Haunted Roads part 2: Crossroads, Deals with Devils, and offerings to the Gods
Article By: Eilfie Music
Crossroads have always had many layered meanings in many cultures. They represent an intersection of paths that can lead you to various destinations, and are also a metaphor of the path people walk in life with the moments where that path changes depending on which way you go. They are the intersection between life and death, a gray area where we can speak to the dead, and the neutral ground for one to request favors from deities.
The crossroads hold an uncertainty—when you are standing in the middle of multiple possible outcomes over the horizon. Once you have made your decision, you can’t always go back and make a different choice. The physical crossroads was a place where criminals were buried without last rites as further punishment—to wander aimlessly on this earth. Cages were hung at the crossroads where people were starved to death as punishment and left to serve as a warning to others. Before that, statues of Pan, Hermes, Hecate, and other deities of change and travel were often set up at the junction, where food was left for safe travel or good hunting. Certain crossroads were thought to be meeting places for spirits late at night. To be caught wandering nearby had grave consequences. Old Welsh lore claims that on All Hallows Eve, the spirits gather together at all the crossroads, due to the thinning of the veil, and you can see this if you rest your chin on a forked stick.
In some sympathetic magic, one way to get rid of a used item (such as candles, incense ash, paper, and scraps that can not be used again for another spell) is to take it to the crossroads and dump it, then leave without looking back. Crossroads can also be used in spell work as a place for an altar or incorporated into the spell to bring someone to you or drive someone from you. The spirits of the crossroads are also the guardians of the gateways and doors to the afterlife. You use the crossroad as the physical door to gain access to spirits for communication. In Hoodoo, the X inside of a circle is used as a “portable crossroad” that can be used during ritual if you do not have access to an actual crossroads. One such method to create this is to lay down a white cloth and put down four candles, one at each corner, or even to draw it out with powder, such as cornmeal.
A favorite story amongst music lovers and folklorists is the idea of meeting Mr. Splittoe at the crossroads and doing a deal with him for personal gain. Though this is debated as well, since in Hoodoo it is mentioned as a “large black man” which does not necessarily mean the Devil. The most well known person to have allegedly done this was Robert Johnson, a famous blues guitar player. The place where he supposedly did this is very clearly marked today at the intersection of Route 61 and Route 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. It does not look like a dusty old road in the middle of nowhere as I thought it should be, but just another intersection in a city. One source I read says that it was possible Robert Johnson’s friend Tommy Johnson had actually done the deal in order to gain skills to play the guitar, but Robert got the credit due to his song “Cross Road Blues”.
The metaphor of the crossroads has held meaning to me for a long time. Always being in a constant state of change and adapting to new scenarios, I seem to often come to the crossroads, and must decide which direction to go—even if it is not the easiest to take. Some of the coolest looking scenes to me are the flat fields stretching out to nowhere, with two dusty dirt roads crossing each other in a no name place. Just a tranquil place to see where life will go.