Updated: Feb 9
As a service to my readers, food & feast posts will always feature the recipe first, with history, folklore, and cooking tips toward the bottom of the page. For background on this recipe and helpful hints for navigating technique, scroll down! Otherwise, dive right in with the recipe below.
photo by Frances F. Denny
love potion cocktails
for valentine's day
Serves 2 guests
Prep time : 15 minutes, plus cooling
Cook time : 1 hour
FOR THE POTION TO SECURE A NEW LOVE
450ml (2 cups) fresh cherry juice
3 myrtle leaves
1 fresh rose
2 fresh apple or cherry blossoms
1 sprig fresh lemon balm
3 tablespoons raw honey (optional)
FOR THE POTION TO STRENGTHEN AN OLD LOVE
450ml (2 cups) orange juice
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon deerstongue
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon raspberry leaf
1 sprig fennel fronds
3 tablespoons raw honey (optional)
To prepare either potion, begin on a Friday at the hour of Venus, at a time when the moon is waxing or full and when Venus has no strong negative aspects. Do everything in your power to immerse yourself in the nature of the work – play happy music that makes you think of love, get dressed up to cook in an outfit that makes you feel worthy of love, or even scrub down your cooking tools in an infusion of rose petals and myrtle leaves – a true Venusian brew.
When ready to begin, add the fruit juice to your saucepan and set over a medium flame. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to 120ml (4fl oz/½ cup) – about 1 hour. Use a mortar and pestle to grind the rest of your botanicals together, releasing their fragrance and relishing the variety of perfumes that arise.
When the juice is done, place your ground herbs in a 180ml (6oz) preserving jar along with the raw honey. Pour the hot reduction over the herbs. stir well, and allow to steep until cooled to room temperature. Consecrate as you wish, but to goddesses of love or to the planet Venus would be ideal. Strain the potion and serve as a cocktail mixed with wine, gin, Champagne or your spirit of choice.
I imagine that when most people think of kitchen witchcraft, this is the kind of work they imagine – a capable, working knowledge of herbs and the ability to distill and concentrate their effects in a way that creates profound effects. While herbs are certainly a central aspect to kitchen witchcraft (and some would argue, witchcraft in general), their properties need to be identified, awakened and utilized by the witch if their effects are to be harnessed at all. The recipes here explore the technology of herbcraft through the lens of one of witchcraft’s most storied and legendary concoctions – the love potion.
However, the examples of traditional love potions recorded in grimoires are often less than romantic, and sometimes even sinister. In the 18th century book of French magic, Le Petit Albert, the author recommends a potion of one’s own blood, combined with the hearts of doves, sparrows and swallowtails – all traditional birds of Venus, used in magic to call down her favour. In the Picatrix, a number of disturbing love potions are mentioned, variously calling for measures of leopard blood, gazelle brains, human sweat, lapis lazuli powder and a litany of other exotic ingredients and grotesqueries. There are also a number of love potions described during the European middle ages which feature deadly, psychedelic poisons, such as henbane and datura, that are capable of rendering victims immobilized, confused and helpless, leading some historians to suggest that these potions were likely concocted in bad faith- to force a target into marriage through violence and scandal. Regardless of their specifics, these spells all had some basic mechanics in common – the consecrated potion was to be administered in secret to an unwitting target, delivered directly by the hand of the person who wished to be loved. Our recipes here draw their inspiration from this technology and seek to re-examine the love potion with ingredients that are more accessible, ethical and safe to ingest than those utilized by witches past.
When it comes to selecting our herbal allies, the impiortance of being discerning and deliberate cannot be overstated. Too often we find occult herbiaries which list herbs as being "good for love" with no specifics given. Are these herbs of attraction? To enflame lust? For marriage rites? To bid a lover to return? In these cases, examining the specific lore and traditional uses of these plants will yield deeper insight, and help us know where to turn when the specific need arises.
The herbs selected for these two potions have been carefully chosen for what they bring to the conversation of love, and what kinds of magical work they are traditionally used for. The potion to secure a new love features the herbs of first romance, corresponding to attraction, flirtation and discovery. Here, in lieu of songbird hearts and human blood, we find traditional herbs of Venus – roses, myrtle and fruit blossoms – infused in a deep-red cherry reduction to produce a narcotically fragrant elixir. For the potion to strengthen an old love, we encounter the herbs of constancy and devotion, which facilitate communication, intimacy and groundedness in a partnership. However, this blend is not without its romantic flair, as fennel and rosemary are two well-regarded aphrodisiacs. The rest of the herbs in this recipe are used in magic to focus the passions, returning the gaze toward the relationship instead of allowing eyes to wander. In either case, these potions are intended to encourage, not compel, the passions of your companion, and can be administered in a traditional, discreet fashion, or enjoyed willingly by both parties – for what could be romantic than permitting yourself to be bewitched, heart and soul?