What to Expect When You Get a Tarot Reading

When I went to get my first tarot reading I had major expectations. Just like many of us, I only knew what I had seen in the movies. As I parked my car and walked into the little metaphysical store in my hometown, I was nervous. What was she going to tell me? Did she hold the keys to my future? I wanted to know about my new business. I wanted to know about my love life. I wanted to know everything. As I walked inside, I pictured their little back room, dimly lit and filled with smoky incense, with a mysterious looking woman sitting at a table with a crystal ball and her tarot cards. I thought it would be just like in the movies and I would walk away knowing the secrets of my future.

The reality was much different. I was led to a somewhat open room filled with sunlight, where a woman with long, dark grey hair sat. She didn’t have a crystal ball (although their were a few small crystals on the table), and the air was stale but not smoky. I sat down across from my tarot reader, still unsure of what to say or do. When she asked if I had any questions, my inner cynic kicked in. Why would she need to know my questions? I thought she’d just ‘know’ the secrets of my life and that once I sat down all would be clear to her and she’d tell me the things I needed to know.

Unfortunately, this expectation led me to be completely closed off and judgmental during my reading. I listened, but barely engaged with what she was saying to me. I looked for any reason to discredit her impressions, and didn’t ask any clarification questions or even try to look at the cards for any personal connections. I left feeling underwhelmed and annoyed at the money I’d spent, and completely let down from my earlier expectations.

So here’s the thing. It wasn’t this tarot reader’s fault. I think she did her job well, but there was one thing she could have done differently that might have changed the reading from what I assume was an uncomfortable experience for her and disappointing one for me, to a more uplifting and beneficial reading for both of us.

That is what my goal is with the rest of this post. I’m going to tell you a few things I wish someone would have told me before my first reading. If you’ve never had one, then this article is a must for you, but even if you’ve gotten several readings you may find this post helpful in assessing whether you’ve gotten all you can out of your readings. Perhaps if she’d asked if I’d ever had a reading before and talked to me about what I could expect, I wouldn’t have been so wrapped up in my ideas and been able to listen and work with the messages she communicated.

So without further ado, here are 5 things to expect when you get a tarot reading:

  1. Expect possibilities rather than prophecies: This is a big one. As I said, many of us expect the tarot reader (or the cards) to tell us what IS GOING TO HAPPEN. I’m sure I’ll go more in-depth on this one in another post, but here I’ll just say that you shouldn’t go into a reading expecting this. First of all, all tarot readers aren’t psychics. Most tarot readers only make generalized statements about the way current dynamics in your life are being portrayed in the cards. They can show you possible outcomes, not absolutes. They can help you explore options, but they won’t (and shouldn’t) tell you something about your future is set in stone. The future is malleable and can easily shift from one outcome to another based on many factors. Therefore, try not to go in expecting to KNOW your future, but maybe to explore paths your future might take.
  2. Expect to interact with the reader: Right, so if you’re like me, you might go in expecting the reader to “see” everything in the cards. I think this is a mistake and a hindrance to a fulfilling reading. Everyone has a different reading style, but if your tarot reader asks if you resonate with a certain word, symbol, phrase, or message, try to be open in your answer. Readings are all about connection and the more open your energy and willingness to connect with both the cards and the reader, the more you’ll get out of it. Of course a tarot reader isn’t your therapist, nor are they your “friend”, so feel out how much to share and discuss, but some openness and interaction is helpful.
  3. Expect to do some reflection on your reading: During a reading, your tarot reader is deciphering messages they see in the cards. Some of these messages are going to sound confusing or you may have trouble relating to them, others will feel important, but you may still be unable to connect them to your specific question or situation. It’s okay to ask for clarification or context from the reader. It is also ok to sit with these messages during and after the reading to flesh them out and make them make sense. Again, readings aren’t absolute, nor to they tell the future, so many times it takes reflection on the images or messages for them to hit the spot. This can be fairly soon after, or sometimes even months when something will hit you.
  4. Expect different set-ups/reading styles: There are tarot readers who love all of the bells and whistles associated with tarot. There are readers who prefer to read in a very ‘professional’ or business-like environment. There are readers who want a lot of context for your question, and those who don’t even want you to ask a question. Some readers only do in-person readings, others prefer videos online, while others only work by digital/email means. Every reader is different. Try not to have expectations on this front. Tarot readers all look different, read different, prepare differently, cut their decks differently, etc. You may have to try a few before you find one you really resonate with. Just don’t discount anyone based on your preconceived notions of what a tarot reader and their set-up should look like.
  5. Expect the unexpected: Tarot readings are full of surprises. You can ask about career and get several messages about love. You can be in a troubled relationship and get a reading that says everything will work out, while you could also be starting a new hopeful relationship and get a reading which says run for the hills. The beauty of tarot is that with these unexpected twists of energies and messages, we become aware of parts of our lives, patterns, and behaviors that we may be ignoring or focusing on too much. On another note, if you go into a tarot reading expecting a specific outcome or message, you run the risk of being hurt or disappointed if the cards say something different. Try to go into the reading with no expectations about what the cards will say, and be open minded about the messages you receive.

I hope this post helped you in having realistic expectations for the tarot readings you receive. I think when you remove previous and potentially biased ideas and expectations, your reading will be much more fruitful and worthwhile. You’ll get more out of them and be able to interact with the reading in a more helpful way.

I plan on writing a follow-up to this post about what NOT to expect during a tarot reading, so come back to check it out!

If you’d like to check out my reading style visit my YouTube channel:

If you’d like a personal reading: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LavenderMoonTeaTarot

Mint

For she had said that she was nobler of form and more excellent in beauty than dark-eyed Persephone and she boasted that Aidoneus would return to her and banish the other from his halls : such infatuation leapt upon her tongue. And from the earth spray the weak herb that bears her name.

Oppian, Halieutica

History of the Mint Plant

From its mythological origins to its ubiquitous use in everything from cocktails, to toothpastes, to desserts, the menthe plant has been used by people for centuries. Easy to grow, sometimes invasive, but always fragrant, mint is the jack-of-all-trades of the magickal herb world.

Mythological Origins

Mint has a really cool origin story. According to Greek mythology, there lived a Naiad, a type of water nymph, who was the daughter of Cocytus the river god. This nymph’s name was, Minthe, and she was extremely beautiful. She resided near the river that flowed through the underworld and at some point caught Hades’ (the god of the underworld) eye.

One version of the story says that Minthe and Hades became lovers and when Persephone found out her husband had a relationship with Minthe, she turned the nymph into a mint plant. Another version states that Persephone caught Minthe trying to seduce Hades, and turned her into mint before he could be unfaithful. Either way, the beautiful naiad was turned into a mint plant, growing fragrant and beautiful near the river.

Historical Origins

Factually, it is believed that mint originated from the Mediterranean region and was brought to England by the Romans. In a work published in 1440 by John Gardiner (a pseudonym) called Feate of Gardening, mint was referred to as ‘myntys‘. It is believed to have been brought to North America by the Puritans settlers in New England and was recorded as one of the plants in the colony in the 17th century.

In the Bible, mint is mentioned as one of the herbs and spices used to pay tithes by the Pharisees. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus tells them, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters…”. This tells us that mint (in this case probably horse mint) was an herb of value in ancient Jerusalem.1

Different Varieties of Mint

Mint is an extremely varied herb. There are apparently over 600 crossbreeds of the menthe plant. The two most popular are Mentha piperita and Menthe spicata, peppermint and spearmint. There are also popular varieties such as apple mint, pineapple mint, chocolate mint, and even licorice mint. There are other less known mints, such as horse mint, and other plants such as pennyroyal, are actually members of the mint family.

Historical Uses for Mint

Mint’s most famous medicinal use centers around digestion and stomach issues, but it was used to help with many other issues. English herbalist John Gerard wrote that “it is good against watering eyes and all manner of breakouts on the head and sores”, as well as wasp and bee stings. He is also quoted as saying that mint’s aroma “rejoice the heart of man”. It was used in herbal baths to “comfort and strengthen the nerves and sinews”, and it was also used to treat hiccups and flatulence.

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It seems that mint has been used as a tooth whitening and mouth freshening herb for centuries. As early as the 13th century, written records of toothpaste recipes have been found, although the practice is most definitely much older. Plucking a mint leaf off the plant and chewing it was an ancient method of achieving fresh breath.

Ancient Romans used mint to scent their arms and garnish their table settings, and the Greeks (to tie into the Minthe & Persephone myth) used mint during funeral rites to mask the scents associated with death. It was also an ingredient in kykeon, a drink associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries, a ritual of death and rebirth experienced by initiates in ancient Greece.

According to this source there is another myth regarding mint:

Two strangers were visiting a village but were greeted with serious attitude. The villagers didn’t welcome them or offer them food or a place to stay. Finally, an old couple in the village invited the strangers in. Philemon and Baucus offered to feed the strangers. Before the meal, the couple rubbed down their table with mint to give it a clean and fresh scent. After receiving such hospitality, the strangers revealed themselves to be Zeus and Hermes. Zeus and Hermes turned the couple’s home into a temple and mint became a symbol of hospitality as a result.

Natural Society.com, The Mythology of Mint: A Healing Herb

Interesting to think about how most hotels offer “hospitality mints”!

In the culinary world, mint is just as versatile. Romans flavored sauces, wines, and meats with mint. Spearmint was added to milk to lengthen the shelf-life before refrigeration. Mint is used to make jellies and sauces (usually spearmint), and during the American Revolution spearmint is said to have been an important crop, as it was untaxed and used by colonists to make tea.2

Peppermint is more often used to flavor teas, candies, and desserts. Mint and chocolate are often combined, and popular candies, like candy canes, are known for their strong peppermint flavor. Peppermint tea is commonly used to help in digestion, but also as a pick-me-up sort of tea.

Magickal Properties of Mint

As I mentioned, mint is a jack-of-all-trades kind of herb. Taking into consideration its many uses and correspondences, it can be used in several different types of magick, such as:

  • bringing a ‘fresh’ approach or attitude
  • attracting money (although the etymology is different, ‘mint’ is closely associated with mints where money is produced)
  • Prophetic dreams
  • Heighten awareness and mental clarity
  • Success and luck
  • Personal strength
  • Cleans and purify
  • Verbal communication (presentations, discussions, performances)
  • Love
  • Ancestor/work relating to the underworld/death

Taking these properties into account, you can do almost any kind of spellwork with mint. Mint serves to strengthen, heighten, and clarify intentions. You can carry fresh mint leaves to attract prosperity, drink peppermint tea to awaken and clarify your mind, and keep it around your house for protection. Use peppermint essential oil (with a carrier oil) on your temples to enhance awareness and physic energies, or use it in a diffuser to cleanse a space. With its bright leaves, distinctive aroma, easily attainable status, mint is an essential in the herbal witch’s cabinet.

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Mint Recipe

The easiest way to connect with the energetic properties of mint is to brew a cup of peppermint tea, however I feel as thought that would be cheating…so I’ve provided a really nice recipe that should help you experience how mint can mix with other unexpected flavors to bring out unique tastes.

Strawberry Cucumber Mint Salad

References

1https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/encyclopedia-of-the-bible/Mint

2https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spearmint

Calendula

This Riddle, Cuddy, if thou can’st, explain,

This wily Riddle puzzles ev’ry Swain.

What Flower is that which bears the Virgin’s Name,

The richest Metal joined with the same?

John Gay

History of Calendula

Known by its more famous name, Marigold, this versatile and celebrated herb has long been tied to various religions and religious ceremonies throughout the world. Common to many gardens, the Marigold blooms well into the colder months of the year, and is tied to the magick of the sun. The calendula’s history is as rich and deep as the gold color of its petals.

So Calendula v. Marigold?

One of the first things to consider about this herb is to understand the difference between the marigolds that go by the name calendula versus other kinds of marigolds.

Our focus here is the Calendula officianalis. Often this type of marigold is called a “pot marigold”, “common marigold”, “ruddles” or “Scotch marigold”. It belongs to the Calendula genus and is thought to be native to Europe. These are the typical marigold, with flat leaves and often a yellow or gold coloring.

Other marigolds are from the Tagetes genus. They are different in shape and are often called French Marigolds. These flowers are the type used in religious ceremonies in India and most famously, on offrendas and decorations for Día de Los Muertos in Mexico. This flower is more round and ‘frilly’ than the calendula variety.

Although I am focusing on the calendula variety today, separating the many, many, different types of marigolds is almost impossible. When I refer to ‘marigold’ in this post, I am referring to calendula, unless otherwise specified =).

What’s In a Name?

Tracing down the origins of how the calendula got its name is quite an adventure. Because calendula is also known as marigold, both name origins must be traced. Luckily, both are filled with interesting folklore and etymological evolutions. Both of these names also helps us understand this herb and it’s energetic properties.

Calendula

The name calendula comes from the Latin term “kalendae”, which refers to the first day of the new moon, which in the Roman calendar was the first day of the month. The calendula is a plant which flowers constantly, and it got its name from the fact that it would flower and bloom almost every day of the month – hence the named “the calendar flower”1.

Like the dandelion, calendula is a sun flower. It opens its flower in the morning, turns its head and follows the sun all day, and closes its petals in the late afternoon.

Marigold

Because the common name of calendula is marigold, the history of how it came to be is more, shall we say…entangled.

The old Anglo-Saxon word merso-meargealla, meaning “Marsh Gold”, refers to a type of marigolds that grow near wet, boggy marshes. The meargealla part of the name was taken and used to refer to marigolds that grew in different conditions. There was also an Anglo Saxon word ymbglidegold, which referred to the same flower because it was “that which moved round with the sun”. To make matters more confusing (or interesting!), an ancient Latin word (solsequium – the sun follower) changed into the Old French soulsi, which changed to sponsa solis (bride of the sun), to Mariée (bride) solis = Mariée-gold (bride of the sun).

In English, marigold was sometimes spelled “Marygold” or “Mary Gowle”. These names especially refer to the flower’s associated with the Virgin Mary in Christianity. One association is that the Mary part of the word refers to the mother of Jesus, while the gold portion refers to Christ himself (i.e. Christ is Mary’s gold, golden child, etc.). It is also observed that the arrangement of the petals appear like rays of light emanating like a halo from Mary’s head, a symbol of her sacrifice for God and his benevolence upon her. One of the most fun ties to Mary however, is the story involving her new family (baby Jesus and hubby Joseph) on the run to Egypt. As they fled in the night from Herod’s wrath, robbers attacked. They grabbed Mary’s (ancient equivalent to a purse) but instead of finding riches inside, they found calendula flowers – Mary’s Gold.

Medicinal and Culinary Uses

Calendula was quite the popular herb when it came to cooking. Known as the “herb-general of all pottage“, calendula was often thrown in pots on the fire to add taste, color, and texture to meals. Marigolds were used to flavor and color cheese, and as ingredients in herbal butters.

Because of their pungent smell, especially the Targetes genus, marigolds are often kep in gardens to keep pests away. The use of calendula infused oils and balms make great lip ointments and bug bite creams. Calendula is known to help heal and sooth minor cuts and abrasions, and calendula salves are especially effective for cracked, dry skin. In the past, Romans used it to treat scorpion bites and Egyptians used it to moisten and rejuvenate their skin.

In Folklore

In A Winter’s Tale Shakespeare writes, “…the Marigold that goes to bed with the sun, and rises with him weeping”. Indeed, the marigold sometimes ‘woke’ in the morning with dew on their petals and when it dripped off it looked if they’d been crying. In German folklore marigolds were said to predict rain if they stayed closed past 7 a.m.

Calendula was used as a protective herb, and was used to keep out disease, robbers, and evil spirits. It was also thought to help in prophetic dreaming. By taking a bath in calendula flowers, it was thought that the bright petals would bring you wealth and admiration from others. Nicholas Culpepper described calendula as “comforter of the heart and spirits.”

In Indian Culture

Calendula, both in ancient times and the present, is used in India as part of many celebrations such as weddings, festivals, funerals, and other religious rituals. The flowers are made into garlands and placed around holy statues as offerings and adornments. Representing peace, beauty, and serenity, the calendula is a revered herb in the culture.

In Mexican Culture

In Mexico, the marigold (in this case the Tagetes genus) is more closely associated with death. One myth says that the flower grew from the blood that was spilt by Spanish invaders in the 1600s. It was used extensively and in magickal workings by the Aztecs and is now synonymos with Dia de los Muertos, where it is used to decorate offrendas, to make offereings to ancestors, in hair and clothing, and on special breads and cakes made for the day. It is actually refered to as “Flor de Muerto” (flower of the dead).

In Magickal Workings

For modern witches, calendula has many uses, both in spellcraft and ritual. In fact, its magickal properties are as varied as the plant itself. Calendula can be used for:

  • Sun magick
  • Legal issues
  • protection
  • consecration
  • Psychic powers
  • Longevity
  • Love
  • Positivity
  • Admiration
  • Wealth
  • Opportunity
  • Friendship

You might buy/harvest calendula flowers to place in a vase to bring peace and harmony to a workspace, or grow them around your house for protection and positivity. Place some calendula under your pillow for prophetic dreams, or better yet, drink a calendula infused tea to really get that psychic energy flowing. Use calendula in prosperity work, in love work, and in sun magick. Make a charm bag with calendula to carry with you if you’re headed to court for extra luck. The possibilities with calendula are endless!

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Calendula Recipes

This week’s recipies include one food and one body balm. Both of them are easy to make and will help you connect to the sunny, healing, and rich energy of calendula.

Easy Calendula Salve

Calendula & Marjoram Herb Butter

To prepare 1/2 cup of herb butter, soften 1 stick of unsalted butter. Finely chop the calendula petals and marjoram leaves, about 2 to 3 tablespoons of flowers and herbs to 1/2 cup butter is a good ratio. Blend the herbs with the butter. I like to add 1 tablespoon of olive oil; it gives the butter a more spreadable texture and a good flavor. You may want to add a bit of salt or pepper, lemon juice, or even minced garlic or shallots, depending on how you are going to use the butter. Pack into a small crock and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

–Susan Belsinger (found on pg. 34 of “CALENDULA
An Herb Society of America Guide
” 2007

The Wheel of the Year Series: Lughnasadh

Hoof and horn, hoof and horn,

All that dies shall be reborn.

Corn and grain, corn and grain,

All that falls shall rise again.

-Ian Corrigan, “Hoof and Horn”

It’s the first of August. The sun beats down its golden light on the earth, bringing into fullness all the crops of the summer. Wheat, blackberries, corn, mushrooms, flowers, and plants are all in their full ripeness, ready to be harvested. This magickal time of year is the winding down of summer into what will become fall. It is a time to continue enjoying the bright sunshine and warm weather, but to begin gathering crops for the long cold months ahead.

The first harvest celebration on the Wheel of the Year is Lughnasadh (or Lammas). It is an almost overlooked celebration in modern times, but I find that each year, this is the Sabbat which renews my energies and brings me closer to the earth and nature. It’s always held some kind of special magick for me, and I hope to impart some of that to you in this post. I’ll be talking about the differences between the two names for this celebration, the symbols, themes, and correspondences, as well as ways that you can celebrate Lughnasadh at home.

History of Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh is an ancient Gaelic festival which celebrates the first harvest of the season. The festival is named after the Celtic god, Lugh, who was honored at this time. Although Lugh was long considered a sun god, the emerging belief is that he was more likely a storm/lightening god, a god of skills, and a warrior. In Irish mythology, Lugh instituted the “Assembly of Talti”, a kind of olympic games on August 1st, in honor of his foster mother Tailtiu who died tending to all the crops of the land. Some stories tell of an epic battle between Lugh and the spirits who wanted to keep the harvest for themselves. During this battle, Lugh uses his spear (which could turn into lightening) to defeat these evil spirits and thus winning the harvest for mankind. This celebratory festival is what we now know as Lughnasadha. The ancient celts came together on or around August 1st to participate in games and contests, trading, matchmaking, and feasting. They would also climb the highest hill in the area to be as close to the sun as possible, and pay tribute to Lugh who saved the crops.

History of Lammas

Lammas is an Anglo-Saxon festival that was probably influenced by the Lughnasadh celebration. The term Lammas is a derivative of “loaf mass”, referring to Loaf Mass Day, an Anglo Saxon practice during which the first wheat from the harvest was baked into a loaf of bread, carried into a mass ceremony, blessed, and shared among the townspeople. They also used the blessed bread protect the stored grain by placing four pieces of it in four corners of a barn or storehouse. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle referred to this celebration as “the feast of the first fruits”, and although it was a religious day, the practice probably predates Christianity. The figure of John Barleycorn is closely associated with this celebration, and his dying and returning mimics the dying and returning of Lugh in Irish mythology.

Themes of Lughnasadh

If we think about the mythology and festivities of Lughnasadh, we can come up with some of the themes for this Sabbat. It is helpful to meditate on these themes in your own life, and in the cycle of the Earth.

  • Harvesting
  • Bountifulness
  • Abundance and prosperity
  • Change and transformation (a seasonal change is coming)
  • Manifestation
  • Hard work paying off
  • Gathering

Symbols of Lughnasadh

  • Corn and corn dollies
  • Wheat
  • Grain
  • Barley
  • Cornucopias
  • Sunflowers
  • Harvesting tools (scythes, hoes, baskets)
  • Cauldrons
  • Bread
  • Berries (especially later summer berries like blackberries)

Correspondences of Lughnasadh

Some of the correspondences for Lughnasadah & Lammas are as follow:

Stones: citrine, carnelian, tiger’s eye, lodestones, obsidian, amber, adventurine

Colors: Golds, golden yellows, ambers, shimmering bronzes, tanned browns, deep greens

Herbs: Basil, calendula, rosehips, blackthorn, cornflower, poppy, sunflower, vervain, blackberry, yarrow, heather, goldenrod

Foods & Drinks: honey, jams, grapes, hearty cut of beef, beer, mead, wine, pies and cobblers, ciders, ales, berries, nuts, grains, breads, onions, garlic, mushrooms, potatoes

Magick: Rituals to honor Lugh, rituals to honor the sacrifice the Earth is making, spells that have to do with manifesting, harvesting different aspects of your life, reinforcing long-term spell work, getting spiritually ready for the darker months to come, recognizing your skills, or gathering/reaping from the works you’ve already done

Ways to Celebrate Lughnasadh

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 the original festival but 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 Lughnasadh, 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.

  • Light yellow, green, or brown candles on an altar. Meditate on one of the themes.
  • Buy sunflowers, marigolds, or wheat and keep the arrangement on a table or altar.
  • Read a mythological story about Lugh
  • Listen to a song that talks about harvesting (this post has a wonderful list of songs)
  • Read the story of John Barleycorn
  • Make corn dollies (keep these until Samhain and bury or burn)
  • Have a feast to celebrate with some of the foods
  • Drink Lughnasadh Tea
  • Pick berries (or buy some if you don’t have access in the wild)
  • Bake Bread (my rosemary bread recipe is below)
  • Climb a hill
  • Have a mini festival at your home (play yard games, give metals, etc.)
  • Drink wine, mead, beer
  • Perform a spell or ritual related to Lughnasadh themes
  • Recognize your skills and set intentions for new skills you’d like to learn

Rosemary Bread Recipe

1 1/4 ounces active dry yeast

2 tsp sugar

2 1/2 cups flour

2 tbsp rosemary

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup warm water

Gently mix yeast, sugar, 1/4 cup of the water. Let sit until foamy.

Add in the olive oil, flour, 1 1/2 tbsp rosemary, salt, and rest of water and stir until dough comes together.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes Cover with a cloth and let rise for 2 hours.

Form it into desired shape, then let it sit another two hours covered.

Bake at 400 degrees until done, which should be about one hour. Brush top with a little oil (or melted butter) and sprinkle remaining rosemary on top.

Let cool and enjoy!


References

https://mythopedia.com/celtic-mythology/gods/lugh/

Witch’s Wheel of the Year: Rituals for Circles, Solitaries & Covens. Jason Mankey. Llewellen Publications. 2019.

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.

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

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