My name is Catherine, and ritual oils are my business. Since I’m a wholesale supplier and all my retailers are closed, I have to occupy myself somehow. Plus nobody ever gets my jokes about starting a communications company called Trithemius.
My interest in magic is quite possibly genetic. My mother and father met when they were both in religious orders – my father was a Catholic priest for 17 years, and my mother was a nun for 15 years. I grew up Catholic, as my parents had been formally released from their vows and were allowed to marry in the Church. My parents both had graduate degrees in theology, and we always said that while some families are into football and some are into soccer, my family’s main source of interest was religion (and politics).
When I was a teenager, I became interested – as many teenagers do – in the occult. Unlike most teenagers, however, I had a fairly solid grounding in classical theology and a working knowledge of Latin. After two or three years of really trying to believe in Paganism, I moved my area of studies to Hermeticism and ceremonial magic. At the time, the ceremonial magic community was largely male. In my experience, female magicians were either viewed as perennial beginners or as hobbyists, with some men under the impression that we were groupies rather than fellow practitioners.
The Internet was immensely useful to me, and to many other female magicians. It was possible to debate and discuss in a place like alt.magick without anyone attempting to grope, grab, or leer. It was hard to dismiss someone when you’d been talking to them for two years and only then found out their gender. I ran into a few people who were genuinely dismayed to discover that I was female, since they had preconceived notions of female magicians as dilettantes. The Internet also provided a way for me to continue studying different branches of Neo-Paganism, witchcraft, and folk magic, without requiring me to join a coven or profess beliefs that I didn’t have.
Through the 90s, I ran a book review site under the same name I used everywhere else – Bkwyrm. I was interested in all aspects of magic, from Animism to Zoroastrianism, and reviewed pretty much anything people sent me. I tried to find practitioners to review the books who were genuinely qualified to review them – a Hermeticist wasn’t going to be much use reviewing a book on Satanism, and a ceremonialist with no background in Paganism couldn’t critique a book on Wicca. At the time, the reviews of books on magic were favorable because they were books on magic. Llewellyn Publishing discovered there was an audience for books on Paganism, and when they started publishing nearly everything they could find on the topic, without waiting to verify that the author knew what they were talking about or if there were simply inventing a tradition as they went along. I took my background in Library Science and evaluated the books as sources of information, which resulted in a more critical look at the material than most people had seen published.
In the early 2000s, I ran out of extra time to spend on writing book reviews and finding reviewers, and closed the site. There’s a copy of it in the Hermetic Archives, in case anyone misses it – it contains classic reviews, such as “Trees died so that this book could be printed. Let us mourn.”
I had been making my own ritual oils for years, and was contacted by a store in 2012 that wanted to know if I sold them. At the time, I didn’t, but I thought it sounded like a good idea. I sold off a fairly big chunk of a grimoire collection and started Quadrivium Supplies – we started out as a retail provider, but tax laws, internet commerce rules, and time constraints made us wholesale only in 2017. The vast majority of other oils were aimed at Hoodoo or Pagan practitioners, where Quadrivium Oils were made using Chaldean astrology and hermetic tables of correspondence. Our Electional oils are made according to the Picatrix, substituting oils for talismans, and other planetary oils are made during astrological events favorable to the oil’s purpose. Quadrivium Supplies has stayed small, as it’s a one-family business with some outside assistance, and because ritual oils are something of a niche product.
I’ve been teaching classes on the theory and practical use of ritual oils for about ten years, but most people would really rather learn how to MAKE ritual oils than sit in a room for an hour listening to some lunatic talk about tables of correspondence, the doctrine of signatures, and 16th century Hermetic writers. The history and theory behind ritual oil use is much better suited to the written word than a lecture. I have a ridiculous amount of research stored up – anyone who’s used my oils is aware that I try to be as specific as possible when making them.
My original intention was simply to provide the “suggested rituals” that had originally been included on an insert with each oil. A change in packaging meant that they were no longer included, and several customers contacted me to tell me they missed the inserts.
After the rituals were put up, I kept writing. I had all this information, might as well share it. But for all intents and purposes, my information was for people who had a basic level of knowledge that – as I’d learned through teaching – many people simply didn’t have. Most people learn magic online these days, not from books or orders or initiators, and while there’s a wealth of good material on how to practice magic effectively, the absolute basics aren’t really covered.
So I rewrote. And deleted that, and rewrote some more. I realized that the things I think of as instinctive after 25 years of practice are not instinct at all. I had to learn them – whether it was from a book or a person or a magical order, somewhere along the line I’d learned the differences between types of incense and what kinds of candles burned fastest and why we use a table of correspondence for magic.
The “suggested rituals” site started getting overwhelmed with basics, so I split the topics and moved them to different domains. Now this site exists, and it’s only called “magical basics” because I couldn’t think of a word for “before we get to the basics.”
I live in Chicago, with my husband and two daughters. Besides magic, I also knit, bake, argue on the Internet, and read a lot.