Category Archives: Plants in Magic

Calendula – Say Hello to the Sun!

+ Family / Subfamily: Asteraceae / Asteroideae
+ Tribus: Calenduleae
+ Genus: Calendula
+ Species: Calendula officinalis
+ Names: marigold, pot marigold, Garten-Ringelblume, Bride of the Sun, Goldes, Holigolde, Husbandman’s Dial, Marybud, Ruddes, Ruddles, Spousa Solis, Summer’s Bride, Sonnenwend, Todtenblume

The flowers of pot marigold mirror the sun – their radiant petals shine in bright yellow or orange colors from spring to late autumn. According to folk belief, simply looking at them does strengthen the sight. Their magic is – naturally – of the sun and the element fire. Calendula petals added to the bath water create a magical shield and help winning respect and admiration from other people.

The flowers are also perfect for the game “he/she loves me, he/she loves me not” (originally effeuiller la marguerite in French). Though plucking the flower is said to conjure thunderstorms! The flowers were also used in divining one’s future lover: the flower petals were dried with other summer herbs, then ground and made into a salve with honey and vinegar. Young women would then apply the salve before sleep and call upon St. Lukas to dream of their future love. Simpler yet just as effective: scattering the flowers under your bed,  they protect in sleep and give prophetic dreams, not only about future lovers, but also when it comes to revealing a thief, that has robbed you.

If you do not believe in the conjuring of thunderstorms, then you may plug the flower at noon, when the sun is highest in the sky, and it will strengthen and comfort the heart.

Peasants too, held marigold in high esteem, since they helped to predict the daily weather: if the flowers open early between 6-7 am, it would be a sunny day ahead; but if they stayed closed beyond 7 am the day would be rainy. The genus name Calendula hints at this: it is modern Latin diminutive of calendae, meaning “little calendar”, “little clock” or possibly “little weather-glass”.

Garlands of marigolds strung on the doorposts stop evil from entering the house.  Carried in the pocket, marigold helps justice to smile favorably upon you while in court.

Finally, in the past understanding the language of the birds must have been pivotal, and so it was thought, that if a girl touched the flowers with bare feet, she would be granted that skill.

Medicinal and culinary uses: Marigold is cultivated mainly in Germany and the Netherlands. The flowers are plucked manually or with machines and then dried. Flowers destined to be used as a decorative coloring agent, are dried at 80°C. The petals, fresh or dried, are added to tea and other food. Cheese and butter are colored with marigold. It can also be added to rice during cooking. While marigold itself does not taste like much, it enhances the taste of other food, similar to salt and can be added to pretty much any dish. Since marigold has been used to adulterate saffron, it is also known as “poor man’s saffron”.

In natural medicine, dried marigold flowers are used in various ways, i.e. as a tea, oil, salve, tincture or watery extract:

  • internally – against stomach ulcers and pre-menstrual tension syndrom, or as an antispasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic and anthelmintic
  • externally – for treating skin inflammations, contusions, boils and exanthema and promoting wound healing

According to the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products, the medicinal effects of calendula are not proven, or better said, sufficient surveys are lacking. If you are allergic to other plants in the daisy family, you may avoid marigold.

Pot marigold in the garden: marigold is such an easy plant, with so many good traits, that it could almost be considered a sin, to not grow it! It grows basically anywhere and in any soil, but if you want a strong marigold, full of flowers then plant it – of course – where it gets all of the sun! A clayey soil seems to be favorable as well. Too much nitrogen fertilizer impairs flowering, likewise does a lack of potassium and phosphor. Elin Unnes suggests to do like Annemarta Borgen: in a bucket blend the seeds with peat dust and water and then simply throw it wherever you want marigold to grow.

While I adore the flowers of pot marigold, the real treat for me are the seeds. Not only, because they are so differently shaped, but because they seem to resemble little dragons or fossilized animal bones. And yes, the strange claws from the outside of the faded flower up to the small curled up things in the center are in fact all seeds! The German name Ringelblume means “ringed flower” and is derived from the curled shape of the seeds. Now, after a year of blooming there are plenty of them and they ensure a new and profuse generation of marigold plants – typical for annuals! If on the other hand, you mind your pot marigold multiplying exponentially, dead-heading is a thing.

Pot marigold seeds are rich in oils. Do you know about any uses for them?

Propagation by seed:  An easy plant that readily self-seeds! Sow from April – August. Sow 0,5 cm deep and cover loosely with soil. The seeds germinate within 2-3 weeks at temperatures around 20°C. Calendula thrives in sun to half shade. The soil should be fresh, humus rich or clayey and well drained. Plant 25 cm apart. The annual plant gets 50 cm tall, with bright orange or yellow flowers. Some garden varieties have extra large and filled flowers. Pot marigold has a long duration of flowering. The petals can be added to salads. The seeds are rich in oils. Calendula has a positive effect on the soil and can be planted as a companion in any cottage, ornamental or kitchen garden.

Addendum: the origin of pot marigold is unknown. Some say it once came to Europe from Egypt and then was carried on with colonists to the New World. Or it once escaped from gardens and then was naturalized all around the world.

Not to be confused with the French or Mexican marigolds in the tagetes family!

Links and further reading:

Elin Unnes: Gartenverrückt, “Arme-Leute Safran”, p141 f.
Scott Cunningham, Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
Alchemy Works
Wikipedia

Plants and Planets

In the past botanists such as Nicholas Culpeper associated plants with the planets, fixed stars and zodiac signs. The attributions were based on an intense study of a plant’s features, which included treats such as a thorny or prickly appearance, the scent emitted by the flowers or the entire plant, the plant’s life cycle, colors, metals contained in a plant, medicinal and other uses and of course plenty of folklore. Today plants are classified scientifically based on their genome, but their planetary lore is preserved and continues to evolve in the books of authors such as Stephen Skinner, Paul Huson, Scott Cunningham, Harold Roth and so on.

I find it fun and inspiring to continue this tradition and to explore its own inner logic. Hence I am listing here examples of plants, that I am working with, many of which are also part of my seed boxes.

(planetary rulers ordered according to the Chaldean sequence, photos by myself)


Saturn
Aconite + Asafoetida + Belladonna + Bistort + Bittersweet Nightshade (also Mercury) + Black Nightshade + Bluebell + Comfrey + Columbine (also Venus) + Cypress + Dodder + Foxglove (also Venus) + Fumitory + Hellebore + Hemp + Henbane + Ivy + Lady’s slipper orchid + Mandrake (also Mercury) + Mullein + Poison Hemlock + Poplar + Scullcap + Solomon’s Seal + Spurge (also Mars) + Yew

Characteristics: borders, hexing & binding, banishing, addressing “elders”, death spells; poisonous plants, plants that thrive in shade or along borders or on poor ground, plants with unpleasant odors; plants that effect the excretory system, cooling plants, plants that effect the bones and aging processes, anticarcinogenic plants


Jupiter
Agrimony + Anise + Avens + Borage + Cinquefoil + Dandelion + Fig + Honeysuckle + Houseleek + Hyssop + Linden + Liverwort + Lungwort + Meadowsweet + Sage + Thyme + Valerian + Walnut + Wood Betony

Characteristics: generosity, religiousness, law and authority, purification; large plants, nutritious plants, plants that effect the liver, digestive system and blood vessels, appetizing plants


Mars
Asafoetida + Basil + Blackthorn + Bloodroot + Bryony + Broom + Cactus + Carrot + Chili Pepper + Coriander + Dragon tree + Garlic + Gentian + Gorse + Hawthorn + High John the Conqueror + Holly + Houndstongue + Leek + Maguey + Masterwort + Mustard + Nettle + Onion + Oregano + Pennyroyal + Pepper + Pine + Radish + Rue + Snapdragon + Spurge + Sweet Woodruff + Thistle + Thornapple + Toadflax + Tobacco + Wormwood + Yucca

Characteristics: protection, attack and revenge, domination, vigor, vitality; plants with thorns and prickly surfaces that may be irritating to the skin, herbs and roots with a strong spicy aroma, warming plants, plants that strengthen the immune system, plants that effect the muscles and tendons, plants that enhance sex drive and potency, blood-purifying plants


Sun
Angelica (also Venus) + Ash + Calamus + Carnation + Cedar + Celandine + Centaury + Cinnamon + Cowslip + Eyebright + Goldenseal + Heliotrope + Hibiscus + Hops + Juniper + Laurel + Lemon + Lovage + Marigold + Marshmallow (also Venus) + Mistletoe + Oak + Olibanum + Olive + Orange + Palm + Peony + Rosemary (also Mercury) + Rowan + Rue (also Mars) + Saffron + St. John’s Wort + Sunflower + Tagetes + Viper’s Bugloss + Yauthli

Characteristics: centering, wealth, general protection; plants effecting the heart and circulatory system, tonics, warming and calming plants, antidepressant plants, plants that effect the spine, plants that ease symptoms arising from photo-toxic reactions, skin protectants, plants that effect eye sight; flowers that resemble the sun in shape and color, plants with a citrus- or orange-like scent


Venus
Almond + Birch + Catnip + Cherry + Cornflower + Columbine (also Saturn) + Cowslip + Crocus + Elder + Feverfew + Foxglove (also Saturn) + Geranium + Goldenrod + Heather + Iris + Lady’s Mantle + Larkspur + Lemon Balm (also Moon) + Lilac + Marshmallow + Myrtle + Plantain + Pansy + Rose + Self-heal + Tansy + Vanilla + Vervain + Violet + Yarrow

Characteristics: love and money spells, protection from martial spells, harmony, balancing; aphrodisiacs, plants effecting the kidneys and urinary system, astringent plants, plants that have effects on the genital tract, plants that aid wound healing and skin lesions, plants with large flowers and velvety leaves, plants with overwhelmingly sweet scents


Mercury
Bittersweet (also Saturn) + Caraway + Chervil + Clary Sage (also Moon) + Clover + Dill + Elecampane + Fennel + Fern + Lavender + Lemongrass + Lily of the Valley + Mandrake (also Saturn) + Marjoram + Mint + Parsley + Pimpernel + Summer Savory

Characteristics: knowledge, travel, communication, divination, psychopomps, trickery; plants effecting the nervous (nervine) and respiratory system, plants with feathery leaves, herbs with intense but short lasting scents, inconspicuous herbs, multicolored herbs, plants with umbels


Moon
Aloe + Cabbage + Chamomile + Clary Sage + Evening Primrose + Field Penny-Cress + Honesty (Lunaria) + Jasmine + Lemon Balm (also Venus) + Lettuce + Lily + Loosestrife + Mallow + Mugwort + Passion Flower + Poppy + Willow

Characteristics: dreams, clairvoyance; plants that are calming, relaxing and cooling, plants that aid sleep, narcotic and anodyne plants, plants that effect the hormone and lymphatic system, plants with a high water content, flowers with a mild sweet or camphorous scent, plants with flowers that open at night

(to be continued)

Useful links:
Planetary Days and Hours
Lunar Gardening Calendar
Correspondence Tables by Harold Roth

-> You know of a other useful websites or books related to the topic of plant astrology? Please add it in the comments below! 🙂

April 2017

I spent this month mainly with work on the next row of wooden seed boxes, adding new herbs to the set and reading up on them. The central theme this time were summer herbs (with the summer solstice in mind), which are sown in spring or early summer, such as poppies, cornflower, chamomile, evening primrose, yarrow, viper’s bugloss etc. Then I paid attention to Harold Roth’s book “The Witching Herbs” (signed copies available here), and included seeds for the magical herbs discussed there. Besides these I added some endangered plants such as the wonderful centaury and plants that are in decline, such as the field larkspur. With wood betony and motherwort there are some new old, forgotten about healing herbs joining the series.

Another herb I was curious about (and I know that you are too), is the enchanter’s nightshade. It is quite inconspicuous in appearance, almost invisible between other herbs. It is not poisonous at all and in fact, much more beneficial than, what its name suggests. This makes for some very interesting treats for employing this herb in sympathetic magic…

Along with adding more new herbs I also updated the sowing tables and added info texts for each. Further, my attention was drawn to the Euphorbiaceae plant genus. Last year I had been pointed to the spurge as part of a Martial incense recipe. I started researching but could not pinpoint which type of spurge was meant. There are many plants in that genus, which is found in large diversity all around the globe. But which is the one most relevant in Western medieval / renaissance magic? By chance and when searching for spurge seeds, I came across a seller on eBay who just mentioned randomly that the caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris), with its impressive size, poisonous milky sap and auspicious shape, was the plant famously believed to break hexes and ward of witches from one’s home…. Well, here we go. It is now added to the selection of poisonous herbs coming with the boxes and I can’t wait to grow it myself.

What more? I finished and shipped the last of my “Poisoner’s” seed boxes. I will now overthink the concept and design for this one.

I also spent a lot of time in the garden, harvesting masterwort root, thinning and weeding out, pricking out seedlings and sowing more…

My shortage of henbane last winter led me to sow new henbane, which resulted eventually in hundreds of little plants of black, white and the rare Egyptian henbane! These have now been separated and planted in trays of 24 each + 1 mixed tray. The temperatures are still low and even though it did not actually freeze again, it is too cold for the small plants (the test tray doesn’t seem to like my outdoors experiment on the window sill). I am therefore keeping the trays with the white and the Egyptian henbane indoors, together with purple Indian datura and several moon vine plants. The tray with the black henbane seedlings stays in the unheated greenhouse.

This month’s harvest:

  • Lamarck’s Aconite (Aconitum lamarckii), thinning out, Tuesday (11th)
  • Masterwort root (Peucedanum ostruthium), thinning out, Tuesday (11th) and Thursday (27th)
  • Herb Gerard (Aegopodium podagraria), weeding out, Saturday (22nd)
  • Myrtle (Myrtus communis), pruning, Sunday (23rd)
  • Horse tail (Equisetum arvense), weeding out, Friday (28th)

Besides, l am now a lady with a barrow full of fragrant lily of the valley! 🌱🌱🌱 (Thanks to an unexpected gift from our neighbors, who are restructuring their garden.) I now have to prepare a spot for them to grow. Else, that barrow has now met its final destiny…

Herbs I plan to sow this and the following weekends:

  • blue hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis ‘Caeruelus’)
  • caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris)*
  • centaury (Centaurium erythreae)
  • clary sage (Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica)
  • enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana)
  • evening primrose (Oenothera odorata ‘Sulfurea’)
  • honeywort (Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’)
  • lion’s tail (Leonotis leonurus)
  • poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)
  • snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus ‘Night and Day’)
  • st. john’s wort (Hypericum perforatum ‘Tauberthal’)
  • thyme (Thymus vulgaris ‘Frnech Summer’)
  • wood betony (Stachys officinalis) *

So long, I wish my followers a Blessed Walpurgis!

Fingers II

Wiebke Rost

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This time it is not about a surreal dream and also not about the fennel. But it is about another plant’s “fingers”. In folklore the male fern’s “hand” is a lucky charm, meant to bestow fortunes and the power over the souls of the dead to it’s owner. In order to obtain it, the sorcerer must harvest the male fern’s root on the Eve of St. John. Then he must roast the root in the fire. The hand is made in such manner as to bind five strands of the fronds together: the root base of the stem is left attached and the rest of the frond’s foliage is removed. The result resembles a “hand”, with tendons (hairy stems) and fingers (stipe bases). Frankly, I never made such “hand” in this manner. But I’ve gathered plenty of male fern roots and had the most magical experiences granted through working with these roots in various ways…

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Fingers

Wiebke Rost

I woke up many times last night. The documentary I had watched about the Panama papers, followed me into sleep and seemed to occupy my mind for no good reason, other than that I felt betrayed and somehow sharing into the fears and worries of those people that risk their life and well-being for exposing the truth. So my sleep was already restless and my emotional state was not, what one would consider “sunny”. I got some rest after all, but the dream that woke me up again, was one of the strangest things I’ve ever experienced… I say experienced, because in dream it’s always real.

I am inside a foreign room. Beside me on the table, is standing one of those plastic bowls, inside of which I usually gather my herb harvest. I am holding a pair of scissors and one by one, I am chopping off fingers from a hand, and placing…

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Male Fern Dragons, Knights Fighting Snails

Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)
Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)

The fronds of the male fern fade during the winter time and leave behind a flaky root-stock, which grows bigger every year and turns black at the center, whereas new fern fronds sprout at the periphery. I like to think, as the years pass, the root begins to look like the scaly back of a dragon hiding beneath the earth, whereas the fronds form the dragon’s wings…

Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) old roots
Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) old roots

…and one may even spot the dragon’s head lurking in the soil.

The root has been used until recent times as an anthelminthic to expel tape worms. This is supposedly due to flavaspidic acid, a Phloroglucinol derivate, which is contained in the glandular hairs. The root stock and leaf stalks are deadly poisonous, especially in young plants. Overdosage may result in severe poisoning and death.

Rainy spring day

Banded grove snails (Cepaea nemoralis) overwintered between withered fern fronds. Snails and slugs are a gardener’s nightmare, though I’d like to think these banded snails are the “good ones” as opposed to the brown Spanish slug (which I myself battle by the means of sharp iron tools and worse).

However, not only gardeners of modern times are struggling in the fight against terrestrial molluscs, but also medieval knights went to battle the creatures in full armor, as a recent article at the Smithonian.com website elucidates utterly strange and still unexplained depictions in medieval manuscripts:

The Queen Mary Psalter, c 1310-1320 via British Library

And as if that wouldn’t be enough, snails occur also as a metaphor for death and withering in the biblical Psalm 58:8

As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun.

Not enough? I strongly recommend you to check out the Hunting for Snails blog, for a plethora of wondrous examples of snails in medieval manuscript art and this collection by the British Library.

Sources:

Echter Wurmfarn + Giftpflanzen.deGrove Snail + Why Were Medieval Knights Always Fighting Snails? + Knight vs. Snail Snail, Psalm 58:8Strong’s Concordances + Hunting for Snails +

Candlemas, Februalia

 February 1 2016
Snowdrops are the first messengers of spring

The 1st and 2nd of February respectively are associated with Imbolc, the Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring, and Candlemas, the day, when all the Church’s candles for the year were blessed.

This time marks the midpoint of winter between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It signals the return of the light of the sun and the days getting longer again.

Romans celebrated the Candelarum festival in honor of Persephone, who was kidnapped by Hades, and searched by her mother Demeter, bearing a torch. The return of Persephone from the underworld, signaled the return of the light and the end of the winter season. Romans lit candles and torches to drive out evil.

February, from Latin februum, meaning “purgation”, “purging”

The Roman Februalia was a festival of purification and purging, which later merged with the Lupercalia. The Latin term febris, meaning “fever”, might be related. (see)

In Jewish tradition the mother of a boy was considered impure for the 40 days following its birth (and for 60 days following  the birth of a girl) and was not allowed to enter the temple. At the end of this period the mother underwent a purification ritual. This custom was incorporated into the Christian Catholic festival of Candlemas, also known as the “presentation of Christ in the Temple in Jerusalem” and the “purification of the blessed virgin Mary”.

Hellborus orientalis

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.

There is still time until the vernal equinox and the winter may still be long and cold, especially if this day is clear and sunny. A rainy and
cloudy Candlemas on the other hand means the worst of winter is over. The animals, such as bears and bumble bees, come out of hibernation for the first time. Snowdrops begin to flower, Christmas roses are in full bloom and the winter seeds begin to grow.

Now start sowing indoors those seeds that require warmth and light. The seed trays are kept on the window bench until April or until the last frosts are over. Then the young plants will be ready to be planted outdoors.

Traditional offerings: beeswax candles, Chandeleurs = pancakes (also kown as crêpes)

Animals: bear

Places: wells

Plants: snowdrops, early flowering plants

Deities: Brigid, Persephone, Father Martin (Romanian)

Rituals: cleansing and purification rituals, divination

Superstitions: If someone brings snowdrops into the house on Candlemas day it symbolizes a parting or death. Any decoration left from Christmas, such as holly twigs, should be taken down completely by Candlemas, else there would be a death among the community before the year was out.

Another tradition holds that anyone who hears funeral bells tolling on Candlemas will soon hear of the death of a close friend or relative; each toll of the bell represents a day that will pass before the unfortunate news is learned.

Sailors would not set sail on Candlemas Day, believing that any voyage begun then will end in disaster.

Winter Sun
Return of the Sun

Btw. we had a very rainy and cloudy 1st day of February and tomorrow looks no different… 😉

Sources:

Candlemas + Februalia + British Culture + Folklore Calendar + BBC religionsFather Martin +

Helleborus orientalis purchased from http://www.plantacasa.de/

Winter Walk: Sacred Thorn Grove, January’s Mysteries and the Bloody Tears of the Cherry Tree Sisters

Wiebke Rost

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Steady-paced I walk up the hill. The air is pleasantly cold. It clears the mind and disperses my headache. I am not freezing. The road I’m walking up is called Am Kirschberg, literally meaning “by the cherry mountain”. The field to the left is covered with a thin layer of snow. The dark frozen soil is sticking out of the white. Ploughing traces create zen like, eye-dazzling patterns. At the end of the long stretched field the view is clearing up towards town. Over the horizon line a narrow golden band illuminates the sky. Above me are grey clouds. I am planning on a short walk, but my legs carry me in a different direction…

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Atop a stone wall by the castle, I find the wormwood has not entirely fallen victim to the frost. Next to fading foliage, fresh silvery green leaves are sprouting forth. I gather a few of them, enough for a small winter herb bundle…

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Plant Riddle #3

Wuth only few days left until the Winter Solstice, I am excited to share my next plant riddle with you! This time the herb I’m looking for is not a poisonous one. It is a classic healing plant, which belongs in any herbal apothecary. A giant in the garden, its name relative is associated with an adversarial hero, who helped man and offended the gods.

The riddle is again accompanied by a new illustration I did earlier in autumn and which may help or confuse…

riddle-no3

Which is the plant in question?