Back before Quadrivium Supplies popped into existence, I made my own oils. I made them because the oils available for purchase mostly consisted of synthetic scents and petroleum solvents.
Making a ritual oil for the first time can be intimidating. Which scents? What purpose? Should there be solid herbs added? Which carrier oil? How diluted should the essential oils be in the carrier? It may possibly be going against my own interests (I do, after all, want you to buy the oil I make), but I think most people who use oils should know how to make them as well. This is my attempt at de-mystifying the process. These are the steps I go through when I’m making a new oil, and I hope you’ll find them useful. If it sends you screaming from the room, remember that my training is mostly hermetic and based in the Western Mystery tradition, so I’m fond of complicated recipes – and you’re under no obligation to make oils the way I do, think about them the way I do, or deal with them the way I do.
The first thing to consider when making an oil is the purpose. An oil used to anoint ritual tools and altar statues is going to have a different composition than an oil used to anoint the user’s brow during ritual work or for divination purposes – and both of those are going to be entirely different from an oil that is mixed for a specific purpose, like finding a lover or a job.
Questions to ask yourself at the planning stage:
- To which table of correspondence do you adhere?
- I discussed this in an earlier blog post, about choosing a table of correspondence or using the one passed down from your tradition. It’s also totally acceptable to NOT use a table of correspondence, and just use oils that appeal to you personally – you’re the only one using the oil, so if anise and nutmeg seem like a love drawing combination for you, give it a try.
- Are there personal attributions to scents that will need to be considered when making this oil?
- It doesn’t matter if every table of correspondence in the world tells you that rose absolute is good for love – if the scent makes you think of a former lover or an unhappy time in your life, it won’t work for you. Same for every other scent. Our olfactory sense bypasses our conscious mind in a very direct and real way, and before you start making an oil, you should be familiar with your emotional response to a variety of scents.
Go stand in front of an essential oil display and smell some of the oils, noting if you have a strong emotional reaction to any particular scents. If you can, take notes. After about four scents, the olfactory senses get tired and confused, so don’t overdo it. YOU are the one using this oil – you must tailor it to yourself.
- Will this oil be used on skin?
- This matters, but probably less so than the above two questions. This is more of a practical question than a magical one – you want to know if it’s going to be used on skin so you can avoid essential oils that are known to irritate, maybe use a different carrier oil, and generally be more picky about ingredients than you might be if you were using the oil to anoint a candle or your ritual knife.
- Will you be using solids, or just oil?
- This is one of those decision that depends on not only your particular magical tradition, but your personal convictions. Most people don’t actively think about this, but I think it’s something to consider before you start making the oil. Do you want solid herbs or powdered herbs or curios of any kind in your oil? Some people feel that including solids adulterates the oil, others feel that an oil without a solid ingredient as a focus for magical intent will have much less power. Deciding ahead of time how you feel about solid ingredients in magical oil will prevent any last-minute decision making that can’t be undone.
- Determine how much oil you’ll be making.
- I’d say it goes without saying, but I’m saying it. Making 8 ounces of oil is very different than making a 2 dram bottle, and I know this from experience. Unless you’re making oils for sale, or distributing them to friends, try to refrain from making huge amounts. Since there are no synthetics involved, the oils can go rancid and if there’s solid plant material in them, that plant material can degrade or dissolve and leave unusable sludge behind. There’s also the small matter of supplies – you’re going to need a LOT more raw material if you intend to make your oils in 8 ounce jars.
And just think, you haven’t even started MAKING the oil yet….
It’s not really that complicated or difficult, despite how it sounds. People make oil all the time with no tables of correspondence, no advance planning, and use pendulum divination, tarot, guesswork, or their own preferences to decide what oils go into the mix. This series is intended to give you an idea of how I’ve approached making oils for a number of years, and to provide a general sense of what some people take into consideration when they make an oil.