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Plant Spirit Ally Challenge Day 8: Make an Elixir or Potion

Progress continues slowly on my Plant Spirit Ally Challenge, and I'm enjoying taking my time with the journey.

Day 8 of the challenge is our first real dip into intentional magic-making, and the day's activity is to create an elixir or potion. I love making elixirs because, to me, they’re the perfect blend of magic and remedy. One of the many wonders of plants is how they can affect the self at every level: from the physical to the metaphysical. In other words, they act on the whole person in ways that things made in a lab just can’t.

So what is the difference between an elixir and a potion? For the purposes of this challenge, I'm using Kiva Rose Hardin's definition from her website: "A sweet herbal preparation usually made with alcohol and honey (although vegetable glycerine or other sweeteners may sometimes be substituted), taken in similar doses to tinctures." A potion, on the other hand, is a little more generic (according to the Cambridge online dictionary): "a liquid that is believed to have a magical effect on someone who drinks it."

I want to offer some tips today on creating your own magical elixir or potions: but if you don’t like my method, please visit the Plant Spirit Ally Challenge Pinterest board, where you’ll find links to more articles with recipes and instructions.

Step One: Let the Plant, and Your Instincts, Guide You

By now you’ve been working with your Plant Spirit Ally for a while, and you’ve probably learned a lot about how they affect you and what they're capable of. Your instincts - and the plant - are probably telling you what kind of magical preparation they would like to make with you. Don’t worry about getting it wrong: as long as you don’t ingest something poisonous, whatever you do will be just fine. This is about practice and learning! So even if it doesn't turn out the way you hoped, there's no failure here.

Step Two: Harvest Your Ally

If you’re harvesting a live plant, please refer to the articles linked on the Pinterest board or listed in the challenge guide about ethical harvesting and asking permission. If you need to purchase herbs, do a little research to be sure you’re getting them from a reputable source. This article should help with that.

Step Three: Choose Ingredients

For an elixir or potion, you’ll need some kind of liquid to steep your plant ally in. If you want something long lasting, consider 80 proof or higher liquor or vinegar. If you want to make something to use quickly, you could choose anything you like, from water to juice to milk. For my own preparations, I like to use Scotch, but that's personal preference. Vodka is a common choice.

For elixirs you will also add something sweet. Consider the purpose of your elixir or potion when selecting a sweet element. For example, many witches (referencing Scott Cunningham!) associate the maple tree with love, longevity, and money: so maple syrup would be a wonderful choice for potions to help you attract love, become healthy and strong, or attract more money into your life. Honey is, to a certain extent, an all-purpose magical substance. But you might want to choose local honey for it’s added connection to your home ground, or honey created from specific flowers which are associated with your magical purpose. You could add some kind of fruit syrup or concentrate. You even use simple syrup in a pinch. Don’t be afraid to get creative and let your imagination run with this part of the concoction. Since I have a fruit intolerance, I usually choose maple syrup. And I grew up with a circle of sugar maples in my front yard, forming what always felt like a holy place. Associations of the maple with magic and the sacred will always linger with me.

Step Four: Choose Other Components

I like to add stones to the elixir making process. Some stones like quartz (all varieties) can be added to the steeping liquid, but be careful here: some stones contain toxic substances which can leach into solvents like alcohol or vinegar, and some will be damaged by exposure to water or solvents. Hag stones are a favorite addition for me. If you aren’t sure if it’s safe to put your stone in the liquid, you can still work with them. You can place them on the lid of the jar, or around the jar, while the potion or elixir steeps.

And stones aren’t the only possible additions to your potion. You could hang a charm or a meaningful symbol around the neck of the jar you steep your elixir in, or draw it on the jar or lid. And what about a flower essence or a few drops of tincture? Or a flavoring extract for a more pleasant taste?

Just don’t add essential oils: for the most part, they’re not for internal use. If you have an essential oil you desperately want to work with, anoint the outside of the jar with it.

Step Five: Assemble Your Elixir

There’s no one right way to do this. Basically what you’ll be doing is adding your plant material, plus liquid and sweetener (if you're using it), to a jar, closing it up, and letting it steep for some amount of time. All of these factors depend on which herb you use (and whether it’s fresh or dry), and on what ingredients you add to the jar. Fresh herbs in alcohol are usually steeped for several weeks. Dry herbs in boiling water are generally steeped for a maximum of 8 hours. A little research on google or in your herb books will help you determine how long to steep your concoction if you aren’t sure.

When working with alcohol or vinegar as my steeping liquid, I usually let them sit for a month to six weeks. If you enjoy working with moon cycles, you could time the steeping of your elixir or potion with the moon. Don't be afraid to get creative and choose timing that feels meaningful to you.

If you are using a sweetener in your elixir, I recommend shaking it gently every day or so to help all the ingredients meld together more evenly.

Step Six: Decant Your Elixir (After the Correct Amount of Time)

When the elixir or potion is finished, place a strainer over a bowl or large pyrex measuring cup and pour your elixir through the strainer. If the herbs are sifted very finely, or need to be strained very thoroughly (for example, mullein has tiny hairs than can irritate the throat), line the strainer with several layers of cheesecloth or a layer of clean muslin. Retrieve any stones you added to the brew. Squeeze as much liquid as you can from the herbs. Then be sure to return the herbs to the earth with thanks, and maybe a special offering. Store your elixir or potion in a tightly capped jar or bottle, and if there’s any danger it will spoil before you use it, keep it in the refrigerator or freezer. Most preparations in alcohol will be fine in a cupboard, but if you’re not sure take the extra cautious route.

I usually take elixirs like this by the dropperful, but often a few drops are plenty. And I might not need to say this, but SERIOUSLY: if your ally is poisonous or toxic, DON'T drink it or ingest it! You can still create a potion that is used in other ways, such as washing or blessing ritual tools, etc.

Of course I’ve just covered the very basic aspects of elixir making here. I encourage you to do lots more research if you enjoy that kind of thing, or reach out to fellow plant lovers for ideas and advice.

Happy Potion Making!

If you want to join in the Plant Spirit Ally Challenge, it's never too late! The prompts and guide will remain available as long as my website is here, and you can start any time, and explore the challenge at whatever pace is best for you.

If this post inspired or informed you, or just made you happy, feel free to buy me a cup of ko-fi. Your support helps with the cost of web hosting and other expenses, allowing me to spend more time creating posts for you.

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Image by Annie Spratt

Michelle Simkins

polytheist . writer . maker . witch

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