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Notes from the Apothecary

June 1st, 2019

Notes
from the Apothecary: Allspice

Allspice
is the fruit of pimento dioica, a type of myrtle tree. It was
discovered by Columbus on the island of Jamaica, but is also native
to many more islands in the Caribbean plus much of central America.
P. dioica is now cultivated around the world wherever the
climate is warm enough.

Allspice
is also known as the Jamaica Pepper, the Myrtle Pepper, or pimenta.

The
Kitchen Garden

Growing
allspice yourself can be tricky if you don’t live in a climate
similar to that of the West Indies. It’s possible to get the tree
to grow in cooler climates, but often it will not bear fruit. A
solution to this can be to grow the plant indoors, or in a
greenhouse.

The
allspice tree is dioecious, which means at least two plants are
needed for pollination and fertilisation in order to get fruit. The
plant can be grown from seeds or cuttings.

The
name allspice was first coined by the English in the 1600s, due to
the flavour which is reminiscent of a combination of nutmeg, cloves
and cinnamon. Today, allspice is used in a variety of cuisines, from
Jamaican, to Greek, to Middle Eastern. A little goes a long way- this
berry-like spice has a strong and unique flavour, so use sparingly.
Used in sauces, pickles, stews, and in sweet dishes like cakes.

The
Apothecary

Allspice
has been used historically in Western medicine to help with a range
of ailments and complaints. Properties of allspice include:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antiseptic
  • Anaesthetic
    (the chemical eugenol is present, used by dentists as local
    anaesthetic)
  • Carminative
  • Rubefacient
  • Aromatic
  • Antifungal
  • Antimicrobial

This
is just scratching the surface of the myriad ways allspice has been
used medically throughout the ages.

In
Traditional Chinese Medicine, allspice is known as Duo Xiang Guo and
is used to ease painful menstrual cramps, arthritic joints, digestive
problems and nausea.

The
Witch’s Kitchen

Unsurprisingly,
allspice is associated with fire, most likely due to its spicy and
fragrant nature. Cunningham associates the plant with healing, luck
and wealth, and suggests burning it as an incense to attract money
and good fortune.

Allspice
is thought to enhance the mood, so can be used in magic to ward off
negativity and improve self-confidence, or simply to raise one’s
spirits.

Allspice
is associated with chance and gambling, so if you like cards or play
the lottery, allspice could give you the edge. Combine it with other
financially lucky herbs or spices such as chamomile or nutmeg.

In
Mayan culture, allspice was one of the herbs used for embalming the
dead. This connection to the dead or the transition to the next world
could make allspice a key ingredient for incense when communing with
ancestors or others who have passed beyond.

Allspice
is generally considered masculine, so may be used in the honouring of
fiery, male presenting deities such as Mars, Aries, Horus, or Nergal.

Home
and Hearth

In
hoodoo, allspice can be used to bring success to a business. Start
outside the business premises, with a bucket full of water mixed with
a mixture of allspice, saltpetre and sugar. Move the mop across the
boundary of the business premises, and go right through the building
until you come out the back, if possible. The combination of magical
herbs and ingredients will draw money, luck, and protect from
mischief.

I
Never Knew…

Allspice
trees can grow up to 18 metres in height, and are sometimes used to
shade and protect coffee plants growing beneath the canopy.

Images: Pimenta Dioica, public domain; Allspice Seeds by Brian Arthur shared with kind permission under the GNU Free Documentation License.

***

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

Notes
from the Apothecary: Star Anise

Star
anise is a beautiful, fragrant spice from China and Vietnam often
used in cooking and medicine. The Latin name is illicium verum.
The fruits are green and resemble star-shaped flowers when first
picked. When they are dried, the fruits harden and turn a dark,
reddish brown and the star shape becomes more prominent. The ‘arms’
of the star pop open to revel smooth, shiny brown seeds.

The
whole fruit is used as a seasoning for many different types of
cuisine, most notably in the Chinese five spice mix which is widely
used in Oriental cooking. The star shape makes this fruit immediately
intriguing as a magical ingredient. The powerful, aniseed-like scent
speaks of mystery and wonder, whether it’s rising from a specially
seasoned morning coffee or some carefully crafted incense. Read on
for more information on how star anise is used in medicine and magic.

The Apothecary

The
first point in using star anise as a medicine is to ensure it is
never confused with Japanese star anise. Japanese star anise, or
illicium anisatum, is also known as the Sacred Tree and is
highly revered by Buddhists. The leaves are used as incense, but the
fruits and seeds are highly toxic. Unfortunately, it’s almost
impossible to tell the difference between dried Japanese and Chinese
star anise fruit. Because of this, it’s important to purchase your
star anise from a reputable and experienced supplier. Alternatively,
if you’re able to grow your own, this is the safest way forward. If
in doubt, do not consume, as the toxic substance anisatin causes
severe inflammation of the urinary and digestive tracts. Chinese star
anise is the only edible variety and the only variety that should be
used for medicinal purposes.

Now
that the dire warnings are out of the way, the good news is that
Chinese star anise is incredibly medicinally important. It’s one of
the primary source of shikimic acid which is used in anti-influenza
drugs. There are many sources of shikimic acid, but star anise is so
relied upon that when there is a serious flu outbreak, global
shortages of the spice tend to occur.

Web
MD states that star anise is also used for a range of ailments
including colic and other digestive issues, coughs, bronchitis and
congestion. It may be useful as a galactagogue; a substance that
promotes the flow of breast milk. However, it should be avoided
during pregnancy as can affect the uterus.

Mrs
Grieve states in her Modern Herbal that the oil from Chinese star
anise is identical to oil of anise, from the unrelated anise plant.
This is why the two plants have such a similar taste. Many animals
are highly attracted to anise oil. Hunt saboteurs have been known to
use it to throw hounds off the trail of a pursued fox or hare, and it
has historically been used in mouse traps as bait.

The Witch’s Kitchen

In
The Green Wiccan Herbal by Silja, star anise is one of the 52
herbs she focuses on as important tools of magic. The author states
that star anise is an herb of the element of air. This means it would
make a beautiful addition to the eastern point of an altar or sacred
space, and an ideal ingredient for any incense.

Star
anise is associated with the planet Jupiter, associated with
expansion and luck (Practical Planetary Magick, David Rankine and
Sorita d’Este)
. Jupiter has historically been known as
beneficent and positive, meaning plants associated with it, such as
star anise, can be used for magic with a positive leaning. Jupiter is
also associated with law and ethics, meaning it can be connected to
justice and doing the right thing. Use star anise to gain success in
business ventures or new projects.

Star anise is also linked to Apollo and Hermes, making it a tool of poetry, music, traveling and communication. Music and poetry can, of course, be tools for communication, which makes me wonder if this is one of star anise’s strongest traits. Perhaps a witch could use star anise to find different ways to deliver a difficult message, or to open up about something they’re having a hard time expressing.

Silja
links this plant to magic for consecration and purification, which
can be done via incense or scattering the seeds. The author also
states the spice can be used for breaking curses and removing
negativity, particularly when used in food.

Home and Hearth

Press
a whole star anise into a green or gold candle. Use a blob of melted
wax to stick it there, or ensure the candle is soft before you do
this. Any time you need to do something regarding prosperity or
wealth, light the candle and meditate on the flame for a moment. This
could be a visit to the bank, a job interview, a business meeting or
even a yard sale. The star anise combined with the coloured candle
magic will boost your chances at success and prosperity. (Paraphrased
from The Green Wiccan Herbal by Silja.)

Kitchen
witches should add star anise into their recipes for a boost of
humour and joviality in their lives. Indian cookery is great for
this. My favourite is a biryani; a fragrant rice dish with whole star
anise.

I
Never Knew…

The
Latin name for Chinese star anise, illicium verum, originates
from illicio which means ‘alluring’. This refers to the
irresistible scent of the fruit.

Image
credits: guangxi – star anise farm in china 2005 by fuzheado via
Wikimedia
Commons
, licensed under the Creative
Commons
Attribution-Share
Alike 2.0 Generic license
.

***

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: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways
.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

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

Notes from the Apothecary: Mandrake

As we approach Samhain, I like to examine an herb or plant that has particular links to the season. Last year I explored the magic of the pumpkin, an obvious choice for the Halloween season. This year I wanted to dive deeper into folklore and magic, and the mandrake has been my mystical plant of choice.

Immortalised by J. K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series as the shrieking stars of herbology, the image of the human-like root screaming actually goes back to at least the 12th century. A medieval manuscript describes how the plant ‘shines at night like a lamp’ and that iron must be used to circle the plant to prevent it escaping, although the iron should never touch the plant. Other texts note that a dog must be used to pull the root up which, let me tell you, does not end well for the dog. Surrounded by magic, mystery, myth and superstition, this plant has a rich tradition of medicinal use and is a popular tool of modern witches and magical practitioners.

The Kitchen Garden


The true mandrake, mandragora officinarum, should never be eaten. It is hallucinogenic and narcotic, and can cause unconsciousness and even death. Sometimes people use bryonia alba, the false mandrake, as a substitute for mandragora. This plant is also highly poisonous. Another substitute is American Mandrake, which is poisonous in parts. Basically, if you come across anything purporting to be mandrake, don’t eat it!

The plants are beautiful, with springtime flowers of blue and white, and summer fruits sometimes known as devil’s apples. It needs really well drained soil to support those enormous roots, which can grow up to four feet in length. It also needs warm conditions and a good bit of sunshine to thrive, and a good quality compost for nutrients. Grown the plant well away from anywhere children and pets have access to. They can be grown from seed, or by separating the tubers.

The Apothecary

Six cures are described in the mediaeval Harley manuscript. One was for headaches and insomnia, whereby a salve of mandrake leaf juice was plastered to the head. Another was for earaches, and the juice was mixed with oil and poured directly into the ear. Another was a remedy for severe gout, but as it was administered in wine, I’m unsure how effective this would have been! Mandrake was also recommended for epilepsy, cramps and even colds.

Dioscorides, in his materia medica, also advised the plant was used to help insomniacs, but also that it seemed to have sedative and even anaesthetic properties. He did point out that ingesting too much was deadly!

Mrs Grieve states that the leaves are harmless and cooling and used to soothe ulcers, while the root and its bark is a strong emetic.

The Witch’s Kitchen

There is a belief that the mandrake only grew under the place where someone had been hanged. This gives it a dark association with death, possibly criminal activity, but also the oddly positive aspects of corporal punishment: law, order and justice. Called ‘little gallows man’ in Germany, the mandrake can be a symbol of ridding yourself of something you no longer need; of doling out ‘punishment’ to the things in your life you wish to drive away from you.

Dioscorides believed the root could be used in love potions.

The human like shape of the root speaks of transformation and hidden things. The mandrake reminds us not to judge a book by its cover, and that things are not always how they seem. We should always look twice, or as Terry Pratchett wrote, we should open our eyes, then open our eyes again.

In folklore, the cry of the mandrake caused either madness or death. Mrs Grieve writes that small doses of the root were used by ‘the Ancients in maniacal cases’, again connecting the root to madness and states of disconnection between the body and mind. Historically it was used to cure demonic possession, indicating it could be used to heal a disconnected body and mind, so there appears to be a contrary nature to this plant.

Mandrake can be used in any magical working to increase the potency of the spell, and in particular to increase psychic powers and prophetic magics.

Home and Hearth

Place a dried mandrake root on your mantelpiece to bring prosperity and joy into your home. Place a piece of mandrake on top of money, so a spare change pot or money box, and more money will enter your life. Hang one above the door to prevent demons or people with negative intentions from entering. Always keep out of the reach of children or pets!

I Never Knew…

As recently as the nineteenth century, mandrake roots were still being sold in Europe as charms to increase the libido.

*Images: Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) from Tacuinum Sanitatis manuscript (ca. 1390), public domain; mandragora autumnalis, copyright tato grasso 2006 via Wikimedia Commons; folio 90 from the Naples Dioscurides, a 7th century manuscript of Dioscurides De Materia Medica, public domain.

***

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: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

 

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways

Notes
from the Apothecary: Ginger

The
spice we call ginger is the root of Zingiber officinale. The
name derives from the Sanskrit for ‘Horn Body’, referring to the
knobbly, ridged shape and texture of the roots. Originating from
Asia, ginger is now found all over the world and is used widely in
cooking, magic, and medicine.

Ginger
was brought to America by Francisco de Mendosa, and it grew so
prolifically that the Spanish-Americans were able to export it in
huge amounts to Europe.

The
Kitchen Garden

Fresh
ginger is usually bought as sections of root. It’s a testament to
how hardy the plant is that with very little encouragement, it will
start growing! Many times I have gone to fetch the ginger only to
find there are little shoots of green ginger coming off the root.
With this in mind, if you wanted to cultivate your own ginger plant,
it’s not too difficult at all.

WikiHow has a step by step guide to growing ginger which is very easy to follow. Ginger is normally grown indoors. Basically, you get as the same number of pieces of ginger root (or rhizome, to give it the correct name) as the number of plants you want. Each ‘eye’ or sprouting piece will grow into a new shoot, in good quality, well-drained potting compost. Avoid frost, try not to shock the roots, and you will have little ginger plants in very little time at all!

So, what do we use ginger for in the kitchen? So many things! Ground ginger is used in baking cakes, buns, muffins, breads, and even savory bakes. The fresh root is sliced or grated and added to curries, often alongside lots of garlic. Marinating meat in a combination of garlic and ginger is delicious. Add red wine vinegar and you are part way to a vindaloo. Ginger is used in a wide variety of Asian cooking. We particularly enjoy thin but wide slices of ginger in a vegetable stir fry with fragrant rice or noodles.

The
Apothecary

Mrs Grieve tells us that ginger is a stimulant- unsurprising given its ‘zingy’ flavour and aroma. She recommends it for alcoholic gastritis (an unusually specific condition) and for aiding in diarrhea and flatulent colic.

Although
ginger is warming, it has anti-inflammatory properties and can settle
an upset stomach. Pregnant women often take ginger biscuits to ease
morning sickness. I found them useful in both my pregnancies,
especially when I was finding it difficult to keep anything more
substantial down. It may also aid in travel sickness and motion
sickness.

Ginger
is used in Ayurvedic medicine for eating disorders, cholera, and
liver problems.

In
Chinese medicine ginger is a respiratory aid and useful for coughs,
colds and flu. It’s also used as a hangover ‘cure’, thanks to
its reputation for expelling poisons from the body. As always, check
with a doctor before taking any substance for medical reasons.

The
Witch’s Kitchen

In
Hoodoo, ginger is sometimes combined with John the Conqueror root and
nutmeg to create a luck powder for gamblers. Sprinkling ginger around
the garden or yard protects from trouble.

Ginger,
probably due to its ‘hot’ nature, is associated with love and
passion, and is often used in attraction or lust spells. Cunningham
recommends using ginger in a love incense, alongside lemon balm,
cardamom, cinnamon, and vanilla. A spell or mojo bag designed to
attract something to you, whether that be love or wealth, can be
enhanced with a bit of ginger root. Ginger can also accelerate the
action of other spells, acting like a catalyst for magical action.

Cunningham’s
Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs states that ginger is a fire plant (no
surprises there), masculine, and associated with Mars. This
immediately gives associations with power, control, and confidence.
He suggests eating ginger before performing magic to boost the power
of spells.

Home
and Hearth

Sometime
the greatest magic is taking time for yourself and keeping yourself
healthy. Modern, busy lives often make this very difficult! I know I
certainly relish every spare (rare!) moment I can get to simply pause
and do nothing for a while. Here’s a recipe for a ginger tea that
will help you relax, while stimulating and opening your senses for a
moment of mindfulness.

  • An
    inch of ginger root, sliced
  • An
    inch of turmeric root, sliced
  • A
    slice of fresh lime

Place all the ingredients in a teapot in boiling or just off the boil water. Let the flavours infuse for five minutes. Can be drunk warm or left to cool and served with ice. Recipe adapted from Paleo Flourish.

Turmeric
is cleansing and helps with digestion. Ginger stimulates the senses,
while the fresh aroma of lime can reduce fatigue and stimulate the
appetite.

I
Never Knew…

Dobu
Islanders have been known to chew up ginger root while sailing, and
spit it at an oncoming storm to halt it in its tracks. (Cunningham,
1985.)

All
images public domain or via Unsplash.

***

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

Notes from the Apothecary: artichoke

 

 

January is an odd sort of month, past the solstice but not yet at Imbolc; deep in the heart of winter where the promise of the sun’s return sounds like a distant whisper. In keeping with the oddness of the month, I thought it would be appropriate to look at a plant which is extremely odd indeed: the artichoke. The name artichoke is used for two distinctively different types of plant. One is the Jerusalem artichoke; a sort of knobbly, potato like root which is very tasty and nutritious. However, for this month’s notes, I will be examining the globe artichoke, as far from a root as it is possible to be, as it is the flower of the plant.

The Kitchen Garden

One of my favourite things about visiting our allotment is getting to see what other folk are growing. The first summer when I saw one of our neighbour’s artichokes in full bloom, it took my breath away. Having seen artichokes only in a can or in the grocery store, I was not prepared for the sheer beauty of these extraordinary flowers.

The artichoke is actually a type of thistle, but the artichoke blooms are to the thistle flowers what a lobster is to the tiniest shrimp; huge, extravagant and an entirely different beast altogether.

The seventeenth century almanac by Markham suggests artichokes should be sowed in March, just after the full moon, when the moon is on the wane.

The Apothecary

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the artichoke was, during the 16th century in Italy, reserved for men as it enhanced sexual prowess. Across Europe, the vegetable was renowned for its aphrodisiac qualities, even by royalty; Henry the Eighth supposedly consumed vast quantities of artichokes.

In Turkey, it is believed that a decoction of artichoke will cleanse the blood and the liver, thus improving the skin. It’s possible that the effect on the liver may be backed up by science, as artichokes contain silymarin, a phytochemical which can be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of liver disease.

Other uses include as a diuretic, as a digestion aid and as an antioxidant.

Folklore

A legend of the Sioux people tells of an artichoke and a muskrat. Both are proud, and try and outdo each other with tales of how yearned for they are by humans. The artichoke appears to win the contest by boasting how people will eat his flowers without even cleaning the dirt off first! The tale’s purpose seems to be to teach the qualities of both the animal and the plant, and their usefulness to mankind, or perhaps more keenly, why mankind should admire them.

The Witch’s Kitchen

 

 

Some sources suggest the artichoke is a plant of Venus, perhaps due to it’s aphrodisiacal qualities. It is also associated with fertility, unsurprisingly! An alternative view is quite the opposite, stating that the artichoke is a vegetable ruled by Mars, due to its thorny nature. The plant itself is actually a hermaphrodite, so I guess go with whatever feels comfortable for you.

The artichoke is also associated with protection, so can be used in warding and exorcisms, and laid at the boundaries of your home. The artichoke is particularly useful at driving out demons, and even banishing bad moods.

The plant also represents courage in the face of adversity; facing your fears and standing up for what you believe in.

The plant can also be a symbol of things not being what they seem, or a sign that you should look at something again. Artichokes change the flavour of the next thing you eat by chemically altering your taste buds temporarily; also, they look like spiky, armoured beasts, then produce the most delicate and flamboyant of flowers. They are transformative and deceptive, and remind us that we are all multi-faceted beings, with many skills and many aspects to our character.

In sympathetic magic, peeling away the layers of an artichoke represents working your way to the heart of a problem. You can do this either physically or in a visualisation or meditation.

Seeing an artichoke in a dream can mean you are stifling your own creativity somehow, and that you need to release your own potential. They can also represent wealth and luxury.

Home and Hearth

For the courage to speak out: take a globe artichoke, a whole raw one either from a grocery store or one you have grown yourself. Find a comfortable place to sit and think of the problem at hand. Imagine what you would say if you had the courage. Start to say each of these sentences out loud, and each time you do, tear or cut a leaf from the artichoke. A sharp pair of kitchen scissors is best as they can be tough; take care not to cut yourself! If they are too tough to cut, then mark them with a pen or pencil, or a piece of charcoal. Imagine yourself as tough skinned as the artichoke; whatever is thrown at you, you can handle, and you will still eventually bloom as beautifully as the artichoke.

Keep repeating the sentences you wish you could say, and keep cutting or marking the artichoke. Once the artichoke is completely defaced, gather the parts together or simply hold the plant and thank it for its strength and courage. Bury the dismembered or disfigured plant or compost it if possible, that way it is giving its nutrients back to the soil. Pour a little water on the ground with the wish that the earth may never hunger or thirst.

I Never Knew…

A close cousin of the artichoke is the cardoon, another thistle, but instead of the flowers being eaten, the stems are blanched and used like celery.

Image credits: An Artichoke in bloom, copyright Little Mountain 5 2009, via Wikimedia Commons; Artichoke in bloom, copyright Unukorno 2015, via Wikimedia Commons.

***

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.

For Amazon information, click images below.

 

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

 

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 Herbal, 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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