Legends of the Four Thieves
There are several legends associated with the use of the vinegar. Perhaps the most well known is that of four thieves who lived during the time of the plague in France. They were caught for their thievery and imprisoned but were promised that if they buried the dead and lived, they would be set free.
The legend says that one of these thieves knew the art of herbalism well. He made some of the magical elixir to keep he and his friends safe from the plague as they were busy burying corpses. Other legends place this tale in Italy.
These legends have woven their way into folklore and permeated magical culture. A French origin is plausible since this recipe was and still is popular in hoodoo, which has strong ties to New Orleans, a city heavily influenced by the French.
Common Four Thieves Vinegar Ingredients
Just as legends vary about the vinegar's origins, so do the recipes. Basically, at least four protective herbs are needed, one for each thief, and apple cider vinegar. Garlic is usually among the five ingredients. It wouldn't be too far fetched to assume these were used because garlic has long been known as a protection against evil and vinegar as a cleansing agent.
Noted hoodoo teacher and folklorist Catherine Yronwode states on her Lucky Mojo website that she uses garlic, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Other recipes call for those three items plus black mustard seed. Rosemary, sage, lavender, and thyme are all considered protective and cleansing herbs. This is where the creative kitchen witch can have fun and use what is appropriate for the work at hand.
Technique for Making Four Thieves Vinegar
Making four thieves vinegar is quite easy. Here is a basic technique:
- Place the four (or more if desired) ingredients in a jar just to about 1/2 inch from rim and cover with the apple cider vinegar. Regular or red wine vinegar can be substituted for apple cider vinegar. Seal and let steep for at least a week to 6 weeks. Strain the vinegar into a clean jar and use as needed.
- Put strong intent for the magical use while mixing the vinegar and herbs such as for all-purpose protection, banishment or cleansing.
Uses of Four Thieves Vinegar
If the herbs are safe for eating, the vinegar can be used as a condiment to be placed on food before consumption as a vehicle for protection. It can be poured in the bath for the same purpose. One traditional hoodoo use of Four Thieves Vinegar involves sprinkling it across the doorsteps of the troublesome person to banish them or simply to stop them from causing problems. Four thieves vinegar is an excellent magical tool to have on hand, especially when there isn’t a lot of time to prepare a spell.
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© Trish Deneen