I love witchcraft because of its versatility and practicality. I adore the trappings and pomp of ritual, but sometimes, or quite often in fact, most of the magick I use in my everyday life is on the fly — it’s what I need, when I need it. Washes, waters, and vinegars are great for use in our everyday lives and they can be made well in advance for use later on.
These liquids — and how they are used — can be considered aspects of folk magick, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be utilized in a ritual setting — as I’ve already said, these magical liquids are indeed versatile!
So, let’s take a look at these magical concoctions, what goes into them, how to make them, and what they can be used for.
These are made with alcohol. I usually use vodka, rum, or brandy, though you can use whatever spirit you have to hand. Though, a word of warning: make sure the alcohol content is at least 30%, or else the shelf life will be greatly reduced.
Take a clean jar and fill it with the relevant herbs, plants, and spices. By and large, the purpose will determine what you need. For example, if you want to attract love or romance, you might use herbs and plants associated with love such as rose petals, lavender, poppy, and so on.
Related: Mugwort: Its magical and medical uses, by Emma Kathryn
You can find tables of correspondence for herbs and flowers on any good witchcraft website. I use Witichipedia because they have numerous tables, including for colours, intent, days of the week, and of course, herbs.1 You can find them here.
A good book is also handy to keep close. You can either go for something like Sacred Herbs: Your Guide to 40 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them for Healing and Well-Being by Opal Streisand, which lists the properties of some common plants, or for something like The Illustrated Herbal Encyclopedia by Brenda Little, which gives associations but also goes deeper, showing how to grow and care for the plant, as well as how to use it.
Fill your jar with the dry ingredients, then add enough alcohol to completely cover them. Leave the container somewhere warm for at least a week, though I like to leave mine for a full lunar month.
Then strain the liquid into a clean jar. Add whatever essential oils you deem necessary, such as ones that suit your purpose and you like the smell of. Voila! Your wash is good to use!
Washes are fantastic for cleaning and by utilizing them in this way, you get to spread your magick all over your home! They are great for incorporating magick and ritual into your everyday life.
Alternatively you could make a wash specifically for your own working area, to cleanse your altar and tools, and any space you dedicate to your practise. This helps to not only set the mood and the scene, but can also enhance any particular working. For example, if you are planning a divination session, then a wash made with mugwort, wormwood and lavender is perfect. Mugwort and wormwood are linked to divination and astral travel whilst lavender relaxes and calms.
Related: Everyday hoodoo: Washes, mojo bags, and simple charms, by Donyae Coles
Related: Magical cleansing basics: How to get started, by Donyae Coles
Related: A spell of awe and protection: The Washing Verse, by Vincent Ongkowidjojo
When I talk about waters, what I really mean are essences. You may well already be familiar with flower essences, but these can be made with a whole range of ingredients and objects, depending on their purpose.
Essences are easily made, though they do require some planning and preparation. Firstly, you will need to determine what it will be used for. Or maybe you like the qualities associated with a particular flower or herb? Lavender is a personal favourite, not only because of its gorgeous scent, but also because of it’s calming and relaxing qualities.
Pour clean water into a bowl. If you have a special or ceremonial or ritual bowl, then use this. Alternatively, you might want to have a bowl specially dedicated for making essences.
When making flower essences it is important not to use tap water, and collecting clean stream water can be difficult, especially for the urbanites among us. I like to collect rain water as an easy alternative, as it comes with the added benefit that there are different kinds of rain. For example, rain from a thunderstorm will have a different energy to rain that fell in a summer downpour, or even water that fell as snow. Failing that, bottled spring water is more than adequate.
Now add your flowers or herbs. Use enough so that the water’s surface is covered. Depending on the use, I will either let the bowl sit in the sun for three or four hours, or I will leave overnight. You can even time the making to coincide with a particular moon phase. You might also like to add crystals or stones while the water is sitting in the moon or sun.
Afterwards, strain the flowers and herbs from the water and bottle. If you would like to preserve the essence, then you can add a good quality alcohol to the water at a ratio of one part alcohol to two parts water.
You can use your essence or water for a wide variety of purposes, including ritual cleansing. Pour on to a cotton wool ball and gently wipe it across your skin.
If you make essences from edible flowers and herbs, then you can take your essence as an health elixir by adding up to four drops to a glass of water daily.
Related: Scrying: How to get started, by Donyae Coles
Vinegars are so accessible, as they are cheap and easy to produce. They are made in much the same way as the washes, except that you are steeping the herbs in vinegar as opposed to alcohol. Vinegar is a powerful and natural cleaning agent and so it can be used in the home to clean almost every surface, from windows to worktops, drains, and sinks.
They can be made for a range of purposes, but perhaps the most famous magical vinegar of all is four thieves vinegar. The story goes along the lines of this: During the bubonic plague, otherwise known as the Black Death, four thieves were caught stealing. Intrigued as to how the thieves avoided contracting the deadly disease, the judge bargained with them. And so, in order to avoid punishment, the thieves told of their special concoction: a blend of vinegar, herbs, and oils. Whether there is any truth in this story, or the other versions of it, who knows, but it can be said that the ingredients that go into the making of it (including lavender, lemon, and rosemary) have been shown to be antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral.
You can make vinegar to serve any purpose by simply adding the ingredients you require. For example, to keep your home safe and to attract luck, four thieves vinegar is perfect. Or maybe you wish to create a spiritual cleanser? In which case, sage is always a good choice. To attract wealth, a blend of basil, bay, and ginger with cinnamon oil. The point is that vinegars, as with washes and waters, can be crafted to suit your own individual purpose
Related: Four Thieves: From medicine to magick, by Anie Savino
Washes, waters and vinegars can be made so very easily, though if you wish to make them in a more ritualized way, then feel free to do so.
The beauty of witchcraft is that it is personal and unique to each individual, and the making of these magical liquids is no different. So have fun, get creative, and welcome your witchcraft into your everyday.