A Modern Witch’s Book of Magickal and Enchanted Herbs and Plants
Witches were among the first to discover the healing power of plants. The use of potions, poultices, and charm bags filled with special roots, flowers, and magickal herbs has been associated with the healing power of Wicca practitioners from time immemorial. Now modern witches can grow their own fresh herbs and plan and cultivate their gardens in accordance with the Wiccan calendar and astrological charts. This complete study of herbs and their Wiccan significance, as well as a gardener’s guide to growing magickal herbs, includes chapters on Herbs of the Enchanted World; Sabbat Herbs; Mind-Altering Plants; Green Healing; Dangerous Plants; and a guide to herb gardening. A Wiccan Glossary of Herbalism Terms rounds out this comprehesive and essential resource for today’s home Wiccan library.
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Many Wiccans and modern Witches enjoy growing their own herbs, whether they be in a small garden in the backyard, an herb farm, or just a few flowerpots on a sunny windowsill in the kitchen.
Homegrown herbs offer the Witch-gardener many benefits. In the long run, they are less expensive than herbs sold in occult shops and Witchcraft supply catalogues. They are especially potent in spellcasting and magickal work, and the pleasure and feeling of accomplishment that is experienced by watching a seed planted by your own hands grown into a beautiful mature plant is a special reward.
Throughout the years, wortcunning has played an important role in the Craft of the Wise.
Witches have grown their own herbs since ancient times, and they were the first ones to discover and put to use the healing power of many plants, long before medicine or modern science as we now know it existed.
In nearly every country village, there was at least one wise old Witchy-woman skilled in the arts of magick and herbalism, who could remedy just about any malady of human or beast with an herbal potion, poultice, or charm bag filled with special roots, flowers, and other magickal things.
Most herbs prefer to grow in a sunny location. There are a handful that grow well in heavy shade, and some that can tolerate partial shade. (These are discussed later in this chapter.)
If the herb you intend to grow is not included in the list of shade herbs, you should plant it in a spot where it will receive five or six hours of full sun each day.
To prevent later uprooting or damage, be sure that the spot you choose is sheltered from the wind. A strong gust can flatten a young, delicate plant or even rip it completely out of the ground.
Good soil and good drainage are essential for the success of most plants, and most are happiest in a neutral or slightly alkaline soil. A pH factor of 6 to 7.5 is ideal.
The phase of the Moon and the sign of the zodiac the Moon is in when the herb is planted are extremely important, as favorable results are always obtained when plants are planted in harmony with Mother Nature.
According to the centuries-old rule of lunar gardening, most herbs should be planted during a new or waxing Moon in the astrological sign of Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces.
The exceptions to the rule are as follows: Garlic should be planted during a new or waxing Moon in the sign of Scorpio or Sagittarius. Parsley (which is extremely slow to germinate) should be planted during a new Moon in the sign of Pisces, Cancer, Libra, or Scorpio. Root crops should be planted during a waxing or full Moon in the sign of Taurus. Sage should be planted during a full Moon in the sign of Pisces, Scorpio, or Cancer. Valerian should be planted during a new or waxing Moon in the sign of Gemini or Virgo. Vines and flowers should be planted during a new or waxing Moon in the sign of Libra.
The following signs of the zodiac are considered the Fruitful Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, Capricorn, and Libra (which is the least beneficial of these signs).
The following signs of the zodiac are considered the Barren Signs: Leo, Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Aquarius, and Aries.
With the exception of garlic and valerian, herbs should never be planted when the Moon is positioned in one of the Barren Signs of the zodiac. Also, under no circumstances should you ever plant, transplant, bud, or graft during the waning phase of the Moon.
Herbs can be grown from root divisions, layered stems, and so on; however, annuals are the quickest and easiest plants to grow from seed. Nursery-grown plants are another option to consider if you prefer an instant garden and don't mind spending a little more money.
For a healthy garden, do not overwater, and be sure to keep the area free of weeds, which not only make a garden look unattractive but also compete with cultivated plants for nutrients and water. If weeds are not controlled regularly, they will spread and eventually "choke" the garden.
Weeds (as well as garden pests) should be destroyed when the waning Moon is positioned in the Barren Sign of Leo, Virgo, Aquarius, or Aries.
Chemical weedkillers are dangerous and definitely not recommended for use in herb or vegetable gardens. Mulches, black plastic sheeting, and good old-fashioned weed pulling are the best methods of weed control.
Dandelions and most of the common nonpoisonous weeds are said to be high in vitamins and are very nutritious. They must be harvested when young, and one most certainly has to learn to acquire a taste for them. (Please note: Never eat any plant if you are unsure of its safety!)
Plowing and cultivation of the soil should begin when the waning Moon is in any of the Barren Signs.
Compost should be started when the waning Moon is in the sign of Cancer, Pisces, or Scorpio.
The best time for fertilizing or transplanting is when the waxing Moon is in the sign of Cancer, Pisces, or Scorpio.
To encourage more bushy growth of herbs, harvest the leaves and pinch out flowering shoots. Pruning to encourage growth and bud development should be done when the Moon is in the Fruitful Sign of Cancer, Scorpio, or Capricorn.
Pruning to discourage growth should be done when the Moon is in the Barren Sign of Sagittarius or Aries.
Harvesting herbs for drying should be done on a dry day after the morning dew has evaporated and before the sun is at its height.
Gather herbs and roots for storage when the Moon is in the Barren Sign of Gemini, Aquarius, or Aries.
A Witch's Garden Spell
To empower your new herb garden with magickal energy and to protect it against all evil and negative influences, perform the following garden spell after planting your garden:
Place a small cauldron or goblet down on the center of an altar. Fill it with water and place one green candle to the left of the water, and another one to the right. Light the left candle first and then use its flame to light the right one.
Pick up your consecrated athame (Witch's ritual knife with a double-edged blade). Holding it with its blade down and its handle between your palms in a traditional prayer position, dip the blade into the water.
Visualize the water being magickally charged with Goddess energy in the form of white light emanating from the tip of the athame's blade.
As you do this, repeat the following magickal rhyme:
God and Goddess, hear my verse,
Let this water be free of curse.
Bless it with the love of Thine O Ancient Pagan Ones divine.
Return the athame to the altar and extinguish the flames of the two green candles. The first half of the spell is complete.
Pour the magickally charged water from the cauldron or goblet into a watering can and immediately go outside and water your garden with it as you repeat the following magickal rhyme:
With black Mother Earth With golden fire Sun With life-giving water This spell's begun.
Wiccan garden, root and flower,
I charge thee now with magick power.
Seeds sown by these hands of mine Grow into herbs to heal and divine.
Elemental spirits hearken:
I ask thee now protect this garden.
Keep it safe from storm and foe So Witches' herbs can sprout and grow.
Garden spell, now work for me.
This is my will. So mote it be!
There are many methods, both old and new, of drying herbs.
In olden days, herbs were spread out on the floor of the attic, where the air was warm and dry. In about two weeks, they would be dry. If the weather was humid, the drying time would take a little longer.
Herbs can also be dried by placing them on muslin-covered racks or by hanging them upside down in a north-facing window or in a warm and well-ventilated place such as over a radiator, where the drying process will take from two to eight days.
You can also dry your herbs quickly in a gas or electric oven turned on to the lowest temperature setting. Spread the herbs out on an ungreased cookie sheet and place in the oven for five to ten minutes, or until the herbs become dry to the touch. Keep the oven door open while the herbs are being dried in order to permit the moisture to escape. Do not overbake the herbs, or they will lose the oils which give them their distinctive flavors and aromas.
A modern Witch's method of drying herbs is to spread the leaves out on a paper towel and then place it in a microwave oven on high for no more than two minutes.
After the herbs have been dried by whichever method you have chosen, hang the leaves in bunches in a closet to use later in potpourris, to season food, and so forth. Or, if you prefer, you can gently crumble the dried herbs between your fingertips and place them in jars with seals that are airtight. (Note: I do not recommend that you crumble bay leaves. For best culinary results, they should be stored whole.) Be sure to discard the stems, as they have a tendency to retain a bit of moisture, which later can produce mold on the herbs while in storage.
Some herbs, especially woodland perennials, can grow quite well in a heavily shaded herb bed. These include bistort, bugle, deadly nightshade, evening primrose, goldenseal, hellebore, lily of the valley, lungwort, mandrake (European), pennyroyal, ramsons, Solomon's seal, sweet violet, valerian, and woodruff.
Herbs that can grow in partial shade are abscess root, angelica, birthroot, figwort, foxglove, greater celandine, ground ivy, Jacob's ladder, lady's mantle, monkshood, spignel, sweet cicely, wild strawberry, wintergreen, wood avens, and wood sage.
Herbs that can tolerate some shade include alexanders, black horehound, burdock, chervil, chives, comfrey, garden sorrel, goat's rue, Good King Henry, henbane, honeysuckle, lady's bedstraw, lemon balm, madder, marsh mallow, meadow saffron, mints, musk mallow, parsley, pellitory of the wall, poke root, primrose, purslane, rocket, Saint John's wort, teazel, and wild celery.
Herbs for Ponds, Rivers, and Marshlands
Herbs that grow wild in marshlands and along the banks of rivers are angelica, birthroot, bistort, bloodroot, bogbean, bog myrtle, comfrey, elecampane, fleabane, garden sorrel, goldenseal, gravel root, hemp agrimony, Indian physic, Jacob's ladder, mace, marsh mallow, meadowsweet, skullcap, sneezewort, soapwort, sweet cicely, sweet flag, valerian, watercress, water figwort, and water mint.
If your herb garden has a shallow pond, you should consider planting bogbean, sweet flag, or yellow flag. These are three herbs that grow especially well near water.
If the soil in your garden contains a large amount of heavy, damp clay, plant comfrey or elecampane, which are two of the most tolerant of herbs. They are large plants that grow in spreading clumps.
The Indoor Herb Garden
If you choose to grow your herbs indoors in flowerpots, troughs, or boxes, it is important to bear in mind that they will need at least a half a day of sunlight.
Keep them on a sunny windowsill facing south in a room that is airy and somewhat humid, if at all possible.
Bay, lemon balm, and mints need only partial sun when grown indoors and can be placed in windows with an eastern or western exposure.
Indoor plants can also be grown under artificial light if you do not have windows with the proper exposure. (Fourteen to sixteen hours of fluorescent light exposure daily is necessary if it is the plant's only source of light; otherwise, three hours of fluorescent light exposure daily to supplement natural sunlight should be sufficient.)
The worst place to put potted herbs is on or directly above a radiator. The hot and dry atmosphere produced by the heater will cause plants to dehydrate and die.
A small kitchen filled with cooking fumes and fluctuating heat is also not a suitable place. Sudden temperature changes will have a negative effect on your plants.
Be sure to use pots deep enough for the plant's roots to grow (at least eight inches). Cover the bottom of the pot with pebbles or marbles to permit adequate drainage, and always use potting soil, as it contains more nutrients than ordinary dirt from the backyard.
Be careful not to overwater your indoor plants. Moisten (not saturate) the soil with lukewarm or room temperature water once or twice a week. Morning is the ideal time to water. Afternoon and evening watering often results in fungus and rot developing on the roots and stems of plants.
The following culinary herbs can be grown indoors ashouseplants: apple mint, balm, burnet, chervil, chicory, costmary, dill, dittany of Crete, geraniums, Good King Henry, Johnny-jump-up, lemon verbena, myrtle, nasturtium, parsley, purple basil, rosemary, samphire, summer savory, sweet basil, sweet bay, sweet marjoram, sweet violet, tarragon, white mustard, winter savory, and woodruff.
The carving of Halloween pumpkins, also know as jack-o'-lanterns, is a very old Pagan custom which dates back to the days of the ancient Druids.
They believed that on Samhain Eve (October 31) the spirits of the dead returned to the world of the living for one night. Many of these disembodied spirits were the ghosts of deceased family members, friends, and ancestors who were allowed to leave the world of the dead to rejoice with their living loved ones. However, some of the ghosts who walked among the living on this dark and magickal night were believed to be of an evil nature and were greatly feared. Some were the vengeful ghosts of sorcerers, and some were evil specters who took delight in devouring the souls of humans.
For protection, jack-o'-lanterns with hideous candlelit faces were carved out of pumpkins and carried as lanterns from house to house to scare away the malevolent spirits.
In modern times, the jack-o'-lantern is an important symbol of the Samhain Eve Witches' Sabbat (which is also know as Halloween).
It is traditionally carved with a white-handled knife known as an athame, and lit when the first shadows of night fall, to honor the spirits of deceased loved ones.
The jack-o'-lantern also serves as a tool of divination and a symbolic fire to light the way for the Witches' New Year. And, of course, pumpkin pie is one of the traditional Sabbat foods of Samhain.
Many non-Pagans, unaware of the jack-o'-lantern's Pagan origin and religious functions, put a carved pumpkin on their front porch or in a window each year on Halloween simply as a spooky decoration to amuse the neighborhood trick-or-treaters.
Pumpkins are often expensive to buy in city supermarkets, and inexpensive in the country at farm stands and private homes. Many Wiccans with enough room in their gardens prefer to grow their own pumpkins for Samhain Eve.
If you decide to grow your own pumpkins, here are some important gardening tips you should follow: Pumpkins grow best in full sun and in soil that is fertile and moisture holding. After any danger of frost has passed, seeds should be planted about an inch deep in the ground. Be sure to space each plant approximately four to eight feet apart for small pumpkins, and eight to twelve feet apart for large varieties, on hills in rows spaced eight feet apart. According to the rules of lunar gardening, pumpkins should be planted when the waxing Moon is positioned in a Fruitful Sign (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, Capricorn, or Libra).
Dust for striped beetle and water the plants frequently unless you live in an area with adequate rainfall.
Allow the entire plant to grow; however, you should cut off extra fruits, leaving only one or two on each plant.
Growing pumpkins generally require a large gardening space (approximately thirty-six feet by sixteen feet for about ten pumpkins). However, there are a few varieties of pumpkins (such as the "Cinderella") that require only six feet per plant.
The Pentagram Garden
Choose a level site in a sunny location for your pentagram herb garden.
Drive a stake into the ground where you wish the center of the garden to be. Tie one end of a string to the stake, and the other end to a bottle filled with sand. (Use a string four feet long if you are making a pentagram garden with a diameter of eight feet; three feet of string for one with a diameter of six feet, and so forth.)
With string taut, turn the bottle upside down, allowing the sand to slowly pour out as you walk clockwise in a complete circle. The sand will mark the outer circle of the pentagram, which you can then cover with bricks, stones, seashells, etc.
Remove the stake, string and bottle, and then prepare the soil within the circle.
Using the edge of a board as a guide, lay down five straight lines of bricks or stones inside the circle to form a symbol of the five-pointed star.
Once the pentagram outline is complete, you can then begin planting herbs in the garden. To add even more interest to it, plant different species of herbs in each section of the pentagram and put a small sundial, birdbath, Goddess statue, or other garden decoration in the center. If the pentagram is outlined with bricks, use paint or chalk to decorate them with magickal and astrological symbols.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic, which is ruled by the planet Mars, and under the astrological influence of Aries and Scorpio, has been reputed since ancient Egyptian times to bestow physical Strength upon those who eat it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Wicca Garden"
Copyright © 1996 Gerina Dunwich.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Herb Gardening,
2. Herbs of Magick,
3. Herbs of the Enchanted World,
4. Sabbat Herbs,
5. Mind-Altering Plants,
6. The Magickal Mandrake,
7. Herbs of the Divinatory Arts,
8. Heavenly Herbs,
9. Green Healing,
10. Dangerous Plants,
11. Herb Omens and Superstitions,
12. A Wiccan Glossary of Herbalism Terms,