suckers while they’re still relatively fresh!
This batch went smoothly, despite the membrane being there, I think because it had dried out so completely that it was grinding to powder itself. The texture was slightly finer, though fairly close to what I had accomplished in the first batch.
I’ve been told that taking a hammer to your shells in a cloth or baggie as a starting point cuts down on the time you’re grinding. Also, pounding, then grinding by hand, then by machine, then again by hand gives the most uniform and fine results. I’ll try it later, but I think the texture I got was pretty good.
How I intend to use them:
While I was working at the witch shop, I suggested lots of ways to use blessing or sprinkling powders in general, but I think all are applicable to cascarilla powder and are usually based on the desires of the customer.
- For protection, sprinkle solid lines on the ground in front of doors or windows.
- For banishing energies, blow it out of the palm of your hand away from you, maybe even out the door.
- To banish a person, prepare a ‘charged’ powder and put it in their shoes, or sprinkle it on the ground where they’ll walk through it.
- For blessings, sprinkle it in the four corners of a room, or on your altar. This also works for protection.
- To attract money, prepare a ‘charged’ powder and sprinkle it in your wallet.
- To empower an object, burry it in your sprinkling power. Or, for a book, dust the pages with your powder of choice.
- A traditional use for cascarilla powder is as an ingredient in floor wash.Ginandjack explained to me that to do so you need to boil water (like, BOIL it) and sprinkle in some of the cascarilla powder. The heat will break down the protein components of the shell until it dissolves completely into the water. This is why an incredibly fine powder is ideal. You then use the water as a wash for floors and magical tools.
- Cascarilla is also traditionally used to make chalk, which in turn is used to draw sigils and to mark sacred boundaries.
- I’ve also heard that using it as a powder on your hands orbody helps to protect against negative energies, especially when working magic, kind of like a shell around your body.
One of my favourite applications is to use it in the way that veves are created, by drawing out symbols on the ground or on your altar by pinching the powder between your fingers and drawing out sigils for your purpose. Or, if you prefer, lay out a fine, even layer of powder and trace within that a symbol of your desire, as I did in the picture above (I was calling in success, as I’m still working at a new job and want to keep it).
I recently revamped my altar taking this tactic into consideration; I decluttered so I could have room to use powders right on my altar for witching and hocus pocus!
So, followers, have any of you ever used sprinkling or blessing powders? Cascarilla?How do you prefer to use them?
*As I am not a practitioner of any of these paths, I completely acknowledge that I may be wrong about anything I’ve posted. If that is the case (i.e. “You should never use cascarilla that way!”, etc.) please let me know, and I’ll be sure to update with some notes! Thanks for being understanding.