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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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.

Wildly popular since the time of Henry VIII, lilacs were a link to the past and a homeland left behind for settlers in the New World in the 1600s. The lilac was the second flowering shrub transported to North America; the rose was the first. Native to southeastern Europe, the lilac is a multi-stemmed shrub that reaches twelve to fifteen feet tall and can spread eight to twelve feet across. The traditional common lilacs are shades of pale purple but with so many cultivars, they are available in a range of colors.

According to folklore in Norfolk, England, lilacs were regarded as unlucky. This is most likely because the flowers were often used to line graves and coffins both for beauty and to combat odors. Other legends indicate that the strong scent was too much for those in ill health and that bees didn’t like it. In Wales, lilac flowers were an indication for the coming summer season. If the buds formed late then opened quickly, it would be rainy; if the flowers faded faster than normal, it would be very warm.

Although lilacs were traditionally planted in front of a house, growing it anywhere on your property invites nature spirits and fairies to take up residence. If you have a small garden, consider planting a Tinkerbelle lilac (Syringa bailbelle), it’s smaller and more compact than the common lilac but every bit as beautiful.

Contrary to superstition about the scent, a vase of fresh-cut flowers in the bedroom enhances dream work. The fragrance also aids divination, clairvoyance, and helps when accessing past-life memories. A bouquet of lilac flowers on your desk or somewhere in your workspace helps to increase creativity.

Place white lilac flowers on your altar to enhance an esbat ritual or for any lunar magic. Fresh or dried flowers are effective in spells to attract love. Dried leaves and flowers can be burned for defensive magic and to break hexes. In addition to repelling negative energy, the smoke aids in banishing unwanted spirits.

The lilac has the folk name of blue pipe, which refers to the custom of hollowing out the stems to make pipes and other musical instruments. The genus name, Syringa, comes from the Greek word syrinx meaning tube or pipe.  It has also been called May flower and lily oak.


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The author of over a dozen books, Sandra is 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 Maine where she lives in an 1850s farmhouse surrounded by meadows and woods.  


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