Monday, July 4, 2011

Strange, Dark Magic of the Crossroads

by Susan A. Sheppard

Does the possibility of vengeful ghosts make you a bit squeamish? What about shadow ghosts, meddlesome spirits and graveyard ghouls? Do tales of spells of voodoo make you shudder? Or are you one who dreads the dead?

Then you would do best to avoid the Crossroads a place in every town where roads intersect and form a cross. In ancient lore, the Crossroads is a place where spiritual danger and ghostly powers are said to lurk. It is an area where no human laws apply. This is more so if there is a cemetery nearby. Why the Crossroads?

Throughout the world, the Crossroads hold a special significance. After all, it is a place where psychic powers, ghostly powers if you will, are the most focused and strong. The meeting and parting of ways is associated with the Crossroads. This may explain why ancient peoples were suspicious over paths that intersect especially lonely, isolated roads where the more sinister elements of the supernatural such as vampires and devils—have long been connected.

All type of unnatural beings hang around the Crossroads like a foul mist, willing and waiting to gobble up your immortal soul The Devil himself is linked to the Crossroads. This is especially true not only in African American folk tales but also in European lore. Not only is the Devil associated with the Crossroads, fairies are said to frequent there— but not the benevolent kind in children’s tales. These are fairies of evil so one should never fall asleep at the Crossroads. All manner of misfortune will find you. You may wake up “bewitched” or “fairy led.” You may wake up in the land of the dead!

Long ago, gallows for the condemned were built at the Crossroads. Suicides and victims of murder were buried at the Crossroads as well. This was done so their restless souls wouldn’t wander seeking revenge upon those who harmed them in life. Some believed it was the power of the Christian cross that the Crossroads symbolized, to protect the living from vengeful acts of the unhappy dead. Contrary to popular opinion menacing ghosts are not always the earthbound souls of the departed. But they can sometimes be an evil component of the personality that survives death. This ghost is usually one that is said to lack authority and direction. It is believed that a malevolent ghost will stand at the Crossroads all night long trying to make up its mind which way to go. Upon morning, the pure rays of sunlight will send the spirit screaming into banishment.
Vampires are said to carry their shrouds to the Crossroads in search of victims. In Voodoo rites, tail feathers from a black rooster will help protect you at the Crossroads from devils, ghosts and boogers that usually haunt mountain hollows. A rooster claw works as well. However, the magic and mayhem of the Crossroads traces further into history than the advent of Christianity. This legend is much older having appeared in Asia, Africa and North America well before the European influences came about. This is one of the mysteries that surround it. Ancient peoples all over the world believed that magic was at its most powerful at the Crossroads, and a path associated with witchcraft. Hecate the Greek goddess of the underworld, howling dogs and witchery lurks at the Crossroads where it is said she prowls looking for someone to haunt.

In ancient times, offerings of food and cakes were set out at the Crossroads to appease Hecate and her mysterious forces for good and evil. Such cakes were then called “Hecate cakes,” in which a lighted candle was placed in the center so Hecate could find her way to the Crossroads. This was also done to light the way so dark Hecate could find her food after dark. This is where the custom of candles on birthday cakes originates. Voodoo gives great spiritual influence to the Crossroads. Voodoo spells are often performed at the Crossroads, lending its magical powers to the spell caster. Crossroads dirt, as well as graveyard dirt, is still used as protection from the Evil.

In Voodoo spells, the Priest or Priestess who casts the spell waits at the Crossroads until an apparition (sometimes the Devil) appears. If this apparition does not make himself known immediately, the spell will be made more difficult to work. But if the devil or ghost arrives just on time, you can be assured the spell will work, but in the most dangerous and diabolical way possible. In Hoodoo culture of the Mississippi Delta, the Crossroads holds great distinction – especially for musicians. It was believed that if a musician truly desires to become great at his craft, he should go to the Crossroads at Midnight (sometimes at dusk) and wait for the Devil to appear or for a rooster to crow.

Once this would happen, a big black man will materialize. It is important to point out this was not meant to be an African-American man, but a coal black man usually asks to borrow the musical instrument, which in most cases is a guitar. The black man then tunes the guitar and hands it back to the musician. Sometimes the black man then asks to trim the musician’s fingernails. Upon finishing these tasks the black man vanishes, either walking down a path into the woods, or just disappearing in mid-air. Now the bargain with the Devil had been made. Typically, the musician will, indeed, become great, but lives a short and violent life as his debt to Beelzebub.

How did a belief in the Crossroads make its way to West Virginia and other southern states? Mysteriously, a group of small diminutive people called “The Black Dutch” eventually settled in the mountain state. They brought with them a belief in the Crossroads from their place of earliest origin India, Romania and later Germany. Some Black Dutch were German Gypsies who settled with the Pennsylvania Dutch not far from the West Virginia border. Other Black Dutch were Shawnee and Cherokee Indians. Gypsy tradition says one should not toy with this mysterious witchery of the Crossroads.

Uninvited forces of a malevolent nature might enter your life... So whatever you send out comes back to you threefold, and then some. And don’t forget: The Crossroads exist everywhere, even in your town...


  1. Just signed up on the Google account. Love the post & the cat picture.

  2. Intriguing and informative...beautiful illustrations...I so enjoyed this, Susan! )O(