Four Thieves Vinegar is an herbal vinegar concoction originating in France at the time of the bubonic plague. There are many variations on the details, but the basic storyline goes… that during the plague, four thieves went about stealing from plague ridden areas without becoming ill themselves. After getting caught, they agreed to share their secret in exchange for their lives; they doused themselves with a certain herbal vinegar concoction before they set out.
There may be some truth to the legends, since the herbs used in the vinegar do have medicinal properties, and vinegar itself is a disinfectant. Many of the herbs in four thieves are natural flea repellants that could have offered protection against the disease carrying fleas that initially started the plague. Some folks these days use four thieves primarily as a bug repellant in the summer months. However, four thieves is more often used by folk magic practitioners as a magical formula to banish and protect.
Just as there are many variations of the legend, there just as many (or more) variations on the formula. Other ingredients used in four thieves recipes (besides the ones I use in my formula, see below) are lavender, rue, wormwood, and cinnamon. Older recipes also called for camphor. Some modern practitioners say you need to include four herbs in your formula; one for each thief.
Ozark Pagan Mamma’s Four Thieves Vinegar
apple cider vinegar
Fill a glass jar with your fresh herbs. I used a little bundle of each, filling the jar, but not over-crowding. Break apart the garlic bulb. Crush each garlic clove and peel before adding to the jar. Add a generous pinch of whole cloves. Fill jar with vinegar, seal with a lid, and place in a cool dark place for thirty days. Strain out and pour into a labeled jar.
To use four thieves vinegar as a floor wash, add a generous splash of it to your mop bucket of hot water along with some salt or baking soda and don’t rinse (or use instead as a final rinse). Use the in the same manner as a wall wash or to wash objects. You can also use some in a protective magical bath, or in a homemade salad dressing if you used only safe edible herbs (don’t ingest sage if pregnant or nursing). Splash where needed or use a spray bottle.