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CAUTION: All herbal potions will have an effect on you in the mundane. A catnip potion for love will make you sleepy. A mugwort potion for astral travel will stimulate menstrual flow and calm nerves. A St. John's Wort potion for protection will also lift your mood. You should be aware of the medicinal properties of every herb you ingest. And if you have a medical condition, proceed with caution. When in doubt about the effects of an herb, ask your health practitioner. Also remember more is not necessarily better. People think that just because herbs are sold over the counter that there is no limit to what they can consume. Not so.
Herbalists kick around a lot of terms, so let's define a few of them: POTION -- Well, witchy herbalists kick this one around. ;-) It's an herbal tea prepared during the appropriate lunar phase and made with herbal ingredients possessing the correct magickal properties. Potions concocted for love magick are called philters.
INFUSION -- a strong tea. Many recipes will call for a full oz. of herb to one pint of water. Some think that's too much. I think Cunningham called for one teaspoon dried herb for every cup of water. I just throw in the amount that feels right. This is simply the process of soaking the herb in water. Heat water until just boiling, pour it over the herb, cover the cup, let sit undisturbed for 15-30 minutes. Drink it. Wash with it. Pour it in your bath or anoint yourself with it.
SOLAR INFUSIONS -- put fresh or dried herbs in a jar with cool water. Place in the sun for 1-2 days. Solar infusions seem to have more plant spirit. It's good to work with the astrological signs here if possible -- an appropriate sun sign or other aspect.
LUNAR INFUSIONS -- same as solar infusions, but placed under the moonlight. Choose the best moon signs and phases here.
DECOCTION -- a decoction is made like an infusion, but here it is OK to boil the herb. Usually decoctions are made from roots or other herbs with constituents that are not easily extracted. Roots, seeds, and stems make good decoctions. Begin with cold water, and add the toughest roots, etc., first. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes covered. Then let cool completely. If adding leaves or dried herbs to a decoction, you can take the decoction off the stove and steep your less hardy herbs as you would an infusion. Be sure to cover throughout the process so your volatile oils don't boil away. Strain. Some recommend one oz. of herb to one pint water. Others use one part herb to 20 parts water.
TINCTURE -- if long term storage is required, you will probably want to make a tincture. A tincture contains alcohol. Into a mason jar with lid, place 4 oz. of herb and 8 oz. of alcohol. (I use brandy). Seal the jar and keep it out of sunlight for two weeks. Begin this process on the new moon and finish on the full moon. Be sure to swish the herbs around in the jar daily. Strain and store in dark bottles.
WASH -- a weak tea or infusion that is used externally. A mild wash -- 1/4 oz. herb to one pint boiling water -- can be used to cleanse magickal tools, crystals, or other magickal uses.
ASPURGER -- a weak tea (wash) put in a watering can or spray bottle used for spraying an area or thing. Many witches like to use the more natural tree limb with leaves still attached. Dip it in the wash and shake it through the area. Especially good for cleansing spells or exorcism when working with rooms, houses, or large areas.
OINTMENTS/BALMS -- I include balms in these definitions because the oils used in balms are heated to a liquid state during preparation. Simply melt lard/vegetable shortening/or any fatty substance to a liquid form over low heat. Pour in herbs and let them simmer for about nine minutes. Strain out the herbs and store in an airtight jar. One cup fatty substance to three tablespoons powdered herb. For external use.
PERFUMES -- are made by blending essential oils together to create a fragrance. Choose oils to match your magickal intention, then add them to 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol, 1/4 cup witch hazel tincture, and 1/2 cup water. Shake well, then dab on pulse points. Aromatic herbs work best here. OILS --many of the essential oils you find in herbal shops have been distilled with steam. You can make oils at home by crushing herbs and placing them in a jar. Cover them with warmed oil (virgin olive, safflower, and almond are all good). Steep for 48 hours in sunlight. Strain and repeat, adding fresh herbs. You might do this several times until the oil smells good and strong like the herb. Store in dark bottles. I use oils to anoint candles and other magickal tools, myself, just about everything. I love them.
FLOWER ESSENCES -- these work on energetic and psychic levels. Pick the flower and place them in fresh spring water -- just let them float on the top of the water. Place flowers and/or gems in your crystal bowl full of water in full sunlight for several hours. This process will extract the life essence and energy matrix from the materials. This is known as your Mother Essence. Add brandy as a preservative. From this essence will come your stock bottles.
THE RECIPE: two drops of the Mother Essence in one ounce pure water with a teaspoon of brandy. This is your stock bottle. From these stock bottles will come your dosage bottles. Simply combine 2 drops from your stock bottles into one ounce pure water and a teaspoon brandy in a dropper bottle. You can take your dose directly from the dosage bottle or drop the elixir into a glass of water.Works like homeopathic medicines.
GEM ELIXIRS -- made like flower essences, but using crystals and gems instead of flowers.
FLUID CONDENSERS-- you need two handfuls of herb, cold water to cover them, a cauldron or cooking pot, and gin or vodka. Place herbs and water in a pot with a tight fitting lid. Boil for 20 minutes. Cool for 13 minutes, then strain out herbs. Bring to a boil again and evaporate one-half of the liquid. Take from the heat and cover. When cool, add an equal amount of gin or vodka. Three drops of your own blood from your thumb will personalize the condenser and add energy. To use the condenser, put it in a cauldron or pot and simmer to release the herbal magick. Actually, those aromatherapy candle/ simmering potpourri holders work very well here. Place the liquid in the top bowl and light a tea light beneath it. Let it evaporate and release its magickal properties into the air. This liquid can be used as holy water -- sprinkle on parchment in petition spells, pour into the earth as a libation, sprinkle tools or working area, etc. You can also make one for each of the four elements and simmer them on your altar during workings.
These are a few methods for making magickal potions. The thing that lifts these potions from the mundane, medicinal level to a magickal level is your enchantment of them and magickal timing. Enchant your herbs at the appropriate moon phases and signs (or other planetary aspects) before preparation by running your fingers through the herb while visualizing your need. You may want to simply enchant the finished potion. Gerina Dunwich uses a chant that I really like:
Herbal potion, cauldron brew,
Now be charged with magick true.
With intent I speak this charm,
All be blessed and none be harmed.
Ever minding the rule of three,
As I will, so mote it be.
Or how about:
Brew of flowers,
Filled with magick powers be.
A chant you create yourself will have more power and pertain to the spell you are casting. Remember to visualize and focus your intent into the potion and herbs.
So how do you know which sort of potion to make? Obviously infusions are easiest. They can be made quickly and don't require a lot of prep time. If I want my magick to affect my environment, I might make a magickal perfume. These work well in harmony spells, or to attract a mate, or for glamoury spells. I like oils for anointing myself and my tools (including poppets). Flower essences (which are easily bought in health food stores) assist me with inner work. I love them! I sometimes use the mugwort flower essence before reading tarot cards. I would need to make a decoction if I wanted a dandelion root potion for a psychic boost. The potions that use brandy, gin, or vodka are for long term storage. So if I wanted to make a mugwort tincture with all the fresh mugwort from my garden, I would make a tincture. (Tinctures are also excellent for healing potions).
Speaking of healing potions, here's another chant to use while making (courtesy of Dunwich):
Witches' potion, I enchant thee
By intent and thrice told verse.
Be a tool of magick for me
Work thy spell to heal and nurse.
Witches' potion, be now blessed
By power of the universe.
In the cauldron effervesce,
Maladies and pain disperse.
Harming none I now decree
This charm is done.
So mote it be!
Repeat this three times as you visualize your intent while the potion boils or brews.
As with poppets, if I'm adding more than one herb, I like to add them in multiples of three. For instance, for a divination potion, I might choose mugwort, yarrow, and dandelion root. I would make a decoction of my dandelion root, take off the burner, then steep (infuse) mugwort and yarrow in the decoction.
For prosperity, I might make an infusion of herbs I know are safe to drink, or I might make a wash to sprinkle my work area and wallet with the inedible mandrake or maybe apple or periwinkle. The possibilities are endless, really. What you choose is just a matter of what works best for you. Experiment and see what you like.