Following on from my post on Horseshoes, which touches upon nails as a way of determining how long before one’s fate/ good fortune will manifest,It seems only right to focus a post on the use of nails more specifically. Horseshoes are not the only form of nail which have practical applications in magical practices. Iron, and by extension steel nails contain the powers inherent within the base metal and all the repelling properties still apply.
The Power of Iron
One mythological explanation for the repellent qualities of iron can be found in ancient Egypt where, around 275 BC, iron was referred to as “The Bones of Typhon”. Given the demonic qualities of Typhon iron later became known as the Devil’s bone. Through the concept that ‘like repels like’ as we see in magnets, of the same magnetic charge, iron can become a talisman which will ward off and protect against the very thing it’s attributed to it.
But for every negative interpretation of a magical item there is of course a positive representation. In the case of nails we can see this in the form of Holy Nails from the crucifixion. All things associated with the death and resurrection of Christ are deemed to be holy and imbued with great symbolic and actual power. In the case of Iron (and steel) nails the additional application of Holy Water to the objects imbue them with the power and the force to carry out positive workings, particularly those which are protective and invoke judeo-christian concepts.
The most common use of nails in a magical context is for the fixing of a spell’s energies, particularly in relation to baneful workings. Fixing may also relate to the pinning down of a person or situation to ensure that magical energies have the opportunity to work. In addition to being used in curses and protections they can also be incorporated into workings relating to legal matters. They are also used in protective charms and can be used to ground negative energies in larger workings such as witch bottles.
Coffin Nails are particularly popular in African Diaspora traditions, where their use has a long and enduring history of use.
Real coffin nails are rare*. Although in researching this I did come across tales of American practitioners in southern states being able to collect genuine coffin nails after large flood events but by and large they items available on the market are little more than rusty nails. If a proprietor does empower their nails it may be through a highly personalised ritual or with a process as simple as burying the nails in Graveyard Dirt for a set period of time and asking the spirit attached to the dirt to imbue the nails with the appropriate powers and aid in magical workings when the nail/s are used. Black Arts Oil, Power Oil and Goofer Dust are also cited as being able to enhance the agency and purpose of iron nails in a similar way.
Uses for Nails
Here are a couple of examples of how coffin nails, and nails in general, can be used in magical workings.
Carving and empowering candle magic – carve your purpose and/or symbols using a coffin nail to supercharge the working regardless of purpose.
Personal protective charms – carry a coffin nail on your person, ideally on the left hand side, to avert unwanted and negative energies from you day to day. Tying two or three nails together with natural red thread also forms a powerful protective charm.
Household protection – charging four coffin nails for household protection and hammering them into the four corners of the property will provide an effective protection against negative influences. In some cases it may be more appropriate to use railroad spikes which have been charged in Graveyard Dirt .
Cursing – to stop a gossip, take an animal tongue, preferably that of a cow, to a four ways crossroads and hammer a coffin nail into it to fix the gossip’s tongue.
* Disclaimer I am not suggesting that you go dig up Great Aunt Nelly in pursuit of genuine coffin nails! First and foremost because disturbing a grave is both illegal but also very disrespectful to the deceased. If you do get your hands on genuine used coffin nails then you must be respectful to the spirits attached to them. The concept is exactly the same as that associated with graveyard dirt. them. The concept is exactly the same as that associated with graveyard dirt.