Jewish Rituals to Protect Your Home
When reading almost any guide to witchcraft, people are instructed to begin with protection spells. Many Jewish practitioners may not realize that they may have set their first protection long before that first spell.
Judaism is highly superstitious, but if you ask most Jews, they will deny it until their dying breath. In fact, it is a mitzvah not to be superstitious, and yet here we are. Those same Jews will also deny they have placed a protective ward on their door or in their home, and yet, their mezuzah still stays in place.
But data shows us that we know the power of our protection. One study showed that "participants who did not kiss the mezuzah performed worse than those who kissed it" (1).
For thousands of years, Jews have cultivated home protection methods for everything from genocide to bad luck. While there are different traditions in many communities, with different diasporic traditions emerging over the centuries, here are just a few common home protections that one can put into place in their own space!
Mezuzot are small cases containing a klaf (or blessed scroll) placed upon the doorposts of Jewish homes. It fulfills a commandment to place the word of Gd on Jewish doorposts, but even more than that, it serves as protection of the house. It echoes the sentiment of Jews in Exodus using blood to mark their doorposts to keep the angel of death from entering their homes.
In the Zohar, it "states that if a Jew affixes a mezuzah to his or her door, the Almighty denies harmful and destroying agents (mazikin) any access to the home, even at a time when the Destroying Angel is let loose." (3)
While it is the klaf that is truly important, the imagery that appears on the mezuzot cases can further impact protection. For instance, think of the Hebrew letter shin, symbolism like the Nazar, the Hamsa, Fish, Lion of Judah, etc.
While some Jews will deny this, most commonly rationalists, the history of mezuzot as protective devices is a long one.
Believed to be a symbol of the covenant between G.d and the Israelites, salt has always played a huge role in Judaism. From being included in sacrifices in the Beit Hamikdash, or Temple, to being a required part of the koshering process of meat, Judaism places precedence on salt as more than just a simple seasoning.
"It is an axiom of kabbalistic thought that every physical substance is, in essence, the devolved form of a higher spiritual entity. Thus salt does not only "symbolize" or "represent" the supernal realm of gevura, it is gevura in its physical manifestation." (4)
Placing salt in and around the home, particularly at the doorway, is a long time common Jewish superstition. However, it is not limited to simply the home, as salt can be placed in pockets to carry the protection once a person has left the home (6).
For those uncomfortable with pure grain salt, a common tradition among many diasporic Jews was to dissolve salt into water and use flicks of the water (in varying sacred numbers) to the corners of the home, starting at the east.
Sephardic traditions were heavily influenced by the power of salt, "as a symbol; of incorruption, could absorb then repel the evil" (5).
It is also a tradition to bring salt and bread as the first gifts in a new home as they bring protection and goodness to the home itself.
Much like salt, garlic has long been an important protective item in Judaism. While all branches of Judaism have used it, there appears to be a greater deal of literature regarding its use in Sephardic tradition.
Like salt, garlic placed around the home (particularly near doorways) is a way of warding off evil spirits, demons, and entities.
Hiding cloves of garlic around the house was common, with a focus on bedrooms, under pillows, near windows, and in shoes.
Some would plant garlic plants near the front door as well as in small pots around the house.
Rue, Cloves, and Rosemary
Rue, commonly known as "Ruda" in Sephardic communities, was seen as massively protective. From stem to seed, rue was useful. It was planted in and around the home, dried and used as decoration, burned, or kept in dishes around the home.
Cloves, which can be used in multiple rituals to remove the evil eye, are considered incredibly protective. There is a belief regarding the nature of the way that they "pop" when burned that is said to remove the evil eye or malevolent spirits. Though most commonly used in those rituals, it would be placed around the home to protect its inhabitants.
Rosemary, while not as popular as cloves or rue, was also seen as protective. Plants were kept both outside and inside the home, and it was common to keep dried sprigs of rosemary scattered within the home.
These herbs could be combined with other protective substances like salt and garlic and could be carried by a person to keep them safe. (7).
The Hamsa, the symbol of a five-fingered hand, exists in many cultures, including Judaism. Though it originated in the Near East (many cultures lay claim to the origins), the hamsa quickly was integrated into Jewish culture worldwide.
Also known as the Hand of Miriam, the hamsa is a common amulet for protection and inviting in positive energies.
Commonly known as the Evil Eye, this amulet is used to deflect the evil eye or ayin hora. The belief in the evil eye, like the Hamsa, is not exclusive to Judaism and appears in many cultures.
Amulets warding off the evil eye are plenty, but none as common as the Nazar. It is most commonly blue, with red as a close second, though it can technically be made in any shade.
Whether it be through the imagery of the Nazar or tangible amulets, keeping it on hand protects the home's inhabitants from the evil eye or jealous gaze.
The Birkat Habayit is a prayer that is often found within Jewish homes, often displayed as a piece of art.
The prayer is as follows,
Bezeh ha shaˁar lo yavo tzaˁar. Bezot haddirah lo tavo tzarah. Bezot haddelet lo tavo bahalah. Bezot hammaḥlaqah lo tavo maḥloqet. Bezeh hammaqom tehi b'rakhah v'shalom.
Let no sorrow come through this gate. Let no trouble come in this dwelling. Let no fright come through this door. Let no conflict come to this department. Let there be blessing and peace in this place.
For some practitioners, it can be proclaimed as the home is cleansed or as protective amulets are placed throughout the home.
Siniver, Erez & Yaniv, Gideon. (2015). Kissing the mezuzah and cognitive performance: Is there an observable benefit?. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. 117. 10.1016/j.jebo.2015.05.015.
Ritual medical Lore of Sephardic Women: Sweetening the spirits, healing the sick
Divination, Magic, and Healing: The Book of Jewish Folklore
Zumwalt, Rosemary Lévy. “The 1996 Archer Taylor Memorial Lecture. ‘Let It Go to the Garlic!" Evil Eye and the Fertility of Women among the Sephardim.” Western Folklore, vol. 55, no. 4, 1996, pp. 261–280. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1500136. Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.
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