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  • Writer's pictureAmber Rose Ostaszewski

Detroit Witch Kit

Ok, so I may have gone overboard, but Via Hedera’s Regional Witch Kit prompt really got me reflecting on how much place influences our identity and shapes our perspective on the world and how we choose to operate within it. While I haven’t moved as much as other people I know, using Via’s prompt has given me some insight, especially as I’ve built my craft, so here’s my next installment of her challenge, featuring my former Rust Belt love, Detroit.

If you’ve ever met a Detroiter, it’s likely that they either A) absolutely loathe the city (and are probably from the ‘burbs of Metro Detroit), or B) are an outspoken advocate and take a lot of pride in the Motor City. I fall in the later category--The “D” has inspired me with creative vision, innovation, and the ultimate scrappiest, “I can make anything out of nothing” attitude that is my moda operandi. Detroiters have grit and resilience, which is reflected in the city’s motto formalized in 1824, “Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus” which is latin for “We hope for better things; it shall arise from the ashes,” referring to the 1805 fire that completely destroyed the city.

I want to note that this is based on my experience as a Polish-American, which would be totally different from someone else with a different cultural background. Detroit is incredibly diverse. Not only are there different more ethnic neighborhoods like Greektown, Mexicantown, and Hamtramck (Used to be Polish-which actually isn’t part of Detroit, and is now home to lots of ethnicities), but it’s proximity to Dearborn which has one of the highest populations of Middle Eastern ethnicities in the US, and West Bloomfield which has a large Indian population and is a hub for much of the Jewish communities in the area, and of course the majority of Detroit is African American. It’s also important to note that the City of Detroit and its surrounding neighborhoods are on forcefully ceded indigenous land, and the closest reservation is Walpole Island, Ontario, Canada which is home to more than 1,800 Chippewa, Potawatomi, and Ottawa citizens.W ith that said, now I present to you my Detroit Witch Kit...


This is a man-made stone that resembles agate as it has been made from layers of enamel automotive paint. Named after the automotive manufacturer Ford, this particular piece of Fordite is from a Mustang manufacturing plant--particularly meaningful since both of my parents first cars were Mustangs.


Ancestral veneration. My grandfather worked for Ford, and so did my Dad. Like most people in the area, you were either a Ford, General Motors, or Chrysler person based on where your family worked, but despite the harsh rivalries of what “Big Three” company, nearly everyone had solidarity with the United Auto Workers.

Pheasant feathers

Detroit has some surprising wild life, but pheasants are one of the most celebrated, even featured in city murals.

Dirt from Michigan Central Train Station

A major crossroads if there ever was one! The Michigan Central Station, now being restored by Ford Motor Company, is an absolute beauty. Designed by the same architects as Grand Central Terminal in New York and opened in 1914 but then was left abandoned in the 1980s and slated for demolition in 2009, but the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 stopped that from happening. Ford now hopes to have the building restored by 2022, and has retained a number of the rail lines if Amtrack ever returns to service the station.

Handrolled cig

Convenient, sacred smoke for offerings and a bit of relief.

Water from the Fountain on Belle Isle

Once you learn the history behind the James Scott Memorial Fountain, you’ll never look at this fountain the same way again. Saved in an antique vial with a fleur de lis that speaks to the history of French in the area.


Who can resist a good matchbook, especially when it features iconic Detroit-style pizza from Shields.

Stroh’s beerstein

For libations. Founded in 1850 in Detroit by German immigrants, Stroh’s beer made it through Prohibition times by creating “near beer” and other products like ice cream, but by the 1990’s, market competition has taken its toll. Also remembering the role that Detroit played during Prohibition, rum-runners or whiskey sixes using the frozen Detroit River to import illegal alcohol into the US from Canada.


A Polish-style blackberry brandy that was my Babcia’s cure-all. This is folk medicine at it’s finest. Included in infamous bar shots like old Abick’s “Polish Motor Oil.”

Motown records book

Why not make your grimoire out of a scratched up 45 celebrating some of Motown’s finest.


For divination or luck. These are from Greektown Casino. Also harks back to the rear-view mirror fuzzy dice that were (and remain vogue) with classic car culture.

Rusty screw

For baneful work. Found outside of the Russell Industrial Center.

Wildflower bunch

From that one overgrown lot in your neighborhood before the city gets to mowing it.

Bicycle repair tool

Detroit was built by cars for cars, meaning it’s a city meant for cruisin’, but that doesn’t mean you need to have a car, a bike is just as valuable, especially when you can use the Dequindre Cut. Consider this your trusty wand.

Hand-dipped tallow candle

You know, the one you made with the help from a historical re-enactor from Greenfield Village.

Sidewalk chalk

For obvious reasons.


Left over from your friend’s ofrenda last fall in Mexicantown.

Raver bracelet

That some stranger gave you at a DEMF afterparty circa 2008 that for whatever reason still miraculously lights up and makes you feel invincible.

**Not pictured (because I already ate it) Apple

For health, wealth, prosperity and love. Apples reign supreme from Michigan orchards, and Eastern Market sources some of the best produce.

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