Many times when we are publishing instructions and recipes, we forget that not everything is available or appropriate for everyone in the world. Different local environments, economies, customs, and taboos all come into play. It is a good idea to at least mention possible substitutions.
In the case that you are reading a recipe and may not know what would be an appropriate substitute for an ingredient, think of it the same way you would the deities. If you have to translate for pantheon, you wouldn’t call on a deity merely because their representations looked the same. You would want to call on energies that functioned the same or similarly.
The same rule goes for plants and minerals. Each one of them has an energy something like our own Ori or soul. Just as we have Ancestors, they do. So when it is possible, use your regular old mundane scientific knowledge to find out the attributes of a substance, and what may have similar attributes. Look deeper than the superficial.
Let’s say you come across a recipe that calls for labdanum, but you can’t find or get access to any. First, you would think of the source of labdanum, which is flowers in the family of Cistaceae of the genus Cistus. Another name for them is “rock rose”. In ancient times, their resin was harvested from the beards of goats. It was and still is highly prized as a perfume, especially by the rulers of Kemet and other Mediterranean kingdoms. Nowadays, it is usually taken straight from harvested flowers. Their leaves are evergreen.
They are from the order of Malvaceae, and many of those are very aromatic and have sepals that make the flowers cup or cone shaped. So what would you use if you can’t find labdanum? What other sweet smelling plants are there with evergreen leaves in the order of Malvaceae? Well, there is chocolate and some types of hibiscus. In the same order, and having an interesting odor, there is cajeput. So, one may choose a mixture of hibiscus and cajeput or whatever is available around from the same order. Add some fuzz from a goat or sheep’s chin to make it more “rustic” if it is called for.
Sometimes you won’t always be able to find closely related ingredients with which to make a substitute, but this is okay. The point is that you try to make a substitute that can stand next to the original ingredient with nothing important missing. Different items will call for different things, so there is plenty of flexibility in this.
Now, some of my personal substitutions that I use when needed:
Dragon’s Blood – substitute needs to be a hot antiseptic
- finely chopped pine or cypress needles/leaves or very young cones + red pepper + rosemary + frankincense
- 5 drops pine oil + 5 drops tea tree oil + 1 drop capsaicin oil
Copal – a plant based substitute for blood
- pine or cypress mixed with blood Note: never give Ogun someone’s blood unless you want to give them to him as a sacrifice.
Ambergris – substitute needs to have elements of the sea, be arousing, and have a sweet odor
- labdanum + ambrette + a few grains of salt + crushed pearls or mother of pearl
- to mimic it somewhat chemically and scent-wise, the contents of a vanilla pod + 1/4 teaspoon crushed caraway seeds + 1 teaspoon powdered mandarin orange peels + juniper berries or artemesia absinthium, depending how sweet you want it + a pinch of wakame seaweed powder. Steep for 3 months in a cool, dark place in alcohol or almond oil.
Resins in General
Sometimes resins can be difficult to find or acquire in general. The solution is to use wax. Waxes are widely available, and many you can get at your local craft or beauty supply store. Different waxes have different properties. You should make sure the wax you’re using has similar attributes as what you’re replacing it with or can be altered so that it does, or that it is compatible with the working you’re about to do.
Waxes can also be used to stretch your resins. The general rule is to mix 1 part resin powder to 1 part wax. Melt them together in a glass bowl on top of a boiling cauldron or pot, and then pour it on wax paper to let it set for a day. This may vary somewhat depending on your materials and the weather.
Be mindful that paraffin typically used in candles is mineral based, and nothing grows in it or from it. So it is better used as something to hold other things rather than as a main ingredient.
For the dragon’s blood substitution I mentioned earlier, you can use jojoba wax to sort of keep things together. It is an evergreen that has a very life friendly, healing, protective energy.
Bees wax is great for anything to do with Oshun or Oko. There are also floral waxes that you can use such as jasmine wax and champaca wax. You usually find these where you find supplies for soap making.
- equal parts of edible crocus flowers and annatto
You get the picture. If there’s a rare ingredient, try to find its equivalent in your local or accessible stores or foraging grounds. If it’s not specifically for perfume that has to smell a certain way to be effective, its family and properties are more important than its looks or smell.
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