Holy oil has been used since ancient times, and is still used in many spiritual traditions. It is frequently overlooked as a magical tool, as it is primarily used for anointing and blessing. However, those of us who work with energy will find that it is an exemplary tool for charging items with a particular intent. This area of the PaganPath Formulary details holy oils used magically and ritually in various spiritual paths (including Paganism of course) along with numerous recipes for you to make your own holy oil.
There are several types of oils used in the Catholic church, called Olea Sacra1, but I'll refer you to the References & Resources section at the end of this article if you desire more information about Catholic holy oils and how they are blessed. Some of the Catholic oils, and the rituals associated with them for blessing, are of course rooted in pre-Christian Paganism. Because of this they do offer a glimpse of insight into our past. The oil used most frequently in the church is olive oil.
Originally, the ointment type oils referred to in Christian writings may have contained myrrh, cassia and/or cinnamon or calamus in addition to the olive oil, but there is no definitive recipe as time and politics have blurred the accuracy of the original formulas. Those interested in ceremonial magick or the writings of Aleister Crowley or S. L. MacGregor Mathers will note a distinct similarity between traditional holy oil used in the church and Abramelin oil (a magickal oil adapted from Jewish holy oil).
Take one part of the best myrrh, half a part of cinnamon, one part of cassia, one part galanga root, and a quarter of the combined total weight of good, fresh olive oil. Make these into an ointment or oil as is done by the chemists. The Book of Abramelin: A New Translation2
Holy oils are also utilized by many spiritual paths that were at one time Pagan, but have blended the old folk magic and Pagan ways with Christianity. Specifically, Afro-Caribbean religions3 such as Vodou, Louisiana Voodoo, Hoodoo folk magic, and Afro-Brazilian religions4 including Santeria.
Ready made holy oil is sold at numerous magic and occult shops, and it one of the best selling items in most botánica5. You will find a wide range of magical and spiritual oils available, but holy oil, altar oil and Abramelin oil are the basic standards. Many practitioners would view the absence of one of these oils in their supplies much as a chef would view the absence of salt in their cupboard.
The standard "secret" recipe for most Holy Oils and Altar Oils is: 1 ounce Olive Oil 10 drops Lily Oil 10 drops Rose Oil
The lily and rose oils used for this type of "magickal" oil are synthetic fragrance oils. Anna Riva and other occult brands use this recipe or minor variations of this recipe, for almost all of their holy oils. Some shops drop a plastic cross into the bottle to dress it up a bit, but all the name brand and ready-made occult holy oils are essentially the same. Because natural olive oil becomes rancid easily, some suppliers use mineral oil or jojoba oil instead of olive oil.
The most common use for this oil is to anoint candles prior to spells and prayers for attraction or love. There are several popular recipes for this "magickal" holy oil, but pretty much they all contain a base vegetable oil (usually olive) and some flowery perfume fragrances.
Ideally, as a Pagan, you would use an oil of your own making or one made for you according to your specific intent. Pagans do not use ingredients in spells and rituals as if the recipes were holy writ. Using a good magical herbal, consult the charts to find the botanicals that match your intent. Use your intuition to refine your selections.
For example, say you have no money, no occult shop nearby, and can't wait for an online shop to deliver ingredients to you. Armed with a good herbal correspondence book, you go to your kitchen.
Say you want an anointing oil for attraction and have determined that a variation of holy oil would suit your purposes well. Avocado oil would be appropriate magically, and maybe you have some on hand. You could consecrate and bless this oil to your intent and use it as it is, or add some essential oils (if you have them) to enhance the effects.
Perhaps your spice shelf has some whole cloves and cinnamon sticks you can add to the oil. Both are suited to your intent of attraction, so you might drop a piece of cinnamon stick and three whole cloves into the oil. For a healing holy oil, olive oil with whole allspice berries would be nice.
The point is, don't just use "holy oil" off the shelf because the instructions in a spell require it, think about why it is used. What is its function in a rite? What would be better for you to use, if anything?
Again, holy oil is used for anointing and blessing, and sometimes for charging items to a particular intent for magic. This later function, in my opinion, is under-utilized. There are hundreds of types of oils used in magic, and holy oil is only one type of anointing oil. After creating a holy oil, it is traditional to consecrate and bless it. Our collection of recipe variations for holy oil appears in the table below.
It is highly recommended that you add the contents of a liquid Vitamin E capsule to any holy oil you create. Click on the image to enlarge. Vitamin E will prevent the oils from oxidizing and becoming rancid, thereby preserving your brew. Pierce the end of a liquid Vitamin E capsule with a pin, and squeeze the contents into your oil. Use a minimum of 400 IU (International Units) Vitamin E capsule, with 600 IU, 800 IU and more potent types being best.
Occult oils often contain bits of botanicals, stones, charms and other items. Many of the recipes in the collection below reflect this tradition. All recipes utilize pure essential oils, absolutes, liquid resinoids and other natural oils. If you use synthetic oils, your results may not be satisfactory for fragrance or magic.
Holy Oil Formulas
See also the Recipe Conversion Chart here.
|Healing Holy Oil
1/2 ounce Olive Oil
4 Allspice berries
1 small Bloodstone
10 drops Myrrh Oil*
*use true liquid resinoid if possible
|Attraction & Love Holy Oil
1/2 ounce Avocado Oil
3 whole Cloves
10 drops Rose Absolute
1 small Rose Quartz
|Blessing Holy Oil
1/2 ounce Olive Oil
10 drops Frankincense Oil*^
10 drops Myrrh Oil*
10 drops Cinnamon Oil (bark or leaf)
*use true essential oil (liquid resinoid)
^or frankincense absolute
|Blessing Holy Oil #2
1/2 ounce Olive Oil
3 drops Jasmine Absolute
10 drops Rose Absolute
1 drop Ylang Ylang oil or absolute
|Prosperity Holy Oil
1/2 ounce Almond Oil
8 drops Cinnamon Oil(bark or leaf)
8 Whole Cloves
Cinquefoil* (five finger grass)
Use a small pinch of ground, or one small, whole dried leaf
|Anointing Holy Oil
1/2 ounce Olive or Sunflower Oil
10 drops Sandalwood Oil for blessing
1 drop Spikenard Oil for trust
5 drops Lemon Oil for love & friendship
5 drops Clove Oil for silence
25 drops Lavender Oil for harmony
5 drops Ginger Oil for power
5 drops Star Anise Oil for protection
This recipe is well suited for initiations, dedications and coven rituals where body applications are required.
References & Resources
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- Information about Holy Oil (Olea Sacra) as used in the Catholic Church can be found at the Online Catholic Encyclopedia on Holy Oil
- The Book of Abramelin: A New Translation, by Abraham Von Worms (Author), Georg Dehn (Editor), Steven Guth (Translator), Lon Milo Duquette (Foreword- and I must say a wonderful author in his own right). Published by Nicolas Hays, Inc; 1st American Hardcover Ed edition 2006 | ISBN-10: 089254127X | ISBN-13: 978-0892541270
- Learn more about Afro-Caribbean on Wikipedia: Afro-American Religions
- Learn more about Afro-Brazilian religions on Wikipedia: Religion in the Dominican Republic
- Botánica or a "botany" is a type of store that specializes in herbs, oils and spiritual supplies. Read more about them on Wikipedia: Botánica Shops