Hello, wonderful witches!
I’ve recently come to love a small witch shop here in Chicago, Malliway Bros. The owners have such a depth of knowledge that even the most educated among us could learn something from them. And they’re just fun people! They do workshops and rituals, and sometimes host parties. Walking into their shop is like a welcoming hug, and I highly recommend stopping in if you’re ever in Chicago. The store just moved to a new location—read about it here.
Before we get into today’s article, a want to reiterate what I wrote last week for anyone who missed it:
There’s about four months left of content scheduled for the newsletter, and after that, Kitchen Witch will be shutting down. As many of you know, costs to run the newsletter and pay my fabulous writers come from a combination of paid subscriptions and money out of my own pocket. After more than a year of publishing, income from subscriptions hasn’t been able to reach what’s needed to keep this afloat without me going broke in the process. (If you want specific numbers, to break even, there needs to be about 55 more monthly subscribers.) So unfortunately, that means ending Kitchen Witch. It’s been a lot of fun running the newsletter and giving a voice to witchy writers with a reasonable (though still less than I’d like) payment for articles. The main reason I began this newsletter is because writers who want to write about witchcraft have very few places to publish—and the publications that are out there tend to pay a pittance of about $25, if they pay anything at all. As witches, we deserve to have our stories told. And witch writers deserve to be compensated fairly for that. It’s been an honor to publish such wonderful work from witches of every path, tradition, identity, and perspective. So that’s that—unless there’s a swarm of new subscribers, I’ll be signing off in four months.
Ok, now on to the fun stuff! Today we’re making smoked palo santo margaritas.
Incorporating Sustainable Palo Santo Into Your Practice (And Your Tequila)
By Claire James Carroll
Palo Santo, or “Holy Wood,” is a highly resinous wood burned for its aromatic and cleansing smoke. It comes from the sacred (and legally protected) Bursera graveolens tree, which grows in hardwood forests throughout Mexico and South America. Traditionally, the tree is never killed, to preserve its powerful spirit. Instead, once it falls naturally, the wood is left to cure for anywhere from three to ten years before it is removed from the forest and harvested.
Magically, palo santo has a long tradition in South American rituals for healing, spiritual cleansing, and to ward off negative spirits. Modern research has confirmed what indigenous communities already knew; palo santo reduces stress and headaches. It’s a very popular natural insect repellent, too.
But all that amazing power doesn’t mean you should go out and buy the first palo santo you find. While palo santo isn’t globally endangered, commercial harvesting practices exacerbate climate change and don’t consider the indigenous and ecological relationships with the tree. Logging can decimate local palo santo groves, and potentially wipe out regional tree growth.
This is why it’s so important to source your palo santo responsibly. Try to utilize suppliers from Ecuador, which has the largest population of Bursera graveolens. To minimize social harm, shop from Latinx run fair-trade businesses like Luna Sundara or Sacred Wood Essence.
The best way I’ve found to share palo santo with my family is through food. It’s a great way to encourage conversations about energy cleansing and appropriation.
Palo Santo Margaritas
This recipe can easily be doubled, but don’t make more than two at once or you’ll need a much larger bottle to smoke in. I prefer gin bottles to tequila, as the corks are less unwieldy. Regardless of your source, make sure the glass is clear so you can see the smoke uncurl (for practicality and ritual).
2 oz white tequila
1 oz fresh lime juice
¾ oz Cointreau (Triple Sec will work too, in a pinch)
½ oz agave nectar (or ¾ oz if you like it sweeter)
Fill a saucer with coarse salt. Rub an exhausted lime wedge around the rim of your glass. Dip the glass into the saucer, covering the rim with salt. Set aside.
Light your palo santo for at least twenty seconds so that there is good surface area smoldering. This is a good calm moment to channel your intentions. With one hand, hold the stick vertically on your counter. With the other, lower an inverted bottle onto the palo santo, so that it rests inside the neck.
While the smoke fills the bottle, combine the liquid ingredients in your cocktail shaker and shake with ice for about thirty seconds.
Strain the drink into a pouring vessel (I usually use a measuring cup).
Remove the bottle from the palo santo and pour the margarita into the bottle, using a funnel or a steady hand. Some smoke will be displaced by the liquid, but that’s okay.
Recork (or use your thumb) and shake for ten seconds. Shaking longer will give you more smoky flavor, but will warm the drink, so find the balance that’s best for you.
Pour into your salted glass and enjoy.
Claire James Carroll is a writer and herbalist living in the Hudson Valley. She studied writing and archival magic at Yale University and has apprenticed with herbalists throughout New York. Follow her on Twitter at @ClaireJCarroll.
Coming Up Next Week…
Next week, spinach salad.
See you then!