Powers: Courage, Exorcism, Love, Protection, Psychic Powers
Magical Uses and History: Oh yarrow! This may be one of the most under-appreciated herbs in a witch’s cabinet because of it’s lack of culinary uses, but the medicinal and magical uses of yarrow date back from 60,000 years. One of the earliest known uses of yarrow was discovered in 1960 in a Neanderthal burial site in northern Iraq. The large clumps of yarrow pollen found there suggests the yarrow was not placed there by accident, but instead deliberately by the Neanderthals. We are unsure as to whether or not the Neanderthals were aware of the healing properties of yarrow, but we do know they took the time and care to bury their fallen companion with love, thus strengthening the association between yarrow and love.
Yarrow also has ties to Greek mythology, its Latin name being Achillea millefolium, which derives from the famous Achilles. According to the myths, Achilles learned the healing properties of yarrow from the Centaur, Chiron, who used it to heal Achilles after his mother tried to burn him alive for being the unlucky seventh child. Achilles later uses yarrow to heal Telephus, the son-in-law of King Priam, who tripped over a vine and was accidentally wounded by Achilles. Achilles scraped some rust from his spear and from the rust grew yarrow, which he used to treat Telephus’s wounds.
In medieval England, the herb was known as both Militaris and woundwort for its healing properties. There are some accounts of the name “yarrow” originating from the Anglo-Saxon word gaerwe, which translates to “to repair.” Nicholas Culpepper described medicinal uses of yarrow in his 1649 book The Secrets of Wildflowers stating that “an ointment of the leaves cures wounds, and is good for inflammations, ulcers, fistulas, and all such runnings as amount with moisture.” One specific folklore remedy says to pull the leaves from the plant with your left hand while saying the name of the ill person. Contradictory to its healing properties, yarrow was at one time thought to bring sickness, earning the name of Mother-die and Fever-plant. Furthermore, yarrow was also thought to cause nosebleeds, which contradicts its actual blood clotting nature. According to Lightfoot’s Flora Scotica from 1777, “The common people in order to cure the Headache do sometimes thrust a leaf of it up their nostrils, to make their nose bleed.” There is also mention of this in the 1878 Folk Lore Record in regards to young girls being in love:
Green ‘arrow, green ‘arrow, you wears a white bow;
If my love love me, my nose will bleed now;
If my love don’t love me, it ‘ont bleed a drop;
If my love do love me, ’twill bleed every drop.
Apart from its medicinal uses, yarrow also has a long and rich magical history. In some spells and charms, it earned the name “devil’s nettle” because it was believed to be used in evil spells and rituals. Despite this early negative connotation, yarrow is often used for protection, being hung above doors or a baby’s cradle to keep evil at bay. Wearing yarrow is also said to protect the wearer while holding it can bring courage.
Yarrow is also said to increase psychic powers and has traditionally been used in China and England for divination. In China, the stems were used for casting, while in England young women would sleep with yarrow under their pillows to dream of their future husbands. Furthermore, dreaming of yarrow is said to mean that good news is on its way. To increase physic powers, drink a tea infusion of yarrow prior to physic work.
Finally, yarrow can be used to ensure a long, happy marriage. Carrying yarrow is said to bring love and friendship while hanging a bunch of dried yarrow over a bed or used in wedding decorations is said to ensure a love lasting at least seven years.
Yarrow can be used in a number of spells including:
Medicinal Uses: Due to high levels of iron, calcium, potassium, and other trace minerals, yarrow has a reputation to lower blood pressure, reduce fevers, and relieve diarrhea and indigestion. It can also be used as a urinary antiseptic to treat cystitis or externally to heal wounds. For fevers, it combines well with elderberry flower, peppermint, cayenne, and ginger. For raised blood pressure, it can be paired with hawthorn and mistletoe. It can also be used for reducing menstrual bleeding and can help regulate menstrual flow.