The following is an old post of mine from 2015. I wrote it a as a guest post for the excellent Quadrivium Supplies, an oil-maker I turn to every so often when I need some real good stuff, and whose oils have never let me down. She asked me at one point to write a guest post, and I did; it went up in early 2015. However, she’s since moved platforms and went to a wholesale model, and in that transfer of platforms, her blog got nuked. While the post went up, it’s no longer there. I figure I may as well repost it now for posterity, and plus, reading over it reminded me of some good ideas I once had once upon a time. I hope you enjoy this little relic of writing!
As a ceremonial magician, I go through a lot of supplies. Yes, there’re the crafting supplies like wood and lead and gold leaf to make Tables of Practice and wands and talismans and the like, but I also go through a lot of consumable supplies like candles, wine, incense, and especially oil. While I’ve got a grasp of crafting and making some of my own basic supplies, it certainly helps to have friends who can do these things better or who have access to more raw bits and pieces to make better things than I can; after all, while I can make oils for myself, I’d much rather get one of my friends who can expertly create and fine-tune them instead because, well, they know what they’re doing with better equipment and starting goods than I have.
One of my friends owns the lovely Quadrivium Supplies, and she’s an excellent oil-maker that I’ve pinged time and again for very well-made magical oils and advice on how to make a few myself. My only regret with her work is that I don’t have quite enough income to get some of her oils in bigger quantities! She knows her recipes well, uses real and natural ingredients that some might shy away from getting, and even makes a series of astrologically-elected oils that are without comparison. These aren’t cheaply-made garishly-colored artificial oils with a bit of scent, but powerful tools and buffs in their own right. Recently, she asked me if I’d be interested in writing a guest post on
her blog, and I happily obliged. After thinking for a bit, I figured a good intersection between her work and mine would be a good topic to write on. Go read my entry there, On Oils as Offerings!
It’s rare that I get the chance to write a guest post for someone else; after all, I have plenty of writing already done and plenty more to do here at the Digital Ambler. Then again, I’m also not opposed to doing so, since it also gives me a delightful change of pace.
Ceremonial magicians are known for using endless magical tools and magical materia in their works, and I’m no exception; one of the recent choices I had to make in moving to a new house was needing to find a place with a suitable room as my own temple room and magical workshop to house my shrines and altars, as well as providing storage for all my tools and charms that I make. To be fair, unless tradition dictates otherwise, no system of magic strictly requires material means, but they certainly help, especially in obtaining material ends. Having a material component in one’s magical work helps to bring down those astral and spiritual forces down, grounding them and giving them a means to work and effect themselves in our world of body and form. Wands, crystals, talismans, mojo bags, drawn-out circles, engraved candles, and all the rest help in one’s magical works. Oils are no exception, but they’re also something of a special case.
Not too long ago, I was conversing with one of my spiritual mentors, Saint Cyprian of Antioch, in preparation for a magical undertaking of the Arbatel operation, where one conjures and begins work and initiation with the seven Olympic Spirits associated with the seven traditional planets of Hermetic cosmology. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, although a Christian saint, was also a powerful magician in his day, and over the centuries has become a steadfast ally to those who call upon him in matters of magic and sorcery of all kinds. Seeking his advice, he recommended I go through with my plan and conjuration setup: the standard conjuration triangle, crystal scrying medium, incense, yada yada. However, he suggested one important change: offer the Olympic Spirits a small amount of clear, good oil. I was considering preparing wine or food, but Saint Cyprian of Antioch turned those down and rather emphatically suggested that I use pure, clean oil as an offering. He explained that oil has a “volatile” nature, not in the same way as elemental Fire or alchemical Sulfur, but as a magical medium for housing things in a way stronger than water but less than crystal, more pliable than food but less ephemeral than incense. For housing the soul or power of a spirit, oil would be an excellent offering, especially for entities like those from the Arbatel.
After thinking about this some, I realized that this makes perfect sense. After candles and incense (and wine, though that’s usually for my own personal use), the material supply I go through the most is a variety of oils. A full shelf in my supply closet, which is a miniature botanica in its own right, is packed with oils from a variety of distributors and craftspeople, some simple colored-and-scented artificial oils, some intricately developed from the purest extracts all manually taken from herbs and other natural sources. Most workings that call for candles or talismans will, either due to the recipe or my own inclinations, use an oil in fixing things properly so that a particular power can be fixed. Abramelin oil, specifically the German recipe, is one I use daily for my own strengthening by anointing my head and palms in prayer. When using a traditional oil lamp, I’ll mix in some particular oil with the normal fuel for a particular end, like an older cognate to fixing a candle with oil. I find myself using oils in pretty much any magical operation nowadays; such experimentation has often led me to find alternative uses for oils, sometimes in ways entirely unexpected.
Then again, there are more ways to use oils than in fixing candles or anointing heads. Among all the oils I have, the one I go through most is common olive oil. This has a rich history in Mediterranean magic and Western culture generally as a symbol of richness and power, both in this world and in most others. Simple olive oil can be used towards pretty much any end, not having anything but the pure fruit of the olive tree involved, and when prayed over in a particular manner, can be used on the spot in lieu of any magical oil. However, I don’t typically use olive oil as a “magical oil”, per se, but as a substance in offering. For instance, whenever I make an offering to the theoi of the Hellenes, I always pour out an offering of wine with a dash of olive oil. For one, the Greek gods like the offering of oil with their wine and prayer and incense, but it also suffices to cover the wine and prevent most forms of bacterial or fungal growth in their offerings. (And yes, the wine still somehow manages to evaporate as the spirits consume it from under the oil, even though this shouldn’t normally be possible, but hey, gods do what they want.)
Of course, I don’t just offer olive oil to the spirits. Some oils have histories and known uses limited pretty much to offerings, and I’ve taken that route with my own Three Kings oil when working with the Three Wise Men, though they’re also teaching me other methods of using such an oil when working with and under them. When I need to empower a spirit a particular way, I’ll make them a normal libation but with a few drops of a particular oil that I feel is appropriate. Household protector spirit needs to be buffed up for an incoming attack? They’ll get an offering of strong wine with Fiery Wall of Protection oil. Need to propitiate Aphrodite to help a friend smooth out their relationship? Sweet wine with Reconciliation oil. Cleansing a sad spirit who brings in filth? Clear water with Van Van oil. Want to placate an angry ancestor with a taste for food? Good whiskey with turkey drippings (yes, really). Just as oils can be used to fix a candle or prepare a talisman for ensoulment, oils can also fortify offerings to the spirits and empower them directly. For that matter, oil can be dedicated to spirits alone for their own use, and if those oils happen to already be consecrated and empowered with herbs or other substances, it can empower the spirit just as strongly as it can empower a talisman.
In the case with the Arbatel spirits, Saint Cyprian of Antioch recommended I use the olive oil as an offering for them to consume, but also to help bring them into the world in their own way. Oils on their own, according to Saint Cyprian, provide a flexible but useful means to contain the power or presence of a spirit, not unlike talismans or mojo bags, but in a more disposable or usable manner than a set object. In the case with the Olympic Spirits, Saint Cyprian suggested that I give the spirit pure olive oil to consume and inhabit, then emptying that oil out into the world, allowing the power of that spirit to spread out in our world so it can do its work better in ways that I may not always be able to accomplish. Oils don’t just evaporate into the air as waters or alcohols do, nor they don’t just vanish into particles like incense or smoke, nor do they stay fixed and firm within a solid containing body. Oils leak and seep into the world, dispersing themselves and attaching themselves to objects and places, coating things with their powers and imbuing them with their own essences. Oils are much more difficult to get rid of and don’t simply wash away, but they’re not permanent fixtures, either.
Oils, in the end, are just as important a tool as anything else in a ceremonial magician’s temple, if not one of the most important ones. Sure, not all traditions call for oils in their work, but almost all my workings in a variety of traditions have benefited from including their use for one purpose or another. I would even rank oil as more important than candles or incense, because a properly prepared oil can take the place of both. It’s important to remember that oils can be used for many more things than fixing or anointing, but that oils can be used in offerings directly as another method of working with spirits in a way that’s both profound and powerful.