History of Raspberry
Discovered in Neolithic times, raspberries have been enjoyed by humans for millennia. Both the fruit and the leaves are associated with the feminine, love, self-care, beauty, and motherhood, and remind us that patience and nurturing are required to bear fruit in our lives. In this post we will explore the history of the beautiful red raspberry plant, complete with its medicinal, culinary, and mythical connections, as well as the magickal properties and uses we can bring into our own lives by working with it in a sacred manner.
The Latin Name
Raspberry’s official name is Rubus idaeus. This roughly translates to “bramble bush of Ida”. Who the heck is Ida and why is this her bramble bush you may ask? According to Greek mythology, Ida was a nymph, and one of two sisters who were charged with taking care of the infant Zeus. One day, baby Zeus was crying and in an effort to cheer him up, Ida went to pick him some white berries. If you don’t know, raspberry bushes are quite thorny (they are a member of the rose family) and Ida pricked her finger. Her blood colored the berries the familiar ruby hue, and this is how the red raspberry was created. There is a second myth (less exciting in my opinion), that the Gods were looking for berries on Mount Ida and found raspberries, hence the tag bramble bush of Ida.
What about the English word raspberry? According to Etymology.com, the word comes from a 1540s phrase “raspis berry”, which may have come from a popular rose-colored wine called raspise. An old Germanic word “raspoie” meant thicket, and it is purported that the English word we use today relates to this, and the word “rasp” (like a raspy, scratchy voice), and meant “rough berry”- possibly because of the appearance or the rough thicket the berries nestle in.
Raspberry and the Divine Feminine
There is no question that in terms of energies, raspberries are tied to the divine feminine, or to sound less woo woo, femininity. We see this in the myth of Ida. She is a caring nursemaid who sheds blood in the effort to take care of a child. If this isn’t motherhood I don’t know what is. It isn’t just this myth, though it does set the stage for the raspberry’s connection to motherhood and femininity. The raspberry is particularly associated with maidenhood/early motherhood. The tart, ripe flavors, the sensual and vibrant red color – all of it brings forth the connotation of fertility, blood (menstruation/childbirth), the sexuality and seductiveness of the feminine. As I’ll talk about in the medicinal section, red raspberry leaf tea is used specifically for pregnant and nursing mothers, and in terms of cultivation, the raspberry plant teaches quite a lesson in patience and nurturing.
The plant itself is covered in thorns, which can be compared to a mother fiercely protecting her sweet young children, but even before the plant fruits, there are lessons to be learned. In some cases, raspberries are planted in the winter as “dormant canes” and they are then moved to a sunnier climate to fruit. In other cases, raspberries, like strawberries, are planted but only grow shoots the first year. You must care for the plant even without a ‘payoff’ for over a year. This can teach us that it takes time and patience to grow things. It mimics the Imbolc theme of waiting while things grow and prepare, even though we might not see it right away.
For this section I’ll be talking mostly about raspberry leaf in tea form. The berries themselves are delicious, but as far as medicinal uses go, the leaves are the part of the plant most often used. You’ll of course want to do your own research and consult your doctor if you are pregnant or nursing, but according to my research red raspberry leaf is safe for most women in second and third trimesters of pregnancy. It has been used to aid in preparing the womb for birth by helping the uterus and muscles within to contract more smoothly. Historically it was used to prevent miscarriage and make labor easier. It has been known as a “pregnancy tea” for centuries and is also thought to help in milk production post pregnancy. Whether raspberries were used as a uterine tonic first or whether the myths influenced these uses I don’t know, but it’s clear that the plant is uniquely tied to the womb and the feminine.
Raspberry in the Culinary World
The use of raspberries in the culinary world is widespread. The fruits are used in cakes, scones, muffins, jams, jellies, preserves, and as flavorings in any number of wines and liqueurs. There are also raspberry syrups. Not to mention the loveiness of raspberries on their own, picked fresh or from the super or farmer’s market. They are known to be sweet yet tart, and a delicious addition to many meals, especially treats. Their red/pink color is often used for Spring and Summer recipes and often for events tied to love or motherhood.
In Magickal Workings
It should be no surprise that the magickal properties of raspberries tie into the myths and medicinal uses of the fruit and leaves of the plant. You can use raspberries for the following types of magick:
- Protection (especially for children, family, self)
- Letting things mature
There are numerous ways you can use raspberries in your spellwork. I would consider using fresh berries for things like love spells, or as substitutes for ‘blood’ (the color and the Ida myth tie in here). Maybe freeze dried raspberries would work well for anointing candles or mixing with other herbs. Using red raspberry leaf (dried) would be nice for the same purposes, but for spells relating to pregnancy, motherhood, or labor/delivery, and even just for things relating to mensuration. You can always buy red raspberry leaf tea or buy the leaves in bulk. Consider using raspberries intentionally in the kitchen, perhaps in a drink or dessert with an spell or intention put into the process. Again, I’m loving the idea of buying or making an image of raspberries and hanging it your home or if you have children in their space as a reminder of the love and protection you give them.
I mean, there are like a million raspberry recipes online. So what do I pick? My easy suggestion is to just go out and buy some raspberries. Eat them plain or with a little cream and savor the flavor! It is also really easy to buy red raspberry leaf tea, just make sure it doesn’t have a lot of extra fillers. However, I have included below a pretty easy recipe for Easy Fresh Raspberry Mousse if you are so inclined. There aren’t a ton of extra ingredients and it seems like a decadent, yet simple recipe that you can make to get the flavor and feeling of raspberry from. Delicious!