Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Cardamom Folklore and Magical Uses

When I was in college, one of my lab partners was a beautiful girl whose family was from Yemen. She was always dressed very conservatively, though fashionably, but beneath her impeccably neat, studious exterior she was warm, kind, and funny as hell.

One day, she brought me some cardamom pods to try as a tea. I hadn’t ever had caramom before (that I knew of), and I was pleasantly surprised. Like she herself, their neat outer pods concealed a wealth of warmth and complexity.

 

Cardamom Magical Uses and Folklore

This ginger relative is one of the oldest spices in the world. It’s believed that it was introduced to Europe by Alexander the Great, who brought it back from the Cardamom Hills of southwest India.

As a warm spice with a hint of sweetness, it’s probably not surprising that this herb has found its way into many a love potion. Some sources associate it with Venus, while others attribute it to Mars — making it perhaps better suited for formulas for lust and passion than anything else. It’s also said to have some commanding and compelling properties, particularly in the areas of lust and love.

Since it’s a Mars herb, it’s also useful for protection. However, unlike the harsh heat of an ingredient like cayenne, cardamom is much softer and gentler — an iron fist in a velvet glove.

In some areas of Asia and Africa, it was used as an aphrodisiac.

To charm a prospective lover (or anyone else, really), chew a few cardamom seeds before talking to them.

Cardamom is an ingredient in some versions of kyphi, an ancient Egyptian incense. It’s often presented as a substitute for cinnamon. It was also used as an ingredient in several ancient perfumes.

Scent- and flavor-wise, it blends very well with a wide array of other herbs. In magical formulas, it’s often used as a catalyst. Overall, it seems to “play nicely” with a pretty impressive variety of ingredients.

Cardamom is said to have a calming, uplifting effect on mood. It relaxes the body and stimulates the mind — no wonder it’s been used as an aphrodisiac!

 

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Using Cardamom

As a culinary and magical herb, the easiest way to use cardamom is to eat it. Add the pods to soups, stews, or rice dishes and remove after cooking, the way you’d use a bay leaf. You can also add the ground spice near the end of cooking.

You can find cardamom in many Indian, Middle Eastern, Turkish, African, and Scandinavian recipes. It’s an ingredient in chai, desserts, sausage, poultry, fish, coffee, and just about any other food or beverage you can imagine.

If you want to charm a lover, serve them some food flavored with cardamom. Empower the cardamom before adding it by telling it what you want it to do, and visualizing it filling with bright, warm, red or pink light. Add the cardamom, and stir the dish with a spoon held in your dominant hand. (If you have a special spoon dedicated to kitchen witchery, so much the better). If you have a love chant, say it. Otherwise, you can sing your favorite love song (or your favorite song to bone down to).

Since cardamom comes in tidy little pods, it’s a great ingredient for love or protection sachets, poppets, or bags. It doesn’t crumble and make a mess like leafy herbs and, if it accidentally gets crushed, it releases a wonderful aroma.

I like to add cardamom to lentils. I boil up a pot of lentils with cardamom, pepper, and turmeric, and add them to dishes throughout the week. It’s an inexpensive, nutritious, flavorful way to stretch out a meal.

 

Cardamom is a wonderful spice with a long history of use. It’s powerful, though its action is gentle, and its warmth blends well with tons of other magical and culinary ingredients. If you’re looking for a subtle — yet potent — love or lust ingredient, you can’t really go wrong with cardamom.

divination, life, Plants and Herbs

The Rowan and the Heather

This week, I wanted to dive back into Ogham divination. I’ve been practicing working with a pendulum made of a fallen cypress root, and the set I have is probably the most conducive to using it.

When I first learned pendulum divination as a preteen, I did it a simple way: hanging a ring or pendant from a piece of string into an empty glass, and asking it to show me “yes” and “no.” Usually, an even number of taps on the glass was a “yes,” while an odd one was a “no.” I’ve always enjoyed using pendulums, and I’ve been having a really interesting time devising ways to mix different types of divination together. Driftwood Ogham fews and a wood pendulum seemed a natural match!

I didn’t ask a specific question this time. So far, this set seems pretty good at telling me what I need to know. It isn’t much like tarot or Lenormand, in this respect. It’s less about answering questions than providing a different, more nebulous kind of insight. If Lenormand describes actions and situations, and tarot describes the energies and emotions surrounding those situations, Ogham is another layer entirely.

The pendulum was still over every oval of driftwood, except for two that made it swing in swift, ever-widening circles: Rowan and Heather.

Heather came up for me last week, when I asked specifically about working through some old patterns. These are things that are going to take more than a week to get past, so I’m not surprised to see this friend appear again.

Rowan is Luis. In Ogham divination, it represents protection from every kind of danger — physical, emotional, and spiritual. It’s defense, precaution, and care. Bind two rowan twigs into an equal-armed cross with red thread, and you have a protective charm. This points to either having protection, or needing it. In either case, it’s time to look to the things that make us feel safe.

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Honestly, it reassures me. If Heather points to needing to metaphorically “burn down” old protective patterns so new growth can emerge, Rowan tells me that they aren’t necessary. I am protected, I am safe. I don’t need them. There are healthy behaviors and mechanisms there, better ways to protect myself that don’t involve self-sabotage.

I can keep doing the work without fear, and I’ll be better for it.

 

 

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Turmeric Folklore and Magical Uses

Turmeric is what gives curry a yellow color (as well as everything else it touches). It has a subtly spicy, earthy scent and flavor, and, to be honest, is next to impossible to find folklore or magical uses for.

It’s not that they don’t exist, of course. It’s just that they’re kind of drowned out by the number of blog posts, articles, and books on its nearly-magical health benefits. People use it for inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular health, and to improve liver function. It’s a bit outside of the scope of this post to go into all of that — besides, I’m not a doctor — but it’s pretty evident that turmeric occupies an important place for a lot of people around the world.

Turmeric is native to southern Asia and some Pacific islands. In the places where it grows wild, it has a history of use as a medicinal herb going back about 4000 years. Interestingly, though turmeric was known in ancient Greece, it never really caught on except as a dye. (Interestingly, ginger, turmeric’s cousin, didn’t seem to have this problem.) Needless to say, if you’re looking for uses of turmeric in European-based witchcraft, they’re a little thin on the ground.

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Turmeric Magical Uses and Folklore

Nobody seems to be able to agree on what elemental correspondences go with this herb. Some say air, while one source I found said fire. While fire makes sense to me, I would probably say earth.

In India, turmeric seems to function as a sacred anointment. It’s used for brides and grooms during the pre-wedding haldi ceremony, girls entering puberty, and the bodies of the dead. Most of the sources for witchcraft uses of turmeric cite purification as one of its properties, so, while I doubt that its associations in Indian culture are exactly the same, this makes a lot of sense.

Malevolent spirits, particularly the angry dead, can be sent away with the smell of turmeric.

Turmeric is also indicated for spells for healing, strength, and vitality — since it’s a potent medicinal herb and general tonic.

Turmeric’s golden color is useful in color magic. Yellow is associated with abundance and happiness, while gold is associated with the energy of the sun, prosperity, success, and healing. (This sun energy might be an explanation for why turmeric is so useful for purification!)

Using Turmeric

Since turmeric stains pretty much everything it touches, that makes it great for making magical inks, dying sachets, bags, or poppets, or adding color to sweetening jars or other potions.

Turmeric essential oil has a very warming scent, and can be substituted for hot spices when you don’t necessarily want their sharp pepperiness. Like the root itself, though, the essential oil stains — use it with caution!

If you can keep it out of humidity, you can use turmeric to bury magical tools to purify them the way you might use sea salt. Again, be careful — don’t use it to bury anything porous, and keep it dry, or you might find that whatever you buried is now yellow.

 

I love turmeric, and I put it in everything. While I haven’t experienced the magical health benefits a lot of natural health websites attribute to it, it’s delicious, easy to use, and gives everything such a bright, pleasing color. If you’re looking for an ingredient for magical ink for a prosperity, abundance, joy, or purification spell, you can’t really go wrong with turmeric.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Dogwood Folklore and Magical Uses

I love dogwood blossoms, I think they’re my favorite non-flower flower. Even the wood and foliage of some species is absolutely breathtaking to look at — there’s nothing quite like a bloody dogwood in the snow.

Depending on where you are, dogwoods are either blooming, starting to bloom, or have been blooming for a few weeks. Since I’m missing the dogwoods at the National Arboretum so much, I figured this would be a good week to look at the folk and magical applications of Cornus wood, leaves, berries, and flowers.

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Dogwood Magical Uses and Folklore

As a native American tree (eastern U.S. and Mexico), there’s not a lot of writing on flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) as it pertains to European-based witchcraft. Southern Europe does have a plant called the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), which is in the dogwood family, and most of Europe and western Asia has the common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea). C. mas and C. sanguinea both flower, but neither of these are quite as showy as the big white or pink blooms of C. florida. Since all of these plants are related, it’s possible, even preferable, to make substitutions depending on what species are locally available to you.

Dogwood is associated with loyalty, secrets, wishes, protection, fertility, desire, and illusion. (The illusion part, in particular, makes a lot of sense — the flowers of the flowering dogwood aren’t actually flowers at all, they’re modified leaves.)

The dogwood is strongly tied with Christian mythology, since the flowers form a cross shape. It was believed that the wood was used to form crosses for crucifixion, so Jesus prevented the dogwood from ever growing large enough to be used for this purpose again.

An old folk remedy for treating mange in dogs involved making a decoction of dogwood bark, and washing the affected areas with it.

Leaves, bark, or flowers can be used as a protective charm.

As an herb of secrecy, it’s a good idea to include some dogwood leaves in a diary, grimoire, or Book of Shadows. An oil made from the flowers can be used to dress a letter and keep prying eyes off of it.

Make a wish come true by catching a drop of dogwood sap on a cloth on the evening of Midsummer, and wishing on it. Carry it until you get your desire, then bury the cloth.

It’s bad luck to bring dogwood flowers into your home, or to burn the wood in your hearth.

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Using Dogwood

One theory for the etymology of “dogwood” is that the name stems from “dag,” from which we also get “dagger.” This is related to the straightness and density of the wood — the sticks are pretty much ideal for crafting shafts for tools or weapons (Ötzi was found with dogwood arrows), and the wood is dense enough to sink in water. In a practical sense, this makes dogwood an excellent material for crafting wands or other magical tools.

A lot of dogwood’s associations fit neatly into one another. Illusion, protection, and secrecy all blend well. I probably wouldn’t use dogwood in place of, for example, cayenne pepper as a protective herb because the energy is so different. Dogwood is subtler — it protects by concealment. It’s a smokescreen, not a fiery wall. Even its use as arrow shafts points to a plant that’s best used to take advantage of the shadows!

American flowering dogwood has four bracts. From a numerological standpoint, four is strength, stability, and pragmatism. This blends nicely with its use as an herb for protection and loyalty.

Dogwood is useful in color magic, since the blooms can range from white, to yellow, to pink, to red. Even the leaves can turn from gold or green to pink, yellow, orange, or red.

 

 

 

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Elderberry Folklore and Magical Uses

With colds, the flu, and COVID-19, elderberry syrup has made a lot of appearances in various “crunchy” and DIY blogs. Elderberry is touted as an herbal “medicine chest” — even Hippocrates and Pliny the Elder had a hard time overstating the herb’s value. It’s said to improve allergies, inflammation, sinus problems, and pain, and, with prompt use, shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms.

Elderberries and syrup.

That’s not all elderberry is used for, though. This tree, with its white flowers and dark, shiny berries, has a lot of folklore and a long history of magical use behind it.

Elder Magical Uses and Folklore

The elder tree is believed to house a spirit with the power to help or harm. In Denmark, it is Hylde Moer. Elsewhere, it was dryads, or simply the Old Lady of the Elder tree.

Taking any of the tree’s gifts has to be done with permission. If permission is granted, they have the power to heal and protect. If it isn’t, they have the power to harm. One charm for cutting elder wood goes:

“Old Lady of the Elder Tree,
Let me have some of your wood,
And, when I am a tree,
You may have some of mine.”

In southern Italy, the wood is used to drive out evil, and protect against thieves and serpents.

In Germany, hanging elder branches in a home on Walpurgisnacht protects from evil.

The spongy centers of elder branches are soaked in oil and used as a kind of lamp wick to reveal all of the witches in an area.

In England, carrying an elder stick or cross made of elder wood was said to protect from rheumatism.

Building a cradle from elder wood is a bad idea, for spirits with pinch and poke any child that sleeps in it.

It’s considered a very bad idea to burn elder wood. In Ireland, it was believed that burning elder would would make you see the devil in the flames. Part of the Wiccan Rede goes as follows:

“Elder be the Lady’s tree. Burn it not, or cursed be.”

(Considering the cyanide content of uncured fruitwoods, and the fact that hydrogen cyanide is liberated by heat, this is probably very good advice!)

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The scent of elder flowers is said to be narcotic in nature. Sleeping under an elder tree would cause the sleeper to dream of the fairy realm, or else not wake up at all.

Magically, carrying elder wood, leaves, twigs, or berries is said to protect you from harm, while hanging elder branches over doors and windows of a building protects its occupants.

Elder is associated with death and rebirth — all parts of the plant are toxic (except the ripe, cooked berries), and elder grows quickly from cuttings.

Elder wood is used for wands, and for making instruments whose music is said to be favored by spirits.

In some situations, elder is used as a commanding herb.

Using Elder

All parts of the plant produce cyanogenic glycosides, hence all of the old admonitions against the improper use of elder. The berries are used medicinally, but that’s only after proper preparation.

Magically, elder is a powerful tree — which stands to reason, since the plant itself contains the power to heal and kill. Any tree should be asked for permission before gathering its products, but that goes double for elder. From what I have read, elder wood should be avoided for mundane purposes, and its use should be restricted to magical tools.

 

Elder has gotten a lot of press lately because of its use as a remedy for respiratory illness, but there’s only so much it can do. It can help with sinus problems, inflammation, and shorten cold and flu symptoms, but the best way to keep from getting sick is still to eat well, rest well, stay hydrated, and stay away from people.

Plants and Herbs

Pansy Folklore and Magical Uses

Pansies remind me of my late grandmother. She used to grow them in her backyard garden, as little cheery-faced border plants. She also had a very gentle, relaxing aesthetic — I remember the grandfather clock in the hallway, the little embroidered pillow full of fragrant pine needles, the print of geese with cheery blue ribbons on the kitchen wall, the way the hallway always smelled like roses and the kitchen smelled like fresh coffee. I can always tell when she’s around me because of those smells.

It was nice spotting these little flowers last week, with their yellow faces turned toward the sun. I’m not positive about their exact species, but they resembled my grandmother’s pansies enough to make me curious about their uses.

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And this appears to be some yellow Viola tricolor.

It’s probably unsurprising to hear that pansies have a wealth of properties associated with them. You can heart it in their names, too — heartsease, call-me-to-you, love-lies-bleeding, love-in-idleness.

Heartsease Magical Properties and Folklore

In Roman mythology, the viola turned to love-in-idleness when Eros mistakenly struck it with one of his arrows, causing it to smile.

In Greek mythology, Zeus created the flowers as a way to repent for his treatment of his lover, Io. She was once a beautiful maiden, but Zeus’ wife, Hera, became jealous. To protect Io, Zeus transformed her into a cow. Since she was forced to be on a diet of grasses and herbs, Zeus made the earth yield flowers.

In another legend, Cupid worshipped the heartsease flowers. To stop this, Aphrodite turned them from white, to tricolored.

Pansies and violets are associated with Venus, and often used as a love ingredient. Placing some under your pillow is said to attract a new lover. Planting them in a heart shape is a bit of sympathetic magic — if they thrive, so will your relationship.

They are also associated with Pluto, and death and rebirth.

Picking the herb on a sunny day is said to cause a storm to come. Picking one that’s still dewy brings death.

Using Heartsease

I think love magic gets a bad rap. When many people think of it, they picture a desperate, lovelorn person, performing spell after spell to convince the object of their affections to want them back. That’s not really the case, though. I mean, if you think about it, everything is love.

Want more money? You really want your boss or your clients to love your work.
Want to be more successful or popular? That’s platonic love.
Love magic is attraction magic. If you draw in love, you can use those same attributes to attract whatever you desire.

Pansies come in a variety of colors, which lends them well to color magic. Each color has its own particular attributes. The little yellow ones I found could be found for mental abilities, divination, happiness, travel, or blessing a new home.

If I could, I’d plant a pot of yellow pansies near the front door of my home. Bless the space and draw in love all at the same time!

Medicinally, heartsease has been used to treat asthma, inflammatory lung conditions, and cardiac complaints. Externally, it’s used for skin problems like eczema. Considering this, and considering how many other herbs’ medical uses mirror their magical ones, it’s really not surprising that it’s an herb of love and death.

 

Pansies are demulcent, mucilaginous, and anti-inflammatory. They have been used to calm irritated skin, ease chest complaints, and soothe other matters of the heart, too. They’re also easy to grow, so, if you have the room, I definitely recommend planting some of these cheerful little flowers!

Blog, life, Plants and Herbs

The end; no morel.

(That pun’s pretty bad. Sorry, readers. Sorry, internet. Sorry, college.)

I don’t really know as much as I’d like about mushrooms. I mean, I know enough to know that I don’t know enough to trust myself to eat one I pick myself. (Every mushroom is edible. Many of them are only edible once.)

I still like looking for them, though. My S.O. and I find some very neat ones sometimes — a massive chicken-of-the-woods, honey fungus, bird’s next fungus, eyelash mushrooms, all kinds. I know it’s still early to find any here (probably? I’m mean, I’m assuming), but I was still stoked to go looking for some. It’s only barely March, and things like morels and dryad’s saddles probably won’t be around for weeks yet. After being cooped up all winter, I would’ve been happy to find some of last year’s dried-out bracket fungi.

Alas, there were no mushrooms.

I did find some really neat moss, though. Complete with seed heads!

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We sat on a fallen tree to have a picnic. It was really beautiful out — chilly, but not cold. Bright, with the sun slanting through the trees and not a cloud in the sky.

“Are you taking a pic of me eating a sandwich?”

“Yeah. The sun looks neat. Besides, you’re one of my favorite subjects to photograph.”

“Aww…”

“… Y’know, I’m glad you took that as a compliment. I just realized that my dumb ass came out here unreasonably excited to see, like, fungus and moss and shit, so there were a lot of ways that could’ve gone.”

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He’s pretty cool about indulging my whims. Even when those whims mean crawling around in dirt and leaves to get pictures of extremely tiny things.

Or when they mean me dragging him through the art supply store and spending twenty minutes deliberating between cotton and linen canvas, which I did on the way home.

Next weekend, I might take him hunting for cryptids. We’ll see.