Outside the Circle: Why Stealing Bones Matters – The Aftermath Of Stupid

Outside the Circle: Why Stealing Bones Matters – The Aftermath Of Stupid September 22, 2016

[Manager’s Note:  some of the quotations from Christian Day below were updated after publication.  We apologize for any confusion and for the original mistakes.]

By now, many of us have read the story of the arrest of Ender Darling, for selling bones online, obtained from Holt Cemetery. The Wild Hunt also covered the news, offered a timeline to events leading up to her arrest. I wanted insight into the magic that was abused. I wanted to go to the source. I went to the source: friends, teachers, real workers, who live and work in New Orleans, who breathe in the history and the magic of this place every day!

It turns out, a lot of people are pretty pissed off about this indeed:

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary–Voodoo Queen, Author, Storyteller, Historian and Psychic Medium at Bloody Marys Tours–commented:

I’m the only one that’s ever toured in that cemetery. I’ve reburied thousands of bones in there over the years. I kick out gutter punks and other people trying to make a real quick buck all the time. She, on top of being a dumb ass and disrespectful, who knows no magic but snippets she’s picked up on line, with no true power. Disregarding any form of ethics, for other people’s property or spirit. Abusing, for curses, we don’t even do curses. Just stupid on every level, personal, legal. One of the typical people that has moved to New Orleans since Katrina, don’t know anything about the beliefs, or what goes on here, and think they’re privileged and can do whatever they want, at any time.

a photograph of a cemetery
Holt Cemetery / Photo by Blood Mary / Used with permission

She says she goes there when it’s raining, I’ve been seeing things in the rain since I was 2 years old. It’s part of New Orleans. Anyone that is from here would know that.

It’s been 2 months now, and they’ve closed the gates to that cemetery at a special time. Holt Cemetery has not been closed in it’s history since 1879!!! It never had gates, it was the poor man’s cemetery, people would be out there on their hands and knees cleaning their own families tombs.

I now bring people to Holt cemetery on Cities of the Dead Tour and on private tours. For about 20 years I brought guests there on the Moonlight Graveyard Tour at 5pm till they recently closed their new gates at 3:30pm.

This woman lived a few blocks from here. I have seen so many bones over the years I could have made myself a man! I really could have.

a close-up shot of muddy earth mixed with bits of bone and teeth
Earth and bone and teeth / Photograph by Bloody Mary / Used with permission

I have so many pictures. My paranormal book has tons of pics.

Hand made headstones, out of wood, out of rock, or toys. The culture of New Orleans that hasn’t been squashed yet. Oh I have walked around, you should read the psalms, I have sprinkled wild flower seeds. I love that cemetery. After Katrina even, when so many people never came back. There are baby dolls, and poems like they shot my baby, we need to end the violence! Food, dance, jazz visits. The saddest thing is the dead found on the street that cannot even be identified.

Do you think that any bone kept will give you the right to abuse the spirit that’s attached to the bone who lived in it to be your slave, to do your bidding as in a curse. Where is that right. You don’t know that person.

Additionally, Bloody Mary made a little video just for me to share with you, so you could understand Holt Cemetery and take a tour.

As I continued to research I was amazed at the market of sellers on eBay and Etsy for graveyard dirt! It’s amazing there is any even left… and of course the authenticity of any of it is questionable. But they do say it’s “genuine.”

Hoodoo Sen Moise

a filtered image of a cemetery made to look as if it was taking in the 19th century
Photograph by the author

Hoodoo Sen Moise, Co-Owner at Crescent City Conjure in New Orleans, told me this:

I knew someone who bought potting soil from Home Depot and put some purple glitter in it then sold it as cemetery dirt.

Ender Darling was an idiot.  There are very good reasons for bones to be utilized in practice.  There are also ethical ways of collecting them.  This side of things is always done in the shadows, but also must be done with respect and sensitivity to those spirits.  Also, a bone is always more than a bone.  It is a link to a spirit of the dead and should be respected, not put up for auction.

Christian Day

Christian Day, resident of New Orleans and author of The Witches’ Book Of The Dead, added:

You are trying to understand one of the most unique cultures in America. This person desecrated the graves of African American people. 

Here is the results of what Ender Darling did, there is now a law in Louisiana that is the harshest in the country. Technically speaking, I can only own my own mother’s cremated ashes, according to this law. Unless you are a research institution or a museum or a state agency.

Robert [the human skull that forms the basis of much of Day’s spiritual work] is in Massachusetts because of this law. I can’t even be with that spiritual implement of my religion because of this person. It’s very frustrating. Now That part of my magic is gone.

a headstone
Photograph by the author

[Holt] is the most magical cemetery. I’ve gone to Metairie Cemetery where people have cathedrals built that probably cost millions. But you know what they are missing, they’re missing the love.

When I’ve been to Holt Cemetery and saw someone had made a slot machine out of pipe cleaners, to memorialize a husband who loved to gamble, or you see a crib over a baby’s grave with all these teddy bears, they did what they could afford, they couldn’t afford headstones so they put things there that meant something, and to me that’s so more magical than all the money put into a cathedral because it came with such a deep connection to people’s loved ones.

Ender Darling was wrong. Wrong, for desecrating the graves of people, for selling the product of that desecration, for trying to hide behind race and transgender politics, and really wrong for causing one of the harshest laws against the ownership of human remains in all of America, where you can’t even own the remains of your own parents unless they’re completely cremated.

Jymie Darling

Returning to Graveyard Dirt, my friend Jymie Darling, an alchemist, offers a substitute:

Now, there is an olde alchemy recipe to actually make it.

  • Patchouli
  • Earth soil oil
  • Soil 
  • Woodruff

Just like grave dust is:

  • Patchouli powder
  • Charcoal powder
  • Dragons Blood powder

Mix into a talc base making sure that you make it look like dust.

above ground tombs, common in New Orleans, under a blue sky
Photograph by the author

Patheos Pagan
Click here to like
Patheos Pagan on Facebook.
The Agora
Click here to like

the Agora on Facebook

Outside the Circle is published twice monthly on Thursdays on Agora. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.


""Intention and energy are what this Work is all about." I am so sick of ..."

Druid in the City: “Store Bought ..."
"In my experience I was told as a rule to witchcraft the only rule is ..."

Cross and Crossroads: What “No Rules ..."
"I can't imagine working without ethics or without even attempting to establish some kind of ..."

Cross and Crossroads: What “No Rules ..."
"Witchcraft does not have rules. Witchcraft has laws, very much like physics."

Cross and Crossroads: What “No Rules ..."

Browse Our Archives