I was a little surprised when I turned the page and saw today’s topic. We’d already done an introduction to herbs on day 258! I’m not saying that the previous introduction was anywhere near complete, but I guess I would have assumed that Roderick would have grouped all the herb work together, as he has with pretty much everything else he’s brought up.
At any rate, Roderick offers us the following table of herbs and asks us to spend time today familiarizing ourselves with the comprehensive list. However, in order “to gain some mastery of magical herbalism”, he asks us to commit to memory at least four from the list and to devise a spell that incorporates one of the herbs in combination with color, planetary glyph, day of the week, magical hour, and magical stone. This task will be repeated with different herbs over the next four days. (Can I take a minute to whine here? Devising a spell and writing it down takes a long time! Asking us to do this five days in a row is almost like asking us to write a seminar paper!)
Roderick does have some additional points in today’s work. The first is a reminder to handle poisonous herbs with caution. In most cases, it’s probably best to handle these herbs with gloved hands and to avoid touching your eyes and mouth while you’re working with them. However, I think it’s important to do a little research on these plants before you get too bothered. For example, Roderick’s got a scary skull-and-crossbones next to acorns. Acorns, while they do contain toxic gallotannis as well as quercitrin and quercitin, aren’t considered deadly to humans. If you eat a quantity of raw acorns (if you can manage it–they taste terrible), you might get a stomach ache and excessive thirst/urination, and maybe later constipation followed by bloody diarrhea. Unless you make raw acorns a regular part of your diet, you are highly unlikely to die from acorn poisoning. (Cows and horses, however, are at risk.) Keep in mind that acorns have made up a regular part of the human diet in many cultures–though they often treat the ground acorns to make them tastier and safer–so you’ll probably be in the clear.
Another group of potentially poisonous plants to be aware of (but not freak out over) are sage, hyssop, cedar, and thuja (not listed). Commercial preparations of these herbs have actually caused tonic-clonic seizures in humans and death in lab rats. Each of these plants does have compounds that affect the central nervous system (terpenic ketones, camphor, and thujone in sages, thujone in thuja and cedar, and pinocamphone in hyssop), but you have to be using a tremendous quantity of these oils over a fairly long period of time to be in great danger. One study that tested the toxicity of these oils in rats gave the rats repeated daily injections of the oils: something none of us are likely to do.
That being said, herbs do have an effect on the body. Some can cause allergic reactions, and some should never be taken internally. Always research what you would like to use and test it before using it. Keep in mind that your own sensitivities are not the same as everyone else’s, so test things that have worked for you on other people before you give them a ‘full dose.’ For example, I’m totally groovy with frankincense oil and have a few drops of it in my personal massage oil blend. To me, those few drops of frankincense oil in the mix gives it a very light warming sensation on the skin that I find very soothing. I once used this massage oil on my friend Johnathan without doing a patch test first, and it made him feel like his skin was on fire. His whole back turned bright red, and he had to immediately take a cold shower with plenty of soap to stop the burning! Clearly, mileage may vary! Roderick finishes up the days notes by telling us that “brews are an infusion of a single herb or herb blend in water that Witches use for magical purposes.” We might drink them or use them topically as a wash or a bath. He then offers the following practice:
Choose one of the herbs in the listing and prepare a brew or wash. Use 1 teaspoon of dried herb (or 3 teaspoons of fresh) to 1 cup of boiling water. Place the herbs in a tea bag or use another tea-straining device. stir the herbs into the water and allow it to steep for at least 5 minutes. For herbal baths, allow the herbs to steep in the tub for 15 minutes. Alternately, you can make a brew and pour the liquid into your bathwater. To use the herb as a wash, simply brew as above, allow it to cool, and then rub it into your seven chakra points.
My spell o’ the day is, surprisingly enough, a love spell. It would incorporate the herbs apple, anise, and basil: apple for its love spell, luck, and pleasure qualities, anise for its friendship, love and physical/spiritual harmonization qualities, and basil for its elemental fire energies (bring on the passion!). Ideally, the spell would be performed in a waxing moon period (to help draw love near) on a Friday (for its Venusian qualities) and during either a Venus hour (for love and relationship oomph) or a Martian hour (for vitality, sex, and passion). I think I would do my best to incorporate pink and red colors into the working (love, passion), and make use of Venus and maybe Mars’s planetary glyphs).
What I would probably do is carve a Venus glyph into a pink candle and a Mars glyph into a red candle and anoint each with a water oil. I’d tie lengths of pink and red ribbon to each of the candle’s holders, slice the apple in half to reveal the pentacle inside, rub one half with ground anise, the other with crushed basil, and then put the apple back together around a card in which I’d written the qualities I would like in a partner. Then I’d tie one end of the ribbons secured around the candle bases around the apple to bind it together with the planetary qualities. When I raised energy for the working, I think I would direct it into the bound apple with rose quartz. I’d leave the assembly together until the candles burnt out, then I’d untie the ribbon from the candle holders, wind the ends around the apple and secure them, then drop the apple into a creek or river.