I’m trying to put together a suggested reading list for people interested in learning more about oils. While I’m finding some good books to pass on, I’m also getting very frustrated with the enormous problem of authors choosing to completely omit the citation of their sources for the tables of correspondence that they use. Without any citations, the reader can’t really trust the book, in my mind. I can read over pages and pages of plant and oil attributions and the only thing in my mind is where the author came up with the correspondences – if they’re hermetic, Pagan, folkloric, tradition-specific, area-specific, or otherwise. Some of these correspondences I’ve never even heard of before – why should I trust this author? Answer to rhetorical question: I can’t trust the author, because at best they’re guilty of sloppy scholarship and attribution, and at worst, they’re just making things up.
In addition, most books on magical oils include recipes – mix this oil with that oil and add this third oil and you have a blend intended for a certain magical purpose. If I have absolutely no idea how the author came up with “X plant has the attributes of fertility, increase, and power,” I’m not going to have a whole lot of confidence in the recipes provided in the book. In fact, the book is going to be pretty much useless to me if the citations are left out.
As has been mentioned before, there’s loads of different tables of correspondence and each magician or witch must find what works for THEM, usually by trial and error. Maybe, like me, you use a mix of several different tables (witchcraft, hermetic, and hoodoo, if you’re curious) along with personal correspondences. Presumably, you keep a record of where you obtained the correspondence for that plant, even if it’s a little note that says if it’s Pagan or hoodoo or hedgewitchery or what have you. And if you don’t, well, it’s not all that important, if it doesn’t matter to you.
On the other hand…..someone writing a book on the topic is held, or should be held, to a higher standard. When an author draws up a table of correspondence, it’s probably a bit much to expect each attribution to be footnoted back to the source. I’d expect a note, at least, at the beginning of the book, informing the reader of the source for the correspondences – “plant attributions used from sources X, Y and Z.” Say some – or all – of the attributions are personal, obtained through trial and error, or divination, and not gleaned from any traditional table of correspondence. The reader should have that information, too.
One of the most recent books I read on the making of magical oils started out really strongly, with a great section on the actual physical process of mixing oils, timing oil creation with the lunar cycle, oil mix recipes for various purposes, and sample rituals that might be used with the created oils. The book concluded with appendices. The first was an alphabetical list of the plant or oil with it’s magical attributes, along with what planet the plant is “ruled by,” and what element the plant represents. There were even further appendices, breaking the list of plants down by attribute, by planet, by element – all really useful things, but without any indication whatsoever of where this information was obtained. I assume the reader was supposed to just trust that the author of the book knew what s/he was doing when s/he wrote the correspondences. The book, which had started out so promisingly, now wasn’t anything I could in good conscience recommend to anyone without a huge caveat, which means I probably won’t recommend the book at all.
Needless to say, I don’t blindly trust authors. Just because someone has the wherewithal to get a book published on oil-making or charm/spell creation doesn’t mean they necessarily know what they’re talking about. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that an author is an authority on a topic simply because they’ve had a book published on it. Even if it’s been published by a well-known publishing house, the odds of anyone fact-checking a table of magical correspondences are laughable. The fact that nearly anyone can now self-publish on sites like Lulu and e-publish for the Kindle and other e-readers means that “because the author said so” is even less of a valid reason to believe something – not that it ever was much of one.
Always know why you’re using the various ingredients you’ve chosen for your magical creation past “this book said to do it this way.” You are making this, not some pseudonymous author who wrote an ebook, or the person who copied and pasted a table off one website and into another. You are infusing this oil mix with your intent, your essence, and your power – this is magick. More importantly, this is your magick. Don’t let some random stranger tell you how to achieve what you’re setting out to do – know what you’re doing, and why, every step of the way.
P.S. I hadn’t actually intended for this to end up as a rant, but that’s what happened. I welcome discussion on the topic – you can contact me at questions[at]quadrivium-supplies[dot]com.