I have always believed that good Witch Craft, wether it’s spell casting, tincture or salve making, or simply paying respect to the spirits and guides of our path, relies on quality tools that are generally quick to hand. Centuries ago, our pagan ancestors didn’t have witchy internet communities from which to order their exotic and far flung spell ingredients. Likewise, most of them had limited resources, so expensive, hard to find ingredients were not an option. They had to make do with what was close by - what they could harvest from the world around them.
We may source these natural ingredients on our walks through the neighborhood or countryside, but for many lucky Witches, this means planting a garden. A well planned garden has obvious benefits - the herbs you use the most are quickly to hand, and you can put up quantities to dry or freeze for the dark half of the year. Further, planting and caring for your garden helps attune the vegetation to your energies and needs. We often ‘charge’ the herbs with our will before we use them. I firmly believe that plants that you have cared for a season or even for years may be more sensitive that charge, and may lend their energies to your workings more entirely. And for those of us who live in cities or away from the grander example of our deities work in the world, a garden can help us to be in tune with the cycles of nature and the Turning of the Wheel. A garden can be a small reminder for us all of the love the Great Mother, or Lady, or whomever you may know her by, has for the Earth and all of Her growing things.
If you aren’t an experienced gardener, start off slow. A garden is an investment in time and space - don’t bite off more than you can chew! Because time is always limited for me, I like to grow perennials - plants that grow constantly, instead of dying off in the fall and have to be replanted. I spend much less time replanting in the spring and fall.
For many of us city bound pagans, a full blown garden isn’t an option. Space may be limited, and those of us in apartments and condos may lack a yard to dig up and replant. There is hope for us all, however. Many useful herbs grow very well in pots with just a little light from a window. As you may know from last weeks blog, I keep a little window garden that is full of helpful, healthful herbs. I started with a few pots in a kitchen window, but have included plants in shelves near all the windows in my house. It takes some experimentation, to determine what plant did best where, but I’ve got it sorted out and am harvesting and using my herbs regularly!
To make the most of your garden, consider investing in a few good herbals - books that illustrate the uses and properties of these plants. Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, The Illustrated Herbal, by Philippa Back, and The Magical and Ritual Use of Herbs by Richard Alan Miller are books on the subject that I found fascinating. Philippa Back’s work looks chiefly at the folkloric and contemporary medicinal uses of the herbs, while the other two books are more likely to outline the use of particular herbs as spell and ritual components.
Some easy plants to start with:
Basil is used in many, many prosperity spells. It is also used in love and divination spells, and there is folklore that suggests that basil attracts dragons! Basil is used to mend lovers' quarrels and brings good luck to a new home. There are many different types and flavors of basil, which is also a useful herb in the kitchen.
Catnip is considered easy to grow; besides bringing joy to your felines, herbalists have long claimed that a tea of catnip will settle an upset stomach and relieve flatulence. Magically, catnip leaves can bring luck in love, strengthen friendship, and bring happiness; according to Cunningham, giving catnip to your cat will help create a psychic bond between you two.
Chamomile has long been known for it’s sedative properties, but has also been used for digestive issues and calming nausea, as well as for reducing the pain from menstrual cramps. Magically, it is associated with the masculine aspect of the deity, so use it in rituals honoring Gods and the Sun. It is used ton remove hexes from a home and is a common ingredient in prosperity spells.
Lavender can bring peace and comfort to the home. Recent studies have found that lavender is one of the few natural scents carrying a chemical compound that has been proven to relax and calm the mind. Use in purification baths and rituals.
Mint is considered a healing herb, and mint laid on the altar can call good spirits to aid you in spell working. Use in spells for healing, cleaning, protection, prosperity. Tea made from mint can soothe the stomach and ease congestion.
These are just a few herbs and plants that are available for us to grow and use in our daily workings and rituals. I hope you find them helpful!