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.


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. 


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.


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


The Place at the Centre of the World

The idea of things having a centre is one that is psychologically important to us and which allows us to orientate ourselves in relationship to it. English villages were once built around a central green and towns around the market cross, while sprawling conurbations still have a ‘town centre’. We recognise other centres in our everyday lives: the navel is the centre of our bodies; our homes are the centre of our lives. According to Nigel Pennick, Pat Collins, the King of the Showmen, used to stamp his heel into the ground to mark out the geomantic centre of the fairground where the main ride, usually a carousel, would be situated with the rest of the amusements laid out around it. This sense of finding the centre was so important that when he died and was to be buried in a newly consecrated extension to the graveyard, his son walked the area, stamping his heel into its geomantic centre, and declared that his father should be buried on that spot.[i]

The concept that the manifest world has a sacred centre, a foundation point where it connects to the upper and lower world, goes back to at least Neolithic times, and is virtually pan-global: “As the individual’s spirit is centralised in the body, and the body has a physical location, so the world’s spirit was thought of as centralised at a fixed point.” [ii]

Every nation has believed, at some point in its history, that it occupied that centre of the world, that its people were the original people or ‘chosen race’. The centre of the world was understood to be a place of particular spiritual energies where the commonplace world was closest to the upper and lower realms. A rock or pillar marked the spot, and through this the world was connected to those domains; in other words, this was where the cosmic axis penetrated the earth. At noon, on the summer solstice, the sun stood directly above the pillar and cast no shadow, thus ‘proving’ it was the centre of the world. [iii]

For the Greeks, the sacred centre was the Omphalos at Delphi. For the Babylonians it was Eridu where the sky god Anu first created humans from clay. The Islamic text Midrash Tanhuma stated that just as a human being had a central naval, so Israel lay at the middle of the world, with Jerusalem at the centre of Israel, with the Temple at its heart, and the Ark at the centre of the Temple, while the foundation stone in front of the Ark was the foundation stone of all the world. The latter was the Dome of the Rock from which the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. In Christian lore the centre is Golgotha, founded on Adam’s skull and the place where Jesus was crucified. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is now built there and its summit is kissed by pilgrims. The centre of the Jewish world is nearby, the Rock of Foundation on the Temple Mount, which is meant to be the naval of creation, the first solid point God made.[iv] In the mediaeval period, Jerusalem was also thought to be the sacred centre of the world and early maps, such as the Mappa Mundi in Hereford Cathedral, show Jerusalem as the hub, with the other known countries laid out around it.

Every Celtic country had its own sacred centre. For the Hebrideans, it was Iona. The Manx centre was at Keeill Abban, situated in the middle of the island where the north-south axis crosses the east-west axis. [v]. The earliest monument there is the Tynwald Mound alongside the Royal Road. Originally there may have been a Pagan temple on the site now occupied by St Luke’s Church

In Ireland it was Tara, situated in the region of Midhe (‘Middle’), the royal heart incorporating the Lia Fail, the Stone of Density, used for the coronation of the High Kings of Ireland. The kings met there every Beltane at a natural outcrop now known as Aill na Mireann, but probably earlier as Carraig Choithrigi (‘the Stone of Divisions’), which is situated near earthworks on the Hill of Uisnech, the actual geographical mid-point of Ireland.

No such clear evidence exists for the use of a sacred centre in England, though one tale does imply that it was once extremely important. In the Celtic tale of Llud and Llevelys, King Llud was instructed to overcome the difficulties facing his kingdom by measuring the land to find the exact mid-point, where he would find two dragons fighting. When he did this and found the dragons, the problems were solved.

In 1941 Sir Charles Arden-Close, director general of the Ordnance Survey, located it on the Watling Street four miles ESE of Atherstone, between the villages of Higham-on-the-Hill and Caldecote. However, a stone cross in Meriden claims to mark the exact centre of England, though the monument was moved two hundred years ago by a few yards. At the Bulls Head pub there is a brass plaque on the floor inscribed with an eye, a target and crossed arrows (the village was a legendary haunt of Robin Hood) which is also said to mark the middle of England. It was made by Italian prisoners of war in the 1940s.[vi]

For the Romans, the centre of England was a few miles away at Venonae, the modern High Cross where the old Roman roads of the Fosse Way and the Watling Street cross, five miles south of Hinckley. There is a monument there, in very poor condition, in the garden of a house set back from the road. It was erected in 1712 but was struck by lightening in 1791. Before that, there was a monument with four arms erected in 1640 by Anthony Flaunt of Claybrooke. The site lies on the boundary of Leicestershire and Warwickshire, and wrestling matches between youths of the rival counties took place there until the middle of the eighteenth century. 

With a revival of interest in sacred centres amongst Pagans and earth-mystery enthusiasts in the 1980s, many efforts were made to identify the geomantic sacred centre of England. As well as the above, another suggestion includes Dunstable, which lies at the crossing of the Roman roads the Watling Street and Icknield Way. The four streets of the town were named after the four cardinal directions.[vii]

The Omphalos- the Navel Stone

The Greek word omphalos means ‘navel’. The navel is obviously the centre of the body, but it is also the place by which we are attached to the nourishment of the mother while in the womb. The Omphalos Stone stood at Delphi.  Delphys means ‘vagina’ [viii] suggesting this is the place where the Goddess gave birth to the world. Omphalos stones marked the hub of the world in various cultures, giving us an image of the sacred centre attaching us to the primal source of the Goddess as the creatrix at the core of creation. Omphaloi are usually near a well, cave or natural cleft in the earth, giving access to the underworld womb of the Goddess and its oracular powers. From the omphalos the four rivers of paradise are said to flow out, the source of all goodness, perhaps identified with local springs or streams.

Several other naval stones are known, and some of them were said to be meteoric black stones, fallen from the sky and thus creating a link between the earth and heaven. [ix] Numerous standing stones in the British Isles are reputed to have fallen from the stars. The now-lost Star Stone marked the meeting of Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. An also-vanished stone at Grimston, Leicestershire, was also said to have such an origin. [x]

Meteoric stones were used as representative of the Goddess in the ancient world. One such is the Ka’bah at Mecca which stands in the centre court of the Great Mosque. It was originally a shrine of Al’Lat (‘Goddess’) where she was served by seven priestesses, representing the seven known planets (pilgrims still circle the stone seven times). Nearby is an ever-flowing well, an image of the Goddess as giver of life. [xi]  The setting crescent moon, an ancient symbol of the Goddess, still appears in the national flags of many Islamic nations.

      Goddesses of other cultures were also associated with stones. The earliest form of Cybele’s name may have been Kubaba meaning either ‘cube’, ‘a hollow vessel’ or ‘cave’. The ideograms for Kubaba in the Hittite alphabet are a lozenge or cube, a double-headed axe, a dove, a vase and a door or gate – all images of the Goddess in Neolithic Europe. [xii] Aphrodite was said to have come ashore on Cyprus after her birth in the foam. She was represented by a black stone which can still be seen at the museum close by her temple.  Astarte was represented by a stone at Byblos and Artemis of Ephesus by a sculpture carved from a black meteorite.

Chiefs and kings were installed at the world rock, giving them the power to speak from the gods. This was certainly true of the Lia Fail (‘Stone of Destiny’) at Tara and the various ‘king stones’ (such as Kingston upon Thames) where medieval English kings were crowned. British monarchs are still crowned on the Stone of Scone. In Celtic lore, a footprint was carved into the upper surface of a rock at the place of installation, and it only fitted the foot of each rightful king. Such an indentation, known as ‘the giant’s footprint’, can be seen near Boscawen-un circle in Cornwall, a place of gorsedd or law giving mentioned in the Welsh triads. The power of the king was drawn from the sacred centre, which was also regarded as the birthplace of the tribe. If he was a good king, and ‘straight’, the land prospered, if he was ‘crooked’, it failed, and battles were lost.

The centre of the city of London was once believed to have been the London Stone, an insignificant rock now housed behind a grating in Cannon Street, but once the old Roman Terminus, sacred to Jupiter, the stone that stood at the centre of every Roman city where the main axis of the north-south road crossed the east-west road.

            Bob Trubshaw wrote about Croft Hill as a possible English omphalos, an idea first mooted in the nineteenth century by T.L. Walker, who suggested it as the British Druidic centre equivalent to the omphalos of the ancient Gauls on the River Loire.[xiii] The River Soar flows through the village of Croft, corresponding to the stream said to flow beside the navel, while the hill itself has an ancient and interesting history. Croft Hill is mentioned in a land grant by King Wiglaf of the Mercians in 836 CE, while the Mercian Court met at Croft Hill, giving it credibility as a central law-giving place. In the Domesday Book it is recorded as Crebre, or Crec, one of the few Celtic names in the area, from bre meaning hill and cre from cræft meaning a rotating machine, i.e. a mill. It is recorded as being held by Ralph,

“…with 4 ½ carucates of land and one bovate. In the demesne is one plough and two slaves, eight villains with one sokeman, four bordars have two ploughs. There is a mill rendering 4s and twelve acres of meadow.”

The hill itself is quartz-rich granite and much of it has been quarried away, with extraction beginning in Roman times. It is steeped in local legends with various UFO sightings and earth-lights witnessed. The low hills nearby are called ‘Shepherd’s Tables’, where it is said herders gathered on Old May Day to sing and celebrate the turning out of their animals into the summer pastures. Trubshaw speculated that as Shepherd’s Race was a name sometimes given to turf labyrinths, this perhaps indicated a ritual pathway up this hill, like the spiral path up Glastonbury Tor. It is one of the places where I work; indeed, it was instrumental in my own shamanic initiation. It is a brooding presence in the otherwise low landscape, a place of many moods, changing dramatically with the seasons. Sometimes it is welcoming, at others inhospitable when it would not be wise to stay; people the genius locus doesn’t like are quickly discouraged and feel obliged to leave. There is definitely a correct way to approach the hill and to climb it, with pockets of different energies which sometimes must be visited in turn.

The Mountain at the Centre of the World

Certain mountains are regarded as abodes of the gods, places where the human can approach the high realm of spirit. Moreover, the mountain considered to be the centre of the world held a special place in myth and shamanic practice. This ‘cosmic mountain’ was given different names in different cultures. The Egyptians knew it as the Primordial Mound, the Israelites as Sinai or Zion, and the Greeks as Olympus or Parnassus. The Hindus called the divine peak Meru or Sumeru, the Chinese Kun-lun, Sung-shan, or Bu-zhou, the Icelanders Himinbjörg, the Aztec Colhuacan, and the Choctaw Nunne Chaha.

In Black Elk Speaks, Black Elk described becoming sick before a shaman came and adapted him to the gods, and also the powers he encountered. He had prophetic visions of the future of his tribe and saw himself on the central mountain ‘which is everywhere’, the cosmic axis, the point where stillness and movement, time and eternity are together. He commented “God’s centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere”.[xiv]

The idea of the world arising from a central mound occurs in several cultures which reproduced it in man-made structures and temples. The Egyptian pyramids may be reproductions of the primordial mound, and during the Ptolemaic Period, every temple was considered to be a replica of the original temple which had been built upon the prehistoric mound after it had emerged from Nun, the primeval waters. In ancient Sumer, the innermost sanctuary of the temple was sometimes referred to as the ‘holy mound’, and was again seen as the mound which first arose out of the abyss.

[i] Nigel Pennick, pers comm.

[ii] Nigel Pennick, The Ancient Science of Geometry, Thames and Hudson, 1979

[iii] John Michell, At the Centre of the World, Thames and Hudson, London, 1994

[iv] ibid

[v] ibid

[vi] ibid

[vii] Bob Trubshaw, The Quest for the Omphalos, Heart of Albion Press, Wymeswold, 1991

[viii] ibid

[ix] Goddess of the Black Stone  Alby Stone

[x] ibid

[xi] ibid

[xii] ibid

[xiii] Bob Trubshaw, The Quest for the Omphalos, Heart of Albion Press, Wymeswold, 1991

[xiv] John G. Neihardt Black Elk Speaks, Pocket Books, 1982

Love Your Weeds – Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Most gardeners see cleavers as a nuisance weed, climbing and winding its way through plants, involving the laborious pulling out of its clinging, ‘sticky’ shoots. However, it can be used for both food and medicine, making it a valued plant in the past, and still used by herbalists today.

Cleavers has various common names, most of them referring to the plant’s clinging habit – catchweed, everlasting friendship, sticky buds, sticky willy, scratch-weed and grip-grass, to name but a few. The Anglo-Saxons called it hedge rife, meaning a tax gatherer or robber, from its habit of plucking wool from passing sheep. In fact, the specific name of the plant, aparine, also refers to this habit, from the Greek aparo, meaning to seize. The reason it clings is because the angles of its stalks and leaves are covered with tiny, hooked bristles which attach themselves to passing objects, and by which it fastens itself to adjacent plants to climb up them into the daylight.


The whole plant is edible, making it a useful pot herb in the middle ages. The little hooks on the stems and leaves soften when cooked, and the whole plant is rich in vitamin C. The leaves and stems can be added to soups and stews, and the tender stems can be boiled and served as a vegetable (best topped with butter in my opinion). For culinary purposes cleavers should be picked while still young and before flowering.  

The leaves and stems make a cleansing and refreshing spring tonic tea. Cleavers belong to the coffee plant family and indeed, the seeds can be ground and roasted and used to make a coffee substitute.  


Cleavers are soothing and cooling, which can have great benefits for irritated skin, used as a compress, poultice or a cool infusion directly washed onto the infected area. An infusion can be used a hair rinse for dandruff prone scalps. It also has deodorant properties and dabbing a cleavers infusion (or simply using the crushed leaves) beneath the armpits can counteract acidic perspiration and sooth the skin of the armpits (especially if combined with lovage). Dabbing a cooled infusion of cleavers onto the affected area can soothe the redness and soreness of sunburn.


Cleavers are cleansing, cooling and detoxifying. They have commonly been used in salves, washes, poultices and compresses topically to treat skin conditions such as itching, seborrhoea, eczema and psoriasis. The crushed leaves can be used as a first aid treatment for stings and bites. The juice of cleavers has long been used to stop bleeding and to treat wounds and ulcers, scalds, burns, sores and blisters.

It a good detoxifying herb eaten or drunk in the spring.  With this herb, many of its useful properties are destroyed by heating, so it is best infused in cold water (see below). It supports the lymphatic system, which carries toxins from the cells to the organs of elimination. It is also a diuretic, so this elimination via the kidneys will increase urination. Its old reputation as a weight loss herb comes from the fact it promotes urination, but remember this will just be water loss, and not fat!


The generic name galium is believed to come from the Greek word gala which means ‘milk’, a reference to its use in curdling milk for cheese and yoghurt making. The ‘sticky’ stems were also meshed together to use as a sieve in the dairy.

The plant is commonly called goosegrass, as all kinds of poultry – not just geese – love to eat it, as do cattle, sheep and horses.

The root yields a red dye, when mordanted with alum. (Apparently, birds who eat the root have their bones turn red!)


Cleavers is considered a safe herb, not known to interact with any medications or other herbal supplements. However, as with any substance, an allergic reaction is possible in some individuals; cases of contact dermatitis have been documented. As with all herbs, to be on the safe side, do not use in medicinal amounts during pregnancy or breast feeding or for an extended period.


Cleavers Cold Infusion

Handful of the aerial parts of cleavers, bruised.

1 pint water

Put in a jug or jar. Leave overnight in the fridge. Use within 48 hours.

Dandelion Wine

23rd April (St George’s Day) is the traditional day to make dandelion wine, and indeed, this is the time when the dandelions are in full flower, sunny golden flowers covering the fields and verges. I will be gathering flowers for wine, which should be kept at least two years before it is drunk. 

Dandelion Wine

6 pints flower heads

3 lb. sugar

2 lemons

1 orange

1 lb. raisins

1 cup of black tea

1 gallon water

Yeast and nutrient

Gather the flowers when you are ready to use them fresh. Boil the water and pour over the flowers, stand for 2 days, stirring daily. Boil with the sugar and citrus fruit rinds for 60 minutes. Put it back in the bin and add the citrus fruit juice. Cool to lukewarm, add the tea, yeast and nutrient. Cover the bin and leave in a warm place for 3 days, stirring daily. Strain into a demijohn and add the raisins. Fit an airlock.

Old Fashioned Herbs – Sweet Cicely

My Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata) is starting to come up, lovely feathery, fern-like leaves that will have an umbel of frothy white flowers soon. The whole plant is aromatic, myrrhis meaning ‘smelling of myrrh’, and odorata meaning ‘fragrant’. Its folk names include British Myrrh or Wild Myrrh, as it is native to the British Isles.

It was used to scent furniture polish in the 16th and 17th centuries.  You can make your own by gently macerated the seeds in beeswax over a low heat before straining. The flowers and leaves can be dried and added potpourri or added to incense to lift the spirits and impart joy and happiness to ceremonies, particularly Beltane and Midsummer.

Every part of the plant is edible. It has an aniseed-like taste, very pronounced in the unripe green seeds, which can be eaten raw or roasted as a snack.

However, the important thing about sweet cicely is that it is sweet! It can be used as a sugar substitute. The natural sweetness of the leaves has been used to reduce sugar in recipes, especially when stewing fruits such as rhubarb or gooseberries, as they also help reduce the acidity.  They are calorie free and well tolerated by diabetics.

The stalks can be used much like celery, while the roots can be boiled or eaten raw. The raw leaves can be added to salads, even fruit salads. They can also be cooked into soups, stews and omelettes.

Medicinally, the plant is added to digestives and aperitifs to aid digestion and relieve flatulence.  Sweet Cicely is famously used by Carthusian monks to make the liqueur, Chartreuse. Try making your own aperitif by steeping the unripe seeds in vodka or brandy for two months before straining.

© Anna Franklin, April 2021


In Pagan times, the mistletoe was considered a potent magical plant because it did not grow on the earth, but on the branches of a tree in a ‘place between places’. It grows into a ball, imitating the sun, and the leaves are fresh and green all year long, making it a plant of immortality and life surviving in the dead time. The berries ripen in December as though it is not affected by the seasons and the winter cold.

Mistletoe is an evergreen, woody parasite growing on the branches of trees, mainly apple and pear, but occasionally on ash, hawthorn and oak trees. It is native to Europe, North Africa and central and western Asia. It may form a bush of up to 5 ft.

In Cornish, its name is ughelvarr; in Breton uhelvarr; in Welsh, uchelwydd, all meaning ‘high branch’ signifying its growing habit or perhaps even its high status. In Irish, it is uil-ioc, meaning ‘all heal’. In Anglo-Saxon it was mistiltan, from tan meaning ‘twig’ and mistl meaning ‘different’ from its habit of growing on other trees. The missel thrush is said to be so called from feeding on its berries.

Pliny said that the mistletoe was one of the most important magical plants of the Celts and served as a symbol for the winter solstice. He recorded that the druids called mistletoe by a name which meant ‘all healing’. They made preparation for sacrifice and a banquet beneath the trees and brought forth two white bulls whose horns were bound for the first time. Robed in white the druid ascended the tree and cut the mistletoe with a golden sickle (probably gilded bronze in actuality) and it was caught by others in a white cloak. The bulls were then killed, accompanied with prayers.

In Germanic myth, the mistletoe was sacred to Donar, the thunder and lightning god. In German, the plant was called Donnerbesen or ‘thunder broom’. The Christians demonised it as a plant of the witches, calling it hexennest (‘witch nest’) or teufelbesen (‘devil’s broom’).

In Norse mythology the mistletoe was used to slay the sun god Balder. One day, Odin discovered Hel was preparing for Balder’s arrival in the Underworld and the Vala prophesied that he would have a child with Rinda the earth goddess who would be called Vali and would avenge Balder’s death. The gods persuaded everything on earth to swear not to harm Balder, except the mistletoe growing on the oak at the gate of Valhalla as it was thought that such a puny plant could not harm him. The gods amused themselves by casting harmless darts at Balder. Loki, god of fire, was jealous of Balder and made a shaft from the mistletoe and tricked Hodur, the blind and dark brother of Balder, into throwing it and killing him. Odin sent Hermod to ask Hel for Balder’s return and she agreed, on condition that all things should weep. All did, except Thok, a giantess, who may have been Loki in disguise, so Balder had to stay in the Underworld. In due course, Vali was born and on the same day, slew Hodur.

This is obviously a seasonal myth relating to the winter solstice. The sun (Balder) is killed by the darkness (Hodur). Vali’s revenge is the breaking forth of new life after the winter darkness. The tears symbolise the spring thaw, when everything drips with moisture. Thok (‘Coal’) alone refuses to weep as she is buried deep in the earth and does not need the light of the sun. After Balder had been resurrected, owing to the pleadings of the other gods and goddesses, the mistletoe was given into the keeping of Frigga, the goddess of love, and it was ordained that anyone who passed beneath the mistletoe should receive a kiss to show that it had become a symbol of peace and love.

Though other evergreens were included in the decorations of churches, mistletoe was the one omission, being considered a Pagan plant. The exception was at York, where on the eve of Christmas-day mistletoe was carried to the high altar of the cathedral and a general pardon and season of peace was proclaimed.

Because the evergreen mistletoe bears its fruit in winter, it is an emblem of fertility. In Swabia, people bound mistletoe to fruit trees during winter in the hope that it would ensure a good fruit harvest. In Austria people put mistletoe in the bedroom to ensure the conception of a child. In Switzerland, it was included in the bridal bouquets to ensure a good marriage.

The mistletoe formed the ‘kissing bough’ and often still does. There was a tradition that the maid who was not kissed under it, at Christmas, would not be married in that coming year. With each kiss, a berry had to be plucked off with each kiss for luck. This seems to have been a purely English custom, though in Lower Austria a pine wreath was hung from the ceiling, while a masked figure hid in a dark corner. Known as ‘Sylvester’, he had a flaxen beard and a wreath of mistletoe. If a youth or maiden happened to pass under the pine wreath, Sylvester sprang out and imprinted a rough kiss. When midnight came he was driven out as the representative of the old year.

Many traditions associate the mistletoe with the New Year, rather than Christmas. In West Shropshire tradition, the bough was not to be put up until New Year’s Eve. Worcestershire farmers gave their Christmas mistletoe to the first cow to calve in the new year to bring luck to the dairy. At New Year, the first person to enter a house should carry a sprig of mistletoe in one hand and a sprig of evergreen in the other. Until quite recently in some rural areas farmers would burn a globe made of mistletoe and hawthorn or blackthorn in the New Year. The ashes would then be thrown onto the field that was to be ploughed first.

At midwinter the berries are ripe and should be cut. Mistletoe berries are used at the midwinter solstice in rituals to give strength to the weakened sun. Mistletoe is seen as a herb of fertility, and a symbol of rebirth. Hang over the doorway at Yule, tied with red ribbon for harmony and to represent a welcome to all who visit, all year round. Replace at the next Yule, throwing the old piece in the Yule fire to burn away the old and welcome the new.

Though the berries of the mistletoe are toxic, the leaves and stems of the mistletoe have been used in herbal medicine. European mistletoe contains eleven proteins and substances called lectins which are currently being investigated for anti-cancer effects.

Adapted from Yule, History, Lore and Celebration by Anna Franklin, Lear Books, 2010

Homemade Soap

Calendula Soap

With Yule on the horizon, I’ve been turning my attention to making gifts. Homemade gifts show a bit more thought than something from a shop and at the moment, we all need to spread the love a little more. Today I’ve been making pretty soaps.

For this I have been using melt and pour soap bases. These are readily available from craft shops and over the internet, and provide an easy alternative to making soap from scratch. You can add dried herbs and petals, essential oils and perfumes. I do make soap from scratch occasionally, and I love the infinite variety it offers, but it takes several weeks to cure, and it wouldn’t be ready for Yule.

These are what I made today, if you want to have a try, or you can come up with your own options!

I use silicon cake moulds for this, as they release the soap easily, but you can use muffin tins (grease them with a little oil first), old yoghurt pots, shells etc.


250 gm white soap base

1 ½ tbsp. honey (for a vegan soap just leave this out)

2 tbsp. dried calendula petals

Few drops neroli essential oil (or other oil of your choice)

Put the soap base in a heat proof jug and melt in the microwave on low for a couple of minutes. Stir in the honey, calendula petals and essential oil. Pour into the moulds. Within a few hours they will have set and can be turned out. The honey will nourish and feed your skin, as well as having antibacterial properties. The calendula is skin soothing, and the dried petals act as a gentle exfoliator. The neroli essential oil stimulates skin cell growth and is regenerative, leaving the skin soft and smooth.


(For this I am using some of the rose infused oil I posted about earlier this year)

250 gm clear base

1 tbsp. rose infused oil

Few drops rose essential oil (optional)

Pink soap colouring

Put the soap base in a heat proof jug and melt in the microwave on low for a couple of minutes. Stir in the colouring, the rose infused oil and the essential oil. Pour into moulds and leave to set for a few hours before turning out. Rose oil is marvellous for the skin, moisturizing and hydrating, and especially good for dry and mature and skin.

© Anna Franklin, November 2020

Samhain v. Halloween

I’m always amused by Christians condemning (and wanting to ban) Halloween as Pagan, when it is, in fact, a Christian holiday. Today we usually call the last day of October ‘Halloween’, a name that comes from the Roman Catholic Church’s Feast of All Saints’ Day, celebrated on 1 November but beginning at vespers on the evening of 31 October – hence ‘All Hallows Eve’ – and then extending into All Soul’s Day on 2 November, making a three day feast of All Hallows.

The Church of Rome probably instituted the festival to displace the Pagan Roman Feast of the Lemures, during which the dark and formless spirits of the angry dead not given proper burial were propitiated. St. Augustine described them as evil and restless manes that tormented and terrified the living. [1] It was a three day festival in May. The Church supplanted this with a feast of the Christian martyrs, celebrated since the mid-fourth century CE on 13 May. The Christian feast was moved to its current November date by Pope Gregory III (731–741), [2] though the Eastern Orthodox Church of the Byzantine Tradition continues to commemorate All Saints in the spring, on the first Sunday after Pentecost. The Irish Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee (eighth or ninth century) contains a note stating that All Martyrs was on 17 April and of All Saints of Europe on 20 April. [3]

However, the end of October and the beginning of November was the time from which northern Europeans reckoned that autumn tipped into winter, with all that this implied.  Henceforth comes a time of gloom, bleakness and cold. According to the chronicles of the monk Bede (c. 673 – 735 CE), there were two seasons in Anglo-Saxon England. Summer comprised the six months during which the days are longer than the nights, and winter the others, with winter beginning at the October full moon (the Anglo-Saxons followed a lunar calendar), during the month of Winterfylleth, roughly our October.  Winterfylleth marked the beginning of the Norse Winter, when preparations for winter began and sailing ceased. According to Nigel Pennick “Long distance sailing and other summer activities also stopped on this day, as preparations for the winter took priority.[4]

It was widely believed that when winter comes, the powers of increase and the good spirits retire from the land, taking its goodness with them, which is why crops and wild fruit picked after a certain date were said to be cursed or unfit to eat. The powers of darkness, blight and bane start to emerge from the underworld to wreak havoc. In Ireland, Halloween is often called Phooka Night and after this time the Phooka fairy renders all the crops not collected unfit to eat and spoils the blackberries, while Welsh gryphons blight any crops left in the field after Halloween. [5] Wicked fairies, such as the Scottish Unseelie Court, become very active, along with the Cailleachs, hag fairies and winter witches.  This is a process that escalates throughout November and December, until the rebirth of the Sun/son at Yule/Christmas starts to send them back to the underworld.

Thus the season of danger, chaos and the world turned upside down begins. John Stow, in 1603, wrote: “These Lords beginning their rule on Alhollon Eve [Halloween], continued the same till the morrow after the Feast of the Purification, commonly called Candlemas day: In all which space there were fine and subtle disguising, Maskes and Mummeries…” [6] In the reign of Charles I. the young gentlemen of the Middle Temple (trainee lawyers) considered All Hallow Tide as the beginning of the Christmas season.[7]  Children celebrated it as Mischief Night, playing pranks such as knocking on doors and running away, hiding objects left outside, or tying door latches. [8] [9] Often they wore masks or were otherwise disguised to avoid being recognised. [10]

The three day Christian Feast of All Hallows, in combination with existing local folklore, gave rise to a variety of interesting customs, likely a curious intermingling of Christian and Pagan belief. It was widely supposed that the dead could return at Hallowmas [11] and the three days of All Hallows were certainly regarded as a time of especial supernatural activity when ghosts, spirits and witches were abroad, and particular precautions had to be taken against them. Candles were lit to ward them off and if the candle continued to burn after midnight, its possessor would be immune from the attentions of witches during the coming year. [12]  Prayers were said to shorten the time souls might be spending in Purgatory and the church bells were rung – either to comfort the dead or ward them off, depending on which source you read. Bonfires were built in churchyards to ward off spirits, according to some [13] or to light the souls out of purgatory according to others. [14] Visits to the tombs of dead relatives were made, sometimes laying flowers or pouring holy water or milk on the graves.  [15] In many places feasts were laid out for the dead, while in others, cakes and bread were baked and distributed to the poor in return for their prayers on behalf of a soul in purgatory. [16] ‘Soulers’ went from door to door in England, soliciting money or food in return for a prayer for the dead. The cakes they were given were called ‘soul cakes’ for as one rhyme had it: “A soul cake, a soul cake/have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake.[17]

As an uncanny period it was a time for divination and taking omens, and these were many and varied, some in fun, and some in deadly earnest.  In England, for example, Halloween was occasionally called ‘Nut Crack Night’ from the custom of taken omens from the cracking of nuts in the hearth fire. For instance, you might find out whether your sweetheart would be true by naming two nuts and seeing whether they burned together or jumped apart, or by naming the nuts for two possible partners and seeing how they burned. [18] [19] More gloomily, in Scotland, a blindfolded seeker might divine what the future had in store by reaching towards three dishes – meal for prosperity, earth for death and a net for tangled fortunes – and the first he or she touched would be their lot. [20] To ascertain who would live for another year, each person in the family filled a thimble with salt, and emptied it out in a little mound on a plate. If any heap were found fallen over by morning, the person it represented was destined to die within a year. In Scotland and on the Isle of Man, the ashes of the hearth would be smoothed over, and the next morning inspected for marks and prints, and fates deduced from them. [21]

As part of the festival of All Hallows, people, mainly children, in England went out ‘souling’ going from door to door or travelling around the local farms, singing songs in return for apples, soul cakes or ale. The practice started in the middle ages when the cakes were offered in return for prayers for those souls suffering in purgatory, but after the Protestant Reformation, which did away with the notion of purgatory, the custom became one of just giving out the cakes as gifts. [22] Sometimes, people would keep the cakes for good luck. The recipes for the cakes varied, sometimes they were made of oats, some contained currants and spices, and in some areas it was traditional to consume seed cakes during All Hallows which coincided with the end of winter wheat-seed sowing. [23] Parkin, a ginger cake, was popular in the north of England, while in Lancashire Harcake was offered to visitors on the day.[24]

As opposed to the Christian festival of Halloween on October 31st, for modern Pagans, November begins with the festival of Samhain.Samhain was one of the four quarter-festivals of the early Irish, though it was not mentioned in contemporary Scottish, Welsh or Continental literature at all. [25] The Irish word ‘Samhain’ is usually glossed as ‘summer’s end’, from sam ‘summer’ and fuin ‘end’, though others argue that it may derive from the Proto-Celtic word *samani meaning ‘assembly’, as great tribal assemblies were held on at Samhain. [26] We can speculate that with the agricultural work of the year completed, and the warring and trading season over, it would have been the time when travellers returned home to their hearths with new stories to tell and experiences to share.


Sadly, we don’t know how the Pagan Irish celebrated Samhain or even how they regarded it, or whether the Celts in other areas marked the occasion at all. Samhain certainly appears in many Irish stories recorded during the Christian period, and was recorded as a Pagan festival by the Christian chroniclers, but while some describe great assemblies on that date, none of them mention any religious or druidic rites (unlike the many practices attested around Beltane) though doubtless there were some. [27]

In 1890 the folklorist Sir James Frazer suggested that the feast of All Hallows was moved to the beginning of November to replace the festival of Samhain in the public mind in Celtic countries, and therefore Samhain must have been a feast of the dead. [28] However, the Church in Germany was celebrating All Saints Day on 1 November when the church in Ireland was still celebrating it on 20 April, so this is unlikely. [29]  Where known European feasts of the dead took place, whether Christian or Pagan, they were part of a spring purification to prepare for the year ahead. When the Catholic Church introduced the doctrine of purgatory, where souls spent a time of suffering before going to heaven, the medieval church did gradually instituted a three day festival of the dead called All Hallows, as it was believed that the prayers of the living could alleviate the suffering of those in purgatory.  However, this was developed in Germanic countries and only later spread to Celtic lands. [30]

The suggestion that it was the Celtic New Year dates back no earlier than 1886 and was proposed by John Rhys in his Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by Celtic Heathendom, [31] who asserted that because the Celts marked their days from the evening before (as did the Saxons, Jews and Muslims amongst many others, though he didn’t mention this) they must start their year in winter, even though no contemporary classical source mentioned it. James Frazer (The Golden Bough) used Rhys’s idea to support his own theory that Samhain had been the Pagan Celtic feast of the dead. After the introduction of the Roman calendar, Samhain was certainly associated with All Hallows in Ireland.

However, the one thing we know for certain is that it was considered the start of winter in Ireland. In the fifteenth or sixteenth century manuscriptTochmarc Emire, the hero Cúchulainn explains the structure of the Irish year: “For two divisions were formerly on the year, namely, summer from Beltane the first of May, and winter from Samhain to Beltane.”  [32] The Brythonic Celtic languages simply name the day the ‘first of winter’, from the Latin calend which denotes the first day of a month, so in Welsh it is  Nos Galen-Gaeaf (‘Night of the Winter Calends’), in Breton as Kala-Goañv and in Cornish Kalann Gwav. [33] It ushered in the dark and cold season, when death was close, when the spirits of blight and bane were released onto the land.

Nevertheless, as Pagans, we take our cues from the natural world, which is the manifestation of the spiritual. It is time to acknowledge the role of death, seasonally and personally, to mourn what has passed and to remember what has been. We think of all the lives that have touched ours, and the ancestors that have brought us to this place.

© Anna Franklin, October 2020

Illustration © Anna Franklin, Pagan Ways Tarot, Schiffer 2015

[1] St. Augustine, The City of God, 11.

[2] All Saints Day,” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd edition, ed. E. A. Livingstone, Oxford University Press, 1997


[4] Nigel Pennick, The Pagan Book of Days, Destiny Books, Rochester, 1992

[5] Anna Franklin, The illustrated Encyclopaedia of Fairies, Paper Tiger, London, 2004

[6] John Stow, Survey of London, 1603, Adamant Media Corporation, 2001

[7] Clement A. Miles, Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, 1912,, accessed 11.9.19

[8] Brian Day, A Chronicle of Folk Customs, Hamlyn, London, 1998

[9] In some areas, this took place on the night before Halloween, or the night before Bonfire Night.

[10] Brian Day, Chronicle of Celtic Folk Customs, Hamlyn, London, 2000

[11] Nicholas Rogers, Halloween, From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002

[12] T.F.Thistleton Dyer, British Popular Customs, Past and Present, G. Bell, London, 1876

[13] Nicholas Rogers, Halloween, From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002

[14] accessed 4.10.19

[15] Nicholas Rogers, Halloween, From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002

[16] David Cressey, Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997

[17] Georgina Frederica Jackson, Shropshire Folk-loreA Sheaf of Gleanings, Trübner & Company, 1883

[18] Sharpe’s London Magazine of Entertainment and Instruction for General Reading. Volume: v.27, 1865

[19] Mary E. Blain, Games for Hallow-e’en, (1912), Historical Books Limited, 2016

[20] Ruth Edna Kelley, The Book of Hallowe’en, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Boston, 1919

[21] Ruth Edna Kelley, The Book of Hallowe’en, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Boston, 1919

[22] Brian Day, A Chronicle of Folk Customs, Hamlyn, London, 1998

[23] J. Brand, Popular Antiquities Volume 1, F.C. And J. Rivington and Others, London, 1813

[24] Brian Day, A Chronicle of Folk Customs, Hamlyn, London, 1998

[25] Ronald Hutton, The Pagan Religions of the British Isles, Blackwell, Oxford, 1991

[26] J.A. MacCulloch, The Religion of the Ancient Celts, Createspace Independent Publishing, 2018

[27] Ronald Hutton, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996

[28] James Frazer, The Golden Bough, (1890), Macmillan Press Ltd, London, 1976

[29] Ronald Hutton, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996,

[30] Ronald Hutton, Halloween? It’s more than trick or treat,, accessed 5.11.19

[31] Sir John Rhys, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by Celtic Heathendom, HardPress Publishing, 2012

[32] Online at, accessed 20.11.18

[33] Samhain: Season of Death and Renewal Samhain, by Alexei Kondratiev, 1997, onlne at, accessed 20.12.19


There are several herbs with anti-inflammatory properties, some of which have been shown to be as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and basil is one of these. Use a hot Basil Compress on affected areas.


Basil Tea

250 ml (1 cup) boiling water

4-5 fresh basil leaves

Pour the boiling water over the leaves. Let it steep for 4-5 minutes. Strain and drink.


Basil Hot Compress

Make double strength basil tea. While it is hot, dip in a clean cotton cloth and apply it as warm as you can bear to the affected part. When it cools, dip it in the infusion again and reapply. You can do this several times.

Black pepper is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent; piperine, one of the active compounds of black pepper, reduces the inflammatory compounds that make inflammatory pain worse, so try adding a little black pepper to your food, or use a Black Pepper Compress on affected parts.


Black Pepper Tea

250 ml (1 cup) water

½ tsp freshly milled black pepper.

Put the water and pepper in a ban and bring to the boil. Simmer for 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave for 10 minutes. Drink as required with a little honey, if liked. To improve the flavour, you can add a black teabag as you remove the pan from the heat, but don’t forget to remove it when the desired strength is reached. For colds etc. you can add some fresh or powdered ginger to the pan as you simmer the pepper.


Black Pepper Compress

Prepare a double strength black pepper tea as above. While it is hot, dip in a clean cotton cloth and apply it as warm as you can bear to the affected part. When it cools, dip it in the infusion again and reapply. You can do this several times.

The hot and spicy taste of chilli is due to a compound called capsaicin, which is a natural pain killer. Capsaicin depletes a neurotransmitter called substance P, which is responsible for sending pain signals to our brain. When applied topically to affected areas, this is very helpful in relieving pain in cases of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia as well as shingles, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, bursitis, muscle and back pain.


Chilli Salve

4 fresh chillies chopped

200 ml vegetable oil

1 tbsp. beeswax

Put the chillies and oil in a double boiler and simmer for 40 – 50 minutes. Strain out the chillies and return the oil to the pan. Add the beeswax and stir until it has melted. Pour into warmed, sterilised glass jars. Apply directly to your painful joints. Do not use on broken skin. Wash your hands afterwards and avoid touching the eye area.


Applied to the skin, the volatile oils in clove function as a rubefacient, meaning that it slightly irritates the skin and expands the blood vessels, increasing the flow of blood to the surface. This is helpful for arthritis and sore muscles, used either as a Clove Compress or Clove Tea in a hot bath or applying Clove Balm to the affected area. Clove is also a topical anaesthetic, dulling pain, while the eugenol it contains is a powerful anti-inflammatory.


Clove Infused Oil

50g freshly ground cloves

300 ml vegetable oil (such as olive)

Put the cloves and oil in a double boiler and simmer very gently for 2 hours.  Strain into a clean bottle, label, and store in a cool, dark place.


Clove Tea

3 cloves,

250 ml (1 cup) water.

Put in a pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for another 10 minutes. Strain and drink with a little honey, if desired.


Clove and Coconut Balm

200 gm solid coconut oil

30 gm cloves, freshly ground

In a double boiler, simmer together for 2 hours. Strain through muslin into a shallow jar.


Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, so is very useful in conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, where inflammation leads to pain. Applied externally, in the form of a compress, salve or oil, it stimulates peripheral circulation, helping toxins to be removed from painful joints.  Furthermore, the topical application of fresh ginger actually has pain-killing properties with the compound gingerol acting on the receptors located on sensory nerve endings. Applying a Ginger Compress to an affected joint will cause a momentary slight ‘burn’, followed by pain relief. If you are having a flare up, take a cup of Ginger Tea three times a day or use a Ginger Compress on affected parts.

Fresh Ginger Tea

2 cm fresh ginger

500 ml (2 cups) water

Peel the ginger and slice thinly. Boil the ginger in water for 10-20 minutes. Remove from heat, strain, add honey and lemon if desired.

Ginger Compress
Grate 150 grams of fresh ginger and add to a pan of 2 litres water and simmer gently without boiling for 20 minutes. Strain the ginger water into a heatproof bowl (discard the ginger). Soak a clean cloth in the hot ginger liquid. Wring it out and apply to the affected area. This should be done as hot as is comfortable. When it cools, dip again in the liquid, wring it out and reapply. You can do this several times. The skin may redden. If you experience itching or discomfort, discontinue use.

Rosemary has anti-inflammatory and mild analgesic actions and contains the two powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds called carnosol and carnosic acid which have been shown to reduce the levels of nitric acid in the body that can be a trigger for inflammation. The pain-relieving qualities of rosemary are largely the result of salicylate, a compound similar to aspirin. Apply Rosemary Salve to the affected parts or put some freshly cut rosemary sprigs (along with marjoram and lavender if you like) into a cloth bag and add this to your bath water to soothe aches.  You can also use a hot compress soaked in Rosemary Tea applied to the painful area.

Rosemary Tea

1 tsp. of rosemary

250 ml (1 cup) of water

Bring the water to a boil Add the rosemary herb to the water, remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 5-6 minutes. Strain the mixture into a teacup. Sweeten with honey, if desired.

Rosemary & Coconut Balm

Coconut oil

Fresh rosemary leaves

Simmer together in a double boiler for two hours. Strain into a clean jar. This can be massaged into arthritic joints. It will keep for up to two years in a cool, dark place.

There have been many studies conducted over the last fifty years on the efficacy and safety of turmeric, and especially on curcumin, thought to be its most medicinally active compound. Pharmaceutical companies have introduced a new class of anti-inflammatory drugs, COX-2 inhibitors, which deliver the benefits of NSAIDs but with fewer side effects – curcumin is a natural COX-2 inhibitor. Promising effects have been observed in patients with various inflammatory diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease, tropical pancreatitis, vitiligo, psoriasis, atherosclerosis and diabetes.[1] Turmeric is one of nature’s most powerful anti-inflammatories, some studies showing it to be as effective as ibuprofen or cortisone in helping ease the stiffness and pain of arthritic joints or bursitis for which it can be externally applied as a Turmeric Paste, Turmeric and Coconut Balm, or taken internally as a Turmeric Tea and Golden Milk.

Turmeric and Coconut Balm

2 tbsp. turmeric powder

250 ml (1 cup) solid coconut oil

Put the oil in a double boiler and add the turmeric powder. Simmer gently 30 minutes and pour into a sterilised shallow jar. Both coconut and turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties. Massage into the affected area and cover with a warm towel. Leave 30 minutes and rinse. If you wish, you can add 1 tbsp. of ground ginger when making the balm, which is another anti-inflammatory agent.

Golden Milk

250 ml (1 cup) coconut milk

1 tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp cinnamon

Pinch ginger powder

Pinch of black pepper (increases absorption)

1 tsp honey

Heat milk and spices in pan, simmering but not boiling. Remove from the heat. Leave to steep 5-10 minutes. Strain into a mug and stir in the honey.

Turmeric Tea

2 tsp. turmeric powder

250 ml (1 cup) water

Bring the water to the boil in a pan, add the turmeric and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Drink within 4 hours.

Turmeric and Ginger Tea

½ tsp. turmeric powder

1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and grated

250 ml (1 cup) water

Bring the water to the boil in a pan. Add the turmeric and ginger and simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain and rink sweetened with a little honey, if liked. Like turmeric, ginger contains anti-inflammatory properties.




Horse Chestnut Shampoo

You can just chop and crush half a dozen conkers ((Aesculus hippocastanum), and cover them with a cup of boiling water. Leave to stand overnight and strain through muslin, squeezing well, retaining the liquid. (You can put the conkers on the compost heap.) Keep this in a glass jar in the fridge for up to a week.  To use, massage a palm-full into your hair for a few minutes. Rinse well.

Washing Detergent

If you have fresh conkers, you can use the method above as per shampoo to prepare a liquid you can use to hand wash, or add to your washing machine. If you want to lay in a supply to use throughout the year, you will need to chop up or shred your conkers very small (best done in a blender or grinder) and dry them thoroughly. If you have a dehydrator, you can use this, otherwise spread them out on a baking sheet, and put in the oven on the lowest setting it will go, and leave the oven door open while they dry out., keep checking, as it may take several hours, depending on how small the pieces are.   Store in airtight containers.

For each wash you will need around 50 gm (2 oz.) of horse chestnuts. You can put this in an organza bag straight into your washing machine, but it will work better if you extract the soapy liquid from the nuts first.  Put into a heat proof jug and cover with 450 ml of boiling water.  Leave 30 minutes and strain off your horse chestnut liquid (it should have turned fairly thick), it is this you will use for washing. You can put the horse chestnuts back in the jug and add more boiling water to get another infusion off, but it will be weaker than the first and best used for handwashing woollens etc. NB: Do not use this for washing dishes, as horse chestnuts are slightly toxic when taken internally, though safe to use on the skin.

© Anna Franklin 2020