Updated: Aug 4, 2021
For many occult students, especially beginners, there can certainly be a temptation to rely heavily on correspondence as a means of understanding the magical world. Looking at the ways in which materia, divinities, and concepts relate to one another through shared qualities and symbolic connection is one way to begin unpacking how magic works, especially without the constraints and demands of devotional practice and traditional dogma. This concept originates in antiquity, operating via sympatheia- literally meaning "fellow-feeling"- detailed by Plato to describe a "physical world... animated by a World-Soul which renders it a unified and unique living being" (Emilsson). Plotinus discusses this concept at length in the Enneads (270 CE) and speaks about the way sympatheia ties together the whole of the universe in interrelationship, saying "nothing is so distant in space that it is not close enough to the nature of the one living thing to be sympathetic." This concept analogizes the universe as an organism, with every aspect being both integral and interrelated, bearing in its essence the energetic signature of the singular World-Soul. This was not only the basis for understanding the natural universe, such as the relationship between the moon and the tides or the empathy of humans, but also for understanding why occult phenomena like divination, prophecy, and sorcery are able to take place- echoing the favored Hermetic axion, "as above, so below." In their introduction to the Picatrix, Christopher Warnock and John Michael Greer explain this concept further, particularly as it relates to astrological magic :
To Neoplatonists... the world was a hierarchy of levels of being, down which currents of influence cascaded from the divine unity at its summit. The work of the magician consisted of learning the ways of these currents, and drawing upon them to perform magical works when they were at their strongest.
- THE PICATRIX, "THE PICATRIX IN CONTEXT," CHRISTOPHER WARNOCK & JOHN MICHAEL GREER
In the ancient world as well as today, stronger emphasis and more detailed analysis is typically given to the sympathetic relations of the heavenly spheres to earthly materia, more than any other energetic currents. The role of the planets and celestial luminaries as allies to magicians and particularly powerful agents of change here on earth was prominent even in the ancient world. These spheres were believed to emanate their power passively and non-intelligently, as a side effect of their very existence, through which certain aspects of the divine could be accessed and captured.
Certainly, this mechanism of sympatheia can be considered as one of the oldest magical technologies, and would later be taken up and organized by the occult authors of the late middle ages and beyond. Here, in the writings of thinkers like Agrippa, a concept which once described the intimacy of the divine macrocosm with the terrestrial microcosm became rigidly ordered into sets of descriptions and lists- focusing heavily on the interrelationship of materia and planets, for the benefit of the practical magician. Thus, the version of this concept that many of us interact with today, all but divorced from its philosophical and religious origins in Greek cosmology, builds on the work of centuries of thinkers and writers who considered these energetic currents from their own perspectives, and continues their tradition of systematization. As a result, interpretations of these currents vary, heavenly archetypes are flattened, designations become rigid, and correspondence is presented for students as a magical technology wholesale, containing barely a trace of the worldview that birthed it.
Especially when using correspondence as a tool for practical magic, awareness of these philosophical origins breathes greater depth into our practice, and gives a bit more leeway for understanding the shifting, non-linear nature of correspondence and correlation as it spans across ages, cultures, landscapes, and magical schools of thought. When I'm teaching, this is one of the more complex things to explain to students- that correspondence is only meant to describe a set of qualities and impressions, suggestive of one aspect of a central divine experience, rather than provide a reliable, unmoving structure in which every object has own separate place. For example, consider the way 17th century herbalist and astrologer Nicholas Culppeper discusses correspondence between plants and two of the planetary spheres- Saturn & the Moon :
Leaves: hairy, hard, dry, parched, coarse, and of ill-favoured appearance.
Flowers: Unprepossessing, gloomy, dull, greenish, faded or dirty white, pale red, invariably hirsute, prickly, and disagreeable.
Roots: Spreading widely in the earth and rambling around in discursive fashion.
Odour: Fœtid, putrid, muddy.
Leaves: Pale, highly succulent, pith thick, firm, strongly-developed veins, bottle-green.
Flowers: Pale yellow or greenish, watery, mellifluous, but uninteresting and without beauty.
Roots: Penetrating easily through water and earth, not durable, and easily decayed, spreading neither thickly nor deeply.
Odour: Disagreeable, almost none, without pungency, redolent of the earth, rain, or soft savour of honey.
Certainly, while Culpeper's work lays out a system for identifying the qualities of these spheres as they become manifest in plants, his work still leaves much ambiguity about the plants themselves. Despite the disparate nature of these two spheres, we can sense some overlap where plants may fit into both categories- tobacco for it's tender, hairy leaves and unimpressive flowers, valerian for it's white blossoms and disagreeable rot-scent fragrance- suggesting that these spheres are not rigid delineations, but rather suggestions of an energetic imprint, where plants can embody various aspects of different spheres in their final, complete form. Consider the rose, a traditional blossom of Venus, which blooms in blood-red hues, enshrouded in thrick, woody vines of thorns- both color and qualities which relate to Venus' opposite, Mars. Discrepancies and overlaps such as these are even found between authors, who describe these energetic currents with some variation. For example, ginger root is given two separate designations by two different authors- Agrippa attributes the plant to the Sun due to it's sharp and bright flavors, while William Lily places it under dominion of Mars for it's heat-giving spice.
Understanding these correspondences as fluid in this way is in keeping with the way sympatheia was understood in antiquity, and provides a dynamic framework for considering magical plants as embodiments of various divine currents, expressed in various ways. The list of correspondences given here draws its associations from the works of several influential astrologers & planetary magicians- Nicholas Culpeper, William Lily, Agrippa, Al-Biruni- as well as biblical lore, observations about plant anatomy and herbal actions, flavors and fragrance, and traditional associations from folklore and mythology. As such, readers may find some overlap between categories, and this is to be expected. Readers are encouraged to consider what qualities of a plant may place it under a particular designation, and to consider the plant as a whole in it's most holistic form when making elections for our work. A complete list of works referenced can be found at the bottom of this page, with links to free online PDFs where applicable.
This list will be updated as-needed, and may change slightly in the future to reflect new information. In the interest of safety, please keep in mind that several of the plants referenced on the list of herbs below are inedible or poisonous, and one should always do their own research before ingesting unfamiliar herbs. Nevertheless, this reference should prove useful in making selections for planetary magic, kitchen witchcraft, and all other works in which the heavenly spheres are consulted.
THEMES : ego, personality, wealth, fame, prosperity, confidence, joy, health, integrity, talent, prophecy, clarity.
FORMS OF MAGIC : exorcism, financial magic, magic to increase visibility in one's career, magic against depression and self-hatred, divination regarding destiny, seeking truth, magic regarding physical health.
HERBS : acacia, adder's tongue, angelica, ash, bay laurel, burnet, calamus, calendula, cedar, celandine, chrysanthemum, cinnamon, cloves, coreopsis, daisy, dandelion, elecampane, eyebright, feverfew, frankincense, forsythia, helenium, heliotrope, holly, labdanum, lemon balm, lilies, lotus, magnolia, marigold, mimosa, mistletoe, morning glory, palm, santonila, scarlet pimpernel, pine, rhodiola, rockrose, rosemary, rose hips, rue, saffron, saint john's wort, sumac, sundew, sunflower, turmeric, viper's bugloss, yarrow.
MEDICINE : antibacterial preparations, antidepressants, antioxidants, cardiotonics, wound-healing preparations
FLAVORS : bright, sweet, tart, aromatic
COLORS : yellow and gold (gooseberries, lemons, apricots, yellow peppers, polenta, etc)
PREPARATION METHODS : Roasting, sun-drying, baking
INGREDIENTS : almonds, apricots, bran, butter, corn syrup, dates, date sugar, dried fruits, flax, frangipane, golden raisins, gooseberry, hearts of palm, jams, kumquats, lemons, maple syrup, marzipan, molasses, oats, olives, oranges, palm sugar, pasta, peanut butter, quinoa, wheat, whiskey.
☽︎ THE MOON
THEMES : intuition, illusion, clairvoyance, emotions, the subconscious mind, dreams, purity, spirits of the dead.
FORMS OF MAGIC : cleansing, purification, divination, dreamwork, trance, meditation, cursing the guilty, obfuscation and invisibility magic, speaking with the dead, work regarding emotional security & stability.
HERBS : blue lotus, black copal, bullrush, camassia, camphor, cannabis, chamomile, clary sage, datura, dittany, eucalyptus, evening primrose, gardenia, garlic, hops, hyacinth, hyssop, iris, irish moss, jasmine, kava kava, white lilies, linden, mallow, milky oats, moonwort, mugwort, myrrh, oatstraw, olive leaves, orris, passionflower, peony, peppermint, poppy, queen of the night, rain lilies, reeds, reishi, rockfoils, sage, skullcap, star anise, stonecrop, storax, sweet pea, valerian, wintergreen, wormwood, yarrow.
MEDICINE : analgesics, anaphrodisiacs, bitters, carminatives, demulcents, fever reducers, hypnotics, narcotics, sedatives.
FLAVORS : mild, crisp, fresh, creamy
COLORS : white or pale green (coconut, cucumber, honeydew, dairy, potato, etc)
PREPARATION METHODS : Steaming, poaching, cold foods, comfort dishes
INGREDIENTS : aloe, bamboo, banana, cabbage, cheese, coconut, cucumber, crustaceans, dairy & non-dairy milks, duck, eggs, fish, honeydew, kefir, lettuce, lotus & lotus seeds, miso, mushrooms, pickles, potato, pumpkin, rice, sake, seaweeds, shellfish, squash, vodka, yams, yogurt.
THEMES : intellect, guidance, wisdom, miracles, medicine, communication, kinetic energy, trickster archetype.
FORMS OF MAGIC : manifestation, travel, negotiations, communication of all kinds, magic to return stolen goods, magic to deliver results expeditiously, magic regarding medical matters.
HERBS : alfalfa, anise, bergamot, birch, caraway, carrot seed, chervil, chickweed, cinquefoil, cowslip, dill, dragonbalm, elecampane, elemi, ephedra, fennel, fenugreek, hazel, heather, hedge mustard, horehound, ginkgo, ginseng, gotu kola, gum mastic, mate, lavender, lemongrass, licorice, mace, marjoram, mint, parsley, queen anne's lace, rowan, savory, sassafras, schisandra, southernwood, star anise, sweet wormwood, tansy, tarragon, tea leaves, woodbine, wood sorrel.
MEDICINE : adjuvants, aromatics, experctorants, nervines, nootropics, stimulants.
FLAVORS : floral, herbaceous, complex, sour
COLORS : vibrant hues, mixed colors (candies,
PREPARATION METHODS : Raw foods, grazing tables, molecular gastronomy, tinctures and extracts
INGREDIENTS : beans, bee pollen, bilberry and blueberry, candy, carrot, cashew, cauliflower, celery, chickpeas, cranberries, coffee, cow parsnip, digestifs, earl gray, fennel, hazelnuts, honey, game meats, goji berries, haricots verts, lemon, lemongrass, matcha, millet, mulberries, peas, rabbit, root beer, rhubarb, seitan, spinach, sprouts, sumac, tamarind, tart cherries, tempeh, tofu, white sugar, zucchini.
THEMES : tactile pleasure, romance, beauty, fertility, sensuality, allure, harmony, community, poetry, luxury.
FORMS OF MAGIC : love magic, glamoury, tending to magical gardens, magic to win favor with others, spells of peace and reconciliation, attraction magic in all forms. Works against Mars influences.
HERBS : alder, alkanet, amber, anemone, apple blossom, baby's breath, barberry, benzoin, bergamot, birch, bleeding hearts, cardamom, carnation, catnip, clover, columbine, cowslip, daffodil, daisies, damiana, dianthus, foxglove, hibiscus, hollyhock, goldenrod, jasmine, lady's bedstraw, lady's slipper, lemon balm, lilac, mallow, motherwort, mint, myrtle, pea flowers, pennyroyal, periwinkle, plantain, primrose, orchid, raspberry leaf, red sandalwood, spikenard, rose, rose of sharon, self-heal, tansy, verbena, vervain, violets.
MEDICINE : anti-inflammatory drugs, aphrodisiacs, diuretics, emollients, emmenagogues, estrogenics.
FLAVORS : caramelized, sweet, rich, perfumed.
COLORS : red, pink, blushed (cherries, apples, pomegranate, etc) or of vibrant hues
PREPARATION METHODS : caramelizing, baking, raw foods, haute cuisine
INGREDIENTS : apples, apricot, avocado, barley, berries, bread, cacao, cherries, chocolate, currants, dumplings, desserts, eggplant, egg whites, endive, grapes, edible flowers, figs, legumes, lemons, loquats, molasses, oysters, passionfruit, pastries, peaches, pears, pistachio, plums, pomegranate, quince, sorrel, wine.
THEMES : vitality, aggression, sexuality, destruction, force, strength, courage, will, competition, boundaries, wrath.
FORMS OF MAGIC : protection, setting wards, sex magic, banishing, magic to win competitions, magic for physical or mental strength. Works against Venus influences.
HERBS : agapanthus, agave, aloeswood, basil, black pepper, blessed thistle, blue cohosh, borage, brambles, broom, burdock, cacti, cala lilies, calamus, cardamom, cassia, cayenne, cinnamon, clove, cubeb berries, curry, dragon's blood, echinacea, galangal, gentian, hawthorn, holly, japanese knotweed, locust tree, madder, masterwort, mustard, myrrh, nasturtium, nettles, opopanax, oregano, paprika, peppergrass, pine, pyracantha, ranunculus, rue, safflower, sanicle, self-heal, sulphur, thistles, tulsi, turmeric, virginia creeper, wormwood, yohimbe.
MEDICINE : astringents, aperitives, diaphoretics, purgatives, vasodilators.
FLAVORS : Bitter, spicy, sharp
COLORS : red, black, brown (chilies, black peppercorns, horseradish roots, etc)
PREPARATION METHODS : dehydrating, grilling, blackening, open-fire cooking methods
INGREDIENTS : artichoke, arugula, beef, beets, black cherry, black pepper, broccoli, burdock, cactus, cactus pears, capers, chilis, chives, durian, garlic, ginger, horseradish, jackfruit, mustard, offal, onion, pork, radishes, spinach, tequila, tomato, tomatillo, turkey, wasabi.
THEMES : fortune, abundance, refinement, admiration, opportunity, luck, expansion, devotion, faith, law.
FORMS OF MAGIC : business & career magic, luck, magic regarding legal matters, conjuring opportunity, magic to garner influence, magic to facilitate growth, benefic magic in all forms. Works against Saturn influences.
HERBS : agrimony, allspice, aloeswood, astralagus root, bergamot, betony, burdock root, chaga, chervil, clove, copal, dandelion root, dogbane, fennel seed, fir, holy basil, hydrangea, hyssop, galbanum, ginseng, juniper, lemon balm, licorice, linden, magnolia, meadowsweet, milk thistle, nutmeg, oak, pinecone, poplar buds, rhodiola, rosin, saffron, sage, sassafras, sarsparilla, schisandra, sumac, tonka, turmeric, white sandalwood, wood betony, valerian.
MEDICINE : adaptogens, alteratives, hepatics, tonics
FLAVORS : Nutty, rich, deep, fragrant, with traditional flavor pairings.
COLORS : violet, bright yellow or gold, purple.
PREPARATION METHODS : roasting on a spit, baking, charcuterie
INGREDIENTS : almonds, beer, broccoli, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, cashew, chickpeas, chocolate, cured meats, eggplant, figs, grapefruit, grapes, grape leaves, hazelnuts, lamb, macadamia, maple syrup, molasses, nutmeg, oats, olives, olive oil, palm sugar, pears, pecans, persimmon, plums, pumpkin seeds, rhubarb, rum, rye, saffron, stevia, sugarcane, turmeric, vanilla, walnuts, whole grains.
THEMES : restriction, decay, responsibility, return, death, limits, timelessness, discipline,
FORMS OF MAGIC : necromancy, curses, funerary rites, protection, apotropaic magic, enforcing boundaries, self-discipline, malefic magic in all forms. Works against Jupiter influences.
HERBS : aconite, alder, ash, beech, belladonna, bittersweet nightshade, black briony, black cohosh, bramble, buckthorn, bullrush, cordyceps, cornflower, cypress, datura, elder, english ivy, ferns, fumitory, indigo, hellebore, hemp, henbane, holly, horsetail, ironwood, ivy, mandrake, mullein, myrrh, pansy, pepperwort, poison helmock, solomon's seal, tamarisk, thyme, tobacco, willow, yew.
MEDICINE : abortifacients, astringents, bone-healing drugs, deliriants, poisons.
FLAVORS : bitter, sour, pungent, salty
COLORS : black, brown, indigo, muddy or tepid colors
PREPARATION METHODS : blackening, fermenting, curing
INGREDIENTS : amaranth, barley, beets, blackberries, black plums, black rice, blue and yellow corn, capers, coriander, cumin, fiddleheads, eel, elderberries, garlic, gin, hempseed, hickory, mushrooms, onions, pickles, quail, sesame, soy sauce, tomato, vinegar.
William Lily, Christian Astrology
Harold Roth, The Witching Herbs