People plant gardens for many purposes- for food to eat, for the beauty and scent of flowers, to add to the property value, for relaxation, to give food and shelter to other creatures- but did you know that at one time, people used plants for magic? I’m not speaking of healing magic- the use of medicinal herbs- or the pure magic of germination and growth, but of the occult. The people that were known and witches and sorcerers used all sorts of plants for magic, from the common to the exotic.
The trees themselves provided material for their magical tools, the wands and rods of both spell casting and divining. Birch, elder, hawthorn, hazel, rowan (mountain ash) and oak were all revered for their powers, oak being the most sacred to the Druids. The mere possession of an oak wand would strengthen the owner, but it had to be cut during the waning moon. Willow and hazel are still favorites among modern dowsers. Linden (tilia) would make one immortal. Poplar was useful if you wanted to fly. Rowan conferred psychic powers and was commonly planted in cemeteries to keep the ‘unquiet dead’ from rising and making a nuisance of themselves. I assume that this was after someone had raised the dead, a power credited to yew wood.
Many plants besides rowan aided the budding psychic. Mugwort, uva-ursi (kinnikinnick), wormwood, yarrow, peppermint, borage, rose, elecampine, flax, honeysuckle and thyme all strengthened psychic abilities. Lovage, drunk as a tea at bedtime, would provide one with prophetic dreams, as would huckleberry, peony root, valerian root, bracken fern, calendula, dandelion, linden and onion.
Chicory, heliotrope, poppy and edelweiss were supposed to make one invisible; edelweiss having the added benefit of making one bullet proof!
Peony root attracted fairies, as did hawthorn. Carrying lavender, one could see ghosts; and, if none appeared on their own, you could call them up with some wormwood. But before one tried this, it was wise to have some protection. Angelica was the most powerful protective plant, simply grown about the garden. In dire cases, it was burned during an exorcism.
Hydrangea and huckleberry were used to break spells. Honesty (lunaria) repelled monsters- quite well, I’d say, as I’ve seen none in my garden, unless you count those really big leopard slugs.
Some of the plants used were deadly poison. Belladonna (Deadly Nightshade), henbane, hellebore (Christmas rose), foxglove, hemlock, and aconite (Wolf’s Bane or Monkshood) were all used at times for ‘flying ointments’- a mixture rubbed into the skin to make the user ‘fly’. These plants have effects like lowering the blood pressure, decreasing sensitivity to pain, increasing heart rate, and sedation. These effects might explain why the user might feel as if they were flying, astrally traveling, and speaking with the spirits. The dilation of the pupils that belladonna gives would make the user look like they were gazing into another world. The comfrey and mistletoe carried by these people to protect them from psychic attack during their astral travels sadly did nothing to protect them from the harmful effects of these herbs. These plants should NEVER be used internally or externally! While casual handling is not apt to cause problems, getting aconite sap into cuts has caused serious poisoning, and the others have all occasionally caused dermatitis in sensitive people. These plants were all also used for the very non-magical use of poisoning enemies, a use that cut across all social strata and religious systems.
Next time you look around your yard, try looking beyond the practical uses of your plants and think about them as people did a few hundred years ago- as vehicles of power and conduits to another world!