Herbs essential to magic

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

HeadOverHeels_smallHerbs have power. They change health and beauty. In the past such abilities were considered magic. And, those in the know were often considered witches, witch doctors, wizards and the like. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Today, we know the science behind herbal powers. And that may mean ancient herbalists were among the earliest scientists.

Regardless, on Halloween it’s entertaining to don an archetypal witch costume and pretend to cast spells on unsuspecting mortals. Year ‘round, nonetheless, real practitioners of Wiccan “religion” use herbs for good.

Practicing witch Ellen Dugan may be considered one of the top Wiccan authors. She has written four books combining herbalism and spirituality or “green magick.”

In the Garden Witch’s Herbal (Llewellyn, 2015, $19.95), she defines green magick as “a practical, nature-based system of the Craft that focuses on reverence for the natural world, the individual’s environment and the plants and herbs that are indigenous to the practitioner’s own area.”

Who can argue with that?

She notes that, throughout the year, “certain botanicals … align with the energies of the season.” During Samhain or Halloween (or the night before All Soul’s Day in the Catholic religion), for example, rosemary symbolizes remembrance of loved ones who have passed. Sounds like a good herb for the season in Christian or pagan practices.

The Garden Witch’s Herbal is full of such associations. “A green practitioner is well known for their connection with their living and working environment, by their ethics and by their affinity to the powers of the natural world,” writes Dugan

Her book knits together quotable quotes into a collection of essays exploring green witchcraft in a way that makes the craft seem like it should be mainstream. Again …

“Creative [garden] design is what turns a collection of trees, herbs, perennials and flowers into a garden. The clarity and color schedules found in your magickal garden give focus to your goals and intentions. The complexity in your plant forms, such as texture and pattern will make for a sensual garden that begs to be touched, sniffed and enjoyed.

Dugan has me convinced that a little herbal magic may be what people and the environment need. Check her out online.

Among other things, the author of Herbal Magick (New Page Books, 2002, $14.99) – Gerina Dunwich — collects myths and superstitions. Particularly playful (helpful?) on All Hallow’s Eve, might be “Herbal Spells to Ward Off Evil Spirits.” The list is as follows

  • Burn a dried ginseng root
  • Carry fennel seeds in a mojo bag
  • Hang fennel over your doors and windows
  • Wear the root of a devil’s shoestring around your neck
  • Shake a hollowed-out gourd filled with dried beans
  • Plant holly around your home (I’m safe)
  • Wear or carry and orrisroot or peony root as a protective amulet
  • Hang some plantain or periwinkle above your front door and windows
  • Burn a sage smudge wand
  • Sprinkle an infusion of vervain around the perimeter of your property

While it’s not herb-based, witches make some of us think about the witch scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail or three witches chanting in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.


Dugan’s latest titles aren’t yet available at Headquarters, but a number of herbal witchcraft titles can be borrowed by request from The Herb Society’s library, via visit, email or phone. They will be mailed and must be returned after 30 days. Non-members can stop by the Herb Society to peruse books in the library.

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