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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Sandra Kynes

Sandra Kynes

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.  
Wood Anemone: Faery Flower, Witches’ Flower

The star-shaped wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) flower is white with a ring of yellow at the center. The petals have a delicate vein pattern that looks like they were sketched on with a pencil. The flower closes its petals and droops on cloudy days, at night, and before it rains.

Commonly called windflower, the anemone was said to only open with the help of the wind. The Greeks had two legends about the flower. One is that the nymph Anemone fell in love with Zephyrus, god of the West Wind, but his jealous wife turned her into a wood anemone. The other is that the anemone grew from the tears of Aphrodite and the blood of Adonis when a wild bore killed him.

Although the Romans regarded the anemone as a lucky flower and wove it into chaplets, in later centuries it was sometimes associated with bad luck and called devil’s bite, possibly because of the irritant it contains. In spite of the name and skin irritation it may cause, the anemone was worn as an amulet for protection against sorcery.Believed to ward off witches, anemones were hung over doorways. Also believed to be used by them, in Germany anemone was called hexenblumen, “witches’ flower.” In England, picking the flowers was said to bring on thunderstorms and taking them into the house would attract lightning. That earned it the folk name thunderbolt.

Wood anemones were reputedly a favorite of the faeries, who were said to paint streaks on the petals in the moonlight. Faeries were also said to close the flowers when it rained and to use them as tents at night.

The energy of wood anemone supports courage and creativity, the emotions and relationships. For luck, blow on the first anemone you see and make a wish. To bolster determination, carry an anemone bulb in your purse or pocket. Plant anemones in your garden to bring harmony. When you see the flower close at dusk, say goodnight to the faery that may be inside.

 

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Buttercups: Truth, Lunacy and Faeries

Remember the childhood game of holding a buttercup under someone’s chin to see if they liked butter? The yellow reflection or shine meant they did. In earlier times, this little trick was used to tell whether or not someone was telling the truth. It was also said to determine if someone was jealous or in love with the person holding the flower.

In parts of England, the meadow buttercup (Ranunculusacris) was nicknamed crazies because of the belief that their odor could cause madness. To the contrary, in some areas buttercup flowers were worn in a bag around the neck to cure lunacy.

Even though cows avoid buttercups because of the acrid taste, there was a long-held belief that cows eating buttercups caused the butter to be yellow. On Midsummer’s Eve, garlands were placed on cows to bless the milk. In Ireland, pulling up the buttercups from someone’s field would reputedly make their cows give less milk.

According to legend, faeries drink dew from small buttercups and use the larger flowers for washing their hands and faces. Buttercups were traditionally placed on doorsteps and windowsills on May Eve to protect against faery mischief.

In addition to divination and love, buttercups are associated with abundance, prosperity, and success. Instead of causing madness, the flowers are helpful when coping with unsettled emotions. Also use the flowers in spells to manifest your dreams. Grow buttercups in your garden to invite faeries.

 

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Bloodroot: A Not-So-Scary Plant

The genus name was derived from the Latin sanguis, meaning “blood,” which refers to the reddish-brown or red-orange juice that oozes from the rhizome/root when cut. Bloodroot was used by a number of Native American tribes as a dye for cloth and baskets. It was also an ingredient in war paint. This sweet little woodland plant was also used as a love charm.

The root was used medicinally for a range of ailments. European settlers adopted its therapeutic use and bloodroot continued to be listed as an official botanical drug in the United States until the early twentieth century. Although it is no longer considered safe for herbal medicine, bloodroot is often used an ornamental garden plant. The plant has a threatened or endangered species status in some areas; check vendor sources when purchasing bloodroot.

Magically, bloodroot can be used to release attachments, sprinkle crumbled, dried leaves in a meadow or wooded area. Burn a dried leaf to bolster courage or to add strength to spells. Place a flower or leaf on your altar to aid in divination. For esbat and women’s rituals, place three flowers on your altar or prepare a candle with flower essence. Place a few pieces of dried root in a sachet and carry it with you to attract love or under your bed to enhance lovemaking. If you find bloodroot in the wild, work with its energy and leave an offering.  

 

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Is it Wolf’s Bane? Leopard’s Bane? No Just Arnica

Poor Arnica (Arnica montana) has been misidentified for centuries. During the Middle Ages in German-speaking areas of Europe, it had the folk name wohlverleih, meaning “bestowing wellbeing.” Unfortunately, the name was misunderstood and arnica was called wolfsleiche, which meant “wolf’s corpse.” German mystic and herbalist Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) added to the confusion by calling it Wolfesgelegena.

Its folk name leopard’s bane is another case of misidentification. Arnica looks very similar to great leopard’s bane (Doronicum pardalianches), which was believed to have the poisonous power to bring down a leopard. While arnica does not have the power to dispatch a great cat, Hildegard noted that it was an aphrodisiac and used in love magic.

In addition to love spells, Arnica has other magical qualities. Place a sprig of leaves on your altar to increase and enhance your psychic abilities during divination sessions. Use the seeds for a protection spell. Sprinkle them at the corners of your property as you visualize energy rising and creating a dome of safety. Raising energy inside your home with arnica helps settle restless spirits.

 

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Winter Fairy’s Fire

Because the brilliant, fire-colored flowers of the flowering quince stand in stark contrast to the winter landscape, stories indicated that some type of faery magic must have been involved. Appearing in late winter, the blazing flowers reputedly melted away the snow into drops of crystals and drove away clouds in the sky. At night the blossoms put out a call to every type of elf and faery to come dance and hasten the end of winter.

Although the flowering quince (Chaenomeles japonica) is grown for its beauty the fruit is edible, but not straight off the tree. Since ancient times, the quince was a fertility symbol and often given to new brides. The Romans dedicated the tree to Venus. The fruit became an integral part of marriage ceremonies with the bride and groom partaking of honeyed quince. Eating the fruit was symbolic of consummating the marriage.As part of a hand-fasting ceremony, exchange gifts of quince to symbolize love and harmony in the marriage.

Quince is also a tree of protection. Carry several dried seeds in a pouch for protective energy as well as to attract luck. To remove any form of negativity from your life, burn a small twig or several dried leaves. As for faeries, cut a branch in late winter when the buds appear and put it in water to bloom indoors to attract them to your home.

 

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January 6th, Twelfth Night was originally a Pagan festival until the fourth century CE, when, like many Pagan celebrations, it was usurped into the Christian calendar. Twelfth Night is also known as Epiphany and the ancient Greeks held a commemoration to deity. Drawn from the Greek word epiphaneia, meaning “appearance,” or “manifestation,” in the Greco-Roman world it signified a deity visiting devotees in a sacred place. The word also had the connotation of deity revealing him/herself in order to aid humans.

Fast forward to medieval times, this day was the traditional end of the winter solstice revels. Although mistletoe and holly decorations were usually burned to mark the end of Yule, in parts of northwest England Twelfth Night Holly Night was the last big blowout of the season. It was customary to carry one or more flaming branches of holly through the town accompanied by a loud band and fireworks.

If you prefer, Twelfth Night can be celebrated on a much smaller and quieter scale to honor your special deity on this day of epiphany. Gather a few holly leaves and write the name of a goddess or god on each one. Use additional leaves or a sprig of holly to honor multiple deities.

Go to a place outdoors where it is safe to burn things. Light a candle and then hold the leaves between your palms as you say: “On this day of epiphany; I take time to honor thee. Your love and guidance I request; and through your power I will be blessed.” Touch the holly to the candle flame and then drop it into your cauldron or other vessel. Repeat the incantation as the holly burns. When the ashes cool, scatter them on the ground.

 

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Mistletoe Means What?

Growing atop trees, mistletoe seemed to suddenly appear out of nowhere. However, by the fifth or sixth century, people had figured out that birds dropped the seeds. The common name comes from the Old Saxon mistel, which evolved into the Old English mistiltān (mistel meaning the plant and tān, “twig”). The word mistel was also used for a bird that fed on the berries and called the mistel-thrush. However, rather than meaning “bird twig,” most etymologist refer back to the Old High German mist, meaning “dung” and in Old Dutch, “bird lime.” So basically, the plant may have been known as “bird dung twig.” What’s love got to do with it?

According to Norse mythology, after the god Balder was slain with a branch of mistletoe and brought back to life, his mother the goddess Frigg declared that from that time forward mistletoe would be a plant for love, not death. This idea had staying power. In the past, it was believed that sweethearts who kissed under a sprig were destined to marry but only if the mistletoe was burned on Twelfth Night (January 6th). Mistletoe gathered at the summer solstice was used as a household amulet and hung above a doorway to ward-off mischievous spirits.


In the folklore of Germany, Austria, and Flanders, mistletoe grew where an elf had sat in a tree. According to legend, a person could see and talk to ghosts while holding a piece of mistletoe. In England, Wales, and France, it was regarded as a plant of good fortune. A sprig was hung in the home for a year and replaced with a fresh one at Yule.

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