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Brick Dust to Ward off Evil Spirits? More like Silicosis

Superstition is a major part of human psychology. It persists in all communities and religions. The variations of these superstitions are confounding, but they all try to achieve similar things. One of the most popular voodoo rituals is the “controlling a living person using a doll” ritual. One such product of voodooism is the brick dust protection. 

In a nutshell, it is believed that red brick dust has the power to stop evil powers from entering the house. This is of course a simple explanation. Superstitions are never this simple, they are like a well-crafted story with multiple reasons behind the practice. Where they lack is the results. This article shall look at the practice of brick dust protection, its origin, and most importantly, the hazards of practicing voodooism. 

The superstition of brick dust

Having red brick dust powder mixed with other ingredients (depending on the desired effect) spread in different parts of the house can protect it from evil influences. This is what superstition is. There are many reasons why it could have emerged. 

There are some psychological reasons why specifically bricks are used. First is the color red. Red is always associated with something magical, something powerful. It is used in Egyptian rituals, Hindu rituals, Haitian rituals. Red is the color of blood and blood is always the sign of a sacrificial offering. 

Not just for sacrifice, but red color has always excited us, even today. It warns, powerful, and has been important to us since time immemorial. 

Ferguson in 2006 described the use of red ochre clay to treat ailments. Even the earliest cavemen artists used red ochre pigments to draw animals on their cave walls, some 30,000 to 10,000 years ago. You can understand the association of the color red with human culture.

This red color of brick portrays the blood of the house. Hence the powder is the blood offering to the forces. A very common and very ancient form of superstition. 

The second reason comes from the brick itself. Brick is made from soil and soil represents the earth. Bricks are also used to make houses, they are the constructive units of the house. So the powder of bricks unconsciously represents the soul of the house. 

These two are most likely the reason why people got into the belief of brick powder power. But there is one place which is suspected to be the origin place of this superstition.

The bricks of New Orleans

Brick dust laying outside the houses of New Orleans is a common sight. It is said that this ritual has been practiced since 1825, influenced by the voodooism that was emerging in that place. 

The brick dust is not the sole component used in this ritual. It is in fact never the only ingredient to ward off evil. The brick dust is mixed with ammonia (most of the time, urine), herbs, nails, beans, moonlight, candles, etc. The list could go on.

Brick dust is not just used for warding off evil. There are various procedures to get a different effect on the power of brick dust. To materialize a living person, brick dust is mixed with nails, moonlight, beans, devil’s shoestrings, etc. 

A man who is boasting a lot can be controlled using black candles, rusty nails, brick dust, and some magical words. You can read many more on this site. 

In the book Red Brick Dust: A Traditional New Orleans Conjure Curio by Denise Alvarado, a lot of historical detail is given about the possible source of this practice. While the Gypsies and the Haitians are considered to be the founders of the Voodoo religion, it is suspected that the Native Americans were the first to do it, the Voodoo practicers merely took it from them.

Illustration of fire with Voodoo written on it
Image: The Spacefarer

Making brick dust at your home 

Making brick dust is very easy. All you need is a brick and a safe place with a hammer. Place the brick on a sturdy space and then slowly but strongly hammer the brick on the edges. This loosens the brick and makes it easier for you to manage the powdery mess.

One the large brick has been broken down into clean, smaller chunks, take few chunks and repeat the same process. After three or four repetitions, you’ll get a fine mass of brick dust. Store it in a safe place.

The brick dust is then mixed with ammonia, vinegar, etc to cause the reddening of the powder. This special brick dust now has the power to protect the house. All that’s left to do is put some of this powder around the house, sort of like surrounding it. Some dust is spread on the main door as doors are the entrance of the house. 

Is it a bad superstition? 

Not at all. Superstitions may not do anything in reality, but they have a psychological effect for sure. Superstitions cannot be evaded. I am an atheist and no matter how much I try, I cannot get rid of all the superstitions. This is perhaps because we do not understand everything completely, and these unknown domains of how the world works make our brain imagine things.

If having a little brick dust around your house can reinforce your psychology to think that you are spiritually protected, then go for it. There is nothing harmful about it, up to a quantity. Too much brick dust or ammonia or using it too often can become a cause of concern. 

Brick dust inhalation is dangerous

Silicosis is a serious medical condition that occurs when large quantities (in a short period) or small quantities (in longer durations) is inhaled. Silica is the same thing that is used to make glass. Imagine these tiny, hard particles getting inside your lungs and scratching the surface of the blood vessels. 

Do you know what else has silica? Brick. And when you make brick dust out of solid bricks, you are making a breathable brick. If you take the right precautions and don’t get exposed to too much of this powder, you’re safe. 

Brick dust causing silicosis illustration
Image: The Spacefarer

But if you tend to fill the house with brick dust like smoke or do it too often, you’re getting exposed to silica and that is not good. Silicosis is a dangerous condition that causes severe infection of the lungs, breathing difficulty and long term exposure can also cause lung cancer. 

So you might be protecting your house, but your body will be taking the hit. It is important to practice this ritual carefully and stay away from the dust particles. But that’s not the only thing that’s a cause of concern. 

The addition of ammonia to brick dust is another health hazard. Ammonia is not a mild or harmless chemical. It is a strong chemical that is capable of causing serious damage to your body. Exposure to ammonia can cause throat and lung inflammation. It can even burn the nose and throat. If the damage reaches the lungs or the respiratory tract, things can get very serious, even fatal.  

And this is what we could find out. Some rituals use even more dangerous chemicals and methods that could cause serious damage both to the property and the body. So while practicing, always keep safety first. 

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