Dates – myth, magic & healing

Phoenix dactylifera

Planetary ruler: Sun

Element: air

Associated deities: Amon-Ra, An, Anubis, Apollo, Artemis, Ashur, Clio, Demeter, Hathor, Helios, Herakles, Hermes, Inanna, Ishtar, Isis, Lat, Leto, Mullissu, Mylitta, Nepthys, Nike, Thoth

Magical virtues: aphrodisiac, potency, virility, love, fertility, abundance, good luck, wealth, victory, counter magic, immortality, peace

LORE:

The species name, dactylifera, is based on the Greek words daktylos (digit) and fero (I bear), because dates resembled fingers as they grow. Cultivated for at least 5,000 years; there are many references to the date palm in the ancient world, as well as in the texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In Mesopotamian art, the palm tree was used to symbolize Mylitta, the goddess of love and fertility. The Babylonian goddess Inanna was called ‘Our Lady of the Date Clusters’. It is also a symbol of immortality; the Egyptian goddess Nepthys was sometimes depicted as a palm tree with two arms, one hand presenting a tray of dates to the deceased soul, and the other hand presenting the waters of life. Excavations have uncovered mummies robed in date palm leaves.

MAGICAL USES:

Pieces of dried date can be added to incenses, herbal talismans and amulets used for fertility magic and abundance. Incense containing dried date, or dates may be used as offerings in rites of any of the above deities. Use dates in funeral and memorial rites to acknowledge the immortality of the soul.

CULINARY & HOUSEHOLD USES:

Dates are eaten fresh or dried and may be added to both sweet and savoury dishes. Fresh dates can be pressed to extract a sweet juice. Date mash ferments into an alcoholic drink called arak. The tree sap is used as a beverage, fresh or fermented, and a type of sugar can be extracted from it. The tender terminal buds may be eaten as a vegetable.

COSMETIC USES:

Used as a fruit mask, dates possess antibacterial, antifungal, and moisturising properties, which may also help rosacea. An oil extracted from date kernels reduces wrinkles.

HOME REMEDIES:

Dates can be used to relieve constipation – soak a handful of dates in water overnight and consume both dates and liquid.  The same remedy may relieve a hangover.

CAUTION:

None known.

© Anna Franklin, 2022

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Cumin

(Cuminum cyminum syn. Cuminum odorum)

Planetary ruler: Mars

Element: fire

Magical virtues: love, faithfulness, fidelity

LORE:

Cumin is often confused with caraway (Carum carvi), and many European languages do not differentiate between the two, so it is frequently impossible to know whether cumin or caraway is referred to in older books. In Mediaeval Europe, it was said that cumin seed prevented lovers from straying – young women gave their sweethearts bread seasoned with cumin or wine with cumin and it was baked into the loaves of bread sent with soldiers off to war.  It often featured at weddings and was believed that a happy life awaited the bride and groom who carried cumin seed throughout the wedding ceremony.

MAGICAL USES:

The primary magical virtues of cumin are faithfulness and fidelity. Cumin seed can be baked into cakes and breads to keep a lover faithful, added to handfasting and wedding food and wine, or pop a few seeds in your lover’s pocket.

CULINARY AND HOUSEHOLD USES:

In Greece and Rome, a dish of cumin seeds was placed on the table to be used much as pepper is today. Cumin is used as a flavouring agent in cheeses, pickles, sausages, soups, stews, curries, chilli powders, stuffing, rice and bean dishes, biscuits, cakes and liqueurs.

COSMETIC USES:

Cumin is wonderful for the skin, a rich source of vitamin E which helps the skin repair itself and fight the free radical damage that cause wrinkles, sagging and age spots. Use the freshly ground seeds mixed with honey as a naturally antibacterial and lightly exfoliating to scrub.

HOME REMEDIES:

Theantispasmodic activity of cumin helps with minor digestive problems. The aroma activates the salivary glands while its thymol stimulates bile secretion, so it improves digestion. As an expectorant, cumin is useful for coughs and colds. 

CAUTION:

Cumin is considered safe in food amounts and non-toxic in moderate doses. Allergic reactions to the herb can occur in people who are allergic to other plants in the Apiaceae family.  To be on the safe side, it should not be used in medicinal doses during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It should be avoided by those suffering from oestrogen receptor positive tumours.

© Anna Franklin, 2022

Know Your Daisies!

(Bellis perennis)

The common name ‘daisy’ is a contraction of its old name, Day’s Eye (Old English daeges eage), as it looks like a little sun that only opens in the day and closes its petals at night.  It is not surprising that it is associated with sun gods and goddesses, such as the Baltic sun goddess Saule; anything round and rayed suggests the sun.[1]

It starts to flower around Easter (or the Spring Equinox); indeed, in France, children attending the Easter mass might be given eggs painted with daisies.  [2] Custom has it that spring has not arrived until you can put your foot on twelve daisies (others say seven or nine).  [3] In southwest Ireland, children celebrated the coming of spring and the first daisies of the year by picking them and exchanging them for pennies.  [4]

They are associated with maiden goddesses of spring and blossoming.  The botanical name bellis comes from the Latin bellus which means ‘pretty’.  In Classical myth the daisy is said to have been created when the nymph Belidis changed herself into a daisy to avoid the amorous attentions of the orchard god Vertumnus or when Boreas, god of the north wind, tried to get the attention of Flora, goddess of flowers, and sent a gust of snowflakes into the flowering meadows.  Flora just laughed and turned each snowflake into a tiny daisy.

Just as the year is young and innocent in the spring, the daisy is symbol of innocence and purity, virtue and sweet youth.  In Christian lore it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the flower of all flowers that never fades, hence the folk name ‘Mary’s Flower’. In Christian lore, daisies are said to have sprung from the Virgin Mary’s tears as the holy family fled to Egypt, while in medieval paintings the daisy stood for the purity and innocence of the Christ child.

It is a flower very much associated with children, especially the new-born, specifically for their protection.  The folk name of bairnswort is thought to originate in Scotland and refers to the childhood pastime of making daisy chains, the stems split with the thumbnail and the next flower threaded through, made and worn by children for protection, a custom that continues, though the original meaning has been lost.  Daisy chains were placed beneath a child’s pillow to shield them from disease. 

The protective power of daisies was also employed by adults.  On St John’s Day (Midsummer’s Day) it was the custom to gather daises before dawn and put on the roof as a protection against lightening.  [5] They were called John’s Flowers in Switzerland.  In Bavaria, it was believed that if you are going on an important journey, you should pick daisies between 12 and 1 o’clock and wrap them in paper and carry them for luck and protection.  [6] To protect against plague, daisies dug up on St John’s Day were preserved and kept as a protective charm. 

Daisies are also a symbol of faithful love; in the thirteenth century the daisy was called Flos amoris or ‘love flower’.  [7] If a knight was promised love, he was allowed to depict a daisy on his armour.  If the damsel in question was considering his proposal, she wore a garland of daisies on her head.  [8] In Chaucer’s The Legende of Goode Women, Queen Alceste is transformed into a daisy because, according to Chaucer, her virtues outnumbered the flower’s petals.  This was a retelling of an ancient Greek myth in which Alcestis was the daughter of Pelias.  Her betrothed, Admetus, became fatally ill.  Apollo appealed to the Fates to spare him, but they would only do so on condition that another person should consent to die in his place.  Alcestis agreed to do this and was restored to earth in the form of a daisy, a reward for her selfless and faithful love.

Daises were employed in love spells and love divination.  Who has not played the game “He loves me, he loves me not” with a petal plucked off at each chant, and the final petal deciding the issue? One American version runs:

One I love, two I love, three I love I say,

Four I love, with all my hearth,

And five I cast away,

Six he loves, seven she loves, eight they both love,

Nine he comes, ten he tarries,

Eleven he courts and twelve he marries.  [9]

A similar custom is simply to count the petals to see if your love is returned – if there is an even number then it is not, but an odd number means it is. Actually, the petals are usually odd numbered and if you start with ‘he loves me’ then you usually get the required answer.  Or sit in a flowering meadow, close your eyes and pull up a handful of grass – the number of daisies in the handful are the number of unmarried years remaining to you.  If you want to attract love, wear a daisy.  If you want to dream of an absent lover, daisy roots should be placed under your pillow.  [10]

The common phrase ‘pushing up daises’ means to be dead and buried.  An old superstition was that if you put your foot on a daisy in spring, they would be growing over you (or someone close) by autumn.  [11] In Germany, it was said that if many daisies flower in the spring, then many infants will die in the autumn, and the hay crop will be bad.  [12]

They have long been used medicinally, mentioned by the Roman Pliny the Elder, and the English herbalist Gerard (c.  1545–1612) said that daisies “mitigated all pains”, and that the crushed leaves cured bruises and swellings, hence another of its folk names, bruisewort.  [13] The daisy was used in ancient times, sometimes in combination with yarrow, to counter the shock of battle injuries.  Its Latin name Bellis means beautiful, so Bellis perennis could translate as perennial beauty.  Bellis could also stem from bellum, meaning war, maybe because daisies grew in fields of battle and military doctors of the Roman Empire would soak bandages in their juice to bind soldiers’ wounds. 

According to the doctrine of signatures, the daisy opens and closes like an eye, suggesting that it can ease infection or inflammation of the eye.  Because it is called ‘day’s eye’ and looks like an open eye, it was thought a good remedy for eye complaints.  In Ireland, an infusion of daisy was used as an eyewash.  [14] It was a common folk cure for toothache.

MAGICAL USES

The daisy is a perfect symbol of spring, the strengthening Sun, blossoming, and the youthful year, which can be utilised in your Ostara celebrations.  We use daisies to decorate the altar, and the ritual cup, floating them in the wine.  The dried flowers and leaves can be added to incenses.

Daises represent innocence and purity, particularly of women.  They may be used to greet the arrival of a baby or to garland a young girl celebrating the rite of passage at menstruation.

They are plants of protection for children. Place a posy of daisies or a daisy chain in a child’s bedroom.

In the Northern tradition daisies are sacred to Freya, and may be used in rituals concerning the goddess, in an incense or strewn around the boundary of the circle, to decorate the altar or as a garland for the invoking priestess.

Daisies are sacred to sun gods and goddesses. They may be employed in rituals of the sun and solar deities, especially at Midsummer, the zenith of the sun’s power.

Daisies picked between noon and one o’clock have special magical qualities.  They bring success in any venture when they are dried and carried. 

USE YOUR LAWN DAISIES!

The young leaves of lawn daises (Bellis Perennis) contain high amounts of vitamin C and can be added raw to salads. They have a mild, slightly sour, flavour.  In the past, they were popularly cooked as a vegetable and served with meat, and can be added to soups, stews and sandwiches.  Daisy flowers make great decorative additions to salads and cocktails.  The young, closed flower buds can be pickled in vinegar and used as caper substitutes. 

Daisy Tea

Pour 250 ml/ 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried or 2 tsp of fresh flowers and leaves and infuse for 10 minutes.  Strain and allow to cool slightly before drinking. Daisy Tea has a slight lemony taste and is uplifting and refreshing. 

Bellis Perennis has been used for centuries for cosmetics dating back to Ancient Egypt, and is still used in commercial products like creams, gels, lotions and makeup.  Daisy has a unique combination of polyphenols which naturally suppress melanin production, which helps reduce the appearance of dark spots on the skin and lightens and brightens the complexion naturally.  Use a Macerated Daisy Oil or daisy cream on age spots and uneven skin tone. 

Macerated Daisy Oil

To make a cold macerated oil cut up the daisies, pack into a glass jar and cover with vegetable oil (olive, sunflower, almond etc.).  Put on the lid.  Leave on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks, shaking daily.  Strain into a clean jar.  This will keep in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

The daisy carries a high concentration of exfoliating acids and is very high in malic and tartaric acids, which aid in natural cell turnover.  Add dried daisy petals to exfoliating preparations or use Daisy Tea (see above) and a rough washcloth to remove dead cells from the surface of your skin, leaving it looking brighten and glowing. 

Put the flowers in a muslin bag and add to the bath to refresh dull skin.

 

Daisies are one of our most common plants and the fresh or dried flowers and leaves may be used medicinally both internally and externally.  They contain saponins, essential oil, resin, mucilage, bitters, vitamin C, tannin and inulin.  [15] Daisies are astringent, and stem bleeding.  They can be used for treating wounds in the form of a wash or poultice.   It contains antibacterial agents used was once used on the battlefield for treating wounded soldiers.  Daisy is helpful in healing sores, fresh wounds and scratches.  Use Daisy Tea as a wash or apply Daisy Salve.

Daisy Salve

225 gm/ 8 oz daisy flowers and leaves

225 gm/ 8 oz petroleum jelly

14 gm/ ½ oz beeswax or soy wax

Melt the petroleum jelly and wax in a bowl over boiling water.  Add the flowers and leaves.  Simmer for two hours, then strain into a pot.

A traditional name for the plant is bruisewort from its traditional use in treating bruises.  Apply Daisy Salve to the affected area or apply a poultice of the crushed leaves. 

Daisy Tea is antitussive, anti-inflammatory and expectorant and can help catarrh and coughs, bronchitis, colds and sinusitis. 

For sore eyes use an eyebath of Daisy Tea. 

Chew the fresh leaves to relieve the pain of mouth ulcers.  Daisy Tea may be used as a mouthwash or gargle to aid sore throat and mouth inflammation.

The anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of Daisy Tea may help relieve arthritis, and sore muscles.  For stiff necks, lumbago and general aches and pains, make a Daisy Decoction, strain and dab on the skin, or add to a warm bath and soak.  Daisy Salve may be rubbed on to inflamed joints and sore muscles. 

Daisy Decoction

50 gm/ 2 oz flowers and leaves

500 ml/ 1 pt.  water

Boil together for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Strain after 10 minutes.

As a mild diuretic Daisy Tea aids the excretion of toxins via the kidneys, which may be useful in treating gout, arthritis and skin problems including acne and boils. 

Daisy promotes sweating and contributes to lowering fevers.  Use as a compress on forehead or drink Daisy Tea.

CAUTION:

Daisies are generally considered safe, and there are no known side effects.  It is wise to avoid medicinal amount during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  However, some people are allergic to the daisy, or Asteraceae family, so use with caution if there is any risk of a reaction.

© Anna Franklin 2022 


[1] Sheena McGrath, The Sun Goddess, Blandford, London, 1997

[2] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

[3] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

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

[5] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

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

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

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

[9] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

[10] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

[11] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

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

[13] Gerard, John, Gerard’s Herbal, Senate, London, 1994

[14] Donald Watts BA MIL, Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, Academic Press, London, 2007

[15] The Secret World of Herbs, part work, 1985

Chilli

Capsicum annuum var. annuum/ Capsicum frutescens

Planetary ruler: Mars

Element: fire

Associated deities: Alakshmi, Lakshmi, Uchu

Magical virtues: shamanic travel, counter magic, protection, love, aphrodisiac

LORE:

Christopher Columbus set sail to find a new route to get the extortionately expensive black pepper cheaper, but instead he found the New World and something just as good – chillies. It was his naming them pimiento (‘red pepper’) that caused the confusion that still exists with the name – they are not really peppers at all, but part of the solanaceae or nightshade family. The pre-Columbian tribes of Panama used chilli in combination with cocoa and other plants to enter into hallucinatory trance, travelling to the world above or the world below to negotiate with spirits on behalf of humankind. [i] In the Amazon, chilli is sometimes added to the hallucinogenic medicines that shamans use for healing rituals and vision quests. 

MAGICAL USES:

Chillies are used in counter magic, protection rituals and to drive out evil spirits. Sprinkle around the house or burn them along with garlic.  Hang a string of dried chillies in your kitchen as a protective charm or put a wreath of chillies on your front door. Add chilli powder to incenses of protection and banishing.  Add chilli powder to incenses of Mar and fire to increase their power.

CULINARY AND HOUSEHOLD USES:

Fresh chilli peppers can be used to make soups, stews, curries, chillies, spicy drinks, sauces, chutney and pickles.  Chilli powder and cayenne pepper are ground from the fruit of capsicums. Chilli powder is usually a blend of several types of chillies. It can be added to meat or vegetable dishes, pasta and eggs.

HOME REMEDIES:

Chillies helps stimulate saliva, which is important for digestion as well as preventing bad breath. The hot and spicy taste of chilli is due to a compound called capsaicin, which is a natural pain killer. This is very helpful in relieving pain in cases of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia as well as shingles, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, muscle and back pain. Eating chillies or drinking chilli tea aids in breaking up and moving congested mucus in cases of colds and flu.  They are also rich in vitamin C, which helps the immune system fight infections.  Eating hot chillies increases the flow of blood and loosens the secretions of mucus in the sinuses, thus relieving the congestion that causes sinus headaches.

CAUTION:

Side effects of topical application can include skin irritation, burning, and itching. Don’t use capsicum on damaged or broken skin. Do not use on children. Eating very hot chillies can cause stomach irritation. Do not use if you are breastfeeding or pregnant. Avoid if you take anticlotting medications including aspirin, as capsicum may increase the effect. Avoid if you take Theophylline.


[i] http://www.chileplanet.eu/Origin-story.html, accessed 18.10.17

The Voluptous Fig

The fig (Ficus carica) is native to Iran, Asia Minor and Syria, but now widespread across the Mediterranean.  The succulent, many-seeded fruit has been valued since the most ancient times and appears in many mythologies as a symbol of abundance, sex, fertility, blessing and protection and dedicated to a variety of gods. They were widely considered aphrodisiac.  


Figs are highly nutritious, containing dietary fibre and a plethora of vitamins and minerals.  Eat your figs fresh or dried, serve them in a salad, pair them wih feta or ricotta cheese, make them into jam, add to cakes and pastries, grill or bake them to add to savoury dishes, make them into a syrup for dessert and cocktails, or ferment them into a potent wine.

COSMETIC USES:

A fresh fig face mask (mix with honey) will help balance sebum production and reduce the appearance of wrinkles by promoting collagen production.

HOME REMEDIES:

The fruit and leaves are used. Figs are used for their mild, laxative and stool softening action in cases of constipation. They can be eaten fresh or made into syrups for this purpose.  For warts, apply the milky juice from a freshly broken fig stalk to the affected area. The leaves may be applied as a poultice to boils and sores. A tea made from fig leaves helps lower blood sugar. Early research shows it may reduce insulin requirements in Type 1 diabetics.

CAUTION:

Skin contact with fig fruit or leaves can cause a rash in some sensitive people. Fig leaf may decrease blood sugar, so monitor your levels carefully if you are diabetic.  

Sloes- black magic and gin!

The common name blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) comes from the sharp thorns and dark bark of the shrub.  Its other name sloe may be from the old high German slêha meaning ‘bluish’, the colour of the fruit, or may be related to the words slay and strike, as it was used to make heavy clubs. Witches were reputed to carry black rods of blackthorn; the sorcerer Major Weir was burned at the stake in 1670 with his blackthorn rod.  The thorns of the blackthorn were used for pricking wax images for cursing. In Christian lore, Christ’s crown of thorns was made of blackthorn. The pretty flowers are a harbinger of early spring, and appear before the leaves, but in superstition to take them into the house invites death. It was also bad luck to wear the flowers in your buttonhole. In Germany, blackthorn was burned on Walpurgis night to ward off evil spirits.

The tart berries can be made into wine or liqueur, especially sloe gin, as well as syrups, jellies and jams. The leaves or dried fruits can be made into tea. The flowers may be crystallised for cake decoration. The berries yield a red dye.

Blackthorn flower or berry infusion can be used as a gargle for mild inflammation of the mouth and throat, tonsillitis, or drunk as an expectorant for coughs.  Sloe syrup is a laxative and diuretic in cases of constipation.

CAUTION: Sloes can be toxic in large quantities. Avoid during pregnancy and lactation.

Sloe Gin

8 oz. sloes

14 fl. oz. gin

4 oz. sugar

I wait until the first frost before gathering the berries, but if you want to be sure of getting some, you can pick them as soon as they ripen.  Remove the stalks and wash the fruit. Either prick the sloes or put them into the freezer for 24 hours. Put them into a screw top jar (they should take up no more than half the space), layering with the sugar.  Put on the lid and shake to dissolve the sugar.  You can strain and bottle after 3 months, but it much better if you leave the fruit in for at least 6 months.  If you can, leave it to mature at least a year before drinking. You can substitute whisky, vodka or brandy for gin, if you prefer.

Blackberry Vinegar

2 lb. blackberries

2 pt. malt vinegar

Place the washed blackberries in a bowl and break them up slightly with a wooden spoon. Pour on the malt vinegar. Cover with a cloth and stand for 3-4 days, stirring occasionally. Boil for 10 minutes, cool, strain and bottle the resulting liquid. This is very good for coughs. Quantities can easily be increased, allowing 1 lb. blackberries to 1 pt. fruit.

The same method can be used to make elderberry vinegar. Many people find this very good food colds – drink a tablespoon of blackberry or elderberry vinegar in hot water with a little honey.

Elderberry Glycerite

Ripe elderberries

Vegetable glycerine (food grade)

Strip the berries from the stem, using a fork. To make a glycerite put the berries into a clean jar and pour on slightly warmed glycerine until they are completely covered. Seal and keep in a warm place for 2-4 weeks, shaking daily. Strain through muslin and store in a dark bottle in a cool place for up to 2 years. Take a spoonful four times a day for colds and flu.

Red Poppy in Magic and Healing

Papaver rhoeas

Planetary ruler: Moon

Element: water

Associated deities: Agni,Aphrodite,Artemis,Ceres, Cybele, Demeter, Diana, Great Goddess, Hades, Harvest, Hera, Hermes, Hypnos, Jupiter, Harvest Goddesses, Mercury, Morpheus, Mother Goddesses, Persephone, Pluto, Proserpine, Somnus, Venus, Vulcan, Yama, Thanatos, Nyx

Magical virtues: fertility, death, mourning, dreamwork, meditation

LORE:

Poppies almost always accompany grain crops (or at least they did until the widespread use of herbicides) and a cornfield without poppies was unthinkable for the ancients.   The Greeks called it ‘the companion of the corn’, its presence deemed vital for the health of the crop, the lifeblood of the harvest goddess Demeter which nourished the fields.  They were offered, with some symbolic corn, to the goddess. 

MAGICAL USES:

Decorate the harvest loaf with poppy seeds. As flowers of death, mourning and rebirth, use poppies in funeral and memorial rituals. For spells and rituals of fertility,  carry poppy seeds in a sachet, use them in incense, charm bags, amulets and talismans, as well as adding them to food.  The seed and flowers are added to love spells and rituals, incense, oils, talismans and charms, the handfasting and incense.  The seeds and dried petals can be added to divination incense and potions. 

CULINARY AND HOUSEHOLD USES:

Poppy seeds can be scattered on bread, cakes, buns and rolls. The red flowers will add a red colour to syrups and beverages. Poppy petal syrup can be used in desserts, soups and stews.    Add the petals to summer salads. The new leaves can be eaten raw or cooked but are best picked before the plant flowers.  

COSMETIC USES:

Poppy seed oil boosts collagen production, relaxes wrinkles and helps prevent their formation.  The petals can be used in homemade skincare products.

HOME REMEDIES:

The leaves can be warmed and used as a poultice for neuralgia. A tea, glycerite or syrup made from red poppy petals may be used for coughs and catarrh, to remove excess mucus and soothe sore throat. The flower tea is mildly sedative and soothing.  Poppy flower or poppy seed tea, glycerite or syrup may also be used as a sedative in cases of insomnia and as a mild painkiller.  The seeds can be ground and made into a paste with a little water to apply in a poultice to swollen and painful joints.

CAUTION:

Red poppy flowers are mildly sedative, so exercise caution and do not drive or operate machinery after taking.   Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or taking other sedatives.  

The Apple in Magic & Medicine

Planetary ruler: Venus

Element: water

Associated deities: Aphrodite, Apollo, Arthur, Athene, Bel, Ceridwen, Demeter, Diana, Dionysus, Dumuzi, Eve, Flora, Grannos, Hera, Herakles, Hermes, Hesperides, Iduna, Inanna, Juno, Mabon, Manannan, Maponus, Mêliae, Modron, Morgana, Nehallenia, Nemesis, Olwen, Olwen, Pomona, Solar Heroes, Sun Gods, Tellus Mater, Titaea, Venus, Vertumnus, Vishnu, Zeus

Magical virtues: love, fertility, abundance, otherworld travel, divination

LORE:

The apple (Malus spp.) was one of the most sacred trees of the ancient Europeans; under Celtic law, to fell one was punishable by death. For many centuries artists used the apple as an allegory for erotic love.   Paris, Prince of Troy, to make the choice. Hera offered him wealth and power while Athene offered him fame and wisdom, but Aphrodite won by promising him the most beautiful woman alive, Helen, an act which led to the Trojan War.  The connection with love, marriage and fertility was preserved in folklore In England apples were often used in love divination. Juno Pomona ruled the month of November, the season of apples and fruit. A banquet was laid out before images of Jupiter, Juno, Minerva and Feronia in November. In Wales at Halloween, apples were roasted in the chimney corner, suspended on twine, and were added to ale and brandy in the wassail bowl with raisins, spices and sugar.

As part of Yule festivities apple trees were wassailed to encourage them to crop heavily in the coming year. The trees were visited, and cakes or bread soaked in cider were placed in the branches, and cider poured over the roots. When an apple is cut in half across the middle, it reveals a clear pentacle.

MAGICAL USES:

Apples or apple wands are used in spells, incense and charm bags for love magic. Dried apple bark, blossoms, peel and pips may be used in incenses for the planet Venus and the element of water, and to invoke associated gods. The blossom can be used in temple decorations or chaplets, apples can be added to the cakes at Samhain, and cider used to replace the ritual wine. Wassailing should be part of the Yule festivities.  

CULINARY & HOUSEHOLD USES:

The culinary uses of apples are well known, and there is not enough space to go into them all!  They are rich in pectin, and apple can be added to set jams and jellies made from pectin poor fruits like strawberries. Cider vinegar is one of the best natural cleaning agents there is; its antimicrobial properties destroy a variety of harmful organisms.

COSMETIC USES:

Bathe fingernails in apple cider vinegar to strengthen them. Apple cider vinegar can be added to a final hair rinse to treat dandruff.  Diluted apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball makes a simple facial toner to help prevent breakouts and fade bruises. Apple cider vinegar helps kill odour-causing bacteria, so dab a bit under your arms for a natural deodorant. Apple juice combined with malt vinegar imparts a golden colour to fair hair when used as a final rinse.

MEDICINAL USES:

Apples help neutralise the acid products of gout and indigestion. They contain pectin, which helps bulk up the stool to treat diarrhoea and constipation. The cultivated apple makes a good herb tea for fevers, arthritic and rheumatic conditions; wash, peel and boil gently until soft, strain and add some honey or brown sugar. Apples can be used to neutralise toxins in the blood, benefit the gums and reduce cavities in the teeth by clearing away plaque deposits.

Raw cider vinegar has many uses. It can be added to footbaths for athlete’s foot and to reduce the odour of sweaty feet. It has antibacterial properties, making it useful for infections. Gargle with a mixture of apple cider vinegar mixed with warm water for sore throats. You can apply it directly to the irritated skin or add a cup to your bath.  Apple cider vinegar detoxifies and is helpful for arthritis, gout, rheumatism and skin conditions.

© Anna Franklin, 2022 ( draft extract from the forthcoming Hearth Witch’s Concise Herbal, Llewellyn, 2023)