When the topic of witch's potions and brews is discussed in books, it's all too often relegated to an absurd or disturbing status with lizard's legs and dragon's scales thrown in for good measure. While tales of evil "witches" cooking up compulsory love potions or gruesome poisons in a giant cauldron can be entertaining, they don't really provide any useful or practical information about actual witch's brews or how to use them in our everyday lives. In fact, there is comparatively little information available about potions and their uses; most books are more focused on incense and oil recipes rather than water-based mixtures. My latest book, The Witch's Book of Potions features dozens of potion and brew recipes, and it's my hope that there shall be a renewed interest in the art and practice of creating these mixtures. My distinction between potion and brew is that a potion can be drunk, but a brew cannot. There are so many possibilities for a good potion or brew and I’d like to list my thirteen favorite ways to use magical liquid infusions in everyday practice.
- Magical Beverage
The first use is the most obvious: to make a potion and drink it so that its magic can be absorbed by the body. The beauty of this method of magic is in its versatility. Potions can be drunk to meet a wide variety of needs. There are recipes for love and attraction, increased psychic ability, protection, spiritual cleansing, even mixtures to create a greater magical alignment to the energies of the Sabbats and esbats. Another advantage of creating drinkable magic is that since the ingredients must be edible, they're often easy to obtain and many can be found in a local supermarket.
One disadvantage of potion magic is the need to be very aware of any ingredients that could potentially cause an allergic reaction or other medical issue. Many herbs (such as mugwort) can cause problems during pregnancy and other ingredients (such as willow bark) should not be used by anyone on blood-thinning medication. With a little research and knowledge of your own allergies, if any, it is usually easy to identify whether a potion is safe or not. If there is any uncertainty, it is best to avoid drinking it at all.
- Ritual Energy Enhancer
Another great use of this form of magic is to help energize and create a proper atmosphere for other spells or ritual work. This is most often done through the use of a brew rather than a potion. One of the ways to use a brew to enhance the atmosphere of a spell or ritual is to use it to asperge the ritual area, either in addition to or in place of the saltwater that is often sprinkled around the area prior to a rite. In this way, we can infuse an energy aligned with our goal into the ritual space right from the very beginning of the working.
- Anointing Liquid
A great way to use a brew or an unsweetened potion is as an anointing liquid. This can make a fine substitute for a magical oil or a perfume. Talismans and charm bags can be lightly anointed with an appropriate brew in order to increase their effectiveness and seal in the magic without the heavy residue that an oil can leave. It can also be very convenient to whip up a brew on the stove if the required magical oil is not readily available.
- Cleansing Liquid
Though potions and brews can be used to help imbue a person or object with power to reach a magical goal, they can also be used to strip away unwanted energies when needed. Washing the hands, anointing the wrists, forehead, the back of the neck, bend of the knees, and soles of the feet are excellent methods of using a brew for personal energetic cleansing. You can also dip amulets and talismans in a light cleansing brew (such as an infusion of thyme and rosemary) to rid them of unwanted, incompatible energies or dip them into stronger brews (with herbs such as nettle, mullein, and some garlic, etc.) to strip them of their power.
- Plant Charging Liquid
An unusual task for a witch's brew to perform is to be an energizing nourishment for a growing plant. This can be a simple yet powerful method of nurturing a magical herb garden, whether it's a plot of land outdoors or just a seed tray in a sunny kitchen window. The keys here are to make sure that the brew you choose to water the plants with has an energy that matches the natural magical affinities of the plant itself and that the brew doesn't have any ingredients that would pose harmful of toxic to the plant. Never add salt to brew meant to be poured on plants or the land and strong ingredients such as peppers, garlic, or an outright poisonous herb would best be omitted.
- Magical Floor Wash
A classic powerful use of a brew in magical practice particularly for cleansing is to pour it into wash water and use that to clean the floors to cleanse a dwelling of unwanted energies. This is an excellent method of cleansing provided that your floors are able to be scrubbed or mopped. If you have carpeted floors, it's possible to add a little brew to a carpet shampooer as long as it won't stain, though it may feel somewhat less magical. If that is the case, the following use of a brew may be more helpful.
- Magical Room Spray
A carefully strained (and of course, cooled) potion or brew can be poured into a spray bottle and used to cleanse a room or to charge it with a specific quality, such as comfort or protection. This is a super easy way to charge the atmosphere of a room so long as reasonable precautions are taken to remove or protect fragile fabrics and objects that shouldn't be exposed to liquids; of course, people use air freshener room sprays all the time, so most people are familiar with how to use them properly.
- Scrying Medium
An absolute favorite way of mine to utilize a potion is to make it into a scrying medium. Though I love crystal balls and scrying mirrors, my favorite way to perform divination by gazing is through a liquid-filled cauldron. By making a double batch of a psychic potion, drinking some and using the rest as the liquid in the cauldron, I've found a marked improvement in scrying ability.
- Bath Brew
Though bath bombs and bath salts are popular (magical or otherwise), a good brew can be used instead for magical cleansing or energizing for all the power with none of the fizz. Brews are also easier to make on a moment's notice if needed and as long as they are properly strained, are free of the residual clean up issues found with other methods such as bath oils. All that has to be done is brew together the ingredients, strain, and pour into a tub of water, and then simply soaking in the bath will do the rest. Of course, the standard caution of not using toxic or volatile ingredients in the brew since it will be in full contact with your skin should be emphasized.
- Simmering Potpourri
A supremely effective means of shifting the energy in the atmosphere of an area is to create a simmering potpourri, which is essentially a magical infusion whose sole purpose is to lightly boil over heat and release its energy as it bubbles and steams. This action can let out quite a bit of magical power into the surrounding area and is very useful not only in cleansings or banishing, but also to facilitate a proper ritual atmosphere for spell-work or holiday celebrations. There is also something so wonderfully "witchy" about stirring a large pot of bubbling brew as its magic rises into the air and this action alone helps to promote a mindset much more conducive to effective ritual. The primary caution here would be to make sure that the liquid does not boil away and leave the pot to burn, so all that's needed is a watchful eye.
- Spell Bottle Enhancers
I enjoy using bottle magic in my personal practice. Combining several ingredients into a bottle and charging it with intention and power is akin to creating a magical battery that will continually radiate the essence of your spell. For many of these bottles, I like to add an appropriate brew into the bottle to bind the other ingredients together and strengthen the magic.
- Magical Soup, Sauce, or Gravy Base
Where potion-making meets other forms of food magic we reach a wonderful nexus point of kitchen witchery. As long as the ingredients are edible and flavorful you can easily swap out the water or broth called for in a soup, sauce, or gravy recipe for the same amount of the chosen potion. Be sure to strain out any bulky ingredients before adding it to the food, but from there you just proceed with the recipe as normal, but instead of an ordinary meal, you create magical fare.
- Empowering Grimoires, Spell Papers, and Magical Artwork
The final entry in my list of favorites is an unusual use for witch's brews: using them to further empower personal grimoires, spell papers, and other works of magical art. You can paint a brew onto papers or canvas to charge them with power then once they have dried, you can write, draw or paint your desire over the top. One caution is that many herbs can be acidic, which can be damaging to paper. This method is not recommended for magical art or books that you wish to keep intact forever, but rather for specialty items with a clear purpose in mind.
I hope my short list of potion and brew uses helps to show that they really are a useful and practical form of magic. Now that the tide is beginning to turn and more information regarding potion recipes is being made available, an upward trend in popularity of witch's potions and brews would fill my heart with joy. If these methods of magic appeal to you then I highly encourage you to pursue this underappreciated facet of witchcraft.