As a beginner, one of the biggest questions I had when looking at rituals written by others was “why is (blank) being used here? Why is it needed?” This was usually directed to specific stones, herbs, incense, etc, so I would, like many, use google to try to figure it out. What you end up with is lists of such and such herb is good for a specific purpose. This, of course, would end up as a pointless list in my earlier journals.
What these lists tend to lack is how the author came up to these conclusions. Often, they are influenced by older traditions that are being rehashed out in new books. However, at some point, someone had to come up with the association on their own. In my personal theory of magic, this can make working with these elements more powerful because you can better relate to the ingredients through a personal connection. The more you can dive into a practice in a personal level, the easier you can trigger internal changes to allow the magic to flow. This exercise will be examining how to do that without any sort of sense beyond what we have been using since birth. All that is needed is a journal, some time, the ingredient and patience to observe.
Before you begin, take a few minutes to mediate. Breath deeply and focus on your body move as you do so (the rise and fall of your stomach instead of your chest). Allow your body to relax as you breathe slowly. When you are ready, you may pick up the ingredient and begin.
Visual: take some time to really look at the object. Look for color, shades, patterns, and other details of interest. Allow any ideas or thoughts flow on what the ingredient could be used for. Take notes on what may come to mind.
I used Caraway seeds for this exercise. The seeds have streaks of brown and white when you look close enough, which reminds me of graveyard soil and cremation ashes. This allows me to associate the seeds with ancestor work. The fact that they are seeds (think babies of plants) further associates the seeds to children to me.
Touch: feel the object and note any textures or hardness you may notice. Temperature can also come into play as well. Write down any notes.
Caraway seeds are fairly hard, which translates to protection. They are also fairly smooth, which I can associated with a more passive forms of magic.
Taste: Obviously, use caution with this one. I would recommend doing this mainly with herbs you have researched thoroughly and food items. What does it taste like? Is it spicy, bitter, sweet, etc? What ideas and thoughts arise when you taste them? Take notes.
Caraway seeds were very earthy in taste, with a slight bitterness and spice. I translated this as being more earth based with the slight push for action that cones from the heat of the spice as aspect.
Smell: if you are doing this with a spicy, take care so you do not inhale the powder. You can wave your hand above it towards your nose so you can get hints of the scent or use the whole version of the herb. You can also burn some on a charcoal disk or in boiling water to extract scents, but take care as overly spicy ingredients such as peppers and mace can bring a tear gas effect. Notice how the scent makes you feel and write down any notes.
Caraway seeds have a slight licorice scent when raw and a slight spicy when burned. It actually reminded me of my childhood with my grandmother, so I could say it can be used to connect with one’s ancestors.
Hearing: this is an unusual one but there are certain sounds that can trigger emotional responses. In the case of herbs, take a pinch of them and rub it in between your fingertips to see if you can hear anything that triggers a thought. Take notes.
Caraway seeds actually create a similiar sound to the pop fireworks I used when I was a kid. So, I further connect this to childhood.
Once you are done, take a break and do something else to get your mind off of things. Go back after some time and go over your notes. You can refine them into a clear use of the ingredient. Write it down and start to work with it in spells to see how it works for you.
Finishing my example, I summarize Caraway seeds as a herb to help bring family members together, connect with one’s dead and to protect children. I have been experimenting mixing the seeds in the food I cook and have noticed that some of the daily tension family can has been diminishing.
I know this is a pretty mundane looking exercise, but sometimes it is what is needed to grow, especially when you are starting. This is one of many ways to really connect with what you are working with and rise as a magician. Anyone who has a sense of smell, sight, touch, taste and hearing can do this exercise. I hope this was interesting and thank you for reading.