‘You can make your own ointments?’
‘Yes. I can.’
The truth is that everyone can make their own ointments. But the best part is not so much in the act of making them, when this is something that everyone can develop a skill for, but in what you put in it. Recipes for good ointments abound. Everyone likes a recipe. Even in business. A recipe for a crisis is always welcome, or a recipe for how to cash in fast is even better. Professionals around can make a good living from writing books after books after books of recipes. Here on Taroflexions I offer ‘recipes’ for how to read cards. But the truth of the matter is that in order for the recipe to be different, or the best there is, you have to put something extra in it. Or, rather, hide something. You don’t disclose your secret ingredient just like that.
So, yes, when I make an ointment, what I’m interested in is not so much the recipe proper, but the magic that makes it magical. This is the only way in which I can make sure to distinguish myself from the professionals. I like what Shakespeare said in Twelfth Night: “God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents.”
While there’s no foolin’ in my craft, there’s something that borders that. A secret. I aim for my ointments to test a liminal space. How do you go from lavender to kratom? From datura to cannabis? What’s in between woodfruff and violets? Belladonna and salvia divinorum? A secret – that’s what’s in between. But this secret can also be found in the use of wooden vessels that you carve yourself, or in the sticks that you denude and then use as magical wands in your pots, or indeed, in the cards that you read to figure out the exact dosage for each ingredient that goes into an ancient recipe that yet also insists on not revealing its secrets. Ointments made this way can be dangerous, but then that’s just it. Without this risk I would be no different than the rest who make a living out of making soaps and salves.
Here’s a pictorial example of how I go about it. I use my ointment for all sorts. For their smell, curative properties, and their metaphysics in ritual. Almost all of my enchanted cards are smeared in some ointment.
While the moon was dark 2 days ago, I made two batches: one made exclusively from violets, and another from lavender and woodfruff. The first has a sweet almond oil basis and the other olive oil. Beeswax is the binder, and the stuff in the liminal points of the ointment is the magic.
First you do your own harvesting.
Then you dry the herbs.
Make an oil infusion. Here the fast method: You poor oil over your plants so that they are fully soaked in it, and then you let it all slow heat for some 8 hours. I use a cast iron pot for this. Make sure you DO NOT scorch the oil. The point is not to cook the plants, but rather to let the warm oil bring out the oil in the plants. The cast iron pot can be replaced with a glass one, as it’s more neutral. But if you need some iron in it, then use the one I indicate here. Alternatively, you can poor the oil over the dried plants, and leave the jar to do its work over 6 weeks.
After 8 hours – you can do this over two days – you strain everything. Make sure you wear gloves if you handle the poisonous plants. Use a cheesecloth. I never throw out mine, but rather use it to wash the pot with, while I wash it too. I then leave it out to dry. The scent on my balcony can be very seductive.
Then you melt the beeswax in a double boiler, or over steam. I get mine from Camelot. You poor the infused oil over it and melt it all some more. You need a clear liquid.
And voilà, you’re done. Poor your magical ointment into tin containers, a glass, or ceramics.
Consecrate them if you wish. I always sing to the plants while preparing them, and often I also do a final chant à la some ancient tunes. Getting into it is part of the secret. Listening to the plant is part of the secret. There’s no foolin’ in hearing what your inarticulate allies have to tell you.
May you all be anointed with the fool’s wisdom.
Here’s the recipe for ointments with dosages:
- 3 ounces (100 grams) of herbs infused oil (you want to go easy on the nightshades or the poisons).
- 0.5 ounces (15 grams) of beeswax pastilles.
- Optional: several drops of essential oils, or a secret ingredient of your own making.
Here’s a scholarly article about the poisonous plants.
- Caveat Anoynter!: A Study of Flying Ointments and their Plants, by Sarah Penicka