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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A Chance Encounter with Mythology in the Garden

Magic that takes place in the garden doesn’t always have to do with plants and you never know what you might find. While weeding around some lilies in my garden the other morning, I did a double take for what I thought at first was a spent flower that had dropped and landed on a leaf. On closer inspection, I saw that it was a moth. Its markings were less than remarkable until he moved one of his wings revealing a splotch of red color and a hind wing eye spot that was very owl like. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough to snap a picture of that.
        Curious about my garden visitor, I did some research and found that it is an io moth (Automeris io) also known as the peacock moth. An earlier name for it was Hyperchiria lilith, which had been based on a series of female moths with reddish-brown forewings. The only link between the moth and Lilith is that in many stories she was said to have had red hair. Even though I liked the little male moth I found, I was liking his species even more.
        The current species name comes from Greek mythology. Io was the first priestess of the goddess Hera. Io is also known as the cow goddess because Zeus turned her into a heifer in an attempt to hide her from the wrath of his wife. Of course, Hera knew everything that was going on in Olympus and elsewhere. Fleeing from the mighty goddess, Io eventually ended up in Egypt where she regained her human form. The Greeks identified Io with Isis. Interestingly, because corn is an occasional host plant for io moth larvae, early twentieth-century naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter called it “Hera of the Corn.”
        At any rate, since moths are mostly nocturnal and elusive, they may go unnoticed for magic. However, because they are active at night they are especially helpful for dream work and contacting spirits. As for symbolism: attracted to a candle flame, the moth represents the soul seeking truth as well as transcendence. It is also regarded as a symbol of knowledge. Associated with the moon, the moth is a perfect symbol for an esbat altar and lunar magic.
       Invite the energy of the moth for spell work, especially for defense. It can aid in understanding omens and messages received through divination. In addition to being considered an oracle, the moth was often regarded as a witch in European folklore. With the symmetry in its patterns and shape, the moth represents balance and can help restore equilibrium when life gets out of whack.


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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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