The Contemporary New England Witch

The Contemporary New England Witch
Ms Faith

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Magickal Ointment with Ancient Roots

Greetings My Witchy Readers,

I came across an ancient poem, called the Song of Songs found in the Tanakh the Hebrew Bible which, these verses are attributed to King Solomon and are romantic poems back and forth, from a woman to her lover and a lover to his woman. Not what one would typically expect to find in a religious text, but they are beautiful and sacred in their beauty and sensuality.

It is many, many verses and chapters long. A long, beautiful story of lovers meeting, courting, marrying and loving together their lives. But I read the following few verses and I saw within them, an ancient recipe for an ointment, as during this time, ointments, oils, salves were very popular and used for anointing people as sacred perfumes, to ritual tools and candles and was a way of connecting the human energy with the Divine.

These few verses are thus:

"Your limbs are an orchard of pomegranates
and of all luscious fruits,
Of Henna and of Nard,
Nard and Saffron
fragrant reed and cinnamon,
with all aromatics woods,
Myrrh and aloes --
All the choice perfumes
You are a garden spring
A well of fresh water
a rill of Lebanon"

This is just one of the many beautiful verses that make up Solomon's Song of Songs and as I read this verse I could see the ointment being made and being used as an anointing perfume to be applied before ritual or before any sacred activity.  So I started to research the various ingredients and to find substitutions if necessary.

The white flowered "henna" plant (lawsonia enermis ) does not grow in this part of the world, it is native to Iran and Pakistan, and as such is very difficult to find, or to substitute, but the rest we can work with. Nard was called Spikenard in biblical times and was highly prized for its heady aroma and today we can get the oil of Spikenard, or if not available to you, you can easily use Valerian.  Many people have used the extract of Valerian often in holistic preparations and teas but the essential oil is quite pleasant and pretty smelling. Even using a few drops of both Spikenard if available and Valerian would be appropriate.

Then Saffron, only a small amount is needed and can be found in all food markets and specialty spice shops, only about 6 strands are needed. The fragrant reed mentioned in the verse is debated by scholars to this day and was also referred to as sweet cane, and most have come to understand it to be calamus also known as sweet flag. Please take special note if you choose to use Calamus, it is highly toxic and should never be ingested and if used as an ingredient in your perfume oil, only a small drop for authenticity's sake perhaps, but I choose to use a few drops of sweet orange oil as it does the same thing fragrance wise and I do not have to worry about any side effects from toxicity.   You may also substitute it by using a small bit of amber resin or oil, which is found in the Middle East and throughout the Mediterranean.

The next part of this recipe we add a few drops of cinnamon oil.  We must use caution with cinnamon oil. Cinnamon or cassia oil, which is a common substitution for cinnamon oil, can be caustic to the skin and cause minor burns so a drop maybe two is all that is needed in any potion or balm it is included in. Plus cinnamon oil has such a strong scent little is more than enough.

The myrrh oil is easy, and for the aromatic woods and aloes we will use sandalwood oil and grate some powdered Palo Santos wood also known as Holy wood which has a beautiful, sweet scent. Sandalwood is native to the Middle East and Palo Santos, though from South America, has direct cousins from the Mediterranean, North Africa region that is quite similar in resinous structure to the aromatic woods that would have been included in a recipe such as we are making. 

An interesting side note, when working with ingredients thousands of years old as mentioned in this biblical verse, something like aloes also known as wood aloes or agar wood, is almost impossible to obtain today. If one can find it it would be so cost prohibited as to not be worth buying. What wood aloe is, is a rare, almost extinct tree called aquilaria which becomes infected by a mold caused by a beetle infestation. This dark brown, almost black infection in the wood smells so sweet and beautiful it became a wildly popular resinous base for ancient perfumes for centuries. Scientists have tried to re-create this phenomenon artificially but find it cannot be done. The tree must be naturally infected, so considering the trees are going extinct and the rarity of this beetle infecting the tree just right and causing this infection, and once the infection takes hold in the tree, the tree must die, so it cannot be sustained. Now you can start to appreciate why when ancient recipes both biblical and magickal call for wood aloes,  but we find they are no longer available to the scholar or the alchemist or the witch, so we substitute the best we can. 

The last part and a very important part is the base itself. Now, during biblical days, the base oils used were always olive oil, or what was written as pure oil, and this needed to be made by man and pressed and that was typically done from the olives. I have used vegetable shortening, as our olive oil is lovely but will not solidify and I like the solid form, which stays nicely in a small tin and can be brought with you and then rubbed or massaged into the skin. You can also use the olive oil if you would like, but it is a greasier version, but try what appeals to you.

So, if you are interested in making this beautiful, rich, ancient, seductive, sacred perfume ointment, this is the recipe I have come up with from translating the original verse to what we can obtain and work with today:

1/4 cup vegetable shortening
Spikenard Oil  7-10 drops
Valerian oil  3 drops
Saffron, appx 6 strands of the red saffron - ground up in a mortar & pestle
Sweet Orange oil  6 drops
Amber resin or oil  3 drops
Cinnamon oil 1 drop
Myrrh oil  3 drops
Sandalwood oil  6 drops
Powdered Palo Santos - this comes in wooden sticks. Take an emery board and rub over the stick allowing the fine powder to fall into the mixture.

Then get an oil diffuser and place a lit tea light underneath and place about 3 tablespoons (appx 1/4 c) of vegetable shortening in the diffuser. Then Take a Palo Santos stick of wood and an emery board and rub the wood against the emery board and powder the wood into the diffuser. Appx a 1/4 teaspoon would be about right. Then grind up the saffron in a mortar and pestle into as fine a powder as possible and place that in the shortening. Allowing the powdered wood and saffron to start to melt and blend into the oil.

Then add the oils AFTER the shortening has melted, that is very important. After the shortening has melted, add the oils and stir them clockwise into the mixture, using a silver or glass utensil, never plastic or other item. A wooden item will absorb a lot of your essential oils so a nice glass stirrer is best. Or a silver spoon.

As soon as you have mixed the oils into the mixture and everything has been mixed well, then pour the mixture into small ointment tins, available at a craft store.

Pour or even transfer the liquid ointment by way of small funnel and then let each tin of ointment sit and solidify which should only take about 20 minutes or so. As soon as they cool down. Do not use a heat source hotter than a tea light candle or the heat will cause the essential oils to burn away and the most important part of the entire recipe will "go up in smoke" so to speak!

You will see the "spices" the saffron and the powdered Palo Santos in the ointment and the richness of the scent will release when it comes in contact with warm skin, and will continue to be released as it is worn. Also by wearing this scent in a ointment rather than an oil it will last on the skin longer and won't evaporate as quickly. This scent should remain on the body or even in the hair, if you wish to use it as a hair dressing for the entire day.

This is my personal interpretation of this ancient Biblical poem's verse made into a perfume ointment, and I hope you enjoy it. Blessings and Peace, Ms. Faith

Live, Laugh and Always Love

© 2010-2018 Faith M. McCann. Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see or go to the title of tonight's discussion and click, it will link you to my school's website. Please note that the copying and/or further distribution of this work without express written permission is prohibited. 

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