Before you attempt to make a gris gris bag, whether you are a seasoned conjuror or a newbie, be sure to read the page on Gris Gris first. This will give you some insight and deeper knowledge about what gris gris actually is, the many forms it takes, and most importantly, the history of how it came to be such a significant and unique part of New Orleans Voodoo.
What I am going to describe here is how to make a gris gris bag, because that is the most common thing people associate gris gris with, and most people are not making them correctly. Hopefully, after reading this article and the page on Gris Gris, the next time you attempt to make a gris gris bag will be a different experience, and one you will find much more powerful and effective.
Gris gris is a system of magick that is on a continuum of intent and purpose. As in the past, gris gris continues to be used to assist in all matters of living and as charms of empowerment, whatever the intent. What follows is just a short primer on the basics of fixing a gris gris bag. Once you know the basics, the rest is up to you.
Traditionally, a gris gris bag is a 2-inch by 3-inch drawstring bag made out of red flannel, chamois, or leather. Special herbs, stones, personal effects, roots, bones, coins, metal lucky charms, crystals, good luck tokens, carved stones, and European seals and sigils that have been written with magickal ink on parchment paper are placed inside the bag. Other colors can also be used, according to their magickal symbolism. You should only put an odd number of items into your gris gris bag; never less than three and never more than thirteen. The items are blessed as they are placed into the bag and the whole bag is dressed with anointing oil or holy water. It is then smudged in incense of some kind, words of power are spoken into it, and it is breathed upon. These rituals are said to activate the magick of the gris gris.
In New Orleans, gris gris is often hidden from public view. It is always ritually prepared in front of an altar and consecrated to the four elements: earth, fire, water, and air. Here are a few rules of thumb to remember when “fixing” a gris gris bag:
- Gris gris are created on the cardinal points of the Kongo cosmogram, or on the point of a specific spirit. For the sake of this tutorial, I am focusing on the cosmogram.
- Color symbolism is important. Choose a color specific to your need.
- Gris gris must contain an odd number of items: more than three, never more than thirteen.
- It must be filled with items that are specific to the desired purpose.
- It must be dressed with a liquid of some kind.
- Be very careful of the words you speak when making gris gris. Your words create energy that will become a part of the gris gris itself.
- Each ingredient can be smudged or smoked in incense, and so can the final bag.
- A petition written in a magickal alphabet or a magickal seal or sigil drawn on a piece of parchment paper with a magickal ink is placed or sewn into the bag. Magick squares and other talismans can also be added to gris gris bags.
- Words of power are spoken over the bag as a means of activating the divine energy.
- The final act is to breathe upon the gris gris to give it life.
To create a gris gris, you should set up a basic gris gris altar or working space. This altar should contain the four elements already mentioned: a bowl of water to represent the element water, incense to represent the element air, a bowl of graveyard dirt to represent the element earth, and a candle flame to represent the element fire. These elements should be arranged according to the Kongo cosmogram, a powerful symbol in Kongo cosmology. The cross pattern represents the crossroads; the division of the spiritual world from the earthly world at a sacred point which is the center. It is a circular cosmology, reflecting the belief that the journey of life is a continuous process as opposed to a beginning (birth) and an end (death). The four cardinal points of the Kongo cosmogram are read counterclockwise, starting at the bottom or southern point and going east, north, and west. Place the graveyard dirt at the bottom or southern point, which is where birth occurs and also where the container of our ancestors resides; the candle is placed in the east where the transformation of the individual begins as a full member of society; the incense is placed in the northern direction, the point of intellectual power; and the bowl of water is placed in the west, where comprehension, understanding, and the point of departure takes place. The gris gris itself should be placed in the center of the crossroads design and created on the center point of the cosmogram. Note that there are other interpretations of the cardinal points and the one I have given is the one of my understanding.
Gris Gris Charms
Following are a couple of examples of gris gris charms that you can make for a variety of purposes. Because gris gris is a highly intuitive magickal system, you should try a few of these and get the feel for how it is done. Then, use your intuition, along with your knowledge of the plants, herbs, and minerals, for making your own gris gris. Remember, gris gris is not confined to a bag. Some gris gris is merely a powder or a potion. Sometimes it can be made into a doll. Gris gris should be assembled in the middle of your gris gris altar, the ingredients asperged with incense and if made as a bag, tied shut using hemp string, wax thread, or leather cording.
Get Even Gris Gris Doll
This is an example of how to make and use a gris gris doll. It is a creepy little revenge spell from my book, The Voodoo Doll Spellbook: A Compendium of Ancient and Contemporary Spells and Rituals, Vol. I., which by the way, I am very happy to report has been picked up by Weiser books and will be republished with additional spells in 2013.
Create a small doll baby out of black fabric. Stuff the doll with saffron, salt, gunpowder, graveyard dirt, powdered dog manure, and crumpled newspaper from the obituary section. You can also write your target’s name in the Theban alphabet and put it inside the doll. Place the doll near your enemy—under their front porch, in their dresser drawer, in their purse, in the kitchen cabinets. Be sure to be discreet. Your target will surely suffer three times the anguish they have caused you.
Gris Gris Powder to Remove an Enemy
I am quite confident that the practice of throwing down powders in hoodoo is historically related to the practice of gris gris. Here’s a powerful gris gris for taking down enemies: grind up some snake sheds, dirt dauber nests, powdered blue glass, and a little cayenne pepper (oh hell, make it a lot of cayenne pepper), and mix it up real good. Sprinkle it where your target will be walking. If you are not near them, sprinkle some on a photo of your target and wrap everything up in a neat little package, folding the paper away from you, and bind with black thread. Bury it in a cemetery or throw it away in the trash.
Protection Gris Gris
And last but not least, here is an example of a gris gris bag. Combine the following ingredients in a 2 x 3 red flannel bag to create a powerful protection gris gris.
- Dried toadstool top
- Piece of High John the Conqueror root
- Powdered jellyfish
- A hand drawn protection talisman
Recite this traditional gris gris prayer of protection from the Koran:
In the name of Allah, by (the help of) Allah, and all Praise is due to Allah Who has taken neither a wife nor a son, and for Whom there is no partner in (His) Kingdom, and there is not for Him any helper against any humility; and all praise is due to Allah, Who describes but (He) cannot be described, Who knows. Who knows the treacherous look of the eyes, and what the breasts conceal; and I seek refuge by the Gracious face of Allah and by the name of Allah, the Great from the evil which created and spread and from the evil of what is beneath the lowest of the low beneath the earth, and from the evil which is hidden and manifest, and from the evil of what I have described and what I did not describe, and all praise is due to Allah the Lord of the worlds.O Allah! Send Your blessings on Muhammad and his progeny. Aameen.
Alternately, you can say Psalm 44:
Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words: That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not. They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them? They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded. So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves: all that see them shall flee away. And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing. The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory.
Or you can simply say a heartfelt prayer of your own. Hold the bag in the palm of your hands with both hands closed together, bring the gris gris up to your mouth, and gently blow into the bag to activate it with your breath. Soak the gris gris bag in whiskey every Friday to recharge it. Hang the gris gris above the doorway to keep evil from entering your home. Alternately, you can wear it around your neck from a leather cord, or in your pocket, on the right side if a man and on the left side if a woman.
Alvarado, D. (2011). The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook. San Fransisco: Weiser Books.
Alvarado, D. (2010). The Voodoo Doll Spellbook: A Compendium of Ancient and Contemporary Spells and Rituals, Part 1. Prescott Valley, AZ: Creole Moon Publications.
All text, images and graphics Copyright 2012 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide. Do not copy without my express permission.