Category Archives: herbal lore

Herbs for Romance and Love Charms


Through the ages, herbs have furthered affairs of the heart. I’ve provided snippets of historical lore on some of the most significant.

Calendula: One favorite bit of lore is that calendula flowers were used to keep a lover faithful. All one had to do was to dig up some soil where their lover had walked, and use that soil for planting calendulas. From that day forward the lover would forever by faithful. Calendulas are the original English/Scottish Marigold. Though not native, they are widely naturalized from Europe and have been grown in the UK for centuries.

Rosemary: English folklore says if a girl places a plate of flour beneath a rosemary bush on midsummer’s eve, she will find her future husband’s initials written in it. Another bit of lore to discover your true love is to place a sprig of rosemary under your pillow. A dream will reveal their identity. Dried rosemary was laid in bed linen to ensure faithfulness and a bride who gave her groom a sprig of rosemary to hold on their wedding night would ensure his faithfulness.

Another belief regarding dreams: On Saint Agnes’ Eve (January 20), a woman seeking romance would mix thyme with rosemary and pray: “Saint Agnes, that’s to lovers kind, Come, ease the trouble of my mind.” The virgin martyred saint would then send a dream about her true love.

Rosemary came to Britain with the Romans and has centuries old use.

Violets: Gaelic advice: “Anoint thy face with goat’s milk in which violets have been infused, and there is not a young prince on earth who would not be charmed with thy beauty.”

Violets are used in love spells and may be carried as an amulet to increase one’s luck in love. Combine them with lavender for enhanced effect.

Violets grow throughout the UK. But Lavender wasn’t cultivated there until the mid-sixteenth century. No herb smells more wonderful than lavender. I just planted more in the garden.

Wild Pansy (violas): Violas, heartsease, V. tricolor…have a great reputation as a love charm. Its three colors of purple, white, and yellow, each marked with a petal, have given it associations with the Holy Trinity, and the name Herb Trinitas, which figures in old books. The name pansy comes from the French pensée (thought). ‘Love in Idleness’ is another of this beloved flower’s names. In ancient days the plant was much used for its potency in love charms, hence perhaps its name of Heartsease. It is this flower that plays such an important part as a love charm in Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The pansy Shakespeare refers to are probably V. tricolor, the wild pansy or viola. ‘In A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Oberon sends Puck to gather “a little western flower” that maidens call “love-in-idleness”. Oberon’s account is that he diverted an arrow from Cupid’s bow aimed at “a fair vestal, throned by the west” (supposedly Queen Elizabeth I) to fall upon the plant “before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound”. The “imperial vot’ress” passes on “fancy-free”, destined never to fall in love. The juice of the heartsease now, claims Oberon, “on sleeping eyelids laid, Will make or man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees.” Equipped with such powers, Oberon and Puck control the fates of various characters in the play to provide Shakespeare’s essential dramatic and comic structure for the play.’

The wild violas, heartsease, grow abundantly throughout Britain.

Vervain: An ancient cure-all, sacred to the Druids, vervain was also thought to be a love charm. According to the Druids, the plant should be collected when neither the sun nor the moon is in the sky. And in exchange for removing such a valuable plant from the earth, honey combs should be left on the ground. It grows wild in England, sparsely in Scotland. However, vervain was grown in herb gardens in the Middle Ages (and later).

The Hawthorne Tree:

“The fair maid who, the first of May

Goes to the fields at break of day

And washes in dew from the Hawthorne tree,

Will ever after handsome be.”

There is also an old belief that cowslip (primrose) flowers hold magic value for the complexion and making one beautiful. Seeking beauty is an age-old pursuit in love.

The wild white yarrow is the variety referred to here and elsewhere in my herbal posts. Yarrow, an ancient widespread herb, is used for medicinal purposes, but also in love charms, and in divining who the lover might be. I’m not certain exactly how, but the rhyme below was thought to be useful.

“Good morrow, good Yarrow, good morrow to thee. Send me this night my true love to see, The clothes that he’ll wear, the colour of his hair. And if he’ll wed me…”  ~Danaher, 1756. (But the saying may be much older.)

Herbs might be worn as amulets or love charms alone, or inside jewelry, like a locket, or in small cloth bags hidden in clothing, woven into a woman’s hair, rubbed over her in an enticing oil… They were brewed into decoctions for her/him to imbibe, or to anoint the object of one’s love in his/her sleep. Herbs were hung overhead, tucked under pillows and in bedding. Women bathed in their essence… I say him or her but this sounds more like something a woman might do. There are many ways people thought herbs furthered romance and kept a lover true. I hope you find these suggestions interesting.

Meadowsweet–Fascinating Herbal Lore


Fragrant meadowsweet is a beautiful white flowering herb with fern-like foliage. A form of meadowsweet grows in our Virginia Mountains, but I don’t see it in the Shenandoah Valley, nor have I grown it in my garden(s). Common in the British Isles, it’s called the Queen of the Meadow, Meadow-Wort, Bridewort, and Meadsweet… The plant blooms from early summer to fall and is native to Europe and western Asia, but has been widely naturalized elsewhere from the earliest times. Meadowsweet was found in Bronze Age (4,000 year-old) burial sites in the Orkneys, Scotland, and Wales, both in plant form and honey mead detected in vessels. The herb was sacred in the far distant past and fresh flowers were left on graves and in mead as tributes for the departed.

(Meadowsweet flowering along beck near Conistone, North Yorkshire. Image from Wikipedia)

Meadowsweet pollen was found in a stone cairn alongside the cremated remains of a young girl above Lake Llyn-y-Fan Fach that lies below the Peak of Black Mountain in Wales. Pottery and flint tools were also discovered with her. Probably no connection, but an ancient legend says a mysterious beautiful lady came out of the waters of Llyn-y-Fan Fach and taught the first of the Physicians about the healing power of plants. They are called The Physicians of Myddfai, and make their first appearance in the Middle Ages. The last of their line died out in the 1800’s, when the story of The Lady of the Lake was first recorded. According to the Lady of the Lake and the Physicians of Myddfai, it’s possible that the Carmarthenshire village of Myddfai may be the birthplace of modern medicine. The legend says this dynasty of herbalists lived and worked there in the 11th and 12th centuries, and some say with magical powers. For more, check out the link above.

In Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, meadowsweet is known as Meadwort and was one of fifty ingredients in a drink called ‘Save’–must have been an amazing cure-all. The name Bridewort comes from its use as a strewing herb in churches at weddings and often as a bridal garland. Queen Elizabeth 1 favored meadowsweet as her choicest strewing herb in the sixteenth century, but its use far predates the queen.

The entire plant has a pleasing aroma and taste which led to its use in flavoring wines, beers, vinegars, and the ancient honey mead (herbal honey-wine). The dried flowers are added to potpourri. Fresh flowers lend a subtle almond flavor to stewed fruit and jam.

According to A Modern Herbal, meadowsweet (Spiraea Ulmaria) is collected in July, when in full flower. Infuse 1 ounce of the dried herb in a pint of water, sweeten with honey, and administer in wineglassful doses for invalids or for regular use.

Medicinally, meadowsweet (aka Filipendula ulmaria) has a long use in pain relief and is a source of salicylic acid, the basis of aspirin, but in a form that causes less stomach upset than other plant sources. Meadowsweet, Spiraea ulmaria, was made into Bayer aspirin in 1887. Historically, it has also been used for soothing an acidic stomach and calming diarrhea. Simply put, ‘it’s a cooling, aromatic and astringent herb that relieves pain’.(http://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/meadowsweet-herb.html). ***Not to be imbibed by anyone allergic to or intolerant of aspirin. (Image from Wikipedia)

Meadowsweet, water-mint (also known as marsh mint, grows near water, its strong scent not as pleasingly fragrant as other mints), and vervain were the three herbs held most sacred by the Druids. They also had sacred trees which I have touched on in other posts. For those interested in Druids, a useful site on Meadowsweet and Druid Plant Lore is: http://www.druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druid-plant-lore

A beautiful post on meadowsweet: https://whisperingearth.co.uk/2012/07/06/meadowsweet-queen-of-the-meadow-queen-of-the-ditch/

For more on herbs, you might be interested in my book, Plants for a Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles, available in kindle and print at Amazon.

An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales. Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them. Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises.

Herbs and Romance for Valentine’s Day


“There’s a few things I’ve learned in life: always throw salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for good luck, and fall in love whenever you can.” ~Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic

“My gardens sweet, enclosed with walles strong, embarked with benches to sytt and take my rest. The Knotts so enknotted, it cannot be exprest. With arbours and alys so pleasant and so dulce, the pestylant ayers with flavours to repulse.” ~Thomas Cavendish, 1532.

 “Good morrow, good Yarrow, good morrow to thee. Send me this night my true love to see, The clothes that he’ll wear, the colour of his hair. And if he’ll wed me.” ~Danaher, 1756

lavenderfield-300x199

“There’s rosemary and rue. These keep Seeming and savor all the winter long. Grace and remembrance be to you.”- William Shakespeare

Thyme Creeping Red

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:

There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,  Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

dill with white aster and other herbs and flowers in our garden(Dill in our garden by Daughter Elise)

 When daisies pied and violets blue And lady-smocks all silver-white  And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue. Do paint the meadows with delight.

Love’s Labours Lost

lavender 3

“And lavender, whose spikes of azure bloom shall be, ere-while, in arid bundles bound to lurk admist the labours of her loom, and crown her kerchiefs witl mickle rare perfume.”

~William Shenstone The School Mistress 1742


herb garden
“Those herbs which perfume the air most delightfully,  not passed by as the rest, but, being trodden upon and crushed, are three;  that is, burnet, wild thyme and watermints. Therefore, you are to set whole alleys of them, to have the pleasure when you walk or tread.” –  Frances Bacon 

“How could such sweet and wholesome hours Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers?” –  Andrew Marvel

The Curative Powers of Elderberry


elderflowerIt’s also known as American Elder, Black Elder, and Tree of Music to give a few of its many names. There are different varieties, some that grow no larger than bushy shrubs while others obtain the height of huge trees. Native Americans used the long, straight, hollowed stems that became woody with age for arrows.

Huge Bull Elk in a Scenic BackdropThey pushed all the soft and poisonous pith out of the stems with hot sticks. Indians also bored holes in them to make flutes which gave Elder its name ‘tree of music.’ Hunters lured elk closer with elderberry whistles. I referred to this use of elder in my American historical romance novel Red Birds Song.

elderberriesThe fruit was believed to have a cooling, gentle, laxative and urine increasing effect. Elderberry wine was thought to be a tonic. The berries are said to aid arthritis. The juice simmered until thick was used as a cough syrup and for colds. The rest of the medicinal was used with great caution and some parts avoided entirely. The inner bark of elder stems and the roots were generally regarded as too dangerous to experiment with, however women drank very small amounts of elderberry bark tea for bad menstrual cramps, to ease the pain of labor and help the child along. I used a potent dose of elderberry bark tea in my historical Native American romance novel, Through the Fire.

Indians and settlers believed that small amounts of potentially poisonous plants could be beneficial under certain circumstances to stimulate the body to heal or maybe because it was fighting off the poison. Native Americans shared their storehouse of knowledge regarding herbal treatments with colonists who used these remedies in combination with those lauded cures they brought with them. Elderberry was also a vital plant in the Old World.

From Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs:

Elderberry Syrup“One of the human race’s earliest plant companions (found in Stone Age sites) the elderberry has developed reputations for great powers of good…as well as great powers of evil. In some parts of the world, no prudent carpenter would make a cradle of elderberry wood for fear of bringing harm to the baby. The elderflower has been involved in human history for centuries, and one story suggests that it takes its name from a unique medicinal dimension. The generic name Sambucus may come from the Greek Sambuke, a musical instrument made from elderberry wood. For centuries the plant has had the reputation of healing the body, but in elderberry’s golden age, it made music to heal the spirit.

During its long association with humanity, the elderberry’s traditions have become an incredible jumble of conflicting currents. It provided the wood for Christ’s cross; it was the home of the goddess Freya. If seen in a dream, it meant illness was on the way; it was such a healthful plant that seventeenth century herbalist John Evelyn called it a remedy ‘against all infirmities whatever.’  It would ward off witches if gathered on the last day of April and put up on the windows and doors of houses; it was very attractive to witches and thus should be avoided after dark.
bird eating elderberriesElderberries worked their way into every aspect of living from dyeing hair black to showing berries just at the right time to signal the beginning of wheat sowing. Shakespeare had something to say about it. One of his characters called it ‘the stinking elder.’ The Shakers used it as a medicinal. The wood of the old stems, hard and fine grained, was prized by the makers of mathematical instruments. The list could go on and on for pages; elderberries stand in our gardens as old friends.”

From: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/elderberry

“Elderberry, or elder, has been used for centuries to treat wounds, when applied to the skin. It is also taken by mouth to treat respiratory illnesses such as cold and flu. In many countries, including Germany, elder flower is used to treat colds and flu. Some evidence suggests that chemicals in elder flower and berries may help reduce swelling in mucous membranes, such as the sinuses, and help relieve nasal congestion. Elder may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer properties.”

*Image of elderberry syrup, also below

477900653Plant Description

“European elder is a large shrub or small tree that grows up to 30 feet tall in wet or dry soil in a sunny location. Elder is native to Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia, but it has become widespread in the United States. Deciduous leaves grow in opposite pairs and have five to seven leaflets. Flowers are white and flat-topped with five primary rays. Berries are green, turning red, then black when ripe.”

Parts Used: “The berries and flowers are used as medicine. Berries must be cooked before they are taken. Raw berries contain a chemical similar to cyanide.”

Available Forms: “Elderberry is available as a liquid, syrup, and tincture, as well as in capsule and lozenge forms. Dried elder flower is usually standardized to at least 0.8% flavonoids. Sambucol is standardized to 38% elderberry extract for adults and 19% for children. Sinupret contains 18 mg of elder flower.”

How to Take It: “Do not give elderberry or any product containing elder to a child without first talking to your pediatrician.”

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To Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup:

http://wellnessmama.com/1888/how-to-make-elderberry-syrup-for-flu-prevention/

Or order the Original Sambucus: http://www.naturesway.com/Products/Winter-Season/6970-Sambucus-Original-Syrup.aspx

Old English Roses


Excerpt from my herbal, Plants for a Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles:

rosebud

(Old fashioned rosebud)

The English Tudor Rose is the heraldic floral emblem of England. The red rose was the badge of the House of Lancaster during the English War of the Roses. The badge for the House of York was the white rose. When Henry V11 took the crown of England from Richard 111 in battle, 1485, he ended that particular war. He introduced the Tudor rose, combining a red rose, representing the House of Lancaster, and a white rose, representing the House of York, as a symbol of unity after the English civil wars of the 15th century which later came to be called the Wars of the Roses.

The exact species of the Lancaster’s Red Rose is uncertain, but it’s thought to be Rosa gallica officinalis, also known as the Apothecary’s Rose, possibly the first cultivated rose. We used to have this ancient variety, but it finally succumbed to a hard winter and needs to be replaced.

Galica Rose

Rosa gallica officinalis

“My wild Irish Rose,

The sweetest flow’r that grows.” ~Chauncey Olcott

I have an old-time rosebud salve that I love made by the American based Rosebud Perfume Company, founded in 1895 by George F. Smith. They still carry the original salve but have expanded their product line; all are gluten-free, a plus for those of us who are severely intolerant.

Roses have an ancient history. The first cultivated rose likely originated in Persia and spread out from there. The part used is the flower, although the hips are also employed in tea, jam, jellies, syrups… The hips are high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Some varieties of roses produce better hips for this use than others. Rosa canina, commonly known as the dog rose, is one that does.

Back to the flowers. The most favored rose for medicinal use is the above mentioned dark red rose, R. gallica, also known as the Provins Rose and the Apothecary’s Rose. Only flower-buds just about to open are collected, and the lighter colored lower portion is cut off from the deep red upper part. For making a confection, they are used in the fresh state. For an infusion, the flowers are thoroughly dried first and stored out of humidity.

Abraham Darby Rose by David Austen

(Abraham Darby Rose from our garden)

The old pink cabbage rose is used for making rose water by distilling the fresh petals. A soothing ointment of rose water (cold cream) is also made by blending melted wax and almond oil with rose-water and rose oil.

Culpepper gives many uses for red, white, and damask rose cordials and conserves in the treatment of internal maladies including fever, jaundice, joint aches, weakness of the heart and stomach, fainting, an aid to digestion and fighting infection, comforting the heart and strengthening the spirit. Rose ointment is recommended for most any skin condition.

In his 18th century Family Herbal, John Hill gives a recipe for Honey of Roses that sounds delightful. He specifies using red roses. And I doubt he means modern cultivars, but old.

Honey of Roses Recipe: “Cut the white heels from some red rose buds, and lay them to dry in a place where there is a draught of air; when they are dried, put half a pound of them into a stone jar, and pour on them three pints of boiling water; stir them well, and let them stand twelve hours; then press off the liquor (liquid) and when it has settled, add to it five pounds of honey; boil it well, and when it is of the consistence of thick syrup, put it by for use. It is good against mouth sores, and on many other occasions.” (Which means it has many other uses.)

Nonfiction Herbal

Nonfiction Herbal

Plants for a Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles available in kindle and print at Amazon.

An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales. Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them.

Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises.~

“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.” ― Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy-Tacy and Tib

186025443

Rosemary and Remembering


“There’s rosemary that’s for remembrance. Pray, you love, remember.” ~ Hamlet

rosemary-in-pot-outdoors-with-lavender-and-geranium-jpg1

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, mostly just because. I rarely cook with it, but I love its scent and the wealth of history behind it. The scent is said to stimulate memory so I sniff it frequently and carry little sprigs with me. I have a large potted plant growing in my sun space now that I’ve kept going for several years. In summer, it stays outdoors, but our Shenandoah Valley winters are too cold for the plants to survive. I brought it back in this week.

Known as the herb of remembrance from the time of ancient Greece, rosemary appears in that immoral verse by Shakespeare. My fascination with herbs plays a significant role in my ghostly murder mystery romance novel Somewhere My Love, as does Hamlet, for that matter. I always wanted to write a murder mystery with a focus on herbs and parallels to a Shakespearean play, and so I did. I just completed a paranormal time travel romance, Somewhere My Lady, with flavors of Somewhere My Love, but different. The new addition to my Somewhere in Time series will release in the new year.

A Modern Herbal by Maud Grieve, a wonderful source of herbal lore as well as practical information on the medicinal uses and growing requirements for a myriad of plants, is an invaluable guide. I have volumes one and two of Ms. Grieve’s work and can easily lose myself in their pages. She refers to her herbal as modern, and in comparison to the ancient herbalists it is, but A Modern Herbal is charmingly quaint and published in the early 20th century.

Regarding Rosemary, she says,

Rosemary1The Ancients were well acquainted with the shrub, which had a reputation for strengthening the memory. On this account it became the emblem of fidelity for lovers. It holds a special position among herbs from the symbolism attached to it. Not only was it used at weddings, but also at funerals, for decking churches and banqueting halls at festivals, as incense in religious ceremonies, and in magical spells.

At weddings, it was entwined in the wreath worn by the bride, being first dipped into scented water. Anne of Cleves, we are told, wore such a wreath at her wedding. A Rosemary branch, richly gilded and tied with silken ribands of all colours, was also presented to wedding guests, as a symbol of love and loyalty. Together with an orange stuck with cloves it was given as a New Year‘s gift…

rosemaryIn early times, Rosemary was freely cultivated in kitchen gardens and came to represent the dominant influence of the house mistress ‘Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled.’

The Treasury of Botany says:

‘There is a vulgar belief in Gloucestershire and other counties, that Rosemary will not grow well unless where the mistress is “master”; and so touchy are some of the lords of creation upon this point, that we have more than once had reason to suspect them of privately injuring a growing rosemary in order to destroy this evidence of their want of authority.’ (Meanie heads.)
Rosemary was one of the cordial herbs used to flavour ale and wine. It was also used in Christmas decoration.

“Down with the rosemary and so,
Down with the baies and mistletoe,
Down with the holly, ivie all
Wherewith ye deck the Christmas Hall.”—HERRICK.

Rosemary Christmas Trees

rosemary-decorated-for-christmas (1)Although an herb, rosemary is often shaped into lovely miniature Christmas trees. The plant is well suited for this purpose as its essential oils produce a scent similar to pine trees and it has a natural evergreen shape and needle-like leaves.

If you purchase a rosemary plant whether as a Christmas tree or for your indoor herb garden, remember it needs good light and moderate watering. Allow the soil to dry before re-watering to avoid root rot. The most common cause of death for potted rosemary is over watering. In spring transfer your rosemary to a clay pot. The clay will help wick excess water out of the soil. Fertilize monthly to maintain health. To this advice I add that you can also kill them by allowing the plant to dry out, so don’t do that either.

Because rosemary is native to the hot, dry hills of the Mediterranean, growing it indoors can be a problem. You may find you get more dense vigorous growth if it is kept outside during most of the year. Trim the plant periodically to preserve the Christmas tree shape.

And God bless us everyone.

***Rosemary Christmas Trees are available from Jackson & Perkins.

Ward Off Witches, Vampires, and Werewolves–Herbal Lore


Some highly esteemed herbs used throughout history to foil black magic, deflect spells, and ward off forces of evil.

archangel-michael, old stained glass window

(A fiery angel with a sword is also a mighty boon)

First up, Angelica:  Said to have been revealed in a dream by an angel as a cure for the plague. So sacred it’s called ‘The Root of the Holy Ghost’ and was associated with the Archangel Michael. Angelica blooms near his feast day and is connected to the Christian observance of the Annunciation, the day the Angel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary to tell her she would be the mother of Christ. All parts of the plant were believed effective against evil spirits and witchcraft.

The juice of the roots are used to make Carmelite water, considered a ‘sovereign remedy’ and drunk to ensure a long life and to protect against the poisons and spells of witches. Garlands of the leaves were also worn.

Angelica plan

(Angelica)

I’ve grown Angelia in the garden. It gets big, so allow plenty of space.

Winter beauty

The Rowan Tree has a wealth of ancient lore and many associations with magic and witches. The tree is thought to lend protection against evil and bad spells. Its old Celtic name, ‘fid na ndruad,’ means wizard tree. But it has many names. Ask an old Celt which they favor.

Rowan, known as the Mountain Ash in America, and Dogberry Tree in parts of Canada, is a familiar sight in the mountains surrounding the Shenandoah Valley. My dear grandmother who lived to be 99 and a half, and knew her trees, was fond of the beautiful mountain ash. She’d point it out to me in the Alleghenies. It’s gorgeous in autumn when covered with bright red berries, and particularly attractive to birds.

Red, the color of the berries, was thought to be the strongest color in battling the dark forces. In Ireland, rowan trees were planted near houses to protect them from the spirits of the dead; in Wales they favored graveyards for their tree plantings. In Scotland, the Rowan Tree is among the most sacred and cutting one down, or using any portion of the tree for any purpose other than spiritually approved rituals was taboo. The wood is seen as the most protective part. It’s fashioned into sticks to stir milk to keep it from curdling, pocket charms (or amulets) to ward off rheumatism and bad mojo, and made into divining rods (for finding precious metals). Because the tree is associated with Saint Bridhig, the Celtic patroness of the arts, healing, smithing, spinning and weaving, spindles and spinning wheels were made of rowan in Scotland and Ireland.

Walking sticks made of rowan were thought to lend protection to the traveler on their journey, and from evil spirits. Rowan trees planted near stone circles in Scotland were thought to be favored by fairies who held their celebrations within the protective tree enclosed circle. Fairies are extremely cautious. But the fae can also get up to mischief, so the rowan would protect you from that as well. One of those multi-use herbs/trees. 

Rowan Tree, Mountain, Black Mount, Scottish Highlands

(Rowan tree in Scotland)

To the 17th Century Scots, however, practicing folk medicine was associated with witchcraft, which could include carrying a Rowan charm, a twig tied with a red thread for protection. A cross made of Rowan wood and bound with red thread was placed over doorways.

It’s interesting to note that the rowan is also called the witch tree because they used it to increase their powers and spells and for fashioning magic wands, so there appears to be some disagreement here. Did it speed witches on their way, or empower them? These conflicting beliefs are often the way in herbal lore.

“Rowan tree, red thread, hold the witches all in dread.” ~ old herbal saying

Rowan was sacred to the Druids who believed in its protective powers and burnt it on funeral pyres, also in rites of divination and purification. The tree was associated with both death and rebirth. Because Rowan was thought to bring the gift of inspiration, ancient Bards called it the ‘tree of bards.’ I suppose all writers should have rowan.

Wood from the ash tree, in the form of ash outlining a building or circle, is showing up in paranormal TV shows with American settings, like Teen Wolf. Mountain Ash is used to ward off evil, so even if some of these characters are the nicest werewolves or witches you could ever want to meet, they cannot cross a barrier of ash.

Teen wolf

Agrimony:  Used from ancient times to treat many ailments and injuries, it’s also reputed to have magical properties.

The magic power of Agrimony is mentioned in an old English medical manuscript: ‘If it be leyd under mann’s heed, He shal sleepyn as he were deed; He shal never drede ne wakyn,Till fro under his heed it be takyn.’ (That’s darn useful to know.)

Agrimony

From The Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin: “The Gaelic name of this plant, mur-druidhean, may derive from the use of agrimony by healers to treat spiritual troubles. Ferquhar Ferguson, tried for witchcraft on Arran in 1716, admitted using agrimony to cure elf-shotten people.” (Apparently a common affliction). “Ferguson was guided in his treatment by a voice heard while sleeping, which instructed him to pull the plant in the name of the Holy Trinity.”

***Elf-shot are those persons or animals who have fallen ill after being shot by the arrows of malevolent elves. Hate it when that happens.

Agrimony is also recommended as the remedy for  ‘alle woundes’. One old writer recommends it to be taken with a mixture of pounded frogs and human blood, as a remedy for all internal hemorrhages. (Whose blood?)

Mistletoe: An herb steeped in lore from pre-Christian times.

Christmas Mistletoe Isolated

Because the plant prefers softer bark, it’s found more commonly on apple trees and is rarer on oaks which made mistletoe discovered on oaks greatly venerated by ancient Celts, Germans, and it was used in ceremonies by early Europeans. Greeks and other early people thought it had mystical powers and the plant gained a wealth of lore over the centuries. Sacred to the Druids, many wondrous attributes are accorded to mistletoe, including medicinal powers, properties to boost fertility, and ward off evil spells.

Mistletoe and werewolves: In some ancient lore, mistletoe is considered a repellent and protection from werewolves.

From http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/302/

“Mistletoe was thought to be a remarkable and sacred shrub because it seemed to grow from the air and not from the earth. Mistletoe has been considered undesirable because it feeds off other trees; however it is also thought to have a symbiotic relationship because it provides nutrients when the host is in dormancy. It also provides food for a host of animals and birds who consume its leaves and shoots

Over time its folklore has grown to include the belief that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire, that it held the soul of the host tree and placed in a baby’s cradle would protect the child from faeries.

Kissing under the mistletoe is also cited in an early work by Washington Irving, “Christmas Eve,” which tells of the festivities surrounding the Twelve Days of Christmas:

“Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob apple, and snap dragon; the Yule-clog and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the mistletoe with its white berries hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.”

Used as good luck charms to ward off evil, its sprigs were also put under the pillows of young girls who thought it would entice dreams of the husband to be.”

These are just a few herbal possibilities, but among the most esteemed.