Herbs, Incense, and Oils
Learning About Herbs and Oils
There are many books out there that can teach about the uses of herbs and their essential oils. Here is a list of books we recommend:
- Aromatherapy, An A-Z by Patrica Davis, Random House UK, Ltd, 2000
- The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood, New World Library 1991
- Herbal Healing for Women by Rosemary Gladstar, Simon and Schuster, 1993
- A Compendium of Herbal Magick by Paul Beyerl, Phoenix Publishing, Inc. 1998
- The Master Book of Herbalism by Paul Beyerl, Phoenix Publishing, Inc. 1984
- Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopdia of Herbs, Claire Kowalchik and William H. Hylton, Editors, Rodale Press, 1998
Certain spirits and deities will have specific recommendations, and, if you can, you can ask them for what they recommend. Some spirits and deities will actually teach you about herbs and oils for magickal purposes. With the books above for reference, and talking with the spirits, you can get a pretty thorough eduction.
There are also herb classes in most areas. For these, Google is your friend. The Bay Area has a lot of herb and oil resources, and if you have a significant call to learn, the we recommend looking them up.
Always research the herb or oil you wish to use. Some herbs are fine in plant form, but can be poisonous as an essential oil. Some are poisonous when burned or ingested. Good research before use will make sure you don't poison anyone.
Herbs burned on a charcoal work extremely well for any ritual. There are many books out there that will give recipes for incenses for particular purposes and holidays, and while most of these will work as described, they are best used as suggestions. The best incenses are ones that you make yourself. For any incense you make, make sure you test them first (preferably with a friend)! Some herbs, while having good correspondences for the ritual, smell pretty nasty when burned. Or sometimes something that smells nice to you will stink out a circle.
The usual herbs we try and have on hand for incense are:
- Frankincense (resin)
- Myrrh (resin)
- Sage (dry herb)
- Sandalwood (powder)
Frankincense, myrrh, and sage are all purification herbs, and are good for pretty much any ritual you want to run. Sandalwood powder is good for meditation, and is also an excellent base for incense mixtures. We generally make a fresh incense for each holiday, and we also have a special mixture for initiation. Again, work from books, and ask the deities you work with, or will be working with for a ritual about which herbs they would like, or would be appropriate.
Commercial incenses are good if you are out of charcoal/herbs, or can't use, or do not have a receptacle for a piece of charcoal. We recommend using incenses that you can confirm are made from natural sources. The more perfume-like incenses can be too much for some people and sometimes can have a bad after-smell when it is done burning. Natural food stores typically have the better incenses, but always read the package and use your nose. You can always research online for a good quality supplier.
Essential oils have a variety of uses from household to magickal. Aside from massage oils, there are a myriad of uses for these plant oils. They also have many uses magickally. It is best to dilute all essential oils in a base oil such as jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, grape seed oil, olive oil, etc.
Anointing Oils: Essential oils are an easy way to make several different kinds of anointing oils, and you are only limited by your imagination (and your wallet if you tend to go for the more exotic oils). If there is a specific herb that an entity you work with particularly likes, you can also make an easy anointing oil by adding several drops of the oil to a base oil. There are several oils that will have a sedative, or meditative effect. These are really good for anointing oils for any type of journey work. Also, be aware that there are oils, such as clary sage, that, in small amounts can be a sedative, but in large amounts can produce hallucinations. Again, research before you mix.
Incense Substitute: You cannot always bring incense to every place you will be doing magick. Hospitals, hotels, hospice, or high fire danger areas will not allow open flames or anything that could create an open flame. Essential oils will work just as well, if any scent is allowed. A few drops on a cotton ball or tissue will scent a whole room very quickly. As mentioned elsewhere, know about the place you are doing your working. If there is anyone who has allergies to any scents (incense, oils, or otherwise), or you are working in a space where scents are not allowed, use something else that will represent air instead (feather, blowing air around the circle with your mouth, etc).