Over the last twenty years, there has been a rise in personal use of essential oils within mainstream America. And it has been through the efforts of companies such as Young Living, Doterra and others that essential oils have gained such traction in the current marketplace. But what are essential oils? How long have they been in use? And if not already doing so, how can a person incorporate essential oils into their life and magickal practice?
Essential Oils Defined
Essential oils are the vital substances of the plant which provide its characteristic scent, taste, etc. As a Witch, I believe the essential oils of a plant, tree or root also carry the spirit of the plant from which it has been extracted. Which is why I use both essential oils and plant material (dried and fresh) in my magickal workings.
Essential Oils Through History
Today, the extraction process of oil from plant or resin material is more efficient. A large majority of plants have their oils extracted through steam. There are those which are too delicate for steam extraction, so a solvent is used to distill the oil from the plant material. Citrus rinds are damaged by steam or solvents, so cold pressing works best for oranges, lemons, limes, et al. Most companies use all of these methods to produce pure essential oils. But these methods are still relatively new in the overall history of essential oils.
Use of plant oils began in Ancient Egypt, as early as 3000-2500 B.C.E. There is evidence which suggests that China and India began extracting and using plant oils during this period as well. Using animal fat for solvent extraction (known as enfleurage), the Egyptians included plant oils and essences in religious rites, as cosmetics, perfume, medicine and for embalming. In time, the Greeks and Romans began to use plant oils in similar ways. There is mention of commonly used resin and plant oils mentioned in the Bible as well.
Sadly, during the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church denounced plant oils as “decadent” and “inappropriate” for use. Most healing practices which used herbs and oils were soon labeled as witchcraft. Even so, Monks kept the knowledge and tradition of healing herbs and oils alive through the use of monastary gardens and writings. By the 1600’s, essential oils were used to create perfumes and folk remedies. In the 1800’s, medical books in France, Germany and England began to include essential oils as recommended treatments for a variety of illnesses. Aromatherapy became a field of study. Eventually, essential oils found their way into widespread use in consumer products from the 19th century to today.
Essential Oils in Magick
As mentioned, plant essential oils have been used in religious rites (and magickal ones) for centuries. Even though the methods of extraction used by our ancient ancestors may have been different, the purpose and spirit of the oils remain the same.
Essential oils (whether the individual oil of a particular plant or a blend of multiple plants or resins) brings the vital essence of plant allies into ritual and magickal practice. A Witch, Wiccan, or Pagan can use a dried herb as a cleansing smoke and follow with the essential oil of the same plant to annoint the space. I’ve found this to be very helpful in spiritual cleansing and warding of my home.
Candles can be dressed in essential oils which complement the intention of a spell or ritual. Essential oils can be added to a carrier oil or crafted into a balm to be worn as a perfume with specific intention. Oils can be added to spell bags or dried herbs to make incense. For individuals who are sensitive to herb smokes, an essential oil can be diffused to create sacred or protected space.
There are multiple ways to incorporate essential oils into one’s magick and life. Remember to reach out to the plant spirit which you intend to invoke for your ritual and spell. And because essential oils are the pure, volatile oil of the plant, always use a carrier oil before using.
Five Essential Oils For Magickal Practice
There are as many essential oils from which to choose as there are plants. However, as with building a magickal apothecary it can be daunting figuring where to start. So, here are five basic oils which I always have on hand. I’ve found them to be powerhouse “go to” magickal allies. The great thing is you can use them in every day life as well. Be sure to buy essential oils from a reputable company which sells pure and not synthetic oils.
Essential Oil Basics
Lavender – This oil is touted as the “swiss army knife” of the essential oils. One of the only plant oils gentle enough for direct contact to skin, lavender can be used in cooking (be careful — too much and you got soap), first-aid for minor skin irritations like bug bites or burns and is a wonderful aid for relaxation and sleep when diffused. As a magickal ally, lavender can be used in purification, love spells, to strengthen relationships and encourage fertility. I’ve found lavender to be a plant which draws tranquility into a home. Use lavender to anoint doors so that all who enter do so with peaceful intent.
Lemon – A vital ingredient in many household products, use lemon for purification and cleansing spells. You can use lemon oil in offerings to lunar deities and mid-summer rituals/spells. You can also use lemon in spells to break curses and disperse negative energy.
Frankincense – I love this oil for a variety of purposes both mundane and magickal. The problem is so do a lot of people, so it is causing problems with availablity as the trees from which this oil is produced become overharvested. An oil which has been used for cleansing and to create sacred space for centuries, frankincense also has healing properties. A very good oil to use during shadow work or for use in a spell bag. This oil can be used to draw good luck and things you desire.
Peppermint – The mint family of plants is a medicinal powerhouse. Tea made from the leaves is used for headaches, digestive disorders and other minor complaints. Use to draw money, love, healing, and positive change.
Bergamot – An oil which will boost any spell in which you add it. Enough said.