Many of us in the witchy community have heard of cascarilla powder. But do we really know what cascarilla is? It’s sacred ancient history and lore? Here we go deep into the magick of sacred white earth, plus provide cascarilla’s uses and two recipes for cascarilla eggshell powder and chalk.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of Cascarilla in magickal practice, let’s talk a little bit about the history of this wonderful cleansing, protective ingredient.
Cascarilla (Croton Eleuteria), pronounced kas ka ree ya or chash ca reela, is a shrub native to the West Indies which is a bitter and an aromatic. The name itself means ‘husk.’ The West Indies is a sub-region that includes Central America, parts of South America, the Archipelago islands, and the Caribbean islands. The bark of the plant was ground and used medicinally by the native people for fevers, diarrhea/dysentery. As an expectorant, and as a pain reliever for the debilitated or convalescing (as there is a high probability it contains narcotic properties).
Santeria practitioners, whose faith derives from West African traditions, began using Cascarilla bark powder to represent efun (a West African concept). Santeríans believed efun, or sacred white earth, provided protection from evil. And it was no coincidence when the bark was ground up it produced an almost-white powder.
The concept of efun exists in all West African diasporic practices including Hoodoo, Vodun/Voodoo, Santeria, Candomblé, Umbanda, Palo, and others. Interestingly, efun is a Yoruba word that, when translated to English, literally means ‘chalk.’ In the tradition of Candomblé, efun is also a ritual where an initiate’s head and body are shaved and then decorated with tribal circles or dots using white chalk made from white clay, eggshells, or limestone powder. Efun is not only a word. It is a concept and a magickal practice, depending on the West African diasporic tradition.
Over time, Santeríans’ practice evolved from using the Cascarilla bark to crushed white eggshells, particularly from a Black Hen. So why the transition? Eggshells became more readily available to practitioners. And the magickal properties of eggshells themselves further amplified the sacred powder. The eggshell provides protection to the chicken embryo and is also a powerful symbol of new life. It’s worth noting that efun exists in both plant (barks, herbs, roots) and animal formats (animal bones).
Cascarilla is used as a powder, pressed into a chalk, or mixed with water and resin to make paint for external workings. Sometimes cascarilla is ingested via tincture to cleanse and protect the practitioner from the inside out. It works magickly by providing a boundary or barrier between this world and the otherworlds. It also encompasses the cleansing powers contained in the symbolism of egg magick. This means it protects against negative entities, energies, and malevolent practitioners, while also providing cleansing properties.
As a powder, sprinkle it anywhere you wish to ward off negative energy: your home, altar, bedroom, or even on your body. Cascarilla is a great ingredient to add to your warding powder recipes. It’s also effective in floor washes, to dress candles, in sacred washing soaps, and as a dust on the outside of the body. Add it to the bath to immediately clear the auric field and work to expel internal negativity. It is used to honor Obatala and is put on a practitioner’s hands before divination. Cascarilla powder’s magickal applications are virtually endless.
In chalk format, it’s used to draw sacred symbols, magickal sigils, or veve’s (sigils used in various Vodun/Voodoo practices that are believed to be living magick once they are created). Cascarilla chalk can also be used to mark boundaries for sacred space sites or decorate sacred items. When mixed with water, and oftentimes a smidge of resin, the powder then becomes paint. The paint is typically used on the body for ritual adornment.
Though cascarilla is a representation of the sacred concept of efun in the West African tradition, the power of eggshell powder has become prominent among other traditions, including Wicca. However, most non-West African diasporic traditions refer to Cascarilla simply as eggshell powder.
Making cascarilla powder is simple but not exactly easy. First tip: use white eggshells! If you use brown you won’t be able to obtain that pure white powder you’re searching for. Second tip: It takes A LOT of eggshells to make any significant quantity of powder. Collect at least two to three dozen eggshells before attempting to make cascarilla powder.
1. As you’re collecting your eggshells, make sure you rinse them thoroughly and clean the inside membrane out of the eggshell. If you don’t, you’re powder will come out sticky and congealed and we don’t want that.
2. Once you’ve rinsed and taken out the membrane, set them out to dry on the counter for 24-48 hours. Once they’re thoroughly dry, keep them together in a designated container.
NOTE: Some people choose to bake the shells instead of letting them dry naturally. While you can heat them on low (300F/150C) for 10-20 minutes, I find this process to be finicky and unnecessary unless you’re in a hurry to produce your powder. If you keep your stock refreshed regularly, you shouldn’t need to use an oven.
3. When you’re ready to make your batch of cascarilla, take out all your eggshells and make sure the shells are brittle.
4. Place the brittle shells in a blender. Blend on medium speed for 1 minute. Note: this process smells awful so make sure your space is well ventilated.
5. Once the shells are reduced to tiny pieces, transfer them into a mortar and pestle to reduce them further into a powdered form.
NOTE: If you choose, you can skip the blender step all together and go straight for the mortar and pestle. Having done this myself, I will tell you that grinding the shells without first using the blender is a labor of love and will take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour and a half to complete.
6. To store your powder, place into a designated jar or container. At conjure shops, there are condiment cups which contain cascarilla powder or cascarilla marking chalk. If you produce a large batch; you may want to invest in condiment cups for your practice.
1. To turn your powder into marking chalk, you will need to mix 3 tablespoons eggshell powder to 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon hot water in a bowl. The consistency should be clay like. If it’s not, adjust accordingly (too wet = more flour and vice versa).
2. Once you’ve reached the correct consistency, you can roll your chalk sticks. They can be round, square, flat, or whatever shape you want.
3. Once you’ve got them fixed into a shape, roll them in a paper towel and let them dry for 3-5 days. When I did this, the paper towel stuck to the chalk stick. I recommend getting non-ribbed paper towels or even experimenting with wax paper.
NOTE: Another experiment (this one I haven’t tried): get a silicone mold and pour the wet chalk clay into it. Leave it for 3-5 days and then the chalk should pop right out of the mold. I really want to try this and if you try it, let me know how it goes!
Thank you for joining me in this exploration of a sacred magickal tool that has a rich and complex history. If you make your own we’d love to see how it turns out! Post your eggshell powder photos below.
Allorah Rayne is a practitioner of amnestic wayfaring witchcraft and has been part of the online spiritual community since 2012. Her introduction to Tarot was the age of nine and she pursued more intensive learning at fifteen. Allorah is the founder of Wayfaring Witch ©. She is also the co-founder of Spread This, Witches!, a community centered divination organization. Contact her on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and YouTube or by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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