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Many religions use sandalwood in ritual.

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Although not truly an herb, but a wood, sandalwood is an item found often in modern Pagan rituals. In fact, “sandalwood” is an entire class of wood, found in trees that are part of the flowering Santalum family. These aromatic and dense plants are packed full of essential oils, which are often extracted for use in a variety of religious rituals, aromatherapy, and even in medicine.

One particular species, the Indian sandalwood, which grows primarily in Nepal and southern India, is an endangered plant. However, people still harvest the trees for the essential oils, and a single kilogram of true sandalwood oil can sell for up to $2,000. That’s a pretty steep price - but don’t worry, most of the sandalwood essential oil sold in the United States and Europe today actually comes from the Australian sandalwood. This is a non-endangered species, and although it has a lighter concentration than the other varieties of sandalwood, it’s still very fragrant and is popular with many aromatherapists.

While it is is typically the flowers that are harvested and used, many different parts of the sandalwood plant are used for a variety of purposes. For instance, the essential oil is often used in holistic medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties, and some researchers are even testings its impact on cancer and other diseases. The wood can be ground down into a fine powder, and used for beauty treatments - add a bit of rose oil or camphor, and apply it to your skin for cleansing.

Sandalwood has a number of magical applications, and they tend to vary depending on which religious group you’re looking at. In many traditions of modern Paganism, it is associated with healing and purification. In Hindu rites, sandalwood paste is often used to consecrate ritual tools before ceremonies. Buddhists believe that sandalwood is one of the sacred scents of the lotus, and can be used to keep one connected to the material world while the brain wanders off during meditation. In chakra work, sandalwood is associated with the seventh, or root, chakra at the base of the spine. Burning the incense can help with issues related to self-identity, security and stability, and trust.

In a few Neopagan traditions, the actual wood of the sandalwood is burned as incense - sometimes mixed with other woods or resins, such as myrrh or frankincense. A few forms of folk magic associate it with both business and protection magic. You can also use pieces of the wood in spellwork - write your intent on a chip or stick of sandalwood, and then place it in a brazier to burn. As your sandalwood burns, your intent, or wish, will be carried up to the heavens on the drifting smoke.  

More About Magical Plants:

  • Ten Magical Herbs to Have on Hand: If you're a practitioner of a modern magical tradition, chances are good that you're in the habit of using herbs. Here's a list of ten herbs that everyone should have on hand for magical purposes.
  • The Nine Sacred Woods of the Bonfire:  In some magical traditions, nine sacred woods are used when building a ritual fire. Learn which nine to include - and which one you should avoid, if you follow a Wicca-based tradition.
  • Garden Folklore and Magic: The plant cycle is intrinsically tied to so many earth-based belief systems that it should come as no surprise that the magic of the garden is one well worth looking into. Let's look at some of the folklore and traditions that surround gardening and planting magic.
  • Magical Wood Correspondences: In many magical traditions, wood is assigned various properties that make it useful for ritual and spellwork. By using these correspondences, you can include different woods in your magical workings.

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