Herbal Oil, simmering in the pot.
Working with herbs has been one of the most magickal and rewarding experiences in my growth as a Witch. Not only plants heal our spirit and body – they are teachers, they empower us and they reveal us the paths to spiritual realms as guardians and shamans.
I have always felt a natural connection to them – when I started practising Witchcraft at the tender age of thirteen, my first spells were almost entirely made from flowers I used to collect and dry. By then I didn’t know anything about them and worked in a very intuitive way, but soon the “herbal bug” poisoned me with the need to know more – and I have to say that poison is still working, as I never grow tired of reading herbal guides, collecting seeds and herbs and experimenting with them in my Witch room.
I know many Witches that do not work with herbs – and I think that is perfectly ok. Herbs are just one way to create magick and there are many other completely legit ways to achieve the same results: gemstones, oils, Reiki, etc. I do not agree with those who say that a Witch is not a Witch without an extent herbal lore, but I DO think that you have to try at least once in your magickal learning until you decide if herbalism is in your path or not.
Wildharvested organic herbs.
Before I started growing and wildharvesting my own herbs, I worked for many years with dry herbs from our local farmer’s market. My mother used to buy her groceries there and I would make a quick stop at the herb seller and buy small amounts of herbs with the very little money I had made reading Tarot. Soon I was purchasing incense resins, charcoal tablets, oils… one bit at a time, I created my first “witchcraft chest” and started making mojo bags for my Tarot customers and my friends.
That was around fifteen years ago. What I’m trying to explain is that if you want to start learning about herbs, start slow, and stay slow. You cannot learn the properties and Latin names of a hundred herbs in one day. Here are some points that may make your herb learning easier:
- First and most important advice: RESEARCH. Do not work intuitively, specially if you are making herbal teas or any product that it is in contact with your body, internally or externally. Learn the Latin name of herbs – it is much more useful than it seems (for example, for online researching).
- Learn first about your local herbs – they are easier to find, easier to grow and easier to identify if you go wildharvesting. Look for local farmers and gardeners and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Remember that we all love to talk about what we know about.
- Keep a separate notebook, or a section of your Book Of Shadows, only for herbal lore – a regular ring binder is perfect, as you can add and reorganize as you go along.
- If you can’t have the live plant for whatever reason, start buying a small amount of dry herb and, before you make any use of it, place the herb in a bowl/plate ad place your hands over it. Welcome its spirit into your life and knowledge and try your best to transmit your thankfulness and welcoming – then relax and let the herb speak. Note down everything you have felt, heard or seen.
- You can do exactly the same with live herbs, in containers or in your garden. Not only the plant will give you its knowledge, they will let you know if they need more/less water, more/less sun, etc. This method also works in reverse; we apply regular Reiki sessions to our plants to stimulate their growth and properties, and have got astounding results. Herbs can give you a lot, chemically and spiritually, but you can give them back too; plants that are happy, growing with a devoted Garden Witch, grow better, are more resistant to bugs and produce more leaves and seeds for your work.
- Keep your herbs in glass/ceramic jars, away from light and strong smells, tagged with the name of the herb (common and Latin), and the day you purchased/harvested it. Try to use them as fresh a possible – storing herbs forever only makes them less and less powerful.
- The Fairies/Elementals are there to help you. Search for their advice as protectors of Nature by creating an altar to them in your garden or near your herb stash. Make a fairy pond (ours is just a big ceramic bowl, decorated with stones and shells under the water), leave offerings for them and acknowledge their presence; there are no gardening helpers like Fairies and Gnomes!
Our little fairy pond.
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