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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Solstice Fire and Seeing the Unseen

Occurring only days apart, the Summer Solstice and Midsummer’s Eve have become intertwined with overlapping traditions and customs. In addition to celebrating long warm days, protection charms were high on the to-do list at this time of year and often incorporated into bonfire rituals.
      In the British Isles and Germany, the magical plant mugwort was especially useful. Long stems were tied together and worn around the waist, and then thrown into the bonfire, which would protect the wearer from ghosts and magic. The burning mugwort would also carry away bad luck. In Germany, gazing at the bonfire through a wreath of mugwort was believed to ensure good eyesight for a year. In France, both these customs were followed using St. John’s wort instead of mugwort. Wearing sprigs of St. John’s wort and tossing them into the fire was also common in parts of Britain.
      As part of a Midsummer protection spell in Germany, vervain and larkspur were thrown into the bonfire through a wreath of mugwort to give them extra power. For protection on the Isle of Man, people wore chaplets of mugwort during the celebrations and attached leafy stems to the horns of their cattle.
      The faeries were said to be particularly active at this time of year and many customs involved protection from them or were aimed at keeping them from meddling with livestock. There were also many beliefs about methods to make the usually invisible magical beings visible. In Denmark, standing beneath an alder tree at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve was said to enabl a person to see the faery king and his entourage on their way to revels. According to Danish folklore, the fae often lived under alders or in alder thickets.
      Elder shrubs were also a faery habitat and in England adding elderflowers to the Midsummer’s Eve bonfire was believed to allow people to see the fae. A mainstay of medieval gardens, lavender was also said to attract elves with its delightful fragrance and silvery leaves. After all, one of its folk names is elf leaf. Wearing a circlet of lavender flowers and tossing a few sprigs into the Midsummer’s Eve bonfire was said to also aid in seeing elves and faeries.
      What might you see this Solstice? Will you have a Midsummer night’s dream?


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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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