Dandelion

Bright little Dandelion

Lights up the meads,

Swings on her slender foot,

Telleth her beads,

Lists to the robin’s note

Poured from above;

Wise little Dandelion

Asks not for love.

Cold lie the daisy banks

Clothed but in green,

Where, in the days agone,

Bright hues were seen.

Wild pinks are slumbering,

Violets delay;

True little Dandelion

Greeteth the May.

Brave little Dandelion!

Fast falls the snow,

Bending the daffodil’s

Haughty head low.

Under that fleecy tent,

Careless of cold,

Blithe little Dandelion

Counteth her gold.

Meek little Dandelion

Groweth more fair,

Till dies the amber dew

Out from her hair.

High rides the thirsty sun,

Fiercely and high;

Faint little Dandelion

Closeth her eye.

Pale little Dandelion,

In her white shroud,

Heareth the angel-breeze

Call from the cloud;

Tiny plumes fluttering

Make no delay;

Little winged Dandelion

Soareth away.

“Little Dandelion” by Helen Barron Bostwick

History of Dandelions

Although they have a reputation as dastardly weeds, dandelions have a long and fascinating history of medicinal and magickal uses. From Chinese Traditional Medicine, to the Arabic physician Ibn Sina in the 10th century, to the Puritans of New England, dandelions were used extensively to aid in digestion and liver issues, as a source of vitamins and nutrients, and in various forms of divination. Without further ado, let’s explore the vibrant and sunny history of the dandelion.

A Plant of Many Names

The dandelion is such a widespread and ‘common’ plant that it should come as no surprise that it goes by many names. In fact, there have been approximately 500 names associated with the taraxacum officionale, some of them poetic, some…errrr, not. The name dandelion comes from the French “dent de lion” (tooth of the lion), referring to either the color and shape of the yellow flowering portion of the plant or the jagged edges of the leaves. This French phrase probably comes from the Latin “dens leonis” or Greek “leontodon”, both of which bring up images of strength, power, and majesty. Less dignified however, is another French name that dandelions go by, which is “pissenlit” (bed wetter), whose British equivalent is somehow even less appealing – pissabed. The plant got these names because it was a commonly used diuretic.

In the middle ages, dandelions were sometimes called “Priests Crown”, because after they had seeded and many seeds had blown away, the remaining portion of the flower resembled the bald heads of monastic priests.

One of the most magickal names that the dandelion has been called is the “Shepherd’s Clock”, or better yet, “Fairy Clock” . This name was given because the dandelion naturally opens its flower in the early morning, just after sunrise, and closes it again at dusk. Dandelions also close in preparation for inclement weather and open again once it has passed. If watched closely, it is said that dandelions also track the sun, turning themselves to face the golden orb throughout the day.

Medicinal & Culinary Uses

The dandelion has been used for medicinal and culinary uses since before recorded history. Fossil records of the plant show that it has been Europe to “glacial and interglacial” periods, and was used in Chinese Traditional Medicine and the Ayurvedic system for thousands of years. They used it to treat several disorders, including cancers, snakebites, and fevers. Most overwhelmingly though, the dandelion was used to treat problems in the liver and digestive issues. In the 10th century, Arabic scholar and physician Ibn Sina dedicated an entire chapter in one of his works to the “bitter herb” and its various medicinal uses, and the Romans and Greeks, included it in their herbal remedies as well. In the European Middle Ages and onward, it was used to treat fevers, boils, diarrhea, fluid retention, heartburn, and skin issues.

The dandelion has also long been used as a source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Wines, jellies, salads, teas, and even ‘coffee’ are derived from the plant. All parts are edible, and since it is so common and easily grown, it provided an easy form of sustenance for people who needed it. Although there is some disagreement, it is thought that the Puritans purposefully brought the dandelion over when they came on the Mayflower, but it could have easily been brought by the Vikings in 1000AD or even earlier on the Bering land bridge. What we do know is that both the English settlers and the Native Americans in New England used the plant for food and medicine. Dandelions also provided food to animals in North America and Europe, and are a great source of nectar for bees.

Magick and Folklore

The dandelion has been associated with many different types of magick and divination. I’m sure most of us picked up a dandelion as a child and made a wish as we blew the seeds. It was believed that if we were able to remove all of them in one breath, our wish would come true. Releasing our intentions into the air (wish paper or dandelion seeds), is most definitely a simple spell, and has been tied to the dandelion for centuries.

These little seeds were also know to be used to determine the number of years a person would live. Ask the question, blow them off, and the remaining seeds equal the number of years. Dandelion flowers were used to tell if a person would be rich, or whether or not they were happy. They would simply hold the yellow flower up to their cheek or chin, and if their skin turned yellow, they would indeed become rich or were happy (maybe they were happy because they were to be rich!?)

We may not put too much stock in these childhood games, but they do tells us what kind of magickal energies dandelion brings to spell and ritual work. Dandelions are tenacious and strong, they are adaptive and can grow all over the world. They are also among the first plants to flower in the spring, promising the light and warmth of the months ahead. They reach out to the sun and protect themselves from the rain. These properties manifest in the magick we do with dandelions.

In ritual or spellwork, use dandelions for:

  • sun magick
  • new beginnings or new hope
  • for moving on and letting go (the mature, ‘grey’ phase of the dandelion)
  • for bravery or courage
  • for adaptation or strength to change/withstand change

Additionally, dandelions are used for psychic abilities (roots), divination, prophetic dreaming, and calling spirits. You can drink dandelion tea, place dandelions around your altar or home to bring in sunshine and happiness, or to meditate on the way it calls us to hold on, be brave and strong, and let go when the time is right so that we may float somewhere and start anew.

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Dandelion Recipes

Below are links to some wonderful recipes that you can make to get more connected with the energies of the dandelion.

Dandelion Jelly

Dandelion Root Coffee

Dandelion Wine


References

https://wordhistories.net/2016/07/21/dandelion-pissenlit/

https://natrem.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/dandelions-in-the-middle-east/

https://www.rjwhelan.co.nz/herbs%20A-Z/dandelion.html#:~:text=Dandelion%20root%20and%20its%20greens%20%28the%20whole%20plant,of%20the%20liver%20and%20enlargement%20of%20the%20liver.

The Magick of Herbs

Many of us aren’t raised with intimate knowledge of plantlife. Unless we grow up in an environment which embraces herbalism or a pagan path, we likely relied on these herbs as sources of food; a way to season soups and meat, or as ingredients in cookies or other desserts. If you were like me, you didn’t even know that these herbs and spices were plants at all. They were just little plastic bottles filled with colorful powders, that sometimes smelled nice, which were used once every few months when a recipe called for it. But despite this rather dull and mundane view of herbs that many of us had, their magick still came through. Their vitality and energy brought life into these dishes, creating delicious entrees, and even more delicious desserts, which pepper the memories of our childhoods. Even those who don’t practice magick recognize the way that smells of certain herbs conjure emotions and recollections that carry them back into the past.

This is just one magickal aspect of herbs. As a witch you are probably aware that herbs, plants, flowers, seeds, and spices can be used for so much more than cooking. Craft books often give the correspondences of each plant and its magickal properties, and most of the spell workings you’ve considered (or performed) called for a handful of different herbs or spices to heighten the spell’s intensity and draw in certain energies. If you’re a Wiccan, Kitchen, Natural, or Green Witch, you’ve probably always inherently felt the power of these herbs and spices in your daily life. You’ve sensed their power, you know they hold magickal energy, but you may not be sure why.

The rest of this post is going to explore the magickal history of herbs to try and help us figure out why, in our modern world, we still trust in the magick power of herbs. .

Herbs in the Ancient World

a blue cornflower

According to The Green Wiccan Herbal1 a prehistoric burial site in Northern Iraq contained the remains of a Neanderthal man who was buried with yarrow, cornflowers, hyacinths, and thistle, which indicated shamanistic beliefs in the healing and ritual powers of plants. There is some dispute to this theory (but of course there always is); however it is compelling to meditate on the idea that a Neanderthal man who lived 50,000 years ago recognized the magickal importance of witching herbs such yarrow and cornflower.

Ancient Egyptians also placed very high importance on herbs, not just on their practical healing uses, but also for their religious significance. The Ebers Papyrus2 is one of the oldest medical documents archeologists have found, dating to around 1500 BCE, with some of its sources from as early as 3400 BCE. What’s interesting about this document is how we can see the confluence of medicine and religion (which included spirituality and magic). The record “contains over 700 remedies and magical formulas” and promoted “the use of magic, incantations, amulets, aromas, offerings, tattoos, and statues” as methods of treatment. This sounds very similar to many witchcraft practices.

The ancient Greeks contributed more directly to our knowledge of herbs and plants. Particularly interesting to witches is the work Hippocrates did with herbs and the phases of the moon. The Greeks also developed different folklore beliefs3 surrounding herbs such as using oregano to ward off evil spirits, wearing wreaths of rosemary to help students with their memory, or placing thyme underneath pillows to stave off nightmares. There were a number of written works done by the ancient Greeks, such as the Enquiry into Plants, On the Causes of Plants, and the De Materia Medica, all of which contributed to the knowledge of different species of plants and their uses.

In the British Isles, the ancient Celts (and specifically druids) revered herbs and trees and used them extensively as medical and magickal elements. Bilberry was tied to the celebration of the harvest festival Lughnasadh, and nettle4 was believed to indicate a place where fairies dwelled, as well as protect one from evil spells and magic.

Herbs in the Middle Ages

From the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment, herbal beliefs and practices were carried forward by way of folklore and midwives, as well as learned men like Nicholas Culpepper (who was responsible for aligning herbs with planetary elements). This period saw a melting pot of classically educated men who attempted to categorize and organize centuries of herbal knowledge and belief, and common people (especially midwives) who just knew the different uses of plants in their gardens because the knowledge had been passed down to them for generations. The aforementioned Culpepper actually authored a guide specifically for midwives, entitled Culpeper’s directory for midwives: or, A guide for women, showing that even those who were considered learned and intellectual recognized the incredible power of herbs and women.

Unfortunately, during this time there was a plethora of misinformation and superstition surrounding those who used herbs as part of their spiritual practice. Most of us have read about the persecution of women who were believed to be witches (again, mostly midwives). This went on from the 1400s through the mid 1700s in Europe, and in the late 1600s with the Salem Witch Trials in New England.

One fallout from this centuries long persecution of ‘witches’, was a moving away from the use of herbal folklore. This combined with a burgeoning scientific medical community that wished to separate itself from what they viewed as, at worse superstitious and at best unregulated, medicinal treatments provided by herbal treatments passed down in folklore. Instead of seeking out a wise man or woman (a shaman figure in eastern culture) or a midwife, people began to call on doctors who had been trained at universities to heal them. Herbal remedies still persisted, but they were relegated to more “backwoods” populations.

Cue the 20th century. As pharmaceutical companies began to chemically prepare medicines and sell them for high profits5, herbal medicine was pushed even further to the sidelines. Today, although herbalism has made somewhat of a revival thanks to a surge in interest in homesteading and homeopathic remedies, it is still thought of as a fringe belief.

Attuning to Herbs in the Modern Day

For those of us in the craft, this is nothing new. However this prevailing belief has made it more difficult for us in developing a background knowledge of why we use certain herbs to draw certain energies towards us. Again, we feel the energies of the herbs, but many of us lack knowledge about the herbs themselves, aside from what we read in witchcraft or Wicca books. To use herbs to their full power in spell and ritual work, we need to do more than just be told to use an herb for money or protection. We need to attune to the magickal energies within the herb. There are many ways to do this, but they do take some dedication and time. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Grow what you can! Pick one or two herbs that are good for multiple intentions, like mint or basil, and grow them. You can absolutely do this in a windowsill, pots, or garden if you have space. Take time to sit with your plants, smell them, talk to them, feel their energy. This will make your spells and rituals have even more depth and purpose.
  2. Spend time in nature. Try going on a walk and choosing a few plants to research. Many ‘weeds’ on the roadside are used in spells for important purposes. Clover, plantain, mugwort, and so many others can easily be found in most neighborhoods. (you probably don’t want to go picking these unless you’re sure they haen’t been sprayed with chemicals).
  3. Try different recipes for the Sabbats. View these as more than just food – view them as a way to get in tune with the season and the plants that are available at that time. This will help you develop a spiritual connection to the celebration and the herbs involved.
  4. Try herbal tea. Using specific herbs in tea will also help you develop a connection to their energies. You can make the preparation of the tea a ritual, or use the tea during your spellwork. Focus on tasting the different herbs and feeling the energies that come from different tea blends.
  5. Learn about the herbs before using them. If you want to work a spell that calls for mint, cinnamon, and lavender , research those herbs first. By learning their histories and uses, you will be more connected during your workings. Eventually, you’ll feel more comfortable picking your own herbs to use because you will have become attuned to which ones will help you manifest what your trying to achieve.

Even though we may not have been raised with gardens, herbal remedies, or any knowledge of herbal folklore, we are drawn towards the energy that is inherent in them. This is the pull of the magick. This is the part of us, the universal consciousness, that was apparent even in prehistoric eras. The part of us that feels at one as a creation of the universe. The one that recognizes how much power flows through the life force of plants, flowers, and herbs. Yes, we may use them for medicine, but even more than that, we know that they have their own distinct energies that help us align our intentions and manifest realities in our lives. Just as our ancestors did, we know that these aren’t just little meaningless weeds; they are living parts of this earth that hold magick much more ancient that we can conceive.

References

The Green Wiccan Herbal: 52 magical herbs, plus spells and witchy rituals1

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/3236332

https://greekerthanthegreeks.com/2016/09/12-important-aromatic-herbs-of-ancient.html3

https://remedygrove.com/supplements/Healing-Herbs-of-the-Ancient-Celts4

https://pharmaphorum.com/articles/a_history_of_the_pharmaceutical_industry/

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Cunningham’s Encyclopedia Series Book 1)

Lavender

Lavender’s green, diddle, diddle,

Lavender’s blue

You must love me, diddle, diddle,

cause I love you,

I heard one say, diddle, diddle,

since I came hither,

That you and I, diddle, diddle,

must lie together.

– Traditional English Folk Song 1672-1679

History of Lavender

Lavandula, commonly called lavender, is one of the most popular and widely cultivated herbs in existence. With its ethereal blue-purple hue and refreshing, clean scent, lavender has remained wildly popular for cosmetic, medicinal, and magickal purposes for the last 2000 years. From the Egyptians, to Victorian England, to the 21st Century, lavender has a long and magickal history.

Ancient Egypt

One of the oldest uses of lavender was by the ancient Egyptians. They used the herb in the mummification process, as well as in perfumes and ointments. Upon the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, decorative urns were found which contained residue that smelled strongly of lavender. It was thought that these containers had held a type of ointment that was only used by the wealthy and royal peoples as perfume and medicine, proving that among other herbs, lavender was considered important enough to be used by royalty. It was also said that Cleopatra used a lavender perfume to seduce Mark Antony.

Ancient Israel

Some sources claim that lavender is mentioned in the Bible as well. The assertion is that lavender went by the name of spikenard in the Bible, and that it was one of the plants that Adam and Eve took with them when they were banished from the Garden of Eden, that the woman who washes Jesus’s feet did so with lavender scented oil, and that lavender was also used to wash Jesus as an infant and after crucifixion. This however, is probably not true. It seems that spikenard and lavender are different plants (which look very similar), and due to translation issues, the two herbs have been confused. (This post has a good breakdown of the issue is you want to dive down that rabbit hole.)

Ancient Greece and Rome

Lavender was widely used in the ancient Mediterranean civilizations. In 77 AD, Greek physician and author Dioscorides, compiled one of the first major works of herbalism called De Materia Medica. In it, he recorded that soldiers used lavender to treat burns, wounds, and other skin issues. It was also used to relieve headaches, sore throats, and digestion problems. Pliny the Elder, another Greek writer, wrote that lavender had a number of uses, such as treating insect bites and mensural problems.

In ancient Rome, lavender was used most often as a washing and cleansing herb. In fact, the name lavender comes from the Latin “lavare” (to wash/bathe). Romans used lavender to perfume and clean their homes, air out sick rooms, as incense in religious rituals, as perfume for their bodies, and in their baths and soaps. Lavender was a precious commodity, costing 100 denarii for 1lb of the herb, which was roughly a months wages for a farmer.

The Middle Ages and Beyond

No doubt this love of lavender spread to the rest of Europe as the Roman Empire grew. As Romans began living in Central Europe and the British Isles, they brought lavender with them. It continued to be a popular herb. The knowledgeable nun, Hildegard Von Bingen, used lavender to get rid of lice and fleas. During the outbreaks of the Black Death in the 1400 and 1600s, lavender was used to freshen sickrooms, and placed inside of the “Bird Masks” that doctors wore to treat patients. It was believed to protect them from falling victim to the plague, and its beautiful scent masked the odor of death.

Long-used as a perfume, lavender was worn by ‘ladies of the night’ (uh-hem, prostitutes) to entice customers. Funnily enough, it was also sprinkled on the heads of young women to keep them chaste. Married women kept lavender near their beds to incite passion in their husbands, and maids were known to put lavender under their pillows to help them get a glimpse of their future husbands in their dreams. Lavender also had a strong association with protection, cleanliness, and relaxation. Even before the middle ages it was worn or carried by a person to ward off the evil eye, hung above doorways to ward off bad spirits, and used to induce sleep and calm.

These beliefs carried on through the Renaissance and Enlightenment. In the 1800s, lavender was sold on the streets in London to help protect travelers. Queen Victoria was enamored with the scent of lavender, so much so that she appointed a special position within her household to manage all her lavender affairs. Lavender was used throughout the royal chambers, and Victoria’s person. She had enormous influence on ladies of her society, making lavender one of the most sought after herbs for perfume and cosmetics, a trend that has still not fallen out.

More recently, the use of lavender to treat wounds has been explored. In 1910, René-Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist is said to have badly burned his hand. He reacted quickly, submerging his hand into a container of lavender oil nearby. This turned out to be a good decision, as the oil helped heal his wound quickly and with little scarring. He published a book about this observation, which had a large influence on the field of aromatherapy and using oils as healing agents. This also had a major impact on the use of lavender as a method of healing burns and wounds in WWI and WWI when other supplies ran low.

Today, lavender is used in many products. It is a popular scent for cosmetics, toiletries, room sprays, pillow sachets, and aromatherapy. Lavender has also been proven to elevate moods, help with sleep, create calm, relieve pain, and improve memory.

Magickal Uses

All of this history informs our magickal uses of lavender. The energies of lavender can be seen in all of these past medicinal and folkloric uses. Its association with cleanliness, calm, beauty, romance, and protection goes back hundreds, if not thousands of years. These people sensed the inherent value and energy in the herb and used it accordingly. Lavender can be used in many ways during spells and rituals. It’s energies promote:

  • Love
  • Purification
  • Protection
  • Sleep
  • Chastity
  • Longevity
  • Purification
  • Happiness
  • Peace
  • Divination
  • Psychic ability

The uses of lavender are endless in magick. I like to draw upon the innate energy and use it when that vibration is needed. You can use lavender in food to bring happiness and peace, keep lavender in your home for protection, use it to sprinkle moon (or otherwise blessed) water to purify a space, drink it in tea to increase psychic ability or promote calm, burn lavender or lavender scented candles (or a diffuser with lavender essential oil) for any of the above reasons. You can also use it in love/romance/happiness spells.

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Lavender Recipes

Below are links to some wonderful recipes that you can make to get more connected with the energies of lavender.

Lavender Moon Milk Popsicle

Lavender and Rosemary Imbolc Cake

Lavender Sugar


References

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. Scott Cunningham.

The Green Wiccan Herbal: 52 Magical Herbs, Plus Spells and Witchy Rituals. Silja.

https://www.healthline.com/health/lavender-history-plant-care-types#how-to-use-it-safely

https://sabbatsandsabbaths.com/2019/07/11/lavender-the-great-nard-controversy/

https://www.icysedgwick.com/lavender-folklore/

https://www.cachecreeklavender.com/history-of-lavender.html