Working With Magickal Herbs
Herbs are a wonderful, fragrant, and sometimes delicious way of adding some natural elements to your practice. When used mindfully, they can enhance ritual work and make your spells more effective.
But the world of botanical magick can be overwhelming. There are so many herbs and blends to choose from, deciding where to start can be overwhelming.
The following is a beginner’s guide to working with herbs. Let’s start with some frequently asked questions:
Do my herbs need to be fresh?
As with any magick, having an intimate relationship with your tools is always a bonus. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, know someone who does, or live near an herbal apothecary, then try to source your herbs from there. Better yet, take a meditative stroll in your yard or around the block and bring a bag to collect any herbal treasures you might find!
If you can’t find fresh herbs, don’t fret. Magick is, above anything else, about the intention you put into it. If you have to get a scoop of dried dill from your local grocer, more power to you. My spice cabinet has come in handy pretty often when I need that last special touch for a spell or ritual.
What about Sacred Herbs and Closed Practices?
As with all magic, do your research! The world of magic is a wonderful blend of beliefs, traditions, culture and knowledge. However, globalization, colonization and industrialization have create huge backlashes on sacred traditions and communities around the world. As a result, certain traditions, herbs, and cultures are suffering to the point of elimination.
The best example of this is sage. Smudging with sage has recently become a trend, and has been mass-marketed by big box stores around the world. As a result, wild sage has become endangered.
Furthermore, until recently, sacred traditions and practices were forced underground because of colonial persecution. And now, the massive emergence in popular culture has almost erased the sacred tradition itself!
While smudging is a closed practice with a specific set of materials, intention and ritual, smoke cleansing with any number of non-endangered herbs allows smudging to stay true to its sacred tradition.
At the end of the day, we are all learning, growing and practicing individual and as a community. Please take the time to research your herbs, rituals and practices. Not only will you learn a lot, we will also strengthen as a community.
What about *special* herbs?
Herbs and nature have for a long time played a huge role in ceremony and ritual around the world. From psychoactive frankincense to the deadly amanita mushroom, shamans, witches, and magical practitioners have worked with herbs to heal, study and connect with this realm and beyond.
With that said, herbal medicine is an incredibly complex area of study with thousands of years worth of evolutionary research. Please practice with care and be mindful that balance is required to truly access the magic of our source.
There’s no shame in loosening up with a little bud before your ritual. In fact, witchcraft and 'magical' herbs are inextricably linked (look up the origin of witches flying on broomsticks if you want a raunchy little history lesson).
But that doesn’t mean you have to partake to manifest your deepest desire. If you want to mindfully incorporate something like marijuana into your spellwork, and feel comfortable doing so, have at it.
But if you aren’t your best self with weed, or it mingles with your other medications, there are plenty of other herbs to help you mellow out and connect with your magical source.
Uses For Magickal Herbs
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk spellwork. There are a few ways to utilize the herbs in your magickal pantry, including:
Pouches & Spell Bags
These can be catered for any purpose. Simply gather supplies that suit your intentions, lovingly place them in the center of a small piece of cloth, and tie with a ribbon. Use a little color magick when choosing your materials for some extra oomph.You may wish to carry a spell bag around in your bag, wear it under your clothes, store one under your pillow, or place them in different corners of your home.
If you can’t bear getting rid of jars, and maybe even have a growing collection under your sink, you might be a witch. Jars are beautiful vessels for magick and can be decorative as well as powerful. Jars function much the same way as a pouch, but you can incorporate candle magick by sealing them with wax.
Edible herbs can be blended in magickal concoctions (teas, hot chocolates, smoothies). Drinking a cocktail of intentional herbs can be a delicious and meditative practice. Alternatively, potions can be added to a bath or poured onto the ground, depending on your desired outcome. (Make sure your potion is earth-friendly before pouring it out!)
An example for the “earth pour” option would be a protection spell in front of your home, or a manifestation spell in a neighborhood that you’d like to make your home!
Some herbs are so fragrant and lovely, placing them in your bath is a truly sensual experience. If you are placing raw herbs in the bath, be sure they’re large enough to scoop out afterward, or you may have an awkward encounter with a very confused mortal plumber.
Candle magick is intensified when you take the time to “dress” your candles. Carve your desires into your candle, adorn it with oil, then roll it in your chosen herb blend. Now you’re ready to light up, lay back, and watch the results roll in.
Not sure what to do with your herbs? Look up a recipe! Mindfully mix your ingredients, focusing on your intention. Do some visualization as you try the first bite. Not so handy in the kitchen? Get creative- sprinkle some herbs on top of a frozen pizza. Lovingly infuse your intentions into an uber eats order. Spirit won’t dock points for your lack of domestic prowess.
Filling Your Magickal Pantry
The list of magickal herbs is truly endless, and you can have hours of fun with local plant life and a trusty herbal dictionary. But to get you started, we’ve compiled a list of some more common herbs and their associations. If you are pregnant, on medication, or are sensitive to allergic reactions, please consult your doctor before ingesting any of these herbs.
Often used in money magick, this little sprout also has protective properties that can safeguard your current assets.
Bay leaves can “clear the air,” which will make way for psychic visions, manifestation work, or better communication. You can’t burn a bay leaf to make someone call you, but you can clear the mental fog between you and hope it inspires some action. A great tool for those pesky Mercury retrogrades!
When ingested, this root has healing properties that can be used to cleanse toxins from the system. In the magickal sense, this is useful for uncrossing spells. The root is said to have the ability to “take on” negative energy, so you can transfer it away from yourself.
Don’t get too excited, Catnip won’t give you the kooky and exciting side effects our feline friends get to enjoy. But it does have sedative properties for humans, so it’s useful in psychic dreaming or scrying work. If you happen to have a kitty familiar, this is also a nice offering to your magickal pet.
Cinnamon and other “fiery” herbs are a great way to breathe some life into your spell work. If you’re working on an emergency spell (rent is due, you’ve chipped a tooth, and your hours got cut at work), this will speed things along. It’s also a nice spell for sex magick, so serve up some cinnamon sprinkled lattes on your next hot date.
Unsurprisingly, dandelions are handy for wish magick. But did you know that blowing on a dandelion is, effectively, helping it spread its seed? This could be an excellent addition to a fertility spell. You can also use them to visualize sending a message to someone you wish to contact. Speaking of- drinking dandelion tea is also said to help you get in touch with lost loved ones and luminous ancestors.
Dill has associations with the Celtic Goddess Brigid, who watches over poets, artisans, and prophets. She’s also a fertility goddess, which is why she’s often associated with Imbolc. Use dill when you want to get frisky, or when you need some protection over a special project.
It seems like everything is infused with Elderberry these days and, good for you, this means you can turn a bougie craft beer into a potion. The Elder Tree is associated with death and the underworld, so this can be an especially potent herb to use on Samhain. It is also associated with transformation and may be a good companion to your glamour work.
False Unicorn Root (Chamaelirium Luteum)
This magickally named root is associated with female reproductive health. It can be a great comfort to those suffering from PMS, or people trying to ease themselves off of hormonal birth control. It should NOT be ingested by pregnant people but can be worn or carried in a satchel for protective purposes.
Like Cinnamon, Ginger can “wake up” an existing spell. It can also be used as a confidence aid, which has all kinds of useful applications: embolden a child to sleep without nightmares, initiate sex in a relationship that’s gotten too comfy, or drink some ginger tea during your next big presentation.
Not much of a beer drinker? You can still enjoy this lovely, fragrant herb. Hops are best utilized for sleep satchels- a small bundle of herbs you can keep under your pillow to encourage a restful night.
Inspire a little “luck of the Irish” with a pinch of this good luck herb. It is especially useful in money magick.
Do you feel distracted, foggy, and irritable? Juniper has a fresh, invigorating scent, and clearing a space with Juniper smoke is effective on both your surroundings and your soul.
Kola nuts contain caffeine and has been used in some cultures to help wean people off of excessive smoking or drinking. Because of its invigorating properties, Kola nut can also ward off depression. (But don’t rely on Kola alone, make sure you chat with loved ones & a professional as a companion to your magickal work.)
Lavender is known for its calming properties and could be a nice addition to that hoppy sleep satchel. It is also popular in love and attraction spells when you’re focused on romance rather than pure lust.
Licorice is often used as part of Samhain magick because it is said to help clear lines of communication with the dead. It is also useful in banishing and protective magick. So even if you don’t love the taste, it’s helpful to keep some black licorice around.
This herb is most commonly associated with money, but it can also be a wonderful healing herb. Think of mint when you want to change some of your negative associations with money and clear the path to abundance.
Mugwort is often ingested to encourage psychic dreaming, astral travel, and visions. It can also be a great go-to when cleansing your altar and magickal tools. If you are about to consume mugwort, do so very carefully, and consider purchasing a pre-made blend from a trusted source. Consuming too much mugwort can cause allergic reactions and unpleasant side effects.
This herb can bring people together, and is especially useful for reconciliations or marriage ceremonies. It is also an excellent herb for animal guides and can be used when you wish to communicate with spiritual familiars.
Light some patchouli incense to set a sexy mood. This is also an incredibly grounding herb that can calm and soothe what ails you. But it may not be suitable if you’re already feeling lethargic.
Rosemary is associated with the element of fire, so burning it can bring life and energy to a space. Consider cleansing with rosemary when you’re feeling a little down, or if someone especially negative has left the building.
Concerning the above messaging about sage, if you can ethically source it- it can be a beautiful thing. Sage is used to set the mood for a meditative practice and is also associated with wisdom and immortality.
This is a versatile little herb that can be used in sleep satchels to ward off bad dreams, carried in a pouch to ease feelings of grief, and sprinkled on your doorstep to invite the fae into your home. Just be careful with the fae- they aren’t cute little cartoon fairies!
It’s useful to start any ritual work with vervain because it can protect you from curses and lower vibrational entities. It is also an excellent housewarming gift because it encourages peaceful energy.
White Willow Bark
Often used in beautifying and anti-aging products, this may be a useful ingredient in your beauty magick. It has associations with the goddess, so it works best with lunar rituals.
Yarrow can strengthen psychic gifts and is useful in attraction magick, especially concerning romance and new friends. It also inspires courage, so if you’ve been having trouble approaching people- this may be your perfect match.
And there you have it, a starter guide to working with herbs. Feel free to mix, match, and personalize to your heart’s content. Just be sure to keep a record of your experiments in case you stumble upon something ingenious.