From a sprinkle of salt over the shoulder to “chase away evil” to the full-blown circle of salt, the humble sea mineral’s protective and purifying power stretches back through antiquity.
Anyone who has watched a supernatural thriller movie involving angry ghosts or demons knows that salt is Hollywood’s prescription for protection. The hugely popular TV series Supernatural—now in its seventh season and voted TV Guide’s most popular show this year—has the “doubting heroes” throwing salt at every spirit and ghost in sight. They blast away merrily with shotguns filled with rock salt, and pour liberal lines of salt on doorways and windowsills. They scatter salt on spirits of any religious tradition, taking down demons, “evil” pagan gods, atheist ghosts and wendigos. (Okay, I know, they use fire on Wendigos, and wooden stakes on evil pagan gods, but let’s keep it simple). Is this purely fiction? In our real world, does it help?
Salt, the Universal Purifier
Salt has been highlighted in nearly every spiritual tradition as a purifier. The Bible is full of references to the sanctity of salt. Wiccans use a sprinkle of salt in water to bless. Some ceremonial magicians use salt circles. Some Daoist traditions use salt with great effect. Salt, as purifier, is virtually universal.
Why is Salt Considered Pure?
At one time, salt was so valuable it was the currency of the realm, more coveted than gems or gold. This was partially because it was relatively rare, mostly found in dry coastal areas. It’s reputation for magic and purity and protection came from its near miraculous ability to preserve food. Preserves of all kind were made from salt, leading to the assumption that it could preserve and protect anything. It became so valuable that ancient civilizations levied taxes in salt, and once it traded on par with gold, ounce for ounce.*
Even the Bible is filled with references to Holy Salt:
• “Covenants of salt” are mentioned in Num 18:19, referring to its indestructibility
• “And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, ‘Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.” 2 Kings 2:21 (King James Version)
Salt has long been a cure for many diseases, especially in times when disease was thought to be caused by malicious spirits. Salt purified wounds and later was found to be effective as a purifying gargle. In ancient times, when babies were born, they were rubbed with salt to protect them from evil and possession of demons. The tradition of salt, the protector and purifier, stretches back as far as human memory, no doubt linked to salt’s natural ability to preserve, purify and even cure.
How is Salt Used to Purify or Protect Against Malicious Spirits?
The ancient tradition “sow the ground with salt” is among the most famous references to how-to-use salt. It is said that salt can bless land, house, person, or a thing simply by touch.
Universality: Christian, Pagan, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Athiest
The Christian tradition of salt as a purifier—and even a weapon against demons and spirits—is well established in a long history. Nearly every other belief-tradition, to some extent, believes in the purifying power of salt, including: Muslim, Pagan, Wiccan, Hindu, and Buddhist. Even from an atheist point of view, salt can be viewed as symbolic of purity. Ultimately, it’s the belief in the power of salt that is most useful against spirits.
Spirits as Literal Versus Thougtform
Some people think of spirits—especially in modern times—as thoughtforms. Some view them as literal. The truth might lie between these two extremes. Our power to communicate or work with spirits comes from the same root: our personal beliefs. If we believe spirits are thoughtforms or even “internal demons”, the salt still works because the tradition of salt is so long and proven that we instinctively believe. The collective unconscious of our combined history ensures that at a deep, subconscious level, we know salt is effective.
On the other hand, if we believe spirits are literal, the salty tradition has even more impact, since the entire body of tradition is based on literal interpretation and doctrine. Either way, salt is anecdotally effective as a protection against spirits in nearly every tradition. Other protections—such as Holy (or Blessed) water, fire, iron (note these ancient protections are all elements)—might work with some types of spirits or some religious traditions, but salt seems to universally work.
Circles of Salt
In the most dire of circumstances an unbroken line of salt is recommended for protection from a nasty spirit, preferably in a circle around the person/object being protected. Traditionally, spirits cannot cross a line of salt, and many say that salt transcends physical. Salt—and many gems—are considered living spirits in their own right by many, and for this reason are thought to exist in all realms simultaneously. A ring of salt in the physical world, also exists in the astral, according to some experts.
Circles are powerful in protection against paranormal phenomenon even when they are not made of salt. Many pagans, Wiccans or ceremonial magicians use painted circles, imagined circles or rings of rope, stones, gems or candles. However, against truly malicious spirits a border of salt, especially in a circle, is the most effective.
Protecting a House or Property
A house or property is difficult to protect with a ring of salt, since the amount of salt would be staggering. Most traditions, however, believe that spirits have trouble crossing thresholds into homes due to the naturally positive energy of home and family. Usually a line of salt on the threshold and windows is enough to “seal” a home where absolute protection from a malicious spirit is required. Thresholds and window sills may not be enough for a commercial venture.
In a nasty situation, a bowl of salt in front of mirrors is also recommended, since many believe mirrors are portals to “other worlds.” Like thresholds and windowsills, they should be warded.
Many people seeking to discourage harmful spirits find that a simple bowl of rock salt in the each room is enough, in the same way other people might burn a high-frequency incense such as sage to purify and exorcise.
How Does It Work
Anecdotally, it works. But how and why? Salt is of both earth and water (the sea) and this may be part of it. It’s unusual purifying power (on food, people, disease) is part of the answer. Some explain it’s power as a “damper” cutting off the connection to “other worlds” by removing the natural conductive paths. These conductive paths are typically through doors, windows, mirrors in buildings. In people, they are often the eyes or the mouth/nose.
Types of Salt
All salts are effective purifiers, but traditional holds that sea salt and raw or rock salt is more effective. More effective still would be blessed salt—blessed in the tradition of the person seeking protection. A Christian might bless in the name of the Holy Trinity, a Buddhist in the name of Buddha or a Bodhisattva, a pagan in the name of her devotional goddess/god. What matters is that the person in need of protection be reinforced. In most anecdotal evidence, the “spiritual discipline” of the spirit is less important than that of the person in need of protection. And, unlike amulets, which should be charged with intention, salt appears to work without blessing or intent. Throughout history, salt has anecdotally been proven to be effective whether you believe in it or not.
—Special Feature by Ron Lam, Editor Spirit and Ghost Magazine