Herbs have long been involved in magical practices. Once, magick and medicine were one in the same or at least overlapped significantly.
Now, medicine relies largely on synthetic drugs and herbs are used in magick not just for healing, but for many other purposes.
Without going into too much detail, I will explain various techniques often used in magic relating to herbs. It is up to you to seek out the appropriate rituals and/or herbs to use with these techniques if you so desire.
Mojo bag or herbal sachet
A mojo bag is simple to make and may provide powerful luck and magic, especially of the protective sort. To create one is really a simple task, though you may choose to make one more or less elaborate, according to your personal tastes.
In its simplest form, you can simply place your items in the center of a piece of lightweight cloth, bring up the corners, and tie the bundle shut with a string. However, you may want something a little sturdier, especially if you’ll be keeping it in your pocket on a regular basis.
First, find some scraps of leather, felt, or other heavy, tightly woven fabric that appeals to you, in a color that suits your working. Cut two identical pieces in a shape that appeals to you. Don’t try to make fancy shapes. Stick with circles, rectangles, etc. At the top of each shape, there should be a bit of an outdent, as wide as you need it to be, to make the mouth of the bag.
Place the two pieces with their outsides facing each other and with a heavy needle and thread stitch all the way around the outside, leaving the mouth open. Be sure to put extra stitches around the mouth area for extra strength. Once you’ve tied off your thread, turn your bag right-side out and you’re done.
You can now place whatever herbs or other objects you wish inside of it and tie off the mouth with a ribbon or cord. If you want to make a drawstring for your bag, simply cut little evenly spaced holes around the mouth area of the bag and thread your cord through them so that the two loose ends meet up again at the same side. Tie the two loose ends together.
Many objects can be placed inside this bag and it can be carried or worn around the neck as a charm to bring luck, love, money or to ward off evil spirits or curses. Some people wear very personal bags representative of their own totem spirits. These bags may contain dried herbs, various types of stones, feathers, animal claws, bits of fur, seeds, or whatever else the practitioner decides will be useful.
Most container spells are created to be a sympathetic object to represent a target. But containers can also be used to contain and concentrate the energy of magical items, including herbs, and thus act as a ward or a beacon or other drawing object.
A mojo bag, described above, can be said to be a type of container spell.
A Crafty Talisman
Keeping a bit of herb about your person or in your home is a popular way to bring the desired energies of the herb into your situation. While many single herbs tucked into a corner, over a doorway, or a bay leaf in your wallet is popular, a bit of herbal craft is also popular. Magical herbs can be woven into swags, wreaths, bouquets, baskets of potpourri and other crafty bits of home decor to bring herbal energies into your situation.
An Herbal Pillow
Herbal pillows are great little aromatherapy tricks that can be brought into your magick as well. Stuffing a pillow with relaxing herbs like lavender or dream stimulating herbs like mugwort can make a difference in your dream work. Herbs can also be stuffed into heat and cold pads to add their soothing energies.
Incense is any herb or combination of herbs that are burned to fill the air with smoke. Incense is often used during ritual to “set the mood” and to create sacred space. It may be used as an offering as well or to attract or banish specific energies. Occasionally incense is used in aromatherapy as well, but most often, essential oils are used.
See also How to Blend Your Own Incense To Burn In A Censer
Purification by Smoke
Smudging or suffumigation are very popular forms of ritual purification throughout the Pagan world. It is purification or cleansing of an individual, object or location by means of smoke.
Cleansing by means of smoke varies by tradition but the basic process is quite simple. The herbs are burned and allowed to smolder to produce smoke and smoke.
The object to be purified is then either passed through the smoke or the smoke is wafted over an individual or object or throughout a space to purify it. The smoke may be directed toward to subject using a feather, a hand, or the practitioner’s breath.
Incense or whole herbs may be used, depending on the tradition and specific practice.
When an offering is placed in the fire, the fire burns away all of the waste, leaving the pure essence of the offering which is taken away on the smoke.
By passing ourselves (and indeed other objects) through the smoke, and thus symbolically through the fire, we are offering ourselves to the spirits, gods or whatever and seeking to become purified in the way that an offering has, by burning away our impurities, leaving just our essence for magical workings. We can’t very well burn ourselves up, that would be counterproductive.
So, we allow the smoke to waft over our body, sort of purifying it by proxy. Like so much in magick; a metaphor.
An individual may be purified using smoke before beginning magical workings, or smoke may be used to purify magical tools or the magical space before rituals.
Please note that burning any herb can release toxic gases and inhaling any smoke is unhealthy. All burning should only be done in a well-ventilated space or outdoors.
Offering and Activation by Burning
Herbs are often burned as offerings or to activate a spell when fire is a component. A classic spell of this sort involves writing your wish upon a dried leaf of bay laurel and burning it.
Herbs in whole or powdered form may also be tossed into a fire or sprinkled over a candle to discharge their energies into your magical working and herbs and flowers may be tossed into the fire as an offering to spirits and deities who are helping with the working.
Holy water, made popular by Christianity, is certainly not monopolized by it. Many cultures revere the purifying properties of water, which is used in many ways during various rites. Most often it is used for cleansing people, objects or the ritual space and it is also used during rites of passage.
While many rituals call simply for pure water, or salt water, some people prefer to use herbal waters and many different herbs have been used in the past for these purposes.
Moon Water is a type of charged, magickal/holy water popular in the modern witchcraft community that is made by charging water in the light of the moon for general magical purposes.
Herbs can be added to the water during the charging period to infuse the water with the herb’s specific energies for more specific magical purposes (crystals can also be used this way).
Herbal washes involve using herbs combined with water, or vinegar or alcohol (usually diluted with water) to wash or asperge an item or area in order to cleanse it of unwanted energies or connections or to attract desirable energies by infusing that which is washed with the energies of the herbs or other items used to charge the wash.
Ritual baths are used by many to prepare for spellwork or worship and some serve as a spell in themselves, especially for the removal of curses and other undesired energies or connections.
Herbs are generally a part of ritual baths, either added to the water in the form of whole herbs (often in a bag for easy removal later), infusions of herbs or the essential oils of the required herbs may be used (though you must be very careful when adding essential oils to the bath, as some do not feel very good when they contact the skin).
In addition to adding the herbs to the water, herbs may be used in baths as a rinse, infused into water or vinegar or added to soaps or scrubs used in conjunction with the bath.
Once the bath is complete, the undesirable energies are washed down the drain. Then you may use a rinse or anoint the subject with oils to attract desirable energies instead.
Essential oils are used extensively in aromatherapy. They may also be used like incense in a ritual or as an offering. If essential oils are to be used on the body, it is recommended that they be diluted with a carrier oil, in part because they are usually quite expensive but also because some oils can irritate the skin.
These oils can be massaged into the skin to attract certain energies or ward off others or used to anoint a person or object as part of a blessing ceremony.
Carrier oils may also be infused with whole herbs for similar purposes. See herbal oil.
Dressing oils are used to prepare a ritual object for specific magical use and are generally made with herbs, though other items may be included in the formula.
Herbs may be powdered alone or used in conjunction with other materials such as dried, powdered animal parts or eggshells or minerals or even glitter. These powders are then used in a variety of ways according to tradition and specific operation.
Some operations call for a powder to be sprinkled as part of a spell, over a candle or fire or over a spell object, or they may be created and charged and placed in a specific location to draw or ward against certain energies or individuals or they may be sprinkled onto the ground to activate when a person steps over or onto the powder.
A potion is a very general term for a magical concoction for any purpose in liquid form. There are many different type of potions, the simplest being the simple.
There are also infusions, decoctions, tinctures, essences, elixirs, etc.