Herbal Talismans in Kitchen Witchcraft


The practice of kitchen witchcraft is most often defined as an incorporation of magical, ritual activities into everyday housekeeping chores. As is usual in witchcraft, the particulars are up to every practitioner: whether we do more witchcraft than chores, or vice versa, whether we treat the chore as a magical rite (though never a magical rite as a chore!), or devise a special ritual that incorporates the housekeeping... whatever we do is up to us because it is our home.

Personally, I am a very practical witch: You may have noticed there's far more cooking here than spells. I like my activities to be useful, and to result in more than purely ritualistic satisfaction. Perhaps that's why there are no crystals hanging from variously coloured threads in my house. However, I do keep quite a bit of various herbal talismans.
The great thing about them is that they can be just as practically useful as spiritually significant. My two favourites are witch bags and witch bottles, since I mostly work with herbs, spices and food.

Witch Bags

Also sometimes called spell bags, charm bags or plain magic bags. ("Plain magic" heh.) They are cloth pouches filled with magical ingredients, usually dried herbs and other dry matter, that can be stored in the house or carried on the person. There is practically no limit as to what a witch bag can be used for - it can be a charm to protect the house (or the person), to draw luck or money or happiness or creativity or anything else. It all depends on Your intentions and the ingredients You use.
Apart from the ritualistic and magical aspects of making one of those, there is a handful of practical matters that can arise when You set out to do this. Here are a few things witches I've known have not taken into consideration when making witch bags:
  • Is the fabric for the pouch strong enough? If You want to carry it around (in a purse, in the car), can it take the friction, the tossing around?
  • Will the fabric hold the contents in, or will the finer powder slip through the weave? (Common problem with linen bags, especially when they contain powdered eggshell or ash.)
  • Is the fastening strong enough, or will You find Yourself covered in fennel seeds one of those days?
  • What smell will it have? Will it weaken over time, or will it penetrate Your clothes, your purse?
  • Can you actually keep it in the kitchen? Are the ingredients safe for a food preparation area?
  • Will it be flammable? Or will it stain? Or itch? Or prick?
These are just a few examples that are worth thinking about. I certainly know of one expensive purse that would not be massacred by the owner's cat if a witch bag was made with a bit more forethought, especially where catmint was concerned.

Witch Bottles

Bottles. Thank you, captain obvious!
Originally used as a countermeasure against witches (when we were supposed to only do harm - You know, 16th, 17th century), witch bottles are supposed to draw the curses, evil and the general malice of the world, and neutralise it before it can do You harm. Back in the burning times, they were quite disgusting, filled with hair, nail clippings, urine or dead skin of the person they were supposed to protect (or all of the above, for maximum yuck factor). The idea was that the curse will be confused by the presence of such intimate matter, mistake the bottle for the person and hurt the bottle instead. There may be something in it, though if that was enough I think my bath outlet alone would make me immune to all ills of the universe.
Since then, witch bottles have evolved somewhat, containing more symbolic material, though if You do want to keep urine and nail clippings in it, I won't stop You. Popular solutions include alcohol (spirits or wine), vinegar, oil, or a herbal infusion, but sand, earth or gravel are also common fillers. Healing herbs or protective herbs are usually put in these: the evil is drawn into the bottle, drowned in the solution (or "earthed" in sand etc) and then the aura is healed by the protective herbs. Poisonous plants can also work, as a more potent weapon against evil, as well as typically "dangerous" objects such as iron nails or needles.
Similar to witch bags, there are a few mundane things to think of when making a witch bottle.
  • Is it airtight? Because You want it to be shut and shut well. Do the corks/lids/caps really fit?
  • Can it take the sun? Most edible oils should not be exposed to direct sunlight, especially if you want to use them, but even decorative oils can lose colour or molder if exposed.
  • Is it safe? It's all very well if only You have access to Your kitchen, but what if someone else added a spoonful to the salad? Or took a bath in the contents? How about if it falls from the shelf?
  • Will you be able to take the ingredients out again? I once made a really pretty decanter full of stuff... and then had to get really creative to clean it out.
And so on, and so forth... remember, just because You're doing magic doesn't mean You're immune to the mundane.

The best part about these is that they can double as practical household items. When I make spell bags, I make them out of ingredients that will also repel moths (or just smell nice), and store them in my wardrobes. When I make witch bottles, they double as cooking ingredients, so that a bottle of cinnamon and nutmeg oil will sit quietly on a shelf and (hopefully) draw prosperity, and from time to time give a spoonful for the golden cake. My protective bottle is a vial of wine vinegar infused with lavender, and though I don't use it for cooking (seriously, that would be like drinking from a wasp trap), I feel much better with its peaceful aura than I would with a bottleful of rusted nails or something equally aggressive. A vial of poison may sound cool, but it's akin to keeping a loaded gun in the house: a tight knot of malice and ill intent.

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