Plant Magic: Wisdom from the Green World

Whether you live in a city or the countryside, the magic of plants can be found everywhere and sometimes where you least expect it. Be open and explore the magic that surrounds you.

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Sandra Kynes

Sandra Kynes

The author of over a dozen books, Sandra is an explorer of history, myth, and magic. Her writing has been featured in SageWoman, The Magical Times, The Portal, and Circle magazines, Utne Reader and Magical Buffet websites, and various Llewellyn almanacs. Although she is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, she travels a solitary Goddess-centered path through the Druidic woods. She has lived in New York City, Europe, England, and now Maine where she lives in an 1850s farmhouse surrounded by meadows and woods.  

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Try A Little Fuzzy Witchery

If you have old-fashioned roses such as the dog rose or sweetbriar, you may encounter something curious that looks like a colorful koosh ball attached to a stem.

That fuzzy ball is called a rose gall and it starts in the spring when a little gall wasp (Diplolepis rosae) lays eggs on a leaf bud. The rose bush reacts by producing a gall, an abnormal growth to protect itself, which ultimately becomes an incubator for a new generation of wasps that will emerge the following spring. The wasp’s clever way of using the rose doesn’t harm the overall health of the plant, but the general advice is to remove galls in the autumn.

Of course, people have noticed rose galls for centuries. An old name for them, bedeguar, comes from French, which was derived from the Persian bādāwar meaning “wind brought.” The sudden appearance of these fluffy balls may have made them seem like they were blown in on the breeze.

They were also called briar balls, Robin redbreast’s cushions, and Robin’s pillows. While the first name with Robin refers to the bird, the second makes reference to the British woodland spirit known as Robin Goodfellow. Another name for the briar ball is fairy pincushions.

During the Middle Ages, apothecary shops sold dried rose galls in powdered form for use as an herbal remedy that covered a range of ailments. For magical healing they were worn around the neck as amulets, carried in the pocket, hung in the home, or placed under the bed pillows. In Yorkshire England, schoolboys used them as charms to ward off getting caned by their teachers.

For your own magical use of a briar ball, place it on an outdoor altar or a special place in your garden to aid in connecting with the faery realm. Use a dried, crumbled gall to enhance wind magic or toss it to the wind to help release something you no longer need in your life. Like the rose itself, the briar ball is associated with secrets. Hold one as you think of a confidence you may be keeping, and then bury it in the ground.

 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Protective, Sexy Peach

Reaching fifteen to twenty-five feet tall, the common peach tree (Prunus persica) has drooping, lance-shaped leaves and pink, five-petaled flowers. The green fruit ripens to reddish orange and has fuzzy skin. The hard seed is known as a pit or stone. Native to China, cultivation of the peach tree began around 2000 BCE.

According to Chinese legend, peaches grew in the garden of Hsi Wang Mu, the Mother of the West, who lived with her faery legions in the sacred Kunlun Mountains. The Chinese name for the peach is tao. In Taoism the peach was regarded as sacred and a symbol of feminine sexuality. As a symbol of renewal and fertility, the peach blossom was associated with marriage. Also associated with protection, branches were believed to have the power to exorcise evil. Peach stone pendants were placed on children to protect them from demons.

The ancient Greeks and Romans referred to peaches as apples and along with the orange, it vied for the mythological fruit referred to as Hera’s golden apples. The tree was associated with Aphrodite and Venus. Because of its suggestive cleft, the peach was a symbol of female genitals during the Middle Ages and an ingredient in love potions. Regarded as a tree of prophecy in England, branches were used as divining rods.

For love spells, prepare a candle with peach kernel oil. To boost fidelity, sensually eat a peach with your lover. For a fertility charm, place dried peach petals in an organza bag to hang in your bedroom. To remove any type of negativity or to symbolically banish something you no longer want in your life, burn a couple of dried leaves. Use a polished peach stone as a protective amulet.

 

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Wood Anemone: Faery Flower, Witches’ Flower

The star-shaped wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) flower is white with a ring of yellow at the center. The petals have a delicate vein pattern that looks like they were sketched on with a pencil. The flower closes its petals and droops on cloudy days, at night, and before it rains.

Commonly called windflower, the anemone was said to only open with the help of the wind. The Greeks had two legends about the flower. One is that the nymph Anemone fell in love with Zephyrus, god of the West Wind, but his jealous wife turned her into a wood anemone. The other is that the anemone grew from the tears of Aphrodite and the blood of Adonis when a wild bore killed him.

Although the Romans regarded the anemone as a lucky flower and wove it into chaplets, in later centuries it was sometimes associated with bad luck and called devil’s bite, possibly because of the irritant it contains. In spite of the name and skin irritation it may cause, the anemone was worn as an amulet for protection against sorcery.Believed to ward off witches, anemones were hung over doorways. Also believed to be used by them, in Germany anemone was called hexenblumen, “witches’ flower.” In England, picking the flowers was said to bring on thunderstorms and taking them into the house would attract lightning. That earned it the folk name thunderbolt.

Wood anemones were reputedly a favorite of the faeries, who were said to paint streaks on the petals in the moonlight. Faeries were also said to close the flowers when it rained and to use them as tents at night.

The energy of wood anemone supports courage and creativity, the emotions and relationships. For luck, blow on the first anemone you see and make a wish. To bolster determination, carry an anemone bulb in your purse or pocket. Plant anemones in your garden to bring harmony. When you see the flower close at dusk, say goodnight to the faery that may be inside.

 

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Buttercups: Truth, Lunacy and Faeries

Remember the childhood game of holding a buttercup under someone’s chin to see if they liked butter? The yellow reflection or shine meant they did. In earlier times, this little trick was used to tell whether or not someone was telling the truth. It was also said to determine if someone was jealous or in love with the person holding the flower.

In parts of England, the meadow buttercup (Ranunculusacris) was nicknamed crazies because of the belief that their odor could cause madness. To the contrary, in some areas buttercup flowers were worn in a bag around the neck to cure lunacy.

Even though cows avoid buttercups because of the acrid taste, there was a long-held belief that cows eating buttercups caused the butter to be yellow. On Midsummer’s Eve, garlands were placed on cows to bless the milk. In Ireland, pulling up the buttercups from someone’s field would reputedly make their cows give less milk.

According to legend, faeries drink dew from small buttercups and use the larger flowers for washing their hands and faces. Buttercups were traditionally placed on doorsteps and windowsills on May Eve to protect against faery mischief.

In addition to divination and love, buttercups are associated with abundance, prosperity, and success. Instead of causing madness, the flowers are helpful when coping with unsettled emotions. Also use the flowers in spells to manifest your dreams. Grow buttercups in your garden to invite faeries.

 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Bloodroot: A Not-So-Scary Plant

The genus name was derived from the Latin sanguis, meaning “blood,” which refers to the reddish-brown or red-orange juice that oozes from the rhizome/root when cut. Bloodroot was used by a number of Native American tribes as a dye for cloth and baskets. It was also an ingredient in war paint. This sweet little woodland plant was also used as a love charm.

The root was used medicinally for a range of ailments. European settlers adopted its therapeutic use and bloodroot continued to be listed as an official botanical drug in the United States until the early twentieth century. Although it is no longer considered safe for herbal medicine, bloodroot is often used an ornamental garden plant. The plant has a threatened or endangered species status in some areas; check vendor sources when purchasing bloodroot.

Magically, bloodroot can be used to release attachments, sprinkle crumbled, dried leaves in a meadow or wooded area. Burn a dried leaf to bolster courage or to add strength to spells. Place a flower or leaf on your altar to aid in divination. For esbat and women’s rituals, place three flowers on your altar or prepare a candle with flower essence. Place a few pieces of dried root in a sachet and carry it with you to attract love or under your bed to enhance lovemaking. If you find bloodroot in the wild, work with its energy and leave an offering.  

 

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Is it Wolf’s Bane? Leopard’s Bane? No Just Arnica

Poor Arnica (Arnica montana) has been misidentified for centuries. During the Middle Ages in German-speaking areas of Europe, it had the folk name wohlverleih, meaning “bestowing wellbeing.” Unfortunately, the name was misunderstood and arnica was called wolfsleiche, which meant “wolf’s corpse.” German mystic and herbalist Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) added to the confusion by calling it Wolfesgelegena.

Its folk name leopard’s bane is another case of misidentification. Arnica looks very similar to great leopard’s bane (Doronicum pardalianches), which was believed to have the poisonous power to bring down a leopard. While arnica does not have the power to dispatch a great cat, Hildegard noted that it was an aphrodisiac and used in love magic.

In addition to love spells, Arnica has other magical qualities. Place a sprig of leaves on your altar to increase and enhance your psychic abilities during divination sessions. Use the seeds for a protection spell. Sprinkle them at the corners of your property as you visualize energy rising and creating a dome of safety. Raising energy inside your home with arnica helps settle restless spirits.

 

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Winter Fairy’s Fire

Because the brilliant, fire-colored flowers of the flowering quince stand in stark contrast to the winter landscape, stories indicated that some type of faery magic must have been involved. Appearing in late winter, the blazing flowers reputedly melted away the snow into drops of crystals and drove away clouds in the sky. At night the blossoms put out a call to every type of elf and faery to come dance and hasten the end of winter.

Although the flowering quince (Chaenomeles japonica) is grown for its beauty the fruit is edible, but not straight off the tree. Since ancient times, the quince was a fertility symbol and often given to new brides. The Romans dedicated the tree to Venus. The fruit became an integral part of marriage ceremonies with the bride and groom partaking of honeyed quince. Eating the fruit was symbolic of consummating the marriage.As part of a hand-fasting ceremony, exchange gifts of quince to symbolize love and harmony in the marriage.

Quince is also a tree of protection. Carry several dried seeds in a pouch for protective energy as well as to attract luck. To remove any form of negativity from your life, burn a small twig or several dried leaves. As for faeries, cut a branch in late winter when the buds appear and put it in water to bloom indoors to attract them to your home.

 

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