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Magical Herbalism
by Diane Sylvan, Sibylline Priestess

Herbal lore has been passed from healer to healer, mother to daughter, generation after generation. Herbalism is an ancient practice of a gentle science. The uses and properties of herbs are just now reaffirming itself in the western scientific community. Holistic medicines work with the body to balance our natural chemistry. The side effects of herbs are generally less severe then pharmaceutical drugs and the benefits to the body and soul are great. Although natural healing is practiced by many it is always best to do research for yourself, seek out someone well trained, and obtain a doctor's diagnosis for all severe medial problems. When using a natural medicine for an ailment, seek medical council if a condition is threatening your well being, worsens or has persisted for an extended period of time (1-2 weeks). Herbal medicines are powerful and can, if used incorrectly, have life threatening results.

Medicinal Herbalism - Involves taking parts of helpful plants internally or applying them to the skin, in order to user symptoms resulting from physical maladies. This is the predecessor to most modern medicines.

Magical Herbalism - Symbolic in nature, acting on the traditional magical principals of "like attracts like". Magical herbalism may be employed for every aspect of life. Magical herbalism may use plants that would never ever be taken internally and are used only for external purposes.

Kitchen Magic is the practice of magic by using herbs and foods. It the energy that you instill in the foods that you prepare. It is the combination of herbs and ingredients to create a food that has purpose and meaning. Cooking can be a meditation in and of itself. It can be practiced each day, anywhere, and by everyone.

Choosing Herbs
Remember these are plants and should retail some identifying characteristics of a plant. Herbs have a one-year shelf life; thus it is better to buy from small suppliers who purchase in smaller quantities. Some bottles contain a date to indicate preparation and some a date of expiration. These are very important, as the potency of an herb will deteriorate after a time. When buying your herbs you may want to look for dust on the bottle this is a sure sign of how long it has been on the shelf.
* Wildcrafting is gathering herbs from out in nature. This is probably best left to the experts. If you do wildcraft, gather only from those plants you have grown yourself. Wildcrafting is difficult even for the most trained due to pesticides and the difficulty of identifying plants. If you insist on gathering your own herbs do not ingest them for your own safety.

· Is it free of mold and parasites?
· Can you identify the plant in question?
· Does it look like it used to be a plant?

Does it smell like the plant in question?
Is it free of a moldy, dusty or dirt like smell?

When you shake the container do things move around? If they do not then the container may be prone to molds or is too moist.
Are the dried fruits/seeds/barks/rootstock dry but not crumbly?
Are they bendable without being moist?
Dried fruits should crumble but not turn to the consistency of dust.

Care of Herbs

Consider storing the more expensive herbs in the refrigerator or in an airtight container to preserve their potency.
Keep herbs away from direct sunlight or heat.
Label your containers with the date and name of herb.
When drying herbs tie them in a bundle no more than 3/4" thick and hang them upside down in a dry place.
Never take more than 1/3 of a plant's growth.

Working with Herbs

Keep a record - Write your recipes on your herbal concoctions. This way you can use your recipes again or avoid those awful mistakes. Record the date, time, ingredients, the measurements, how long it was in water, where the herbs were purchased, and what the results were (both good and bad).

Charging Herbs - Raise energy in which ever way you are comfortable; mantras, breathing, casting circle. Earth this energy into the herbal mixture while visualizing the desired effect of your working. You can do this at three stages: either before blending the herbs together or as you add each herb to the mixture or after the mixture has been completed. At this time you can utter the spell/words that go with your working.

Substitutions - It is best to keep on hand a selection of herbs you can use for several purposes. Several books out there feature lists and suggestions for magical substitutions. A good rule of thumb is that if you need cinnamon, look for something that has the same general appearance and smell.

Types of Preparations

Amulet - a charm designed to be work or carried on your person.

Anointing Oil - an oil blend, usually essential oils combined with a base oil that is rubbed on candles, charms, household items, or people. Usually the effect is based on aromatherapy - the scent of the oil is its energy.

Bath Sachet - a sort of tea bag for the bath.

Beauty Products - essential oils can be added to shampoo, liquid soap, conditioner, lotion, and all manners of personal care products. Not only does it smell great but also the oils will bring their influenced to you every time you shower. Just make sure to test the mixture on a small patch of skin 24 hours before using to avoid any possible allergic reactions.

Charm - a selection of herbs, talismans and stones blended together and bound up in a cloth and carried or placed in a strategic location. When the desired effect has been manifested, untie the charm and cast its contents into a river or the wind.

Decoction - 2 tsp. of <hard-seeds/pods/fruits/rootstock/stems> bruised then soaked in 8 oz of cold water for 30 minutes and brought to a low boil for 5 to 10 minutes. The herbs are stained before drinking and sweeter is added if desired. Decoctions are to be used within 72 hours or they will loose their potency.

Dream Pillow - A cloth pouch stuffed with herbs to bring good sleep, prophetic dreams or healing.

Floorwash - an infusion of herbs added to mop water or sprayer. Most often used to purify or banish unwanted influences from the home. Borrowed from our vodun cousins.

Incense - a blend of herbs that you burn. The combination may either be for magical intent, purification, or aromatherapy.

Poppet - a small cloth doll stuffed with herbs. Usually there is a link to the person it represents - a strand of hair, piece of clothing, a picture, etc. Used for healing and occasionally for banishing. (If I catch you sticking pins in a poppet I'll personally kick your butt - for bad taste if nothing else!)

Powder - finely ground herbs that can be sprinkled about the home, car, bed, workplace, etc. May be tossed into the air for a wish or rubbed onto a candle carved with runes among other uses.

Signature Powder - a blend of herbs and other substances that symbolizes you. It is a way of magically marking your territory. Add a pinch to charms incenses, etc. so that the results of your magic will find their way to you more easily. Sets a seal on your work.

Spell Bottle - A charm under glass. Spell bottles can be buried at the perimeter of your property to protect your home or left in plane sight as a curious and powerful nick-knack. Good for long term spells and protective magic.

Teas - herbs steeped in water. Boil the water before adding the tea as to preserve the herbal potency. Strain your herbs from the water and sweeten if desired. Honey is excellent as a sweetener.

Tincture - an infusion of herbs made in alcohol instead of water. These are often consumed, added to a bath, or used in anointing. Tinctures take several weeks to make and should be stored in the fridge.

Basic Herb Pantry (Gadgets)

Mortar and Pestle (2) - One for the things you will ingest and one for the things you will not. When grinding, get into a good rhythm and be patient - things like Frankincense take a while to pulverize. Remember to grind clockwise if you're working magic to bring something to you such as prosperity and health and counterclockwise to banish something like anger or fear.

Knife or Scissors - Traditionalist may use a boline while others find that scissors are more practical. You will cut stems, leaves, fabric, string, ribbon and all manner of stuff in the process of herbal magic.

Bottles, Jars, Bags, Cloth Scraps, String, Ribbon - Most herbal preparations involve wrapping or stuffing "something" full of the herb mixture. Felt comes in all sorts of nifty colors, is inexpensive and does not fray at the edges. Little cheesecloth tea bags are wonderful for the bath. Tiny glass bottles are good for home protection and oil blends.

Base Oil - If you are blending anointing oils yourself you need to dilute the essential oils in a carrier. Undiluted oils can irritate bare skin. Sweet almond oil is a good, inexpensive base oil. Jajoba is a wonderful oil but rather expensive. Olive oil works well but whose sent is rather strong.

Reference Book (see suggested reading)

Recipe File - Keep a record of all your herbal and oil blends. Record the mixture, the phase of the moon, success or failure, date, place where you purchased the ingredients, etc.

Basic Herb Pantry (Herbs)

Rosemary - Rosemary can be used as a substitute for most any other herb. It is used for protection, love, lust, mental clarity, purification, healing, banishing, and cleansing,. It rids any place of negative energy and drives away nightmares. The scent of rosemary oil also aids the memory.

Lavender -Another general purpose herb. It aids in sleep, purification, peace, love and smells nice. It also repels pests. The scent is said to disperse sorrow, promote long life, and give good health. The oil, which is cheap and plentiful, is a mild antiseptic and can be dabbed on to burns, bug bites, and abrasions. Lavender is good to use for any magical operations that involve the heart - love, peace, happiness, or kindness.

Bay - Being a cooking herb bay is readily available. It is used for protection, purification, physical strength, healing, and the enhancement of psychic powers. Bay placed in a dream pillow can bring prophetic visions - the scent of bay is reputedly what the Delphic Oracle used to obtain a trance state. It wards off negativity and is an excellent protector.

Dragon's Blood - This resin comes from a species of palm tree. It is a very powerful protectant and a banisher of all manner of nasties both astral and temporal. It is potent and pricey. There is no true Dragon's blood essential oil as the resin isn't very moist, but there are a number of synthetics that achieve some semblance of the smell.

Sage - This herb is from our Native American brothers and sisters. It is a strong purifier used before many rituals especially in healing rituals. It eliminates negative energy and Do not use this as an oil!

Patchouli - The herb of money, sex, and dirt. It is an earthy herb that looks like potting soil and smells like an aging hippie. Patchouli vibrates at the lower chakras and gets your sexy mojo working. It is excellent for finding a house, a job, a monetary windfall, or someone to shag. In olden times it was interchanged with "graveyard dust".

Chamomile - Widely is used for use in sleep, peace, happiness and love relationship spells. The tea is a wonderful way to induce a peaceful slumber and sweet dreams and aids in meditation. The essential oil is ghastly expensive. Roman chamomile is by far the most inexpensive, but the flower itself is easy to find and works well for magical applications.

Lemon - Another inexpensive oil and is an excellent cleaner as you might expect and can be added to cleaning products to purify your home. Lemon promotes healing and friendship, attracts love, and smells like spring. The oil is irritating to skin if undiluted.

Cinnamon - Promotes spirituality, success, healing, psychic powers, lust, love, and protection. You can bake cinnamon into almost any desert thereby creating a sort of semi incense state that releases its' spiritual energy. It is a powerful powder or oil - be cautious, as many people are allergic to it.

Sandalwood - Expensive, rare and precious, it grows only in India and is under strict protection. Sandalwood is an all purpose ritual incense, it aids in any magic involving healing, protection, love, spirituality or sex.

Herb Magic/Kitchen Magic
· Use food to heal those who are sick or ailing. There is more to chicken soup then just chicken.
· Prepare and serve your food with intention
· Make each meal a ritual/a sacred event
· Put your energy into what you cook
· Put symbols into your food when cooking
· Say a mantra or sing while you prepare the meal
· Don't ingest that which you do not want - anger, fear, frustration
· Honor the animal/vegetable from which you receive nourishment. Use this time to reaffirm your connection to the cycle of life.

**Notes on Oils**
Use only undiluted guaranteed essential oils for internal use. Most essential oils are cut - this is why you need to obtain them from a reputable source. Aphrodisia is one accepted supplier but there are others out there. Ask about suppliers.
Use all oils with extreme care, as they are highly active and can cause serious injury or death if used inappropriately or without sufficient research. Never take anything internally you have not talked to a doctor or a herbalist about before hand. For instance both nutmeg and thyme can kill you if taken in large enough doses. Never exceed the recommended dosages.

Suggested Reading

  • Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
  • The Herb Book by John Lust
  • The New Age Herbalist by Richard Maybe
  • The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood
  • www.aromaweb
  • www.medherb

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