An Introduction to Wildcrafting by Patti Wigington

Woman foraging in the woods

Forests are a great place to look for wild herbs to harvest – as long as you have permission!.

Katherine Mitchell / Moment / Getty Images Plus

In addition to growing your own magical herbs in your garden, in many areas you can harvest herbs from their natural environment—in the wild. This is known as wildcrafting, and is becoming a popular pastime. If you’re one of the many Pagans or Wiccans who enjoys working with herbs, you may want to look into wildcrafting. However, much like any other natural resource, herbs must be harvested responsibly—otherwise, a once-plentiful plant can quickly end up on the endangered list! An ethical wildcrafter should never cause damage, nor should they deplete a resource. Here’s how to be a responsible wildcrafter.

Did You Know?

  • Wildcrafting is the age-old practice of gathering herbs and plants from wild, natural growth locations.
  • Make sure you have permission to pick, and that you follow standard outdoor safety protocols.
  • When you harvest, be sure to only take what you can use in the near future; this will allow for ample return growth for your next visit.

Get Permission

First, be sure you have permission to wildcraft in the area you’re visiting. Some public lands require you to have a permit before you may harvest any plants. If you’re on private property, get permission from the landowner. Also, be sure you check your local Department of Agriculture extension to see if there are plants that are on the endangered list in your area. That wild ginger may seem inviting, but if it’s being depleted in your region, you need to pass on it.

Know What You’re Seeing

Have a guidebook handy, with color photos of local plants. What grows in Virginia is not the same as what grows in Wyoming, and a plant common in New Hampshire may be non-existent in Florida. Use a field guide to local plants to help you properly identify items you may wish to wildcraft.

Where to Pick

When you’re looking for herbs to harvest, don’t collect from the first patch you see. Typically, that first patch is the same one that everyone else sees when they’re walking down a trail or driving by. Instead, go further afield, moving off-trail, if possible to do so safely, to look for another patch. This way, you can harvest from a location that won’t be noticeably damaged the next time someone walks by. In some public parks, you may only harvest at a certain distance away from trails, so be sure you check with your local agency.

Stay Safe

Man foraging in the fall
Be sure you know where you are at all times.  Matilda Delves / Moment / Getty

Pay attention to the environment around you. Many a beginning wildcrafter has gotten lost in the woods because they weren’t paying attention to their surroundings. Likewise, watch for hazards like loose rocks, narrow trails along ridges, or low-hanging tree limbs. Remember that the further away from civilization you get, the further you are from help if you need it.

If possible, wildcraft with a friend, or at the very least, carry a cell phone and/or handheld GPS with you.

What to Gather

Try to harvest plants that are not damaged easily before you go for the more fragile ones. Some plants, like dandelion, yarrow, and blackberry are just about impossible to kill simply by picking them—they’ll always grow back. Also, when you take a plant, take only what you can use in the foreseeable future. Many wildcrafters try to use a specific ratio of one in four or even one in five—that


Origins and Uses of the Crystal Ball By Lisa Jo Rudy

JHands hovering over a crystal ballohn M Lund Photography Inc / Getty Images

Crystal balls are spheres of leaded glass or transparent stone, usually about the size of a grapefruit, used for “scrying,” or seeing the unseen. Crystallomancy (the art of using crystal balls for scrying) allows the seer to uncover mysteries and secrets, peer into the future, communicate with spirits and angels, or, in some cases, communicate with the dead. There is no evidence that crystallomancy has any scientific validity, but it has nevertheless been popular for millennia in civilizations around the world.

Key Takeaways: Origins and Uses of Crystal Balls
Crystal balls are flawless, highly polished spheres made of glass, leaded glass, or stone.
Crystal balls and similar reflective surfaces have been used for fortune-telling and other occult purposes (scrying) for thousands of years.
Crystal gazers have advised monarchs, presidents, and other important leaders.
While there are many people who use crystal balls to seek visions or tell fortunes, there is no evidence to suggest that crystallomancy is a legitimate, proven science.
Definition of a Crystal Ball
Not all crystal balls are made of crystal, but all are spherical. They can be almost any size, from the very small “palm crystals” to large crystal balls which must be kept on a stand. Crystal balls can be made of a number of materials including leaded and unleaded glass, quartz, beryl, calcite, obsidian, and amethyst.

A properly made crystal ball is a perfect, highly-polished sphere; it is usually placed in a stand to make gazing easier. If made of glass or crystal, the sphere should be free of air bubbles (though colored glass is acceptable). If made of stone rather than glass, it is recommended that the stone be free of faults and very highly polished.

Origins and History of Crystal Balls
Crystal balls have been used for fortune-telling and clairvoyance since at least the first century. Their popularity has waxed and waned, but they continue to be popular tools for psychics, fortune-tellers, and mediums today.

Crystal Balls in Ancient Rome
One of the first known references to crystal balls comes from the work of the Roman Pliny the Elder, who described the use of crystal balls by “soothsayers.” At the time, crystal balls were referred to as “crystallum orbis” and, later, as “orbuculum.”

Crystal ball gazing became increasingly popular in Rome over the next several hundred years. While widely accepted by the Romans, the practice was condemned by the Catholic church, as it is specifically forbidden in the Bible. The Book of Deuteronomy 18:14, for example, says: “for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.”

Druidic Scrying
Around third to fifth century CE, the Druids of the British Isles were also using