When setting out to work with herbal magic and with conjure's magical pharmacy in particular, it can be tempting to find all the roots that are suited to the goal at hand, or that are available on your shelf, and jam them into a single working; mojo hand, powder or oil. One would think that this would increase the power of spell, but practical experience shows that this is not the case at all. In fact, lumping too many plant forces together into a working can often lead to failure in magic just as lumping to many spices into one pot can lead to failure in cooking. I have found its better to work with a few roots and herbs at a time; getting to know them individually; attuning to the spirit of each plant. In this way they seem to awaken more fully to the work. Its as if my own attentiveness to their unique qualities and nuances becomes a gateway for their power to flow into the work. There is a dialogue going on here much as with any other spirit, but its more tactile and intimate and somewhat slower. We try, we feel how it works, we adjust quantities or other variables all the while smelling, touching and listening with our inner ear.
In this way we begin to establish alliances with certain plants. They just seem to work better for us - they awaken to us as familiars. I begin to discover that whilst powdered ginger will hasten the outcome of a spell, heating it up - too much burns it out before its gotten to full fruition. Just a pinch is all that is needed, and in just the right amount its like a rocket was put under the work. Ginger becomes more to me than botanical item in a jar; its a conscious force, a living thing that has a certain place in my magical consciousness. A letter in my magical script, if you will. In this way, sumac berries begin behaving in a rather unique and remarkable way; I find that sumac is becoming more flexible and versatile; a plant that is activated by sexual climax for a variety of different ends not just peace in the home. A tiny pinch of tobacco snuff added to a lamp will compel someone to act almost immediately if I hold it up to my forehead and think about it in just the right way.
We are sometimes encouraged to "talk to the roots", to tell them what we want, by our conjure elders -and to me this is what this dialogue is all about. Its the subtle exchange that comes from working with them carefully and sensitively so their power comes to fruition in our hands. The power is there but its not self evident at first - just having the herb does not guarantee it will work for you. We kind of need to work with them, show them we will listen and that we are available to hear what they have to teach us. And then just maybe they will begin opening up to us and giving us access to the store house of their secrets.