Lesson 3) Double, Double Toil and Trouble
Good day class! I’m glad to see you back for the second part of our discussion on spagyrics! Today, I will be discussing how to do your elixir project that you will need to turn in before your O.W.L.s. We will look at what types of equipment you will need for your project and I will be walking you through the steps of creating an elixir. Excited? So am I. Let’s start!
Much like brewing a potion, before you even think about creating an elixir, you will need to assemble your laboratory tools. Remember the tools we mentioned in the lesson about safety in Year Two? Make sure that you have those with you, especially your face mask, dragonhide gloves, and closed toe shoes. The goggles aren’t as necessary here since we aren’t working with harmful chemicals, however, if you would like to wear them then I will not stop you.
A mortar and pestle are definitely needed for your project. If you do not have one for this class or Potions even, there are extra in the back. I would recommend using the biggest size you have. The type of mortar and pestle (wood, clay, or stone) does not matter, however I do prefer using a wooden mortar for herbs as it will help with maintaining the potency of the plant a little better. I would also like to reiterate that now would be a good time for you to go back and review the Maybe Mortar Charm covered in Lesson Eight of Year Two so that you may clean your mortar and pestle effectively when you are through.
For spagyric processes of any sort, it’s important that your concoction does not touch metal at all; this includes the actual mixture itself as well as any vapors. This will disrupt your elixir and you will have to start over. When you start over on an elixir, it will set you back for several weeks. You will need a cauldron, however, do not use your potions cauldron. I repeat, do not use your potions cauldron. Most cauldrons used for potions are made out of a metal of some sort. I would recommend a ceramic cauldron or even a fire crab shell cauldron if you can get your hands on one. Potage’s Cauldron Shop in Diagon Alley should have a supply of them. If you can’t find a ceramic cauldron, a heat-resistant ceramic pot can also work.
Other things you will need are your wand, two large glass jars, a glass vial or bottle preferably made of dark glass, a glass funnel, coffee-filter paper, and plastic wrap. If the large glass jars have metal lids, be sure to wrap the lids in plastic wrap to avoid contamination with the elixir. Most of these will be provided for you in the laboratory. The other ingredient aside from the herbs that are provided is high-proof alcohol. If I catch anyone drinking the alcohol, you will immediately be given at least a month’s worth of detention. All of you are Fifth Years and I will not tolerate tomfoolery in the laboratory.
For your project, you may choose one of the seven different plants listed below. There is one for each planet and they all have their specific healing properties. Don’t worry about the process of creating the elixir. The steps you take are the same and the only difference is the time you use on the planetary hours chart. Every plant listed below is a non-toxic mundane plant. I asked Professor Aspen to help me out with selecting these plants from the greenhouse for all of you! Although you can make elixirs with magical plants, you do have to be more careful with them in regards to their magical abilities. I believe that is something we can experiment with in a future year. For now, here are your seven options:
Usually the go-to Sun plant that most spagyrists use is Rosemary, which I assume most of you are also familiar with. Rosemary is a perennial herb known for its leaves that resemble needles as well as its fragrant scent. It’s often used in cooking as a spice, however, it has many medicinal uses too! Rosemary helps stimulate the brain and the nervous system. It’s a great remedy for headaches, colics, colds, low blood pressure, rheumatism, circulatory problems, and other nervous diseases. It can also relieve nervous depression and long-term stress! A rosemary tincture can also be used as an antispasmodic, with the average dosage being thirty drops in water. Externally, rosemary essential oil can be mixed with a liniment that is applied topically to produce redness in the skin, increasing blood circulation in the area. Rosemary can also be made into a hair lotion where it can prevent premature baldness, scruff, and dandruff. Although we will not be dealing with the external benefits of this herb, it’s clear that rosemary is beneficial in many ways. The parts commonly used are the stems, roots, and leaves of the plant, however, essential oils distilled from the flowers are superior in potency than oils distilled from the stems and leaves.
Watercress is ruled by the Moon and it is my favorite on this list. I love good pork and watercress soup! Speaking of soup, watercress soup can treat canker sores, oral blisters, swollen gums, and even bad breath. Watercress tea is able to rid the body of accumulated fluids such as synovial fluids caused by gout and mucus. This is definitely something to try if you suffer from seasonal allergies! Watercress spagyrics can be applied topically to remedy skin infections and irritations such as acne, eczema, blotches, dark spots, rashes, and ringworm. Internally, it is known to treat scurvy, tuberculosis, and bronchitis, help stabilize blood sugar levels, and break up kidney and bladder stones. The leaves, flowers, and seeds are used for medicinal purposes.
Lavender is another common plant that should be familiar to all of you as its aromatic properties are often used in commercial products. This Mercury plant is actually a genus of 39 different species of lavender plants, however, there are only two species that are used medicinally: English Lavender and Spike Lavender. For this assignment, we will only be dealing with English Lavender. Lavender is capable of dispelling faintness, nervous palpitations, colic, dizziness, migraines, and spasms. It can also bring relief to fatigue and exhaustion. However, I must warn you that any type of spagyric containing lavender must be taken in small doses. If taken in large amounts, lavender will act like a narcotic poison and the person who it is administered to will die by convulsions. Thankfully, you will not be taking your own elixir but should you ever run into that situation, contact a Healer immediately. It is actually more common to take lavender externally by applying drops of it topically to certain areas. For example, rubbing a few drops of lavender oil on paralyzed limbs will help stimulation. Lavender can help relieve depression and other related mental disorders by rubbing a few drops on your temples. It can also subdue toothaches, sprains, neuralgia, and rheumatism when applied topically to those problem areas. The flowers and the leaves are typically used for medicinal purposes.
This Venus herb is actually a favorite among healers and alchemists for being a miracle worker. Lady’s Mantle is a perennial herb under the genus Alchemilla, which means “little alchemist.” It was bestowed this name due to the dewdrops (you can see them in the picture on the left) that form on its leaves are said to have been used in archaic elixirs. What’s so wonderful about this plant? It’s considered to be one of the best wound herbs. It is very effective in treating inflamed wounds, bruises, ruptures, nausea, fluxes, and stopping vomiting and bleeding (internally and externally). There is a tincture of lady’s mantle commonly used in Sweden that is used to treat convulsive and spasmodic diseases. I remember that when I was a child, my mother always made sure there was a bottle of it in the medicine cabinet just in case. Lady’s mantle can speed up the treatment of gastroenteritis and diarrhea while also rapidly reducing the inflammation in the digestive and reproductive systems. It can also be used as a mouthwash to stop gums from bleeding, treat mouth ulcers, and relieve sore throats. If you have eczema, or any other skin disease that causes rashes, lady’s mantle can be made into a medicinal lotion. The parts that are used are the roots and any aerial parts of the plant.
I expect all of you to be familiar with Hawthorn as it was discussed in Herbology Year Four, Lesson Five and it’s a common wand wood! Unlike the other plants on this list, hawthorn is indeed a tree and it is ruled by Mars. The flowers, berries, and young leaves of the tree are used to create spagyrics that remedy diarrhea, dysentery, and high blood pressure. It can be made into a gargle that will alleviate sore throats. Hawthorn spagyrics are able to relax the nervous system, which in turn, relieve excessive stress and anxiety. It also can aid in dissolving kidney stones and deposits of gravel within the body as well as open the coronary arteries in the heart in order to improve the flow of blood. The bark can also act as an astringent and it has been used to treat malaria.
This Jupiter herb is one that you may find very familiar if you like to cook. Sage, particularly common sage, is a perennial herb that is often used in smudging rituals to purify people or areas. A liquified form is commonly used as a gargle for the inflammation of the throat, relaxing the throat and tonsils, bleeding gums, ulcers, and it can prevent excessive saliva. Obviously these properties make it an effective, and dare I say, one of the best cures for laryngitis, tonsillitis, coughs, and sore throats. When made into a lotion, sage is useful in cleaning and treating external ulcers and raw abrasions. Internal benefits of this herb include remedying typhoid fever, liver problems, kidney troubles, internal bleeding in the lungs and stomach, colds, fevers, measles, joint pains, palsy, and nervous headaches. It is also used as a stimulant for weakness in the nervous and digestive systems. The leaves can also be smoked as a type of treatment for asthma. The whole herb is technically used, however, the leaves themselves are the most commonly used part.
Last, but not least, is our Saturn herb, Horsetail. One of the most fascinating things about this plant is that it reproduces through spores instead of seeds. Horsetail is an effective diuretic and astringent, which are helpful for bladder and kidney conditions. It is another plant that can quickly heal wounds, stop bleeding, and treat ulcers. Horsetail can help reduce swelling in the eyelids and rapidly treat edema. What is particularly interesting about this plant is that it can treat sprains, torn ligaments, dislocated joints, pulled hamstrings, and other internal tissue damage by speeding up the rate of repair as well as enhancing elasticity and strength in the new tissues. The parts that will be used are the aerial parts of the plant, however, the stems in particular have to be barren of any fruit for medicinal use.
Do you remember the Essential Oil Steam Distiller tool we learned about in Year Two? How about the alembic created by Cleopatra the Alchemist which we discussed in Year Three? What about distillation as a spiritual process in Year Four? Every year has been leading up to this moment. Distillation is an essential process when dealing with spagyrics. Without distillation, we would not have essential oils, perfumes, alcohol, and so much more. We learned about the different methods of steam distillation when we brought up the tool. However, as you would have also known, witches and wizards do not need the aid of the Muggle tool in order to distill plants. We have a spell that allows us to distill oils from a plant in a safe and timely manner.
Name: The Distillation Spell
Incantation: Liquolirium (lik-kwol-LEER-ee-um)
Movement: Draw a counter-clockwise circle around the plant parts and make a small loop at the end of the circle.
An orb of steam surrounds the plant and extracts the oils. Once all of the oils are extracted, the steam evaporates, leaving the plant and essential oils neatly separated. I would recommend having a pot made from a non-reactive metal (stainless steel is the best) and placing the plant in a strainer over it, otherwise, you may end up with a mess. This spell reduces a procedure that lasts anywhere from a few hours to over 24 hours into a quick process that lasts around 2-5 minutes.
Time to move into the laboratory! Once you have picked out your plant, write down the corresponding day and time from the Mercury and Sulphur Level Charts that correspond with it. For example, if you picked Rosemary, you would start your laboratory work on Sunday in either the first, eighth, fifteenth, or twenty-second hour. The most potent elixirs begin preparation on the day of week that line up with the full moon! Full moon elixirs also have the greatest chance of succeeding, just throwing that out there. The plant must be dried before you begin working. Luckily, the plant matter provided in the laboratory is already dried out so that you may begin working on your day.
Before we start, I want to emphasize one thing: THIS IS NOT A WEEKEND PROJECT. Creating elixirs takes much longer than potions, and they take up to several weeks to make because you have to make the tincture before even beginning on the actual elixir. If you start it now and somehow manage to fail at producing a successful elixir, you will still have time to start it over and possibly get it ready before O.W.L.s start.
- The first step of making the tincture is to meditate during your ruling planetary hour. The reason is that you need to clear your mind and energize yourself to remain positive and focused throughout the process. It’s important that you prepare yourself spiritually as your state of mind affects the effectiveness of the result. Be sure to think about the plant, the corresponding planet, and its healing properties.
- Once you feel ready to proceed, take your plant and crush it into a coarse powder in your mortar and pestle.
- Once you are done pulverizing your plant, pour the powder into a clean glass jar. Pour the alcohol slowly into the jar and pause every few moments to let the alcohol soak into the powder. Stop adding the alcohol once it is around ¼ inches (6 mm) above the powder. Tightly seal your jar. As I mentioned earlier in the lesson, if your lid is made out of metal, wrap it completely in plastic wrap before you screw it on.
- Cover your jar in fabric, foil, or simply place it in a cardboard box to protect it from light. You need to place it in a warm location and make sure the temperature is 105° F (40° C) or over. In the laboratory, there is a storage cabinet near the furnace where you may place your incomplete tincture. The air-tight seal causes a distillation process as the liquid evaporates and condenses. You will find that the color becomes dark each day. The coloration is caused by the Mercury extracting the Sulphur from the Salt.
- Remember to shake your jar once or twice a day for two or three weeks. Do not let anyone else handle your jar as this will disrupt the spiritual relationship between the plant and yourself. When your tincture is considerably darkened, it’s time to move on to the next step.
- Be sure to work on the day corresponding to your plant during one of the ruling hours. Take the dark glass bottle or vial and set the glass funnel in it. Place a coffee filter into the funnel. When your jar has completely cooled down, pour your tincture into the funnel. The tincture will filter itself into the bottle while the dead plant matter will stay in the coffee filter. You may also manually push out any liquid out of the plant matter if you wish for the process to go faster. Once the tincture has finished dripping through, remove the funnel and seal the bottle. Set the dead plant material aside for the elixir. Congratulations! You have successfully made a tincture!
- Now that you have your tincture, what do you do with the dead plant matter? Simple, you burn it. Calcination will further purify the Salt of the plant. This dead plant matter is also known as the Caput Mortum, which is a literal translation for “Dead Head.” Time to get out your ceramic cauldron. Place the Caput Mortum into the cauldron and light the cauldron on high heat.
- Once the plant has been reduced to black ashes, take the cauldron off the heat and place the ashes into a mortar and pestle. Grind the ashes into a fine powder. Place the powder back into the cauldron and heat it until the powder turns grayish-white. If you heat the ashes for prolonged periods of time, the ashes will turn snow white before turning red. As we learned last year, these colors mimic the phases of the Great Work: Nigredo, Albedo, and Rubedo. However, grayish-white ashes are pure enough for most alchemical works.
- Remove the purified ashes and let them cool. Put them back into the mortar and pestle to grind them into an even finer powder. Store the ashes into a container and label it. For example, if you were using Lady’s Mantle you would write “Salt of Lady’s Mantle.”
- Wait until the correct planetary hour. Take out the other glass jar and pour the purified ashes in it. Take your original tincture and slowly pour it over the ashes. If you manage to make the tincture correctly, you will hear a fizzing sound. Swirl this mixture gently before tightly sealing the container. Shake the container vigorously for a minute or two. Store the container back in the heated storage cabinet for three weeks. Make sure to shake it three times daily.
- After three weeks, pour the elixir into an opaque or dark glass container and seal it tightly. The container should be nearly full if not completely filled. Notice how the aroma and color of your mixture has changed from the Salt digesting the living essences in the tincture? A successful elixir typically has a sweet smell and taste!
If you manage to do all these steps correctly, you have successfully created a spagyric elixir! While you are not trying out your own elixirs, I would like to reiterate something from the last lesson in case you need to take an elixir in the future. Do not ingest elixirs like you would a potion. Elixirs are one of the most potent types of medicine. Taking more than a few drops a day will prove it to be very harmful to the body. The difference in effects between a tincture and an elixir is that it takes less time for the effects of a tincture to take place, however, the effects of an elixir last much longer and can initiate physical changes in the body.
That is all I have for today! Your assignment for this class is to pick out the type of plant you are planning to use and how you are going to prepare making your tincture. I hope you enjoyed the topic of spagyrics as I certainly have. Next class, we will be moving onto another topic.