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Practical Magics: Gifts From The Earth – Sum...

Practical Magics: Gifts From The Earth – Summertime Foraging

the house of twigs

Witchcraft and nature go hand in hand. So much of my own practice is drawn from nature and one thing I love to do is to go out foraging.

There is so much out there! So many of the plants associated with witchcraft are often overlooked or seen as weeds, and they grow in places that are accessible to many. Right now, I have wormwood and mugwort drying in bunches underneath the stairs! And I foraged them all from within a mile and a half radius of my home.

Right now is a perfect time to get out and forage for those plants and flowers you will use within your own witchcraft practises, whether that’s for incense blends, for use in spellwork, teas, tinctures or remedies, there is no end to their usefulness.

Foraging is an excellent way to spend time outdoors and can be family friendly too. It is also a good way to begin to build your connection to the land and the spirits that reside there.

Tools

The beauty of foraging is that you don’t need much to do it. You don’t need to spend a great deal of money and as such it is accessible to those without disposable income.

One thing you will need is a good plant identification guide. That really is a must. Choose one with detailed pictures, preferably photographs of the flower and also the leaves. The best ones will have a description of what conditions a particular plant is likely to be found in, when it flowers and general information.

Correct identification of plants really is a must, particularly if you are wanting to begin your journey on the poisonous path. If you are unsure what a particular plant is, then leave it be until you do know because sometimes there can several related plants that all look similar. This can be dangerous because some within a family will be harmless whereas others will be deadly. Here in the UK, there are several types of plant that all look quite similar to the untrained eye. They are hemlock, ground elder, yarrow and hogsweed. Whereas yarrow and ground elder are quite harmless, hemlock is poisonous, deadly even, and hogsweed, if it comes into contact with skin will react with the sun and burn the skin leaving huge painful blisters, so it’s important you don’t rush the learning process.

The only other tools you will need are a sharp pair of scissors or knife and some string to bunch your cuttings together for drying.

Where To Start

At first, it is a good idea to just go for walks around where you live. If you’re able, you might want to go slightly further afield, and the more advanced you become at identifying plants, you will want to explore new places, but at first it is a good idea to get a handle on what grows where you live.

Foraging is, for me at least, apart of a larger cycle. As already mentioned, it helps to forge and strengthen my connection to my land, and the path of the forager is one entwined with nature. It is here that the relationship between witch and the land is grown, where you realise that it is a relationship of give and take, on both parts, for there will be times when one must sacrifice something to the care of the land. The more you go out, the more you will come to recognise the plants and trees, the stronger your connection to them, and in turn the greater your yields will become.

And of course there will be many plants and flowers that you do recognise, all of them having uses in witchcraft as well as the home (though for me, this too is entwined, for when does a witch stop being a witch?).

You can only begin this journey when you make the effort to go out. It might well be difficult to find the time at first, after all, we all lead such busy lives, there’s so many demands placed upon us, but the benefits of foraging are many and well worth the sacrifice. In the end, you come to realise it isn’t a sacrifice at all and that you look forward to those times spent out of doors.

It can be so relaxing to just spend time outside in nature. Even when I’ve gone out stressed or worried, before I realise it, I’ve forgotten about my troubles, even if only for a short time, and more often than not, when I get back home, I find that the problems seem smaller and more manageable than before.

Ritual Harvesting

Depending on what I’m using the plant for, I might decide to ritually harvest it. For me, this is part of my Obeah practise. Within Obeah, there is the belief that by singing and chanting to the plant when harvesting, it adds something to the potency of the plant, because it is the spirit of the plant that is being sung to.

An example of this is smudging with sage. We all know the cleansing properties of sage, and to burn it in order to purify a space is common practise among many traditions. Within Obeah though, if sage is burned to dispel a negative spirit, it might not work, or with unseen consequences, because the spirit of the plant has not been sung to. Often times in these circumstances, burning sage alone is not enough.

Singing to plants, over cooking or preparing medicines is a common feature of folk magic across the globe.

What Next?

So, once you’ve started and have collected some plants and flowers, you will need to decide what to do with them. If you want to use some in teas or infusions with water, then you can do so straight away without drying them. If you want to do anything else with them though, or your maybe not sure what you want to use them for, then drying them is essential.

There are a couple of methods that I use. Firstly, you can tie the plants in small bunches and hang then to dry somewhere out of direct sunlight but dry. Bunch them by the stems and tie them with string and the jobs a good one! Leave them for a few days to a week or until they are crunchy to the touch.

Another method is to chop them roughly, and let them sit on a piece of muslin or thin cotton somewhere warm, a sunny windowsill is ideal or on a radiator. Leave them until dry and then store in labelled glass jars (I save all glass jars, I swear my partner thinks I’m a hoarder).

What To Make

There are so many things that can be made from your foraged haul. Many wild plants and ‘weeds’ are edible and can be used in cooking and in the making of teas.

Use your plant matter to make various washes, waters and vinegars by steeping the plant matter in water, vinegar or oils for some weeks, then strain out and bottle up.

Tinctures are a favourite of mine to make. Steep dried plant matter in a spirit like rum, vodka or brandy (sometimes I just use whatever spirit I have in at home. Make sure it’s around 40% proof though). Leave for a week or two and then use in a variety of remedies and food and drink recipes.

I love to make ointments, again for the medicine cabinet and the bathroom, but my absolute favourite are flying ointments! These ointments, containing either mugwort, wormwood, Datura or a combination of all three are used in ritual or to achieve an altered state of consciousness. These are not for everyone, mind, and each is responsible for their own safety, but treated with respect and care, these ointments can be used safely and can to good effect.

I’ll leave you with this video of me preparing a batch of mugwort ointment. Mugwort, is perhaps the best plant to use for those just starting out on the poison path, and in the video you will find information pertaining to it’s uses.

Plants and witchcraft go together, it is a partnership as old as time. We are the keepers of that knowledge that would otherwise be lost.

 

 

  • Author Posts
My name is Emma Kathryn, my path a mixture of non-Wiccan Traditional British Witchcraft and Obeah, a blend that represents my heritage. A Devotee of Hekate, my witchcraft is what is needed when needed. I live in the middle of England with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs.
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My name is Emma Kathryn, my path a mixture of non-Wiccan Traditional British Witchcraft and Obeah, a blend that represents my heritage. A Devotee of Hekate, my witchcraft is what is needed when needed. I live in the middle of England with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs.
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