History of Angelica
Angelica is an herb with origins in the colder regions of Scandinavia and Russia. As its name implies, angelica has always been associated with healing, salvation, and the angels above. Used as a cure-all, and as a way to protect against evil workings, angelica is said to protect and bring blessings to those who work with it. Angelica also has a reputation for being a delicious sweet treat when candied, as well as flavoring in certain liqueurs. Let’s jump into this beautiful herb and its history and magickal properties.
A Visit From Angels
Angelica’s official name is Angelica archangelica. Angelica is a form of “angelicus” which is Latin for angelic, and archangelica refers to Latin “archangelus” or archangel, which is “an angel of the highest order”. So this herb is associated the angelic realms and beings, especially Michael the Archangel. In fact, the legend of angelica tells of a monk who traveled Europe during the plague and was introduced to this plant. It was called kvann in Norwegian and kvanne in Swedish, and was praised by these northern societies for its sweet scent, healing power, and ability to be eaten in many ways. The monk, so the story goes, was visited by an angel in a dream, and told of the healing powers of the herb. Angelica also blooms in May, around the Feast of Michael the Archangel (apparently on the old calendar this was May 8th), which furthered its ‘angelic’ associations. One of angelica’s nicknames is “The Root of the Holy Ghost”, adding to its spiritual energies.
Another popular kind of angelica, Angelica sinensis or dong quai, is used in Chinese medicine. It is not the same, although it is related.
One interesting tidbit about angelica is that it is one of the only herbs we’ve looked at on Herbal Witchery that originated in northern Europe. The plant is native to the colder Scandinavian regions, and was even found in more northern places like Greenland, Iceland, and Lapland. Even before the Christianized naming of the plant, angelica was considered sacred in these cultures. Let’s take a look at how it was used in the next section.
Uses Throughout History
In the colder northern climates, angelica had many uses. It was treated as a source of a vegetable-like food and eaten when other food was scarce. Angelica was used, through the middle ages and beyond, in breads and as a flavoring in wines and liqueurs. One of the most fun uses however, was the transformation of angelica into a confection. Candied angelica was being produced and marketed by the 17th century, and spread around Europe as a sweet treat. It has also been used in jams and pies, combined with rhubarb, as it acts similarly in the cooking process.
Angelica’s medicinal uses were also numerous. It was used to cure the plague, gas, respiratory illnesses, pain in the joints, and for women’s reproductive issues. In large enough quantities, it was used to aid in restarting mensuration, so care should be taken by women who are pregnant, nursing, or trying to get pregnant if they are ingesting the herb. It was also rumored to help improve circulation, ease anxiety, aid in sleep, and work as an antifungal and antibacterial when applied topically.
Protection & Sacred Workings
Angelica was used to protect houses and people. It was thought to keep bad or malicious spirits away and to cleanse the home of unwanted energies. The Sami, an indigenous group of people from northern regions of “Norway, Sweden, Finland, Kola Peninsula, and Russia” used angelica to make an instrument called a fadno. Garlands made of angelica were given to creative peoples, such as poets, because the scent of the flower was said to inspire creativity. It was also used medicinally, in a shamanic context by the Sami.
I know that my posts and podcast episodes aren’t about wildcrafting, but for this herb I felt I needed to include some information. Angelica is beautiful and edible, however, there are several plants that look (especially to the untrained eye) almost identical. One of them is Queen Anne’s Lace (wild carrot or Daucus carota). As far as I can tell this plant is edible and grows almost everywhere. I see this plant every August in the fields near my house. Angelica also resembles Fool’s Parsley (Aethusa cynapium) which is totally toxic and can cause “heat in the mouth and throat” and can cause death. Hemlock is also a look-a-like of angelica, and is also poisonous to humans. The last to mention here is Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum). Its sap is phototoxic and if your skin comes into contact with it it can cause phytophotodermatitis which blisters the skin and causes scaring. So yeah, I’d say unless you are an expert, don’t go searching for angelica. Just order it from a trusted source online if possible.
In Magickal Workings
Angelica’s magickal properties are numerous, and they are especially beautiful. This herb has a kind of ethereal, spiritual quality. This blog post calls it the “Mama Bear of the Spirit Realm”, and does a nice job of illustrating the properties of angelica. Here are some magickal ways you can use angelica.
- Banishing negative, evil, malicious energy
- Attuning to the spirit world
- Attuning to angelic energies
- Motherhood, mothers, nurturing energy
- Divine energy and deeper understanding
You can use angelica to ‘guard’ your home, either by growing it, using essential oil, or sprinkle the herb on thresholds of your house. It may not be technically angelica, but I love the idea of painting a picture of the herb and hanging it as a symbol of its energies. You can use it in baths or in teas (be careful if you are nursing/pregnant/want to be pregnant). Carry it with you in a charm bag for any of the above reasons, or do a meditation (read that blog post) to get in touch with its energies. You can use in in incenses to protect a space while you do spellwork, or in a spray or wash to cleanse your home.
The angelica recipe is a simple one, but unless you have a supply of fresh angelica or can get ahold of the stems, it may be hard to do. However, if you have the inkling, I think this recipe would be delightful. It can also remind us of the simple joys of the past and how herbs can be made into lovely treats. It reminds us of the beauty and simplicity of angelica, and in a way, the nurturing energy as well. So without further ado, here is the recipe for Candied Angelica!