The witches of Netflix’s descent into the Archie Comics universe, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, are of a different breed than the ones you might run into selling mystical crystal amulets online. Sabrina Spellman is half-witch, half human, so she will only ever get things half right, no matter how many animals the teen witch might dissect in the office of Baxter High School’s biology department. While Sabrina’s witchy DNA has little to do with modern practitioners of the old craft, some of the magic used in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is quite mundane. It is as much a day-to-day affair for Wiccans, pagans and other occult practitioners as a western omelet for everyone else.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina takes a dark turn from the comics or the previous TV series. In the first episode Sabrina, played by Kiernan Shipka, is cursed by the Weird Sisters, who are full witches who happen to be top students at the Academy of Unseen Arts. First Sabrina washes off the curse with water, while doing a chant, in the school bathroom. She gets home and her aunts Hilda and Zelda Spellman, played respectively by Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto, determine what kind of spell it is through an incantation and an egg. The guardians use a process known as an egg cleansing, and it is standard magic for those in the know.
“Egg cleansing is one of the common ways to wash away the bad,” says herbalist and kitchen witch Jessenia Rubi, who follows a Native American tradition of healing. The owner of LaRu’s Tonics & Trinkets says egg cleansings “will tell you who, what and if you’re having issues.”
“Egg cleanings are performed all over the world everywhere from Ethiopia to brujeria m Latin America,” says Voodoo Priestess Lilith Dorsey, author of the books as Love Magic: Over 250 Spells and Potions for Getting it, Keeping it, and Making it Last, Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism, and The African-American Ritual Cookbook. “They are the one of the most primal ways to get in touch with spirit and what is happening with a person’s body.”
But what gives the egg that power? In the film Angel Heart, Robert De Niro’s Louis Cyphre says the egg is the symbol of the soul in many religions. “The egg would have the innocence and is the ideal vehicle to remove something negative,” says Vanita Karma, a curandera who works with the Mexican form of spiritual cleansing called limpia de los huevos. “The power is with the person who is conducting the ritual.”
These prophets cross the road to get to the other side of their works. “Some people use eggs as sort of a litmus test to see if their cleansing or protection work is successful,” Dorsey says. “In that case you would use an egg to divine the person’s situation both before and after the working. The intention is to have a ‘bad egg’ changed into a ‘good egg.’ Eggs however are a good way for an individual to check to see if there is any negativity attached to them and then proceed accordingly. In this instance the show seems spot on.”
Ovarian soothsaying is similar to tea leaf readings because the diviner reads what settles in liquid. Rubi says the egg “interprets the future with the way it cracks and what designs it leaves.” She says the “color and so forth it will show if you are cursed and in danger.”
Like any recipe, there are steps to an egg cleansing. “The ritual usually starts out with the burning of copal or some other type of herb,” says Karma. Frankincense can be substituted for the copal tree resin. Magical performers will also need a glass of water, most preferring bottled spring water. Some suggest keeping a cross, rosary or whatever symbol of faith the practitioner follows. The practitioner will place the items on an altar or a white cloth and light the incense and a white candle.
“The eggs are raw,” says Karma. “Some people insist that they must come from a black hen.” A fertile egg which has aged a little can be more dramatic. Many spiritual workers insist the client bring an egg from home. The diviners will only find things which naturally occur in an egg, blood, red or black spots, various stages of chicken embryo in extreme cases.”
The person being cleansed should strip down to whatever is easiest to allow an egg to roam their entire body. While every tradition and practitioner brings their own special seasonings to the eggs, some begin the ritual by calling on their familiar deities or spirits. Some practitioners sprinkle consecrated holy water on the egg for a blessing to remove negative energies, curses, hexes or illnesses.
The egg is rubbed in a downward motion, counterclockwise, starting from the crown of the head. The egg doesn’t necessarily have to touch the body unless the client came in asking about a physical symptom. The process can be repeated several times until the practitioner is sure the egg covered both the front and back of the body, the hands and palms, the groin and the bottoms of the feet. “If the egg cracks during process, something is definitely working against that person they should be prayed over, cleaned and the process has to begin again,” Rubi says.
After the processes is finished, the eggs are “cracked into a glass of water,” says Karma, where it sits, sometimes up to 30 minutes, depending on the reader, “and then the contents are read to see if more spiritual work is needed. An egg which is half-sinking and half-floating may be a sign of a developing problem.” If there is no magical influence being done to a person, the egg will sink directly to the bottom and look perfectly normal.
If the egg white forms a webbing pattern or mesh, it could mean something entrapping a person. Murky water can indicate soul loss. If the water is murky with blood spots, it is usually a sign of evil magic and bad luck. Black spots can be a sign of strong evil magic, especially if combined with blood.
“I look for shapes symbols and initials. I mainly focus on the area around the yolk, although the tendrils tell a story of jealousy or gossip,” says Rubi. “Cloudiness or specks of blood in the yellow indicate that something negative is going on,” Karma adds.
Small bubbles could be a sign of attack or negativity that has been dealt with by whatever spirits protect the person being cleansed. “I also look for black bubbles and red in the yolk for any deep concerns dealing with health and cursing,” says Lynn Jackson, a gypsy psychic who lives and works Inside The Crystal Ball. “Bubbles around the bottom are great because that’s a sign that your ancestors are handling your protection. Bubbles along the top of the glass or water means a higher spirit like angel or bigger God or deity.”
A shape of a face on the egg yolk can be the face of an enemy, something resembles an eye is the sign of the evil eye.
Carting the Eggs Away
After the ritual you need to dispose of the egg properly. Some believe they must be broken at a crossroads, but they can also be flushed away in the toilet. “I usually let it sit for about 5 minutes and toss it,” Rubi says. “You can let it sit for 24 hours if you want to soak up any extra energy.”
As delicious and nutritious as they are, it’s not a good idea to eat an egg used in a cleansing. Certain magical poisons leave residue. “The point of an egg cleansing is to rid any negative and evil that has been placed on you if you eat the egg you are eating the negative and digesting it right back,” Rubi warns. “Now if you would like to cook it and feed it to an enemy that’s a different story,” she admits. “They become infested with whatever filth was placed on you.”
“The idea is that the ‘intention’ of the egg is taken in when the person eats the egg,” says astrologist and alchemical life coach Scarlet Korvina. If it’s a hex, mixing it into another overall meal might be necessary after the magic has worked into the egg though it’s better if the egg is eaten directly by choice.” Karma says she is “not aware of anyone using an egg ritual to send it back to the sender.” At the end of the ritual, eggs can also be smashed or burned to destroy what is contained inside once removed.
The Great Egg Trick
Egg readings are infamous for the con artistry played by the ever-roaming gypsies who operate out of storefronts. “Dishonest healers could use an egg that was well on its way to hatching, and the unsuspecting client would think they were affected,” warns Karma. “You can give a client immediate proof something is going on if you show them a blood spot on an egg.”
“There are tons of gypsies who are wonderful scammers who will ask to see your hand to take your watch,” warns Jackson. “They set out using the ‘Great Egg Trick’ to do as the name infers, to ‘gyp’ a person.”
The “Great Egg” con or the egg curse scam, called the bujo in Romany, is a fortune telling fraud. The psychic uses cold reading skills to pick up on a real problem in the mark, like bad luck for a gambler or bad romance for a lover. When the fortune-teller cracks the egg, it reveals extreme and often grotesque outside influence. At the center of all magic is a con and every confidence game is an art. The gypsy can inject insects, blood, black bile, metals or other foreign objects into a pre-prepared egg, or they can pull a sleight of hand on an egg brought in by a client. “It is easy to pierce and fill an egg with other substances,” Karma says. “So if you are shown a foreign object, the reading is fake. It is an interpretation, not a conjuring.”
Once the curse has been identified, and it comes out that the practitioner is the only person who can take it away, they ask for money. It’s not for them, of course. The money has to be destroyed. The client brings the cash in a bag, a spell is cast over it, and the fortune teller destroys it. Or at least what the rube thinks is the bag they brought in, while it is merely been replaced by one filled with paper.
Lynn, a psychic medium and “a traveler in search of truth with gifts of a seer,” would never “use the ‘great egg trick’ to scam innocents of their hard working money.” But she has witnessed quite a few bad egg intentions on her journey. Many of which she added to her Book of Shadows.
“The power of the egg is like one’s true character, what is done behind the velvet curtain,” Jackson says. Who hits the chicken embryo is much more powerful a vehicle for magic than mere interpretation. “Can I capture a soul through an egg? I would say yes. What is a soul? The soul is the mind, the consciousness, a person’s thoughts. It is not only magical, but very psychological.”
But be warned, the gypsy doesn’t think magic, spells, and potions are only mental trickery. “I love to manifest whatever I desire to happen to my enemy into an egg yolk and bury it outside and just watch,” Jackson admits with a smile. Eggs can occasionally be used to cause harm. Some traditions believe if you put some eggs in a couple’s bed they will fight, probably over the smell of raw eggs in the bedroom. A spell using a buzzard’s egg reportedly can keep a philandering spouse at home. Rubi hasn’t tried to use an egg can to send a hex back to the source by itself, but says “It will wash away any bad juju including the evil eye.”
An egg can be used to initiate hexes. In both Ukrainian and Mexican traditions, “it is customary to decorate eggs with symbols of the blessing they want to attain,” says Korvina. “As the egg represents new life, it was viewed that the blessings would be part of the gift of the new life ahead. The most common way to create a hex is to somehow reverse the working.” The practitioner does this by “simply using baneful symbols instead of ones for blessings.”
“These cultures are also known for making decorated eggs that are also hollowed out and either left empty or filled with confetti, a hex egg could conceivably be filled with a hex powder, i.e. gris gris, that is then thrown onto the subject or, more likely, the front door or home or other area where the subject will cross the path,” Korvina adds. The alchemist points out that besides “being a lot less conspicuous and violent. Ideally you want the egg to break on impact and people just tend to be too soft, unless you hit bone. As with all spells, there’s always a ‘creative element’ that comes from the being in the moment and the witch’s own intuition so you know, you’d have to play with it to see what felt right for the occasion.”
The Egg as Occult Messenger
Belinda Sinclair’s Conjuring Room, less than a block from where Madame Blavatsky first brought theosophical teachings to New Yorkers, hosts A Magicienne Among The Spirits. The show basically tells the history of magic through card tricks, but the enchanting croupier doesn’t limit herself to the arts of prestidigitation. Sinclair also deals out anecdotes of the diabolical sciences like the story of Italian scholar and polymath Giambattista della Porta. During the Scientific Revolution-era, della Porta founded the scientific society Academia Secretorum Naturae which studied the “secrets of nature.” He came up with such radical ideas like you can’t curb magnetism with garlic.
The author of the 1558 book Magiae Naturalis or Natural Magick was forced to hide occult knowledge in eggs. The word occult means hidden. It doesn’t imply evil. It doesn’t mean frightening. But during the Reformation, representatives from the Papal Inquisition were very scared of the knowledge della Porta possessed. The magician took a page out of his own book to ensure his ideas would live on. He would write letters and deliver them through an “errand of deception.” He dissolved potassium alum, which includes potassium, sulfur, and hydrogen, in vinegar, and painted messages on the shell of a hardboiled egg. The vinegar dissolves some of the calcium carbonate in the egg shell, and the alum stains the white. Then he washed off the compound, and smuggled the eggs past the jailors. When the egg was cracked, the message showed up on the egg white. The Naples-born magician probably wrote books like that for fun. Natural Magick also has a recipe for making a meteorite.
Sabrina Spellman may be in danger of cracking at the School of Unseen Arts, but she is not walking on eggshells. She is the daughter of one of the school’s most prominent professors, and is proving herself to be quite an egghead herself.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is available for streaming on Netflix.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.
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