Have you ever looked at a spell and it says something like “leave the object at a crossroads”? Many, many spells end this way and for good reason. Leaving an item at a crossroads magically and energetically disperses the energy. It’s good when you’re leaving a general offering for spirits. It’s great when you’re trying to cast a non-targeted spell.
Leaving spell work in specific places is usually because you don’t want it around. As said, sometimes it’s for safety’s sake (ie curses or spirits), but other times it’s for things like healing spells.
If you used a rock to remove a disease from somebody while healing them, you don’t want to keep that disease-ridden rock. So put it at a crossroad where it’s away from you.
Some witches leave things at the crossroads so others can pick it up and a curse can be passed that way. And some witches use it to bless those in the same manner.
It’s also commonly used in getting rid of spirits and curses. Capture a spirit and release it in a crossroads far away from your home. Toss the remains of the curse you’ve casted or the dregs of whatever uncrossing spell you’ve done to rid yourself of a curse. Both instances ask you to visit a crossroads far away from you home.
A third usage is an energy reset. This usually is used by a practitioner that does a lot of land-based or local magic or works with a lot of spirits. Sometimes, you just need to cleanse the energy lines and the space.
All of those things can be done at a crossroads. But what makes a crossroads a crossroads? What are the unspoken rules about crossroads? And why are there unspoken rules at all?
First, let’s establish what a crossroads is.
It’s an intersection. Or, rather, a crossroad is where two or more streets intersect or cross one another.
Properly, it should be any intersection where four streets meet and none of the roads are a dead end or cul-de-sac. However, train-tracks and roads, bridges, and so are are also crossroads and can be used, even if they are literal streets.
Plus, dead ends and cul-de-sacs can be useful in crossroad including spells – want to stop energy from spreading? Want to make a boundary within your neighborhood? Those kinds of spells could benefit from streets that end abruptly.
Similarly, a corpse road is a road that traditionally refers to the pathways or roads the dead were carried on from the church to the graveyards. Often, corpse roads were separate paths with gateways because of fear that the dead linger on such roads. Now-a-days, any road used to carry the dead from one place to another could be considered a corpse road.
I like to combine the two. My home, the Crossroads House, sits between two crossroads (literally two intersections) and is behind a funeral home. So my crossroads are corpse roads. However, if you don’t work with spirits, perhaps selecting crossroads that are not corpse roads is more beneficial to you. Weigh your choices carefully.
When it comes to symology and magical purposes, crossroads are well-known world-wide. I’ll quote from The Complete Dictionary of Symbols edited by Jack Tressider (pg 128-129):
The unknown – hazard, choice, destiny, supernatural powers. The important attached to intersecting ways in most ancient cultures is remarkable. The fact that they were natural stops for wayfarers only partially accounts for the number of shrines, altars, standing stones, chapels, or Calvaries sited there. In Peru and elsewhere pyramids were sometimes built up over years by travellers adding votive stones as they passed through crossroads. Spirits were thought to haunt them, hence they were sites for divination and sacrifice – and, by extension, places of the execution or burial or people or things of which society wished to be rid. Many African tribes dumped rubbish things there so that any residual harm might be adsorbed. Roman crossroads in the time of Augustus were protected by two lares campitales (tutelary deities of place). Offerings were made to them or to the god Janus and other protective divinities, who could look in all directions, such as Hermes, to whom three-headed statues were placed at Greek crossroads. Hekate, as a death goddess, was a more sinister presence, as was the supreme Toltec god, Tezcatlipoca, who challenged warriors at crossroads. Some version of the Oedipus myth placed his faithful encounters with his unknown father, and the Sphinx at crossroads – an analogy for destiny. Jung saw the crossroads as a maternal symbol of the union of opposites. More often, they seem an image of human fears and hopes at a moment of choice.
That’s a lot of words so I’ll break it down.
Crossroads have and will always be a symbol of choice. In the past (and even today) travel by the roads is pretty much the only way to go. In the past it was safer because other travelers can band together to protect one another. Today, property laws say you can’t trespass making roads pretty much the only way to travel.
Because people traveled on them shrines, altars, and holy places were erected at intersections. Sometimes even notes were left by signs. It was also a great place to meet people coming and going.
It was and is also a place where spirits dwell. Part of that is from the shrines, others is because of the executions. I see crossroads a bit like a spiritual water cooler. Spirits seem to collect there because of all the different energies coming from different directions (and be carried by different people and things).
Additionally, if you believe that energy travels via roads (whether naturally or through people passing on those roads), then crossroads are very magically powerful.
Because of the spiritual symbolism behind them, especially in regards to actual spirits, there’s a lot of unspoken rules about crossroads. Here’s a few of them.
Never use the same route home
This means if you came up the eastern road, you should use the western, southern, or northern route home. Don’t use the eastern. This is because a spirit or energy could follow you home through the circuit you’ve made. Instead, take a different way home, which should spiritually or energetically get them of your trail.
Never respond to voices at the crossroads
Sometimes, you’re at a crossroads and you may here people talking. Logically, this is because crossroads tend to be open spaces and voices travel. However, it may also be spirits or faeries. In any case, don’t respond to the voices you’ve heard. Just go about your business and be on your way.
Do not make deals at the crossroads
This follows the above rule a bit further. If you go to the crossroads and see another person there, then keep on going. Don’t stop to talk with them, don’t stop to do your work, and don’t turn around and go back the way you came. Don’t meet their eyes and, above all, do not make deals. Simply put, there’s a strong belief that if you meet another person at the crossroads, it’s probably going to be a faerie, spirit, demon, or even the Devil, depending on who you ask. It’s Bad News. Skip the drama and don’t even stop.
Never leave items with your address or name at the crossroads
This is not only for spiritual safety, but your physical safety. Someone could simply google you and cause all sorts of problems. Spiritually, offering your real name to spirits, other practitioners, etc is often questionable. Your name is a piece of you. Guard it.
Try to leave environmentally safe items at the crossroads
This isn’t a rule, but it should be. Often times, we leave leftovers of spell work and other things at the crossroads. Typically speaking, it gets cleaned up when the city comes by or neighbors. But animals and the less fortunate also use or consume what they find at the crossroads. So if you’re going to leave an item that is not for consumption (like sugary bread baked with glass for a curse) then bury it at the crossroads. You may need to search for a crossroads that you can discreetly dig at, but it’s worth the trouble to keep animals or people from consuming unsafe things. This is also true for jar spells. Consider, does it really need to be in a glass jar?
I use crossroads fairly extensively in my craft, when it calls for it. But I’ve been asked what a crossroad is about a dozen times a year, so it was time to type up my thoughts about it.
Crossroads certainly have their place in magical practices. It has it’s place in folklore. It’s certainly a symbolic feature and we use it often in media to describe being torn or in many places. Remembering this folklore and symbolism is important, but you’ll also want to take into account your own practices to see if crossroads fit your practice.
Post includes an original tumblr post.