This article was a text file in the library of a local Pagan BBS years ago.
Note: Some herbs used for magick are toxic and not intented to be eaten, breathed in incense, or otherwise consumed. If you also work with herbs for cooking or healing, be sure to keep your magickal herbs separate and use a different set of tools to work with them. You wouldn't use the same funnel to pour cooking oil that you used to pour kerosene, after all.
The purpose of these texts are to introduce you to the Magick of herbs. There is so much these plants and flowers can offer. Working with herbs can be as simple or as ritualistic as you want to make it. For example: as simplistic as selecting a few herbs for a bath sachet and putting them into cheese cloth, a tea ball, or even a coffee filter for use, or as ritualistic as working with certain herbs in Circle for a specific spell or talisman, enchanting each herb and then the entire mixture. Remember, however, that when working with things from the Mother Earth, sometimes "less" is best.
There are no set rules here, save 2:
I said there were no set rules and there aren't. But there are some simple hints, as well as etiquette, that you should be aware of before you start with the Magickal Herb lessons. Among these are:
Lesson One: Storage and Tools
I am starting very basic here. Some may want to breeze through this. But I have been asked to start at the beginning, so here goes. You don't have to store your herbs in any special way unless you want to. I just use blue canning jars and interesting bottles. I like a tight lid to keep moisture away from the herb, and to keep the herb in the bottle. Nothing is worse that herbs spilling out into the cabinet and all over the floor when the jar is tipped over!
Always label your herbs. Even the most adept herbalist can get confused once in awhile. The labeling method is another matter of choice. As I use my herbs for many purposes, I generally just label by herb name. However, you could also add a few lines stating elemental properties, basic uses, etc. As you learn more you may want to store herbal blends. Label these with the types of herbs used and the purpose it was intended for when you blended it. Maybe you found a certain natural incense you made that you really like. Blend a bunch of it, label it, and jot down the purpose for which you like to use it, e.g., power, relaxation, etc. You'll find this simple step very useful in the future; don't always rely on memory.
You more than likely will want a few tools. A mortar and pestle, and a good knife should be among your first tools. I use my athame to cut herbs. You may choose to use the traditional sickle-shaped "Boleen." If you intend to use your herbs for both magick and cooking/healing, get two mortar and pestles (especially if you choose something porous like wood). This way, a mortar used to crush mistletoe and holly won't be used for crushing pepper and garlic. Remember, some of the herbs you use for magickal work are toxic if taken internally. With the exception of the knife, I prefer to use wood, stone, or clay for my tools, and tend to stay away from metals. Certain oils and herbs have a reaction with some alloys.
Other tools you may want are pretty basic to the Craft in general, and you may already have most of them. These include a censor and incense, candles of various colors, and a bowl for mixing. You'll need something to hold water (if needed), like a shell or a bowl, and you may want to collect various sizes of shells or containers for measuring your herbs. You may want a colored cloth for a bag, string,or rubber bands for sachets, and of course you will eventually want to make amulets and such. But these things can be acquired as the need arises.
Other than what I have mentioned above, the purpose will tell what supplies are needed.
Lesson Two: Basic Herbs
Most people will have at least the basic kitchen herbs in their cabinet. Remember the term "herb" does not exclude flowers and trees. You may be surprised to know how many different flowers and woods fall into the magickal category.
Roses are traditionally aligned with water. They can be used for psychic powers, love divination, luck, protection, and healing. Use a single rose in a vase on the altar for powerful help in love divinations. A cup of rosewater tea at bed time can help you dream prophetic dreams.
Even a Daisy has power where lust and love is concerned, and is said to bring love when worn. A simple divination that's been done for years can be done with a daisy. Remember the "He loves me, He loves me not?" That is love divination in its most basic form.
Carnations can offer protection, healing and strength. Place carnations on the altar during healing rituals, and use the petals in amulets and incense.
Oak is good to use for money, protection, potency, fertility, and luck. It is said that carrying any piece of oak will draw good luck. Take 2 twigs from an oak tree and tie them together in an equal armed cross; hang them in your house to guard against evil. Make a small equal armed cross and carry it with you in your wallet or purse for protection during the day.
So much for the garden, on to the kitchen.
Have you ever felt the need for just a little extra strength? Take out the Bay Leaf. Bay lends strength to you or your purpose. Use bay in workings involving purification and protection. Bay is also used for wisdom blends. Burn bay in incense for help in solving a problem, or use it in a ritual bath when you'll be facing a situation where you'll really need your wits about you.
Basil has been called "the Witches Herb" for centuries. Basil has been used for exorcism, protection, in "flying ointments", and love potions. "Where Basil grows, no evil goes!" and "Where Basil is, no evil lives," goes the old adages. Basil, given as a gift, will bring good luck to a new home. Sprinkled around the house, it wards off evil.
Sage helps to promote wisdom. It can also be used for wishes and protection. Carrying sage is said to bring you wisdom. Some traditions say it is bad luck to plant sage in your own garden; instead, you should have someone else do it for you. If you take a sage leaf and write your fondest wish upon it, then place it under your pillow for three nights, it is said you'll dream of what you wish, and your dream will come true. I use sage in incense to help with learning.
Anise is good for protection and purification. I use it sometimes in candles or incense for meditation and protection.
Last but not least, is Salt. Sea salt is best. Salt cleanses and purifies. It can be used in cleansing rituals, and banishings. Use salted water to purify new tools. If you have a fire place, throw pine needles into into the first fire of the season. After they begin burning, throw some salt into the flames. This will help protect your house, dispel evil, and bring happiness to the home.
More Common Herbs
Chamomile gives relaxation, calmness, love, and purification. This is an excellent herb to include in a ritual bath sachet. It brings peace and protection to the user. It is a love herb but what is so different about it is the fact that it can help get rid of evil. (That's a little different for an herb that is used in love and relaxation).
Use Pennyroyal for strength, protection and peace. Known as the "Herb of Peace," pennyroyal given to two fighting partners will cause them to stop fighting. Used in ritual, pennyroyal adds strength to you and your working.
Use Wood Betony for protection, purification, and love. Betony is added to purification mixtures and incenses. It is traditional to burn betony in a bonfire on Midsummer and then jump through the smoke to purify the body of ills and evil. Betony is also said to help people be more attractive to the opposite sex.
Use Catnip for Love, Happiness, and (of course) cat magick. Given to your cat, it will create a psychic bond between the two of you. However, it can be intoxicating to the cat. Catnip and rose petals are used in love sachets.
Damiana is burned for visions, and is also used in lust spells.
Ferns are good for protection, luck, riches, and banishings. Dried fern is thrown upon hot coals to banish evil and protect the home. Wearing Fern is said to draw the riches to the wearer. You can also use it in natural incense for a little extra power. Fern is like a little push; it kind of hides in the blend until the right moment, and then comes out to add that last little kick, just when you need it most.
Honeysuckle is used to increase psychic powers and provide protection. A honeysuckle bush growing near your house will bring good luck.
Lesson Three: The Less Common Herbs
Ok, this is going to be done a little differently. I am going to give you a few of the most powerful herbs I know. Pay attention here.
Lets start with something that dates back to at least the Druids.
Mistletoe. Mistletoe grows on huge Oak trees. Use Mistletoe for Protection, Love, Fertility, and Health. We all know the spell used at Yule (Christmas): kissing under a sprig of mistletoe. But did you know to burn the mistletoe you kissed under? This prevents the love shared under it from leaving. Mistletoe helps to love bond married couples and bring single people their one true love. A shared kiss under the mistletoe is like a shared wish in a wishing well. However, the berries are poison, so use caution. Although the stem has been used in healing, I would still be careful of children and pets around this plant.
Dragons Blood. Dragons Blood is aligned with fire. As such, it carries the same strengths as fire. A pinch of Dragons blood added to other incense will increase the potency. Dragons blood increases the power of any herb it is used with. It will also increase a person'sstrength and power. It is not, however, to be used lightly in the magickal setting. I have added a pinch of Dragons blood to the inside tube of my wand to increase the potency of any spells in which I use the wand.
Just a hint here... Dragons blood, when finely powdered, puffs up when you pour it. This wouldn't be a problem, except that it also sticks to everything in comes into contact with.
Mandrake. Mandrake was traditionally gathered from under the gallows tree. It has been called the Witches Mannequin, the man herb, the gallows herb, and woman drake. In Celtic times people would look under the nearest tree used for hangings, seeking this root that looked so much like the figure of a person. It was, and still is, used for protection, fertility, money, love, health, and strength. Mandrake was also used as a poppet. Money, especially silver coins, placed beside a mandrake root is said to double. A mandrake root placed on the mantle is said to protect the home. Mandrake is also poisonous; so again, use caution around pets and children.
Holly. Although Holly is a bush and not poisonous, it is steeped in folklore. Holly grown on the right side of your front door (facing the house) is said to prevent evil and negativity from coming in. In men, it promotes good luck since it is masculine in nature. (Ivy works the same for women). It is strong enough that it has been used (infused or distilled) and sprinkled on a new born babe to protect it.
Lesson Four: Enchanting Herbs
I have saved this section for last on purpose. I wanted you to get a feel for what was offered before we talked about enchantment.
Enchanting is basically just simple spell casting. In enchanting an herb, you empower that herb with a specific purpose. I know it sounds easy, but remember you are working with things from the earth. The power is there, all you have to learn is how to bring it out. If you are a timing person, time this to the moon, the day of the week, the hour of the day, the time of season, whatever you need do. Remember to visualize as you enchant. Make the purpose as clear as you possibly can, and bring the words straight from your heart and the power from deep within you.
This final lesson of the series will done in ritual format. I will describe the work area, the herbs, and the purpose. Your final test will be to design your own ritual, amulet, bag, incense, or whatever else which to enchant. But you should only use the herbs listed in the previous lessons. You don't have to actually perform the work. I just want to know what you'd do and how you'd do it. The following is my example to you.
I am making an amulet for a dear friend who needs strength and will to make it through a difficult period. This friend has full knowledge of my art and has asked for help. I have thought about it and decided the way in which I can help most.
On my altar, I have placed two black candles. I use black because it's my personal favorite color for certain types of work. Between the candles, I have my mortar and pestle; in front of them, I have my athame. My wooden bowl is to the right and filled with sand and a charcoal block. I'll be using sandalwood incense, as I need strength and power right now, as well. To my left I have placed jars containing Dragons blood, sage, sea salt, rose petals, and a piece of walnut (did I fail to mention that walnut strengthens the heart?). The only other item on my altar is my pentagram, which is a personal cue I'm using to assist me in visualization, and a small locket into which the blend will be placed. A red candle stands off to one side, ready for use if I need it.
I light the black candles and concentrate on seeing this friend happy and her problems solved. I pick up the sea salt and measure out a little with the tip of my athame. As I pour it into the mortar, I say "Salt purifies and cleanses. Your purpose this night is to purify the herbs I use here, and make them pure in intent." While saying this, I visualize the salt purifying the herbs.
Next, I pick up a rose petal and crumble it into the salt, saying: "I charge thee with the task of bringing intuition to ______. She finds herself in a situation where your power is desperately needed." I then mix the salt and rose together with my athame.
I measure out a portion of sage with my athame and drop it into the blend, saying, "I charge you and bid you to lend wisdom of decision to ________. She needs this wisdom to overcome what has been wrought." Stir the sage into the mixture.
Next, I pick up the piece of walnut and say, "I empower thee to lend strength of heart in this difficult time. Through your strength, may her heart be lightened and her will be strengthened." I then measure out a tiny amount of powdered Dragons blood, saying, "Within thee is the power to intensify each herb I've used. You will be the power of change."
Mixing all together I say, "Within each separate herb lies the power to reach the end; each has its own purpose. May purposes united make true the end, for blended together, the whole is met. For a year and a day, may you be charged to lend thy power where it is needed. An' it harm none, Thy will be done. So Mote it Be!
I pick up the mixture, bit by bit on the tip of my athame, and place enough in the locket to fill it. I then light the red candle and say, "Red is color of power and strength" while dropping a little wax on the herbs inside the locket to seal and bind the blend together. I then close the locket, hold it in both hands, and concentrate on the person and the purpose with a light and loving heart. When I feel the enchantment is done, I give thanks to the Goddess, put out the candles, and ground the leftover herb and incense. I clean my tools and wrap the newly made amulet in a cloth until I can give it to my friend.
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