Rose

Best and dearest flower that grows,

Perfect both to see and smell;

Words can never, never tell

Half the beauty of a Rose—

Buds that open to disclose

Fold on fold of purest white,

Lovely pink, or red that glows

Deep, sweet-scented. What delight

To be Fairy of the Rose!

The Rose Fairy, Cicely Mary Barker

History of Rose

Perhaps the most popular and beloved flower on the planet, the rose is an “herb” which dates back millions of years. Associated with love, beauty, lust, sensuality, and even war, the rose is steeped in symbolism and allegory in almost every culture around the world. Let’s unfold the mystery of the beautiful rose plant and explore its history, folklore, and magickal properties.

A Rose By Any Other Name

You’ll have to forgive the title, I’m a literary nerd. The rose plant is so prolific that there are about 300 species of roses. Therefore, there are many different Latin names for rose bushes. However, each of these names carries the word “rosa” at the beginning. “Rosa” comes from an Armenian word “vard”, which meant rose. The etymology of the word is quite complicated, however it most definitely comes from “the east”, possibly originating in Persian or even Aramaic.

(A Brief) History of the Rose

Roses are old. Like, 55 million years old. The 55 million year old fossil of a rose was discovered in Colorado, which means roses have been on the Earth longer than humans and our ancestors. In about 500 BCE, Persia and China began cultivating roses. These roses were used for perfume, medicinal purposes, for ornamental decoration, and as part of landscaping.

Ancient Romans cultivated roses in grand public gardens and used rose petals as confetti, among other things. Roses became a symbol of politics and war in 15th century England during the War of the Roses. The houses of York and Lancaster took on the white and red rose respectively, to represent their houses, forever linking the rose with this bloody conflict.

In the 1600s in Europe, roses saw an increase in popularity. They were in such high demand that they were used, much like those “exotic” spices cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, almost as currency. Our modern roses come from a Chinese source in the 1700s, when these specially cultivated roses were introduced into Europe.

Rose Symbolism

The rose is a symbol for love, beauty, sexuality, and even war. It is hard to know exactly when these associations began, however the Egyptians and Ancient Greeks certainly had their fair share of rose symbolism.

It is rumored that Cleopatra used roses during public appearances and that roses were brought in her boudoir when Marc Antony was present. The sweet smell was associated with their passionate romance.

Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was very much connected to roses. She used rose oil to protect Hector’s body in the Illiad, and nursed a young man in a “among rose blossoms” in another poem. Just like the raspberry, which is in the rose family, there is a story about Aphrodite wounding herself on thorns which turned the roses red.

Romans Emperors used roses to shower important visitors with rose petals as a way to celebrate their arrival. Perhaps the tradition of giving roses to performers stems from this practice. Roses became associated with celebration, success, and adoration .

In Christianity, the rose is associated with the Virgin Mary. In Catholicism specifically, the rosary gets its name from this association. Many paintings show the Virgin Mary surrounded by roses or handing out roses to adorers. As far back as the 14th century the rose has been a symbol of the sacred mysteries of the Holy Trinity.

Rose Legends, Folklore, & Superstitions

One amazing legend about a specific rose plant is found in The Rose-Bush of a Thousand Years. This legend surrounds the oldest living rose bush in Hildesheim, Germany, thought to have first been seen in 815 AD. The tale includes a noble hunter who is lost in the woods, a white rose, relics of the Virgin Mary, and a cathedral where the rose bush still grows.

A beautiful myth from India is that of Vishnu. It is said that he created Lakshmi out of 108 large and 1008 small rose petals (Note: I tried finding a source for this, but kept coming up with Lakshmi being associated with lotus flowers. I don’t know what the miscommunication is, and I don’t know if there is a rose legend, but I wanted to mention it).

In Persian folklore, there is a literary theme known as “gol o bolbol“, or rose and nightingale. One legend reads:

“In traditional Persian literature, the nightingale is often featured with the rose. The nightingale playing the part of the lover – passionate but doomed to love in vain. The rose and its thorns symbolise that of unrequited love and infidelity. One can love the rose, but beware the spikes which pierce when held. In this Persian myth, the nightingale presses its breast in unrequited love for the flower, yet is pricked by the thorns.” (Source)

From its symbolism, legends, and myths, the rose has developed a bit of folklore and superstition surrounding itself. The following are a few of these beliefs.

  • If you cut a rose for a bouquet and a petal falls it is bad luck
  • In some cultures, roses given in full bloom bring death
  • White roses are a bad omen if they bloom twice
  • Red roses on a grave mean the deceased was good, while white roses signal virginity.
  • Roses signal the need for secrecy
  • Yellow roses symbolize jealousy
  • Pink roses signal platonic love

Rose Uses

I wanted to spend time on the other aspects of the rose, but I’ll just quickly mention here that roses are used in perfumery (but I bet you already knew that!), and in food. Rosehips come from the rose plant, and are used in jellies and jams and skin care products. Rose water is a very popular flavoring in Middle Eastern cuisine. Turkish delight, baklava, and gulab jamun are well-loved rose flavored desserts. Rose petals and rose hips are also used in many types of teas.

Idioms & Songs

Roses are so ubiquitous to human culture that they have made their way into many popular idioms and song titles. Just for fun, let’s look at a few of them.

  • red as a rose (also Irish folk song)
  • bed of roses (also song by Bon Jovi)
  • “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (a song by 80s hair metal band Poison)
  • A rose by any other name (Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet)
  • not all moonlight and roses
  • “Kiss by a Rose” (English artist Seal)
  • smelling like a rose
  • coming up roses
  • bring the roses to (someone’s) cheeks
  • rose-colored glasses
  • “La Vie en Rose” (song by French singer Édith Piaf)
  • stop and smell the roses
  • A Rose for Emily (Story by William Faulkner)
  • bloom is off the roses
  • “Rose Garden” (American Country song)
  • under the rose
  • roses are red

In Magickal Workings

The rose may not need much magickal explanation. The rose is so ingrained in our consciousness that we already know its energies. You can use the rose for these types of magick.

  • Love, all kinds of love!
  • Lust, passion, sensuality
  • Romance
  • Immortality
  • Beauty
  • Luck
  • Intuition
  • Protection
  • Youth
  • Truth

Roses can be used in lots of different ways for spellwork. Although it is expensive, rose essential oil can be used to anoint yourself or your tools. It can also be used to cleanse your space in an essential oil diffuser. Dried rose petals are by far the easiest form of the flower to work with. Use rose petals in teas, mixed with other herbs to anoint candles, placed in charm bags, and used in ritual baths. You can use dried rose petals in candles as well. Rosewater is another great option to use around the house in magickal ways. Spray rosewater on yourself as part of a self-love ritual or spell. You can always use fresh roses as well, although this is the most expensive version, unless of course you have an abundance of them growing in your yard.

*Note: if you ingest rose petals ensure that they are food-grade.

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Rose Recipe

Rose is a sort of… acquired taste. Many Western palates are not accustomed to the flavor of roses because they taste exactly like they smell. The result is sometimes a sense that you are eating potpourri or perfume. That being said, a light touch of rose flavor can be delightful if it is balanced with other elements. For today’s recipe I have chosen a lovely rose ice cream. The cream will dilute some of the rose flavor, but not so much that it disappears completely. This is a beautiful dessert that embodies the lusty, sensual vibe of the rose.

Rose Ice Cream Recipe

Enjoy!

My Love Blend and Lust and Passion Blend contain rose, so consider giving them a try also!

Lemon Balm

A vine did all the hollow cave embrace,

Still green, yet still ripe bunches gave it grace.

Four fountains, one against another, pour’d

Their silver streams; and meadows all enflower’d

With sweet balm-gentle, and blue violets hid,

That deck’d the soft breasts of each fragrant mead.

Hermes in Calypso’s Island (from Odyssey V), George Chapman

History of Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a happy, sunny herb that has been used for thousands of years. Especially important to the Ancient Greeks, lemon balm is known for its bee-attracting qualities and soothing and rejuvenating properties. Once nicknamed the “elixir of youth”, lemon balm is a delightful herb to grow in a fairy garden and is associated with healing, love, success, and luck, among other things. Let’s explore this beautiful springtime herb in all its glory.

Who is Melissa?

Lemon balm’s official name is Melissa officinalis. I learned this years ago, and I always wondered, somewhere in the back of my head…who is Melissa? The mystery of Melissa has been solved my friends, and the answer is sweet and lovely.

Officinalis refers to “of the workshop”, i.e. the apothecary or medieval pharmacy. Melissa, however, refers to honey. Let me break it down. The name Melissa comes from the Greek “melissa”, which comes from “melitos” which means honey. The Proto-Indo-European root is “melit-ya”, of which the root word “melit” means honey. In hindsight, the connection seems obvious (I know a bit of Spanish, so I know miel means honey!). In Rome lemon balm was called “apiatrum”, which comes from their word “apis” for bee. Lemon balm’s official Latin name playfully connotes “honeybee”, which is a fitting name as we shall soon discover.

As for the English lemon balm, we have the word balm, which comes from the Latin “balsam”. This word hinted at perfumed anointing oils or “any aromatic preparation used in healing wounds or soothing pain”. Lemon comes from the fact that lemon balm smells and tastes a lot like lemon. Lemon balm has also been called balm, Bee Balm, Bee’s Leaf, Honey Plant, Melissa, and Sweet Balm.

A Bee’s Best Friend

Lemon balm’s connection to bees is one of its most famous associations. As far back as 3000 BC there is a reference to lemon balm as “honey-leaf in the Historia Plantarum. The Greeks held many beliefs about lemon balm and bees. One such belief was that if lemon balm grew near the hive, the bees would never leave. They also thought that bees used the scent of lemon balm to bring them back to the hive. Greek beekeepers sometimes rubbed lemon balm on their hives to give a sort of welcome home to their bees.

In North America, people of the Cherokee tribe called balm “wa du li si”, which means bee.

Lemon balm resembles mint. Lemon balm is in the mint family of plants and as it grows, it produces small white flowers. It is these flowers that attract the bees. According to a Herb Society of America guide: ” the plant contains several compounds found in the worker honeybee’s Nasonov gland, which helps bees communicate about food sources and hive location. Both contain citral and geraniol, and honeybee pheromone contains nerolic acid, which is similar to the nerol found in Melissa officinalis”, which shows that these ancient associations were correct.

Medicinal & Culinary Uses of Lemon Balm

As lemon balm has been called the “elixir of youth” or the “elixir of life”, it is clear that the herb has a long medicinal history. Most herbalists recorded lemon balm to effect some sort of refreshing and joyful disposition in people. It was also used to perk up the mind and help aid in memory. It also was thought to have a calming effect on those who drank tisanes or tinctures with lemon balm. Like other plants in the mint family, lemon balm was also used to aid in digestion and reduce gas after eating.

In addition to these mental benefits, lemon balm was used as a salve or compress on stings, wounds, and to help sooth pain. Modern testing has shown that lemon balm does indeed contain antiseptic properties and does aid in cleaning wounds. Carmelite Water, a special medicinal mixture made by Carmelite nuns in the 14th Century, contained lemon peel, lemon balm, nutmeg, and angelica. This mixture was used for general health and is still sold today under the variant Klosterfrau Melissengeist.

Lemon balm is used in a few culinary dishes, mostly for its light lemon flavor. It is great for salad dressings and teas, and can be used to flavor meat such as poultry or fish.

Although not a medicinal or culinary use, lemon balm is also included in some toothpastes, perfumes, and in furniture polish.

Lemon Balm Folklore

Lemon balm folklore mostly centers around the idea of its ability to extend life and heal. The Greeks believed this idea as did subsequent cultures. Price Llewellyn of Wales (and according to some sources, Prince Charles V of France) is rumored to have used lemon balm in his tea every single day. The result of this practice is that he lived to 108 years old. (I couldn’t verify this legend as fact, but as with most folklore this is the case). Another such tale says that Englishman John Hussey drank lemon balm tea with honey every morning for 50 years and lived to be 116.

One funny tidbit about lemon balm’s ability to elongate life is the story of Louis XIV’s again chickens. According the The Complete Herbal, “one of Louis XIV’s physicians, Lesebure, tried this [lemon balm] out on an elderly chicken, which within a few days lost its tattered plumage, grew fresh feathers and started to lay eggs again”. How fun!

Lemon balm was also associated with love, especially the idea that it could send messages between lovers. Priestesses of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, were called Melissa. Lemon balm was associated with workings of these priestesses, therefore it took on associations with love and sympathy. In some cases, lemon balm was used in baths to perfume the water and attract love.

Perhaps a later addition to lemon balm’s folklore is its association with fairies. It is often recommended as an herb to grow in a fairy garden. There are even a series of children’s books, The Herb Fairies, which have a character named Melissa, the Lemon Balm Fairy. I even found this adorable crocheted version of the character.

In Arab cultures, lemon balm was thought to have mystical powers, as well as soothing properties.

In Magickal Workings

As you may have guessed, lemon balm’s magickal properties mirror its medicinal and folkloric energies. Lemon balm is a sunny, calming, happy herb that can be used in many different spells and magickal kitchen workings. You can use lemon balm for:

  • Fairy magick
  • Love
  • Healing
  • Immortality
  • Manifestation
  • Happiness/Clarity
  • Success/Luck

Lemon balm is a very easy herb to grow (and like mint it will take over the garden if you aren’t careful!). This is great news because as a practitioner you can easily grow fresh lemon balm to use in your rituals and spells. You can make a fresh lemon balm tea and share it with friends or lovers to increase your bond or create a happy mood. You can use lemon balm in sachets or charms to give you good luck in your daily endeavors. Growing lemon balm can attract fairies (or just bees) and brighten your doorstep and home. I stole this idea, but you can write an intention on a small piece of paper, wrap it in a fresh lemon balm leaf, and carry it with you until the intention manifests. There are so many great magickal thins you can do with lemon balm. Even just having it around will brighten your mood.

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Lemon Balm Recipe

For the lemon balm recipe I am going for super simple. Lemon balm is so lovely on its own that to mix it would be unnecessary. Therefore, we are going with a simple lemon balm tea. This recipe calls for a bit of green tea as well, but you can skip this addition if you want. All you’ll need is a handful of fresh lemon balm leaves, a bag or two of green tea, and water. Honey or another sweetener if desired.

Lemon Balm Tea

Enjoy!

My Happiness Blend and Ostara Blends contain lemon balm, so consider giving them a try also!

Wheel of the Year Series: Ostara (The Spring Equinox)

The dancing hare foretells the spring,

With fertility and new life this time does bring,

Gay Eostre dances on the earth,

As seeds and flowers come to birth.

Tulips and daffodils come into bloom,

And life sprouts from the Mother Earths womb,

Birds lay their eggs now and the light is growing,

Catkins and blossoms on the leaves are showing.

The sun reaches forth with his hand,

To the Maiden of flowers returns to the land,

Their dance brings new balance into our life,

Planting the seeds to overcome strife.

We grow with the flowers and the trees,

Winters gloom banished on a spring breeze.

The joy of new birth enters our hearts,

As we look forward to Beltane’s love.

Blessed Ostara

Ostara Blessing, Unknown

It’s been some time since Imbolc and finally the world awakens. Warm sunshine has begun to beam down more and more each day, brave flowers poke their colorful shoots above the greening grass, and birds sing loudly in the still bare trees. It is a beautiful time of year. A time of growth, abundance, fertility, and new life. It is the Spring Equinox, when days and nights are the same length and the world is well on its way to warmer days full of sun, color, and an abundance of baby animals appearing in nature.

I’m not going to lie to you, this sabbat is a bit of a doozy. Its origins are vague and most of our modern associations, such as hares, the Goddess Ostara herself, and eggs have been studied by scholars and written about since the mid 1800s. I’m going to attempt to unpack as much of this as I can for you in this post. That being said, Ostara, at its heart, is a beautiful celebration of this time of year, when winter is behind us, there are more warm days than cold, seeds are beginning to sprout, and the animals are coming to life. It is a time of abundance and happiness, of new life and fecundity (new words are fun!). Gone are the drab browns and blinding whites of winter; now is the time for color and light. So strap on your seatbelts and join me on the rollercoaster that is Ostara.

Origins of Ostara

Ostara illustration by Helena Nelson – Reed Art

The word “Ostara” is thought to be an ancient Germanic spring goddess. I say thought, because until the 1950s, many scholars questioned whether or not the figure of Ostara had been created in the 8th Century by Bede (famed English monk and historian). There were apparently no other attestations of the goddess in literature, so some thought that Bede had made her up. However, in 1958 the matronae Austriahenae was found, which has mostly proven that the spring goddess figure has indeed existed for ages, and that the name Ostara is a version of the original pro-Indo-European version “heusos” which means ‘goddess of dawn’. The Germanic word became “Eostre” in Old English and is pronounced almost like the modern “Easter”, connecting the rituals of Ostara to the modern holiday in Catholic/Christian countries.

What does this have to do with our Ostara sabbat? Well, that’s where it gets even more complicated. We know that Ostara was a spring goddess figure and that the months of March/April were named in her honor. Easturmonath, as described by Bede “was once called after a goddess of theirs [the pagans’] named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month”. It seems then, that there were activities and feasts that celebrated the spring goddess and all that she brought with her this time of year, such as the rebirth of the land. This is an intuitive way to celebrate the Spring Equinox to anyone who pays attention to the seasons of the Earth; however, what is up with the rest of Ostara? How did Easter/Ostara get tied in with the Christian belief of Jesus’s resurrection and how why do both of them involve bunnies and colorful eggs? Let’s look at some of these questions.

The Hare

The truth is that none is certain about the origins of the bunnies/rabbits/hares and Ostara. Hares are no doubt the original type of animal to be associated with Ostara, but why? It wasn’t until the 1800s that a German scholar tried to make the connection by saying that the hare was most likely “the sacred animal of Ostara”. Another author wrote about several Northern European folklore customs that seemed to indicate the hare as a sacred animal around the months of March and April, possibly before the worship of Ostara the goddess. Adolf Holtzmann, the previously mentioned German scholar surmised that “the hare must once have been a bird, because it lays eggs”, which began a waterfall of stories that tried to explain this connection. There is a very intensely researched piece about this topic here, if you’d like to, uh-hem, go down the rabbit hole. I’ll quote one part of the article here:

“Sometimes the story grew even more in the telling. The detail that the goddess changed the bird into a hare specifically to help it endure the cold appears in a version printed in Ohio’s Fulton County Tribune for April 13, 1922:

WAS MESSENGER OF GODDESS

Pretty Legend Which Connects the Hare With the Symbol of the Awakening of Life.

It appears from a very ancient, but little known tradition, that the rabbit, or rather the hare; sacred to Ostara, was originally a bird, very possibly the swallow. The goddess finding her winged messenger was not fitted to endure all toils and climates, transformed her into a brisk, quick-footed little quadruped with long ears, a warm furry coat, and no tail to speak of, ready and able to summon belated spring from wherever she might be lingering, and to guide her safely, even among the icebergs of the frozen north. Thenceforward the hare, the emblem of fertility, was known as the friend and messenger of the spring goddess; and in memory of her former existence as a bird, the hare once a year, at Easter, lays the gaily colored eggs that are the symbol of the awakening of earth and the renewal of life. This is the mythological explanation of the connection of Easter eggs and bunnies, but there are many other stories telling why the sportive hare is responsible for the bright-hued eggs at this spring festival.

There is no doubt that hares began breeding this time of year, and that part of the sabbat Ostara has to do with fertility, abundance, and new life, as do eggs as we’ll read in the next section, however it looks as though the connection between the hares/rabbits/Easter Bunny and the eggs is not based in an ancient custom.

The Eggs

I won’t spend too much time on the eggs, since we’ve looked at them in regards to the hare, but there are a few interesting ways that Ostara and eggs are connected. The first is that eggs are a symbol of fertility and bringers of new life. The other is a theory that says eggs became connected to Easter (of course Ostara) in the Middle Ages. Apparently eggs were restricted during Lent and children went door to door asking for eggs before Lent began. People would prepare them and hand them out especially at this time. It’s possible that they were already connected to Ostara, or maybe they became enmeshed during this time.

Ostara and Easter

The name Ostara, and it’s PIE roots have to do with “the bringer of the light”. As we’ve looked at, Ostara is a time of new life. The Earth itself is resurrected from its slumber and a bright, warm, new world of color and beauty comes to life. It is no surprise that the figure of Jesus, who is resurrected from death into new life would be tied into this thematic celebration. We know that as Europe was Christianized, many liturgical holy days were placed on the pre-existing pagan festivals, and Easter is no different. In fact, some ancient Romans celebrated Cybele, a goddess whose companion was born of a virgin birth and resurrected near the end of March. There’s also the figure of Mithras, another Jesus-like Roman god.

It’s worth noting that many more cultures celebrate Spring with similar thematic approaches. Some Persian countries celebrate Nowruz, which means “new day”. And the most fascinating in my opinion is the Mayan Spring Equinox celebration called The Return of the Sun Serpent. A description from History.com reads, ” crowds now gather on the spring (and fall) equinox to watch as the afternoon sun creates shadows that resemble a snake moving along the stairs of the 79-foot-tall Pyramid … On the spring equinox, the snake descends the pyramid until it merges with a large, serpent head sculpture at the base of the structure.”

Themes of Ostara

As with all of the sabbats on the Wheel of the Year, the themes can be found by meditating on the energies of that time of year. As we’ve already seen, Ostara is associated with the following themes:

  • Fertility
  • New Life
  • Rebirth
  • Growth
  • Femininity
  • Resurrection
  • Balance

Symbols of Ostara

Symbols associated with Ostara are:

  • Rabbits/bunnies/hares
  • Eggs
  • Snakes
  • Seeds
  • lambs
  • Flowers
  • Baby animals (especially chicks)
  • Birds, especially robins
  • Butterflies

Correspondences of Ostara

Some of the correspondences for are:

Stones: Moonstone, rose quartz, clear quartz, amethyst

Colors: pastels, white, light gold

Herbs: clover, honeysuckle, peony, violets, tulips, angelica, blackberry, strawberry, ginger, jasmine

Foods & Drinks: Eggs, sprouts, spring greens, cheese, custards, cream/milk, sweet treats, seeds, fruits and veggies

Magick: Growth, resurrections (in a symbolic sense), balance, new life, open/making room, fertility, love, spells that you want to grow for a time

Ways to Celebrate Ostara

As modern witches and pagans, we have to find new ways to celebrate the Sabbats. Surprisingly, it is really fun and easy to come up with ways to celebrate that honor Imbolc and also fit into our busy lives. As with all magickal practices it is the intention that counts. If you are able to center in on the energies of Ostara by meditating on its themes, colors, stones, and other correspondences, you don’t need a flashy ritual (although there’s nothing wrong with it if you want to do one!) to celebrate.

Here are some celebration ideas. I’ve made them as simple as possible, so you can add on your own touches as your practice allows.

  • Get ready to start your garden
  • Nature time (really study and appreciate the new plants and animals you notice)
  • Hello Spring cleaning! Make way for the new, open those windows, let the fresh air come in.
  • Create a list of personal things you’d like to resurrect about yourself or give new life to
  • Dye some hard-boiled eggs. Why? It’s tradition! Or you could just cook them and eat them, meditating on how eggs protect and bring new life into the world.
  • Try something new
  • Make a basket from natural materials
  • Go four-leaf clover hunting
  • Decorate your home with Ostara symbols
  • Raise a new pet (only if you are able to take it on forever)
  • Drink some Ostara Tea

Ostara Recipe

Going traditional here. Since I live in the US, Easter is the predominant holiday around this time. I have always associated Easter with rabbits, and rabbits supposedly love carrots, and I love carrot cake so…I present to you a from scratch carrot cake recipe. It’s yummy, sweet, incorporates carrots, cream cheese, and nuts into a delicious Springy dessert for your Ostara celebrations.

Carrot Cake for Ostara

Happy Ostara!

Blackberry

My berries cluster black and thick

For rich and poor alike to pick.

I’ll tear your dress, and cling, and tease,

And scratch your hands and arms and knees.

I’ll stain your fingers and your face,

And then I’ll laugh at your disgrace.

But when the bramble-jelly’s made,

You’ll find your trouble well repaid.

Flower Fairies Cecily Mary Barker

I think that woman gets out in the daytime!

And I’ll tell you why–privately–I’ve seen her!

I can see her out of every one of my windows!

It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight.

I see her on that long road under the trees, creeping along, and when a carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

History of Blackberry

Blackberry is a plant with a rich history of folklore and magick, as well as a good dash of culinary sweetness. This herb can be found growing wild all the world over and has been enjoyed as a delicious treat, a source of shelter, and used in various medical treatments for millennia. Magically connected to protection, healing, harvest, fairies, and sorrow, the blackberry is a deeply magickal fruit that can be used in many ways. Let’s dive in!

Bramble Berry

Known officially as Rubus fruticosus, blackberry’s name is probably the least magickal thing about it. Rubus simply means “bramble” (so a thick, thorny bush, or tangle of viney branches), and fruticosus seems to mean the same thing (although it obviously has ties to our modern English word “fruit”).

The English word blackberry is likewise straightforward. It means “fruit of the bramble”, which stems (see what I did there?) from an Old English word from the 12th century, “blaceberian” which is ‘black’ + ‘berry’. The word “bramble” means ‘rough, prickly shrub’ so this fits with the blackberry and its very prickly bush.

Blackberries are very closely related to raspberries, and like the raspberry, they are a member of the rose family.

Blackberry Folklore

Blackberries seem to be one of those fruits (and plants) that has found its way into common folklore in most parts of the world. My guess is because the brambles grow wild and are found near streams or at the edges of forests, they took on this wild, deep, and mysterious power in folklore. They are prickly and can be painful to touch, but are also a source of protection and shelter for many animals. This is reflected in many lines of literature, which I’ll expand on in the following section. For now, let’s look at some folklore specific to blackberry.

Many of the folklore beliefs talk of passing under an archway of branches and brambles of the blackberry. It was believed that if you passed under this archway you could be cured of hernias, skin boils, and whopping cough. According to one source the saying went “in bramble, out cough, here I leave the whooping cough”. There was a belief in some parts of Britain that the season of the blackberry was the same when babies often got sick…why this is I don’t know, but there was an association.

Maybe it is because there is another folklore belief that the Devil, who was kicked out of Heaven on Old Michaelmas Day (Oct 11), fell into a thorny patch of brambles. He was so angry that he either burned, spat, put his cloak on, or cursed the blackberries, and the belief was that you shouldn’t eat any blackberries after September 29th because of this. One other Christian myth says that Jesus’s crown of thorns was made of brambles, which is why the berries turn from red to black.

Yet another folk belief is that blackberries are protective against vampires. Blackberry brambles planted near a home ensured the vampire would not make it to the home because he’d get distracted counting all the berries.

It was also believed that blackberries were tied to fairies. You were suppose to leave the first fruits on the bramble for the fairies. This was known as the ‘fairy harvest’.

It was believed that when harvesting you should pick the berries during a waning moon.

Medicinal & Culinary Uses of Blackberry

Although not as popular as raspberry, blackberry leaves were also used in a medicinal context. Since ancient Greek and Roman times blackberry roots and leaves were used for bowel issues and to treat the whooping cough. The leaves were often boiled then placed on the skin to treat insect bites and skin infections, like boils. They were also used to treat gout.

It is of course obvious that blackberries are a very common and delicious staple in the kitchen. They are used in sweets like cobblers, cupcakes, scones, jams, jellies, crumbles, and even wines and cordials. They are also enjoyed as a treat by themselves. They contain many healthy nutrients so they are nutritious to both humans and animals alike.

Other uses of blackberry were by Native American tribes to dye clothing, and the vines were used to make twine and rope. One interesting tidbit I read during my research was that during the Civil War the fighting was suspended at intervals so that troops from both sides could forage the wild blackberry bushes. They would not only eat the berries, but use the leaves to make teas to aid with dysentery and other issues. Blackberries were also collected by children and then made into cordials and tonics for soldiers. One article reads:

“In August, 1864, the Sanitary Commission set all the children in the country to picking blackberries for the soldiers, their mothers and sisters to distill from them a refreshing cordial and tonic. In September, acknowledging that ‘rivers of blackberry juice had flowed in upon them from all parts of the country, and that it would be impossible to think of a more grateful flood,’ it made another call upon the boys and girls, asking for peaches, not canned, nor preserved, but simply dried. Peaches were never so plentiful, and could never be turned to better account. The peach had never borne a large part in the charities of mankind, and its history had had but slight connection with the practice of the healing art, but its opportunity had now come. Do not can the peaches, said the commission to the children, and waste no sugar upon them. Cut them carefully in halves, and take out the stones. Lay the halves upon clean boards or upon sheds and roofs sloping to the south. Dry them thoroughly in the sun, if possible; if not, put them in slightly heated ovens, or toast them gently upon the hearth, or before the stove. You cannot dry them too thoroughly, boys; and you cannot send too many, girls. If there are any left when the sick and the convalescent have had their fill, they will do no harm to the well men in the trenches and the field.”

“Blackberries for the Soldiers”

In Magickal Workings

In a magickal context, blackberry seems to have a unique energy. It isn’t so much that it’s properties are unusual, it is just that its energy is very deep and mysterious. Just like its thorny brambles protect the beautiful, dark, and delicious fruit, the blackberry’s magick is both hard to reach, yet undoubtedly worth the trouble when it is accessed. That being said, here are some magickal properties of the blackberry fruit and plant.

  • Fairy magick
  • For healing, especially skin and coughing issues
  • Protection against curses or other evils
  • For fertility and lust spells
  • For spells to process grief, remorse, sorrow, etc.
  • To persevere through trials and tribulations

You can use several parts of the blackberry plant for these spells or rituals. Leaves can be used symbolically (or physically) for healing. The stems of the plant can be used in wreaths or wands for protective purposes. The berries themselves can be used in kitchen magick for any of the above properties. Bake a blackberry cobbler and place an intention of lust or fertility (with consent of course). Set a plate of fresh berries out for the fairies, or go blackberry picking in the wild and commune with them in nature. (*From what I’ve researched there are NO toxic look-a-likes for blackberries…but of course take precautions when wildcrafting). Incorporate blackberry wine into a ritual for any sabbat, Imbolc through Lughnasadh. Use the berries, or roots to naturally dye some fabric and use that in a spell. Blackberries are so easy to get a hold of, the possibilities are endless. Use your intuition!

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Blackberry Recipe

We are going to go simple and classic on this one because why mess with perfection!? I chose a Blackberry Cobbler recipe based on the Pioneer Woman’s version. Buttery, berry-y, and delicious with some cream or ice cream, this is a fairy simple, easy recipe that you can make spring or summer to celebrate and get in touch with the delicious blackberry fruit.

Blackberry Cobbler

Clover

These are fragrant acres where

Evening comes long hours late

And the still unmoving air

Cools the fevered hands of Fate.

Meadows where the afternoon

Hangs suspended in a flower

And the moments of our doom

Drift upon a weightless hour.

And we who thought that surely night

Would bring us triumph or defeat

Only find that stars are white

Clover at our naked feet.

clover, tennessee williams

History of Clover

Clover, both the white and red varieties, is a plant which carries with it many magickal legends and exciting energetic properties. Commonly found in yards and fields across the world, clover is useful as fodder for animals and a source for nectar for bees. It has been associated with luck, protection, prosperity, beauty, healing, and even fairies. In this post we will explore the history of the clover, its magickal properties, and look into how its leaves became known as shamrocks, a symbol for Ireland.

“In the Clover”

Have you ever heard the phrase, “in clover”? I hadn’t, but I’m sure that I’ll hear it all the time now that I know about it! Apparently this phrase is fairly common and it means ‘to live luxuriously’, to be carefree…basically to live the good life. The saying came about because clover is a favorite meal of cattle and makes them fat and delicious (more on that later). The English word clover is thought to come from a long line of words of German origin, possibly stemming from “klaiwaz” which meant ‘sticky pap’. This is because clover contains a sticky nectar that bees love, which in turn made sticky honey.

Clover’s Latin name is Trifolium repens (white clover) or Trifolium pratense (red clover). [there are several other species, but I’m only covering these two). Trifolium means “three” “leaf”. Repens means ‘creeping’, which is apt because clover indeed creeps along the ground rather than growing tall. Pratense means something like ‘pasture dwelling’, which again is apt because clover, especially red clover grows freely in pastures where livestock and other animals graze.

Eating Clover

Clover is an important part of the ecosystem, especially for soil and for animals. Clover has spread to all parts of the world and is an important source of food for cattle and other livestock. If grown with a special mix of grasses and other edible plants, it can help reduce bloating in cattle. It also somehow fixes the nitrogen content in the soil and covers spaces where other plants can’t grow.

Clover also serves an important role for bees. Both honeybees and bumblebees are attracted to clover. It contains a good amount of nectar and you can find several varieties of clover honey in stores as a result. Fun fact is that clover is also known as “bee bread”. (Side note: my lawn is fairly large and has a TON of white clover in the spring and summer. There are bees, lots of bees in my yard. My daughter loves to run barefoot and has been stung twice! But I’ll forgive the bees now that I know how important clover is to them).

As a child I remember picking clovers and sucking the nectar out. (I thought they were called honeysuckles, but those are quite different flowers). Clovers are not just for children to suck out the nectar. Clovers are actually edible, both the flower and the leaves. They can be eaten as fresh greens but are said to be not delicious, but boiling them or mixing them with other ingredients can make them tasty. They have been used in times of famine and hardship as they are quite high in nutritional quality. The flowers are sweet, and often red clover is used to make teas, jellies, and other sweet concoctions.

Medicinal Uses of Red Clover

Although most of these uses hasn’t been proven, red clover has been used in homeopathic medicine for centuries. It was used for improving the lymphatic and immune systems, in salves for burns, for mastitis, joint problems, skin problems, and even cancer. There were also some studies that showed red clover extract having a reductive effect on hot flashes during menopause.

Clover Symbolism & Legend

One of the most well known symbols of luck is the four leaf-clover. This is a rare occurrence. One source says the odds are 1 in 10,000. What’s even more interesting is that there are actually clovers with 5, 6, and 7 leaves which are even more rare, and in 2009 the Guinness World Record recorded a 56 leaf clover.

Clover is also a symbol for Ireland, and over time became known as the shamrock (more on that in the next section). One cool legend about Ireland and the three leaf clover has to do with Saint Patrick. According to some sources the Druids had some mystical associations with clover, especially its three leaves. Remember in pagan Ireland there were many triple goddesses, so the three would have been a sacred number already. It is said that when St. Patrick came along, he used the three leaf clover to symbolize the Holy Trinity. There is a pretty stained glass window representation of this legend here.

There is a folk belief that the three leaves of the clover represent love, faith, and hope, and when there is a fourth leaf, it represents luck.

One leaf is for hope, & one is for faith,

And God put another in for luck,

And one is for love, you know,

If you search, you will find where they grow.”

~ Ella Higginson (1861-1940)

Tied in with Christianity, the leaves represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and if there is a fourth it is God’s grace. There is also a legend that Eve took a clover leaf out of the Garden of Eden when she was kicked out to remember what was lost.

Red clover is the state flower of Vermont and the national flower of Denmark.

The Shamrock & Ireland

Most of us are familiar with the shamrock, but we probably don’t think about it as being part of the clover plant. Although the origin of the shamrock, as in the plant it comes from, is up for debate, many say it is the leaves of the white clover. The word shamrock comes from the Irish word “seamróg”, meaning summer plant, which comes from “seamar” which means clover. In the 1570s an Elizabethan man named Edmund Campion was the first to talk about the shamrock and how the “wild Irish” ate “shamrotes”. Now, there is another plant, the wood sorrel, that the Irish ate, but it is questionable as to whether they regularly ate clover. Either way, this idea caught on and was repeated through the years, tying the Irish to the shamrock. Eventually the shamrock became a symbol of rebellion against the English. In the 1700s it was placed on flags, pins, and some even wore green uniforms or ribbons. The popular ballad The Wearing of the Green talks of these rebellions and includes lyrics about the shamrock. Today the shamrock is unquestionably the symbol for Ireland, not only for its shape and color, but for the luck it represents.

In Magickal Workings

Clover is an unassuming, common herb, with a variety of magickal uses, making it one of my new favorites. It has a gentle spirit that brings happiness, luck, and protection. Here are some types of magick you can focus on when using clover.

  • Luck
  • Love
  • Fairies
  • Prosperity/abundance
  • Protection, especially from hexes
  • Beauty
  • Strength, the kind that is gentle but strong
  • Healing

Use fresh clover blossoms for decoration, especially for a fairy altar. Use red clover in your beauty routine to harness its wild beauty. Do a meditation where you are laying in a field of clover, and bask in it’s abundant and gentle energy. This isn’t my idea, but I liked it so I’m sharing. You can soak clover in some water (or use the essential oil) and spray it for protection or purification. You can also simply buy a box of red clover tea (or the herb itself) and sip it while you do spells or rituals related to any of the above properties. As always, keep clover in your wallet, purse or charm bag to attract its qualities. Spend an afternoon hunting for a four leaf clover and let your inner child come out.

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Clover Recipe

While I think it would be cool to try and eat clover greens, the consensus I’ve found is that unless you use them as in addition to much tastier ingredients they aren’t super yummy. So my two recipes stick with the sweeter portions of the plant, the flower. Below is a recipe for Red Clover Lemonade, which you can easily make with red clovers you find near you. The second is sort of a cheat, but because bees and clover go hand in hand, clove honey has notes of the flower itself. The Clove Honey Butter Spread is simple and can be made with honey you find in the store or more locally in the farmer’s market.

Red Clover Lemonade

Clove Honey Butter Spread

Raspberry

Despite his concern about having enough money to feed them and keep them housed, he also spent precious coins on ginger to sooth her nausea and raspberry leaf and red-clover tea to support strong qi.

Paper Wife by Laila Ibrahim

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.

Medicinal Uses

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)
  • Fertility/pregnancy
  • Motherhood
  • Nurturing/self-care/gentleness
  • Patience/love/kindness
  • Femininity
  • Sensuality/love/seduction/romance
  • 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.

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Raspberry Recipe

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!

Easy Fresh Raspberry Mousse

Imbolc

The Wheel of the Year Series: Imbolc

The dandelion lights its spark

Lest Brigid find the wayside dark.

And Brother Wind comes rollicking

For joy that she has brought the spring.

Young lambs and little furry folk

Seek shelter underneath her cloak.

St. Brigid, Winifred M. Letts

It’s still cold and windy. There is often snow on the ground, but other times it is simply wet, chilly rain. At the moment, most of nature, including the sky are shades of gray or muddled green, with some brown thrown in for muddy measure. The sparkling highlight of the Winter Solstice is gone, and we have moved into stretch of year where we hunker down and wait for the beauty and color of Spring to appear. It isn’t really a pretty time, nor one that we enjoy, but it is an important one, if we choose to experience it the right way. Enter the mysterious, under appreciated sabbat of Imbolc.

Imbolc, otherwise called St. Brigid’s Day, is a pagan sabbat that is celebrated on or around February 1st/2nd. Like Lughnasadh, Samhain, and Beltane, Imbolc is a Gaelic festival and has been celebrated for hundreds, if not thousands of years in some form. Although it feels ‘too early’ in many parts of the word, Imbolc is actually a celebration of the coming of Spring. It is a time of ‘budding’, of being ‘invitro’, of preparing for the sun to return and bring back the crops and warmth of Spring. Imbolc is closely associated with the Goddess Brigit, who was tied to poetry, fertility, spring, and healing. Imbolc is a special sabbat, often overlooked, but if we can tap into the history and meaning behind it, we can come to appreciate its special, pregnant-with-expectation energy.

Origins of Imbolc

As I mentioned, Imbolc is a Gaelic festival, and there is evidence that suggests it has been an important celebration for centuries. There are landmarks in Ireland that align with the sunrise on Imbolc and Samhain, such as the Mound of the Hostages. Imbolc is thought to have been associated with the Irish Goddess Brigit (Brigid), and then Christianized to be associated with St. Brigid. It is now known as Imbolc or St. Brigid’s Day.

The word Imbolc is an interesting one with much debate about its etymology. Each one of the proposed origins adds another layer of meaning to the festival in my opinion. Some say it comes from Old Irish “i mbolc”, which means “in the belly”. This is in reference to the time of year where ewes (female sheep) became pregnant. Another proposal is Old Irish “imb-fholc”, meaning “to wash or clean oneself”, which could point towards a ritual cleansing of sort. Then there is the Proto-Celtic “embibolgon” meaning “budding”, the “oimelc” = “ewe’s milk” and a Proto-Indo-European root word that means “milk” and “cleansing”. Okay. So, unless you’re a linguist this is probably enough etymology for you, however, we can see that whichever is the ‘correct’ origin, this holiday obviously has to do with sheep, pregnancy, the milk that comes from pregnant sheep, and the idea of budding/growing in-utero and possibly of cleaning or washing away of something.

Brigit/Brigid

Let’s look briefly at the Goddess Brigit and Saint Brigid, as these figures are closely tied with Imbolc. As mentioned Brigit was an Irish Goddess. She may have been a triple goddess figure according to some stories, and she was certainly a goddess of healing, poetry, and fertility. She was by all accounts a mother figure goddess, which would make sense considering the association of Imbolc to ewe’s milk, the pregnancy of the animals, and the germination of seeds undergrounds.

At some point, Brigit was Christianized and “syncretized” with St. Brigid of Kildare. The St. Brigid figure was in charge of a sanctuary which housed a sacred, immortal flame. It was said that no men could go near the flame, so the women who protected it were revered. There are many stories about St. Brigid, including her expertise with dairy, her blood healing muteness, and her charity to others.

Customs of Imbolc

The ancients celebrated Imbolc in a number of ways. Of course there were feasts, and the home was one of the main focuses of this festival. To celebrate the coming of longer, warmer days, hearth fires and candles were lit, and divination performed. Cleaning the home (what we’d call Spring Cleaning) was also done. Specifically in Ireland, Holy wells were visited and those who trekked there did so for healing. Sometimes, in those towns close to the sea, milk or porridge would be poured into the water as an offering.

In regards to the Goddess or St. Brigid, there were also many customs. The belief was that Brigid would come to visit on Imbolc and if she was provided with a place at the table and a room to stay she would bring blessings and good fortune in the Spring. Often, people would leave food out for Brigid, and she would be invited into the house to a guest bed. Sometimes a ritual would be acted out where a family member would walk around the home three times, knock on the door, and be let in on the third time. They might say something like “Brigid, Brigid, come in, your bed is ready”, or leave a birch wand by the guest bed, which was believed to be used by Brigid to cause the plants to begin to grow. Sometimes items were left out for her to bless. Brigid’s Crosses were also made, unique in their square center and design, and hung by thresholds in the home for protection.

Groundhog Day?

A fun correlation with Imbolc is the often though of as silly North American holiday of Groundhog Day. (honestly, as an American I never understood this holiday and thought it was dumb, but now…). It seems that the origins may have been a tradition stemming from Imbolc. Apparently at Imbolc one tradition was to watch and see if any serpents or badgers emerged from their dens. There is also a connection with the Cailleach, a divine hag in Gaelic stories. She comes out to gather firewood on Imbolc. If she wants to make the winter last she makes the weather bright and sunny (so she can gather more wood). Therefore, if it is bright and sunny on Imbolc more winter is to be expected; if it is cold and cloudy, the Cailleach is fast asleep and Spring is coming soon. This is similar to Groundhog Day, where Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his burrow and if he sees his shadow it’s six more weeks of winter.

Themes of Imbolc

As with all of the sabbats on the Wheel of the Year, the themes can be found by meditating on the energies of that time of year. As we’ve already seen, Imbolc is associated with the following themes:

  • The coming of Spring, sun is returning fast
  • Hearth and home
  • Pregnancy/budding/preparing
  • Awakening and transforming
  • Hospitality

Symbols of Imbolc

Symbols associated with Imbolc are:

  • candles/flames
  • seeds or seedlings
  • sheep/lambs
  • snowdrops (flower)
  • Milk
  • Burrowing animals
  • clean, clear water
  • Brigid’s cross

Correspondences of Imbolc

Some of the correspondences for are:

Stones: Moonstone, amethyst, garnet, angelite, clear quartz

Colors: White, silver, pastel yellows, pinks, greens, and blues

Herbs: Angelica, bay, birch, dandelion, blackberry, jasmine, mint, basil, rosemary

Foods & Drinks: Dairy, grains, dried fruits, vegetables (like potatoes – things that would keep in a root cellar), dried herbs, canned fruits and vegetables, breads

Magick: Imbolc is a great time to work with the following – introspection, patience, purification, healing, revision, new beginnings, awakening, creativity, renewal, self care, and perseverance

Ways to Celebrate Imbolc

As modern witches and pagans, we have to find new ways to celebrate the Sabbats. Surprisingly, it is really fun and easy to come up with ways to celebrate that honor Imbolc and also fit into our busy lives. As with all magickal practices it is the intention that counts. If you are able to center in on the energies of Imbolc by meditating on its themes, colors, stones, and other correspondences, you don’t need a flashy ritual (although there’s nothing wrong with it if you want to do one!) to celebrate.

Here are some celebration ideas. I’ve made them as simple as possible, so you can add on your own touches as your practice allows.

  • Take time to set goals and intentions for the year. This is the time to “plant the seed” so to speak. Get the ideas germinating. Write them down and think about them.
  • In that same vein, do something creative. Write a poem or a song or paint a picture – do something to honor the creative self within you.
  • Begin seedlings. You can buy seeds for herbs and start them indoors. An idea I didn’t come up with but love, is to bury a piece of paper with your intentions underneath a seed so that at it grows, so will your manifestation of that goal.
  • If you can, get outside. Or at least to a window with a nice view. Try to feel the energies of the natural world.
  • Tap into the ‘fire’ and hearth energies by lighting a candle or fireplace, and think about the themes of the holiday.
  • Work with dairy (if you do that…). Make cheese. Make butter. Make things that rely on dairy. Visit goats or cows if possible, or sheep!
  • Start that Spring Cleaning
  • Create a manifestation box where you put all your intentions and let them ‘bud’ in time
  • Start a new project or hobby
  • Bless your home/spaces/people
  • (if it’s Covid safe) Invite someone to stay in your home, practice hospitality.
  • Act out the Brigid ritual where she knocks on your door and invite her to stay.
  • Make a Brigid’s cross and hang it in your home
  • Drink some tea as you do some introspection and planning, and await the coming of the Spring!

Imbolc Recipe

Ok guys, I’m excited about this one. I was searching for an Imbolc recipe and getting frustrated. No, I didn’t want to give you mashed potatoes. Or bread. Or a milk drink. I kept thinking, man, I really think I want to find a good tres leches recipe for this one, but tres leches is not at all associated with Imbolc. But it literally has three kinds of milk, and I just can’t help but think that it really ties into the milk angle of Imbolc. Plus, it’s delicious. So I found this magnificent video from the Witches’ Cookery where she makes a tres leches Imbolc cake…shaped like candles! If you can’t go all out, a regular tres leches cake will suffice, but I thougth I’d share this awesome one. Good Luck!

Imbolc Candle Tres Leches Cake

Happy Imbolc!

Angelica

The angels, and everything named after them,

Are mine. Angelica archangelica, q.v.:

the compound umbels of its small white flower;

the liquer flavored by its roots and fruits;

the sugary sweetness of its candied stems.

Only parsley, really, yet I sensed its glory:

I enter words. It’s what was given me.

Angelica Archangelica by Judith B. Herman

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.

Unique Origins

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

As Food

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.

As Medicine

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.

Not-so-Angelic Look-a-likes

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.

  • Protection
  • Healing
  • Cleansing
  • Banishing negative, evil, malicious energy
  • Attuning to the spirit world
  • Attuning to angelic energies
  • Blessings
  • Motherhood, mothers, nurturing energy
  • Divine energy and deeper understanding
  • Positivity

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.

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Angelica Recipe

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!

Candied Angelica

Sage

At the far end of our plot he’d cleared a little square patch of land and planted herbs: thyme, rosemary, parsley, coriander, chives, sage and mint… At night I used to visit our vegetable patch with a torch. I would crouch down with my feet on the bare earth and watch the velvety sage leaves catching the moisture, covering themselves in it, soaking it up.”

Agnès Desarthe, Chez Moi

History of Sage

Sage is an herb with many magickal and medicinal properties. A member of the mint family, sage is a beautiful herb which takes on a blue-greenish hue due to the silver down which covers its leaves. Long associated with wisdom and immortality, sage has an extensive spiritual and culinary history in many cultures all over the world. In this post we will be exploring this herb’s fascinating history, its use in food and tea, and of course, its magickal properties.

Salvia Officinalis

Although there are many kinds of sage, the most common is Salvia officinalis. Salvia is from the Latin “salvere”, which has connotations of salvation in terms of healing, being healthy, and feeling well. This name is an indication of just what kind of effects sage had on those who used it, whether by ingesting it, growing it, burning it, or any other number of uses. The word sage itself comes from this Latin word, whose Proto-Indo-European root means “whole” or “well-kept”. Interestingly enough, the word sage that is used in English to mean wise isn’t related to the sage used for the herb, although the two have become somewhat related in the modern vocabulary.

There are many other types of sage, such as Red Sage which originated in China, Salvia divinorum from Mexico, or Salvia apiana (white sage) from Southwest United States/Northwest Mexico. I may touch on these in this post, but for the most part, I am talking about Salvia officinalis here.

Sage Throughout History

It is believed that sage originated in the Mediterranean. There are records of sage being used more than 4000 years ago in Ancient Egypt in the embalming process and as an ingredient in infertility treatments.

The Greeks

Following the Egyptians, the Greeks had many uses and beliefs about sage. They thought that by eating sage, one would be endowed with wisdom. Sage was also thought to aid in retaining one’s memory. They also associated sage with longevity and even immortality, so many people grew it in their gardens. Sage was used to treat snake bites and as a meat preservative.

The Romans

Although very similarly to the Greeks, the Romans thought sage even more sacred. They believed that sage helped people digest fatty foods, treat ulcers, and stop bleeding in wounds. They also used sage in tea to help with sore throats and loss of voice. It was also used as a diuretic and a local anesthetic. They called sage the “Holy Herb” and used it in sacred rituals. During these rituals, participants wore specially cleansed clothes, cleansed their feet, offered sacrifices, and used special knives to cut the sage. Romans also associated sage with “domestic virtue” and hung it near the beds of married couples.

In Europe

Apparently Charlemagne had a great deal to do with sage’s popularity and spread in Europe. In the late 8th century, he started Europe’s first medical school in Salerno. Sage was one of the plants grown there and called the Salvation Plant. Charlemagne eventually ordered sage to be grown at monasteries throughout Europe, and from what we know, monasteries were the first kind of pharmacies in Europe, therefore sage’s medicinal and culinary uses likely spread from this.

In European societies, sage had many associations and purposes. It continued to be connected to longevity, fertility, and health. It was also connected to protection and keeping ill-meaning spirits at bay. The English herbalists wrote about it, prescribing it for

  • calming the nerves
  • reviving memory
  • menstruation issues
  • a diuretic
  • to lower fevers
  • headaches
  • aid in digestion
  • ease sore throats
  • ease muscle cramp or cold joints
  • cleansing hands

Sage in Cuisine

Aside from the many medical and spiritual uses, sage was also used extensively in food (and still is!). It is quite strong, so it is often combined with other herbs in moderation to season meats, vegetables, and soups. Sage is often used in Fall or Winter foods, such as roast turkey or chicken, savory pumpkin dishes, sausages, and especially in stuffing.

Let’s Talk about Sage, Smudging, and Cultural Appropriation (I have to go there…)

Because this post is about sage, I wanted to clear up any confusion you may have about these issues. Some may have no idea there is a controversy, others may be new to the craft, and still others may just wonder if they are encroaching on another’s culture if they burn sage. So here is my two cents:

Cleansing sacred spaces with smoke has been practiced for thousands of years in thousands of different cultures. On Herbal Witchery, we’ve explored many different herbs that have been used to fumigate or cleanse sacred spaces. This act itself is NOT cultural appropriation. Burning regular sage, Salvia officinalis, as a part of a ritual, to cleanse your space, your body, or your home, is perfectly fine.

What has become more talked about however, is the ‘trendy’ aspect of buying the sacred White Sage (Salvia apiana) to ‘smudge’. There are several things to be aware of here. The first is that White Sage is an entirely different plant than common sage. White Sage is native to North America and has been used by Native peoples who lived in the plant’s natural environment. It has a sacred history with these tribes, with many beliefs, ceremonies, and rituals based in the special use of the herb. There is special symbolism and other tools used in the ceremony. The second is that because of the mainstream ‘trend’, White Sage has been in high demand, meaning that it has been over harvested and is in danger. And the third thing you should know, is that the term smudging refers to this specific practice.

Sooooo… in my non-expert but trying to be culturally sensitive opinion, it is insensitive at the least and appropriation at the worst, to buy White Sage and to refer to burning it as smudging. I think burning regular sage (or other herbs) and using your own ritual is perfectly fine. You can buy whole sage leaves easily, or better yet, grow them yourself! But steer clear of White Sage and smudging if you do not have any legitimate ties to the sacred cultural practice itself. There are many articles out there about this topic. Here and here are two I found particularly enlightening).

In Magickal Workings

Now that we’ve talked about sage and what to steer clear of in magickal workings, let’s look at what Salvia officinalis can be used for in spell or ritual work. Here are some of the magickal properties of sage.

  • Protection
  • Prosperity
  • Manifestation
  • Wisdom/learning/memory
  • Immortality
  • Cleansing/purifying
  • Dreams/psychic energy
  • Healing

To incorporate these magickal elements, you can do some cool things with sage. Just like you might do with a bay leaf, you can write an intention on a sage leaf and burn it to release that intention into the universe, or you could keep that leaf and carry it with you as a reminder of your intention. Since sage is good for prosperity, you can use it to anoint a candle or keep it in your purse/wallet to attract money. You can burn sage to cleanse your space (as we discussed above) or to cleanse your body before a ritual or spell. You can use sage essential oil for the same purpose. You can drink sage tea and even eat a dish prepared with sage as well. Sage is really easy to find and the possibilities of use in magick are endless.

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Sage Recipe

I’m going with two ‘recipes’ for this one. The first is simply to suggest that you find whole sage leaves and drink them in a tea. I think this is the simplest way to get in touch with the herb’s magickal properties, and its taste and smell. Sage does contain a small amount of thujone (just like mugwort), so don’t drink it super strong and don’t drink it all day every day, but a small cup of tea will be a good way to get acquainted with sage. The second is an actual recipe for those of you who enjoy cooking! It is for tortellini with brown butter and sage – omg sounds delicious right? Sage is such a strong, unique ingredient and I think this dish is simple enough that it stands out. Enjoy!

Tortellini with Brown Butter and Sage

Thyme

In front of them, over beyond the hedge, the dusty road stretched away across the plain; behind them the meadow lands and bright green fields of tender young corn lay broadly in the sun, and overhead spread the shade of the cool, rustling leaves of the beechen tree. Pleasantly to their nostrils came the tender fragrance of the purple violets and wild thyme that grew within the dewy moisture of the edge of the little fountain, and pleasantly came the soft gurgle of the water. All was so pleasant and so full of the gentle joy of the bright Maytime, that for a long time no one of the three cared to speak, but each lay on his back, gazing up through the trembling leaves of the trees to the bright sky overhead.

THe Merry adventures of robin hood by Howard pyle

History of Thyme

Thyme is a whimsical herb with a fantastical history. Associated with protection, especially from poison, courage, bravery, and healing, thyme was used by Roman emperors and Medieval soldiers. Thyme is also associated with the Victorian era tales of fairies, making it a gentle, and magickal herb. With it’s bright smell and taste, thyme is much like basil and rosemary, in that it is a ubiquitous herb in the culinary realm as well. Let’s explore this herb’s important place in history and its magickal uses for practitioners.

Thymus Vulgaris

Thyme’s official name is Thymus vulgaris, which simply means common thyme. The word thyme is thought to refer to the Old French “thym” from the 13th century, coming from Greek “thymon”, which has its roots in a Pre-Indo-European word for ‘smoke’ (according to Etymology.com this last part is doubted by some linguists ). If this is correct, it hints at the plant being used to fumigate or in herb bundles that were burned for their fragrant properties.

There are several kinds of thyme, over 300 to be exact, with the most popular being wild thyme and citrus thyme varieties, the latter of which I’ve grown before will tell you smells heavenly.

Thyme in History

Thyme has been used by humans for thousands of years. The first reference we have is in a 3000 year old Sumerian script, where thyme is recorded as being used as an antiseptic.

In ancient Egypt, thyme was used in the embalming process. This is because of thyme’s chemical make-up (see the medicinal section) and because it smells lovely. Thyme was also included in Egyptian remedies for relieving pain.

The Greeks & Romans

In ancient Greece, thyme was used to baths and burnt in temples (hence the word thymon above). The Greeks associated thyme with courage and therefore burning the thyme was thought to spread courage to those who smelled it. In some legends, thyme was thought to come from the tears of Helen of Troy, giving it a magickal and revered status.

In ancient Rome thyme was associated with protection. They thought that eating thyme would protect one from poison and even went as far as to believe that taking bath infused with thyme could stop the effects of poison. Emperors and political figures were fond of thyme for these reasons. Thyme also has associations with bravery, strength, and courage in Roman times. Soldiers were given sprigs of thyme as emblems of respect and to promote courage as they left for war. On the battlefield, thyme was used in poultices and on bandages. At home people burned bundles of thyme to cleanse and purify their houses and sacred spaces. Much like the Greeks, this was thought to promote courage. The Romans also used thyme culinarily, using it in cheese and liquor as an aromatic.

The Middle Ages

As we’ve talk about with European history, the Romans spread their customs throughout the continent as they colonized. By the Middle Ages, many Roman and Greek practices had been taken on in Europe. Thyme was given to knights as they left for battle to give them courage. Some wore it as a badge of honor. It is rumored that some ladies embroidered scarves with a bee over a sprig of thyme and gave this to their sweetheart. It was also put atop coffins to help souls travel to the next life, probably a remnant of its uses in ancient Egypt.

Thyme was also associated with protection. It was thought to ward off nightmares when placed under a pillow. During the Plague, thyme was used to fumigate sick houses and to ward off disease. Used in poultices, thyme was applied to plague blisters as well.

The Victorians

Oh, the Victorians. As PlantSnap.com puts it “The Victorian period was one of enchantment for the upper classes of Britain. We know it as a period renowned for its innovation, while also instigating incredible violence against colonized landscapes and indigenous peoples across the globe. In a period where the industrial revolution reshaped our society and railroad tracks lead to the demise of buffalo herds in the American west, thyme came to reflect the fanciful and detached aesthetics of high society”. Those fanciful and detached ideals included the idea that fairies resided in creeping thyme outside in the forests and fields, and people, mostly little girls, would camp nearby in an effort to see the fairies.

In a more practical vein, Victorian nurses also used thyme as an antiseptic like those before them.

Medicinal Properties of Thyme

Sometimes we find that the way herbs have been used in the past really didn’t match up to the treatments they were used in, thyme is one that stands up to modern scrutiny. Thyme contains a high amount of thymol, which is an antibacterial and antifungal agent, which means that those ancient cultures and Victorian nurses were actually doing good with their thyme infused bandages.

Thymol, especially the essential oil, is also used to treat psoriasis and eczema, to treat sore throats and other respiratory infections, and in mouthwash and hand sanitizer.

Culinary Uses

Thymes culinary uses are endless. It is an easy herb to grow and is available all over the world. Related to mint, and close in flavoring to marjoram and oregano, thyme is used in sauces and dry rubs quite often. You know the song that goes, “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme”? Well, those lyrics are because thyme is usually paired with these seasonings in soups, roasts, and breads in Europe. It is commonly found in the herbs de Provence blends and in the Arabic condiment za’atar. It is also the ingredient in Seombaengihyang-cha, Korean Thyme Tea.

 

In Magickal Workings

The magickal properties of thyme are closely associated with its history. What’s cool about thyme is that it has a really sweet and gentle energy, with really powerful undertones. Here are some magickal properties and types of magick you can do with thyme.

  • Protection
  • Courage
  • Love
  • Saying goodbye/wishing well
  • Fairy magick
  • Energize and uplift
  • Get rid of bad energy

Thyme spells are going to be fun and easy, for the most part. As always, you can use thyme in sachets or in an incense, but thyme, especially in the summer, is so easy to grow, this is one that you can work with straight of the live plant. You can perform a ritual where you say goodbye to old memories/friends/habits and wish them well. You can use thyme, or the essential oil, to cleanse your space and lift up the energies. You can smell thyme in order to give yourself courage before any challenge you face. You can use thyme to call in the fairies, or even try sleeping near your garden outside if you’d really like to connect with that particular spirit. As a Green or Kitchen witch, you can also use thyme for these properties in your food. The possibilities with thyme are really endless.

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Thyme Recipe

Although there are tons of recipes out there, I’m choosing the overwhelmingly popular option that first came up when I searched thyme recipes on Google. Very magickal, I know. But here’s the thing, this Lemon Thyme chicken combination came up as the top like 15 options, so there must be something to it. I think the flavor in this dish bring out the whimsical nature of thyme; the brightness and energy that thyme brings to the table are very apparently here. So without further ado, here is the Lemon Thyme Chicken recipe for this week.

Quick Lemon Thyme Chicken