I often see the question asked, "what herbs and magical stuff could you just not do without", or "if I have limited space/resources what are the must-have magical items for an effective practice". It's a very good question! So I thought I would address it here on the blog.
Before we get into herbs and oils and the like, I would like to re-state that being skilled at at least one form of divination is INVALUABLE for a magical practitioner. It can help you choose what would be best to use in any given situation, especially if you may not be sure or only have access to limited resources. You can make some very powerful magic with a candle and a prayer, and even moreso if you can back that up with 3 herbs that suit your case. Divination can help you determine what methods to use that not only suit your limitations, but will also be effective.
If you are new to divination, then I suggest learning how to dowse with a pendulum, as it's very straight-forward and easy to learn. Since I already wrote a short article that included a link to a fantastic free online resources where you can learn how to use a pendulum, I won't say more, but will instead refer you to that post, Learning a Form of Divination: Pendulums.
Now to the fun nitty-gritty stuff. I'll start with what I feel are some basic categories of magical items, and then talk about the gotta-have-its within each group:
* Spiritual Cleansing
This is, in my opinion, the most important category that is absolutely indispensable to any magical practice. Staying spiritually spic-and-span will help you stay well protected, it will keep off any crossed conditions or curses that may come your way, and it will keep your roads open to good fortune in all areas of life. If you stock this part of your apothecary right, you'll have very little need for anything else if you're forced to keep things very minimal.
So what things would I recommend in this catagory? Let's start with the stuff that you can get at any grocery store for very little money:
*Salt - Great for all cleansing needs, all you need to do is bless it (yes, you can do this yourself) and you're pretty good to go. You can keep a large canister of blessed salt in your kitchen cupboard, use it to season your food, and then it will also be there on-hand when you need it for more spiritual purposes. Any kind of salt will do - table salt, sea salt, kosher salt - take your pick. When you do use it magically, make sure to pray your specific intent over it as you employ is, as salt is very versatile and you'll want to communicate the exact way in which you wish it to work.
*Eggs - Another great cleansing tool that serves mundane duty as a breakfast and baking ingredient. Any egg can be used in egg cleansing, just make sure it is room temperature before you use it for that purpose. Also make sure to cleanse the egg with at least some salt water (that you've crafted with your blessed salt and prayed over) so that it is a suitable spiritual tool before you begin cleansing with it.
*Sage - While desert white sage is the strain of sage generally reached for for spiritual cleansing needs, common sage works just as well. When burned prayerfully sage is a powerful spiritual cleanser that not only pushes out negative energies, but also provides a temporary protective boundary. (If you're unfamiliar with how to cleanse by smudging, read through my article How to Smudge/Fumigate Properly.)
Outside of its spiritual cleansing qualities, sage is also extremely useful in magical works where you need wisdom, or need protection.
Because it is also a common cooking spice, sage is available at nearly any grocery store. Larger grocery stores will even often carry sprigs of fresh sage that you can take home and dry out for use in smudging. However, Salvia officinalis (common garden sage) is extremely easy to grow in a wide variety of climates. A $2 package of sage seeds will provide you with more than enough to get some sage plants going in your garden or flower-box. One plant will yield plenty of leaves for drying and burning. It also has very attractive purple flowers that will brighten up your yard, or balcony planter. It enjoys plenty of sun and just a very moderate amount of water. It's a hardy, very low-maintenance plant that nearly anyone could manage to grow successfully.
*Murphy's Oil Soap / Original Pine Sol - Containing citronella oil Murphy's Oil Soap is a cheap and effective tool for when you need to do a thorough cleansing where washing the the floors, wiping down walls, baseboards, window sills and door-frames, as well as other surfaces is indicated. Original Pine Sol is also an very affordable and excellent spiritual cleanser as it contains pine oil (it has to be "original" in order to actually have pine oil in it, the other Pine-Sol products do NOT have pine oil as an ingredient). Both Pine Sol and Murphy's Oil Soap must be diluted before using - the bottle will say 1/4cup to a mop-bucket of water, but for spiritual cleansing purposes you can get away with half-that - so once you have it mixed into your mop-bucket, drop in a small handful of your blessed salt, mix it all up, and then pray over it. You've now got a fantastic cleansing tool!
If you wish to draw money into your home, using Pine Sol would be better than Murphy's Oil Soap, as pine is not only a strong cleanser, but it also can draw steady money through its properties as an evergreen. If you live in an area with pine trees, you could gather pine needles and prayerfully add them to Murphy's Oil Soap to bring the money-drawing effect into that cleanser. Of course, if you have access to pine needles (which are FREE), you can boil them into a tea and add that tea to your mopbucket to create a 100% natural spiritual cleanser that will also draw money!
*Ammonia - The "big guns" of spiritual cleansing, ammonia is extremely potent and need only be brought out when a really DEEP cleansing is needed or wanted. However it is very cheap and readily available at grocery stores. When using it for spiritual cleansing only a VERY small amount is need - and I mean VERY SMALL. Like 1 teaspoon. That's all. You can add a capful to a cleansing bath (seriously, do not add more than a capful or teaspoon since your skin will be in contact with it - more is NOT better when we're talking ammonia), or to a mopbucket full of your Pine Sol/Murphy's Oil Soap and blessed salt mixture to really increase the effect. If your home is really feeling heavy, along with a normal thorough cleansing involving floorwashing and fumigation, pouring a capful of ammonia down each drain in your house daily can help really eliminate stubborn negative energy.
*Olive Oil - This traditional Biblical oil can be used as an all-purpose anointing oil for candles, and for your own person when in a pinch. While it's always best to have some sort of herbal component to help focus a specific magical intent and lend its spirit to the case, your fervent prayer can be used to "season" olive oil with the energy of your petition and help infuse it with divine power. You can also use it as a base for creating your own herbal oils by macerating herbs or roots into the oil, and then letting it sit for a period of days or weeks during which you shake it often and pray over it regularly. That oil can then be used for any magical situation where oils can be used...and that's a great many!
*White Candles - White candles can be used in place of any other colored candle that a spell may call for, and so having them on-hand can enable you to work candle magic at any time regardless of the purpose. Most grocery stores have a small section with candles in them, and among the many (toxically chemically-scented) candles there you will likely find inexpensive plain white candles about 6" tall and usually labelled as "Emergency Candles". These are intended to be used during a power outage, but you can use them for whatever you like, including spiritual work! Nowadays it's common to find cheap packages of white unscented tea-lights in this section as well. These are also great for spiritual work, and can even be preferable over the emergency candles because they do not require any sort of holder as they are self-contained in their little tin. Generally speaking, I prefer tealights, but also keep emergency candles on hand for when I really need to do some carving onto the body of the candle.
So now that I've covered the cheap and basic cleansers that are available at your local corner store, I'll move into spiritual cleansing products that may cost a bit more and that will need to be procured through a reputable magical practitioner or retailer. Of course, if you're good at crafting your own goods and have the know-how, you of course can make these yourself!
13-Herb Bath - This is a mixture of 13 spiritually cleansing and jinx-removing herbs that cover the gamut of negativity removal. No matter what form of crossed conditions you're experiencing this mixture has at least one herb in it that targets that source of negativity. It's great to have on-hand for when you need some good spiritual cleansing, but may not be sure what the original cause of the problem was.
Having 13-Herb Bath can also help fill-out your spiritual housecleaning needs. You can prepare the 13-Herb Bath tea as usual, but instead of adding the tea to a bath, you can add it to a mopbucket of water and use it wash your home that way. Other people take the tea and asperge the effected area with it as a cleansing technique. Dipping pine-needles, some sage sprigs, or sprigs of other cleansing herbs into the tea and then flicking the drops around the space is a very traditional way to execute an asperging.
Van Van Oil - This is a fantastic all-purpose formula that is an excellent cleanser, but also an effective road opener, and can also draw all manner of good luck and fortune, as well as provide a measure of protection, and even empowerment! Simply pray your specific intent over it before using it so that the effect you need is what manifests. If you need it to clear away messes, then pray that is cleanse you. If you wish it to clear away spiritual obstacles that may be holding you back, then pray for it to help open your roads. If you wish it to draw a new lover to you, pray for it. Same goes for money or luck! If you are going to be going to an interview or other important event, pray that it empower you and bring you success in your endeavor. If you think you may be at risk for picking up negativity, then pray that it keep you clean and protected. Van Van does it all! (You can read more detail about Van Van oil in my article here.)
In addition to dressing candles with it, you can add Van Van Oil to salt to make Van Van Bath Salts that you can use to bathe, or can add to mopwater to wash your floors with and draw that spiritual effect into your home. You can even dress your clothes by adding a small amount (a generous pinch will more than do) of the Van Van salt mixture to the rinse cycle of your laundry. You can wear the Van Van oil as a personal power scent, and/or also use it to anoint areas of the body that may be vulnerable to negativity - such as the crown of the head, base of the skull, soles of the feet, palms of the hands, and solar plexus area.
And that, my friends, is the bare-bones best-of-the-best for Spiritual Cleansing. Generally speaking, barring some really nasty circumstances, you should be able to get by very nicely with just those things. As you can see, bringing Van Van mixture into things really helps make minimalism flexible and effective, since you can also use it to draw any positive condition to you, and even provide a measure of spiritual protection to boot.
If you want to expand a bit from the Van Van formula, but still wish to be able to draw all kinds of positive things into your life with a minimal investment, there are certainly things you can do on that front. Some you can get at the grocery store, some you shouldn't have too much trouble finding at any health oriented store or magical retailer that carries bulk herbs - and if you're reading this article, it means you have access to a computer and the internet, and therefore a wide world of resources are available to you if you're unable to locate something locally.
So, let's start at the grocery store. You'll find that the spice section is your magical friend!
Cinnamon - Cinnamon is great for drawing love and money, and it also adds "heat" (and therefore speed/force) to your workings. Ground or sticks don't matter when it comes down to it. Aesthetically, I prefer the sticks. But if you use ground cinnamon for cooking, then using that when you need it's magical abilities will of course be simpler. As with anything else, pray your intents over it, and ask its spirit to bring its spiritual qualities to bear for your aid as you use it.
Orange Peel - you can buy dried orange peel, or you can get some oranges and make your own. Either way oranges attracts love and money, and do so with an energy that encourages long-lasting results, rather than the quick-and-dirty method that "hotter" herbs may bring. Balance one out with the other for a nice stable result. However, it can also be called upon for speed - so if you need it to be speedy for you, just ask.
Sugar / Honey - Sweeteners can be used for a wide-variety of circumstances where you wish to be favored. It can make people and circumstances "sweet on you", helping you to come out ahead. Use it to get someone you fancy to grow sweet on you, or use it to get that loan officer to feel sweetly towards you. You can also add it to general love or money-drawing works to ensure that those who you draw will already be sweetened to your cause.
The next two items are still commonly available, though not likely at your local grocery store.
Magnets - The modern equivalent of the magnetized lodestones, they still are very effective in magical works where you want to draw something to you, and can easily and cheaply be found in dollar stores and craft stores. Some practitioners favor them because their magnetic draw is exponentially stronger than that of a more traditional lodestone. However old-school workers still prefer lodestones since they are natural, have a spirit, and can be worked with on that more shamanic level. But effective work can be done with magnets! Because they draw no matter what, you can tap into that energy and use them to draw nearly anything you desire.
Patchouli - Patchouli is another extremely versatile herb that can draw love, money, luck, and also provide protection and jinx-breaking. I absolutely LOVE patchouli and it nearly always divines well for mojo bags or bottle spells intended to draw positive things. It is extremely Earthy in tone and energy, and so nearly any earthly need or desire can be drawn closer to you with patchouli.
If you don't have an herb store near you that sells the herb, you may be able to find the essential oil at a health food store. If you do buy the oil, make sure it's an actual essential oil and NOT a fragrance oil. Fragrance oils are made from toxic synthetic chemicals, and though they may smell like the plant, they do not contain any of the essence of the plant and are therefore devoid of spiritual value.
Now to the specialty formulas that can be used for a variety of drawing purposes, and that will need to be procured from a reputible magical practitioner or retailer, unless you have the means to make-it):
Attraction Oil - This is a fantastic, very potent all-purpose drawing formula. It also smells absolutely delicious! In the same way that I spoke of adding Van Van to salt to create a bath, floorwash, laundry dressing and more, you can do the same thing with Attraction Oil. And of course you can dress candles with it, as well as wear it as a personal scent. Remember to pray your intent when using it to help fine-tune its flexible abilities to your specific needs.
Special Oil #20 - Another deliciously divine fragrance, this blend also can be used in any spell that is for a positive purpose. It not only draws good things, but can be used to bring blessings, provide a measure of protection, and much more. It's similar to Van Van in the huge variety of cases that it can aid in, but has completely different herbs used in the formula which all balance each other out very nicely. You can read more about this formula in my article, Special Oil #20 - Your Powerful Go-To Hoodoo Oil for All Things Positive.
Using these items, there's really nothing that you can't draw into your life. If you can't afford or don't have space for a million different specialized oils and herbs, these will provide you with all the spiritual support you'll likely need to start making real, powerful changes in your circumstances.
Drawing things to you is generally an endeavor that promotes success, but sometimes we want a little extra something to give us a leg-up and really ensure that we succeed in a particular circumstance. This is something that empowers us personally, helping us to perform the best that we possibly can, which can help further our drawing efforts. Educational pursuits is one area of life that is extremely important and which can make a huge difference in what we can achieve in the world.
So, back to the grocery store again!
Bay - This is the herb of success, par excellence! It's also readily available in the spice row of your food mart, which is mighty convenient. Brew some up and wash your living area with it to help impregnate the space with the energy of success, or add the tea to a spiritual bath. Put your hair into a bottle or cloth bag with some bay leaves for success, some sage for wisdom, and a petition paper wrapped around a magnet to draw success to you! Or grind bay leaves into some olive oil and let it sit for a few weeks, making sure to pray your intention for the oil to bring success over it each day. Then use the oil to anoint your head before any situation where you need to be successful. There are all sorts of different ways you can use it.
Not available at the grocery, but a very powerful and valued root in conjure is:
John the Conqueror Root - This root is fabulous for any situation where you want more personal power and success. Whether that's success in love, money, luck, school, business, etc, John the Conqueror is just tops! Add it to mojo bags, bottle spells, baths, washes, and more. It will add some extra power to any work, but especially for works that call on one's personal power and vital nature for success.
Now, this root tends to have a very forceful, masculine energy. So if you consider yourself to be extremely soft and feminine, then you may wish to get your hands on a root to feel its energy first-hand and see if it's right for you or not. Women and men with strongly feminine qualities can absolutely use this root - I do all the time. But occasionally you will find people for whom it may not be appropriate energetically. (If you happen to be one of them, you can try substituting a Queen Elizabeth Root which is still very powerful but carries a more feminine signature.)
If you have a good magical herb retailer near you, or at least have access to one through the internet, you may want to invest in getting a few of these whole roots, along with some cut and sifted root chips.
Controlling / Influence
Sometimes you need a little extra edge to get through to someone, or to get your goal. Some situation simply call for a bit more manipulation than others. If you find yourself in such a circumstance, you can head out for the following herb.
Licorice Root - Not the rope candies, but the root are what you're looking for. Licorice root gives you power and influence over people or situations to which it is applied. You can combine it with a sweetener, like sugar or honey, to help sweeten the person to your will/opinion while influencing them to go along with you.
Some high-end groceries will carry licorice sticks for seasoning and cooking. Otherwise you may need to head to a health food store, where they may carry licorice root as a digestive aid or tea (it's such a yummy tea). If the health food store doesn't carry the loose sticks of the root, they may very well carry licorice root tea. You can buy that and just break open the bags for your needs. Just make sure that you're only getting licorice root in the tea, and not a blend of other herbs.
Most of your needs in this department will be met by the items listed in the spiritual cleansing section. There shouldn't be too many circumstances where you'd need something else...however they can occur. For instance you may need to get rid of a very troublesome person, and you want some magical back-up to your real-world actions (like calling the police, or otherwise reporting their actions to the appropriate authorities).
So this trip to the grocery store will have us back in the spice row, and also checking out the condiments.
Black Pepper - Generally used in driving pestiferous people away and for keeping them from coming back, black pepper is commonly mixed with salt (see how useful salt is) and prayed over with the intent of making someone move away and stay away. It is then spread where the enemy will walk on it, or else is used to create a boundary around the area you want to keep free of that person's influence. If you're going to be spreading it where the enemy will be walking, mix up your salt and pepper with some of the local soil (each area's soil looks different, so take some from very near where you'll be spreading it - the dirt from your yard might not look the same as the dirt from the business district across town) to help disguise it. Speak your command as you spread it around.
Red Pepper - This is used in much the same fashion as the black pepper, but has a much more hot and aggressive edge to it. Red pepper is a key ingredient in Hot Foot formulas that are intended to cause a person's feet to itch and burn and therefore drive that person away as they look elsewhere for relief.
Vinegar - Used to sour a person's situation, it can be used in conjunction with salt and peppers in order to make things less pleasant for a person, so that they are more likely to seek greener pastures elsewhere. Any vinegar will do, but red wine vinegar can be combined with several common herbal ingredients, garlic and cayenne pepper among them, to create Four Thieves Vinegar which can be used to aid in health and in protection...and also makes a really yummy salad dressing!
Eucalyptus - Not available at the grocery, but is pretty easy to get elsewhere, eucalyptus can also help drive away unwanted people or influences or even bad habits. Boil up the herbs and add the tea to a bath to help break away from habits, people or negative circumstances, or if you're using the essential oil you can add it to salts as mentioned with Van Van and Attraction oil. If you're trying to drive a person away, then powder some of the herb and add it to your black pepper and salt while praying your intent.
If you can't find the herb, you can get the essential oil at nearly any health food store, and sometimes at drug stores since it's such a great decongestant. Remember to only use REAL essential oils, and not fragrance oil.
Camphor resin - This is a very strong incense that calms the spiritual atmosphere when things are very chaotic, and also drives away unwanted spirit and ghost activity. It can also be used to protect rooms for spirits and ghosts, by placing a square in each corner of a room, or by placing a square in a glass of water that you keep by the bedside. Camphor is toxic when ingested, so before you put squares on the floors of rooms make sure no small children or animals are at risk of eating them, and if you keep some in a glass at your bedside (change it each day) make sure you don't drink it during the night by accident! Camphor will work on most common classes of spirits and ghosts that you will likely encounter, but if you're in the unpleasant situation of having problems with a higher level entity such as a true demon, you WILL need outside help and cannot count on camphor as a solution. Camphor resin is available at most Asian markets, but can easily be found online, too.
Obviously, not everyone will want or need to resort to the more aggressive energies associated with vinegar and red peppers when dealing with banishing, but at least knowing the option is there on the shelf at the supermarket can be helpful in times of need.
A condition formula that works well in these circumstances and can be applied in many different situations are:
Banishing - a more gentle formula than Hot Foot, intended to drive away unwanted people or influences, including unwelcome spirits. Suitable for Pagan paths and Eastern paths that do not allow harm to be brought upon anyone else.
If you're keeping up with your spiritual cleansing in a regular routine manner, then you shouldn't have too much need for protection, as most of the problems that you'd normally need to protect against wouldn't be able to get good enough hold on you to cause problems before you'd just cleanse them away. However there are always circumstances where a more active line of defense is recommended.
If you're going to be doing spiritual work on a consistent basis, then you'll want to have at least some basic defenses in place. This can be quite simple, such as a red flannel bag with the hairs from everyone living in a house sandwiched between two holy cards of St. Michael, and with some salt and black pepper added that's been prayed over for protection. This can be kept on a hearth altar and fed with Van Van Oil, or Fiery Wall of Protection Oil, as well as saying the Prayer to St. Michael over it weekly.
You could also place outward facing mirrors that have been prayed over and anointed with Fiery Wall of Protection oil at each window and door. This will help deflect any incoming negativity.
So this brings us to our first cheap item in this category of work:
Mirrors - Most dollarstores and craft stores will have a variety of mirror options for you to choose from, from small 1-2" size pieces, and 6"x6" pieces that are meant as decorative candle plates for pillar candles, to compact vanity mirrors that one could carry in a purse. Any of these will do - just don't let your reflection get caught in the ones you will be buying to use for protective purposes.
If you live near an Asian market, you may even be able to find Ba Gua mirrors that come ready to hang, and are made specifically for the purpose of reflecting negative energy away from the home. They even have many protective symbols already painted onto them, and are usually very inexpensive.
No matter what kind of mirror you choose, prepare them by cleansing them, and praying over them while anointing them with an appropriate substance to set them working for protection, hang these at each window and door. You'll want to clean them on at least a monthly basis to keep them working strongly.
Small mirrors that have not been used for another purpose can also be used to send any negativity or attacks back to their source, by burning butted candles dress with Reversal Oil on them into which the enemies name has been carved in backwards mirror-writing. Sprinkle your sage (see, you can use it for reversing curses, too...sooo handy) around the candle and mirror in a counter-clockwise direction. You can read more about using mirrors in Reversal work at my article Return to Sender: Reversing and Mirror Work to Restore Balance.
Next we'll head back to the grocery spice aisle.
White/Yellow Mustard Seeds - These protect against all forms of negativity and danger, whether it be physical or spiritual in nature. They can be added to a protection mojo or bottle spell while your intent is prayed over them.
Basil - This protects against all kinds of negativity, and can also be used for spiritual cleansing purposes.
Marjoram - This herb is strongly protective of the home environment, so is perfect for using to keep attacks from landing at your house.
Rosemary - Another strongly protective herb that also has special ties to the house and home. Along with protecting the homefront, it can be used to restore peace and harmony to a household when there has been turmoil.
You can also use rosemary in other works where you need to aid your memory. And if you grow some by your door, you can be sure that the woman of the house will always have the upper-hand! It can also be used in healing work, and in Latin American folk-practice it is linked with the Blessed Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez who helps bring healing miracles by aiding a sick person in finding the right treatment and doctors for their condition.
If you want a good strong protection formula that you can use, then I would suggest Fiery Wall of Protection. It is strongly linked with the energies of St. Michael the Archangel, so calling on his aid when using it is recommended, though not required.
Offensive - Crossing, Hexing, Revenge, etc
I don't personally get involved with much offensive revenge/crossing work, so I don't consider it a must-have in one's apothecary. Your mileage may vary, but if we're looking at a theoretical bare-minimum stocking of magical goods, there are few situations that I can imagine where hexing ingredients would be something you just couldn't live and practice without.
However a resourceful practitioner will have researched all the various uses for the herbs in their collection, and would likely be able to make what they need from items they already have on hand. Including herbs I've spoken about here today! (Hint, hint.)
Also, there are defensive acts that you can perform with very little, that also have an offensive kick to them (hello, mirrors) if you're just itching to put a little hurt on someone for some reason.
I hope that this has helped you get an idea of how you can start stocking your magical cabinet with little money and without going too far from home. Remember that conjure is nothing if not practical, so there are many uses for items that most people already have kicking around their cupboards.