Home > Musings > Salt as a magical component

Salt as a magical component

I’ve been reading two series: The Codex Alera, an epic fantasy, and The Dresden Files, an urban fantasy/mystery both by Jim Butcher. I was struck by the use of salt as a disruption to active magic or as a purifying element in each. Why salt?

According to the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine,

From ancient times, salt was used both to indicate and to repel the presence of evil. This is evident in the ritual of mothers salting their babies mentioned in the book of Ezekiel, a practice which included but was not limited to Hebrew women: “Your father was an Emorite and your mother a Hittite, and as for your birth, on the day you were born your navel was not cut nor were you washed in water for cleansing, you were not salted at all nor were you swaddled….” (Ezekiel 16:4)

The site further describes numerous other cultures who “salt the baby” to protect against demonic forces including Arabic, Catholic Christians, Baltic, Swedish, Laotian, and Thai among others.

Supposedly,

Salt being incorruptible, averts demons and protects against black magic. As an ancient writer put it, witches and warlocks “like their master, the Devil, abhor salt as the emblem of immorality.”

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, salt is used in the Catholic liturgy as an element of the baptismal rite and also as part of the preparation of holy water.

The old superstition of throwing a pinch of salt over the left shoulder (into the face of the Devil) after spilling salt is one of the remaining vestiges of these beliefs.

Me, I prefer freshly cracked pepper. But I may have to browse through the book, Salt: A World History, to rediscover the importance of this substance of life.

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