HERBS in CELTIC FOLKLORE, Part II: Plant Magic
Updated: Dec 20, 2021
*PLEASE REMEMBER: this blog is for entertainment purposes. No part of it should be taken as medical or lifestyle advice.
Irish Fairy Doctors and Scottish Cunning Folk used herbs regularly to treat illnesses and fight infection. But, in Celtic folklore, herbs were good for far more than medicine and food. They could be used for a wide variety of purposes and, the Celts believed, with magical results. Herbs could attract love or money. They could bring good luck and turn away misfortune. They could counter witchcraft and other evil forces. Plant magic could help one see faeries, have visions, become invisible, or even fly! Below is a quick survey of Celtic plant magic.
Looking for Love? Roses and rosemary are excellent for attracting love. So why not double your chances? Brew tea made from rosemary and rose hips. Consider adding a touch of clove and ginger or any hot spice (e.g. cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice). These spices are said to incite passion. Surprisingly, lavender, a calming herb, is included too as an herbal love and romance aid.
Celtic folklore told young women that, if they wore honeysuckle to bed, they would dream of their true love. Bringing the flower into the house was said to bring about a wedding within the year. During the Victorian period, however, young women were discouraged from bringing the blossoms inside as its strong fragrance was said to induce risqué dreams.
Finally, you could win your beloved’s heart by turning a bluebell inside out without tearing its petals. I would advise against trying this, though, since the bluebell is a faerie flower. Should you tear the petal, you might end up cursed by the Good Folk. (If you’re unacquainted with the severity of faerie wrath, read about Irish faeries here and Scottish and Welsh faeries here).
Need Money? Honeysuckle again can help. There is an Irish belief which says when you bring honeysuckle into the house, you bring money in with it. Cloves, ginger, and cinnamon attract money as well as love, so you might want to take steps to ensure you end up with the one you really want!
Hello Good Luck / Goodbye Misfortune For powerful protection, carry a bay leaf with you. Hazel brings good luck and will protect you from lightning—or so folklore claims. Hawthorn berries also are said to protect from lightning and evil ghosts but the berries are sacred to Faeries, so don’t pull them from the tree. Only pick up those that have fallen to the ground. Even then you still should ask permission from the tree’s guardian, just to be safe. Juniper berries are good for general protection and health (martini anyone?) In addition, they ward off snakes. There are many more examples as the list of herbs and trees which offer protection is quite extensive!
Countering Witchcraft and Other Evil Forces To keep evil from entering your house, Celtic folklore recommends planting a rowan tree in the front yard next to the door and an elder tree near the back door. The berries from the rowan are helpful too as they are considered a strong protection against witchcraft. If witches particularly worry you, plant hawthorn trees around your house as a barrier against witchcraft.
If you live in an apartment rather than a house (or you just don’t feel like planting trees) folklore provides simpler solutions. Carry bay leaves as a protection from black magic. Sprinkle cumin seeds on the floor to drive out evil. Just placing a piece of willow bark in the house will protect against witchcraft and evil in general.
Already suffering from a curse? Several plants can help. Nettles are a strong curse-breaker when sprinkled around the house either in their natural form or in tea. Thistle and sage can block or reverse curses. Nutmeg helps break hexes. And if you really want to be sure a curse is reversed, carry yarrow on you for nine days.
Longing to See Faeries? Find ash, oak, and hawthorn trees growing together and you will see faeries. Or so says folklore, but this feat might prove a bit challenging (unless you plant them together in your yard).
Fortunately, there are alternatives. If you come across mushrooms growing in a circle, you may have stumbled across a faerie ring. So, there might be a faerie or two about. If you are particularly fond of pixies, hang out around ferns or be on the lookout in a field of thistle (aka Pixie’s Gloves). If you’d like to encounter Trooping Faeries, sit and watch bluebells. They are said to nod when the Fair Folk pass. Sadly, you still may not see them as faeries can glamour and hide themselves from human sight. Bluebells provide the strongest opportunity, though, to see the Gentry because the flowers are believed to call the faeries to processions. But be warned! Folklore also says that if a human hears the ring of the bell, he or she will die.
Seeing Things Want to increase your ability to have visions? There are several herbs that can help. Peppermint, bay leaf, cinnamon, rowan, and thyme all increase psychic powers. Nettles can reveal future dangers. Placing a bay leaf or St. John’s Wort under your pillow at night may encourage precognitive dreams, St. John’s Wort also can be used to aid in divination (in case you want to find some loose change). Yarrow, as mentioned above can help reverse a curse, but it can do more. Wearing it as an amulet can make you more open to psychic energy.
Ever Wish You Could Just Disappear? Drink a cup of coffee with chicory in it. That is one of the herbs that plant magic says will aid with invisibility. Amaranth (Bachelor’s Button) is another. I don’t have details on what to do to produce the magic but remember never to eat any part of a plant without knowing what is and is not safe to eat—or even to touch. Remember: the information in this post is just for entertainment.
Flying Plant magic names two plants--basil and poplar-- which can help with flying. Again, I don’t have details on the method to create this magic. Try eating a pizza with basil under a poplar tree and see what happens!
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Slan go foil!
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