Plant Magic: Wisdom from the Green World

Whether you live in a city or the countryside, the magic of plants can be found everywhere and sometimes where you least expect it. Be open and explore the magic that surrounds you.

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Sandra Kynes

Sandra Kynes

  The author of over a dozen books, Sandra describes herself as an explorer of history, myth, and magic. Her writing has been featured in SageWoman, The Magical Times, The Portal, and Circle magazines, Utne Reader and Magical Buffet websites, and various Llewellyn almanacs. Although she is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, she travels a solitary Goddess-centered path through the Druidic woods. She has lived in New York City, Europe, England, and now coastal New England where she lives in a Victorian-era house with her family, cats, and a couple of ghosts.  

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Magical Summer Evenings

Long days and sultry evenings make summer nights especially delightful. In addition to the fragrance of plants, the twinkling bioluminescence of fireflies creates a magical show of lights that dance through gardens and across meadows. Sometimes synchronizing their flashing displays, a firefly’s light can be yellow, green, or orange.

Also known as lightning bugs, two of them entering a house is a sign of good luck. They have also been considered lucky when it comes to attraction and romance. In Japanese folklore they often symbolized sexuality and the human soul. In a few areas of Japan, fireflies were believed to be the spirits of ancestors. In Mayan legend, lightning bugs served as a metaphor for the stars, while Aztec myth portrayed them as fire-throwing witches. According to Apache folklore, the original source of fire was a mythical campfire started by fireflies.

Like all things in nature, insects can be allies in magic. Through symbolism, energy, intention, and visualization we can call on their power and influence. For example, place a picture of a firefly on your altar to draw in its energy for ritual. In fact, the lightning bug can represent the element fire. Meditate with an image of a firefly when seeking illumination and inspiration. Representing hope, it can also help when guidance is needed.

For spells, include the firefly to remove negativity or any metaphorical darkness. As an activator, this bug can help get your energy moving to achieve goals or boost creative expression. Wear a piece of jewelry shaped like one to call on its energy. Or simply sit outside and watch fireflies; observation is a good way to tune into their energy.

I have fond childhood memories of catching and releasing them. If you handle them carefully, you can bring them indoors for a few hours to aid your meditation, spells, or rituals. Keep them in a jar with small holes punched in the lid and a moistened paper towel. Visualize them carrying your intention and willpower when you release them. Place the jar outside, remove the lid, and they’ll find their way out.

Fireflies are nocturnal beetles and members of the family Lampyridae. There are about two thousand species and each has its own light-flashing pattern. The light display is used to attract mates. It may also serve as a warning to predators that fireflies are not a tasty treat. While studying bioluminescence in 1887, French physiologist Raphael Dubois named the substance that creates the luminescence luciferinafter the light-bearing fallen angel, Lucifer.

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Lose Yourself in the Magic of Lilacs

For about two weeks every May, a dreamy scent drifts throughout my neighborhood. The source is the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), also known as French lilac. Most of the houses in my area of town are Victorians and the plethora of lilac shrubs are due to a long-standing tradition in North America to plant one by the front door. With spreading roots that tend to go out of bounds, lilacs end up in neighboring yards. Luckily, no one seems to consider this a problem and we all get to enjoy the sweet fragrance. The scent is beloved by so many people that arboretums in a number of states have a special event called Lilac Sunday.

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Woodland Magic You Can Eat

Early spring is a special time for many reasons and one of them is the fiddlehead fern. Although ferns are common houseplants that have graced parlors and porches since Victorian times, there’s a magical aura about them when encountered in the woods. At this time of year, young ferns rise like wispy, spirited musicians presenting tightly scrolled stem tops that resemble the heads of fiddles.

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Magical and Healing Aloe Vera

With over three hundred species of aloe, the one simply called Aloe vera, meaning “true aloe,” is the most common. Aloe is a perennial plant with succulent leaves that can grow up to two feet long from a center base. If you are lucky, it will produce a spike of yellow or orange flowers. As a houseplant, it is commonly kept in the kitchen for first aid treatment of burns; just break off the end of a leaf and apply a little of the translucent gel. A yellow sap known as bitter aloe is exuded at the base of the leaves. Bitter aloe should never be used on the skin or ingested.

Well known for healing burns, aloe gel is also good for cuts, insect stings, acne, and other skin ailments. When used on burns and scalds, it helps prevent blisters and scarring. Also called medicine plant and healing plant, aloe has a long history of use that dates back thousands of years. It is believed to be the plant mentioned on a Sumerian tablet.

Certain documentation comes from 16th century BCE in the Ebers papyrus, the oldest written record on the use of medicinal plants in Egypt. In addition to healing, it was included in preparations to beautify the skin and protect it from the harsh, damaging desert climate. Aloe’s use in the embalming process earned it the name plant of immortality. Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40-90 CE) and naturalist Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) both extolled its merits in their writings.

Of course, like most medicinal plants, aloe was also used for magical purposes. In Mesopotamia and throughout the Middle East, it was believed to provide protection. Leaves were hung over doorways for this purpose and to ward off evil spirits. Aloe was also used for protection from accidents and a charm to bring good luck.

Position an aloe plant on a windowsill at the front of your house to dispel negative energy and attract good luck. If you live in a place where aloe can grow outside, plant it near your front door or set a potted plant outside for the summer. For protection, break off the end of a leaf and dab a little of the gel over each exterior doorway. For healing spells, place a little of the gel at the base of a green candle. For your esbat ritual, use the gel on a white candle or put the plant on your altar to draw on the power and wisdom of Luna.

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The Fairy Maids of February

While the days are noticeably longer, February often brings some of the fiercest winter weather making us long for spring and warmer days. One of the earliest flowers to venture into the bleak landscape is the snowdrop. Not waiting for clear ground, this little white flower often comes up through a blanket of snow.

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Plant Magic in Winter

At this time of year when there’s not much to do in the garden or find in the wild, houseplants become the focus for plant magic.

The spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) has been popular since forever, which is no wonder because it is so easy to care for. This plant gets its name from its spider-like appearance and its spiderettes (babies) that dangle from the mother plant like little spiders on a web. The spiderettes start out as small, white flowers. Once they develop roots, they can be planted to start a whole new colony of spiders. Also known as the ribbon plant, their ribbon-like leaves can be solid green or variegated. In addition to adding a splash of interest to a room, spider plants are good for clearing impurities from indoor air.

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A Pagan Perspective on the Poinsettia

As the wheel of the year makes its final turn and begins a new cycle, most plants have faded but evergreens live up to their name. They were considered sacred because they didn’t seem to die each year. Bringing evergreens indoors embodied the reborn spirit of the Green Man. With sacred trees, mistletoe, and other plants taken into the home, it is no accident that this is a magical time of year.

As a time of transformation, Yule celebrates the return of the sun/son, which brings hope and the promise of ongoing life. While the Celts had established Samhain as the beginning of the New Year, tenth-century Norse Pagans changed their new year to Yule to coincide with the solar cycle.

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