An Introductory Guide to Herb Magic
In pagan and witchcraft circles magic can be thought of as the art of causation. It is a natural ability that is practiced by connecting with the energies of nature in order to create change. This energy exists in all living things and may be known by a variety of names dependant on the religious or spiritual path of the person concerned. Magic can provide the opportunity to change and influence this energy which then changes our reality. Changes in reality bring about changes in the energy around us and so we can shape these in order to create possibilities in life and attract aspects such as love and luck towards us.
Magic is often seen as the act of causing change using methods which have not yet been defined or accepted by science. These methods are often assumed to be supernatural and are condemned or mistrusted by many. For a lot of people witchcraft and anyone associated with its practice are thought of as dangerous and even evil due to a large amount of misinformation around these practices. However witches are no more likely to be evil or have negative motives than any other person in society and although some chose to use magic for darker reasons there are also a large amount who don’t and many who actively work as healers of many kinds.
Many people dismiss the existence of magic, calling it pseudoscience or impossible. Sometimes this can be down to difficultly believing and trusting in unseen forces and it worth remembering that science has not yet discovered everything the world and universe holds. Just because science has still yet to find the reason why magic works does not mean that it isn't real or capable of having great effects for those practising it. There were times when science had no idea why many things that are now completely accepted where the way they are.
Magic is a natural practice but it is important to be aware that just because something is natural does not mean that it is always safe and that no harm can come from it. This particularly applies to the careless or thoughtless practice of magic. Many witches and those who follow the religion of Wicca believe in a tradition known as the three fold law which states, that whatever you put out into the universe will be returned to you three times over. So following this, positive or helpful magic will bring good energy your way but any negativity or harm caused through magical purposes will bring negative consequences back to you multiplied. There are many other beliefs around the correct practice of magic, for example some people believe that magic should not be performed for your own gain and certainly not for payment while others believe that either is acceptable as long as you do not cause harm and that your intent is good rather than selfish.
Intent and also belief in yourself and your magic are very important aspects of magic. What you intend must be clear for the magic to work as you desire. Visualisation, meditation and using clear statements of intent are some ways of fusing your intentions into your magical workings.
In herbal magic there is also another very important matter when it comes to safety. Herbs grow naturally all over the world and many can be easily bought, grown at home or foraged in the wild. However this does not mean that they are safe or that all herbs are safe for all applications. Some cannot be ingested or placed on the skin for example or there may be issues of interaction between herbs and prescription medications. Some herbs are known to have adverse effects on certain people for example anyone who has epilepsy or respiratory issues and many should not be used in pregnancy or with young children or should only be used in certain ways. Although seemingly innocent, herbs can be dangerous and their incorrect use can result in serious illness and even death. If you are using more unusual herbs or foraging in wild spaces it is absolutely vital that you are certain of the plants identification. There are harmful and toxic plants that look very similar to those that are safe to use so it is important that you are aware of the subtle difference between these in order to stay safe. Do not think that just because you are not ingesting a herb that you will be safe as some can irritate the skin or cause issues with breathing when heated or in close contact. A good plant foraging guide or book detailing wild plant characteristics with clear pictures and photographs is a very important tool for even experienced foragers and may just save your life.
Using and Storing Herbs
Herbs can be grown yourself, bought or in some cases gathered in the wild. Herbs can also be bought from many reputable suppliers on and offline. This can be very helpful if you only want small quantities of something or are looking for a plant not native to your area or that is difficult to grow. Most herbs are bought dried but it is also possible to buy fresh varieties of some. Herbs do not have to be brought from witchcraft or pagan supply shops and websites in order to be used in magic. Although these can be good places for obtaining unusual herb or those that are only used in magic there are other sources of plants that may be easier or cheaper to use. Garden centres can be useful places for herbs commonly used in cooking as well as plants such as lavender and heather. Many shops and supermarkets stock a range of herbs and spices and these are defiantly worth checking. Some supermarkets also sell small potted herb plants that are intended to be used in cooking as fresh herbs. These can be bought and used fresh or dried for future use and if you have the space can also be planted in your garden to continue growing. Even if you do not have a garden many herbs will grow happily in pots on a balcony or in a window box. In fact for some such as mint this can be a good idea as it stops them spreading too much and taking over the garden! Some varieties, particularly those from warmer climates can also be grown indoors. If you cannot or don’t want to grow your own plants it is perfectly acceptable to buy them.
When using dried herbs they should be stored individually sealed containers and kept out of sunlight. Dark coloured glass bottles are a good choice but there are many possibilities and do not feel that you should only use container intended for herbs. Label all your containers clearly for future reference and it is helpful to keep a list of which varieties you have so that you don’t rebuy things in future and can easily check on what you have. How you storage and arrange your jars is largely an individual choice but also depends on the space you have available and whether you are able to open about your practice of magic or not. Some ideas for arrange them include alphabetically, by days of the week, star signs, commonly usage or elemental association.
Performing Magic using Herbs
How you incorporate herbs into your magic will depend very much on your beliefs and the traditions or path that you follow. Beliefs around the use of herbs and even general practices around magic can vary a lot between groups for example some believe that magic should be performed in a clean environment and that at the very least you should sweep the floor, take a bath and wear clean clothes or work with more ceremonial practices such as casting circles. Other traditions are less formal and magic can be practiced with or without deities. If you are following a particular path then it may have set ways of working magic regardless of the type but for eclectic witches there are many options. It is important to practice in a way that feels right and comfortable to you as you will need to be able to relax and clear your mind of thoughts and worries. Being able to focus on your magic and what you want to achieve will make your intent much clearer.
Herbs do not have to be used on their own and are often mixed with other forms of magic with great success. One example of this is using herbs in candle magic where the herbs are sprinkled around the best of the candle. Herbs are sometimes ground and added to candles or a candle can be gently heated and then rolled in herbs so that they stick to the softened wax. Candles can also be dressed with herbal oils and infusions before being lit.
Some other examples of how herbs can be used magically include:
- Healing and magical baths
Sachets are small parcels of herbs made from cloth. These are known by many names such as charm-bags, spell bags, mojo bag or magic bag. They are easy to make and can be carried with you or placed around your home. One common way of doing this is to place a protection bag over the front door of your home. You can sew your own cloth bags or use bought versions if you prefer. These do not need to be large and the small pouches sold for holding jewellery and crystals are a good size to work with. The sachet is filled with items that correspond to the intent of the magic being performed. The intent of the magic can be infused into the bag as the items are placed inside or this can be done afterwards.
Poppets are small dolls that can be made from pretty much any material you choose. They can also be created using wool or string and do not need to be elaborate to be successful. Poppets can be made to represent the person who the magic is for so this is worth bearing in mind when creating them. Perhaps the person has a favourite material or colour that could be used, for example. If they are a woodworker or enjoy nature a carved poppet maybe ideal for them or a cardboard or papier mache poppet could be used for an artist or writer. Once made the poppet can be filled with items that correspond to your intent including herbs, essential oils and crystals and is then held in your hands while you clearly state your intention.
Poppets can be made for use in most spells such as those for good luck, prosperity, binding or protection. When making these, colour, planetary, herbal, crystal and other magical correspondences can be taken into account and incorporated into the poppet. This is of course also true of personal poppets used in herb magic. Poppets do not have to be amazing pieces of art to work so do not worry about needing to create a flawless item. Your intent and energy are far more important to the success of your magic.
Infusions are made by soaking herbs in hot water. Metal can interfere with the herbs powers so metal container and tools are best avoided. Keep infusions covered so the steam isn't lost. Infusions can be drunk as teas, used to anoint the body, used in baths or rubbed on to things such as doors, candles or furniture. When making infusions as drinks or use on the body it is of paramount importance that are you are certain the herbs you are using have been identified correctly.
Healing and magical baths can be prepared either using previously made infusions or by making a sachet of fresh or dried herbs that is then placed in the water or under the running water. Again you must be sure that the herbs have been correcting identified to avoid any irritation.
Incense can be made at home and these can be done in several ways. Loose incense can be made and burnt on charcoal disks or in burners and is created by mixing herbs and other plant materials that correspond to the magic being carried out. It can help to grind the incense in a pestle and mortar and essential oils are also sometimes used. It is also possible to make your own incense sticks and cones at home. Making your own incense means that you can customise the blends to suit your needs and tastes and can be a good option for anyone sensitive to the artificial scents sometimes used in bought items.
Cooking with herbs is a useful way to add the healing and magical properties of herbs into the food you eat every day. Extra care must be taken to ensure that the herbs used are suitable for consumption and is of food grade quality. Some examples of using herbs in cooking are:
- Using herbs to benefit the body for example adding herbs to aid digestion
- Using herbs to correspond to a sabbat in food cooked for this
- Using the magical properties of herbs and other foods to create items for specific needs. These can then be eaten.
© 2012 Claire