FLEXIBILITY CAN BE A GOOD THING
But so is tradition. As much as the Crowd likes to bellow from the hilltops, “My magic, my way!” and “You do you!” and “We don’t need no stinking badges (or rules)!” doesn’t mean that there aren’t some rules worth following, or that there aren’t some things that are immutable. Indeed, some of those rare things are certain ingredients and formulas.
Take, for example, graveyard dirt. Now, I don’t know where Cunningham picked up on it (because that is where I first saw it), but graveyard dirt is NOT mullein leaves. It just isn’t! What it is happens to be the actual dirt collected, bought, and paid for from a real live dead person’s grave. I don’t care what a trillion fluffy-bunnies have scribbled in their Books of Shadows; there are no substitutes.
Take, as another example, Road Opener (aka Abre Camino) products. Many very misinformed people think that you can just throw together a laundry list of herbs and other ingredients and say that it is “Road Opener Powder.” Well, you CAN do that, but then you would be full of shit, and if you are also selling those brain droppings as true “Road Opener Powder,” then you would also be a fraud. Why? Because that particular product formula has a very specific requirement due to its origin and associated tradition. To make it correctly, your oil or powder has to have Abre Camino (Eupatorium villosum) herb in it. If your Road Opener does not include the actual Abre Camino herb, then what you are making is something other. It’s akin to making a carrot cake with shredded potatoes in the place of the carrots or, more aptly, High John the Conqueror Oil without the High John the Conqueror root.
There are other formulas that have their traditional ingredients, as well. For instance, wintergreen, vanilla, and alkanet are the basis of any authentic version of New Orleans Red Fast Luck Oil. Master Key products get the “Master” part of the name from the inclusion of Master Root and not just for the mastery the product is supposed to bestow. As aforementioned, High John the Conqueror Oil is no more and no less than High John the Conqueror Root soaking in a carrier oil. Van Van always should include lemongrass, as should any version of Grass Oil or Chinese Wash, just to name a few.
If you are true to a tradition and are serious about authenticity, then there are just some things that cannot/should not be changed and the result is just not that thing without them. Hey, I love being flexible and that whole “Burger King” style of magical practice, but I also respect tradition when I encounter it, and I won’t sell people doughnuts and call them bagels.
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