A while back, I read two amusing, if simultaneously slightly concerning, posts from a blog called Cajun Conjure: It Ain’t Aromatherapy and And Remember Kids, “Please, Don’t Eat The Hoodoo.”
I am sharing this because–along with inhaling and eating unfamiliar things being a generally bad idea–I realized afterward that it’s apparently a more common problem than I would have thought. For example: while later discussing this blog with a fellow conjurewoman nearby, she shared her own story of a clueless customer involving magical dressing oils. Most practitioners who are familiar with candle work are familiar with the common action of dressing the candle in specialized oils to strengthen their purpose. However, this customer saw a colorful glass bottle of roughly 4 oz. of essential oils and herbs, and approached the conjurewoman with the assumption “This goes on a salad, right?”
Mistletoe is famous for its association with love. Steep it for your intended as a love tea, however, and the only thing they’ll likely be cuddling is the toilet due to gastrointestinal distress. But while mistletoe’s less-ingestible aspects are fairly well-known, consider for a moment the many more obscure herbs we employ for their magical properties. For instance, have you ever worked with rue? It’s also occasionally known as witchbane or herb of grace, due to the power of its purifying associations. Did you know that it, too, can prove toxic in certain amounts? Likewise, while lobelia can be a fun storm-raising herb (not to mention an attractive flower), be sure not to leave your magical ingredients where pets can get into it while you’re working, should it poison them. And of course, ingestion isn’t the only concern with materials, especially when essential oils have become so popular; we must also remember that many substances can cause adverse reactions when absorbed through the skin.
There’s more to working than being able to build a formula based on magical associations; it also pays to be familiar with the physical properties of your tools. Delivery is part of the work, and you need to know what method of delivery is best for each ingredient and intention. Does it burn well, and is it safe to inhale? Is it safe to ingest or leave on the skin, and is it a common allergy that you would want to be in the habit of informing any potential partakers of?
Also make note of your own physical tendencies. Do certain incenses irritate your respiratory system? Perhaps consider the quality and ingredients of the particular incense you’re using, or use a perfume or scented candle if the smoke is what irritates you. Are you one of the many people who find that essential oils irritate your skin? Perhaps try steeping the desired herbs in a gentle carrier such as olive oil. Remember still (as Cajun Conjure’s post mentioned) that many practitioners spend years perfecting their formulas and, as such, don’t wish to throw them out to the world, so if you’re a customer of someone making oils or incenses, take responsibility for yourself to ask if it includes any ingredients you may be sensitive to.
In short–as someone who personally may have sulfur, snake shed, or any number of other things you may want to limit certain forms of contact with in my formulas–I simply wish to offer a friendly (and hopefully obvious) reminder that while we are spiritual beings, we are also physical beings as well.
Do not put my dressing oils on your salads.