As the earth begins her winter’s rest in the Northern Hemisphere, there are quiet reminders of ongoing life as heather and heath begin to bloom. Although heath and heather are nearly identical and the names are often used interchangeably, there is a simple way to tell them apart. Heath has needle-like foliage (think spruce tree) while heather has tiny, scale-like foliage (think cedar tree).

Common heather (Calluna vulgaris), also known as Scotch heather, grows in mounds from four to twenty inches tall. Its bell-shaped flowers can be white, pink, purple, or red. They usually bloom from summer to late autumn but can last as late as December. The heaths also have bell-shaped flowers that range from white to rosy and bloom from November to April. Growing in mounds, some types of heath are only nine inches tall while others can reach two feet.

In the past, both heath and heather were used for thatching roofs. The genus name for heather, Calluna, comes from similar Latin and Greek words that mean “brushing” or “sweeping.” [Mario Molinari, Divided by Words: Making a Case for a New Literacy, 32.] This is in reference to heather being bundled together and used as brooms.

Heather and heath had a wide range of other domestic uses including medicinal remedies. The flowers of common heather are used in a brew called heather ale, which has been produced since the time of the Picts (c. 325 BCE - 900 CE). A similar drink called heather mead was sometimes referred to as the water of life.

The white variety of heather was considered a good luck charm and often tucked into bridal bouquets. Make a sachet using white flowers for a good luck charm. Carry it with you or place it in a location where you will see it often and be reminded of what you seek.

To strengthen love spells, place white and/or pink flowers on your altar for three days. To help you foster a deeper connection with your spirit guides, use a sprig of purple flowers on your altar when you contact them.

Burn a few dried sprigs of heather or heath to bring clarity and awareness while you develop your psychic abilities. Burning the leaves also supports spiritual healing. A sprig hung on a bedpost or placed on a nightstand enhances dream work and helps in interpreting messages. Growing heather or heath in your garden provides protective energy around your home.

Heather represents the Celtic Ogham character Ur. Ur is an ogham of luck and passion. Draw this symbol on a little sachet stuffed with white heather flowers for good luck spells. Alternatively, draw it on a picture of white heather. Do the same with purple heather for spells to fan the flames of passion. Paint Ur on a piece of amethyst to use in meditation for clarity when seeking spiritual growth. This ogham and crystal combination is also instrumental in spiritual healing. To foster clarity and awareness while developing your psychic abilities, carve this ogham on a purple candle to burn during your sessions.  When selected for divination or guidance, the message of this ogham is that the mark of true success is expressed through generosity. Prosperity and abundance are best enjoyed when shared.