The dust of red bricks is thought to have protective qualities, particularly as a barrier to keep unwanted things out. The association of the colour red and earthy elements with luck and protection may go back to prehistoric rituals.
“Modern” brick-making is thought to have originated about 7,000 years ago in Turkey and Jericho, spreading westward gradually over the centuries. Long before that, however, red ochre was the substance used by many civilizations for practical and ritualistic purposes.
Ochre, a natural earth pigment, is a mixture of iron oxide, sand and clay. It ranges in colour from deep brown to orange to light yellow; if a large amount of hematite (dehydrated iron oxide) is present, a reddish tint known as red ochre, or “ruddle”, is the result. Purple and brown ochre, sienna and umber are other ochre variants.
Iron oxide is one of Earth’s most common minerals, and ochre deposits are found abundantly worldwide. Prehistoric civilizations used yellow and red ochre to paint scenes on cave walls and floors and to mark burial sites. Africans have used red ochre as body and hair makeup for over 200,000 years. In ancient Egypt, tombs were decorated with brilliant yellow ochre, and Egyptian women made rouge and lip paint from powdered red ochre. The pigmented clay was also used medicinally. And the Aboriginal Australians and Maori of New Zealand have used ochre for thousands of years as sun and insect protection, body decoration, artwork, a wood preserver and in burial practices.
Ochre was the pigment of choice for the murals of Greece and Rome and continued to be used in frescoes and panels during the Renaissance. The ancient Picts and Celts were said to have painted themselves “iron red” (possibly with bog iron), giving rise to the “red men” (Fer Dearg) of Irish myth. In Britain, ochre mixed with oil was used to coat and protect ships’ sails from the ravages of salt water.
Iron, being strong and elemental, is thought to provide a powerful barrier. Wrought iron fencing, for example, is traditionally used around cemeteries to keep wandering spirits inside and vandals, grave robbers and body snatchers out. Ritually, the iron oxide in red ochre and its modern incarnation, red brick dust, are used for protection, warding or drawing. Hoodoo – originally practiced by enslaved Africans – employs red brick dust, a substitute for the ochres found in their homelands, in rituals to protect against evil, curses and bad juju. One practice is to scrub or paint the front steps of a home with brick dust, or “reddening”, to keep away people you don’t want to see. Another is to add it to mojo bags to draw money.
From Bricks to Dust
How to get brick dust? If you have access to old, abandoned bricks (please don’t steal them, and make sure they’re not part of an historic or heritage property), use those; they’ll crumble more easily than modern bricks, and they might just contain echoes of the buildings they once were! It’s best to work outside on a hard, protected surface and to wear safety glasses. If working indoors, make sure you have plenty of ventilation and/or wear a dust mask.
Place the brick in a paper or plastic bag and chip away at it with a hammer. Edges and corners crumble more easily than the flat surfaces. The bag will start to disintegrate quickly, so have some extras on hand – and make sure you don’t lose any of the precious dust through the holes! Grind the small pieces into a powder in a mortar and pestle (a granite one, if possible).
If you can’t find any bricks, some new age/spiritual stores sell red brick dust.
Harnessing Brick Dust Power
• Sprinkle powdered red brick in a line across your front steps or window sills to keep out an unwanted presence (physical or otherwise).
• Add a pinch of brick dust to a small pouch and hang above front and back doorways to make your home “brick house strong”.
• Sprinkle brick dust on your threshold to ward off thieves.
• Add finely-powdered brick to a vinegar wash to cleanse outside steps.
• Add to protection bottles (alone or with ground cinnamon and brown sugar) and bury at the four corners of your property.
• Carry brick dust inside a tiny vial for personal protection.
• Draw a protective sigil or circle on the floor with red brick dust.
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