footprints Footprints are reputed to contain the essence of a person and may be used in magical charms and spells. Dust or dirt taken from a footprint may be used to obtain power over the person who made the print, just as clippings of hair and nails, bits of clothing, urine and excrement are believed to have magical potential. In the lore of Lithuania, footprint dirt buried in a graveyard will cause someone to fall fatally ill. Australian aborigines believe they can magically cause lameness by placing bits of glass or sharp stones in a footprint.
In European folk Magic, lameness is caused by putting some earth from a footprint, a nail, a needle and broken glass into a kettle, and boiling the mixture until the kettle cracks. In Vodun magic, dirt from a footprint placed in a gris-gris, or charm bag, will cause a person to follow one. In parts of Africa, great care is taken to obliterate footprints, lest a witch or sorcerer use them for harmful magic.
Fairies also are associated with the magic of footprints. In Irish lore, if you are passed by fairies on All Hallow's Eve, you should throw the dirt from your footprint after them, which will force them to surrender any humans they have taken captive.
- Leach, Maria, ed., and Jerome Fried, assoc. ed. Funk & Wagnail's Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.
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