I have been chatting with a client who is putting a work together for herself and we have been going through the various herbal ingredients that she might include, and it occurred to me to blog a little bit about this process...
It's tempting to throw every single applicable ingredient you have at a spell; but one soon discovers that this approach, other than being a little wasteful, doesn't always translate into results. In my experience it kind of muddies things to the extent where the result is unclear. Like with cooking, too many flavours can spoil the dish.
In fact, I would say one should try to craft the work with a minimum of ingredients - focussing instead on the efficacy and clever manipulation of what you have. It's not like each ingredient brings a certain percentage of magical 'juice' and by filling up your jar with everything you have that corresponds to, say, 'love' you are cramming it with that love juju.
Nope. In my experience ingredients are more like words - and what we are trying to do is compose the materia-magical equivalent of a poem (be it a love poem or a battle-cry). The idea isn't to use the most words or the biggest, fanciest words but the right words. A great poet knows the how to insert or remove just the right amount of syllables to create the precise effect needed. A gifted poet can compose something deeply profound with very few words, as is demonstrable in the tradition of the haiku.
Similarly, a spiritual worker is benefited by a brevity of materials - focussing instead on how they are put together to tell the story they need to tell. And good conjure work tells a kind of story. It's the story of what you want to happen.
It is your prayer manifest.
To this end get to know a few ingredients well. How does the plant grow? Why is it included in the corpus of the tradition? How does it behave when you use it? How can you manipulate it when you work with it?
By getting to know a few ingredients at a time, one can build up a good working vocabulary which you can combine in innumerable ways, adding little flourishes here and there. You can only get to know ingredients in this way if you work with them in modest combinations. If you have a ton of different herbs in there, how will you ever know how any one thing is contributing?