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.

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.

Charge of the Goddess

There have been many iterations of this, the majority of which originally comes from Aradia (Gospel of the Witches) by Charles G. Leland, but I prefer this version, created by Doreen Valiente. I have put in bold the portion that I recite during my Full Moon ritual.

“Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called Artemis; Astarte; Diana; Melusine; Aphrodite; Cerridwen; Diana; Arianrhod; Isis; Bride; and by many other names.

Whenever ye have need of anything, once in a month, and better it be when the Moon be full, then ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all Witcheries.

There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not yet won its deepest secrets: to these will I teach things that are yet unknown.

And ye shall be free of slavery; and as a sign that ye are really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise.

For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and mine also is joy on earth; for my Law is Love unto all Beings.

Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever toward it; let naught stop you or turn you aside.

For mine is the secret door which opens upon the Land of Youth; and mine is the Cup of the Wine of Life, and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of Immortality.

I am the Gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart. Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold I am the Mother of All Living, and my love is poured out upon the Earth.

Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven; whose body encircleth the Universe; I, who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white Moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the heart’s desire, call unto thy soul. Arise and come unto me.

For I am the Soul of Nature, who giveth life to the universe; from me all things proceed, and unto me must all things return; and before my face, beloved of gods and mortals, thine inmost divine self shall be unfolded in the rapture of infinite joy.

Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou know this mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou will never find it without thee.

For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.”

Blessed be,

S.

Nine Basic Components of Ritual

This is the framework I use for formulating all of my rituals:

  1. Purification of self
  2. Purification of space
  3. Creating sacred space
  4. Invocation
  5. Ritual observance (on sabbats and esbats)
  6. Energy raising (during magick)
  7. Earthing the power
  8. Thanking the Goddess and God
  9. Breaking the circle

Source: Cunningham, Scott. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practicioner. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications, 2019. (First edition, revised)

Blessed be,

S.

Witch’s Brew: Nourishing Herbal Infusions

Nettle grows abundantly and is one of the most nourishing plants on the planet.
Image source: theherbalacademy.com

It is evening – the sun has set, dinner is done, and the table has been cleared. It’s time to do some clean-up in the kitchen, and prepare my nettle infusion for the next day.

First, I fill the kettle with fresh, cold water, and set it to high heat on the hearth. As the water heats, I grab a 1-quart mason jar from the cupboard, and my stash of dried nettle. Using a scale, I measure out one ounce of the nettle and pour it into the jar – I also add a pinch of dried mint from the garden. By the time I am done with this, steam is billowing from the kettle and it is starting to whistle. I grab the kettle from the hearth, and pour the bubbling water over the herbs, giving it a good stir to make sure that the herbs are fully immersed. Steam floats up and I revel in the earthy forest fragrance of wild nettle and mint.

Nettle is a somewhat unassuming plant in appearance; lush, green and leafy. But you will immediately recognize it if it makes contact with your skin, as it has nearly invisible spines that will deliver a searing sting! This plant likes a bit of cool shade and moisture, and can be found somewhat easily in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. It is also one of the most nourishing plants on the planet. While it must be handled with care, nettle is most generous with its nutrients and grows in abundance, happy to heal those who seek it out. Once you begin consuming nettle, whether eaten as a cooked food or imbibed as a nourishing infusion, you will quickly become aware of its zippy and generous personality. Nettle delivers a boost of fresh energy and vibrancy, and will give you a rosy glow and a pep in your step! The infusion is a dark green, almost black liquid, loaded with healing chlorophyll, and it makes my Green Witch heart happy.

Once I have filled the jar up with boiling water, I cap it and place it on the windowsill to infuse overnight. In the morning I will strain it, and chill it in the fridge, before sipping on it throughout the day. I feel immense gratitude and respect for this potent plant spirit.

Nettle and red clover infusions.

I first learned about nourishing infusions several years ago from the book Healing Wise by Susun Weed, and have been consuming them on a regular basis ever since. Nourishing infusions are a true Witch’s brew – healing, simple, effective, and a beautiful way to connect with plant spirits. They are also inexpensive – in fact, several of these plants can be wild harvested or grown in a garden, depending on where you are located.

An herbal infusion is different from a tea – in Healing Wise, Susun Weed describes it as “the most medicinally potent water-based herbal preparation.” Here is the standard preparation:

  1. Set a kettle of water to boil.
  2. Measure out one ounce of your dried herb.
  3. Put herb in a quart jar – canning jars are best, make sure it is heat-proof glass.
  4. Pour boiling water over the herb to the top of the jar – you may want to give it a stir to make sure the herb is fully saturated.
  5. Cap the jar and let it sit at room temperature for at least 4 hours (I like to make mine before bed and let it infuse overnight).
  6. Strain out the herb, pour liquid back into jar, and drink throughout the day. You’ll want to drink at least two cups per day, although I like to have the whole quart. If you don’t finish the quart in a day, be sure to refrigerate it at night. I always give the last few sips to my house plants. 🙂

Here are the herbs Susun Weed recommends for use on a regular basis – generally speaking, you will want to infuse these individually, and rotate as you go (eg. nettle infusion on monday, oatstraw infusion on tuesday, red clover infusion on wednesday, etc):

Nettle – This zippy plant is a true powerhouse of nourishment! It is a kidney/adrenal ally, digestive restorative, respiratory strengthener, hair and skin nourisher. Contains proteins, macro and trace minerals, and nearly all the vitamins we need. With regular consumption, this infusion will give you a significant boost of energy. If you are harvesting these in the wild, be sure to wear thick gloves at all times while handling them, until they have dried.

Oatstraw – Cooling and soothing, strengthens the nervous system and endocrine system, eases muscle spasms and inflammation, restores sexual flow. Contains proteins, macro and trace minerals, and high amounts of B vitamins.

Red Clover – anti-cancer, aids in fertility, nourishes hormones, nourishes skin, helper to the lymphatic system, boosts immune system. High in proteins, macro and trace minerals, vitamins, and is an excellent source of phytosterols.

Comfrey – AKA “Bone Knit”, strengthens and heals bones, skin, and other tissues, improves digestion and respiratory health. Rich in proteins, and a great source of folic acid, vitamins, minerals and trace minerals.

Linden – Anti-inflammatory, aids digestion, cold and flu preventative, relaxing nervine, benefits the heart. Rich in antioxidants, tastes like sunshine. 🙂

Speaking of taste, if you find the flavor of any of these herbs challenging, try adding a pinch of mint. I really enjoy adding a bag of peppermint tea to the nettle infusion, and a wedge of lemon (after straining) to the red clover infusion.

Having a constant rotation of these nourishing infusions as part of your daily nutrition will build a strong foundation for your health. If you are interested in learning about herbal allies, and getting to know the personality of the plants, pick one of the herbs listed above and try drinking a quart of it every day for a full week- you will get to know the plant very well! In a way, you will embody the plant, and get a good sense of its personality and healing qualities.

To learn more about working with herbs, I can’t recommend Susun Weed’s book, Healing Wise, enough. It is a go-to reference and constant guide for me in healing with plants.

Healing Wise by Susun Weed – I consider this an indispensable resource in my Green Witch library.

As mentioned above, you may be able to harvest some of these herbs in the wild or grow them in your garden. This is ideal, just be sure to do your research on foraging and drying first! You can also purchase them online from Mountain Rose Herbs or Frontier Co-op.

In summary:

  • Nourishing infusions are a potent daily tonic and healing way to connect with plants.
  • The five herbs used (individually) in nourishing infusions are: nettle, oatstraw, red clover, comfrey, and linden.
  • The general ratio for making nourishing infusions is one ounce herb to one quart water, and should be infused for at least 4 hrs.
  • Nourishing infusions are simple, safe and affordable.
  • To learn more, read Healing Wise by Susun Weed.
  • Herbs for nourishing infusions may be grown or wildcrafted, but do your research first.
  • Nourishing infusions can be part of a daily practice for the Green Witch and/or Kitchen Witch.

Blessed Be,

S.

Definitions of Magick

What is Magick, anyways?

“Magic is the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with will.” – Aleister Crowley

“Magick is the art, science, and practice of producing ‘supernatural’ effects, causing change to occur in conformity, and controlling events in Nature with will.” – Gerina Dunwich

“Magic is the art of effecting changes in consciousness at will.” – William Butler

“We do not affect fate by our magical operations, we affect ourselves; we reinforce those aspects of our nature which are in sympathy with the powers we invoke.” – Dion Fortune

“Magic is a comprehensive knowledge of all nature.” – Francis Barrett

“Magic is making something happen that you want to happen.” – Raymond Buckland

“Magic is the act of using your will to cause change, by focusing and directing your psychic energy.” – Jennifer Hunter

“Magic…is the art of obtaining results without resort to the ordinary mechanism of cause and effect.” – Serge Hutin

“The work of magic involves transformation, and the first transformation is the shift of perception.” – Marion Weinstein

“In its true sense magic is a high art and science itself, that should release the powers of the imagination for the benefit of any other part of life.” – Gareth Knight

“Magic is the science of the control of the secret forces of nature.” – S.L. Macgregor-Mathers

“[Magic is] the mastery of occult forces and their use in order to produce visible effects.” – Frank Gaynor

“Magick is the art and metaphysical science of manifesting personal desires through the collection and direction of energy.” – Raven Grimassi

“Magic is concerned with the conversion of universal energies into practical frequencies that can be utilized according to the needs of the occasion.” – Murry Hope

Source:

Buckland, Raymond. Wicca for One. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2004.

Blessed Be,

S.