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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The Dog Days of Summer: As Above, So Below

The period from early July to mid-August marks the dog days of summer, which were named for Sirius, the Dog Star, the brightest star in the sky. In ancient times, it rose just before the sun during the hottest period of the year. In Egypt, the rising of Sirius marked the annual flooding of the Nile. Because the river water rejuvenated the land bringing it back to life, this occasion was associated with the return from the dead of the god Osiris.

Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, the Great Dog, and according to Greek myth, it represented one of the hunting dogs of Orion. Canis Minor, the Little Dog, represents the other one. I like to think of these constellations as guard dogs watching over us.

As sunrise occurs later and later in the Northern Hemisphere during August, the distinctive short straight line of three stars that make up Orion’s Belt can be seen in the southeastern sky. Below it, riding low on the horizon is Sirius.

Eventually as the seasons turn, Orion with his hunting dogs rises higher in the night sky. While the dog days of summer slowly point us toward autumn, in the plant world the dog rose (Rosa canina) is still putting out a few blossoms even as its fruit, the rosehip, is growing and ripening.

The dog rose can be found growing wild along sunny roadsides and beaches, at the edges of woodlands and meadows, and in hedgerows. Its stems are studded with hooked thorns that help it climb anything nearby. When there’s nothing to climb, the dog rose forms large thickets with stems bending downward as they continue to grow and curl inward resembling rolls of barbed wire. The lightly scented flowers range from white to ruby pink and have five petals.

Dog rose is also known as the beach rose, common briar, dagger rose, dog briar, wild briar, and witches’ briar. The name “dagger rose” refers to its sharp thorns. Although one theory about the word “dog” indicates the plant’s use as a remedy for dog bites, it is generally agreed that “dog” meant that it was common or regarded as inferior to other roses. The name “witches’ briar” comes from legends about village wise women using arching stems for healing rituals. Long climbing stems that came loose from their supports and touched the ground forming large arches were considered particularly magical.

What the dog rose may lack in fragrance and beauty compared to the long-stemmed varieties, it makes up for medicinally. For millennia, its petals and rosehips have been used for healing. Roman physician and botanist Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) praised it as a cure for many ailments. In addition to being a component in remedies during the Middle Ages, rosehips were carried as a charm against certain diseases.

Although it may be considered old-fashioned and ordinary, the dog rose is a powerhouse for magic. Before a divination session, hold a leaf or petal between your hands to help ground and center your energy. Hang a sachet of dried flowers by your bed to aid dream work. Sprinkle a few flower petals at your front door and call on the power of Sirius or both dog constellations to guard your home. Enamored with roses in general, fairies are said to be particularly fond of dog rose thickets. To make contact with them, leave an offering underneath a dog rose.

The rosehip is also known as a rose hep and rose haw. The dog rose and the sweet briar rose (Rosa rubiginosa syn. R. eglanteria) produce the best rosehips. Wait for cool weather before gathering them. Rosehips should be firm but have a little give. Hang a few rosehips to dry to use for magical purposes. Keep one with you during divination or when doing psychic work to enhance your session. Carry a rosehip to attract luck or to amplify protective energy. Crumbled rosehips can be used in spells to break hexes or to banish unwanted things from your life.

Medicinally, rosehips are full of vitamin C and make a wonderfully soothing and healing tea, which is good to have on hand for cold and flu season. After gathering rosehips for tea, rinse them thoroughly with water. Snip off the ends and cut the larger ones in half so they will dry faster. Lay them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and then place them in the oven on low heat with the door ajar. They will be hard and brittle when dry.

Use a food processor to chop the rosehips into small pieces, and then put them in a sieve and gently shake. This gets rid of the little hairs that grow on them, which can be rather unpleasant in tea. Store the rosehips in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

To make tea, put one or two teaspoons of rosehips in a mug and add a cup of boiling water. Cover and let it steep for about fifteen minutes, and then strain out the pieces of rosehips. You may want to add a little honey to take away the tartness. During the autumn and early winter as you sip a cup of rosehip tea, let it remind you of the warm sunny days of summer and the Dog Star that is overhead shining protectively at night.


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  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.  

Comments

  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ Saturday, 19 August 2017

    Been seeing a very big star in the night sky of late, thanks for identifying it, I thought it was a planet. Not having researched the subject, I have always thought of the "dog days" as the days dogs lie around panting with their tongues hanging out because it is too hot. Thanks for clarifying that too.

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