The Harvest season is in full swing, the Equinox just around the corner, which makes now the last chance for harvesting herbs before the Winter cold sets in. In assuring the highest quality herbs for your magickal and medicinal uses, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to harvesting.
Magickally, herbs should be picked during the Full Moon, ideally while the Moon is in Leo, Virgo, Sagittarius, Aries, Gemini, or Aquarius. The last three of those signs are the most auspicious, which makes the Full Moon of October this year, when the Sun is in Virgo and the Full Moon thus occurring in Aries, the ideal time. However, if you live further North, waiting until October 12th usually means that all that you could possibly harvest is roots, as plants usually will have dried and dropped their leaves by then.
The Full Moon of September falls on the 12th, in the sign of Pisces (the Sun will be in Virgo.) This is not ideal, however, one can still make the most of Lunar energy by harvesting on September 4th, when the Moon enters the Second Quarter and will be in Sagittarius, or by harvesting on September 9th, when the Moon will be in Aquarius (this day being the best as it’s closer to the Full Moon and Aquarius is better suited for harvesting than Sagittarius.)
For the highest quality, herbs should be harvested before the Sun gets too high in the sky. The heat of the Sun will evaporate the essential oil from the herbs, so picking earlier in the day (like by 10:30am) ensures that the highest amount of oils will still be present within them.
Homegrown herbs are always the best to gather, as there is no possible ecological backlash: you’ve grown them specifically for your own use. However, ethical wildcrafting is possible, there are just some things to keep in mind, such as never taking more than a third of the plant and only taking from plants where there is an abundance of that type. This ensures that the plant will not be killed by you taking from it nor should any animal population that relies upon that type of plant for food suffer due to your actions.
There are also some places that you should never wildcraft from, such as:
When selecting plants to harvest from, choose plants that look generally healthy. Leaves should have good color, be free of bug holes, and not be damaged. Leaves that are discolored, turning yellow, or have brown or black spots are to be avoided. Roots should be firm, have an even color, and should not be rotten anywhere. Blossoms should be intact, with good color, fragrant, and be at or reaching their peak.
Keeping in mind that all life is a manifestation of the Divine, it is also not only ethically but morally appropriate to first align yourself with that plant and ask for permission to harvest from it. In return for the plants sacrifice you should give something back, fairly take and fairly give: an equal exchange of energies. Leaving a coin or stone is a ridiculous exchange as it amounts to nothing more than littering. Better ideas for an exchange could be non-physical, such as a song, communing with the Spirits of Place, or sending energy to that plant. Physical exchanges could be clearing the space of any litter or leaving some organic liquid compost that you made yourself; you should leave this place better then you found it.
Throwing the Bones