Monday, 14 September 2015 00:00

Bottled magic: A witch's potion primer

Written by  Naya Aerodiode

Potion BottlesThe cabinet is full of bottles with strange names and stranger contents. The witch is hovering over a bubbling cauldron, stirring and chanting, lost in a trance, her eyes tracing the patterns on the surface. Few images are so evocative of the Craft.

Potion-making has always been one of my favorite ways to express my magic. I've been hard at work putting my latest batch of mixtures together. I've got a whole assortment of blends that I configured, each with its own unique purpose. “Money Mojo” blends plants that resonate with Jupiter and elemental Earth to draw long-lasting financial growth, while “Red Hot Lover,” blends Martian and Venusian essences to spark up that explosive polarity that creates passion. I choose the right mix of herbs based on any correspondences I wish to incorporate, after careful consideration of the goal at hand. I primarily use planetary and elemental correspondences, but any will do. Sometimes, I don't bother with those at all, and simply mix based on the individual characteristics of each plant. Either way is effective.

I first research the correct plants, compounds, stones, and other ingredients. I start with a long list of potentials, and then narrow down from there. First, I'll hold various combinations in their dry form to my nose, and see which combinations work the best together aesthetically. If it smells terrible, unless the magic is meant to be terrible in some way, it's probably not going to be useful. If a plant is one I do not like, it's likely not going to be useful for my purposes, as the distraction will cut into the effectiveness. Any potion with patchouly will get my husband to rub his nose and say “that stinks,” not, “that inspires my spirit to work in tandem with the spirits within the bottle to achieve my will.” Scents that please the senses are a must.

There may be lots of candidates for ingredients, and they all smell great, but according to the numerological correspondence for this particular potion, I only need four of them. A pendulum is a magnificent tool for helping to narrow the choice down. I speak aloud to the spirit in the plant, asking it if it feels that it belongs in this particular potion. I state the intended effect aloud as well because in speaking it, it will help create the air in which the pendulum can give its most accurate answer. If I'm uncertain of whether an ingredient belongs in there, I always check it with a pendulum.

When I build potions, I communicate with the spirits of the plants I'm working with. I put together a team of helpers that, when augmented by my own spirit, can achieve any goal I wish. I've often thought of this sort of magic as putting together a team of contractors to build a house. I'm going to need an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter and a roofer. Will I need a bricklayer, however? That depends. Am I going to build with brick? What about a pool contractor? Only if I want to have a pool. And if I want to rebuild a vintage automobile, I won't call any of those folks, but instead some mechanics, body-repair people, glass installers and interior upholsterers.

In much the same way as putting together a team for a mundane task, I put together a team to achieve a magical goal. Damiana is a wonderful plant for drawing up hot lusty feelings. It's spicy, it's sexy, it's sultry. Let's say I have a client who wants me to mix up a potion for love. If it's the eros kind of love, Damiana belongs in there. If he wants a more loving home environment, or wants to increase his sense of self-love, Damiana might be better replaced with hearthy, protective Cedar or calming, peaceful Lavender. I don't work with a bricklayer for an all-wood house, and I don't work with Damiana for a happy-home potion. Defining the goal to its rudimentary essentials is essential.

Checking the magical correspondences of a plant is wise, but I never feel as if I am locked in to what the book says (and many books are conflicting in their information!). Drawing forth from other correspondences such as astrological timing and numerology can likewise add power to a mixture. With any potion I make, I always use an appropriate number of ingredients as well as type of ingredients.

If I don't have Damiana on hand, I probably have Basil in my cupboard. While the two aren't identical, both are allied with Mars and are known for bringing the heat of passion. Each plant is its own unique spirit, but many different types of plants can do the same tasks. Back in the olden days, before the magical era of the internet, there were witches who had to work with what they had at hand, often just the stuff in their own hometown.

Working with local spirits is always a smart approach. Having a connection to the land around me is fundamental to my craft. The plants that I can meet in their homes every day, whose cycles I can observe throughout the year, these are often the most powerful spirit allies. Creating a bond with the living soul of a plant is always more powerful than ordering something off the internet. Even my small herb garden creates potent allies – my opportunity to be a caretaker and friend to plant allies creates a bond of love and trust between me and the plant. Wildcrafted (wild plants harvested from the land around me) give me the opportunity to get to know the local spirits and ask their assistance.

In working with any living plant spirit, I always request, not just take, and I always leave something in return. For my potted plants, it's a handful of fertilizer. For wild plants, a small amount of water ( I never leave anything in the ecosystem that could damage it. The plants don't need my trinkets.)

Once I've got all of the ingredients covered, I'll blend them in my desired medium. I typically use cheap vodka and soak them in there for at least one full lunar cycle (I start them on the new moon, end them on the next dark moon). Beyond vodka, I use oils, vinegars, ammonia, water, other high-proof liquors – anything that can absorb a plant's essence.

The medium chosen defines how to use the potion. I typically use vodka-based ones as splashes – pour a little out in my hands and splash on myself, wash candles and tools with them, and use to consecrate an area by sprinkling. Vinegars and ammonias are ideal for floor and household washes, oils are great for dressing and anointing candles. Infusions (herbs steeped in water) can be used in baths or personal washes. Infusions are quick to make – 10 minutes or so steeping in hot water is enough to draw out the essences of most plants, but infusions, being water-based, do not have a long shelf life before they go bad. I typically use infusions within a few hours of making them. Obviously, use common sense here. Don't use anything on yourself that isn't known to be safe for human consumption, and be extremely careful about anything you ingest or apply to yourself.

I've used the word, “plants,” throughout, but non-plant material may be added to potions as well. Stones, metals, and other items can likewise impart their essence into a potion. There are so many options out there, I prefer not to limit my choices. Use what works.

While blending the ingredients in a mixture, I chant as I stir the potion and visualize the intended goal on the surface of the blend. Each stir of the spoon adds more power to the mixture, physically drawing into the liquid the goal that is projected on the surface. I mix each potion until I feel as if the herbs are nicely blended, and the goal is thoroughly mixed inside. Sometimes I chant a repetitive phrase, sometimes I speak softly to the plants within, explaining the task they are set to do.

Another note about potions: I always keep them either in dark colored bottles or hidden away in a cabinet. UV light tends to break down the components and causes their potency to diminish faster.

I've barely scratched the surface on everything that can be done with potions; it's a multi-faceted type of magic that has so many applications and angles. They're a pre-loaded portable kind of magic that's versatile and customizable to a fine degree. They're unique creations that allow the user to co-create his or her goals with a whole host of spirit allies. Their scents delight my senses and are a pleasure to employ. Used respectfully and with care, they can serve your magic in a vast number of way.