Making a reading list on this topic is very difficult, because there’s no one book I can point to and say “Here, you should read this, it’s absolutely accurate and will teach you all about making oils!” There’s been a fair number of books on oils published and while some of them are absolute bullshit from start to finish, some of them are fairly good with some gaping blind spots, some are pretty awful with some good information hidden inside, and some are publishing information available in other places, but written in a more coherent way and thus more useful.
And with all the books, it depends on your personal tradition – most of them are written with a particular table of correspondence in mind, and if that’s not YOUR table, it makes the book less useful. A lot of them (okay, the vast majority) are recipe books as well, and if you don’t use those recipes, the book is less useful. Not useless, though, as basic oilmaking instruction can stand alone, outside the correspondences. Some of it is just mechanics, after all – how to mix an oil, how to make a cold-pressed oil, how to use phases of the moon in oil making, etc.
With all of this in mind, here’s at least a beginning of an annotated book list for making magical oils. Eventually, the book list will go live on the Quadrivium Supplies website, but the list is going to start out with blog posts on the topic. Remember that these are books I have found personally useful, and that their appearance on this book list in no way constitutes an overall endorsement of the contents or author. The list is in no particular order.
(Wow, I’m a huge pain in the ass about book lists, aren’t I?)
- The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook, by Denise Alverado – my interest doesn’t lie with hoodoo, voodoo, or the spells presented in this book – just the section on oils. It’s clear, cogent, and provides detailed instructions for making a variety of oils. The table of correspondence that Alverado uses owes more to the tradition of New Orleans voodoo/hoodoo that she practices than it does to any traditional hermetic correspondences, but her explanations of how oils work and WHY they work is well worth reading. She also gives a fair number of recipes for beginners to try and if you’re nervous about starting from scratch and inventing your own oils, following recipes can be an excellent way to get people started in oilmaking.
- The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews (Llewellyn’s Practical Magick), by Scott Cunningham – I can hear many readers recoiling from here. I am not a fan of much of Cunningham’s work, popular though it may be. However, this book, along with Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, provides beginners with a very easy-to-follow and coherent explanation of what oils are, how they’re used, and how they’re made. His tables of correspondence are neo-Wiccan and I have used very few of his recipes – however, these are easily accessible books that provide a fairly good grounding in the concept of magical oil creation and use.
- Magical Oil Recipes, by Lady Gianne – probably contains the best basic practical introduction to magical oilmaking in the three page introduction to what’s really more a pamphlet or a chapbook than a true “book.” The whole thing, recipes and all, is 43 pages and costs less than a dollar in the Kindle store. The author covers how and why to disinfect glass oil storage bottles, why oil storage bottles should be dark, what different carrier oils are and how they’re used, how and why oils are blended and to what effect, and the difference between an essential oil and a carrier oil. Her table of correspondence is short and to the point but provides no reference sources – as far as I can tell, it’s a mixture of neo-Wiccan and hermetic tables. If you’re a purist about your tables, this probably won’t thrill you, but frankly, I’d spend the .99 for the Kindle download (you can read it on your computer or your phone) and count it as money well spent even if I never tried any of the recipes.
- Traditional Witches’ Formulary and Potion-making Guide: Recipes for Magical Oils, Powders and Other Potions, by Sophia diGregorio – Ms. diGregorio gives an overview of oilmaking that includes astrological and lunar timing, suggests substitutions for hard-to-find ingredients, and actually provides sources for many of the recipes that she gives. Some of the recipes are old enough to contain ingredients that are poisonous or otherwise dangerous, and the author gives suggestions for substitutions for these ingredients (I’m normally a big believer in sticking as close to original recipes as possible, but not if handling the plant in question is going to give me hives or if the resulting oil will make me ill if I get it on my skin). It’s considerably more substantial than the Gianne book – about 183 pages.
There’s more books on oilmaking to cover, but I’m going to leave it there for the moment. What are YOUR favorites? I’m always happy to hear from people who want to recommend (or warn against) a book they’ve read on the topic.