Centuries ago, our ancestors used herbs for more than just seasoning soup. As a matter of fact, herbs were used for healing and Magick long before they were used as seasonings. But the Witches and the Wise Ones all knew the Magickal use of herbs. They used herbs in potions, incenses and amulets to ward off evil, attract prosperity, protect children and women in labor, and to heal illnesses.
When herbs were added to foods, they were primarily included for their Magickal or medicinal properties, rather than for their flavor. Much of this lore was forgotten, but fortunately for our generation, not all of it has been lost, and much that had been lost has now been either relearned through experimentation or rediscovered through research of ancient books. This is an exciting time to be alive, because the Internet has given people even in remote areas access to books that once would be found only in a few libraries, out of reach of the average Witch.
Because of today’s awareness of Earth’s fragility, we modern Witches, Pagans and Wise Ones are once again focusing on the gifts that the Mother has given us.
Just what is Magick? Most of us are familiar with contemporary styles of prestidigitation, sleight-of-hand, illusion, and stage-magic, performed by such greats as Siegfried and Roy, (our personal favorites.) These performers are wonderfully entertaining, and a true delight to the mind and the eye.
Real Magick, on the other hand, is much more than illusory stage tricks. Magick influences the environment by using the natural energy that surrounds us, focused by the disciplined will of the Mage or Witch. Just as our minds, bodies and spirits work together and influence each other, the physical plane and the psychic or astral planes are linked. The astral can influence the physical as easily as the physical can the astral. They all come together in beauty, within the Laws of Nature.
There are many earth-oriented, goddess-oriented and pagan religions that practice Magick, however, Magick in and of itself is not necessarily a religious practice. Some traditions believe that Magick should always be a religious rite and there are others that use Magick as a tool for everyday living, with no religious implications at all. We have no desire to get into a debate on the merits of these two approaches.
Unlike some others, we at Wolf Moon Coven do not believe that we have the only true path to “higher truth.” However, our tradition holds that Magick should only be worked for good. We believe in the Three-Fold Law that says that whatever we send out, will come back three times over. So if we work Magick for good, good will come back to you three times over! But if our work harms another, then Goddess help us!
And, since not all of us are perfect, to say the least, some of us have had occasion to see this in action, though it is much better to learn from observing the payback to another than to experience it in person!
For example, I know of a High Priestess who became angry with another over a purely business matter, having nothing to do with the Craft. She acted irresponsibly, making numerous false accusations against the other. But none of this triggered the Three-Fold Law.
It was not until she, and several members of her coven, tried to attack the other High Priestess with Magick that the Law kicked in. And trust me when I tell you that the Goddess was swift and terrible to watch as they were taught a lesson in justice, honor and keeping their oaths.
But our purpose here is not to preach, but simply to provide information. We want to discuss the properties and uses of herbs in Amulets, Ceremonies, Charms, Potions and Rituals.
Supplies Needed for Herbal Magick
Please Note ~ True Magick comes from the inherent properties of the herbs, combined with the intent of the Mage or Witch. If, for example, one is tired and lacking in energy, no matter how talented the Witch, Chamomile and Valerian are poor choices for herbal Magick to enhance alertness and wakefulness.
The traditional choices of ritual tools for herbal Magick would include:
Boline ~ The Witch’s “White Handled Knife.” This should be a ritually consecrated knife, used only for the practice of Magick. It can be used to harvest the herbs, to chop herbs which you would not want to grind, or for a variety of other Magickal purposes.
Mortar and Pestle ~ Used to grind herbs. The bowl-shaped mortar represents feminine energy, just as the phallic-shaped pestle represents masculine energy. Using the two together imparts a balance of energies, and the energy of the Witch in grinding by hand adds much Magickal energy to the herbs being ground. It goes without saying that the Witch should be concentrating and focusing his or her intent throughout the grinding process. Grinding the herbs while sitting on the couch watching TV just doesn’t add a thing.
Hand Scythe (Sickle) ~ For the purist, this crescent-bladed knife is considered the perfect tool for harvesting herbs. The ancient Druids used Gold Sickles to harvest the holiest and most Magickal herb of their tradition, the Mistletoe.
It might also be nice to keep on hand a special basket to hold herbs while drying them, and a special glass or glazed ceramic container to hold your brews.
Can one practice herbal Magick (or other kinds) without special tools? Of course we can.
The whole purpose of using special tools is similar to the purpose for wearing ritual robes and special jewelry for celebration of Magickal rites. From the moment one begins to prepare to perform Magick, every step brings one closer to the proper state of mind.
We have used plain, ordinary kitchen knives for cutting, slicing and chopping. We’ve used pottery or wooden bowls and the backs of spoons for grinding. We have even used blenders and food processors.
But there is no question that using special implements, blessed and consecrated, enhances the effectiveness of the work. And it must be remembered, that once a tool is consecrated for any Magickal purpose, it should never be used for anything else!
If at all possible, you should grow and harvest your own herbs. But realistically, this is simply impossible for many of us. For example, our Coven is located in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area, where it is possible to harvest a number of wild herbs, and to grow many others.
However, there are many herbs which grow only in dry climates, or which require a cold, dormant period.
Spanish Moss and Bay leaves, for example, can be harvested in the wild here. Mistletoe cannot. Many of us live in large cities and sprawling urban areas where there is more asphalt than topsoil.
The saving factor is that today’s Witch has access to dried herbs from anywhere in the world. Just be sure that the herbs are either wild-harvested or organic. The last thing you would want is to brew up a wonderful healing potion using herbs that have been laced with pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
Herbs For Protection
The herbs that are most normally used for protection are those that have powers to disperse evil and create a protective barrier when burned, carried on your person, or hung wherever protection is needed. Because these herbs contain positive energy they are able to repel, or bounce back negative vibrations or energy.
Protection spells should be done during a waxing moon, suggested colors are red and white. The following herbs are generally considered protective in nature (this is certainly not a complete list!):
Angelica, Balm of Gilead, Basil, Betony, Dill, Elder berries, Fennel, Garlic (of course), Horehound, Hyssop, Mistletoe, Mugwort, Mullein, Rose Geranium, Rosemary, Rue, St John’s Wort, Tarragon and Vervain.
One of the simplest protective spells is to make a charm using three of the above herbs, mix them together and place them in the center of a red or white piece of cloth. (One made of Elderberries, Rosemary and Tarragon has a really delightful fragrance if it is to be used indoors.) Gather up the corners, tie and charge the sachet saying words like:
“By Water, Earth, Fire and Air,
Protect that for which I care!”
Repeat the chant three times, with greater strength and authority each time. Carry the charm with you. To protect the home, place it in the highest point of the house or near the hearth (the kitchen if you don’t have a fireplace). To protect you and your car while driving, place the charm under the driver’s seat.
Herbs For Purification
Ever felt a sensation that something just wasn’t right? Your house didn’t seem like home anymore, a visitor left and didn’t take their bad energy with them? Maybe purification is in order. There are many herbs with purifying properties: Bay, Mugwort, Yarrow, Rosemary, Sage, Angelica, Basil, and Juniper to name a few.
Powder the herbs you wish to use (use 3, 7 or 9 different herbs, or multiples of these) and make a purification incense. As you charge the herbal mix, visualize a crisp, clean breeze blowing all the negativity out of the house. Then light the incense and carrying it through every room in the house. As you go from room to room, visualize the incense driving away any leftover negativity. This should be done with all the windows open and pets and other people out of the house.
It is good to purify a new home, before you move in, just to make sure the previous tenant didn’t leave any nastiness behind. A favorite is to brew up some rosemary tea (nice and strong) and dip a branch of rosemary, rue or yarrow into the tea and thoroughly asperge (sprinkle) every room in the house. While doing this visualize washing away of all negative influences. The rosemary is a wonderful odor-chaser as well; it leaves a clean, fresh smelling house to return to.
Many people like to purify by smudging. Sage is a very commonly used smudge. If you can gather and dry your own wild sage for smudging, do so. Just light a sprig of dried sage (You can carry a little tray or saucer under the lit sprig, in case some burning bit drops) and carry it from room to room, visualizing any negativity being replaced by the purifying fragrance of the sage. One can also make a protective sigil at each window and doorway, thus purifying and protecting in one fell swoop!
Follow up your purification with a new protective charm, and you should be good to go for several months. Many witches and pagans do a purification and protection sequence every full moon, others every quarter and some only when needed.
Making charms for a variety of purposes is both easy and effective. And what’s more, it is even fun! Here are a few simple but powerful charms: (Note: All chants are to be said three times, and after the third, conclude with “So Mote it Be!”)
For a prosperity charm, for example, take a small bag of green cloth, place three bay leaves and a small piece of lodestone inside, then anoint the outside of the bag with a drop of sweet almond oil. As you anoint the bag, say:
“Fortune smile on me this day,
May all I need come my way.”
Do this after the New Moon, and carry the bag on your person every day until the Full Moon, then bury the bag on your own property. (If this is not possible, then in a park or even in a planter.)
To attract a romantic lover, begin with a small bag of pink or white cloth. Add a piece of rose quartz and fill the remainder of the bag with lavender and pine needles. Anoint the bag with sweet patchouli oil. As you anoint the bag, say:
“By Air, Earth, Fire and Sea,
Bring my one true love to me.”
Do this while the moon is waxing, but do not try it between the Full Moon and the New Moon. Sleep with the bag under your pillow until you get results.
If you are more interested in a passionate lover than a romantic one, follow the above formula, but add a stick of cinnamon and two whole nutmegs to the bag, along with the lavender, and anoint the bag with cinnamon oil. As you anoint the bag, say:
“Blazing passion, my desire,
Come and set my heart on fire.”
But be careful what you wish for. You just might get it! Remaining steps are the same as Romance, above.
To protect oneself from negative energy, take a small white bag; place a small piece of smoky quartz and one of clear quartz inside. Take five leaves of oleander and add them to the bag, being extremely careful not to get any sap on you. If you do come in contact with the sap, remember that it is highly toxic, so wash up immediately and thoroughly. Handling the leaves with rubber gloves is not a bad idea. Anoint the bag with Frankincense oil, saying:
“Minions of the Dark now quit this place,
For only Light will I embrace.”
Do this during the waning phases of the Moon, visualizing your surroundings being filled with a pure, white and golden light, driving out any darkness from every corner. At the New Moon, burn the bag, being careful to be upwind of the smoke. Remember: Oleander is deadly. Be very careful!
To attract good health, use a small blue or purple bag. Add a small piece of amethyst, then fill the bag with lavender, white sage and a little St. John’s Wort. Anoint the bag with Amber oil, saying:
“Keep my mind and body strong and fit,
Strengthen both my heart and wit.”
Do this during the waxing phase of the moon, and sleep with the bag under your pillow at night. This one can be kept as long as necessary, but if you wish to dispose of it, do so with respect, either burning or burying it.
All these Charm Bags may be used in combination with Candle Magick, as well as other methods.
The Charms, Amulets and Talismans discussed in this class are only enough to scratch the surface. If you feel called to these types of Magick, you will need both study and inspiration. And don’t be afraid to experiment. The intent of the user is the primary source of the strength of the spells and rituals used. When you do experiment, however, keep detailed written records of exactly what you did, the time of day (or night), the date, the phase of the moon, and your results. Over time, you could develop a style of Magick all your own.
For help in choosing the herbs, oils and stones to use in your own charm bags, you can find a lot of help in many of Scott Cunningham’s books, including “Earth, Fire, Air and Water,” “Encyclopedia of Magickal Herbs,” and others. Study. Learn. Enjoy.