In my last post, we talked about casting spells. In that post, I said that the only things you need to cast an effective spell are your will, your intention, focused energy, and a ritual action. But if that’s the case, why do witches include so much stuff in their spells? Why include herbs, oils, and crystals if you don’t need them for your spell to work?
Short answer: It’s an easy way to add power to your spell without draining your own energy.
Long answer: It’s related to the concept of magical correspondences.
In the book Wicca for Beginners, Thea Sabin says that, “Correspondences are things that ‘go with’ other things. They have similar qualities or similar energy… The idea is that things that are similar are bound together energetically, and including one in a spell might attract the other.”
In her book Green Witchcraft, author Paige Vanderbeck describes correspondences this way: “The same way a zodiac sign can give us a vague picture of who a person is, correspondences give us that for everything from plants and crystals to animals and actions.”
Vanderbeck goes on to list some different types of correspondences: botanical name (for example, mugwort’s botanical name is Artemisia vulgaris, which hints at its lunar associations), elements (earth, air, fire, water, and sometimes aether/spirit) astrological associations (example: sunflowers are associated with the sun and with the zodiac sign Leo), chakras (example: rose quartz is associated with the heart chakra), energies (which Vanderbeck describes as the item’s “talents or areas of expertise”), and magical uses (using roses in love spells, for example).
I would add that we can also gain info about an item’s correspondences by looking at its medicinal and culinary uses. For example, dong quai (better known in magic as angelica) is used medicinally to treat painful menstruation and symptoms of menopause — in American folk magic, it is used for protection and is thought to be especially good for protecting women. In cooking, cayenne is used to heat up a dish — in magic, it can be used to “light a fire under” someone to motivate them to action. These are two of many cases where a plant’s mundane uses mirror its uses in magic.
Choosing the right correspondences for your spell is like cooking. If you’re making a chocolate cake, you’ll probably add certain ingredients based on their culinary uses. You’ll add flour to give the cake structure, sugar to sweeten it, and chocolate for flavor. Likewise, when you cast a spell, you’ll add certain things based on their correspondences.
And just like you probably wouldn’t add garlic to your chocolate cake, you probably wouldn’t add an ingredient that corresponds to binding and banishing to your love spell. Once you’ve been practicing magic for a while, you’ll begin to develop an intuitive sense of which energies “go together” and which don’t.
Although most plant correspondences are based on natural properties, some correspondences are subjective. Color correspondences, for example, may vary quite a bit from one witch to the next. As always in witchcraft, it’s important to do what feels right to you — even if that means using an item for something unusual.
For example: earlier I mentioned using cayenne in a spell for motivation. However, some witches believe that cayenne should only be used for cursing and banishing — some witches won’t work with it at all because of its association with curses. Neither interpretation is wrong — every witch will have different associations for the herbs, crystals, and oils that they use in their craft.
I’m planning to put out several posts about specific correspondences in the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime if you want to do research on your own, I highly recommend the book A Green Witch’s Cupboard by Deborah J. Martin. This book lists the medicinal, culinary, and magical uses of 60+ common household herbs and spices. These are things you either already have in your kitchen or can get easily at a grocery store, so this is a great place to start for beginner witches.
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