Primrose – lore, magic, healing & culinary

Primula vulgaris

Planetary ruler: Venus

Element: earth

Associated deities: Blodeuwedd,Freya, spring goddesses, Virgin Mary

Magical virtues: spring, youth, beauty, love, lust

The name primrose comes from the Latin word prime, meaning ‘first’, as it is the first flower of the year. Every spring, women and children sold bunches of primroses on the streets of London to celebrate springtime.  [1] In the Language of Flowers, it signifies the joys of youth, in line with the youthful year.

This was the time of year when old versions of chickens started laying, and the yellow flowers and yellow chicks were associated in sympathetic magic.  If you take a bunch of indoors, count the flowers, and each of your hens will hatch as many fluffy chicks. 

As a spring flower it had magical powers and brought good luck into the house in Germany. [2] If one bloomed at Christmas night, it would help find treasure. [3]

In Ireland they are called ‘fairy flowers’. It is said that eating them is a sure way to see fairies or if you touch a fairy rock with the right number of primroses in a posy, it will open to fairyland and fairy gifts, but the wrong number opens the door to doom.

In the UK and much of Europe, primrose was used as a protection for the house and cows on May Day. In the Quantocks, a primrose ball was hung over the threshold. In Ireland, they were tied to cow’s tails. [4] In Buckinghamshire on May Eve, primrose balls were hung over the house and cowshed door for protection from fairies and witches.  In Somerset, thirteen primroses were laid under baby’s cradle to stop it from being kidnapped by fairies.

It was traditionally a herb of immortality, supposedly holding within it the secret of eternal bliss. When its lore was Christianised, the primrose was said to grant access to heaven.

The primrose was a plant much prized by the Druids. The poem The Chair of Taliesin describes the initiation of a bard with a drink made from primrose and vervain.

The primrose has associations with lust, “the primrose path of dalliance”, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and “the primrose of her wantonness”, from Braithwait’s Golden Fleece. If you presented a woman with a bunch of primroses, you were commenting on her morals! The primrose path of dalliance (Hamlet) an illusory path of pleasure.

Primroses were carried by women to attract love or added to bathing water to increase beauty. In Britain, till the nineteenth century, it was used for love divination. [5]

In old herbals primrose is recommended as a cure for rheumatism, paralysis and insomnia. Gerard recommended that primrose tea should be taken in May to cure ‘the phrensie’ and as a wound salve.

MAGICAL USES:

Primrose is a herb of spring, used at Ostara and Beltane, associated with new beginnings and the lusty currents of the season and the growing life and fertility. It can be used in garlands, incense and added to the cup. The tea can also be taken to attune to the season. At the feast the flowers can be eaten raw in salads, used as decoration in fruit drinks or crystallised and used as decoration on desserts and cakes.

Primrose is used in the initiation of a bard or in as drink to gain poetic inspiration.

In the Nordic tradition the primrose is sacred to the Goddess Freya and can be used in rituals and incense dedicated to her.

Use the flowers in spells, talismans and charm bags to attract love. Add the flowers to your bath to increase your beauty.

For protection, plant primroses in the garden, or add the flowers to protection charms. Use an infused primrose oil for sealing doors and windows against negative influences.

Use Primrose Tea, primrose incense or oil, or carry primrose to make contact with fairies and devas and gain access to the Otherworld. 

Plant in the garden for protection, have pots of growing primroses in the house, or add the flowers to potpourri. Carry primrose flowers in a talisman for protection.

CULINARY USES:

The young leaves and flowers may be added to salads. The leaves can be added to soups and stews, and the flowers crystallised for cake decorations.  The flowers make one of the best country wines. Both the flowers and the leaves can be made into a syrup or a tea. the flowers can be eaten raw in salads, used as decoration in fruit drinks or crystallised and used as decoration on desserts and cakes. The leaves of the primrose can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable.

The leaves and flowers should be picked as they open. The leaves and roots can be dried and stored for future use and the flowers can be crystallised.

COSMETIC USES:

An infusion of the flowers may be used as a wash or cream for acne, spots, wrinkles and other skin complaints.

A primrose cream or lotion will help fade age spots and freckles and treat sunburn.

Add primrose petals to a luxurious beauty bath.

MEDICINAL USES:

Actions: anodyne, diuretic, astringent, expectorant, sedative, antispasmodic, emetic, vermifuge

The flowers, roots and leaves are all used medicinally. The whole plant can be infused and used for the treatment of nervous headaches, insomnia and as a cough medicine.

An infusion or decoction of the roots is slightly sedative and good for nervous headaches, as well as bronchial problems and coughs.

An infusion of the leaves and flowers is a mild painkiller, useful for headaches and rheumatism.

A salve made from the flowers may be used on skin wounds.

CAUTION:

Avoid medicinal use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, sensitive to aspirin or taking anti-coagulant drugs.

RECIPES:

Macerated Primrose Oil

Pack a jar with fresh flowers and fill with sweet almond oil. Place in the airing cupboard for 14 days, shaking the jar daily. Strain into a clean, dark bottle and add a few drops of vitamin E oil. Keep tightly stoppered in a dark place.

Primrose Tea

2 tsp. primrose flowers and young leaves

250 ml/ 1 cup boiling water

Pour the boiling water over the herb and infuse for 15 minutes. Strain and drink.

Primrose Infusion

25 gm primrose flowers and leaves, dried

500 ml water, boiling

Infuse together for 15 minutes.

Primrose Mead

4.5 litres/ 1 gallon water

85 gm 3 oz primrose flowers

900 gm 2 lb honey

250 ml/ 1 cup cold, black tea

Spices to taste – cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, ginger etc.

Make an infusion of the water and primrose flowers. Strain. Add primrose water to the honey and bring to the boil, skimming off any scum. Add some cold, black tea, and when cool enough (20°C/ 68 F) the yeast and nutrient, plus spices to taste. Pour into a demijohn and fit an airlock and leave in a warm place until the mead has finished fermenting. When it has cleared, syphon into sterilised bottles and cork.

Crystallised Primrose Flowers

Primrose flowers

1 large egg white

Few drops of water

Caster (superfine) sugar

Combine the egg white with the water and beat lightly. Dip a paint brush into the egg white and paint the flower. Sprinkle sugar evenly all over on both sides. Place the flower or petal on greaseproof paper to dry. Allow to dry for 12-36 hours. Store in an airtight container.  Use for cake decorations.

© Anna Franklin


[1] Lesley Gordon, A Country Herbal, Webb & Bower Ltd, London, 1980

[2] Marcel de Cleene and Marie Claire Lejeune, Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe, Man & Culture Publishers, Ghent, Belgium, 2003

[3] Marcel de Cleene and Marie Claire Lejeune, Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe, Man & Culture Publishers, Ghent, Belgium, 2003

[4] Marcel de Cleene and Marie Claire Lejeune, Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe, Man & Culture Publishers, Ghent, Belgium, 2003

[5] Marcel de Cleene and Marie Claire Lejeune, Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe, Man & Culture Publishers, Ghent, Belgium, 2003

Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

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