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My thoughts about Traditional Witchcraft, Wicca, cooking, gardening, and anything else that catches my fancy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Plant Spirits, Sacred Woods, and the Source of Magic

As I have mentioned previously, the magic of trees and woods is one of my special areas of interest, so I thought I’d write a more detailed article to share my knowledge of them. In the occult community, there is much talk about the “magical properties” of certain woods, but little discussion as to WHY those woods have those properties, or where that power comes from.

Obviously, the most popular use of wood in magical practice is in the construction wooden wand or staff. The most common woods used for such tools are Hazel, for the wand, and Ash for the staff. Hazel is the wood of inspiration and divination, and Ash is the wood of the World Tree. For the blasting rod, or cursing stick, Blackthorn is most commonly used. But why these? Are these things “just tools” which have no power other than that which we give them? Or, do they have their indwelling energy, which we can harness to our own ends?

The power of woods, trees, and plants comes not from the assignment we “give” them, but from the spirit indwelling in the plant….of which there are two types. The first type is the spirit which lives within the individual tree or plant itself, and which is unique to that specimen. This spirit can die or be destroyed with the death of the plant in question. The second type is the spirit which is specific to the particular KIND of plant, and is common to the whole species. For example, Hazel has a common spirit which can be found present in each and every tree. It is this indwelling spirit which gives magical tools their power, and what differentiates the “dead” wood used to make, say, a table, from the wood used by occultists. It is also this spirit which empowers herbal magic, and which gives magical potions, incenses, and brews their ability to create change. A large part of the path of the Witch is learning to work with these plant spirits, learning their abilities, and mastering the ability to utilize them to create change or gain gnosis.

For whatever reason, all too often this kind of work is either neglected, or completely pushed aside. Perhaps even more damaging, there’s been a lot of talk lately that magic is purely some kind of “mental shift” or “change in consciousness.” Others make the odd claim that nothing really has magical power other than that which we assign it, which in fact makes little sense. If this were true, then it wouldn’t matter what herb was used in a spell, as a handful of sawdust would have the same effect as even the most carefully prepared potion. This is more or less the equivalent of throwing everything in the kitchen pantry into the oven, and claiming that the mess that comes out is a “cake” merely because you want it to be.

To carry the cooking metaphor even further, I like to think of working magic as preparing a recipe. What you include depends on the desired result. Just as mixing salt and alum will never create a sweet batter (no matter how much you might “will” it to) using the wrong magical tools will not result in a successful spell. This is why magical history is so important, as we can draw upon the thousands of years of magical lore and correspondences. Learning the lore of the plants, trees, and natural world are vastly important if one is going to have a successful magical practice.

If you attempt to draw solely on your own power during magic, you will quickly become exhausted. If, however, you learn to draw upon the power of the natural world, you will be tapping into a vast well of mystical energy that can aid you in your work. Taking the time to learn the powers of the natural world all around you can aid you immeasurably, and mean the difference between magical failure, and magical success.

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