Archive for the ‘Magic’ Category

Meadowsweet – Spirea alba var. latifolia

White Meadowsweet
White Meadowsweet

Through grass, through amber’d cornfields, our slow Stream–
Fringed with its flags and reeds and rushes tall,
And Meadowsweet, the chosen of them all
By wandering children….

 

By William Allingham (1824-1889)

 

This perennial shrub of the Rose family is native to Northeastern North America and can be found growing in wet areas such as edges of marshes, bogs and ditches, along streams, and wet prairies. In Kentucky, and Tennessee it is considered Endangered. While in Ohio it is listed as Extripated (locally extinct).  The plant was imported into parts of Europe; Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, United Kingdom. In Belgium and Latvia it is listed as Invasive, and in Lithuania as potentially Invasive!

 

In herbal medicine of the Ojibwa Indians a tea of leaves and flowers was used to ease childbirth. Early settlers used the inner bark as a pain killer, much like other early aspirin like herbs (willow. etc). Unlike willow or poplar, which also contains Salicylates, the properties and strength of the aspirin like effects is consistent from plant to plant. In minute amounts Meadowsweet can also be used on stomach issues. The Blackfoot Indians used a tea as an enema and a vagina douche to treat infections.

 

The leaves smell like almonds and have been used to keep linens fresh and nicely scented. The leaves have also been use in making an astringent skin tonic. The leaves have been dried and used as a China tea substitute, supposedly tasting much the same as the original. The early settlers ate the roots.

 

In magic use this plant and its flowers are used to promote love, balance and harmony. Among the Druids the Meadowsweet, Vervain and Verbena were their three most sacred herbs. The use of fresh flowers on the alter has been frequent when casting a love spell, also use the dried petals in love mixtures. The fresh flowers were often included in wedding bouquets. In Welsh Mythology, Gwydion and Math created a woman out of oak blossom, broom, and meadowsweet and named her Blodeuwedd (“flower face”).

Button, Cremini, and Portabella Mushrooms – Agaricus bisporus

Cremini Mushrooms

Cremini Mushrooms

…So here’s to the mushroom family
A far-flung friendly clan
For food, for fun, for poison
They are a help to man.

By Gary Snider

The little white Button Mushrooms, the slightly larger brown Cremini Mushrooms, and the large, brown Portabella Mushrooms are all the same mushroom…the only differences being color variety and stage at which it is harvested.

In 1707 French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort wrote the earliest found description of this mushroom. In 1893 at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France it was discovered that the spores needed to be sterilized for the culture to grow. Up until that time it was very difficult to cultivate mushrooms, since the farmers would dig them up out of fields to transplant and they were often infected by pathogens and often nothing grew at all.

In 1926 a white mutation was found in a mushroom farm in Pennsylvania. It was seen as more attractive, and so the popular white button mushroom came into popularity. Now the southeast corner of Pennsylvania is considered the mushroom growing capitol of the world!

The Button form of this mushroom is probably the most well known mushroom in the US. Most people when they hear the word mushroom visualize the button mushroom first, even if they are familiar with other varieties. The small button mushroom has a mild flavor which is best if eaten before the veil protecting the gills is broken. Once the veil is broken they are stronger in flavor and cook up darker in color. This common mushroom can be found at the grocer, fresh, canned or dried. It can be found in soups and stew, on pizza, salads, casseroles, and stuffed. They are eaten as a main course, appetizer, or side dish.

Research is being carried out currently to further study the effect of mushrooms on aromatase levels. It may be able to reduce estrogen levels in the female body, which might reduced the breast cancer susceptibility. Women who ate mushrooms daily (in the earlier study) were 64% less likely to develop breast cancer. While women who ate the mushrooms and drank green tea reduced the risk by 90%! Another study showed promise in improving the body’s immune system.

In ancient times mushrooms were eaten in Egypt but only by the Pharaohs. In Rome they believed that mushrooms provided strength to the body. In magic use eat mushrooms to increase psychic awareness.

Yew – Taxus baccata

Yew
Yew

Old Yew, which graspest at the stones

That name the under-lying dead,

Thy fibres net the dreamless head,

Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

This sacred tree of the Old World is native to all of Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia. It has been around through many of the earth’s climatic changes. Its population in the northern temperate zones was decimated due to its usefulness to man. Due to the high demand for this tree it was gone from Rome and Greece by the time of Christ and from most of Europe by the 17th century.

This tree has provided shelter, tools, weapons, and medicine for centuries. The leaves and bark were often carried in medicine bags. In 1021 Avicenna recorded the use of Yew in his Canon of Medicine for the use as a cardiac remedy. The leaves have been used internally in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis, hiccup, indigestion, rheumatism, and epilepsy. Externally they have been used as a bath for rheumatism. A homeopathic remedy has been created from the berries and young shoots to treat cystitis, eruptions, headaches, heart and kidney problems, and rheumatism. Today Yew is being researched for it’s usefulness in treating cancer. Due to the increased demand we will have to be careful not to exterminate this useful tree.

Great care must be exercised in the use of Yew internally, as every part of the plant is toxic to humans and cattle except the red fleshy fruit that surrounds the seed. Toxic exposure to the alkaloid taxine causes a paralyzing effect on the heart!

Due to the toxicity, the only thing that is edible is that red, fleshy fruit, this is very sweet and gelatinous. Many people like the flavor but do not like the consistency or the stickiness. A suggestion that the bark may be consumed as a tea substitute is ill advised!

The wood of this tree has been used for it durability and resistant to water damage.  It has been used for cabinetry, spears, spikes, staves, and small hunting bows. But most famously it became known for making the English Long Bows of the Middle Ages which were noted for being able to fly over 600 yards easily. It had the longest range of any bow in Europe at that time. Also of note was the fact that the arrowheads were often coated with a poison made from the Yew.

This tree is associated with death and rebirth, but most notably with Hecate the Goddess of the Underworld. The tree was often planted in places people expected to be buried, and allowed to grow until that time; it also marked the grave site. Later the Christians adopted this practice and planted them frequently in their cemeteries, they reminded the visitors of eternal life through Christ, but they were also planted to keep the dead souls in their graves until Judgment Day. The ancient Celts made wreaths of Yew to dedicate to Hecate; and in Rome the black bulls that were to be sacrificed to her often wore a wreath of Yew.  The wood was often used to make magic wands, and runes.

Wapato or Duck Potato – Sagittaria latifolia

Wapato
Wapato

Wapato is blooming this month, Sagittaria latifolia,

“a round root the size of Hens eggs,”

favored as food by native inhabitants of Oregon,

once abundant around here.

Driving north I pass a pond full of wapato

now blooming, the small white flowers

elevated on long stems

like spots of sunlight on shiny leaves….

 

By Barbara Drake

 

 

This aquatic plant of ponds and lakes of most of North America has several names. The Duck Potato is a misnomer, as the tuber is too deep for ducks to unearth, but they do eat the seeds. Beavers, porcupines, and muskrats find the tuber tasty and will in fact eat the whole plant.

 

Humans for centuries have utilized this plant for food. Across North America Native peoples utilized this plant for food; the bulbs were roasted or boiled as food. The Thompson, Winnebago, Omaha, Potawatomi, Pomo, Meskwaki, Lakota, Klamath, Cocopa, Chippewa, and Cherokee used them for food. Many also dried them for winter use (after cooking, and slicing, they were strung and dried). In the journals of Lewis and Clark there is mention of this plant being used as food!

 

The roots were also used in medicine. The Algonquin used this plant to treat Tuberculosis (TB), The Cherokee would make a decoction of the root to bath a feverish baby. The Chippewa used it for dyspepsia; the Mohawk would give it to children who cry a lot at night. It was also used to treat rheumatism, boils, wounds and sores, and as a laxative.

 

The plant had assorted other uses as well. It was used to make a decoction for ‘corn medicine’, it would be poured on the planting site like a fertilizer. The tuber were dried and used in gambeling games.

 

The corms were also used in magic! Plant used as a love charm and for “witchcraft” among various Tribes. The Cherokee may have used this plant in formulae that “created’ witches. They believed that fasting combined with drinking a decoction of the root would cause the ability to transform into animals or other people!

Carob – Ceratonia siliqua

Carob or Locust Bean
Carob or Locust Bean

…I settle into exotic ports

So that I may ply my cacao pod wares for sister carob and patchouli scent

To the peddler who yields cardamom and coriander

 

By Jerry Bradford

The Locust Bean is a tree of Mediterranean origins that is now grown in Mexico and southern California. It was first brought to the New World by Spanish missionaries. In 1856 the Spanish brought 8,000 seedlings and unsprouted seeds to plant in the American south, from Texas to Arizona to California, even a few in Florida.

 

The seed pod of the Locust Bean is known as Carob and was used as a sweetener in Ancient Egypt. The carob pod was used in the hieroglyphs to represent ‘sweet.’ Early mention of the Carob can be found in the Christian Bible and the Jewish Talmud where it has been called a subsistence food. One example is the legend of John the Baptist living on these in the desert; also legend has it that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai also lived on them in the desert.

 

As a food stuff Carob powder and chips are often used in baking, being included in confections such as cakes, cookies, candy, pudding, icing, bread, beverages, shakes, ice cream, muffins, fudge, and brownies. For someone who should not consume caffeine, Carob is often used as a substitute. Although once you taste it, you will not be fooled into thinking it a good substitute, since the flavors differ so greatly. A thickening agent is also obtained from the pods that have been included in processed food production. In Portugal, Spain, and Sicily compotes and liquors are made from Carob. In Germany the roasted beans are sometimes used as a coffee substitute, and in Spain it is mixed with coffee.

 

Under the name of Locust Bean the pods are given to animals as feed. The pods are relished by horses, cattle, pigs, goats, and rabbits. They cannot be fed to chickens, but the flour is often utilized in dog biscuits.

In folk medicine it is a treatment for diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and stomach ache. The powdered beans are mixed with a cup of liquid for this purpose. Mixed with cranberry juice a French physician used it to treat kidney failure successfully. The leaves and bark have been used to treat venereal disease, namely syphilis.

In magic use it was worn or carried to garner protection from evil and secure good health!

Note: Picture above is from Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz, 1885, Gera, Germany

[Image in Public Domain]

English Walnut – Juglans regia

Walnuts
Walnuts

…I stand in the dark for a long time
        under the walnut tree, unable
                   to tell anyone, not even the night,
         what I know…

By Lynn Martin 

The English Walnut, the Common Walnut, the Persian Walnut, or the Royal Walnut are all variant names for one tree and its fruit that grows from the Balkans east to the Himalayas and southwest into China! It is not native to England at all, which the common name wal-nut reflects, as wal is Germanic for foreign.

 

In ancient Rome they were considered ‘food of the Gods,’ and were named for the god Jupiter (Jupiter’s glans being Jupiter’s acorn). The walnut is also associated with Juno, the goddess married to Jupiter, who is goddess of women, and marriage. This association to both God and Goddess led to an odd wedding practice of throwing walnuts at the new couple to ensure fertility! In fact in Poitou, France it was the custom for the new bride and her groom to dance around the large walnut tree there to ensure she produced copious amounts of breast milk for their children!

 

The earliest written record of walnut use is from the Chaldeans who left accounts on clay tablets of the orchards of English Walnut that were in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The earliest cultivation of the walnut is credited to the Greeks who used walnuts for food, medicine, and dye for the hair, wool and cloth.

 

The Walnut has a long history of use in the field of herbal medicine. The nut, the bark and the leaves are astringent, laxative, purgative, styptic, vermifuge, and hepatic. It has been used to cause sweating, treat diarrhea, and treat sore gums, herpes, and swollen tonsils. The hulls were used to treat head lice, body lice, herpes, parasites, liver problems, and skin issues. A tea was made from the leaves to treat boils, eczema, hives, ulcers, and other sores. The nut was used to prevent weight gain, reduce cholesterol, calm anxiety and hysteria, treat morning sickness and to generally strengthen the whole of the body.

 

The walnut has also been used extensively for food. It is high in protein, Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and E, folic acid, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. 3 Tablespoons of walnut oil will also provide all your daily need of Omega 3 fatty acids! The nut can be eaten out of hand, but the flavor improves with light roasting. It is often included in confections like candy, cakes and cookies. They can also be added to salads, meat dishes and stir fries. The oil can be drizzled over salads or steamed vegetables. The nut has also been powdered and a nut ‘milk’ made from it to increase the nutritional value for invalids.

 

The hull and leaves have been used to make dye stuff for centuries. A dark brown dye that is used for wool and hair is obtained from the leaves and mature hulls. If the dye is made in an iron pot the dye becomes black. The green hulls provide a yellow dye. Both types of dye required no mordant due to the high tannic acid content.  

Pokeweed – Phytolacca americana

Ripe Pokeberries
Ripe Pokeberries

This native of northeastern North America loves weedy, disturbed areas in fields, fencerows, clearings, waste places, roadsides, even natural forest clearings. This large herb has become increasingly more and more invasive, spreading its territory quickly. Here on the eastern seaboard you can almost not go anywhere without seeing it along the road or railroad tracks!

Europe was introduced to pokeweed after the Native Americans had first introduced it to the early colonists. The local peoples here on the east coast at that time used the poke for food, medicine, and dye. Even with the knowledge of the toxicity of this plant this was a popular plant. If the root is not consumed or the seeds cracked and eaten then you can avoid the poisons. But should you experience symptoms of poisoning the signs will be gastrointestinal irritation (colic, diarrhea which may be bloody). Rarely: anemia, possibly death.

In the spring the early shoots work as spring greens that are high in Vitamin C. In the 1960’s a song was written and sung about Poke Salad, which is what the boiled greens are called. This is a traditional rural dish in the southern US.

In traditional use the berries were used in the folk medicine of the Native Americans throughout its range of growth. It has been used in the treatment of syphilis, diphtheria, conjunctivitis, cancer, adenitis and emesis or as a purgative. Due to its toxicity it is considered a Heroic, toxic class herb and therefore should only be administered by someone with the proper training. Great caution should be exerted with its use!

The berries formed a crimson colored ink which could be used in writing, there are some records of it being used in writing of book of Magic (Grimoires) for it conveyed magic through the ink. In magic use Pokeweed was carried to help with courage.