Plant Magic: Wisdom from the Green World

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Try A Little Fuzzy Witchery

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

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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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.  


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