Essential oils are both truly magical in mundane ways, and quite useful in magical workings.
Essential oils are not at all oily – they are in fact water-based emulsions of the scenting chemicals plants produce in their blossoms, leaves, fruit, or roots. Sometimes bark is also processed to produce the oils.
Essential oils may in some ways be regarded as the “soul” of the plant. As many of the magically-inclined know, the plant kingdom has great help to offer us in our magical workings.
How can essential oils be used magically? Their primary gift is scent. Its effect on us is only partly the work of the plant itself; we bring to the equation our personal chemistry, which affects our perception of scent. (Don’t believe it? Go on a walk through your neighborhood with a friend, separately sniff any flower you encounter, and describe to each other the scent. The variation in the descriptions will amaze you. Both of you are right – just different.)
This working partnership with another life-form varies from person to person. If you truly adore a scent, it will prove to be powerful for you. If you dislike it intensely, it’s probably not the best choice for your work, no matter how many people tell you it’s the greatest.
Essential oils can be used to dress a candle, and if placed in the little pool of liquid wax at the base of the wick, will scent the area around the candle. They can also scent the entire area with a diffuser powered by electricity or a votive candle. Set these up about 15 minutes before your working begins. A pot of hot water will also diffuse the scent – place the pot on a heat proof surface and dribble six to twelve drops of oil onto it just as you begin.
You may also drop essential oils onto those expensive, specialized blocks of charcoal that never seem to burn down completely and sometimes won’t light or stay lit (obviously not this writer’s diffuser of choice). Word of warning – never use BBQ charcoal in an enclosed space. It’s sprayed so heavily with igniting fluid that its combustion creates lethal levels of CO2.
Essential oils can be applied to the skin, but dilution is the better part of valor here. Cinnamon oil, for one, is very likely to give you a nice red rash. Add 5-6 drops of oil to 2 tblsp/30 mL of unscented moisturizer or petroleum jelly.
Oils can also be applied to one’s tools to cleanse (lavender), dedicate (rue), or purify (copal). Apply only where lips and food or drink won’t contact the oil.
Which oil you choose for any magical working is dependent on two things: the nature of your magic and your personal preference.
Magical workings fall into one of five classes: attraction, increase, personal growth, repulsion (workings of protection fall into this class), and dissipation (bindings fall into this class). If you are truly cash-strapped, just five essential oils will cover all your bases. As I write this it costs $7-10US for a 30mL vial of most oils.
A sixth, nag champa, is most often available as inexpensive ready-made incense, and in fact seems to work best in that form. For that reason I shall not discuss it further, but it’s a wonderful addition and a truly powerful divinatory/meditation scent.
Attraction Workings: An attraction working brings to you something you do not presently have. As this is often a work of manifestation, any heavy earthy oil will contribute positive energy. The longstanding fave-rave is patchouli. However, this scent is too much for some, and others simply dislike it. Vetivert is a useful substitute.
If the working is not concerned with a primarily earthy outcome like money or sex, a lighter scent such as rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang (all three of which tend to be quite expensive), or neroli may be used.
Oil from any plant linked to Venus will perform admirably in an attraction working.
Increase Workings: An increase working gives you more of that which you already have. Please contrast with attraction. They are not the same.
Bergamot and cinnamon are two of my favorites for these workings. Bergamot is the lighter and more floral of the two, and can be applied to skin with minimal dilution.
Cinnamon, its cheaper relative cassia – most “cinnamon” sold in the US is actually cassia – and cinnamon leaf are very much alike. They are heavier and better for earth workings than bergamot, whose power seems to be distributed fairly evenly among the other three elements. None of the three “cinnamons” should be applied directly to the skin without heavy dilution, at least double that suggested in the paragraph above.
Oil from any plant linked to Jupiter suits increase workings.
Personal Growth Workings: For most people clary sage, which seems to call up wisdom from somewhere in our psyches, is the scent of choice. Sandalwood may work as well or better for those who draw their primary inspiration from the religions of the East.
However, personal growth is just that: personal. I strongly recommend that you look at your astrological chart, see where the elemental deficit lies, and use oils that are associated with that element. Tally your Ascendant and Midheaven as well.
If you have the fewest number of points and planets distributed among Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius, your deficit is fire.
If you have the fewest number of points and planets distributed among Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn, your deficit is earth.
If you have the fewest number of points and planets distributed among Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius, your deficit is air.
If you have the fewest number of points and planets distributed among Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces, your deficit is water.
Oils from plants linked to Jupiter or Mercury are often helpful. If you feel you lack discipline, oils of plants associated with Saturn will serve you best.
Repulsion/protection Workings: Repulsion is the driving away of energy whose source you cannot pinpoint. Protection is the repulsion of energy from a specific source. Essential oils that can perform one of these functions can perform either. If you have a creepy “I’m being watched” feeling at work, you might first do a repulsion spell. When you learn which of your co-workers makes you uncomfortable, it’s time for a protection spell worked against that person.
Essential oil from a reed called dragon’s blood (it is an intense red color) is the primary essential oil to be used in repulsion/protection workings. It has a rich sweet scent just saved from being fruity by a woody undertone. A close second? Benzoin creates billowy, tangy clouds, and I do mean alarm-setting-off clouds, of smoke when burned on charcoal. If neither of these pleases you, the Roman Catholic Church’s incense of choice, frankincense and myrrh, is a powerful agent of repulsion/protection. The Church uses it to rid the area around the altar of unclean spirits, a fact largely forgotten today.
Asafoetida smells so foul I use it rarely, and only in the open air. It’s just awful, but incredibly effective.
Tea tree and other tangy/citrus/woody scents fall into this category. Resins of any kind are apt to be useful for repulsion/protection rituals.
Plants linked to Saturn supply the most effective repulsion incenses. Those linked to Mars are best at protection.
Dissipation/binding Workings: To dissipate, the energy of your ritual must scatter the unwanted energy. This is a function of Neptune, often called the “higher octave” of Venus. Any scent of Venus’ will do, but the heavier the better. Tuberose, old rose, ylang-ylang, and high-quality amber – the resin, not hardened sufficiently to be worn as jewelry yet – can all dissipate energy quite well. If you find a heavy sweet scent cloying, for you it has a connection to Neptune.
To bind, the energy of your ritual must stop the energy the person puts into the act you find unpleasant. Primarily, this is Saturn’s work: his scents are heavy and may be unpleasant. If someone needs to be bound (we once had a person in our neighborhood who liked to poison dogs), I reach for the asafoetida, and because it stinks, flat-out reeks, I work outdoors. (The asafoetida saw this man caught in two days, and the park in which I used it survived.) Storax, myrrh without frankincense, and poppy are all useful for this essentially Saturnian procedure. Poppy may make you sleepy in a small confined space.
I keep some oils around for non-magical purposes as well. Lavendar can do anything from soften your skin to soothe a burn to relieve a headache if you apply it to your temples; I buy this oil in large bottles to add to shampoo and liquid soap. Thyme oil is the intense flavor in Listerine mouthwash – it’s a great oral disinfectant. Peppermint oil can be taken in a glass of water if your stomach is upset, and in fact will settle any digestive problem from nausea to gas to diarrhea. (A friend puts a few drops of this oil into her dog’s water dish because the animal farts so much. He still farts, but now the house smells like peppermint instead of doggy gas.) Tea tree keeps the skin of your feet happy and fungus-free. Spruce oil can be added to your laundry detergent for clothes that smell wonderfully clean and fresh.
You will find long, long lists of oils and their uses on the Net. Some list specific magical uses, some have planetary connections, and some describe the elemental correspondence of oils. The last two are a less “cookbook” approach to choosing an oil, and will allow you greater freedom as you become more comfortable with the correspondences.
Find a system that works for you, develop your favorites from there, use them, enjoy them, and nurture your partnership with these wonderful substances. They have a great deal to offer.
And most of them smell really nice!