By Ana Vice
The folkloric history and healing powers of sacred herbs around the world.
Part 1 – Herbal Magick: Spiritual Healing and Well-Being
Sacred herbs and plants have been used around the world for their spiritual healing properties for millennia. They’ve been used to invoke love, protection, money, luck, clairvoyance, uncrossing, emotional wellbeing and more, as well as for holistic medicine and aromatherapy.
With the COVID-19 pandemic happening now and many folks losing work, stability in their home life, experiencing disruption in their routines, and in some cases missing or losing loved ones, being able to maintain their spiritual practices in such times of uncertainty and stress is important.
Herbs (any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers) can be blended for use in oils, incenses, baths, ointments, lotions, soaps, perfumes, teas, tinctures, put into pillows, and more. You can also use sacred herbs to stuff poppets intended for well-being and protection against illness or use them as burnt offerings to deities or spirit guides.
Before working with multiple herbs, it’s important to keep them clearly labeled and separate those not safe for ingestion. Many herbs are poisonous to both humans and animals and should be handled with care. For example, eucalyptus and onion are toxic to cats and dogs. It might be a good idea to make note of this if you have pets. But not to fear, most herbs mentioned in this article are non-toxic and are to be used in a spiritual and magickal context.
Many of you may already have some of these in your magickal apothecary or cabinet – others you can find at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. Enchantments has a botanica of over 150 herbs for your spiritual needs, but please note that they are not for ingestion.
Here are 10 herbs to help aid in spiritual healing and wellbeing –– as well as colorful mythologies and stories associated with each plant.
Apple (Malus domestica)
The Apple has several folk names including Fruit of the Underworld, Silver Branch, or Fruit of the Gods. It is associated with the planet Venus and the water element. You can use apple’s blossoms, seeds, or fruit in your magickal formulas. The apple is often associated with healing, fertility, and love.
Apple blossoms can be an ingredient used in incense or oil blends dedicated to healing. Alternatively, apple blossom essential oil can be used. Similarly, an amulet or poppet can be made from apple tree wood to promote healing and longevity.
For the Greeks, Gaea (a.k.a. Gaia) was the personification of the Earth and considered the Mother of the World. She guarded the golden apples from a “Tree of Life” in the garden of the Hesperides (much like Idun or Iðunn” who guards sacred apples in Norse mythology). In Roman mythology, Venus – the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility – is also associated with the apple.
During Samhain it is tradition is to take an apple and cut it in half and “place” (via intention) any illness or bad habits into it. Next, you put the two parts back together and bury it in the earth. As the apple decays illness and bad habits go away. Another example, which is one of my favorites, is The Isle of Apples found in Avalon in the stories of King Arthur.
Witchy Tip: With intention, try making baked apples, drinking apple tea, or make apple pie to promote well-being. Apples, honey and cinnamon together provide both spiritual and holistic healing properties.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum, C. zeylanicum, S. cassia)
A few folk names for Cinnamon are Ceylon Cinnamon, Cassia Bark, and Sweet Wood. Associated with the Sun and the element of fire, cinnamon bark can be used in magickal formulas or ground down to make a powder. Cinnamon is associated with a number of spiritual attributes in addition to healing, such as love, luck, and money.
The scent of cinnamon has an inviting aroma. It warms our soul, ignites our passions, promotes high vibrations, and has the potential to elevate our mood. It can be used in healing incenses, oils, perfumes, and sachets.
Worshipers of Ra (an Egyptian Sun God) used cinnamon as an offering to bring in positive solar energy. The Ancient Greeks also burned cinnamon in their temples and for various ceremonies. Cinnamon is also associated with Oshun, the Yorùbá Orisha and goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. She, like the Egyptian Goddess Isis and Roman Goddess Diana, is known for healing, bringing happiness, and prosperity.
Witchy Tip: Take a white or yellow sachet and fill it with cinnamon sticks and dried orange peel to joyfully lift your spirit and provide a warm healing vibe. Use it as a potpourri or make a small cloth pouch to use as a gri gri (mojo) bag. You can also place a personal item or written intention inside to personalize it.
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus spp.)
Some folk names for Eucalyptus are Blue Gum, Fever Tree, or Woolly Butt. It is associated with the Moon and the element of air. Parts often utilized in spiritual work are the leaves and pods, which are made into an essential oil for healing, purification, and protection against illness.
You can put eucalyptus leaves in sachets or use them for stuffing healing poppets. Eucalyptus essential oil can be used in an aromatherapy vessel for the home to help fight off respiratory illness. Also, it has been said that Eucalyptus branches may be placed over a sickbed to promote good health. Eucalyptus pods can be strewn onto a thread to make a necklace to help soothe a sore throat.
The Aboriginal Australians used eucalyptus to bring down a fever and the plant was also used as an insect repellant, expectorant, mouthwash, and to heal wounds. Eucalyptus was introduced to the rest of the known world sometime in the late 1700s. Since then, it has been incorporated into several spiritual traditions, including Hoodoo.
Witchy Tip: Try anointing a white candle with eucalyptus essential oil and setting an intention for good health.
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
Llwyd y cwn, Seed of Horus, and Eye of the Star are all folk names for Horehound. It’s associated with the planet Mercury and the element of air. Horehound is used for spiritual work, including healing and protection.
Named after Horus (an Egyptian God of the Sky, Hunting, War, and Kingship), Horehound is one of the oldest known cough remedies and was likely one of the herbs found in the medicine chests of physicians to the pharaohs. Horus was the offspring of Isis and Osiris. He has the head of a falcon or is sometimes depicted as a falcon. His right eye is the Sun and represents power, while his left eye is the Moon and symbolizes healing.
Legend has it that Horus went through a series of contests and became ruler after winning the final contest against his rival Set (an Egyptian God of Chaos, War, and Storms) where he tricked Set in a boat race and won. There are a few versions of this story that includes a lot of family drama.
Teas can be made with horehound to help soothe a sore throat or cough. Like other herbs, horehound can be used in sachets, incenses, to stuff a poppet, add to a candle ritual, or sprinkled into a bath.
Witchy Tip: Make a loose healing incense blend with horehound leaf and cedar essential oil (which also has healing benefits) added to some wood base, preferably green.
Geranium (Geranium spp., Pelargonium spp.)
Alum root or Wild Cranesbill are two folk names for geranium. It is associated with the planet Mars and the element of water. Geranium flowers can be used for spiritual health, fertility, love, and protection.
Geranium flowers are also used to improve physical, mental and emotional health when worn as a necklace. The flowers can be dried and put into sachets, potpourris, and baths; it’s also frequently used in perfumes. Holistically, geranium has been used to treat anxiety, melancholy, infection, and to diminish pain. Geraniums have a number of health benefits, especially for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant attributes.
Red geraniums often are used for healing or protection against illness. For example, Mexican spiritual healers called Curanderos (male) or Curanderas (female) use red geraniums to heal patients from illness. Curanderismo is based on both Aztec and Mayan influences. These ancient cultures believed that there is a fragile balance between nature, health, and spirituality. If any of these one or more of these aspects goes off balance, then illness likely will occur.
Witchy Tip: Make a simple healing bath with sea salt, geranium flowers, and a few drops of geranium essential oil.
Marigold, African (Tagetes erecta, Tagetes spp.)
A few folk names for African Marigold are Cempasúchil, American Marigold, and Aztec Marigold. Marigolds are associated with the Sun and have symbolized the power of healing since the times of the Aztecs.
One of my favorite stories describes the love of Xóchitl (a beautiful Aztec maiden) and Huitzilin (an Aztec warrior). They loved each other so much that when Huitzlin died in battle, the sun god Tonatiuh (who bestows warmth, well-being, and fertility, in addition to being the patron of warriors) heard the Xóchitl’s pleas to reunite them. He wanted to help her and so he transformed Xóchitl into the cempasúchil (marigold) flower. The warrior Huitzlin, according to Aztec beliefs, was then reincarnated in the form of a hummingbird. In this form he could forever find nourishment within Xóchitl (now transformed into a flower). The lovers would be always together as long as cempasuchil flowers and hummingbirds live on earth.
The marigold flower later became the Day of the Dead Flower, because during October 31st and November 1st it is believed the souls of the dead can visit their loved ones. The flowers attract spirits with their vivid color and sweet scent.
The marigold is also commonly associated with Ganesha, the Hindu God of Luck, Wisdom, and Success. In India, marigolds are used to make garlands and decorations for a variety of celebrations, including weddings and festivals. Marigold petals can also be used in sachets, baths, or incense.
Witchy Tip: Try using approximately 2-3 tablespoons worth of dried marigold petals and burn them in a fire-safe dish or cauldron. Make an intention for good health and well-being by visualizing the warmth of the Sun and general positivity.
Onion (Allium cepa)
Some folk names for Onion are Onyoun, Yn-leac, and Oingnum. Associated with the planet Mars and the element of fire, the onion bulb or its flowers can be used for healing, protection, lust, and exorcism.
Onions are also associated with the Moon, Lunar rites, and the Egyptian Goddess Isis. Furthermore, the people of Pelusium in lower Egypt worshipped the onion (in addition to garlic) and did not put it in food. It has been said that onions were also put into the tombs of Pharaohs because they were thought to symbolize the cosmos due to their concentric layers. Generally, onion is believed to protect against illness and improve strength and vitality.
Followers of Hekate (a.k.a. The Dark One) offered deipna (supper) to her at the crossroads at the end of the lunar month when there is the Dark Moon. Food offerings were given to her during ceremonies in order to gain favor with Hekate. Onions are apotropaic like garlic (e.g. ward off evil or anything malefic). Hekate bestows gifts and heals those she favors. As Goddess of the Dark Moon she is likened to the crone aspect of the Triple Goddess and symbolizes the light within darkness that illuminates our path.
Witchy Tip: Try making an onion braid to hang in your home. I prefer the kitchen or a doorway. Use onions with the green tops and about 3 to 4 feet of heavy twine (or colored fabric pieces). As you braid the twine and green onion tops put your intent of well being and protection against illness into the onion braid.
Sorrel Wood (Oxalis acetosella)
Some folk names for Sorrel Wood are Fairy Bells, Sourgrass, and Three Leaved Grass. Linked to the planet Venus and the element of earth, Sorrel Wood is associated with healing and health. Its leaves are used in healing rituals, can be carried like a charm to protect one’s heart, or placed in a sickroom to help with recovery from illnesses.
Sorrel Wood can also be planted in your garden and is associated with woodland spirits, fairies (Fae), and elves. The folk name Fairy Bells comes from the Welsh belief that the tiny flowers on the Sorrel Wood ring happily and therefore call the elves to dance under the moon in merriment. Be cautious though, the Fae are not to be meddled with and should be respected or else strange things may start to happen.
“In the woods the trees are tall, Up and up they tower; You and I are very small— Fairy-child and flower. Bracken stalks are shooting high, Far and far above us; We are little, you and I, But the fairies love us.” –– from The Wood-Sorrel Fairy
Witchy Tip: Take a small bottle with a cap and some leather cord to fasten it. Put some Sorrell Wood inside and wear it against your heart for protection in matters of the heart.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
Spearmint, also known as Lamb Mint, Green Spine, and Our Lady’s Mint, is associated with the planet Venus and the element of air. Its spiritual attributes are healing, love, and improvement of mental powers.
Spearmint leaves can be used for healing sachets, incense, soap for baths, or to put in a blended oil for healing. Some people also use spearmint essential oil in aromatherapy for headaches. It can be used to stuff a healing poppet or be used to make tea.
According to Greek mythology, the origin of mint had to do with a Naiad nymph called Minthê from Mount Mintha and adored by the God Hades. Hades’s wife Persephone, however, got very jealous and transformed Minthê into a mint plant. Hades could not change the beloved nymph back and so he bestowed her with a memorable and pleasing scent so she would not be forgotten so easily.
Another story about mint involves Zeus and Hermes visiting a small village. No one would give them food or shelter until an elderly couple named Philemon and Baucis welcomed them into their home, fed them, and took care of them. Before the meal, the elderly couple rubbed their table with mint. After receiving good hospitality, the two strangers revealed themselves to be Zeus and Hermes to the old couple. As a reward, Zeus and Hermes turned the elderly couple’s home into a luxurious abode. To this day, mint is seen as a symbol of hospitality and good health – and you can show your guests they are welcome by using mint in your home.
Witchy Tip: Try using a few drops of spearmint oil in a tablespoonful of water and add to a tea light oil diffuser. Set your intention (e.g. good health and well being) and let the aroma fill your space.
Willow (Salix spp.)
Some folk names for Willow are Pussy Willow, Old Wives’ Tongue, and Ozier. It is associated with the Moon and element water. Its spiritual attributes are healing, protection and divination work. Did you know that the original “aspirin” comes from the willow tree and aids in pain relief?
A branch of willow in the home is said to promote good health and well-being. Burning it promotes healing. The Willow is associated with the Moon, water, the divine feminine, and the Goddess. It is known as the tree of intuition, dreaming, deep emotions, and enchantments.
Willow wood can also be used to make wands or talismans. The Willow is sacred to Brigit (a.k.a. Brigid or Bride) who is likened to the maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess. To the Celtic peoples, she is known as a Goddess of healing (medicine), poetry, metal-smithing, and arts. Some say that her name translates to “the fiery arrow.” Brigit, as a goddess of healing, shared her knowledge of herbs to heal sick folk.
Another Goddess associated with the Willow is the Greek Goddess Hekate who knew the mysteries of the Underworld. As goddess of the Dark Moon (likened to the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess), Hekate was associated with stormy weather, howling dogs, crossroads, witchcraft, and the Willow Tree.
Witchy Tip: Make a healing poppet out of felt or white fabric. This can be done by sewing a poppet and stuffing it with willow bark that has been ground or broken into small pieces.
Please note: It is important you visit your doctor for any physical or mental illness. The following is based on folkloric and holistic tips, but are not to be used as a substitute for proper medical care. Use common sense and seek the advice of a medical professional before ingesting herbs and/or internal healing methods.
Click here for a recommended book list for further reading on herbal magick. Each book can be purchased at Enchantments.