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Notes from the Apothecary

April, 2019

Notes from the Apothecary: Chilli

Chili is a useful medicinal and magical plant. This spicy fruit is delicious in a variety of cuisines, from Mexican to Indian and many in between. Modern research has found many health benefits, and the modern witch can use chili for a range of spells and magics. Chili is a beautiful plant, with striking foliage and stunning, glossy fruits ranging from scarlet to shades so deep they’re nearly black- perfect for the inner goth! Read on to find out why chili is such a useful ingredient for mundane and magical use.

The Kitchen Garden

Not everyone likes spicy food, but chili pepper adds flavour as well as heat. It’s all about choosing the right chili and getting the quantities right. As this isn’t a cookery blog, I won’t go into too much detail- I could wax lyrical for days about the tastes of different chilies! But it’s worth noting that you can vastly remove the heat of any chili you want to cook with by removing the seeds.

We use scotch bonnets for when we want a deep, savoury flavour- often in dishes that are slow cooked as these chilies handle this really well. We use jalapenos to throw in to pasta or fajitas, or tiny birds eye chilies to add bite to Thai or Chinese food. I’m a total chili addict, and even when we don’t have fresh chilies in the house, I always have some dry habaneros for emergencies, plus a frankly ridiculous range of pepper sauces.

Currently, I even have some dried scorpion chili- not for the faint hearted!

Growing chilies is pretty easy if you have a hot, sunny garden, or a greenhouse, or a decent sized window-sill that catches the sun. I grow mine indoors as I live in a cool climate. I plant a few seeds in moist soil in a pot, cover them with a clear plastic bag or upside-down soda bottle, and wait for them to germinate. Once they have several leaves, I put them into individual pots. Then, it’s all about making sure they’re watered- but not too much- and have access to light. I also manually pollinate the flowers, in the absence of pollinators!

The Apothecary

Mrs Grieve refers to cayenne pepper in her Modern herbal, but also uses the synonyms bird pepper and African pepper, so it’s clear she’s talking about hot chilies in general. She states it is a powerful stimulant, and aids in digestion although it can also cause problems due to chili being an irritant. Indeed, one of the reasons hot chilies are added to food is to increase the stomach acid in order to kill more bacteria- useful in hot climes where it is hard to keep food cool and fresh.

She states that in the West Indies, a concoction called Mandram is made with chili, citrus, cucumber and onion as a remedy for weak digestion. Gargling with a tiny amount of chili in rose water was a remedy for sore throats or a relaxed uvula- not recommended without expert experience!

The Witch’s Kitchen

Cunningham tells us that chili is a masculine herb, rule over by Mars- no surprise, considering the fiery connotations! He also states it is one of the plants associated with fidelity and can be used to break hexes or reveal hidden things. One of the spells he shares is for when you fear your lover is straying. Cross two dried chili peppers then tie them with red or pink ribbon. Sleep with the peppers beneath your pillow to ensure your partner’s loyalty to you. Adding chili powder to love spells will ensure the love is passionate or ‘hot’.

Pueblo and Hopi tribes have used chili pepper in rituals, and Maya tribes believed the chili had healing and protective powers. Columbus was attacked with flaming chili bombs full of habaneros when he arrived in the ‘New World’- an appropriate response, really. There is a Zuni legend which tells the strange story of the origins of the chili plant. Thunder and lightning were stolen from the gods, and two youths played with them until the accidentally killed their grandmother. Where they buried her, the chili plant grew, its fruits imbued with the fiery power of her scolding tongue.

Chili flakes are used in Hoodoo to jinx an enemy, in various powders and dusts. Sprinkling chili around a rival’s home brings them bad luck and difficulties in life. Chili can cause break ups or make an unwanted guest leave. However, it’s also used for cleansing.

I Never Knew…

The Latin name capsicum is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘to bite’, referring to the spiciness when eaten.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors & Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways on Amazon