Introduction to Herb Magic and Commonly used Magical Terms
Herbs have a vast amount of beneficial properties when it comes to health and well-being. Many herbs, including varieties you probably have in your kitchen, have great healing properties including helping to soothe illnesses such as coughs, colds and sore throats. Herbs and other plants often feature greatly in kitchen and cottage witchery but do not feel that you have to be limited by this. They can be a powerful addition to the daily life, spell work, healing and rituals of anyone working with magic. Herbs can be used fresh or dried and can be incorporated into magic in a variety of ways. They can be used in combination with other ingredients to enhance the intent of a spell such as when sprinkling herbs around the base of a candle or using herbal oils to dress or create spell candles. Dried herbs can be ground and mixed with other plant materials to create loose incense to use during spells, rituals or everyday life. Plant material such as seeds, leaves, roots and resin are common ingredients used when making spell jars and filling poppets, sachets and mojo bags.
Herbs can also be used to create magical oils and powders which have a range of uses. For example oils can be used on candles, in feeding mojo bags and anointing yourself or added to other ingredients. Powders can be used in the same way as herbs and are also useful for sprinkling discreetly, for example in the case of hotfoot powder. If their ingredients are all safe for consumption or use on skin, herb oils and powders can be used to create in magical baths and cooking. Herbal oils may be used in cooking, such as chilli oil and herbal teas are a simple but great way to benefit from the properties of many herbs
As well as being versatile, herbal magic is generally a very accessible form of magic and can be ideal for anyone who needs to keep their beliefs and practice secret. In many cases herbs can be used magically incredibly discreetly and without suspicion. One example of this is adding herbs to cooking to infuse the food with your magical intentions as people are unlikely to find it odd that herbs are being added to food. Soaps containing herbs are another option as well as incense and scented candles. These examples can form easy and discreet ways to practice magic as they are very often used by people purely to enjoy their fragrance rather than being a tool only associated with witchcraft.
Many types of herb can be bought in shops and supermarkets as everyday ingredients, though some more specific to magic may need to be purchased online or from specialist shops. If you enjoy cooking it is likely that you already own herbs that can be utilised in magic. Some examples of the magical properties of well-known herbs include:
- Rosemary - healing, protection, purification, memory, stress relief, mental clarity.
- Parsley – protection, happiness, fertility, spirit work
- Thyme – healing, peace, psychic powers, courage, love
- Turmeric – purification, protection, peace
- Mint – money, healing, protection, cleansing, calming
- Basil – wealth, money, prosperity, love, happiness
- Black pepper – protection, jealousy, negativity, strength, confidence
When you first start out working with herbs in magic you may read or hear many unfamiliar terms, especially if you are new to magic in general. Do not let this put you off or make you feel as if this form of magic is too complicated for you. Like any new subject it will take time to familiarise yourself with the terms and practices used in herb magic.
I have put together this glossary of terms that are commonly used in herb magic and in some cases, paganism in general. This is by no means comprehensive but I hope it can be a useful starting point for those new to herb magic or who wish to have a simple guide as they learnt to work with this multifaceted and effective form of magic.
Adept - Someone who is highly skilled or regarded as an expert. In magic this refers to a person who has studied and mastered a magical system, while continuing to further their knowledge.
Akashic Records – The Akashic records are believed to be a compendium of every human event, thought, word, emotion and intent that has occurred or will occur in the future. They are believed to be encoded in the non-physical plane known as the etheric plane. Anyone who studies and gains access to the Akashic records is thought to have the ability to learn information about the past, present and future that is otherwise unobtainable.
Amulet - An object that is worn to protect a person or draw a specific energy, such as luck towards them. Amulets are often worn as jewellery but may also be placed in a specified location depending on its purpose. For example, protection amulets are often placed near the main entrance to a house or building.
Anaphrodisiac – This term refers to any herb that cools passion.
Aphrodisiac - Herbs that can be used to increase sexual desire.
Athame - A ceremonial knife that is used in some branches of paganism and witchcraft. They usually have a black handle and are used within rituals but not for physical cutting. It is primary used to channel and direct psychic energy.
Balefire - An open air fire, such as a bonfire that is lit for magical purposes.
Bane – That which causes harm or death. For example baneful magic is considered as any magical work that is intended to cause harm to another or interfere with their free will.
Banish - To drive away. Herb magic can be used to help drive undesirable things or people from your life. For example, in banishing negativity or bad habits.
Besom - A broom made from twigs tied to a stronger central pole. These are the brooms traditionally associated with witches. Besoms are used in cleansing and energy sweeping.
Botanomancy – A form of divination that uses herbs.
Censer – A vessel that is used for burning incense. These are often made of brass, copper or clay and may be highly decorative.
Cleanse – A simple process that is used to remove negative energy. This is also known as clearing and can be carried out in many ways including placing items in moonlight, using smoke or placing items in clean water.
Consecrate - To make something holy or sacred. Tools such as tarot cards, pendulums and athames are often consecrated.
Coven - A close-knit group of people who practise together. They may meet on a number of occasions including sabbats and esbats as well as for training, initiations and social purposes.
Curse - Concentrated negative and/or destructive energy that has been deliberately created and directed at someone or something with the intention of doing harm.
D – G
Deosil – The direction of the sun, also known as clockwise. This is considered to be the direction to use when aiming to draw good energies such as protection and luck towards you.
Divination – A number of practices that can be used to gain insight into a situation or question that uses something other than standard methods. Examples of forms of divination include tarot, runes and pendulum readings.
Elements – Within magic, this term refers to the spiritual elements of earth, air, fire, water and spirit rather than the elements represented in the periodic table.
Exorcism - The practice of removing negative entities and psychic clutter from a place or person.
Grimoire - A textbook kept by magic practitioners containing information, rituals, spells and other magical practices.
H – R
Handfasting - A pagan ceremony that is similar to a wedding.
Hallucinogen - A substance that causes changes in perception, thought, consciousness or emotion.
Herb - Plants that are used for their culinary, spiritual or medically beneficial properties.
Hex – A spell that is targeted at an individual with the intention to cause harm or bad fortune.
Initiation - A ceremony or ritual used by some groups to formally admit new members. The requirements for gaining initiation vary depending on the group in question.
Macerate – The process of soaking herbs in oil or another liquid. After a specified period of time, the herbs are drained and the herb infused liquid is stored for later use.
Narcotic – Any substance that dulls the senses and can cause feelings of euphoria when consumed. In medicine they can be used to relieve pain, cause sedation or induce sleep but can lead to addiction.
Pentagram - A five pointed star that can be used as a symbol of protection. Many people consider it to represent the elements of earth, air, fire, water and spirit.
Poppet - A small representation of a person for which a spell or ritual is being performed. These are often small doll like figures made using cloth that have been filled with herbs, crystals and other items that correspond to the intent of the spell.
Runes – A divination tool used to seek advice or ask questions. Runes are often made using stones or gemstone that have been carved with a runic alphabet but may be made using other materials.
S – Z
Sabbat - The eight religious festivals that occur on the solstices and equinoxes each year.
Sachet - A small bag used in magic that is normally made of cloth.
Spell - A magical ritual performed with the intent to cause change.
Steep – Herbs can be seeped in boing water in order to infuse it with their flavour and beneficial properties. This method is used when making herbal teas.
Tarot – A method of divination that uses decks of cards. These are generally specifically designed sets but playing cards can also be used.
Three-fold law – A largely Wiccan belief that everything you send out will come back to you multiplied by three.
Tincture - An herbal infusion made using alcohol. They can be taken directly and enter the bloodstream quickly, giving fast relief. Tinctures can also be added to water and taken that way.
Widdershins - Anti-clockwise. This direction is used in undoing or removing: for example in removing negativity.
Witch – A term used to describe person who practises witchcraft, whether they are male or female.
Wortcunning – The knowledge of the healing and magical properties of plants and how to work with these. This may include knowing how to make various preparations such as salves, potions, teas and tinctures as well as how to grow or harvest herbs from the wild.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Claire