I’ve not posted a blog for a while, as I’ve been on a deep retreat with the land, and finishing my latest book- more on that soon. But I wanted to share what I think is one of the most important things to connect with on the Celtic path at this time of the year- the plant Vervain, verbena officianalis.  Vervain is one of the few plants we know the ancient druids venerated, as the Roman writer Pliny recorded how in the height of summer, just before dawn, the druids gathered Vervain, as Sirius the dog star rose in the sky. Vervain was so sacred that they would give the earth an offering of honey for its loss, and would gather the herb with their left hand, after drawing a circle of iron around the plant to disconnect it from the land. When they had gathered it, they would hold it up to the star to be infused with its energy, without the direct light of the moon or sun touching it.

Vervain is an herbaceous perennial, that grows about 2-3 feet tall, with toothed, rough textured leaves, a woody stalk, and in the summer it has small, pale purplish flowers. It’s relatively easy to grow from seed, and is happy in most positions, so long as it doesn’t dry out completely. Vervain can be hard to find for some, but is easily bought on line and once you grow some it self-seeds easily.  Yet this simple, modest little plant is possibly the most magical and powerful ally in the witches garden.       

Vervain had a great reputation as a heal-all in the ancient world, and was mentioned by Hippocrates, as well as in Egyptian lore where it was considered to be the tears of Isis. It was also known as Juno’s tears, the herb of grace, and the enchanters herb. Later British tradition refers to it as one of the herbs of good St John and best gathered at the summer solstice for the highest potency, and it is also mentioned frequently as a useful herb for spells in Aradia, Gospel of the Witches.  Culpepper mentions it is good to ease those who are ‘frantic’ and its often used today to help ease anxiety and nervous disorders as well as insomnia, where it works gently and leaves no grogginess in the morning.

However, the main uses of Vervain are all sacred- it was thought to have hidden powers by almost every culture that had access to it. In China it was thought to be good for divination, and its still used in Britain to anoint crystal balls. In Christian mythology it is called the herb of the Cross as it’s said to have staunched Christ’s bleeding wounds. Used to wash altars and magical or sacred objects, it clears negativity and banishes unwelcome spirits, while empowering and blessing things, imbuing them with its own bright energy.

I gather Vervain just before dawn, and hold it up to Sirius, in the ancient way, after making an offering, and find this is by far the most powerful way to work. However finding Sirius just before dawn in the summer isn’t easy and depends on where you are in the world- there’s plenty to help you with this online, and would take up a post all by itself! Needless to say, as its low on the southern horizon, you won’t see Sirius at dawn until later in August if you live fairly far north, later in August for the UK. If that’s impractical for you, or if you prefer to gather it earlier in the year, still offer it some honey, and gather it with gratitude, holding it up to the south and visualizing Sirius sending its rays of light upon you. Sirius will be there, but the light of the sun will make it invisible until later in the year.

I use Vervain in a cooled and blessed tisane made with fresh spring water, to clean my altar, and cleanse any objects which need to be refreshed or cleared of negative stuff. I also use it to mark wards upon my doors and windows. Dried it works well as an incense or saining herb, and in an oil it can be used to anoint your brow before visionary work. I also advise using it as a tea to restore the nerves, or to help after any kind of magical burn out, or after any feeling of psychic attack, although consuming it should be avoided in pregnancy.