This Ostara Sabbat, consider preparing your own herbal incense blend. Magickal herbalism can be very rewarding to the Modern Witch. It isn’t for the feint of wallet and does take the extra time of tracking down, or growing, the ingredients. Yet, there is nothing witchier than drying, storing, and labeling all the little jars neatly in a row on your shelf. Once you’ve committed this much energy and cash to the practice of magickal herbalism, you wouldn’t want to just chuck these precious plant allies into a bowl and hope for the best; that is sloppy and ineffective.
Be the uber-witch: ritualistic, creative and empowered! Why not dig in and truly engage in everything you do? Seize the day with both hands, both sides of your brain and all 7 chakras and know you’ve affected change in the world. Magick is only as potent as what you mentally and spiritually invest into it and the frame of mind with which you use your herbal creations.
Here are a few ideas for preparation with intention. I will use the example of an Ostara Incense blend I’ve been working on this season.
Magickal Herbalism Like you Really Mean it
Creating your own Incense Recipes:
I like to experiment in creating my own recipes with ingredients whose magickal correspondences are appropriate to the season or goal. I pay attention to the elemental, planetary and gender correspondences, and choose according to what I think will smell nice together, but also those that evoke the season/purpose to me, where I live. For example, when I think of spring, I think of flowers, fresh purifying rains and bright sunbeams, so I go for the lighter, more floral, more sunny choices.
There are many great reference books out there for the correspondences, but my favorite is Scott Cunningham’s Complete book of Incense, Oils and Brews. This on-line resource, Herbal Riot, is great! I also try to be mindful of the sustainable sources of my ingredients. Some materials are being over-harvested, like sandalwood, so I’m using it less these days.
My preferred ratio: 1:1:1
- 1 Part Wood Powders, like Cinnamon Bark, Sandalwood, Oak, Pine, Cedar, Birch, Willow.
- 1 Part Resin Powders, like Benzoin, Copal, Dragons Blood, Frankincense, Myrrh
- 1 Part herbs and other dried botanicals, like flowers, leaves, roots, berries, peels, etc.
- If I have them, I’ll add a few drops each of essential oils.
- I like to add some stone chips to my incense blends to continuously amplify and charge them. They don’t burn, but they don’t impede burning, either. Stones from the quartz family are especially good for this.
- A few teaspoons of vegetable glycerine – enough to dampen and bind the blend, while not becoming too wet. Add slowly and stir well.
Many herbs used for magick are poisonous if inhaled, consumed or sometimes even touched with the bare hands. Understand the properties of an ingredient before you begin your work. Even something as tasty and innocuous as nutmeg, can cause respiratory difficulties and asthma attacks if too much is inhaled. Do your research.
It is also a good idea to use equipment and tools dedicated to magickal work that are never used for food preparation. A cautious kitchen witch lives to see their work manifested.
I have a dedicated coffee bean grinder for grinding tough ingredients like roots, barks and peals, but I just purchase them pre-powdered if I can.
- 1 T. Powdered White Oak Bark: Jupiter/Mars, Water, God (Oak King) Protection, Health, Money, Potency, Fertility, Luck
- 1 T. Copal Resin: Sun, Fire, God, Love, Purification
- 1 t. dried, finely ground Rose petals: Venus, Water, Maiden Goddess, love
- 1 t. dried, finely ground Jasmine blossoms: Moon, Water, Goddess, Love, Money, Sensuality, Sexuality, Spring Equinox
- 2 t. dried, powdered Orange peel (zest): Sun, Fire, God, Joy, Energy, purification.
- 3 drops each of Sweet Orange and Jasmine Essential Oil, if you have them.
- Rose Essential Oil is prohibitively expensive, and arguably wasteful, considering how many blossoms it takes to produce a single drop of EO, but should you happen to have the real thing, a single drop would be transcendent.
- 1 tsp. Vegetable glycerine stirred in well and fluffed with a fork.
**Never use synthetic fragrance oils in magickal herbalism–they are a chemical cocktail of lies, and will not elicit the aid of the plant spirit as your magick intends.**
Store your blend in small glass jar that seals tightly, and preferably of a darker color, shielding the blend from sunlight. A jar opening larger than a small spoon is helpful, so you can easily scoop it out, and clean it later. I like 4 oz mason jars.
Set the stage for your work. Dedicate a stretch of counter-space or a table top. Nothing fancy is required, just some functional place near your herb cabinet that is orderly, clean and gives you a sense of purpose.
Consider using only natural materials such as wood, metal, glass or earthenware to prepare and store your herbal blends. This need not be your altar, but a candle sets the mood and opens the space for spiritual business. White is almost always appropriate, or use color correspondence to deepen the symbolism. For Ostara Work, I like to utilize the colors orange and yellow, for candle, table cloth or storage jar. Orange and yellow are corresponding colors to fertility, the Will, the maiden goddess and youth/solar god aspects.
If you choose to utilize color in your work, make sure you select one that means “Ostara” to you. Regardless of what a table of correspondences says, if it does not trigger your sub-conscious mind, you’ve wasted your time.
Statement of Intent:
Ground and center yourself. Begin with a simple prayer for aid or a statement of intent:
“Great Ones! Guide my work for the highest good of all, harming none. So mote it be!”
Or perhaps, something more poetic inspires you:
“By wind and rain and spark and wood, guide me toward my highest good, harming none. So mote it be!”
Grinding and Blending:
- Into your mortar and pestle, add each ingredient by name, starting first with large or chunkier ones that need the most grinding. Do so with reverence and a touch of drama. State out loud the name and attribute, such as: “Pine wood for Healing! Dragon’s Blood for protection!” Know WHY you are including each ingredient.
- Focus on its intent as you grind in a circular movement. Remember, in the Northern Hemisphere, deosil (clockwise) builds and creates while widdershins (counter clockwise) tears down and banishes.
- I tend to add ingredients in this order: Resins, woods/roots/tough botanicals, then the leafy and soft dried botanicals.
- Lastly, add the drops of essential oils and vegetable glycerine, stirring well and fluffing with a fork.
- a few Stone chips–thanks to the law of contagion, it doesn’t take many.
Blending with Power:
Perhaps a silver spoon or a long quartz crystal can be a dedicated tool for this purpose. While stirring, put your numerology and symbolism knowledge to work. Take a stroke each for the maiden, mother and crone, or thirteen strokes for the thirteen moons in the year. Carve pentacles or runes into the ingredients. Any symbol is game if it means something appropriate to you: Happy faces or dollar signs, four-leaf clovers or runes. You can be chanting your spell as you mix, rhyming adds to the power and witchyness exponentially.
When finished, tap the spoon on the edge of the bowl with authority and state, “It is done!” Transfer the blend into the storage container, which can also be inscribed with runes or symbols. However, leave the lid off so that the mixture can settle and dry for up to 6 hours before you burn over coals or close for long-term storage.
Charging the blend:
Breath deeply and hold the jar between your hands, shifting your consciousness into the herbs. Visualize them aligning, resonating as one like notes in a chord whose note is “rebirth.” For our example of the Ostara blend, see yourself glowing with orange/yellow light and full of vitality and budding potential–the seed germinating in the fires of Aries. There should be a wild, teenager-y impetuous and fearless vibe, where all things are possible.
Build your energy from your feet up to the crown of your head and then release it from the palms of your hands into the herbs. See the light transferring to the jar. Feel your emotions and intentions soaking the herbs. State aloud what you intend, “By Lord and Lady, earth and sky, I charge you to…” Elaborate in whatever poetic or specific way you’d like. End with “So mote it be” and accept that the work is complete and good. Shake your hands to stop the flow of energy. Relax, snuff your candle and clean up.
Burning your Incense:
In a charcoal incense burner, or in a heat-dafe dish on a thick layer of sand, light a charcoal tab (the kind usually sold for hooka pipes), and carefully set it on the sand. After the sparks have completely passed over the tab, spoon your loose incense blend onto the coal in 1/2 teaspoon increments. With spoon, you can kick the ash off and add more incense as you desire. How does it smell? Allow the smoke to waft over you, and around the room and pay close attention to the shifts in energies in the space. From there, adjust as you see fit.