Today is Thursday, September 23. The moon is waning gibbous, and I hope everyone’s full moon intentions are coming along nicely. It is also the first day of Libra season, which will end on October 22. Libra is ruled by air, so it’s always a good time for partnerships, communication, and justice. Libra is an initiator; so in general, this is a great time for starting something new, like a new creative project, or a new job opportunity, or a new relationship. EXCEPT that Mercury goes retrograde on Monday the 27th.
So this isn’t a time for despair, it just means that we will need to be a little more clear in our communication with one another, because Merc retrograde loves to cause misunderstandings. And it is also important to remember that we are more likely to experience technical mishaps during this time. So double check that your important emails have been received, give yourself extra time maybe to turn in assignments remotely, don’t wait until the last minute in case things go haywire.
There’s no reason to panic about Merc retrograde, just be prepared for it. Forewarned is forearmed. If we understand that words may not come out like they were meant to, or that our phones, wifi, and computers may have troubles during this time, we will be a lot better off. Give people a little more benefit of the doubt if something is said that could be interpreted as hurtful. During this time, things we say may not come out the way they were intended.
One last thing, maybe hold off on signing any contracts during this time if it’s possible, and if it isn’t possible, make damn sure that you’ve read it front to back. Understand what you’re getting into, ask a million questions, get a second opinion if it’s possible.
So. With that general housekeeping out of the way, let’s talk about herbs! Herbs and herbalism are woven so tightly into the fabric of witchcraft, for me at least, that it’s almost impossible to separate them, and I wanted to talk about them in depth and explore what they can offer us in terms of magic and overall health.
In magic, herbs offer support and magnification of our spellwork. By researching the herbs and plants that correspond with what it is we are trying to manifest, we can amplify our workings by using them in all kinds of ways. We can burn them as incense, steep them in water and drink them as teas, put them in recipes that we are making with magical intent. We can add them to mojo bags or spell jars, dress candles with them, we can use them to cast circles when working outside and we don’t want to use salt and kill the grass, and honestly the list goes on.
But how do we know which herbs to use? It’s common to hear these days that rosemary can be substituted for any herb, but it’s important to understand why that might be. Rosemary has a lot of magical associations, such as health, love, lust, protection, communication, purification, memory, preventing nightmares, removing negativity, abundance, meditation, loyalty, and fertility. And depending on your source, there are even more properties associated with Rosemary. Combine this with the fact that it’s cheap and easy to come by, and we begin to see why so many people advocate for Rosemary as a sort of all-purpose herb.
But this is where I want to make a distinction. We hear a lot in witchcraft circles that intention is everything, and it mostly is, but it also kind of isn’t. Intention will get us most of the way there, but we have to also do spellwork that supports the intention. Just throwing any old herb into a spell may not kill its effectiveness, but it may be completely neutral in a working, and worst case scenario, it may actually stunt the potency of the spell a little.
Think about making a cake. If we use salt instead of sugar, we will still get a cake, but it isn’t going to be exactly what we want, is it? The end result will still be a baked confection, and we can frost it and decorate it and it may look fine, and it will technically be edible, but no one is going to want to eat it and it isn’t going to have the desired effect. It’s the same with spellwork; we can throw things together haphazardly and it’s still a spell, but if we just use a little care, we can craft a spell using herbs that will enhance it.
I talked a little bit in the Spellwork episode about using ingredients in your workings that speak to you, and that’s also another distinction I want to draw. Just because you use something in a spell that doesn’t NECESSARILY have the universal properties associated with the intention you’re trying to manifest, doesn’t mean it won’t work as long as the ingredient has meaning FOR YOU. So as an example, if you’re doing a spell to rekindle the flame between yourself and a long-term partner, you may use the traditional love spell ingredients like cinnamon and rose, but you may also use an ingredient that is specific to your relationship. So like, I don’t know, if you met at a coffee shop, and it’s like your special place, you might throw a couple coffee beans into the spell just to personalize it.
But other than that, whenever possible, try to use ingredients that correspond with your desired outcome. Now, when you come across a spell that asks for exotic ingredients, expensive ingredients, or ingredients whose use doesn’t make sense to you, THIS is where the idea of ‘intention is everything’ can come into play. If you’re using a spell that you found in a book or online, don’t immediately jump on Etsy and start adding herbs to your cart. Find out what the herbs in the spell are for so that you can look for suitable substitutions.
There should be very little work you can’t do with just the herbs in your kitchen cupboard or found in nature. When a spell calls for black salt, make your own! Use 1 part sea salt, 1 part crushed, charred embers from a fire pit or a fireplace, and add the ashes of all your old incense and burnt spells. Crush them all together with a mortar and pestle, and there you have it. Custom black salt for all your black salt needs, for the low low cost of zero dollars.
Likewise, any time an essential oil is called for, consider making your own infused oils. Essential oils are very expensive, and they’re not easy to make at home, but infused oils will work just as well for dressing a candle, or anointing yourself or your spell work, and basically any application that calls for essential oil. Essential oils are great, and they can be used in a lot of ways, but they can be prohibitively expensive.
But infused oils are easy and cheap to make at home, and you can make your own blends as well. You can do this by pouring a small amount of olive oil or canola oil, whatever you have on hand, just a quarter cup or so, into a small saucepan. Then add a teaspoon or two of dried herbs. Again, this can be a single herb, or you can customize a mix of herbs. Put it on a low heat and stir it occasionally for 20 or 30 minutes. Keep an eye on your pot; don’t let the oil get too hot, we aren’t trying to fry these herbs, we want them heated through and extracting all the herbal goodness. Turn the heat off and let the herbs steep until the oil cools to room temperature. Then you just strain out the herbs, I like to use a coffee filter to make sure all the plant bits are removed. Store your infused oil in a glass jar or bottle in a cool, dark place and use it as needed. Label your jars and enjoy.
Now, we’ve already gone over why rosemary is awesome, so I won’t rehash that herb, but I will spend a few minutes on some other common and useful herbs that are going to be very useful to you as a witch and as a human being who enjoys food flavored with herbs and spices.
The first herb I like to recommend for the witch’s apothecary is bay laurel, also known as bay leaves. Now, you can buy these in the spice aisle at your grocery store, but they can be a little pricey. However, if you go over to the aisle where the ethnic foods are sold (and god, do not get me started on delineating ethnic foods vs just food) you will often find cellophane bags of spices that are exactly the same as the more expensive jarred herbs from McCormick, but they’re a fraction of the cost. Bay leaves are absolutely wonderful for writing manifestations on and then burning them, or they can be crushed and used to dress a candle, or add to a spell jar, or whatever your spell may call for. Used in spellwork for Protection, good fortune, success, purification, strength, healing and psychic powers.
Basil is another herb that’s crucial for a witch, and for a cook. Basil is cheap to buy and easy to grow. It’s used magically for abundance, love, exorcism, wealth, sympathy, and protection. Dispels confusion, fears & weakness.
Black pepper, yes, plain old black pepper, is great for banishing, exorcisms, and protection.
Chamomile isn’t an herb that has a ton of uses outside of tea and magick, but I’m including it anyway because it is so useful magically, and it’s easy to get and cheap to buy in the tea aisle. Use this herb for all magick having to do with love, healing, reducing stress, and of course, any time a good night’s rest is called for.
Garlic. Yes, plain old garlic, or garlic powder, garlic salt in a pinch, it all works. Use garlic in magick that calls for healing, protection, exorcism, repulsion of energy vampires, and purification of people, spaces and objects. Used to invoke Hecate.
Lavender is a lot like chamomile in that it doesn’t have a ton of use outside of magic and herbal medicine, and there are a lot of herbs that can be substituted for it depending on your intention, but nevertheless because it’s so well-known and beloved as a magickal herb, I’m including it here, Its magickal uses include love, protection, healing, sleep, purification, and peace. Promotes healing from depression. So if you’re so inclined, definitely add it to your arsenal. But your magick will not suffer without it.
Nettle is readily available in the tea aisle alongside chamomile, and you’ll probably never add it to your food for any reason, but there is nothing that works as well AND is as easy to come by for dispelling darkness & fear, strengthening the will, and aiding in the ability to handle emergencies. Sprinkle in and around the home to drive off evil & negativity, or put some in a sachet and keep under the bed to keep nightmares and night terrors at bay.
And finally, thyme: Attracts loyalty, affection, and the good opinion of others. Wear a sprig to ward off unbearable grief or provide strength and courage when needed. Burn or hang in the home for banishing, purification, and to attract good health for all occupants. Easy to grow, cheap to buy, and it will make your stews and soups positively transcendent.
So there you have it. A modest, yet powerful group of herbs and spices that will help in just about any magical application that a witch may need, and you can get nearly all of these for very little money at the grocery store or even the dollar store, if that’s what fits into your life and your practice. And one final thought about that before I sign off today.
This podcast is for every witch, at every stage in his or her or their practice, regardless of their financial circumstance or whether or not they practice openly. So while it would be amazing if we all had the means to pop down to the neighborhood occult shop and purchase organic, locally-sourced spell ingredients in beautiful glass jars and display them in our picture-perfect apothecary cabinets, but that just isn’t reality for a lot of us. So I am not here for shaming witches who buy their shit at the Dollar General, or Walmart, or the grocery store.
There is enough friction and pressure coming from outside the witch community; we really don’t need it here within the community. Anyway. I hope this has been a helpful episode, I hope that this information is useful and helps you build your practice with confidence. My name is Eli, and you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook @middleagedwitch, and of course I’ll be right here next week, on the Middle-Aged Witch podcast.