Herbal Ingredients: less is more

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?

Happy conjuring!


  1. I think its an overall tendency to make magical bombs when one starts working for the first time, wanting to add everything possible in order to make ones work strong. Until you start to be successful with just a few things and realize its not necessary to choke a mojo bag a bath or an incense full of herbs to make things move.

    I remember my first herbal incense, it was so filled with herbs it gave most people a headache. Now with a combination on two herbs im usually set.

  2. Loved this post, hope you will expand on it more.

  3. "Prayer manifest" is the simplest, and quite possibly the best description of materia magic I've ever heard. And like prayers, simpler is better.

  4. This passage from Aphorism No. 36 of the Arbatel came to mind: "Care is to be taken, that experiments be not mixed with experiments; but that every one be onely simple and several: for God and Nature have ordained all things to a certain and appointed end: so that for examples sake, they who perform cures with the most simple herbs and roots, do cure the most happily of all. "