Herbs (and flowers and trees) are a major part of many witches’ practice, myself included. They have endless medicinal, therapeutic and magickal uses, including teas, tinctures, soaks and incense. There are hundreds of books on the subject of growing, harvesting, wildcrafting and drying herbs, plus those on their magickal and spiritual properties as well.
Even for an experienced witch, it can be difficult to decipher all of that information and know exactly what the basics are that you need. A good rule of thumb is to determine ten herbs that suit a variety of purposes and that you can easily have on hand at all times. How do you go about doing that?
Below is a list of my 10 “indispensable” herbs, as Alexis at Worts & Cunning would call them. Many of my herbs are household ingredients while others are a bit less common, but all are easy to obtain. Simplicity and accessibility is a key factor in my practice, and that’s definitely reflected in the herbs I prefer to use.
First, you’ll want to consider covering some of these areas:
- Masculine and Feminine
- Warming and Cooling
- Herbs and Flowers
You also want a variety of types of magick you can practice with your herbs. My rule of thumb list is:
- Cleansing: Purifying spaces and people, removing negative energy
- Calming: Relaxing the mind and body
- Opening: Often refers to opening the heart to love and compassion but can also be opening the mind or helping the body to relax
- Inspiring: Sparking creativity or physical energy, stimulating the mind
- Arousing: Heightening sexual energy, creative energy and productivity
- Focusing: Sharpening concentration, finding what is appropriate to focus on
- Increasing: Attracting wealth or power, making spells more powerful
- Grounding: Centering, connecting to the Earth
- Releasing: Letting go of negativity, situations, people and thoughts
- Banishing: A more intense combination of cleansing external negative energy and releasing internal negative energy
This list runs the gamut from positive to negative, from attraction of good things to banishing of bad things. If there are specific purposes you do or do not use, feel free to swap them out and make your own variation. (I don’t think I came up with this list on my own, but can’t seem to find where it came from. If you know, give me a shout so I can credit it!)
I recommend choosing mostly or entirely edible herbs so that you can mix them into all sorts of preparations but that preference could vary by your path. As a cottage witch, many of my spells are consumable so poisonous plants are pretty much out!
When choosing your herbs, think about how you’re going to use them. Are you going to cook with them or make tea with them? You probably want them to be not only edible but flavorful too. Are you going to make incense with them? You’re going to want fragrant herbs. Are you planning to grow your own herbs? You’ll need to make choices that are either native to your region or known to thrive there.
In this case, form definitely follows function!
None of this is to say that I never use other herbs, but having a handy list of items I can generally rely on is a great tool. In many cases, these aren’t even the most potent herbs for the specific purposes I’ve assigned them, but they are plants that are accessible and that speak to me. I’ve always been deeply drawn to cardamom, even though other baking spices are more common in both cooking and magick. Orange bergamot is a big one for me because I drink lots of Earl Grey tea.
My list of herbs might speak to you, or you might need to dive into the books and the internet to find other options. My favorite resources for herbs include:
- Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
- Lexa Rosean’s Encyclopedia of Magickal Ingredients
- The Magickal Cat website
What herbs do you like to work with and what draws you to them?