With warmer days just around the bend, lots of our little insect friends are getting out and about. One of the insects I least liked before studying hoodoo was the wasp (having wandered into a nest of them once while trying to get newborn kittens out of a barn, I feel I had some justification for my squeamishness about them). However, hoodoo has given me a new appreciation of at least one kind of wasp: the dirt (or mud) dauber.
This relatively harmless little black wasp (colors vary a bit, but most of the ones I’ve seen have been dark brown to black) likes to build its nests in long “pipes” from mud it gathers near puddles. This has earned the wasp the occasional nickname of “pipe organ wasp,” and its nest is usually described as a pipe organ nest. While the dirt dauber is a keen predator, often hunting spiders which it paralyzes and brings back to its nest for food, it seldom stings people unless provoked. Though I don’t recommend provoking them.
However, if you can find an abandoned mud dauber nest, it’s well worth collecting it and keeping it in a sealed jar (just in case it’s not as abandoned as you thought) or plastic container. Often, individual tubes may be abandoned and can be harvested for use as long as you’re careful not to bother any of the more active tubes.
In folk magic, these nests have all sorts of uses. Once you’ve powdered the nest—an easy task since it crumbles readily—you can add it to hot foot workings, break-up spells, good luck hands, business drawing blends, and lots more. Harry Middleton Hyatt lists several uses of dauber nest in his work, including:
- Carrying around a bit of nest in your wallet or purse to draw money and luck (Vol. 2, p.1552)
- Adding it to a vinegar jar with a couple’s name paper (names written crossing each other, of course) and red pepper and beef gall in order to break them up (Vol. 2, p. 1513)
- Adding it to a Hot Foot working and placing it someone’s shoe to drive them off (Vol.2 , p. 1505)
- Mixing it with Graveyard Dirt and Sugar in order to help heal a marriage (the wasps are one of the few where the male wasp stays at the nest to guard it, thus ensuring that the “family” is safe and united, which is probably why the dauber is associated with a faithful marriage) (Vol. 2, p. 1325)
- Adding Dauber Nest to Graveyard Dirt and throwing it on train tracks to kill someone (there’s more to it than this, of course, but I’d rather not get too into that here) (Vol. 2, p. 1089)
Catherine Yronwode mentions many spells involving Dauber Nest in her book, including spells to destroy an enemy, control an errant husband, and draw new customers to a business. This last spells involves mixing the nest with Grains of Paradise and sprinkling the powder around the business, as high as you can. According to Yronwode, because daubers build their nests up high, it symbolizes success.
As a final bit of folklore, if you happen to have daubers building nests on your front porch, leave them there. They will bring peace and protection to the home, and it can be fun to watch them build their nests on a summer day over a glass of iced tea.
Thanks for reading!