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The Magic of Herbs

There has always been a natural association between the Craft and herbal work.  Before the advent of modern medicine, it was typically the village wisewoman or midwife whom people consulted when they were in need of cures for their ailments.  Witches learned the properties of the plants growing in their environments and put them to good use.  Brews and potions were used to extract the essence of each herb for consumption, while poultices could be created to apply to wounds or rashes.  Many modern Wiccans and witches draw on this tradition in their own practice, as a more earth-centered alternative to pharmaceuticals.

Of course as a magical tradition the Craft sees more in herbs than just their medicinal qualities.  The choosing of herbs for spells and magical work is based on the idea of “vibrational resonance.”  Most systems of magical correspondences are derived from similar theories.  Basically, all matter is acknowledged to vibrate at a particular rate specific to its composition.  An amethyst crystal would vibrate at a different frequency than, say, the petals of a sunflower.  If it seems strange to think of inanimate objects as vibrating, consider the amazing properties of quartz which allow it to be used as a time-keeping device in modern-day watches.  While unseen by our basic senses, the effects are indeed visible.  Resonance is the principle of harmony between different substances.  If two separate objects vibrate in a harmonious pattern, they can then be brought together to amplify their effects.  This is the basis of using certain stones, herbs, colors etc. when designing a spell.  If the different elements vibrate at similar rates, they enhance the working.  To use herbs in magic, one typically uses the dried or fresh forms to be burned with incense or within the cauldron.  Bundles of sage are one example and are burned to purify sacred space.  Small sachets can also be made to carry herbs with you for a specific purpose, much like a talisman.  There are many published books listing the properties of various herbs and to what purposes they are best suited.  My particular favorite is Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs.  These are wonderful guides, but it’s important not to discount one’s own intuition in choosing herbs for your purpose too.  After all, if it doesn’t feel right for what you are doing, you will just be working against your own intent.

Learning the uses of every herb out there could fill a lifetime.  Though it can seem tempting to skip the reading and dive right in, it is important to learn about each herb you use thoroughly before doing so.  This is especially so if you plan to use any herb medicinally.  “Natural” does not equal “harmless” as the existence of countless poisonous and toxic plants demonstrates.  A smart witch researches the herbs s/he plans to use and knows how to identify the plant, what parts are to be used, what it is suited for, and what it is not suited for.  A medical professional or licensed herbalist should be consulted if taking herbs internally to avoid interactions with medication.  Wicca calls for the utmost respect of Mother Earth and for all of nature, which includes our own bodies.  Learning the proper use of herbs in both healing and magic is a wonderful way to honor that commitment.

Journal for the Month of May:

Beltane was a wonderful day!  I had the opportunity to attend a local festival held in the park, complete with May Pole dances and a potluck feast!  I think I’m starting to feel less like an outsider as I attend public events.  When I’m at home reading I feel like I am only scratching the surface of the knowledge available, and that everyone else must be light years ahead of me.  But we all have to start somewhere, and it’s not like it’s a race.  Plus it’s hard to feel unwelcome when everyone I’ve met in a public setting is so open and friendly!  I think maybe we all share a sigh of relief knowing we are in a place with like-minded folks and we don’t have to put up the walls that we may have to in our daily lives.

I made the discovery of a Wiccan congregation in my area.  They offer classes and I’m seriously thinking of attending some to meet more folks.  I still plan to remain a solitary in practice if only because to me my spiritual and religious ideas are a very personal matter and I don’t necessarily think I want to pursue them with a group.  It’s hard to explain, but when I attune with the God or Goddess, I want it to be just me and them.  I want to talk to, study with, and meet others on these paths, but I think I’ll always practice on my own.  It’s all a personal choice and we all have different paths to walk in order to grow as we need to.

Until next month, blessed be! )O(