It’s the most wonderful time of the year, for many reading this, and it seems to go as fast as it comes in on the cool night breeze. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), autumn is governed by the Metal element, which presides over presentation, ceremony, and minerals from the earth. Out of balance, we can lose respect or worth for others and ourselves or rely too heavily on material goods and our appearances.

The Samhain season (when the “Veil between the worlds is the thinnest”) is filling me with a dark anxiety for all its pleasantries. Is it the shift to the otherworldly I feel? I feel the most relaxed surrounded by some of my favorite fall plants and trees shifting in color, the weather is perfect, the warming teas soothe my spirit… but still, something has made me uneasy. I question myself, my environment… what am I doing wrong? Is it the lesson of “Metal” asking me to check myself?
I like to fill my life with daily rituals surrounding the moon cycle, wildcrafting with the seasons, herbal incense and tea making, and calling upon the spirits and ancestors that guide my work. Wait… when was the last time I made offerings for those ancestors? Have I become too preoccupied with work, and my own ceremonies, indulgences, and ego to honor my dead? I think of those who have passed from my tribe and kin daily. Death has become an entity unto itself that is prayed to and called upon. I think of my sweet grandmother whose kind voice guides me still… Beautiful Louise who passed a year ago this very month… my childhood neighbors, who walked the streets waiting to die as their families watched on. The lessons they have given on how to live are almost ironic; why should I look to the dead for life? But there is no denying the strength of being compelled. Their intuition is now my own. A few plant recipes you can integrate into your spellwork this season to call in the dead, shift your own perceptions, and honor those you’ve lost or who’ve come before you.


This recipe was altered loosely from a class on Funerary Herbs taught by Yeshe Rabbit of the Sacred Well in Oakland ( It’s a fantastic mix for a group offering, where everyone has a hand in crushing the resins and herbs with a mortar and pestle, or before bed when you want to dream of the dead.

2 PT Dragon’s Blood Resin
3 PT Rose petals
3 PT Cypress
1 PT Mugwort
1 pinch of Black Lava sea salt
1 piece of self-lighting charcoal diskette

Grind all of the herbs together by hand, and burn in a fire safe cup or cauldron (the latter of which I strongly suggest.) Do not ever leave unattended, especially if being used to call upon the dead. Besides there being malevolent and benign spirits, there are many tricksters who delight in getting your attention and setting things ablaze is not beyond them.

Cypress has a long history of being planted in cemeteries, and for good reason. Besides being protective of evil forces, in Greek mythology, Cyparissus was so grief stricken by killing his beloved pet stag on accident, that he asked to be turned into a Cypress tree to grieve for eternity. Once the tree is cut down, it will not regenerate. In some places in the American South, possibly originating in Black folk-magic or Hoodoo, Cypress oil has been used to anoint mourners as they attend the funeral of their loved ones. The rich history of this tree attests to its air purifying qualities when used as a smudge, as most protective plants do seem to have antibacterial qualities.

Rose petals are also excellent for their protective and antibacterial qualities but are best known for heart-opening when we have gone through a deep period of grief. Its scent can unearth and release bad feelings that have been held onto and built up in such a manner that we aren’t even sure they are there at all. As the petals on a rose blooms open from a tightly layered bud, so will your heart open to love again. All colors work well, but red and pink are most associated with the physical heart whereas white has a more divine/psychic and otherworldly quality to it.

Dragon’s Blood (Sangre de Drago) is most commonly used during funeral rites, burned as an incense to purify and banish. You’ll want to get the actual deep red resin for this incense, and not the soft adulterated fragrances and products referred to as Dragon’s Blood sold in well-meaning goth shops across the country. The scent is stand alone, much like Copal but deeper. It also can serve to “quicken” a spell, whereas many resins are associated with slowing down your work or binding it because of the rich stickiness of the saps.

Mugwort (any Artemesia will do) is second to none for the ability to be receptive to the world beyond the veil and lends a dreaminess to the waking state. It is pure receptive moon magic, and any of your local dried artemisias can be used in this incense. Be careful when using the seeds of some of the larger types as these can pop and crackle and leap out of the pot, but they are certainly attention getting!

Based on the Pluto anointing oil I sell in my shop, this is for when the elements of sex, death, and regeneration are the theme. Use for dressing a black candle, anointing the curves of snakes and scorpions carved into wax, the Dagaz rune, and other symbols of Regeneration. The anise honors my older family members and protects against the evil eye, and the tulsi/basil represents coiled scorpion/snake energy and sexual magick.1 drop Cypress oil
1 drop Rose oil
1 drop anise oil
1 drop basil or tulsi oil
10 drops carrier oil like almondSAMHAIN CANDLE DRESSING OILAlso loosely based on the Samhain scent I use to celebrate, the elements of this blend are rich and dark like the season itself. The cinnamon quickens your desires, while the patchouli stands in for graveyard dirt. Add cocoa powder to the mix to feel the full nostalgic effect. You may want to wear gloves when handling this.1 drop cinnamon oil
2 drops patchouli
3 drops orange oil
10 drops carrier oil such as almondHowever you plan on celebrating the season, these rituals can be helpful for protection through guidance, attracting spirits or shifting your mood to be in tune with the season. As for me? “Halloween is every day”, or so it goes…

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Writers from The School of Witchery

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