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Introduction to Using Herbs in Magic

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Claire has worked with crystals and many other aspects of paganism for over 14 years. She has also studied reiki up to master level.

Herbs can be grown in a variety of locations no matter how large or small your garden.

Herbs can be grown in a variety of locations no matter how large or small your garden.

In terms of witchcraft, magic is thought of as a natural ability that connects us to 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 depending on the religious or spiritual path of the person concerned. Magic gives us the opportunity to change and influence energy, which in turn changes our reality. In addition to this, changes that we make in our lives can alter the energy around us boosting or holding back our desires. Magic can help to create opportunities 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. Due to a great amount of misinformation around witchcraft and magic, these practices are often assumed to be dangerous and potentially evil and so are condemned or mistrusted by many. However, witches are no more likely to be evil or have negative motives than any other person and although some chose to use magic for darker purposes, there many who don’t and disapprove of this side of witchcraft. Many witches may also choose to work as healers, using their magic to help others or by learning other techniques such as reiki. People may dismiss the existence of magic, calling it pseudoscience or impossible, perhaps due to a difficulty believing and trusting in unseen forces or because they lack experience or knowledge of magic. Science has not yet discovered everything the world and universe holds and so just because it cannot prove the existence of magic, does not mean that it is not real. There have been times when science could not explain many things that are now completely accepted as truth.

Parsley is a common culinary herb that also has magical associations.

Parsley is a common culinary herb that also has magical associations.

Magic is a natural practice but it is important to remember that just because something is natural does not mean that no harm can come from it. This particularly applies to the careless or thoughtless practice of magic. Many witches and in particular those who follow the religion of Wicca, believe in a tradition known as the threefold law. This law applies to all areas of life and states that whatever you put out into the universe will be returned to you three times over. For example, 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 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.

Mint, cilantro, thyme, garlic chives, basil and rosemary.

Mint, cilantro, thyme, garlic chives, basil and rosemary.

Herbal Magic

Herbs have many benefits and can be used in magic and healing as well as in cooking. Herb magic is an age-old tradition that has many applications including protection, attracting luck and soothing emotions. Familiar herbs such as rosemary, basil and bay have powerful magical properties and can be found all over the world. Many varieties of herbs can be grown at home and depending on where you live may be found growing wild. If you cannot grow your own plants there are many reputable suppliers on and offline. Buying herbs can also be a good option when you only want a small amount of a variety or it is one you do not use often. Herbs do not have to be brought from witchcraft or pagan supply shops in order to be used in magic, although these can be good places for obtaining unusual herbs. Garden centres can be useful places to buy herbs commonly used in cooking as well as plants such as lavender and heather. They should also be able to provide you with information on their care such as watering and soil requirements. 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. Many shops and supermarkets stock a range of herbs and spices and these are defiantly worth checking.

When using dried herbs they should be stored in 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 containers intended for herbs. Each container should be clearly labelled and it is helpful to keep a list of which varieties you have for future reference. How you store your herbs is largely an individual choice but also depends on the space you have available and whether you are able to practice magic openly or not. Some ideas include sorting them alphabetically, by days of the week, star signs, common usage or elemental association.

Herbal Magic Safety

When working with herbs in magic there is the important matter of safety to be considered. Herbs like all plants 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. For example, some cannot be ingested or placed on the skin and there are herbs, such as St. John’s Wort that can cause issues with prescription medications. There are herbs that are known to have adverse effects on certain people, for example, those with epilepsy or respiratory issues and many should not be used in pregnancy or with young children. In some instances, a herb may only be safely used in specific 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 plant's identification. Many harmful and toxic plants look very similar to harmless species so it is important that you are aware of the subtle difference between these in order to stay safe. Care must still be taken even when you are not ingesting a herb in a tea, tincture or other remedies. Some may irritate the skin or cause breathing issues when heated or kept in close contact. It is also a good idea to be mindful of allergies and takes note of any adverse reactions you experience. 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 could save your life.

A good plant guide can be invaluble in correctly identifying herbs and other plants.

A good plant guide can be invaluble in correctly identifying herbs and other plants.

How to Use Herbs in Magic

There are various ways to incorporate herbs into your practice and which you use will depend on your beliefs, traditions and your desired outcome. For example, herbs can be used directly as part of spell work or rituals or can be used to brew healing teas or to create salves, tinctures, creams and bath items with healing or magic in mind. If you are following a specific path it may have set ways of working magic regardless of the ingredients and methods used but for eclectic witches, there are many options. It is important to carry out your craft in a way that feels right and comfortable for you, especially when you need to be able to relax and clear your mind of thoughts and worries such as during spell work or meditation. Being able to focus on your magic and what you want to achieve will make your intent stronger and clearer.

Herbs do not have to be used on their own and can be combined with other forms of magic with great success. One commonly used example of this placing herbs around the base of candles used in candle magic or in using herbal oils to anoint spell candles. Herb powders and oils can also be added to wax if you make your own candles. It is possible to buy or create herb dressed candles by heating the wax and then rolling the candle in crushed or powdered herbs. Extra care must be taken when burning these candles to prevent the herbal materials catching on fire and creating a hazard.

Some other examples of how herbs can be used magically include:

  • Sachets
  • Poppets
  • Infusions
  • Healing and magical baths
  • Incense
  • Magical cooking
  • Spell bottles
  • Amulets
  • Spell oils
  • Spell powders

Sachets

These are small parcels often made from cloth and are known by many names including charm-bags, spell bags, mojo bag or magic sachet. They can be made using small sewn bags or by simply wrapping the ingredients in cloth and fastening it with cord or ribbon. The cloth can be plain or decorated and colours and patterns can be chosen based on the intent of your magic. Once made sachets can be carried with you or placed around the home, for instance, a protection sachet may be hung above or placed near the entrance to your house or windows.

You can create your own cloth bag to use or buy them if you prefer. It is possible to buy bags that are specifically sold for magical use in many places online or in metaphysical shops but you do not have to be limited to these. The small drawstring bags commonly used for jewellery or crystals can be a good alternative as they are available in a range of colours and can be easily opened and closed. Once chosen, the sachet is filled with items that correspond to your intent such as herbs, crystals, powders, oils and charms or coins. Depending on your method the magical intent can be infused into the bag as it is filled or once this is completed. Sachets can also be used in later spells or rituals.

Poppets

Poppets are small dolls that are often made using cloth but can be made using any material you choose. They do not need to be highly detailed to be successful and can be created using a simple human figure. At the other end of the scale poppets can be accurately formed and decorated, for example, using embroidery to create facial features and making the doll clothes. Poppets can be made to represent the person the magic is for and it is worth bearing this in mind when creating them as it can help to create a stronger link between them and the magic. Perhaps the person has a favourite material or colour that could be used? If they are a woodworker or enjoy nature a carved poppet may be ideal for them or a cardboard or papier mache poppet could be used for an artist or writer. If you are artistic you may wish to add hair and other features such as eye colour to match the person or add clothing in the person’s style. Once created, the poppet is filled with items that correspond to your intent, which may include herbs, essential oils, crystals, powders and small items. Similarly to sachets, you intent can be infused into the doll during or after the creation process.

Poppets can be made for a variety of intents such as for good luck, prosperity, love, binding or protection. Correspondences such as colour, associated planets, herbs, crystals, symbols, flowers, elements and sigils are often used when creating poppets.

Infusions can be created to suit virtually any need and circumstance.

Infusions can be created to suit virtually any need and circumstance.

Infusions

These made by seeping herbs in hot water for a set amount of time. Infusions should be kept covered so that the steam isn’t lost and can drunk as teas, added to bathwater, used to anoint the body or items such as candles. When making infusions for consumption or use on the body it is vital that you are certain of the herbs identification. Make sure to label all herbs clearly, ideally using botanical names to avoid confusion in future especially as common names can vary between groups and areas. If you forage for plants in the wild do not use these unless you are confident in your ability to identify them successfully. Although greatly beneficial, herbs and other plants can be harmful and even deadly when identified incorrectly.


Healing and Magical Baths

Adding herbs to your bath can be done in several ways. Infusions can be prepared and added to bathwater before you get in or cloth sachets of herbs can be placed in the water while the bath fills. If you choose to use the sachet method, they can be placed directly in the bath or hung under the tap so that the water runs over them. Loose plant material can also be added to bathwater directly but this can be messy and difficult to clean up. There may also be a risk of causing a blockage in your house’s piping. This method may be best reserved to larger items such as whole rose petals, flowers and springs of herbs as these can easily be removed from the water before allowing it to drain away. As with infusions, you must be sure that the herbs have been correcting identified to avoid any irritation and take note of any reactions that you may have and avoid future use if necessary.

Magical cookery can make use of a wide variety of herbs.

Magical cookery can make use of a wide variety of herbs.

Incense

Homemade incense can be made in several ways either following established recipes or by creating your own. Loose incense is the easiest to make as it only requires that you mix together various quantities of herbs and other plant material. These can be kept whole although it is often said that it will burn better when ground to a powder using a pestle and mortar. Essential oils are also sometimes used in creating loose incense. The incense is burnt on charcoal disks and care must be taken as these become very hot once lit. Loose incense can also be added to water and heated using oil burners, though this can be difficult to clean up depending on the ingredients used. You can also make finely ground loose incense into cones, pellets or sticks, though additional ingredients are needed. Making your own incense means that you can customise it to suit your needs and tastes. Additionally, it can be a good option for anyone sensitive to the artificial scents sometimes used in bought incense.


Cooking

Cooking and baking are great ways to work with and can help bring their healing and magical properties into the food you consume. This can apply to the meals you prepare every day or magical cooking can be reserved for celebrations such as sabbats or when healing is required. The sabbats and days of the week have herbal correspondences and these can be incorporated into your cooking.

Care must be taken to ensure that the herbs used are suitable for consumption and are of food-grade quality.

Some methods of using herbs in cooking include:

  • To benefit the body, for example using herbs to aid digestion to create teas
  • Using herbal correspondences to sabbats in food prepared for that day
  • Adding healing herbs to the food eaten during illness
  • Creating dishes around a certain intent, for example, a Valentine’s Day meal cooked with herbs associated with love, trust, commitment and passion.

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

Comments

Claire (author) from Lincolnshire, UK on February 08, 2019:

You're welcome and thank you for your kind comment. I really like working with herbs and am hoping to expand my herb garden this year.

Dale Hyde from Tropical Paradise on Planet X on February 07, 2019:

It is amazing what herbs have the capacity to do at so many levels! Thank you for expanding upon them as you have!

Claire (author) from Lincolnshire, UK on May 08, 2013:

Thank you

Kitty Fields from Summerland on May 07, 2013:

Wonderfully thorough on the art of magical herbalism. Voted up and awesome.

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