Herbal Grimoire: St. John’s Wort

Image source: botanical.com

*Please note: this is not a monograph, and I am not an herbalist. This is an excerpt from my herbal grimoire, and the writings of a Witch. It is intended to supplement your own research and studies.*

Name

Who is Saint John?

St. John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness by Anton Raphael Mengs

Saint John, also know as John the Baptist, was a Jewish preacher in the 1st century AD. Christian scholars believe he baptized Jesus, and the Gospels portray him as a precursor or forerunner to Jesus. According to the New Testament, he was beheaded by Herod Antipas sometime between AD 28 and 36 for rebuking Herod for divorcing his wife and unlawfully marrying the wife of his brother.

Saint’ John’s Wort is named after this religious figure because the flowers usually bloom on or around June 24th, which is believed to be Saint John’s birthday. The crimson liquid exuded by the plant is believed to be a symbol of the blood spilled from his beheading, and the five yellow petals resemble a saintly halo.

Scientific name: Hypericum perforatum

Hypericum comes from the Greek word hyperikon, which means “over an apparition”, referring to the belief that this herb warded off evil spirits. Perforatum refers to the pinhole perforations found in the leaves and petals.

Identification

Image source: Wikipedia

“…the leaves bear pellucid, transparent dots along their green surfaces…” – Michael Moore

An herbaceous perennial found in uncultivated ground, woods, hedges, roadsides, and meadows. May be found blooming throughout summer. The flowers are bright yellow, an indication of the healthy virtues of this herb. If you crush the flowers, they exude a crimson-purple liquid. The leaves have tiny pinhole perforations, which you can see if you hold one up to the light.

Remedial Qualities

Energy and flavors: cool, bitter

Systems affected: liver, nervous system

Properties: sedative, anti-inflammatory, astringent, antidepressant

Saint John’s Wort is used to treat pains and diseases of the nervous system, and can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is one of the best herbal therapies for those experiencing depression and numbing frustration, as a result of feeling “stuck in a rut.” Topically it works well as an all-purpose ache and pain reliever.

Magickal Qualities

Gender: masculine

Planet: Sun

Element: fire

Powers: health, protection, strength

Saint John’s Wort is considered an Herbe of Protection, which history dates back to the early Greeks. It may be tossed in the hearth or fireplace to bring protection to the home (it would also be an excellent addition to an incense blend created for use in protection magick). It may also be placed in a jar and hung by a window or doorway to prevent malevolent spirits from entering the home. It may be used as an amulet to be worn on the body for protection and/or good health – also to attract love, and cure melancholy. It is associated with the element of fire, and may be used in magickal works to commune with fire spirits. Gather and dry the herb over a midsummer bonfire as part of your seasonal celebrations.

Preparations

“A tincture of the flowers in spirit of wine, is commended against melancholy and madness.” – Culpeper

For depression: combine equal parts powders of St. John’s Wort, red rose petals, and lemon balm. Take two “00” size gelatin capsules every two hours for no more then three days in succession, tapering off to three times daily as symptoms subside.

To make a tincture: Gather the flowering tops, chop these up and fill a glass jar with as much herb as possible. Cover herb with 100 proof vodka (fill jar til almost overflowing). Screw on the cap, store in a cool, dark place (such as a kitchen cabinet). Strain after six weeks. Take 20-30 drops, up to three times per day.

To make an oil: Gather flowering tips, set them loosely in an open paper bag for a day, then chop them well and pack them into a jar with olive oil. Store away from sunlight in a warm place for 2-3 weeks. Strain well, squeezing with a cloth to extract as much oil as possible.

To make a salve: melt one cup of infused oil with one ounce of beeswax in a double boiler. Pour into jars, allow to cool and cap. Combines well with Arnica and Poplar Bud oils as an all-purpose ache and pain reliever.

Additional notes:

Do not ingest if you gather this herb from roadsides. Instead, you may dry it, to be used in incense, amulets, witch bottles, etc.

Infused oil for cold sores: apply one drop to affected area to prevent cold sores from developing, or to manage nerve pain and speed recovery.

Anointing oil for Protection (infused oil) – in my experience, when anointing yourself with St. John’s Wort oil, it will bring about protection in unexpected ways (as is often the case with magickal workings), but in exactly the way you need it. St. John’s Wort is an herb of blessing and healing, and when worked with respectfully, will bring profound transformation when it comes to inner strength and boundaries.

You may also purchase St. John’s wort salve and anointing oil from my shop.

St. Johns’ Wort Salve

Sources

Moore, Michael. Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1993.

Beyerl, Paul. The Master Book of Herbalism. Blaine: Phoenix Publishing, 1984.

Tierra, Michael. The Way of Herbs. New York: Pocket Books, 1990.

Cunningham, Scott. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1990.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Baptist

https://www.herballegacy.com/Nelson_History.html

https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/sajohn06.html

Green Blessings,

S.

Witch Musings: Altars

My kitchen altar.

A Witch’s altar needn’t be extravagant – this is my kitchen altar and I’ve intentionally kept it minimal, because I value my table space for cooking and food prep! It has my mortar and pestle, a bowl of sea salt, and some fresh cut herbs in a jar of water. It’s right next to the stove, as a reminder of Mother Earth’s abundance, and the magick and medicine I make with it when I cook or bake food for myself and loved ones.

While there are plenty of active daily practices one can do as a part of their Craft (meditation, prayer, offerings, etc), the altar can bee seen as a “passive” daily practice, a visual reminder of our intention, purposes and values as a Witch.

Blessed Be,

S.

A Witch’s Prayer

Here is a prayer I wrote, which can be spoken during ritual, circle casting, sabats, esbats, meditation — really whenever you like! I personally like to recite this prayer on a daily basis as a part of my morning meditation. A prayer is a spell, and many things can be a prayer – a piece of art, a bouquet of flowers, a bonfire, stargazing, a pot of soup. Use this prayer as you see fit. Blessed be.

Hail Mother Earth,

Hail Father Sky,

Hail the Four Directions –

Ice of the North

Fire of the South

Bright Dawn of the East

Gentle Sunset of the West

Hail Sol – Life Giver

Hail Luna – Queen of Witches

Hail the Shining Ones!

I ask for your guidance, illumination, and protection.

I am within you, and you are within me.

Love under Will,

So mote it be.

Tools of the Witch

The object you see hanging around my neck is a flint striker, which I use along with my magickal knife to start fires for ritual, cooking, dye pots etc. What started out as a somewhat mundane novelty (starting fires with a flint striker is pretty fun) became, over time, a more significantly magickal practice for me. Building the foundation for the fire with paper, kindling, and then firewood – ensuring the structure has good airflow to catch, then creating a small nest of dryer lint at the very center, striking the flint to create sparks – getting the angle and pressure just right to do so, waiting patiently for the lint to catch.. it’s an incredibly meditative process. It has taught me about patience and the importance of good bones. It has taught me about energy exchange and transmutation. It has brought me to experiencing a stronger connection to my ancestors. And there is still more to learn from this humble skill. So now I adorn myself with this flint striker, and feel the true weight of it as a Tool of the Witch. ⚔

Blessed be,

S.

Witch’s Brew: Bath Soak and Herbal Wash

Here is a simple blend of some of my favorite herbs for a bath soak, herb wash, or floor wash. Bathing (including showers) when done with intention, can be a ritual in itself – for purification, grounding, protection, meditation, and dream work, to name a few. Adding herbs to your bathing experience is a wonderful way to set this intention. Here’s an overview of the herbs included in this blend:

Mugwort – lucid dreams, psychic awareness, inner vision, protection 

Lavender – inner calm, peaceful mind, increased awareness, stability, restful sleep

Rosemary – memory, clarity of mind, strength, protection

Juniper berries – good health and energy, purification, protection

Rose petals – love, romance, opens the heart chakra

IMG_20180318_155851_479

It smells amazing.

For this particular blend, I find the best times to use it are just before going to bed, or as preparation for meditation and ritual work. Obviously any time that suits you is great. I have found it to be good for dream work, psychic vision, and grounding. If you are feeling particularly toxic by the end of the day, this is a good choice for “cleaning the day off”! And I recommend trying it at least once prior to meditation, see how it affects your experience.

Here is the recipe and instructions:

Recipe:

1/2 C Mugwort
1/2 C Lavender
1/2 C Rosemary
1/4 C Juniper Berries
1/4 C Rose Petals

Instructions:

If you have a mortar and pestle, grind the herbs a bit to release more of their aroma and oils. If not, I recommend at least crushing the juniper berries with the flat side of a knife (similar to crushing garlic). Combine your herbs in a bowl and mix together well. Store in a jar until ready to use – it is enough for 2 baths or one very potent bath!

When you are ready to use your Witch’s Brew, get a large pot of water boiling. As the water heats, prep your blend. You’ll want a large muslin drawstring bag, cheesecloth, or a clean dish towel. Fill the muslin bag with at least 1 cup of the blend, or, if using cheesecloth or dish towel, place it in the center of the cloth and pull up the corners and sides – use string or a rubber band to close. Once your water is boiling, take it off the heat, add your sachet to the water, and cover with a lid. Let steep 10 min. Get your bath water water running, and, once the brew is done steeping, add it along with the sachet to your bath. For extra detoxification, add 4 cups of Epsom salts to your bath as well.

For an herb wash (if you don’t have a bath tub):

Follow the process above, bring the pot of infused water with you to the shower with a bowl or large cup. Take your shower (I recommend exfoliating too) and at the end rinse your body (and hair!) with the brew using your cup or bowl.

For a floor wash: this is a good one for cleaning your house for protection, love, and good energy.

Follow the steeping process above, add brew to your mop water along with your usual cleaner and 1 cup of sea salt.

Spring Salad & The Arte of the Salat

Spring is here! Everything is lush and green, the air is crisp and ambrosial with the scent of lilacs and fresh spring rains. This is the time of year when we awaken from our sluggish winter rest, open the windows, sweep the floors, and make ourselves a spring salad. Tender lettuces, crunchy light vegetables, and a scattering of minced herbs and edible weeds, coated in oil and vinegar, and adorned with edible flowers. The Spring Salad is an excellent way to not only provide your body with a cleansing tonic, but to also hone your kitchen witchery skills, which includes using seasonal ingredients in an intuitive alchemy of sorts, combined with a celebration of the senses. Food should not only taste good, but in order to be true medicine for the soul, it should also be a total sensory experience. This salad is formulated to taste good, but also keeps in mind the scent of the ingredients, texture as you bite into it, and visual delight of glowing greens and bright, colorful flowers and vegetables. Not to mention the sensory experience of gathering your ingredients!

Let’s go to the garden with our shears and a large bowl – first we head to the box garden, filled with sprouting lettuces. The lettuces will constitute the majority of the salad, so we really want to the fill the bowl with them. Clip them off by the handful and toss them in! In the next box over, we can pull a few radishes – this will provide a light, crunchy addition. After that, we head to the herb garden, just outside the kitchen. Pots of all shapes and sizes, filled with a variety of vibrant herbs. Pick your favorite ones – chives are always good, and I think I’ll add a bit of mint, oregano, and lemon balm too. For the herbs we just need a large handful. Finally, it’s time to forage for some wild greens and flowers to add to our salad. The bright pops of yellow are easy to spot, scattered across the yard – dandelion! We can get a handful of dandelion flowers and leaves. Now lets squint our eyes and look closer in the shady spots around the trees – there they are! Wild violets – lets just get a few flowers and leaves from those as well. Ah, and I see one more wild edible growing in the dappled shade – perhaps my favorite of all – chickweed! Let’s clip away a large handful of that – it’s a fantastic addition to sandwiches as well. Oh my goodness, just look at this abundance of greens and flowers. The bees are buzzing, the sun is shining – it’s time to head back in and make our salad.

This Spring Salad “recipe” is inspired by a medieval salad recipe taken from Forme of Curye, written ab. 1390 A.D. :

Original Recipe:

Salat

Take parsel, sawge, garlec, chybollus, oynons, lek, borage, myntes, porrettes, fenels and towne cressis rewe rosmarye, purslary, lauen and waische hem clene pyke hem  pluk hem small wiþ þyne hond and mynge hem wel wiþ rawe oyle. lay on vyneger and salt and surve hem forth.

Translation:

Salad

Take parsley, sage, garlic, chives, onions, leek, borage, mint, scallion, fennel and nasturtium, rue, rosemary, purslane, rinse and wash them clean pick them pluck them small with thine hand and mingle them well with raw oil lay on vinegar and salt and serve them forth.

Talk about flavors! While this recipe is made primarily of herbs (something I would like to try recreating some day, I’m sure it has a much more medicinal flavor), I formulated this recipe to be made primarily with lettuces, and then finely chopped herbs intermingled. The thing with herbs is that they contain much higher amounts of essential oils (this is also why they smell so good when you chop them) – so they make for stronger flavors which I feel would overpower the taste senses. Instead, I prefer to have the herbs and wild greens provide a subtler yet complex flavor profile, and the majority of the salad consist of lush, fresh garden lettuces.

For intuitive cooking, I like to give ratios rather than measurements – and of course you can change them up as you see fit!

Spring Salad (makes one generous serving):

Lettuce greens – this should be the majority of the salad, let’s say 3/4 of the bowl

Crunchy vegetable, thinly sliced – small handful

Suggestions:

  • Radishes
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumber
  • Jicama
  • Carrot
  • Fennel
  • Apple (not a vegetable but is quite delicious in this salad!)

Herbs, minced – generous handful

Suggestions:

  • Chives
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Lemon balm
  • Sage

Wild greens and flowers, minced (can leave flowers whole to sprinkle on top) – one handful

Suggestions (always use at least three sources to ID wild edibles):

  • Dandelion
  • Violets
  • Plantain
  • Cleavers
  • Chickweed
  • Red clover
  • Borage
  • Nasturtium
  • Purslane
  • Miners lettuce

For the salad dressing:

Garlic-infused olive oil —

  1. Peel 4-5 garlic cloves, smash each clove with the broad side of your kitchen knife
  2. Add these to a 16 oz glass bottle or jar
  3. Fill bottle/jar with good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  4. Store in a cool dark cupboard

Red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

Combine olive oil and vinegar (ratio of oil to vinegar should be about 3:1) and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk with a fork until dressing turns opaque (this is when it has emulsified).

Okay, ingredients are prepared, let’s make this salad!

  1. Add thinly sliced crunchy vegetable, and minced herbs and wild greens to the bowl of lettuce.
  2. Lightly drizzle dressing, and toss with your hands until everything is well combined and lightly coated with oil. Taste a piece of lettuce, add more salt and pepper or dressing as needed. If the greens become limp, it’s because you’ve added too much dressing – add a bit more lettuce to lighten it up. As long as you drizzle and mix a bit at time, this shouldn’t be a problem.
  3. Place edible flowers artfully on top, squeeze of bit of lemon juice over everything, and voila! Spring salad is done. Bon appetit.

Did you try this recipe? Or do you have your own favorite salad recipe? Let me know in the comments!

Blessed be,

S.

Full Moon :::ABUNDANCE:::

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Gustave Dore (1870)

For this Full Moon, my focus is on :::ABUNDANCE::: 🌙🌙🌙🌙🌙


Imagine you are a night traveler, a figure of the Shadow Realm traversing the Greenwood under a cloak of stars every night, opening your senses as your visibility is diminished, listening acutely for any dangers of beast or man. The night is your home, yet it is a crooked path and the way is often unknown. Then, one night, you begin to notice more clarity in your vision – the stones and foliage around you begin to take shape. Everything takes on a progressively silver hue, and you are starting to see the world around you. Finally, one night you look up and see something that takes your breath away – a giant glowing orb in the sky, radiating light beyond your imagination. Everything is bathed in this glowing light, the path is clear, your step becomes more swift and assured as you can now see the way without doubt. The beauty of the Greenwood around you is remarkable, it is all illuminated now in the generous moonlight. 🌙🌙🌙🌙🌙

This is ABUNDANCE , the light of the full moon reminds us of the generosity of Nature. With ABUNDANCE we are filled with a sense of gratitude, to the point of awe – it is something to celebrate and appreciate. It allows us to see our way more clearly, to walk a bit more confidently, to see the beauty around us, and more of the big picture. And just like the light of the Full Moon ABUNDANCE comes and goes… and with the Dark Moon we are once again turned inward, to rely on more subtle senses and take in the splendour of the stars…✨✨✨


Blessed be,

S.

Book Review: Goddess of the North by Lynda C. Welch

Welch, Lynda C. Goddess of the North. York Beach, ME: Weiser Books, 2001.

The Goddess of the North is an in-depth look at the female aspects of the Norse pantheon and cosmology, drawing on primary research, mythology, and personal interpretation. Welch focuses on the divine female as the triple goddess of Mother, Grandmother, and Daughter, and discusses other divine female figures such as the Valkyries, Norns, Giantesses, and Disir. In the introduction, Welch explains that the book was written in part to address the lack of literature on the Norse goddesses, as well as the common (and erroneous) perception of the Norse tradition being male-centered. She ultimately argues the case for a primordial goddess found in the Norse tradition, hidden from the history books but clearly seen within the mythology and cosmology; and the necessity for bringing the primordial goddess back to the forefront of these studies and spiritual practices.

Overall, I found this book incredibly helpful in providing a general overview of the concepts and figures of the Norse tradition, as well as describing the cosmology in a cohesive way. Welch clearly put a lot of research, thought and care into writing it. Yes, she does include her own personal interpretations (Welch is a Norse polytheist), but it is generally presented as anecdotal to the research.

Welch begins with a comprehensive overview of the Norse pantheon – she includes a brief overview of the Norse gods and giants, and then goes into a more in-depth discussion of the giantesses, divine seeresses and guardians, and the Asyniur (goddesses). She touches on their characteristics, associations, mythologies, symbolism, and more, while keeping the information succinct and easy to follow. It’s effective in representing the rich, complex, and multifaceted mythologies and concepts of the Norse pantheon. She also includes a chart displaying the attributes and associations of each goddess, which may be helpful for those who wish to incorporate them into their rituals and magickal workings.

Along with this overview of the Norse pantheon, I would also recommend this book for those wishing to better understand the Norse cosmology, particularly as is it represented by the World Tree, Yggdrasill. This cosmology is so incredibly complex and nuanced, I feel like one could write an entire book on this subject alone, but Welch manages to cover the most important aspects within a chapter, and then weave the concepts and symbols from it throughout the remainder of the book. These include the worlds contained within Yggdrasill, the animals that participate in it, as well the aspects of the tree itself. Welch provides an illustration of the World Tree, but for anyone wanting to further absorb and comprehend it’s complexities, I’d recommend drawing/mapping out your own World Tree, and/or doing some visualization practices with it.

The only part of the book that I take issue with, is where Welch attempts to categorize everything into triads, beginning with the Mother/Daughter/Grandmother, and then applying it to the goddess pantheon in general, as well as symbols and concepts discussed earlier in the book. While it’s an interesting exercise, I simply can’t accept that everything within the Norse tradition could fit into these neat and tidy categories.

To her credit though, Welch does acknowledge the impossibility of drawing any hard lines, when she says, “A wonderful example of this intertwining is the Grandmother’s dark night being replaced by the Daughter’s brightening of dawn, and then by the Mother’s clarity of day, and then again by the Grandmother’s colorful tapering into dusk. These three aspects are constantly enveloping, embracing, and enhancing each other, aptly demonstrating the beauty and magnificence of the Goddess of the North.” (p. 171)

These were my key takeaways from the book – overall I would give it 4/5 Broomsticks.

4/5 Broomsticks

If you are looking for a succinct yet depthful look at the Norse tradition, with a focus on the divine feminine, this is your book. I have personally read it twice now, and will probably re-read it again at some point. It is a great resource if you are interested in mythology in general.

I hope you find this review and helpful, and if you have read this book, let me know your thoughts!

Blessed Be,

S.