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Herbs in magick- Releasing the energies in herbs
Herbs in magick- Releasing the energies in herbs
With steadfast intent, and/or a strong connection to the Divine you can smudge with a cigarette if necessary. However, if you are relying more on the herbs you are using then you have to know the correct ones to use. I remember a situation that sums this up that happened many years ago visiting a would-be New Age healer, and hearing them smudging their house as I got out of my car.
I could hear the smudging because the person I was visiting had forgotten to cover their smoke alarm before starting the process. I found them in the hallway flapping a tea-towel in the general direction of the smoke detector to try to disperse the smoke. It didn’t help that the bundle of herbs in their other hand was still smouldering heavily. I reached out and pressed the alarms ‘test’ button, which not only tests that the alarm is working but also silences the detector for several minutes in situations like this. I then took the alarm down and put it where the smoke would not trouble it whilst explaining to the healer, that they should put it back up as part of the closing ceremony of the ritual they were doing.
I then turned my attention to the bundle of herbs they were using and quickly realised that it was not the standard commercial smudging bundle from the local Crystal shop.
“What’s this?” I asked
I couldn’t afford a commercial smudge stick, so I made my own” Replied the aspiring healer “Pretty cool, right?”
I looked at the bundle again “From what? I asked
“Oh, sage, cedar, and lavender” They replied “I gathered them myself and dried them in the oven as it cooled down after cooking. Like you said at the last Solstice gathering. Anything wrong with it”
I wondered how to explain the situation without potentially upsetting the person.
“Where did you get the plants from?” I queried
“My garden and the cedar tree in the park”
I then had to explain to the person that what they thought was lavender was really catnip. The sage in smudge sticks is from the White Sage plant found only in North America and, although you can use the culinary type, it might not be as effective. Finally the cedar is from the White Cedar tree/bush which is totally different from the Lebanese Cedar that the novice healer had ‘acquired’ from a tree down the road. We did manage to put together another bunch of herbs from the garden, helped by the weather having been dry for the last few weeks so that some of the plants had desiccated naturally. We ended up using a ‘stick’ made of lavender, rosemary, and rose petals which combination both cleansed the area and charged it with positive energy.
In this case the person who was doing the cleansing was using Reiki to activate and empower the herbs and not working on intent, so using the correct herbs was very important. Using the wrong types of herbs can lead to the smudging being ineffective and the person doing it losing confidence in the technique, or experiencing unwanted side effects. It’s also vital to be sure of the herbs you are using because burning the wrong ones can be harmful to your health.
Plants to beware of include hemlock, which I’ve seen mistaken for yarrow, Datura (Thornapple) which I saw cast on a chaffing dish - a sort of incense burner - in mistake for High John The Conquer plant, and other local dangers such as dried poison oak being accidently being added to a smudging fire in the US. The latter hospitalised several people because of the irritant compounds in the smoke. It’s well worth checking what the herb is that you think you are using is what you think it is.
The safest way to assure yourself of this is to grow your own from marked seeds or plants from garden centres and outdoor areas of DIY shops. As with all herbs used in magick you know that the plants have been grown with love and exactly how they have been treated as they have developed. In this way you can begin to empower them with your own intent and energy even before they are harvested for use in spellwork or ritual. Which can make them far more effective than commercially bought stock from a shop no matter how spiritual the other merchandise.
As with candles, herbs can be invested with magick, much like a chargeable battery, that is released over a period of time. This can be used as one of the driving forces of a spell or other ‘working’. The energy can also be used in a far more concentrated form, as in the charged herb being burned rapidly so that the smoke can be used by a summoned entity to build a body. This is the point at which the personal energy invested in the herb interacts with the herbs intrinsic qualities to bring about the desired result.
The best analogy I have heard is that the empowering, and then using herbs is like a modern fusion reactor. Immense intrinsic potential is build up, then the personal energy acts like a key, releasing it. This is one of the reasons that herbs had such an important place in traditional magick. Sometimes just one herb is used, but they are more commonly used in combination with other herbs with similar or supportive energies for maximum effect.
In the next few articles we will be looking at some key herbs in detail so that you can understand the principles behind herbal magick. This will include herbal talismans, elemental washes, drawing powders, and other uses of herbs in a magickal setting along with any precautions that must be observed. Until then becoming familiar with herbs through reading, experiencing them in cooking, or gardening, is a good way to begin to understand their multi-level intrinsic energies.
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