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 describes herself as 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 coastal New England where she lives in a Victorian-era house with her family, cats, and a couple of ghosts.  

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The Celtic Month of the Ash Tree

 

Following the wheel of the year through the Celtic tree calendar, February 18th begins the time of the ash tree and its ogham character Nion. While the tree calendar is a modern construct, it holds meaning because of the concepts it has come to symbolize and the significance it has for twenty-first century magic, ritual, and everyday life.

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The Celtic Month of Rowan

Published in the 1940s, The White Goddess written by Robert Graves has served as the basis for a great deal of popular information on the Celtic ogham. Despite being the grandson of ogham scholar Charles Graves, Robert took liberties with the history of the ogham alphabet and added embellishments such as the thirteen-month ogham tree calendar. The appeal of this calendar for working with the energy of trees has captured the imagination of many of us who have incorporated it into our magical practices.

While it is a modern construct, the tree calendar holds meaning because of the concepts it has come to symbolize and the significance it has for twenty-first century magic, ritual, and everyday life. In 2019, I am exploring the wheel of the year through the plants of the Celtic tree calendar.

January 21st begins the time of rowan and its ogham character Luis. Commonly known as rowan in the United Kingdom, in North America this tree is known as mountain ash. Although the leaves of the rowan resemble those of the ash, true ash trees are in the genus Fraxinus. The energy of this period is associated with the coming of new life born from the darkness of winter. Rowan is associated with protection, strength, and creativity. It is also associated with the goddess Brigid whose fire guides us to the light within.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in England, rowan had a negative reputation because it was associated with witchcraft. The most likely reason for this is that the berry carries a pentagram design at its base. Some herbalists avoided using rowan for fear of being labeled a witch and suffering the consequences. In northern Europe, this tree was planted near homes and stables to ward off lightning strikes because rowan was associated with the storm god Thor who had the power of protection. Rowan wood was used by the Celts when reciting magical incantations.

Draw the ogham character Luis on a candle for protection to burn during magic, ritual, or astral travel. Because rowan is a powerful ally for divination and for contacting elementals, burn a small piece of bark or twig to enhance psychic abilities. To attract success, cut five branches to the same length and lay them out in a pentagram shape on your altar. Hold a rowan branch to connect with your spirit guides when seeking their advice.

Rowan makes a good, magically protective walking stick. Enhance its power by carving its ogham into the wood. Burn a piece of rowan wood or a dried leaf to express your dedication to a deity or to acknowledge the blessings in your life.

Native to North America, the American mountain ash (Sorbus americana) is a small, shrubby tree reaching fifteen to twenty-five feet tall. Its lance-shaped leaflets are dark green with gray-green undersides. They turn yellow in the fall. The common mountain ash or European mountain ash (S. aucuparia) grows twenty to forty feet tall. It has medium-green, lance-shaped leaflets that turn yellow to reddish-purple in the fall. Both trees produce dense, flattened clusters of white flowers that bloom in May. After the flowers, orange-red berries develop and ripen in late summer.

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The Magic of Evergreens

While many plants have faded or died, evergreens live up to their name and this is their time of year to shine. With sacred trees, mistletoe, and other plants taken into the home, it is no accident that this is such a magical time of year. When working with evergreen trees, it’s important to use branches, cones, and needles from the right tree, so you need to know the difference between a pine and a fir and a spruce. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a botanist to tell them apart; the cones and needles give us clues.

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Magical Heather and Heath

As the earth begins her winter’s rest in the Northern Hemisphere, there are quiet reminders of ongoing life as heather and heath begin to bloom. Although heath and heather are nearly identical and the names are often used interchangeably, there is a simple way to tell them apart. Heath has needle-like foliage (think spruce tree) while heather has tiny, scale-like foliage (think cedar tree).

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Nutting Day and the Magic of Something Small

For centuries in England, September 14th marked an occasion called Nutting Day, which was a family outing to the woods to gather nuts. Sometimes, entire villages would go nutting together accompanied by musicians making it a festive and noisy event. By contrast, September 21st was called Devil’s Nutting Day and people were warned to stay out of the woods because that was when devil took his share. 

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Thyme for Magic

Known as common thyme, Thymus vulgaris, is anything but common. It is one of the classic herbs in Mediterranean cuisine with a history that dates to ancient times. Used by the Greeks and Romans to preserve meat, the flavor caught on and became an ingredient for a number of dishes. It was also discovered to be a healing antiseptic. In addition to treating a range of ailments, thyme was tossed onto fires to purify areas for ritual.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    One of my Cretan friends makes tea of thyme and throumbi (summer savory) for colds and flu. It works! Even thyme alone works.
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Really found this interesting and a good and helpful description of one of my favorite ingredients in my daily cooking. I understa

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Magical Summer Evenings

Long days and sultry evenings make summer nights especially delightful. In addition to the fragrance of plants, the twinkling bioluminescence of fireflies creates a magical show of lights that dance through gardens and across meadows. Sometimes synchronizing their flashing displays, a firefly’s light can be yellow, green, or orange.

Also known as lightning bugs, two of them entering a house is a sign of good luck. They have also been considered lucky when it comes to attraction and romance. In Japanese folklore they often symbolized sexuality and the human soul. In a few areas of Japan, fireflies were believed to be the spirits of ancestors. In Mayan legend, lightning bugs served as a metaphor for the stars, while Aztec myth portrayed them as fire-throwing witches. According to Apache folklore, the original source of fire was a mythical campfire started by fireflies.

Like all things in nature, insects can be allies in magic. Through symbolism, energy, intention, and visualization we can call on their power and influence. For example, place a picture of a firefly on your altar to draw in its energy for ritual. In fact, the lightning bug can represent the element fire. Meditate with an image of a firefly when seeking illumination and inspiration. Representing hope, it can also help when guidance is needed.

For spells, include the firefly to remove negativity or any metaphorical darkness. As an activator, this bug can help get your energy moving to achieve goals or boost creative expression. Wear a piece of jewelry shaped like one to call on its energy. Or simply sit outside and watch fireflies; observation is a good way to tune into their energy.

I have fond childhood memories of catching and releasing them. If you handle them carefully, you can bring them indoors for a few hours to aid your meditation, spells, or rituals. Keep them in a jar with small holes punched in the lid and a moistened paper towel. Visualize them carrying your intention and willpower when you release them. Place the jar outside, remove the lid, and they’ll find their way out.

Fireflies are nocturnal beetles and members of the family Lampyridae. There are about two thousand species and each has its own light-flashing pattern. The light display is used to attract mates. It may also serve as a warning to predators that fireflies are not a tasty treat. While studying bioluminescence in 1887, French physiologist Raphael Dubois named the substance that creates the luminescence luciferinafter the light-bearing fallen angel, Lucifer.

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