cottage witch

Notes from the Apothecary

May, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Honeysuckle

What a sweet name, conjuring images of bees and summer and jewel like flowers dripping with nectar, while butterflies gorge themselves on the sugary goodness. According to sacredwicca.com, honeysuckle is a Beltane flower, which makes sense as I remember the intricate blooms beginning to open in my grandparents’ yard around this time of year. We would sit in the pale English sun drinking in the smell of the nectar and the gently, bustling hum of honeybees. This exotic looking but fairly common plant holds a great deal of nostalgia for me, and the connection to my recent ancestors makes it an appropriate choice to write about at this other time when the veil is thin; Beltane, the opposite side of the wheel to Samhain, when the fae and their kin are strongest.

The Kitchen Garden…

Eat the Weeds tells us that honeysuckle is ‘iffy for foragers’, basically meaning that it’s one of those plants that has so many varieties, some of which are edible, some of which are not and some of which are downright poisonous. Because of this, if you are planning on cultivating honeysuckle for eating, you should ensure you absolutely know what variety you are growing. Lonicera japonica, or Japanese Honeysuckle, has leaves that can be boiled and eaten, and the flowers are so sweet and delicious they are enjoyed like candy. Lonicera villosa, or waterberry, has edible berries, but is often confused with variants which are not so tasty or even bad for you.

The upshot of this is, don’t eat any part of the honeysuckle plant unless you are one hundred percent sure that you have an edible variety. If in doubt, just don’t. Don’t be disappointed about the dubious edibility of this beautiful plant though. There are many great reasons to have a honeysuckle plant in your garden. As a climbing plant, it’s often used to hide unsightly walls or old fences, replacing urban grimness with nature’s treasure. As well as this, it attracts bees and butterflies, essential pollinators, filling your garden with colour and sound. This in will attract birds, and bats in some climates, so honeysuckle is a great addition to any wildlife garden.

Some species can be invasive, so it’s recommended to keep it away from fruit trees and the like as it can literally use their trunks as ladders to climb, which is not so healthy for your poor fruit trees. But with some liberal pruning when needed, honeysuckle is a beautiful, practical plant which brings a sweet fragrance and a splash of summer colour to any garden.

The Apothecary…

Mrs Grieve, in her Modern , tells us that there are over 100 species of honeysuckle but that only a dozen or so are used medicinally. She tells us that the fruits have emiticocathartic properties, a word which is not common in modern usage but presumably means honeysuckle berries can be used both as an emetic and a cathartic. Emetics cause the body to expel toxins, either by vomiting or defecating, and cathartic work solely on accelerating defecation. This sounds pretty grim, but emetics are often used if the patient is known to have ingested something toxic which needs to be expelled quickly. Of course, the berries cause vomiting because they themselves are toxic (some varieties; see above) so shouldn’t be consumed at all, really.

Other traditional remedies include using honeysuckle leaves or flowers as a diuretic, to ease asthmas, and to help with cramps and even bad skin.

The Witch’s Kitchen…

Honeysuckle is a climbing plant, and reminds us that we have to start at the bottom and work our way up. It is a symbol of perseverance, determination and hard work. Rev. Carol A. Ingle tells us that the plant is associated with the tarot card, The Chariot, allowing you to focus on having discernment, authority and mastery of any task at hand. She also recommends the use of honeysuckle in good luck spells and also bending others to your will. The plant is also great for protection magic.

Culpepper claimed it was a ‘herb of Mercury’. This plant, therefore, is often used in money magic, to attract wealth or new opportunities leading to better prosperity, such as luck for a new job interview. Mercury is also all about clear communication, so meditating on honeysuckle can allow you to open up your mind to allow the words you need to say to someone to come to the fore.

Named Féithleann in Irish, the plant is also known as the Irish Vine, so if you work with the Celtic Tree Calendar, honeysuckle is a great substitute for vine. Please note, I find the Celtic tree Calendar a thoroughly modern construct, as there is no evidence the Iron Age Celts followed a year split up into tree-based months, however it is a lovely construct and one that clearly means a great deal to many people. The magic of trees and plants cannot be disputed, and if this is a way that some practitioners connect with that magic, I have no problem with that. As long as it’s clear that it is not a reconstruction of what our Celtic ancestors followed it is inspired by their reverence for trees and plants, which in itself is a lovely idea.

Home and Hearth…

Irish folklore states that honeysuckle around the door of a home will prevent a witch from entering. Of course, the protective nature of the plant is actually that it will prevent negative energies from entering your house, so this is still great advice!

Bring honeysuckle flowers from your garden into the house to attract money. Keep the flowers in water, then as they start to wilt, immediately discard them, either in your compost disposal or in the eastern side of your garden if possible, to represent the manifestation of your desires.

I Never Knew…

Honeysuckle is much enjoyed by livestock, including chicken and goats. Indeed, the Latin name for one species, lonicera caprifolium, comes from the Latin for ‘goat’s leaf’.

Image credits: Lonicera x heckrottii ‘Gold Flame’ by Wouter Hagens, public domain; Lonicera caprifolium by Sten at Danish Wikipedia; Lonicera nigra by Nikolaus Joseph Jacquin (1727-1817), public domain.

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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 and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

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HearthBeats: Notes from a Kitchen Witch

May, 2009

Merry Meet and welcome to this months notes.. I apologize that chaos has ensued and I was unable to get my column in on time last month… and Loki is still hounding me.. but I am working around that.

I want to talk to you all this month about the seasons. Renewal and death.. as that is the season we are in now. It has just passed Ostara in the Northern Hemi and Mabon in the Southern Hemi, Beltane is fast approaching in the Northern hemi with Samhain coming on for the Southern hemi.

While we Northerners are preparing to plant and be fertile, We Southerners are settling in to the death of the year; the time when things get ready to rest for the coming season. But in reality it is just different stages of growth. For there always needs to be a time of rest . when you gather your strength for the great push towards fertility.

At this point many of us are doing the same things, raking the gardens, preparing them for the coming seasons, tending the plants, either new sprouts being hand tended in our homes or the aging almost finished plants of the end of the season. We are also tending our lives as well. Cleaning up our past issues, shaking things out and seeing what needs mending and care. Looking for what we can cut and get rid of as well as what we may need to plan on planting there for later.

Here are some herbs to assist in the “clean up” either to prepare to plant them (fresh herbs are better) or drying and saving for the year.
Agrimony
Protection, banishes negative energy, sleep
Benzoin resin
Prosperity, astral projection, purification.
Blessed Thistle
Purification, hex-breaking, protection from evil- removes unwanted influences, particularly of malevolent intent. Strew to cleanse buildings or rooms, beneficial in healing spell

Burdock

Rinse with a root decoction for ridding oneself of a gloomy feeling about yourself or others.
Cedar
Home purification, good fortune, luck.
Clove
Banishing, love.
Copal resin
Purification, cleansing.
Dandelion Leaf
Divining,Used in Samhain rituals. Sleep, protection, healing. A very nutritious and universally beneficial herb.
Dried Fig
Fertility, love spells- excellent ingredient in spell bags. Divining. Sacred to Dionysus, Juno and many others. Recommended for a Beltane altar. If placed on the doorstep before leaving it will ensure you will arrive home safely.
Hyssop
An excellent purifying herb. Use in purification baths and spells. Associated with serpents and dragons, and can be burned as an incense to call on dragon energy. Aids in physical and spiritual protection.
Rosemary
Cleansing, purification, exorcism

Sage
Purifying, use as incense during sacred rituals-walk the smoke to the four corners of the room to repel and rid negative energies and influences. Especially good when moving into a new home.
Scotch Broom Leaf
A Druid sacred tree. Use in purification and protection spells and scatter to exorcise evil spirits. Burn to calm the wind. The branches are used to make traditional besoms. Its smoke is a sedative. Use in moderation, can be toxic.

St. John’s Wort
Health, protection, strength, love divination, happiness, exorcism. A Druid sacred herb. Use in protection and exorcism spells and incenses of all kinds. Carry to strengthen your courage and conviction. Burn to banish negative thoughts and energies.
Valerian Root
Use for dream magick and sleep protection baths. Keep in the home or grow in the garden to aid in keeping harmony. May be used to purify a ritual space. Useful in consecrating incense burners.
Yarrow Flower
Use to dispell melancholy, negative energy, lingering sorrow, or depression. Carried as a sachet or amulet it repels or rids of negative influences. Aids in divination. Good remedy for colds. Opens the pores and purifies the blood. Said to prevent baldness as a hair wash.
These are just to name a few. I am sure that you all have some wonderful herbs I may have missed or even never thought to use.
I have used some of these in Rituals, ritual baths,sprays to disperse quickly and evenly around the house, mop water and just dotted around the room if I felt it just needed a boost. You can make sachets to place under cushions and pillows, to place in your dresser drawers, even to carry in your purse or pocket.  I will end this for now as I do not want to run on and on and on. As is my way..LOL

Until next time

Blessed Home and Hearth

The Hearthkeeper