Herb Haul! (Kind of.)

Well, less “haul” than “restock.”

I like restocking this time of year. Like I kind of got into in my post about cleansing your energy for fall, this is a really renewing time of year for me. It also has several other things going for it, like:

  • Being right after NoVA Pagan Pride, so I can buy my herbs there and actually see/smell what I’m getting. A lot of places don’t stock hard-to-find herbs (or particularly pungent ones, like asafoetida), so I have to get them online. While I’ve found a really good online supplier, I do still like to see my herbs in person.
  • Being right after summer. A lot of great herbs are ready to harvest in fall, but it’s also nice to get all of those summer herbs that’ve had a few weeks to dry.
  • Being right before winter, when I’m going to need herbs for teas and cough syrups.

Pride was the 29th of September this year. I debated vlogging it, but couldn’t really make myself do it. There’s just a feeling there, you know? I like talking to vendors and meeting people, I love the atmosphere. It’s too much fun for me to have to focus on getting video. My extroversion doesn’t do that great when I keep it behind a camera, it sucks the joy out of socializing.

But! I did use the opportunity to visit Phoenix Rising Apothecary‘s booth to stock up on a lot of the magical herbs I use most often, and a fair amount I need for a specific project. (If you’re up on your herb lore, you can prooobably take a guess of exactly what that is.)  So, while the idea is still somewhat fresh in my mind, I figured I’d make a post about what I decided to stock up on, and the magical properties of each herb.

Agrimony. I use it for banishing and uncrossing. It’s very efficient at returning evil to its source, it’s pretty much a mirror for other people’s bull. Some consider that “baneful” magic, but that’s in the eye of the beholder — in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with returning something you didn’t want, need, or ask for!

Asafoetida. This is another excellent banishing herb — possibly the strongest of them. I’ve had a tough time finding it, because many sellers don’t want to keep it in stock. It’s pretty pungent, with a smell that falls somewhere between garlic and skunky cannabis. It’s a very earthy smell, and not necessarily bad, but it is very strong. It disperses negative energy, banishes, protects, and exorcises.

Dittany of Crete. Dittany of Crete is a relative of oregano, and can be tough to find because it isn’t widely grown. I use it for divination, spirit work, and divination, and it is the primary ingredient in one of my most-used oils.

Feverfew. A nice protective herb. Also used to bring good fortune, and for spiritual healing. I don’t use it often, but it’s one herb I’d like to get to know better.

Fumitory. This is burned to exorcise, and sometimes used for prosperity magic. It’s one that came recommended by the seller, and I decided to give it a try. It’s likely to make its way into a banishing incense.

Lavender. If I could only have one herb for the rest of my life, lavender might be it. It’s cleansing, peaceful, draws love, protects, and is virtually indispensable in dream magic.

Lemon Verbena. This herb adds a boost to whatever herbal mixture it’s included in. It purifies, cleanses, draws love, and ignites passion. It’s also very good at flipping bad luck!

Mugwort. I use mugwort primarily for divination and dream magic. It’s also used for protection and healing. Before scrying, I wash my mirror or crystals in an infusion of mugwort in distilled water. (If that’s not practical, you can also use it as a spray and give them a little mist.)

Mullein. The hag’s taper. It frequently grew along the edges of properties, giving it a strong association with borders — for this reason, it’s frequently used by hedge witches. I use it for spirit work and psychic pursuits, but it’s also used for strength, protection, and healing. It is also sometimes used as a substitute for graveyard dust.

Star Anise. I use these fragrant, star-shaped seed pods as power herbs. Keeping four at the corners of your altar is said to boost the power of your spellwork. They’re also used for good luck, and keeping one on you can ward off the evil eye and prevent misfortune.

Vetiver. I love vetiver. The warm, earthy spiciness is my favorite fragrance, and most of my favorite perfumes use it. It’s useful for hex-breaking, protection, prosperity, and luck. It’s also a very efficient power herb. Some use it for hexing, but, from my experience, it is better at breaking them than laying them.

Wild Cherry Bark. I have an idiosyncratic relationship with wild cherry bark. I never really used it until a few years ago, when I used dream magic to divine the ingredients for an oil I wanted to make. I didn’t know anything about wild cherry bark when it came to me in a dream, but I looked it up… and it was perfect. Most sources I’ve seen list it as a love herb. I’ve used it in an offertory capacity, for healing, and for animal magic.

There are still some others I need to get. (Cinquefoil, for one, and centaury!) For now, this is enough to get me through the next couple of ideas I have kicking around in my head, plus some extra for any magical emergencies.

Autumn Rituals for Getting Your Energy Right

Not gonna lie, it doesn’t really feel like fall. Like, as I’m typing this, I’m also sitting in a tank top and shorts, drinking ice water while I wait for my place’s maintenance dude to come fix the air conditioner because it’s supposed to be near 90°F.  Butts.

Nevertheless, the autumnal equinox has passed, so it is (at least technically) fall. It’s the end of the year, Samhain’s coming, the veil is thinning, and the weather will hopefully be cooling off soon. All of these things make this the perfect time to let the past year’s badness go, cleanse yourself and your stuff, and get yourself ready to face the next season right.

Do a Solid Fall Cleaning

Everyone’s familiar with “spring cleaning,” but I love fall cleaning. Besides, most places seem to benefit from doing a good, heavy, deep cleaning more than once a year, you know? So, let’s get ready to turn this into a ritual that will cleanse more than just baseboards and the dark, forbidden area under the fridge.

In a lot of magical practices, hoodoo especially, floor washes are a pretty important tool. You sweep your house, fill your mop bucket, add the floor wash of your choice, do the appropriate spiritual bits, and mop your home from back to front. You can buy floor washes prepared, but I usually skip them and add lemon juice or herbal infusions to mine instead.

(It should also be noted that my apartment is tiny, so I get by with one of those reusable spray mops more easily than an old-school mop and bucket situation. I feel a little more confident in spray mops if I know exactly what’s going into the reservoir, so I don’t end up with a solution that’s going to damage my reservoir or pads. YMMV.)

So! If you don’t have a ready supply of dried cleansing herbs in your cabinets, here are some purification herbs that are likely ready for a fall harvest:

  • Garlic (Though you might want to skip putting this pungent root in a cleaning solution, just saying.)
  • Parsley
  • Fennel
  • Rosemary

Take some of the herbs of your choice (there is no set amount — choose however much feels appropriate), and steep them in water. After about twenty minutes of steeping and cooling, strain and add to your cleaning solution. If you like, you can also add a few drops of the cleansing essential oil of your choice, or a couple of glugs of white vinegar. Since this is more for spiritual cleansing than physical cleaning, actual soap is not necessary. However, if you do choose to add essential oils, add a little bit of soap to allow them to mix with the water rather than float on top.

Open all of your windows to let the autumn breeze through. Turn on some light-hearted music. Sweep your floors to remove dust, then mop them thoroughly from back to front. When you are done, light some purification incense and carry it through your home, ensuring the smoke reaches every corner.

Note: Some witches specify that you should carry incense or fuming herbs clockwise through your home. I’ve always used clockwise directions to bring things to me, and counterclockwise to banish them. For purification rituals (i.e., getting rid of things you no longer want around), I would walk in a counterclockwise direction.

Light It Up

You know what’s awesome about fall? Bonfires. Sure, they’re great on a beach in summer, but let me tell you, as someone who has often ended up living in places too dry to have a summer bonfire without taking out half a national forest, fall is where it’s at. It’s cooler, so the heat feels amazing. It’s not as dry, so it’s safer. It’s beautiful, and chill, and there can be cocoa and s’mores if you feel like it.

Now, there are roughly a million spells out there that pretty much consist of:

  1. Write a thing on a leaf or piece of paper.
  2. Light it on fire.
  3. Victory!

Unfortunately, this is not always a super idea indoors. Even if you have a fireproof vessel, cinders from burning paper and leaves can be caught on the air and blow directly into your collection of heirloom table linens and then how are you going to explain yourself at dinner over the holidays?

(No, really, I’m asking. I have never owned table linens. I have a studio — I barely eat at a table.)

For this, all you really require is a quite, safe place for a small fire, non-treated firewood, and a writing implement, preferably non-toxic. Build your fire and sit in front of it. Feel the warmth on your skin, and look into the heart of the flames. Visualize everything you want to let go of from the past year — mistakes, hurt feelings, bad vibes. It’s okay if these still resonate within you. It’s okay if you feel angry, or even cry. Pick up a leaf, or, if there are no leaves around your area yet, use a piece of paper. Write down all of the things you want to release. When you are finished, feed them into the flames.

If you can, after the bonfire has burned, scatter the ashes either in your garden, or somewhere else where the earth will appreciate them. (Wood ash helps increase the pH of soil. Many plants love it, but avoid using it around those who prefer a more acidic environment.)

Just as a forest fire is sometimes needed to help clear away deadfall and encourage new growth, let this fire clear away what no longer serves you and allow you to grow. Let your past regrets, hurt feelings, and negative energy be transformed by the flames, and used to nourish the things you want to bring into your life.

Let the Wind Carry It Away

For this, you need a clear place to stand. You might have to go to a park, or on a hike, to find a suitable hilltop. You might live in a place with roof access, which also works. You just need a space where you can stand and let the breeze blow around you.

This can be performed any time, but there’s something particularly magical and transformative about autumn breezes. The feeling of the last of the warm summer sun on you, interrupted by a cool breeze just feels like change. If you live in a cooler area, you might even smell the faint perfume of a fireplace heralding the approach of winter.

Stand with your legs shoulder width apart, arms held out at your sides. Close your eyes, and visualize all of the energy you want to let go of as dark smoke clinging to your skin. Wait for a good, strong breeze — as it blows past you, let it carry that dark smoke away. Let it lift that energy from you, carrying it into the sky, into the trees, into the sunlight, where it can be made harmless.

If you do this in a wild place, leave a little token of thanks to the spirits of the area. It can even be something as simple as a shiny rock, some flowers, or a sip of water poured on the ground.

I really love fall. Summer is beautiful, but the heat means it’s far from my favorite holiday. Now, if only the air conditioner guy could get here sooner…