Oh! Isn’t that a fun rhyme? Doesn’t it just make your little heart beat with Joy? No? okay maybe it’s just me….
Harvest time is just about over. I’ve been drying, chopping, seeding and storing summer’s bounty for a few weeks. My Magical Cabinet is getting pretty full.
When I first started dabbling in spell work and charms, I just loved the idea of dusty little jars filled with herbs and roots and labeled with creepy old English names. I imagined myself working spells by candlelight; grinding seeds with a mortar and pestle while chanting Latin words. I saw myself stirring a cauldron while adding these ingredients, spouting rhymes, feeling the tingle of magic in my bones, divining the outcome through the wafting steam.
Yeah, It doesn’t happen that way and rarely does it happen with such drama.
Just the same, I still love my jars of herbs. I still get a kick out grinding things with the mortar and pestle, sorting seed from petals and filling up my jars for a raining day…These days my jars are bigger and I still can’t rhyme.
After learning what different herbs are good for and testing out a spell or two, I started my collection just to have the collection. I didn’t use half of what I collected and discovered that some of my herbs lost their potency over the years. (I’ll get to that in a second)
So now, part of my spring cleaning routine is to sort through my magical cabinet. I dust the jars, organize them, take inventory and sort through viable plants and roots. Make plans on what to grow for the upcoming summer.
Witches have always worked with plants. They were the healers. In contrast to what Hollywood and bedtime tales have portrayed, Witches were the old wise women living on the edge of the village; keepers of the knowledge of the plants. They were the ones that knew which would heal and which would poison. Which plants would ease pain and which would facilitate labor. Long before men and science took over the medical field, it was witches who people turned to even if they weren’t always called witches.
What did I mean by ‘potency’?
Plants have energetic properties. Edible plants have vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. Non-edibles have their own energy that aids our intentions during spell work. It’s the energy of these plants that determine their potency. The more energy they retain the stronger their potency.
We have been gifted with this knowledge; It has been passed down from our ancestors, confirmed by herbalist and in some cases scientists. Often times Witches come by their knowledge from their Spirit Guides or memories of past lives or just intuitively by spending time with a plant. There are plenty of books and websites that give a general description of what ailments or uses each plant is good for. Read, learn and trust your gut.
In my experience, living plants have the strongest energy – whether it’s breathing in the negative ions produced by the trees in a forest or eating a salad out of the garden. If it’s possible to use a live or freshly harvested plant, then that’s my first choice. However, it’s not always possible. And that’s where my happy little jars of dried goods come in!
For example, you can’t really stuff a charm bag or poppet with fresh leaves and flowers. It’ll mold. (Of course if that’s your intention then go for it)
Then there’s the fact that I can’t seem to keep basil alive on my kitchen window sill and daffodils only grow for about a month in the early spring.
Fortunately dried leaves and flowers retain a lot of energy allowing us to do happiness rituals in October and money spells in January. Drying is easy and doesn’t take a whole lot of special equipment.
As far as potency goes; Roots and seeds would come in second to live plants on the energy scale of my mind. They have concentrated amounts of all the good stuff that make the plants grow. (Like my technical terms?)
Dried leaves and flowers are just as good and in some cases more appropriate. The down side is they’re more fragile and can break down quicker and easier.
So, how do I tell if my goods are still good?
I’ll give you some guidelines but you’ll have to hone your intuition to make the final decision.
Color – If dried adequately most flowers will retain some of their original color although they all darken somewhat. If your daffodils turn pale white and your roses turn brown, they may be time to add them to the compost.
Some leaves darken right away, some retain their green color. Over time the color changes slightly but for the most part, leaves tend to last longer than the flowers.
Smell – aromatic herbs will retain their smell. It’ll change slightly from the original scent of a live plant but they still have their smell. If it disappears, it’s time to toss them.
Herbs – kitchen herbs, tubers and seeds retain their smell the longest. They can be dried and stored for quite a while. Seed like allspice, anise and coriander, hold onto their smell for a couple years and are best stored in seed form. Roots like ginger and garlic can be dried and powdered for extended use.
What was that about storing?
It’s best to keep your dried apothecary in glass, air tight containers, in a cool environment and away from sunlight. Heat and light will ruin your herbs. I do keep small quantities in plastic zipper bags if I’ve only acquired a small amount and intend to use it in a month. However, plastic is more permeable than glass and will shorten the life of your dried goods.
(I ship all my dried goods in plastic baggies to keep costs down, they are packaged to order and ships with in hours….When they get to you, put them someplace safe or use them within a few weeks )
This is the time of year that I do my second round of cleaning. I’ve been harvesting and drying summer’s bounty for a few weeks now. All I have left in the garden is a few fennel plants that have gone to seed.
My Magical Cabinet is over flowing and all my jars and nice and full so keep an eye on The Mystic’s Haven, I’ll be updating inventory and adding a few new herbs to the shop!
I’ll also be writing up a few posts on specific herbs and how they’re used.