Discover the natural magic of the British countryside and apply its
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Taking a break from the hurricane-lashed Glen with its river in full flood, mountains capped with snow and giant trees ripped out by their roots, I crossed the ridge behind our cottage and dipped down into Tipperary Town for a quiet lunch and a potter around the shops. Even in the sheltered streets the wind was still strong enough to take the breath away, but having been marooned without electricity, broadband or mobile phones for four days it made a welcome change to see other people around.
Winter is still to loosen its grip in Southern Ireland but there, sprouting from cracks in the paving, bunches of light green chickweed (stellaria medea) create a delicate border. Chickweed is generally known to most people as being a common weed, if not the most common, the world over. It grows by roadsides, gardens and wasteland and flowers throughout the year with tiny white blossoms on delicate, trailing green stems. It is one of the most popular herbs in witch’s wort-lore.
First recorded in medieval manuscripts, ‘chykenmete’ has been recognised as a healing herb since Anglo-Norman times and used in poultices for sore legs and skin rashes. Culpeper listed chickweed as ‘a fine, soft pleasing herb under the dominion of the Moon’, and recommended its use for a multitude of complaints ...
“The herb bruised, or the juice applied (with cloths or sponges dipped therein) to the region of the liver, and as they are dry, to have it fresh applied, doth wonderfully temperate the heat of the liver, and is effectual for all imposthumes and swelli8ngs whatsoever, for all redness in the face, wheals, pushes, itch, scabs; the juice either simply used, or boiled with hog’s grease and applied, helps cramps, convulsions, and palsy.” Thomas Culpeper’s Complete Herbal (1653)
In modern use, chickweed is still a valuable healing and soothing agent, used in many ways, both internally and externally. The herb digested in oil and made into an ointment is excellent for haemorrhoids and ulcers, or for eczema, psoriasis, or other irritating skin diseases and insect bites. A decoction of the herb is used to wash and bathe swollen and inflamed tissues. It is also a gentle expectorant for productive coughs. The tea can be taken internally at the same time – one teaspoon to a cup of boiling water and taken in 3-4 cups per day. The leaves and shoots are also pleasant to eat in a salad or lightly cooked as a vegetable.
In the wind-swept, sodden streets of Tipperary this little bit of Nature’s bounty braves the cold to remind us that spring really is on its way. Needless to say, it would be fool-hardy if not downright hazardous to pick the herb from this location due to the lethal belch of exhaust fumes and gallons of dog’s urine that infuse the leaves - but the message for the witch confined to an urban environment the message is loud and clear: Nature is only a heart-beat away.
Melusine Draco is the author of Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, published by Moon Books. ISBN 978-1-84694-978-4 UK£9.99/US$16.95 paperback or ISBN 978-1-84694-806-0 UK£6.99/US$9.99 e-book
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