Product “Instructions”: Dressing Candles, Skin Safety, Powders

I have been resisting writing this post for a long time, and I’ll tell you why. In part, it’s because there is already so much information easily available out there  that my writing anything is redundant. Furthermore, there are tons of ways to use oils, and my giving “instructions” is akin to my giving instructions on how to wash your hair: seriously, dab the oil on something. Those are the instructions.

The details are up to you, how complicated you get is up to you, what object you rub the oil on is up to you. People use oils to dress candles, amulets, charms, pakets, mojo bags, stuffed animals, talismans, jewelry, pets, their own hair: the list goes on and on. See, when people ask me for instructions, what they are actually asking for usually is a *spell,* whether they realize that’s what they’re asking for or not. And they don’t think lighting a fixed, dressed candle with intent counts as a “spell,” so they’re asking for something more complex. Well, there are thousands of those out there free for the searching, and I unfortunately just can’t give out free spell advice to all queries or I’d be out of business fast.

But lots of people ask me for instructions, and some get upset with me when I tell them that my oils don’t come with instructions. But I tell them they can visit my blog for ideas and resources. So here you go: a post on how to use condition oils.

Dressing candles

I personally use a method similar to that outlined in Henri Gamache’s Master Book of Candle Burning. Not all rootworkers do this – there is more than one way to skin a cat. But this is what I do. In this book, which you can get very inexpensively and which is a good investment if you are interested in candle-burning magic, Gamache outlines a theory of “polarity” for candles.

Imagine your candle has a North pole (the top) and a South pole (the bottom). Gamache recommends that candles be dressed by rubbing the oil from the center of the candle to the North pole, and then the center of the candle to the South pole. He writes, “the candle is never rubbed in both directions toward both poles.”

Now, here is where my methods (and the methods of some other rootworkers) change a bit. When I’m dressing a candle with oils for the purposes of drawing some influence, I rub the oil from the North pole (wicked end) to the center, so that I’m rubbing towards my body as I’m holding the candle in my hand. Then, I turn the candle so the wick is facing me, and then I rub from the end with no wick to the center. Since I”ve turned the candle, I’m still rubbing *towards* me. And I’ve gone from top to center and then bottom to center with my dressing.

When I’m dressing a candle to get rid of an influence, I reverse this process, dressing from center to wicked end, then turning the candle, and then dressing from center to non-wicked end.  Since I turn the candle, I’m always rubbing *away* from myself.

When I’m dressing a vigil or glass-encased candle, I go clockwise to draw/attract and counter-clockwise to “banish”/”get rid of”/repel.

Do you have to do it this way? No. There are other theories and other practices. But it’s what I personally do.

Some sites that discuss ways to use condition oils:

Dr. E on how to use condition oils (note that his method of dressing candles is slightly different, but equally valid)

cat yronwode at Lucky Mojo on condition oils

sources for candle-dressing philosophies at the Lucky Mojo forums (see? many ways to skin a cat)

Oils and Skin Safety – a very very very frequently asked question

I make ritual oils, not cosmetics. My products are designed for use on altar implements and talismans and the like, and to anoint objects and candles. They are not labeled or sold as cosmetics and I cannot possibly assure anyone that they won’t be allergic to any of the ingredients.

You see, there are laws about labeling cosmetics and body products and there are issues of skin safety with essential oils, as well. If you buy a condition oil or conjure formula that advertises itself as wearable/for use on skin and it is not labeled in accordance with FDA and INCI guidelines/nomenclature, then depending on how it’s made and how your seller is describing and marketing it, your seller could be headed for trouble for not abiding by the labeling laws designed to protect consumers. 

Yes, lots of people put them on their skin. Yes, it’s quite traditional to do so, and if you have a truly traditional formula, it’s unlikely to cause problems unless you have an allergy to an ingredient, because traditional dressing oils were made with dilution levels for skin safety in mind. (A lot of them were actually derived from perfume formulas to begin with.) But that doesn’t mean you should go buying hoodoo oils and wearing them as personal scents willy-nilly.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but makers of hoodoo oils have mushroomed exponentially over the last 10 years and you cannot swing a cat now without hitting somebody selling Van Van and Hot Foot. Hoodoo has gotten really trendy. But a lot of these people learned hoodoo from books and many never saw or smelled an old-school, traditional hoodoo formula made before, say, 2000 (and in some cases, they never saw or smelled one period before they started making their own).

These folks will have no idea what the old-school formulas that tended to be made at skin-safe strengths by default even smelled like. And if they bring a penchant for Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab into this with them, or for Bath and Body Works, you could be getting absolutely anything when you get that bottle. No way in hell would I slather some random oil with no ingredients list from somebody who is an unknown quantity on my body. How do I know if they even know what bergaptene is? How do I know if they made this oil formula with the usual ingredients or if they’ve innovated, and so how do I even know how to check for skin safety? Uh-uh.

This is why my candles and bath/body products that contain no artificial fragrances often do not have as strong a scent as mass-produced, widely-available products that use fragrance oils – not all essential oils are safe for you to use in the quantity I’d have to put in there in order for it to smell like an artificially fragranced item would smell. Others are safe but not affordable in that quantity, or would interfere with a candle’s ability to burn properly/safely, for example.

So don’t expect your conjure stuff to smell like perfume necessarily – if it’s made only with essential oils, it probably won’t smell like anything from Bath and Body Works. That richly scented stuff almost always uses at least some fragrance or cosmetic oils, if only to make the scent last or to make the candle “throw” the scent.

But seriously, even if you are getting oils from somebody you know is making them traditionally and who has been around a while, you still shouldn’t think of them as perfumes. You anoint with them selectively rather than spritzing them all over. And you should always do a skin test for any new bottle even if you’ve used the formula before, because like wine vintages, every “crop” of essential oils can be slightly different.

I don’t care *who* makes it. Basically, if it’s not labeled/tested as a body product, use your head before using it on your body. And please do not fall prey to the myth that “synthetics are bad for you and natural things are good for you.” That is way oversimplified. Essential oils can poison you, and you can be allergic to them. Herbs and oils are powerful and must be respected. “Natural” does not mean “hypoallergenic.” “Natural” does not mean “harmless.” Arsenic and botulinum toxin are “natural” too.

So now that I made you wade through all that, you still want to wear the dang condition oils, yeah? I’d advise you to do some research on body-safe dilution levels for essential oils. Most “make your own herbal shampoo” type sites will give rough guidelines, though they will always vary depending on the actual oils in question and your own skin sensitivity. But they’ll give you some valuable info to use going forward. Some scents you could practically bathe in and others you need to be much more careful with. It’s smart to know which are which. And you should always do a skin patch allergy test (as you would before using a hair coloring product) because new allergies can develop.

As many conjure oils contain ingredients that can cause photosensitivity, you should never slather them on skin that will be in direct sunlight. Traditional conjure oils are not used this way, anyway; they are used for anointing, not as cologne or aftershave. Anointing means, for instance, that lightly-oiled hands are applied to the crown of the head for Crown of Success anointing, or on the forehead for Consecration, or on the temples for Memory Drops, stuff like that. In other words, they are applied in small amounts to ritually significant parts of the body, by getting the oil on the hands and then using the hands to apply/anoint, in ritual settings. They are not poured onto the skin.

You definitely don’t need to use gloves to use my oils (though I would not want to leave my hands unwashed for long if I were using hot foot or hexing oils; otherwise, just keep them away from eyes, mouth, etc). I use my own hands to make all my products, and to dress my clients’ candles and amulets with, and I’ve been doing so nearly daily for many years, so I don’t make my oils with anything known to be toxic when used as directed. I just don’t make them to be cosmetics or, God forfend, personal lubricants (and I have to say so, officially, because you would not BELIEVE some of the things people do sometimes – putting hoodoo oils on body parts where the skin is *way* too sensitive – which can land you in the emergency room with a really embarrassing problem — or putting powders into people’s food and stuff, just stuff that doesn’t make any sense). I have to try to head that stuff off at the pass and make it really clear.

A good (though very general and not hard-and-fast) rule of thumb is that if it smells of citrus, you should probably keep skin dressed with it out of direct sunlight. If it smells strongly of cinnamon or spice, you should probably keep it away from sensitive areas/mucous membranes and be extra careful about the skin patch test. If it smells minty, keep it away from your mouth and your children. Cinnamon essential oil can cause chemical burns, so use on skin with extra care. Wintergreen essential oil has beneficial and therapeutic uses when used in appropriate amounts by a trained qualified practitioner, but it’s not impossible to hit toxic levels of wintergreen when you’re talking about absorption through the skin, especially if you are also using over-the-counter remedies for things like arthritis, muscle aches, and the like.

Will wearing Red Fast Luck oil on your skin burn the piss out of you, or kill you if you’ve used Icy Hot the same day? Maybe not, but why take the risk, especially if you don’t know your condition oil manufacturer to be a person who designs it specifically for dermal application? Once you start adding various sources of dermal absorption, esp. in the form of products not designed for medicinal or therapeutic dermal use, it’s pretty hard to measure the amount you’re absorbing. (For a taste of how complicated it can be to measure dermal oil absorption, have a look at this discussion which starts generally and moves on to discuss eucalyptus, pennyroyal, and wintergreen in particular).

Icy Hot was made in a lab according to standards of safety for dermal use; Fast Luck oil was not. And chances are good that your hoodoo oil supplier, like  me, is not an aromatherapist or medical herbalist. They make condition oils, not medicines. Now if you’ve got one you trust and you wear their oils, great! Good for you. I just want to encourage people to be cautious because some folks don’t actually know what they’re doing when it comes to oils and skin safety, and some aren’t aware that there are laws about this stuff that they’re breaking due to the way they advertise their products.


The point of my hoodoo powders is to let you deploy the desired formula in ways that need powder for deploying. They are designed for things like sprinkling in your target’s foot tracks or on the path they take to the parking lot so they’ll get it on their shoes, dusting an object or area where liquid dispersal would be impractical or attract too much attention, drawing sigils and symbols on flat surfaces, discreet dispersal in a larger area by blowing, leaving small discreet pinches in pockets, shoes, corners, and other appropriate places, fitting a multi-herb formula into a small space like a flat packet or toby, dusting papers or your hands before contact, things like that. It is traditional to call your target’s name, and/or murmur your petition or pray, as you deploy them. 

They will not hurt you if you put them on your skin, but they aren’t cosmetics, aren’t made in accordance with cosmetic industry guidelines for ingredients or labeling, are not talcum-based, and will be grittier/coarser than talcum-based powders.  They have actual powdered herbs in them, and if you think about it for a second you will realize that actual powdered leaves and stems often don’t make good cosmetics.

So if you are expecting a powder that is as finely ground as a cosmetic and that will make your skin really smooth, you will be disappointed with my powders. Some people do make talcum-based powders, which are quite traditional; it’s my non-talcum powders that are actually the less traditional version, but I have health reasons for not using talcum or making products with talcum. 

They also aren’t sold as “pure herbal powders.” Traditional hoodoo powders have never been 100% herbal material – that’s a thing from European traditions or 20th century innovation or something. There are reasons why they’re made like they’re made, and it’s 100% bullshit that pure herbal powders are “better” – they’re different things that do different jobs. Powder that is made only of ground-up herbs tends to be too expensive to use in the traditional ways, a lousy carrier/absorber of essential oils, and more difficult to camouflage, just for starters.

For the truly old-school and/or purists among you, I do incorporate mineral elements whenever possible even though I don’t use talcum — and yes, this is another element of hoodoo powders not having ever been 100% herbal material. Mineral ingredients are often very important to hoodoo/conjure “recipes” and for some formulas, a powder without the mineral ingredients is no longer a hoodoo formula as it has missed one of the major, critical points. This is yet another reason you need to learn the traditions before you start trying to innovate – before you have internalized the traditions, you won’t even know what all you don’t know and you might be imposing a very ill-fitting paradigm onto hoodoo products that essentially takes all the power out of them.

I usually incorporate mica powders to address necessary mineral components that would have been handled with talcum traditionally, but since these powders are *not* designed to draw attention to themselves, I don’t overdo it, and you probably won’t be able to tell just by glancing at them. But I made my changes from tradition advisedly and with care towards preserving the underlying principles of traditional conjure formulation while avoiding unnecessary health risks from talcum.

Hoodoo condition oils are never meant to be consumed, and while few people would think to eat them, they often don’t think quite enough about what they do with conjure products. Hoodoo powders are generally not designed for putting in food or drink – use powdered herbs for this, not conjure powder formulas designed for sprinkling, dusting, blowing, or drawing designs. And if you want your lover to put his or her mouth somewhere, use products that are designed for that sort of thing.  You can pray over them and add things to them, and that’s more likely to end up being fun and not involve a hospital visit than is risking using a condition oil as a personal lubricant.

Read more about powders and their history at Powders in Hoodoo: Theory, History, Contemporary Differences in Perspective and Region, aka “two rootworkers have a (polite, respectful, and interesting) argument.” Bonus history lesson on 18th century hairstyles and hygiene in the comments.

more questions – tying a mojo, how-to, product instructions

Q: What is [fill in name of oil] used for?

A: I have a page in my ebay store that explains some of them, and many of them have info in the listings.  Eventually I will finish writing up the complete list and make it available on my webpage, but I can’t make any promises about when that will happen 🙂  Here’s the list of conditions/formulas.  The neat thing about hoodoo condition oils is that they are almost always named for the condition they "treat," so many don’t really need long descriptions.  Money Drawing. Get A Job.  Crown of Success.  Simple and sweet.

Q: Are you aware that [so and so] is [copying your items, has text that mirrors yours closely, has cut and pasted an entire blog entry or page of yours]?

Continue reading “more questions – tying a mojo, how-to, product instructions”

more Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  How do I use a black cat bone?

Depends on what you’re using it for.  Here are some ideas.

Q: Do  you send typed instructions with your oil/candle/mojo bag?

A: No.  I am happy to give you ideas for working based on your situation via email at any point, but the thing is, there is no “one right way” to use this stuff beyond “burn the candle” and “dress the mojo bag.”  The uses for things like oils and powders are limited only by your imagination.  And hoodoo does not do the “one true way must-do-when-moon-is-in-pisces say-words-just-so” thing.  You can make this stuff as simple or as complicated as you want.  I do send instructions with my bath salts for folks wanting to take a spiritual bath, and I am happy to make suggestions, but giving you typed instructions on what to do with a candle smacks to me of dictating a Set Way of doing hoodoo, and I’m allergic to that in addition to believing it to be pretty much against the spirit of things in hoodoo anyway.

Some people do complicated rituals involving powders, herbs, bells, moon phases, psalms, chants, prayers, carvings, long term altar work, whatever.  Some people light a candle, say a prayer, and walk away.  And some people don’t feel right *unless* they make it kind of complicated, and that’s cool, but I’m not going to pretend you have to do that to get results.  You don’t.

I will give you the dos and don’ts aka care and feeding of your mojo bag, and I will always be happy to make suggestions and/or point you in the direction of some instructions that are out there, but I don’t send typed instructions on how to use an oil or powder, no.  If you order a kit like the “Breakup Spell Jar” kit, which is listed specifically as coming with instructions, then you will get instructions.  Otherwise, feel free to tell me a little about what you’re using the product for and I’ll make a recommendation for you.

ETA: If you’re not even sure how to even start thinking about this stuff, here’s an entry on Crown of Success products that may give you some ideas. And here’s a Hyatt spell involving candle burning that I dare say is typical in its simplicity.

Q: You’re going to hell, blasphemer!

A: (yawn)

Q: Can I have a free tarot reading?

A: No.

Q: If I buy an oil from you but maybe don’t use it for, say, three months, will it be ineffective then?

A: No.  Most of my oils have a sweet almond oil base: I treat my new almond oil shipments with Vitamin E to retard spoilage, I buy it in small quantities, and I keep it refrigerated.  I also make my condition oils in tiny batches (only the most popular get made in four ounce batches – the majority get made in one ounce batches).  This raises my prices (I could buy 35 gallons of almond oil at a time for less, ultimately, but it would be rancid by the time I got halfway through it, and besides, I have nowhere to keep that much) and increases my workload (I could hustle and get out fifty bottles of Attraction Oil in a day and just slap one in an envelope every time an order comes in, but then you *might* get a bottle that was already sitting there for three months, and it really might go bad before you were ready to use it).  This is a major reason behind why my oils are a bit pricier than those that come from larger suppliers – I’m just one person, working in my “art room,” and my sales volume is not high enough for it to make sense for me to buy 35 gallons of something at a time  (and the very large suppliers who shall go unnamed don’t use real herbs and essential oils in their oils, and they put them in a base that will not go rancid – because it’s full of chemicals and preservatives and/or is mineral oil).

All this means that no oil sits in my cupboard for more than a month before it finds its way to you, and the herbs are added to your bottle right before I ship it to you.

If you keep your oils in a cool, dry place you can generally expect to get about a year’s use out of them.  Some of my oils will not go bad (Lodestone Oil, for instance, contains nothing that can go bad, and it’s one of the oils that is not made in an almond oil base), and some will actually be just fine even if they do sit a while and start to smell a little “different” (Crossing Oil, for instance, I never throw out.  The nastier, the better!).

So buy with confidence.  If you don’t use a lot of oil, get a one dram bottle.  If you do use a lot and want to save some money buying in volume, get a half ounce bottle.  I don’t sell oils that aren’t fresh, period.
ETA: I no longer sell oils in different bottle sizes.

Q: Using animal bones and parts is mean and heartless and/or devil worship!  What about the poor wittle animals?!?!!!!111!omgwtf?!?!?!

A: You are entitled to your opinion, but I don’t want to hear it.

For those who are curious, I do not kill animals for the sole purpose of harvesting their bones (or feet, or whatever).  In fact, the overwhelming majority of animals whose remains find their way into my hoodoo arsenal die of complete accident, the laws of nature (predation and ilness), or are gently and lovingly euthanized by compassionate owners.  A few things are the result of hunting, such as my turkey feet charms, but my use of the feet helps the hunters to use all of the animal instead of wasting any part or tossing it in the trash.  My chicken foot charms are made from the feet of chickens that were killed to feed human beings, and again, using them helps to prevent waste.  You don’t have to use animal parts to do effective hoodoo, but they have a very long history of use in the magic of a very many cultures around the world, including but certainly not limited to hoodoo – and some simply may not be “substituted” with other things to the point where you can expect the same effect.  Don’t like it?  Don’t engage in it.  But don’t tell me about the poor wittle animals, because you’re not going to change my mind, you’re not going to gain my respect, and you are going to demonstrate that you have little understanding of the principles of hoodoo or of a holistic “spiritual ecology.”

If you eat meat or wear leather and would even consider saying something like this to me, then you really need to sit down and have a little think.

Q: How did you get started making oils? (Implied: how do I?)

I have been a compulsive buyer of curios and candle shop stuff and occult stuff since I was itty bitty.  I used to get in trouble for raiding my mother’s herb cabinets – she’d be looking for the cumin for the chili, and I had it squirreled away up in my room mixing up potions.  We’d wander the woods around our house and she’d point out different plants and herbs and tell me what they were called, and we’d bring various wild-foraged stuff home to make teas and potpourri. But we’d get home and my attention would wander as soon as she started grinding sassafras before dinner – I’d have my old notebook out writing up new “potions” (and then burning the edges of the pages with matches so the recipes wouldn’t *look* new lol). Witches in a play I had to read for school? I was taking notes. Index in back of potpourri book mentions a medieval grimoire? I was taking notes. Mom’s hippie friend joined a U.S. offshoot of a UK witchcraft coven? Notes. Neighbor had a homemade cough syrup or weird way to keep hornworms off tomatoes?  Dad’s friend  mentioned a certain kind of incense being better for meditation than another kind? Notes. Random folks in line at the gas station mention a full moon? Eavesdropping and hopefully notes.

My formulas are derived from decades of study and experimentation and lots and lots of (expensive) trial and error (the main ingredient, imo). I purchased and tested and analyzed a lot of different oils from a lot of different suppliers over a lot of years, and I always tried to talk shop with people I met. I found that nobody would give out their formulas, but what some WOULD do is let me give them my trials and give me feedback. So once you start mixing, I would recommend you start getting feedback from experienced users of hoodoo condition oils, and creators too if you can find any who’ll give you some.

Q: Since you don’t make (fill in the blank) and I want some, will you tell me how to make it?

A: No.  I’m sorry if that seems unfair, but some people have this weird sense that they are entitled to all knowledge ever and it should all be free and on the internet, and I just don’t believe that.  It took me 25 years and thousands of dollars to collect my formulas and get them just right and adapt them to changes in available materia magica, etc, and I do not give out my recipes.  They are proprietary.  (Some people even get pissed off when I won’t type them up free spells when they order a product to which I can only say, Get over yourself.  I can’t afford to work for free, and if I don’t advertise that a product comes with a certain service or accessory, yet you expect to me provide that service or accessory anyway, well – you’re being unreasonable.  When you then say, “You’re a horrible rootworker and I will never shop with you again,” I breathe a giant sigh of relief that I will never had to deal with your overdeveloped sense of entitlement again.)

But my best advice is to bust your ass like I did; at some point you will no longer need other people’s recipes, and that’s how you know you’re ready to spread those fledgling hoodoo wings and fly.  Once you get the “why” behind the ingredients, you’re golden.  If you’re hung up on the “one true recipe,” you just have the wrong idea about hoodoo.  Besides, learning the theory behind the ingredients is learning hoodoo. Following a recipe is not learning hoodoo.

Q: You offend all the people of Poland and all Catholics by using Our Lady of Czestochowa on your heathen candles.

A: Wow.  I bet a bunch of Haitian Catholics would be amused to hear that.

More FAQs here.