Learning Witchcraft: Magical Potions, Brews, and Other Concoctions
If you're trying to learn Witchcraft -- or anything really -- a base of knowledge can usually be found in the jargon. This is why I keep dictionaries stashed all over the house -- vocabulary matters.
Potion, brew, philter, bath, infusion, sachet, charm or mojo bag, Witch’s bottles and jars—there are so many different kinds of things Witches seem to make, aren't there? Well, they don’t call it “The Craft” for nothing.
Witchcraft and spells often involves actually crafting and enchanting different types of items. Here’s a little guide to help you learn what many of these things are, what the difference is, and how you generally go about making them.
Interested in Herbalism?
You can learn a lot about herbs, their metaphysical properties, folklore, how to grow them, how they're used in cooking, crafts, medicinally and in magic from my "Magical Herbalism" series.
Here's a good one to start with:
An infusion is essentially a tea—it’s when you steep something (usually herbs and plants) in liquids. You can use water as the base of your infusion, or you can use other liquids—wine, juice or even oil.
Some people will tell you to never make an infusion in a metal pot, as it disrupts the energy of the herbs. I have to say, I disagree. I have a lot of great results making all kinds of infusions in my cast iron pots (cauldrons). It seems to me that the iron practically vibrates and reverberates the energies within, and lend the grounding of the Element of Earth.
I find stainless steel fairly neutral when it comes to brews, and copper seems to infuse any infusion with a boost of energy, which I guess it gets from the Element of Fire (the Element associated with copper).
You just have to keep in mind that certain acidic ingredients will react with metal—so if I’m including anything acidic, such as citrus slices, I will use a glass, enamel or ceramic.
I do avoid nonstick-coated pots, aluminum, and pewter—I won’t use pots or vessels made of these materials at all. This is particularly true of pewter, because toxins can be leached from it.
Infusions are used for drinking, bathing, or washing things.
Learn About Herb Magic from Scott Cunningham
Recommended Witchcraft Book:
A great resource for any shelf! Check out the rare 1980s video by this much loved Wiccan author above.
A potion is an enchanted drink. Usually, it’s an infusion (though naturally, not all infusions are potions).
It’s usually (but not always) made of herbs. Usually it’s made in a base of liquids like wine or juice (not oil, though sometimes a few drops of non-toxic oils can be added).
Sometimes non-edible elements are added to potions to lend them power, then removed before drinking. For example, you might put a crystal in the potion while making it, then remove the crystal before drinking (please make sure your crystal won’t leach toxins into the liquid.
A potion; usually a love potion specifically.
Pronounced draft, it’s synonymous with potion. This version of the word is more often found in video games and fiction, however.
Potion and brew are often used interchangeably. Brews can be enchanted infusions or mixtures meant to be consumed. Usually when you’re talking about something very thick, or something fermented, you would use the term brew rather than potion. So a brew can essentially be a drink or a food. For example, your coffee is a brew, beer is a brew, and stews are brews.
Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble
Recommended Witchcraft Book:
Elixirs refer to drinks meant to give health and vitality, only they are not infused. Rather, powders and extracts are dissolved in a water and/or alcohol base, and it’s usually sweetened with honey, syrup, mashed fruits or other sweeteners.
Elixirs can be enchanted—and of course, if you’re practicing Witchcraft, why not, right? But a lot of non-magical health-conscious people make elixirs.
A suspension is like an elixir in which the particles can’t fully dissolve. They should be shaken to disperse the ingredients before drinking.
An oil extraction is when you extract the natural oils from a plant. Essential oils are pure extracted oils with no other additives, hence they are more expensive. Fragrance oils or cosmetic oils contain additives, or can be outright artificial chemical creations.
An oil infusion is when you steep herbs in oils. An oil blend is when you blend essential oils, and usually dilute them in a base oil (olive oil, vegetable, jojoba or grape seed, for example).
Sachets Are Great For...
Putting in drawers to scent clothes -- great aromatherapy
Hang in rooms or closets to draw your desire
Keep with your magical tools to protect them
Create magical bahts (hang them to dangle below a running faucet)
A powder is a blend of ground herbs, woods, spices, perhaps even ground crystals or minerals. They are enchanted and their power is released by sprinkling them around. Always be careful not to inhale powders, or let them blow into your eyes. Powders are generally kept in a jar, or you might put them in a pouch to carry them with you.
I find powders great for outdoor use. Grab a handful, infuse it with your intent, then toss it into the wind. Sprinkle an area to purify it and cleanse it of negativity. Make a protective circle by sprinkling powder around. It’s very useful.
A piece of porous fabric or netting that’s been filled with herbs and other aromatic ingredients so it emits a scent.
A sachet that’s a bit more tightly woven, but still emits scent. Place it over the head during meditation or for healing.
Making a Mojo Bag
A bath into which an infusion or sachet has been added. Usually these would be enchanted for a magical bath, it can be done for the aromatherapy benefits, or just because it’s refreshing.
Infusions using pure ethyl alcohol, which captures the scent of herbs. These can be added to other concoctions, such as baths and washes, or it’s used to anoint—this can be particularly great for people who have skin reactions to oils.
It’s not recommended that you drink tinctures. Don’t use rubbing alcohol, which is made from petroleum products; it should be 140 proof pure ethyl.
Charm Bag or Mojo Bag
Enchanted herbs and other items placed into a small pouch or bag and tied tight. It’s worn or carried as an amulet.
A salve, or fatty-based lotion, that’s been made with enchanted herbs and other ingredients. It’s rubbed on for magical effect, usually used for healing purposes these days.
One of the most famous types of witch ointments is the flying ointment. There are many ancient sources found for these kinds of recipes, and folklore said that Witches used it to fly on their brooms to their Sabbath celebrations.
Flying ointments are now believed to have been hallucinagenic ointments made with powerful (often toxic) herbs to induce trance and astral projection.
Please do not make flying ointments, if you find recipes on the internet. They can be quite dangerous.
An Witches Bottle From 1605
Witches Bottle Necklace
Sometimes called a witches jar, a Witches bottle is a magical tool used for protection or curse breaking. It was filled with things like old rusty nails, razor blades, pins, glass shards and urine. It would be buried or hidden on the property, and if anyone sent evil forces your way the bottle would absorb them. If you were afraid you were cursed already, you might cast it into a fire, and when the bottle exploded it meant the curse was broken.
The earliest mention of a Witches bottle is found in "Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions" by Joseph Glanvill, and an intact bottle has been uncovered in England that is believed to be from the 17th century.
Modern Witches have taken to using bottles for spells that involve more than just curse protection. Many people will put specific ingredients matched to their intent into a bottle. For example, if you wanted to draw love, you may fill a bottle with things like red wine, lavender buds, apple slices and rose quartz, then after enchanting it one would leave it uncorked in the bedroom to attract a lover. Likewise, a bottle may be placed in the room of someone ill to absorb the illness, then the contents dumped and buried to disperse it. If you wish to attract wealth, happiness, friendship, etc., a spell bottle is a great method.
As usual, this is probably not an exhaustive list. But it gives you an understanding of a lot of common terms about items Witches make and use for magical workings. If you know of something else you’d like to add, please tell us about it in the comments.