Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Goldenrod Folklore and Magical Properties

Ah, goldenrod. To some, it’s an essential part of their herbal medicine cabinet. To others, it’s a source of misery. I love seeing the bright yellow flowers on their drooping, swaying stems, but I’m also not one of the people suffering from goldenrod allergies. (Allergies to plenty of other pollens, yes. Goldenrod specifically, no.)

Interestingly, many people blame goldenrod for late summer and autumn allergies. Without an allergy test, there’s really no way to tell — ragweed blooms at the same time, and it’s a very common allergen. Most pollen allergies are triggered by wind-pollinated plants, but goldenrod is pollinated by insects. Ragweed, however, is not.

(This is also why raw honey and bee pollen aren’t actually great ways to desensitize yourself to pollen. The pollen that makes it into the hive isn’t likely to be the same kind that’s making you sneeze.)

Goldenrod is a bit of a misnomer. It isn’t a single plant, it comprises 120 different members of the aster family. It’s scientific name is Solidago, via the Medieval Latin “soldago,” via a somewhat circuitous rout from the Latin “solidus.” It’s a name that references strength and solidity, the ability to make something (or someone) whole again. With goldenrod’s traditional medical and magical properties, it’s a very apt name.

Goldenrod Magical Uses and Folklore

Various legends tie goldenrod to the presence of wealth. One source said that, wherever goldenrod grows, gold is buried. (But, were that the case, I can guarantee that DC wouldn’t be nearly as economically stratified as it is. Just saying.) Another says that to find goldenrod growing near your home portends a spell of good luck.

Goldenrod is also tied to water. Folklore holds that, wherever it grows, a spring must be nearby. The plants were also used as effective, if temperamental, divining rods — they were said to only work in the hands of the right person.

One legend tells the story of how goldenrod received its bright yellow flowers. An old woman, traveling through the forest, was growing weary. She asked all of the trees around her for a walking stick, but they refused. She found a small stick on the ground, and asked it for help instead. The stick agreed, and she used it as a walking stick until she was out of the woods. As soon as she stepped beyond the tree line, she shed her disguise — revealing herself as a powerful fairy. In return for the stick’s help, she sprinkled it with gold.

Another story speaks of two little girls who went to an old witch for help. One girl, tall and blonde haired, asked the witch to grant her wish. She wanted to be admired by everyone. Her friend, short and blue-eyed, wished that she and the blonde girl would never have to grow apart. The girls were never seen again after that day, but it’s said that, wherever they walked, there sprung up the yellow goldenrod and the blue aster.

This isn’t folklore so much, but the tires on the Model T Ford that Henry Ford gave Thomas Edison were made of goldenrod. The plant naturally contains a decent amount of rubber — through experimentation, Thomas Edison managed to produce a taller goldenrod that was up to 12% rubber. He partnered with Henry Ford, George Washington Carver, and Henry Firestone to put these tires into mass production, but synthetic rubber arrived on the scene before goldenrod tires ever made it out of the experimental stage.

Goldenrod is one of those plants that seems to be an herbal pharmacy in itself. In America, indigenous people used the leaves externally for skin conditions, and internally for ulcers and lung or kidney problems. After colonists dumped tea into the Boston Harbor in protest, they used goldenrod as a tea substitute. One of Solidago virgaurea’s names is “woundwort,” and it was used in Europe to stop bleeding from wounds. Studies in Germany have found that it’s an effective treatment for kidney stones. It contains compounds that encourage urination, reduce inflammation, soothe pain, and kill pathogens, and the whole plant is edible (though easily confused with toxic Haplopappus heterophyllus, so be careful).

Of course, don’t take my word for this — if you have a medical condition, seek treatment from an expert..

Using Goldenrod

Keep your eyes peeled, since the appearance of goldenrod near your house means good luck is on the way. Of course, if you want to influence fate a little bit, you can plant goldenrod or keep a vase full of it in your home. If you practice feng shui, put it in the money areas of your home. If you don’t, put it near your front door to draw wealth in.

If money’s not your thing, you can also use it to bring in love. Wear or carry it, and you’ll soon cross paths with your true love. Add the dried leaves and flowers to sachets, herbal mixes, incense, or potions for love-drawing.

To dowse with goldenrod, hold a stem in your hand, and watch the flowers. They will nod in the direction of what you seek.

You can turn goldenrod into a useful yellow dye, paint, or magical ink:

  1. Collect the young flowers when they’re about to open, and their concentration of pigment is at its highest.
  2. Let the flowers dry completely.
  3. Simmer in a cup of hot water with a teaspoon of alum for twenty minutes. (Alternatively, grind the flowers fine with a mortar and pestle, add just enough boiling water and alum to cover, and sit in a sunny spot for a full day.)
  4. Filter out the flowers, and add about a half teaspoon of gum arabic if you’d like a thicker consistency. This part is mostly helpful for ink, since it makes it flow and adhere to the paper more nicely.
  5. If you don’t anticipate using all of your dye/ink/paint right away, add two or three drops of essential oil to inhibit mold. Thyme or oregano work well for this.
  6. Bottle, label, and store in a cool, dark place.

Goldenrod is a beautiful, magical plant with a bad rap. It’s showier than ragweed, so its bright yellow flowers are often erroneously blamed for symptoms actually caused by wind-pollinated plants. It’s abundant this time of year, so, if you find yourself in need of a little love or money magic, consider making an offering to the goldenrod plant and harvesting no more than 25% of its leaves and blooms. Even better, sow a local variety in your garden so you can enjoy its presence and provide a valuable food source to butterflies, moths, bees, and other pollinators at the same time!

life, Witchcraft

This Harvest Moon

First thing’s first! All of the tarot readings available in my shop are 30% off(!) for the entire month. I’m also adding some new spreads, so, whether you’re looking for a simple three-card reading, an extended 22-card reading, or something geared toward a specific question or life situation, there’s a reading for you.

Did you remember to say “white rabbits” yesterday morning?

Yesterday was the first day of October, the month when the veil between worlds grows thin. I can feel the thinning, too — my dreams always get extra vivid and extra strange, and I very often smell the scents I associate with my grandmothers who’ve passed on. We’re lucky this year, since, in addition to yesterday’s full moon, we’ll be getting another full moon on October 31st.

I mean, I didn’t feel super lucky earlier this week, when I managed to pinch a nerve in my neck (which absolutely felt like part of my brain) and trigger a four-day headache. You probably know the kind. While daily headaches are pretty much part of intracranial hypertension, this was one of those bad boys that seems to radiate from a single, intensely painful spot right at the base of the skull, which seem like nothing short of a brick would cure. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do the usual preparations I do this time of year, but I was able to knock my various bones and fleshes into shape well enough to manage.

(A protip from a pain specialist I used to see regularly: Only use cold therapy on your neck, not heat. Also, bad spines go on the rolly tube.)

Seven days ago, I set up a working designed to run through the end of the waxing moon and culminate on the full. Everything went off without a hitch (and with some wonderful results, but more on that another time), and I decided to celebrate by setting up a batch of oil that I use for trance and dreamwork. From experience, it seems to work best when I set it up on the October full moon. Sometimes, I let it infuse from one October to the next. This year, I think I’ll try letting it go just until the blue moon later this month.

Infusing under the full moon (and the leaves of my big calathea).

It’s a special blend of dittany of Crete, mugwort, mullein, and cherry, among a few other secrets, and it’s wonderful for anything that involves crossing over into other realms. Not quite potent enough to be mind-altering, but it definitely helps the shift happen. Add a piece of black kyanite, and it’s *chef kiss*. I’m going to post the full recipe one of these days, but I’d like a few more rounds of experimenting with it before I do.

Whether you said anything about rabbits yesterday morning, or your relatives on the other side start hanging around more often, I hope this harvest moon is an abundant one for you.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Fern Folklore and Magical Properties

Ferns!

Fern fronds in sunlight.

FERNS!

Curling fern fronds.

I love ferns. If you want to feel like you live in some kind of magical woodland glade, get some ferns, a pack of Triloka Enchanted Forest, and cue up a couple tracks from The Moon and the Nightspirit. For real.

Ferns have a reputation for being fussy, and it’s not entirely undeserved. They’re not like most plants — their reproduction is weird, their lighting and humidity needs are weird, and some of them will die if you ever have the audacity to subject them to tap water, dirt, or a sidelong glance.

Still. Ferns.

One of my favorites is a little $4.99 “assorted fern” that makes frequent appearances on my Instagram. I put it the window, watered it often, and, to my surprise, it turned out to be a very robust staghorn fern. This was doubly astonishing to me, because a) I originally thought it was some kind of bird’s nest fern, and b) I once bought a staghorn on purpose, followed all of the care instructions to the letter, and it died within two weeks.

Ferns are weird. They’re also very magical plants that occupy a significant role in the folklore and esoteric practices of cultures everywhere they grow.

Fern Magical Uses and Folklore

In Slavic folklore, ferns produce a magic blossom once a year, on the eve of the Summer Solstice. Whoever is lucky enough to find a fern flower will receive good luck, prosperity, and the ability to understand the speech of animals. Baltic, Swedish, and Estonian culture has a similar tradition — in every case, the flower is believed to be protected by evil spirits. In some folklore, the Devil was said to appear and snatch the flowers for himself.

Unfortunately for the possessors of a fern flower, the story goes that any wealth granted to them would vanish if they ever shared it. To keep the riches of the fern flower, they would have to become cold-hearted, stingy, and isolated. In one tale, a boy who obtains the magical flower ends up losing all of his friends and loved ones because of it — eventually wishing for death to release him.

Ferns don’t actually flower, though. They have no need to. They are indescribably ancient plants, old enough to predate seeds. They do produce “fertile fronds,” which can appear as vaguely flowerlike clusters. These stories may refer to fertile fronds, a different flowering species that resembles a true fern, or the difficulty of attaining wealth and fortune.

Fern seeds were believed to be invisible, and only able to be found on Midsummer Eve. Possessing these seeds could make one invisible, help them understand birdsong, tell them where to find buried treasure, or grant them the strength of forty men.

In one Russian folktale, a farmer who lost his cattle was instantly granted knowledge of their whereabouts when a fern seed fell in his shoe.

In England, it was believed that you could catch the elusive fern seed by placing a stack of twelve pewter plates in a field of ferns. When the seeds appeared, they would fall through the first eleven plates and come to rest on the last.

Nicolas Culpepper claimed that, if a horse were to step on moonwort, it would cause them to throw a shoe. This could be because of its purported effect on iron — stuffing it into a lock was said to cause it to open.

In Hawai’ian folklore, the deity Kamapuaʻa occasionally took the form of a fern. The earth goddess Haumea also had a species of tree fern as a kino lau (body form).

Ferns are tied to weather magic. Burning them was said to cause a storm, as could pulling one up by the roots. On the Devonshire Moors, it’s still customary to burn growing bracken to bring rain.

Ferns and mosses growing along a small waterfall.
I can see where the rain thing comes from, tbh.

Tying fern fronds to the ears of horses was said to protect them from the Devil.

In modern magic, ferns are used for rain-making, money spells, and protection. Adding the fronds to spells or arrangements of fresh flowers helps boost the magical properties of whatever they are placed with.

Last, but certainly not least, there’s the delightfully weird tale of the vegetable lamb of Tartary.

Using Ferns

There are so many species of fern with so many different medical uses, I can’t possibly cover them all here. While not all ferns (or all life stages of fern) are medicinal or edible, different fern species have been used for everything from stomach aches to snakebite. From what I have read and observed, they are most often used for skin afflictions — spores are said to reduce pain from stinging nettle, and ointments or pastes made of various fern species are used to tread cuts, bruises, and skin ulcers. In Scottish lore, ferns were mixed with egg and used as an ointment to restore sight or reduce redness in bloodshot eyes!
(Please don’t do this just because you read it here, though. I don’t want anybody getting some kind of raw egg eye infection.)

For protection, plant or place potted ferns near windows and doors. (Just make sure they have the right levels of sunlight and humidity!) Llewellyn has a spell using ferns to banish evil, which may piggyback on its use for rain-bringing. Rain is cleansing, ferns are protective, so these two properties could drive evil out of a place.

If you’re lucky enough to come across fern spores (those black dots along the backs of fronds), carry them when you want to go unnoticed.

In hoodoo, ferns seem to be largely for protective magic. Among other uses, sprinkling crushed fern leaves along windowsills is said to keep intruders away, and adding it to a floor wash with black snake root clears away jinxes.

That said, some spells may refer to specific ferns using secret names. Maiden’s hair is the maidenhair fern, for example, while horse’s tongue is the hart’s tongue.

Magically, your best bet is one of two things: purchasing fern fronds, or growing some of the easier-care varieties in pots. While older sources cited specific plants in their folklore, the modern herbals I consulted for this post didn’t — they just said “ferns.” In my opinion, I don’t think it matters much what type of fern you choose to work with. When it comes to spending my time tending a growing plant versus tracking down the exact species used in a spell, I’ve found I’m pretty much always better off using a plant I’ve developed a relationship with (or, at the very least, one that’s abundant where I live). They have an affinity for water, which explains their use in rain magic. They all have spores, not seeds, which explains their use in invisibility (and, to a lesser extent, protection) spells. Find a fern that will grow happily for you, and see what magical secrets it holds.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Arnica Folklore and Magical Properties

What’s black and blue and red all over?

Me. I am.

I wasn’t aware of it until recently, but one of the side effects of sertraline is bruising. This was never really a major issue, but, with the recent increase in leg days, I’ve been noticing that my lower extremities look like hobbits have been beating me with cricket bats in my sleep. This probably isn’t helped by the fact that I’ve had knee surgery, and any amount of physical activity makes my legs look like I fell down the stairs even under the best of circumstances. I’m planning to talk to my doctor about this, but I’m not in a bunch of pain, and my medication is working out well enough that I don’t want to change it if I don’t absolutely, positively need to. C’est la guerre.

For now, it’s lots of iron- and vitamin K-rich vegetables, and arnica. At the moment, I’m pretty much only using arnica to help my shins look less corpse-y, but that’s not all it can do.

It could also keep corn demons away from my knees.

Arnica Magical Uses and Folklore

Arnica is one of the best-known and most-used herbal remedies in much of Europe. The American variety was no slouch, either — both indigenous people and pioneers used it in abundance. (I don’t really want to go into all of its historical medical uses here, because there are a ton of them and not all of them were great ideas. It’s the kind of plant where it could either lower your fever, or make you bleed internally a bunch.)

The word “arnica” is derived from the Greek “arni,” meaning “lamb.” This could be in reference to any number of the plant’s parts — it’s got fuzzy sepals, leaves, and looks almost dandelion-like when it goes to seed.

Two of its common names are “wolf’s-” and “leopard’s bane.” I haven’t been able to find any reason for this — these are also names for aconite, which is far, far more baneful than arnica. I mean, the two don’t even look alike.

In Norway, arnica was strewn in fields during Midsummer. This was to protect crops from a creature called Bilwis. In Germanic areas, Bilwis is identified as a kind of Feldgeister (field spirit) or Korndämonen (corn demon). In the Prose Edda, this creature was half of a brother-sister pair — Hjúki and Bil — that followed the Moon across the sky. There isn’t much written about Hjúki and Bil outside of the Prose Edda, but they are theorized to represent the craters visible from Earth, which are said to resemble a pair of children carrying a bucket on a pole. Over time, Bil’s image was distorted from a minor Norse deity to a malevolent spirit that cuts down corn. Bilwis has no set form, and its appearance varies across all of the folklore in which it appears.

Sprinkling arnica around your property is said to protect your home and bring fertility to your garden. This probably stems from its use to thwart corn demons, as, over time, its folk use expanded from keeping your crops from being cut down by spirits, to general protection and plant fertility.

Planting arnica around an area is said to keep a spirit penned there. This only works as long as the arnica lives, however — once it dies back, the magical boundary dies with it.

As a bright yellow Midsummer plant, it’s associated with the Sun and the element of Fire.

Some sources claim that arnica was burned as an incense, particularly in weather magic. This seems largely used to drive away violent storms, and may also be tied to its general “protective” aspect.

Using Arnica

Not gonna lie, I’ve gotten pretty fond of dabbing it on myself. But I digress.

Arnica contains a sesquiterpene lactone called Helenalin, which is said to help reduce inflammation and thereby soothe away bruising when it’s applied soon after an injury. Though it’s very healing when used topically, it is toxic when used internally and can cause sensitization over time. If you’re using arnica medically, it’s best to use it topically, over unbroken skin, for short periods of time.

That said, some people do use it internally. It’s even been used as a flavoring in foods and beverages. (I wouldn’t recommend doing so unless you’re under the guidance of an herbalist, though.) If you’re pregnant or on blood thinners, avoid it — it can stimulate contractions and interfere with blood clotting.

Harvest and the flowers when they’re at their best, around Midsummer. Scatter fresh flowers around an area you wish to protect, or brew dried ones into a tea and sprinkle the liquid. You could theoretically include dried flowers in protective sachets, jars, or other container magic, but the herb’s primary historical uses seem to largely depend on strewing, scattering, or planting arnica to create a boundary.

To turn back storms, burn arnica and say, “Arnica bright, arnica alight. Thunderstorm, turn and take flight.”

Arnica has been treated as a one-herb first aid kit, credited with any number of medical marvels. While it’s certainly good at what it does, the herb does have a tendency to cause problems if it’s used in high doses and for long periods of time. If you’ve got corn demons to thwart, thunderstorms to get rid of, or spirits you need to babysit, arnica can’t be beat.

Neodruidry, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Jewelweed Folklore and Magical Properties

Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, is one of the most beautiful parts of watery places out here. Though the plant has bright yellow-orange flowers, they aren’t what give it its name — rather, it’s the curious property of the leaves. Since it grows near water, and excess moisture has a nasty tendency to support the growth of all kinds of pathogens, the leaves repel it. If you take one and drop water on it, it will bead up and glisten like jewels. If you take a leaf and hold it underwater, it looks like it’s covered in pavé-set diamonds.

They have a very clever reproductive strategy, too. Their showy flowers encourage sexual reproduction by attracting hummingbirds and other pollinators. They also have much smaller, more discreet flowers, which don’t open up the way their other blossoms do — they self-pollinate. This gives jewelweed the ability to produce two different sets of seeds: one that costs more energy and has a wider gene pool, and one that’s much cheaper, but lacks genetic diversity.

The seed capsules are pretty cool, too. One of the plant’s other common names is touch-me-not, because of the way it disperses its seeds. Plant jewelweed once, and it’ll keep self-seeding and coming back. After pollination, the seed capsules hang out and wait for something — anything — to touch them. Brush up against one, and the valves on the pods will quickly coil back and fire the seeds in a tiny explosion. (This all sounds perfectly normal, until you picture what it would look like if every pregnant person was also basically a baby confetti cannon.)

Jewelweed Magical Uses and Folklore

These plants are well known to people indigenous to where they grow. Their virtues are largely medicinal, so I didn’t have very much luck finding explicitly-stated magical properties or associations. Peer-reviewed research supports its use for itchy skin conditions, including tinea (the fungus responsible for ringworm, athlete’s foot, and jock itch).

Jewelweed contains compounds that act as antagonists to the urushiol found in poison ivy. Most people are sensitive to urushiol, and end up with a telltale itchy, blistered rash from it. Applying jewelweed sap immediately after coming in contact with poison ivy can help stop the rash in its tracks.

I’m reminded of a rhyming couplet I read once, though I fail to remember where:

Jewelweed, starve ivy’s greed

Touch-me-not, stay ivy’s rot

(I have no idea. If you know the origin, let me know!)

The elemental and planetary associations for jewelweed are pretty much what you’d expect: water and Venus.

The flowers are a bright yellow-orange. Following the elemental correspondences, color attributes, and medicinal uses, I would use jewelweed in workings to bring joy and prevent or alleviate suffering. Water is the element of the emotions. Orange is for joy and positivity. It can keep you from spending a long, miserable time dealing with poison ivy blisters. The leaves repel what they don’t want on them. It makes sense to me!

Orange is also a color of creativity, and I did find a source who talks about using jewelweed in a flower essence to bring the flow of awen into your life. This also makes sense when you think of the plant’s seeds — whether it has pollinators to help it out or not, jewelweed will create new life!

Using Jewelweed

As mentioned above, jewelweed makes a nice flower essence. It also appears to be provisionally edible, but you need to cook it thoroughly to denature its toxic compounds.

Most uses of jewelweed involve either applying the crushed, raw plant to the skin, or adding it to salves, washes, or witch hazel.

Magically, I would dry some of the flowers and add them to sachets or witch’s bottles for creativity, joy, and the prevention of sorrow. Use the seeds in spells to increase the flow of inspiration. Since the plant depends on its flowers for genetic diversity, avoid taking more than a third of them. (Unless you’re in the Pacific Northwest, where it’s considered invasive. In that case, go to town.)

Jewelweed is a really unique plant. Sew it once, and it’ll keep coming back. It has an admirable tenacity, and can be a real friend to anyone who’s ever touched poison ivy on the trail. While traditional magical lore seems to be a bit thin on the ground, it has enough special qualities that it’s easy to extrapolate. Work with jewelweed, and see what it tells you.

Plants and Herbs

Pokeweed Folklore and Magical Properties

My first experience with pokeweed was watching one sprout out of the side of my house.

I didn’t know what it was at first — it cropped up, seemingly overnight, in a tight space between the foundation and the heating oil tank. Since I was given to notions about lilac trees and beds of flowers at the time, and also didn’t want the foundation to crumble, I was tempted to pull it out. Something about the bright magenta-purple stems and lush leaves stayed my hand.

Nah, I thought. Let’s see where this goes.

Not long after, I was “rewarded” with hanging clusters of delicious-looking deep purple berries. I say “rewarded,” because pokeweed is also known as American nightshade and those shiny, tasty-seeming berries are super poisonous.

Well, unless you’re a bird. Or a raccoon. (As I discovered when Vladimir, the very rotund beast that lived above my friend’s garage, began leaving disturbingly recognizable pokeberry doots in front of the beer fridge.) While pokeweed berries are extremely deadly to most mammals, they’re a very important food source for plenty of other species. After other snacks have run their course, pokeberries are still hanging on.

Humans can eat the young shoots, but only when they are very young, and only after cooking them in two changes of water. I’ve also read that the berries may be edible too, but you have to remove the seeds first. Personally, I’m not really willing to try that particular experiment.

This past weekend, my partner and I stumbled on a pokeweed plant on a walk. Though mostly eaten, there were still a few deep purple berries left, and the intensely pink stems hadn’t yet lost their luster. That’s when I got the idea to write this post.

Pokeweed Magical Uses and Folklore

Pokeweed has a long history of use as a medicinal herb by people indigenous to its native range. That said, the effective dose is extremely small and the line between “medicine” and “poison” is thin. Isolated compounds in the plant — like Pokeweed Antiviral Protein — show a lot of promise as antiviral, anti-HIV, and even anti-cancer agents, but that’s another story.

The United States Declaration of Independence was written in ink made of pokeberries. Soldiers during the American Revolution frequently wrote letters in pokeberry juice, since it grew pretty much everywhere and made a very useful ink.

Pokeweed is variously associated with Mars or Uranus.

The Mars association makes sense, as various parts of the pokeweed (especially the dried berries) are used in spells for courage.

On the other hand, the Uranus association makes just as much sense. One of pokeweed’s medicinal properties is as a purgative (and oh, what a purgative). Shamans relied on this purging power as a kind of sympathetic magic, to expel evil spirits from afflicted people. It’s also used to break hexes and exorcise spirits/demons from a space. In other words, pokeweed purges evil or unwanted influences.

Using Pokeweed

Crushing the berries creates a very powerful magical ink. Some people ferment them, others add vinegar, salt, or other natural preservatives and use it as-is. This ink is often used for hex breaking, and can also serve as a substitute for blood in a pinch (depending on the spell, of course).

You can also add the dried berries to sachets or spell jars for bravery or hex-breaking. I would avoid adding them to baths or incense, just in case, and definitely never add them to salves or teas. The juice of the plants can be absorbed through the skin, causing issues similar to poison ivy. It also contains compounds that can trigger mutations, so that’s neat.

Pokeweed is a striking-looking plant. The bright magenta stems, vibrant green leaves, and shiny clusters of dark berries are stunning. Like many poisonous plants, it holds a lot of power within it — but that power demands respect. Pokeweed has the ability to feed, heal, and harm, all depending on how it’s used.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Capers Folklore and Magical Properties

Edible flowers have always intrigued me — I love floral flavors, far more than floral scents. Lavender Italian soda, candied violets, briny capers… Give me all of the flowers. I was eating my favorite breakfast the other day (toasted sesame bagel, veggie cream cheese, sliced tomato, thinly sliced red onion, and capers) when one of the little pickled buds dropped out and rolled onto my plate. It was surprisingly pretty, a deep olive green at the tip, turning to a deeper violet near the base, and it got me thinking.

What are capers good for?
(Besides being delicious.)

I didn’t find many traditional magical uses for these guys in my search, but I did find some very interesting medical uses and folklore than seems to provide the basis for their modern magical properties.

Capers Magical Properties and Folklore

Going down to bone town.

No, really. They’re mostly used as aphrodisiacs.

Even the Christian Bible acknowledges this — in Ecclesiastes, translations dispute whether a certain passage should read as “desire” or “caperberry.” In Hebrew, the word for caperberry, aviyyonah, is linked to the word avah, meaning “desire.” The King James version of Ecclesiastes 12:5 reads, “the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail.” Meanwhile, older translations render the word “desire” as “caperberry.” As a result, some modern translations go for “desire,” while others use “caperberry.” Confusing, huh?

In ancient Greek medicine, capers were used to relieve gas and bloating. This isn’t really tied to any aphrodisiac effect, but it’s probably easier to want to do the do when you aren’t farting like a Clydesdale.

The Witch’s Cottage Garden lists capers as a Mars plant. This is most likely due to the plant’s thorns — plants associated with Mars tend to be prickly — but also fits its use as an aphrodisiac. While Venus plants are associated with love and beauty, Mars energy can be passionate and lustful, in addition to assertive and warlike.

Other sources list as useful in magic for lust and potency, which also suits it’s Mars energy and desire-promoting qualities.

Using Capers

Eat them, but not too much. Capers are preserved, so they’re very high in sodium. (Ironically, if you have sodium-sensitive blood pressure and blood pressure-related sexual dysfunction, they can make it harder to get in the mood.)

I like including them in salads or, as I mentioned before, on a bagel with cream cheese. If you don’t eat cheese, a nondairy alternative or some avocado would work — I find that the salty, lemony bite of capers benefits greatly from something cool and creamy to offset it.

If you want to use capers in your magic without eating them, the mature flowers are very pretty and unusual-looking. While I haven’t seen the flowers for sale (I think most people prefer to pick them when they’re just buds, for culinary purposes), you can find the whole plant for sale and grow them fairly easily if you’ve got a dry climate and plenty of sun.

As a note of caution, the caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris) is a poisonous plant that is often confused for capers. Eating the buds can cause mouth pain, nausea, cardiac arrhythmia, fainting, and delirium. So, if you going to go try to find capers, maybe stick to garden centers and grocery stores unless you’re really, really good at IDing plants.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Making and Empowering Magical Oils

Making oils is a process.

I don’t mean choosing the right ingredients and carriers — that’s just the midpoint.

Oils aren’t a very large part of Druid ritual, but I still find them useful. The action of making them is as meditative as it is fascinating, and I like having a convenient, versatile way to tap into the energies of a blend of herbs. Carrying a vial of oil in my crane bag is much easier than carrying packets of herbs, and a single drop can go a very long way.

Every time I make an oil, powder, incense, or anything, I start with a statement of intent. What do I want this mixture to do? I might start with a specific situation that I want to affect, or something more general. Whatever my intent might be, I need to distill it down to one sentence — one central idea — before I can continue.

Then the real fun begins.

Choosing the Herbs and Essential Oils

Picking the herbs and oils to form the base of your magical oil means choosing them based on one of two things: their history of use, or your personal association with that plant.

Personal associations can be extremely powerful, because they’re based on your working relationship with them. Making magical recipes based solely on your personal associations can be a bit like “reinventing the wheel,” however, since it involves a lot of experimentation if you aren’t relying on information that generations of witches and wise-people have already worked out.

On the other hand, adhering strictly to a plant’s documented magical properties has its own drawbacks: it can be kind of limiting, and things are often lost in translation. (There are posts upon posts of hoodoo practitioners lamenting the loss of traditional recipes after some dubious authors published their own versions.) You might also miss information on how the herb was historically used — one plant might traditionally be a money herb when infused in an oil or added to a powder, but treated as an unhexing herb when burned. There’s a lot of knowledge that can’t really be properly presented in chart or encyclopedia form!

The number of herbs, oils, and other additives can also be significant. Most magical recipes I know involve at least three ingredients, but more isn’t always better.

You should also note any toxic or sensitizing effects the herbs and oils might have, even if you don’t plan to ingest or anoint your skin with them. Some plant compounds can be absorbed through the skin, and many can have deleterious effects if they’re used long-term. The more often you plan to use an oil, the more important safety is. Even if you only use it to dress candles, you’ll be getting it on your hands. Be safe!

However you decide to choose your herbs and oils, select a few that correspond to your statement of intent, and won’t be toxic or sensitizing.

Choosing a Carrier

No matter whether you want to infuse herbs or blend essential oils, you need a carrier. This is going to be the “body” of your oil — the stuff that absorbs the magical virtues of your herbs, and provides a safe vehicle for your essential oils.

The only real limiting factors here are allergies, shelf life, and price. Needless to say, if you’re allergic to a plant, don’t use its oil. Very highly-refined oils generally have any allergenic proteins removed from them, but that’s not something you should bank on if you have severe allergies.

Shelf life can be a consideration if you plan to let your oil infuse for a long time, or if you know it’ll take you awhile to use up. Keeping oils in dark cobalt or amber bottles in a cool, dry area can help prolong their shelf lives, but they will still eventually oxidize and go rancid. I like jojoba oil for its very long shelf life. As a liquid wax, it can stay stable for up to two years.

Some oil-bearing plants have their own magical properties. (Fractionated coconut oil, for example, is great for protection spells.) This is good to bear in mind, though you’re likely to find yourself choosing oils based on other characteristics. If the smell of your carrier oil completely overpowers your other ingredients, you might not care what else it can do!

Picking the Date

When you’ve got your ingredients together, the next hurdle is choosing the date and time to begin. The most simple part of this is choosing the correct moon phase to work within. Is your recipe to help attract something (love drawing or prosperity recipes, for example), or get rid of something (unhexing formulas)? If it’s to attract, I choose to work within a waxing moon. If it’s to banish, the waning moon.

The moon also passes through signs of the zodiac. Though I don’t stress over it if it isn’t possible, I try to match this to the intent of my oil.

Every day also has its own planetary association, and planetary hours within that. If you choose to follow this system, your best best is to use an online planetary hours calculator to help you figure out the right timing in your location.

Sun rising over mountains.

It’s a lot, isn’t it?

As an example, let’s say I was setting up an oil to help turn a court case in my favor. I want to attract the favor of the judge and jury, so I’d choose a waxing moon to begin. Libra is associated with court cases and justice, so I might decide to either start on a waxing moon in Libra, decant the oil on a Libra full moon, or both. (Of course, it might be infusing for awhile if you do that!) Wednesday is ruled by Mercury, which governs communication and the law, while Sunday is ruled by the Sun, and governs success, so either would be sufficient for my needs. Lastly, I’d pick a Mercury- or Sun-ruled hour during the day (preferably between sunrise and noon, as the sun is rising to its high point), and set everything up during that hour.

In the end, I’d get a court case oil created when the moon is waxing, on a Mercury-ruled hour on Wednesday.

Empowering the Mixture

You’re in the right hour, of the right day, in the right moon phase. You’ve got your ingredients, a container, and a carrier oil.

Now what?

It isn’t enough to put ingredients in a jar, add an oil, shake it up, and hope for the best. You can definitely get an oil infusion this way, but it won’t be as powerful or focused as it could be.

When I add ingredients to the container, I tell them what I want them to do. I speak their names, give them instructions, then add them. After each one, I repeat all of the herbs I’ve added so far. It might sound something like this:

“Red rose petals, draw passionate love to me.” Add red rose petals.
“Pink rose petals, draw romantic love to me.” Add pink rose petals.
“Red rose petals, draw passionate love to me. Pink rose petals, draw romantic love to me.” Swirl the ingredients together.
“Jasmine flowers, draw lustful love to me.” Add jasmine flowers.
“Red rose petals, draw passionate love to me. Pink rose petals, draw romantic love to me. Jasmine flowers, draw lustful love to me.” Swirl the ingredients together.

(It starts sounding very “Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” by the end, trust me.)

The carrier oil goes last, then the lid. I give the jar a good shake as I visualize the end result — succeeding at whatever it is I want the oil to do. I hold my hands over the container, filling it with my personal power.

I can generally feel when there’s “enough,” but there are also ways to tell if you aren’t sensitive to energy play. You might use a pendulum, ask your tarot deck for a “yes/no” response, or even just ask the jar itself. Hold your hands an inch or so from the sides, and ask that your hands be pushed apart if it’s sufficiently empowered. There is no wrong way.

Leave it Alone (Sort of)

Now, you just have to put your oil in a place where it’ll be safe and easy to keep an eye on. You’ll want to agitate it regularly by shaking (or stirring, if your vessel doesn’t have a lid). I like to speak to the jars as I handle them, reminding the sleeping herbs of their purpose in the mixture.

I might leave an oil to infuse for a moon cycle or more. (One particular recipe can go for an entire year.) I usually try to leave them for at least a month, though the exact length of time is usually dictated by astrology, seasons, or which High Days are approaching.

Next week, I’ll go into filtering, storing, and using the oils we’ve made!

Three white candles in the middle of dried vines.
life, Neodruidry, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Herbs for Justice, Protection, and Invisibility

If you’re taking part in the June 5th spiritual protest or any other justice-related spellwork, you might be wondering what materials you should reach for. Traditional hoodoo resources are a great source for this — the generations of the Black community’s mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement is made painfully evident when you look at the number of oils, powders, and roots that help with court cases and legal trouble.

If you don’t have access to traditional rootwork resources, though, that’s okay. There are plenty of other plants you can go to, especially if your spiritual and magical path hails from a different part of the world. Since this is somewhat short notice and COVID-19 is still affecting business closures, here are some herbs I thought would be a) effective, and b) easy-to-find, even if you don’t have them already. Some, you might be able to find by the side of the road. Others, you might have in your kitchen already.

Amaranth

Amaranth is used for protection and invisibility — help journalists and protesters avoid violence. It’s an ancient grain, so, if you have a sensitivity to wheat, you may already have some to cook with.

Buckthorn

Buckthorn is useful for protection and legal trouble. Alder-lead buckthorn grows across the U.S., Carolina buckthorn can be found in the east, and California, cascara, and hollyleaf buckthorn grows in the west. Common and glossy buckthorn also occur in the U.S. as invasive species — get your magical ingredients and curb the invasion, all in one shot.

Celandine

Celandine is protective and helps with legal matters. It helps win the good will of a jury, and is used to avoid unjust imprisonment. Lesser celandine is an invasive species in the U.S., especially in the east and northwest, and is sometimes known as “fig buttercup.”

Mugwort

Mugwort is used for protection and healing. It keeps away evil, protecting the target from dark forces. When carried, it helps ensure that loved ones return home safely. Mugwort grows as a weed everywhere but the plains states in the U.S. You can find it on waste ground, roadsides, by train tracks, and in fallow fields.

Oregano

Chances are, you’ve got some of this common spice in your kitchen. Grab a shaker of it, a piece of charcoal, and a fireproof dish, and burn the leaves. As you do this, pray for justice. Your intent will be carried on the smoke.

You can also add oregano to spells for protection — useful for aiding the protesters and oppressed communities.

Rosemary

Rosemary is my favorite protective plant. It’s also an easy-to-find culinary herb — if you don’t have rosemary itself, you might have “poultry seasoning” (which probably has sea salt, garlic, and other protective goodies in it).

Vervain

Vervain is a very powerful sacred herb. It empowers anything it’s added to, and is used for protection, peace, healing, sending negativity back, and more. This is common vervain, not the U.S. native blue vervain, but both are part of Verbena. Blue vervain grows wild in disturbed areas.

Woad

Woad is often used for ancestor work, particularly by those of Celtic extraction. It’s also used for banishing and spiritual protection. As far as I’m aware, the Celtic peoples didn’t really give a flying fornication about ethnicity or bloodline purity or what have you, so, if using it speaks to you, go wild.

Woad isn’t particularly easy to find, but it’s a favorite for battle magic.

Yarrow

Yarrow helps instill courage. You can find it all across the U.S., in gardens, forests, and grasslands alike, growing along roadsides and hiking trails.

This is a very short, basic list based on my own experience and research. (For a more in-depth treatment of war witchcraft, there’s a great article on Zindoki.com.) Most of these herbs are pretty easy to find, you might even be able to harvest some from untended land near your home. Just remember — take no more than 30% of the plant, and always ask permission and leave an offering.

The injustice suffered by some of us, hurt all of us.
Work your magic by the moon. Kick some ass.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Dandelion Folklore and Magical Properties

In places that enjoy warm winters, these bright yellow flowers can be spotted year round. If you’re in a temperate area like I am, then you’re probably seeing them all over as we get ready to enter the last month or so of their peak flowering season — especially as business closures and shelter-in-place orders leave a lot of outdoor spaces untended.

Believe it or not, these ubiquitous yellow blooms aren’t actually native to the U.S. In places where they grow naturally, they’re a valuable source of food for honeybees. While they may not be quite as useful to U.S. wildlife, they still have a ton of magical properties that make them a valuable addition to your herb cabinet (and, if you enjoy the flavor, your tea cupboard and salad bowl).

Dandelion Magical Uses and Folklore

The name dandelion comes from the French phrase “dent de lion,” or “tooth of the lion.” Another, more accurate, name is “pissenlit.” “Lit” means “bed.” The rest, I’ll leave up to your imagination.

On a related note, dandelion is a diuretic.

When a dandelion sets seeds, its yellow flower turns into a nimbus of fluff. Pick a dandelion, make a wish, and give it a good, hard puff — the seeds will scatter, carrying your wish with them.

Similarly, if you have a bad habit you want to get rid of, blowing on a dandelion puff will carry it away from you. They can also carry your affections to a distant loved one.

Dandelion puffs are also used in love divination. If you think of your beloved and blow on one, it will show you how loved you are. If the seeds completely disperse, your beloved is infatuated with you. If some seeds remain, they have some reservations.

After you blow on a dandelion puff, watch the direction that the seeds go. It will show you where to seek your fortune.

Hold a dandelion under your chin. If it shines yellow, you’ll be rich some day. A similar belief holds that, the brighter the yellow glow, the kinder you are.

In the Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham writes that dandelion root tea can help with divination and prophetic dreams.

Brewing dandelion root tea and leaving a cup of it by your bedside is said to call spirits.

Including dandelions in a wedding bouquet is said to ensure happiness for the married couple.

Dandelion sap was used as a remedy for warts. Squeezing some milky sap from the stem of the plant onto a wart is said to make the wart disappear. (Though this folk remedy has been in use for hundreds — if not thousands — of years, there’s no real clinical data to back it up.)

Some use the dandelion to predict the weather. After they’ve gone to seed and become all fluffy, they are very sensitive to changes in moisture — when the weather’s likely to be wet, they’ll close up. When the rain has passed and things are going to be dry for a bit, they open so their seeds can disperse.

Dandelion is ruled by Jupiter.

The plants are associated with Hecate, Aphrodite, Brigid, Belenos, and solar deities.

Using Dandelion

The easiest way to use dandelions is in a salad. The young leaves are very good, though the adult leaves have a tendency to be bitter. You can also boil the leaves up with onions, carrots, and parsley, strain, and save the broth. It’s delicious and packed with minerals.

Roast the ground root and use it as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. I often drink a beverage made from dandelion root extract called Dandy Blend — it’s good for scratching a coffee itch, especially since I have to avoid stimulants.

All parts of the dandelion can be eaten, or even fermented. Dandelion beer uses leaves, dandelion wine uses flowers, and some root beer recipes use the roots. You can also make a delicious jelly from the flowers.

Most magical uses of dandelion involve brewing it into a tea. You can purchase prepared dandelion teas, or collect your own leaves, dry them, and use a tea strainer. Leaf tea has a pleasantly grassy flavor with some bitterness, while the roots have an interesting nutty taste. Make yourself a cup before performing a divination.

If you choose to go dandelion-foraging, don’t pick any that grow by roadsides, or that may have been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides! These plants are extremely hardy and grow basically anywhere, so you’re best off planting your own so you know what they’ve been in contact with. Many other plants also resemble dandelions, so be absolutely sure you’ve IDed your potential meal correctly.