Category Archives: Wicca Herbal Magic – Lisa Chamberlain

Basil

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(Ocimum basilicum) (specifically Sweet Basil)

Zodiac sign: Scorpio, Aries
Planet: Mars
Element: Fire
Deities: Vishnu (Hindu protector god), Ezrulie (Haitian goddess of love and beauty)

A common kitchen herb found in many Mediterranean and Thai dishes, basil is easily recognized by its broad and fragrant deep green leaves. The leaves are used in both fresh and dried form in cooking, but magical uses tend to involve the dried leaves only, as fresh ones can wilt soon after being harvested. An annual plant, basil is easy to grow and makes an excellent, multi-purpose staple in a magical herb garden. Basil leaves are also widely available in grocery stores, in both fresh and dried form. Medicinally, basil’s sedative quality is used in teas for aiding digestion and easing upset stomachs. In addition, the essential oil of basil has antibiotic and anti-fungal properties. In English folk magic, basil was used to keep away pests and guard against harmful spells cast by others. An old legend has it that Witches would drink “basil juice” before flying on their broomsticks. This may suggest that it was used for astral projection, or interacting with the spirit world in an out-of-body experience. In Italy, basil was a symbol of love, and women who were ready to receive suitors would place a pot of basil on their balconies. Today, basil is used for a variety of magical purposes, including love, luck, wealth, happiness, harmony, courage, fertility, protection, and exorcism. In its protective function, it is strewn on floors to ward off negative energy, and carried to promote courage in dangerous circumstances. For luck and prosperity, it can be sprinkled outside one’s business, or worn in a charm satchel for general money attraction. Some people carry a whole dried leaf in their wallets for this purpose. It is also used to clear the mind from anxiety, confusion, and feelings of fear or inadequacy. In love spells, it is often used to encourage reconciliation between established couples. Basil is also known as American dittany, St. Joseph’s wort, common basil, and witches’ herb.

Bay Laurel

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(Laurus nobilis) (commonly known as Bay Leaf)

Zodiac sign: Leo, Aries
Planet: Sun
Element: Fire
Deities: Apollo (Greek god of healing and poetry), Hermes (Greek god of athletics and luck), Cerridwen (Welsh goddess of prophecy and transformation)

Most commonly known as the leaf you put in soups and sauces to flavor them while cooking (and then remove before eating!), the leaf of the bay laurel tree has a long history of magical importance. Bay laurel is an evergreen shrub, generally 3 to 10 feet tall, with shiny oval leaves that are brighter green on top and lighter on the bottom. Once dried, the leaves begin to fade in color, so you can tell when bay leaves are old by whether they are still somewhat green or have faded to brown. Bay leaves are widely available in the spice section of grocery stores. Some healers make a poultice of the leaves and berries of bay laurel for relieving head and chest colds. The essential oil can be included in massage oils for the relief of arthritis and sore muscles. Bay laurel was associated with nobility, honor, and triumph in ancient times, and was used to crown heroes, poets, and other people of high regard in both Greece and Rome. Wreaths of laurel were worn to protect against any vengeful tendencies on the part of sky gods, and by doctors who considered laurel to have highly curative properties. Bay leaves are used in spellwork for protection, purification, healing, strength, good fortune, money, and success, as well as divination, clairvoyance, and other psychic powers. A common form of bay magic is to write your wish on a dried bay leaf and then burn it to seal the spell. Bay leaves are placed in one corner of each room in a house for protection, as well as under pillows—or in dream pillows—to encourage prophetic dreaming. In keeping with its ancient associations, bay leaf can be carried to promote luck in athletic games and competitions. A sprig of bay laurel can be used to asperge a space, a person, and/or magical tools in preparation for ritual. Some healers wear laurel wreaths while treating their patients in order to increase positive energy and ward off any negative energy resulting from the illness. After recovery from illness, burning bay leaf in the room where the person was treated can purify the space. In fact, bay leaf is a great smudging herb for banishing unwanted negative energy in the form of poltergeists or other disturbing spirits. On a more mundane level, bay leaves can keep bugs out of a sack of flour, and keep clothing and linens fresh and moth-free. Be sure not to confuse bay laurel with other plants with similar names, such as mountain laurel, which is poisonous.


Chamomile

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(Matricaria recutita—German chamomile, used in US); (Chamaemilum nobile—Roman chamomile, used in UK)

Zodiac sign: Scorpio, Leo
Planet: Sun
Element: Water
Deities: Ra (Egyptian Sun god), Cernunnos (Celtic god of the underworld), Lugh (Celtic Sun and harvest god)

The name “chamomile” comes from the Greek word for “ground apple,” which is well-suited to this low-growing beauty of apple-like fragrance. Chamomile is well known by many for its calming effects as a tea, but it has plenty of magical uses as well! This charming plant has feathery leaves and sweet-smelling flowers that resemble small daisies. The flowers are dried and crushed to make tea, and chamomile essential oil has been used in skincare products as well as aromatherapy. If you don’t have access to bulk herbs and would rather not order chamomile online, you can always buy the tea and open the individual tea bags to use chamomile in spellwork. Chamomile was used as an incense in ancient Rome, and to ease fevers in ancient Egypt. It was one of the nine sacred herbs in Anglo-Saxon traditional Witchcraft, and is still recognized as such by modern followers of that tradition. It is used today to soothe indigestion, menstrual cramps, and stress from teething and colic in infants. However, many healing professionals warn against ingesting chamomile during pregnancy—as always, check with your doctor before trying any herbs! It is a very handy herb to have around for those who deal with a lot of stress and anxiety. And although it’s primarily thought of as a healing herb, the fresh leaves happen to be great mixed with sour cream or butter for potatoes! Magically, chamomile’s calming properties are also used to promote healing, stress reduction, and peaceful sleep. In fact, this is a great herb for beginners to get a feel for how the physical characteristics of a plant mirror its magical associations. It has other magical uses, however, including workings for purification, love, and money. It can be burned in money spells or added to prosperity bags. Gamblers will wash their hands in chamomile-infused water for luck before playing cards or hitting the casino. Similarly, it’s believed that keeping a packet of the herb—such as a chamomile tea bag—with lottery tickets can increase one’s chance of winning. Washing doors and windows with a chamomile infusion keeps unwanted energies at bay. A chamomile bath works well as a pre-ritual preparation, as well as releasing negative emotions or an old love relationship. Chamomile is also used for workings related to tranquility and purification, and makes a good all-purpose “booster” for most spellwork. If you have a garden, try planting chamomile near delicate or struggling plants—it will help increase their vitality. Chamomile is also known as camomile, earth apple, ground apple, whig plant, and scented mayweed.


Dandelion

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(Taraxacum officinale)

Zodiac sign: Pisces, Sagittarius
Planet: Jupiter
Element: Air
Deities: any solar deity, Brigid (Celtic goddess of healing and poetry), Hecate (Greek goddess of witchcraft and necromancy)

The reputation of dandelion is interesting—it’s considered a delightful flower by most children, and an annoying, unstoppable weed by many adults. Those who bemoan the dandelion generally have no idea of its medicinal and even culinary benefits. If they did, they might stop spraying their yards with pesticides! Found all over the globe, dandelion is an efficient herb, as the roots, leaves, and flowers can be used for a variety of purposes. In fact, up until the 1800s, people actually pulled up grass to make room for more dandelions! Dandelion is also loved by bees, as it is one of the first sources of pollen to emerge after winter. For humans, the fresh leaves in early spring make lovely salads, and the flowers are used in jams and dandelion wine. The French phrase “dent de lion,” or “tooth of the lion,” is where dandelion gets its name. One age-old tradition associated with this plant is still followed today—blowing on the “puff ball,” or seed head, that the flower eventually becomes and making a wish. Another old belief was that the tallest dandelion in a field in early spring could predict the growth in height of the child who finds it. It also predicts weather, as it will close up like an upside-down umbrella at the onset of rain. Medicinally, the dandelion is a friend of the liver and the kidneys, and both dried leaves and ground-up roots are used in detoxification teas.  Dandelion tea can also help with acne, eczema, and other skin issues. Dandelion’s magical properties are fairly focused on divination, interaction with the spirit world, and granting wishes. In addition to cleansing the liver, the tea can increase psychic powers, and pouring water over a bowl of the roots is a way of calling spirits. Dried dandelion leaves and flowers can be used in dream pillows and sachets to protect against nightmares. For drawing good luck to your life, bury a dandelion on the northwest side of your house. For wishes, use dandelion in the bath, and/or revive the childhood tradition of blowing on the seed head after speaking your wish! Some Witches use the fresh blossoms and green leaves for altar decorations during spring and summer Sabbats. They are also woven into wreaths and garlands, and even ropes that can be worn during these rituals. Likewise, late-summer seed heads with their slightly silvery hue make for nice autumn altar adornments. Dandelion is also known as blowball, cankerwort, priest’s crown, puffball, and wild endive. This is a fairly safe bet for amateur foragers, but if you go this route, look for dandelions growing in wilder places, away from roadsides and yards where pesticides and other pollutants can make them unsafe to consume.


Lavender

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(Lavandula angustifolia)

Zodiac sign: Gemini, Virgo
Planet: Mercury
Element: Air
Deities: Mercury (Roman god of divination and boundaries), Hecate (Greek goddess of witchcraft and necromancy)

Lavender is well known as a very fragrant, calming herb used in many bath oils as well as sachets and sleep pillows. Although it isn’t widely used in cooking these days, culinary lavender does make a nice addition to teas and many desserts. A member of the mint family (though known for having more of a “tangy” than a “minty” taste), lavender is somewhat similar in appearance to rosemary, with narrow green leaves resembling short pine needles. Both the leaves and the purple, white, and/or blue flowers blooming at the tops of the plant hold a unique flavor and an unmistakable aroma. During Cleopatra’s day in Rome, lavender had a reputation for attracting love and passion. However, other cultures prized it for its apparent protective properties, and used it to keep away the “evil eye” and/or unwanted spirits. It was found to be useful against the plague in the Middle Ages, most likely because it repelled the fleas that carried and spread the disease. Bundles of lavender were traditionally given to women during childbirth to hold onto, in order to promote courage and strength. Lavender is an incredibly versatile herb in magical workings as well. While it’s very often used for love, peace, and restful sleep, other purposes include clairvoyance, consecration, happiness, healing, money, passion, protection (both physical and psychic), purification, relief of grieving, longevity, memory retention, meditation, divination, and wedding blessings. Lavender is a classic staple ingredient in dream pillows, bath spells, sachets and love spells. The flowers are particularly effective in love spells, especially those aimed at attracting a man into one’s life. The ashes of dried lavender flowers can also be sprinkled around the home to promote peacefulness. For those who have trouble falling asleep at night, burning lavender incense can be tremendously helpful. (If you can’t find lavender incense, a few drops of essential oil sprinkled on your pillow can also help.) For purifying a space, lavender makes for a great asperging herb as well. Because of its calming and centering energy, lavender can be of great benefit to use before working magic of any kind. For example, if you’re wanting to work a Full Moon spell but can’t seem to get in the right frame of mind after a busy day of work, try taking a ritual purification bath with lavender flowers or essential oil. At the very least, you can inhale the fragrance of lavender as you breathe deeply for a few moments, readying yourself to begin your magical work. Lavender is also known as spike, nardus, and elf leaf. Take advantage of its pest-repellent qualities by placing lavender sachets or wands in cupboards, closets, and other storage areas to keep away moths.