There are few things that I love more than stationary and journals. When I was little I used to go crazy for journaling supplies, notebooks, pens, etc. My mother owned a small bookstore on Essex Street in Salem Mass and I would watch the people coming through and make up wild stories about them. When you are a child surrounded by books, your creativity can only be satiated by other people’s word for so long. Soon enough I found myself cutting up paper backs and using yarn to bind together makeshift journals, which I would then use to teach myself how to write.
My mother sold simple feather quills in the shop and I would play with them by making different colored liquids, dipping the feather in them, and writing my own spells. I think it is in most children’s nature to mix things together just to see what they can make, the difference for me was that I had access to herbs. Mainly the powdery bits left over in the bags of herbs once we had packaged them for sale. It was these powders that I would mix with water and other substances to make my many colored inks.
I always had a fascination for old-style quills, pens and inks and begged and begged for my own fountain pens and calligraphy sets as a child. It wasn’t until I was about ten years old that I received my first fountain pen from my babysitter at the time. It had a screw-based chamber that allowed me to fill it with my own inks and I soon took to my father’s books looking up recipes for magical inks in order to use the pen in my very own Book of Shadows (I no longer call my journals this, but more on that later).
Though I had very limited means for making my own magical inks as a child, I found that I had gravitated toward making them naturally. Now, as an adult I find myself crafting and making these inks for a wide-array of uses.
Why Would You Craft Your Own Inks?
Why wouldn’t you? Magical practitioners use herbal correspondences every day, so why not work those correspondences into the very core of your practice? I will be quite honest that I very rarely keep a log of my spellwork anymore, however I do journal regularly and I also write out most of my petitions, sigils and contracts. I have found that using specific inks for these purposes allows me to tie myself more to the work, but it can also act as a catalyst of its own.
What Do I Need to Make My Own Ink?
It really depends on what you want to do with it. You can honestly make inks from all kind of things, ranging from berries and bark, to the lampblack crapped off of lanterns (or metal spoons held over a fire). Recipes range in complexity and can have as few as three ingredients. Here are a few simple recipes that I have used, but I highly recommend experimenting with different herbs, bases and resins in order to create your own unique set of recipes.
Most berries and barks make great inks and dyes and they are some of the easiest recipes to work with. Typically I will boil the berries or bark in filtered water until I get a dark enough color (keep in mind that most inks become lighter as they dry, so it is better to go darker). I then add a little alcohol in order to preserve the ink, and a little gum arabic powder in order to allow the ink to stick to the paper rather than running.
Some good berries and barks include; hawthorn berries, nightshade berries (use caution), cinnamon bark, walnut shells, and so many more.
Resins can be a bit trickier to work with as your don’t want to make your inks too thick (especially if you are using them in a fountain pen). For these kinds of inks I like to begin with my “ink base” of filtered water, alcohol and gum arabic. Grind your resins into a fine powder before adding them to the ink base and add them slowly until you get to your desired color. Make sure that the resins are dissolved fully before using them.
Dragon’s Blood is a traditional resin used in inks a lot, but feel free to experiment with frankincense, myrrh, opoponax, and other resins in conjunction with different herbs.
Just a side note, I tend to walk on the side of caution with these inks and I don’t use them with my fillable fountain pens. I prefer to use them with dipping pens instead in order to prevent the resin from sticking to the inside of the inkwell in my pen.
Lampblack refers to the soot that naturally collects on oil lamps. Traditionally this would be scrapped off of the lamp and mixed with water and alcohol to create a deep black ink. If you don’t have access to oil lamps, you can also create lampblack by holding a metal spoon over a candle flame and scraping off the black soot that collects on the metal. This can be extremely time consuming as you only get a small amount of lampblack and I find that I usually have to sit and collect the soot for over an hour. If you want to save time or make a large batch of lampblack ink you can find watercolors made purely of lampblack and gum arabic, which you will need anyway. Both are viable options.
Ultimately there are endless ways of crafting your own personal magical inks, these are just a few ways to get started. What are some of your favorite magical journaling practices?