By Isabella @TheWandCarver
Working with herbs very often, as I do, I got thinking, “why not do a series on herbs?” …particularly since recently blogging about wort cunning. So, in no particular order apart from most probably writing about what I’ve worked with most recently, we shall begin with Wormwood [artemisia absinthium]. The hint is in the name – what famous drink of the 19th century, recently revived by the Goth community, is made with this herb? If you guessed Absinthe, you win! As early as I can tell, the drink was made popular in 19th century France and became very popular in Great Britain as well – notably a favourite of Oscar Wilde – one of my favourite authors and generally favourite people of all time. The drink, as it was in those days, has been banned, however, and a new, less dangerous Absinthe became popular mainly with the Goth community in recent times. The 19th century drink was dangerously toxic when taken in excess and since the traditional use of wormwood is believed to summon spirits and allow communication with the dead, there is not much wonder why some people claimed to see visions whilst inebriated!
Mind, we are not advocating the use of Wormwood for this kind of thing. We’re more interested in what it can do for us on a magickal level. Wormwood is one herb I use very often. It is an ingredient in several of our witch bottles, depending upon the powers needed. It is also an ingredient I use in one or two of our loose incenses. Those are still in testing and have not made it to the shop shelves yet. And, during my practise as a cunning woman, I have used Wormwood extensively for everything from astral travel to protection and psychic awareness. I must say, it is definitely one of my “go-to” herbs.
The scent of Wormwood is said to increase psychic powers. Burn with incenses on Samhain to aid envocation, divination, scrying, and prophecy. It is especially good when combined with Mugwort and strengthens incenses for exorcism and protection. Hung from a rear-view mirror, Wormwood is said to protect vehicles from accidents on treacherous roads. Wormwood is burned to gain protection from wandering spirits. It is used in divinatory and clairvoyance incenses, initiation rites and tests of courage and enables the dead to be released from this plane so they may find peace.
Wormwood is used to relieve anger, and allow the user to vent it in a more peaceful way. It can also be used in magick to prevent strife or war. Carried in a pouch, Wormwood is protective. In ancient lore, people used the plant to counter poisoning by Hemlock and various Toadstools.
It is also used in love charms and spells to draw a lover, and is associated with the Lovers card in the tarot. It is sacred to the maiden Goddess, and can be used for scrying and divination as part of an incense or perhaps a weak tea to drink before scrying, or a wash for the instruments used. It is used in women’s rites, probably especially those pertaining to rites of passage from child to maiden – and would probably would be a good addition to rites celebrating menarche. It is used in initiation rites, especially those prior to testing times.
An Old Love Charm
‘On St. Luke’s Day, take marigold flowers, a sprig of marjoram, thyme, and a little Wormwood; dry them before a fire, rub them to powder; then sift it through a fine piece of lawn, and simmer it over a slow fire, adding a small quantity of virgin honey, and vinegar. Anoint yourself with this when you go to bed, saying the following lines three times, and you will dream of your partner “that is to be”:
‘ “St. Luke, St. Luke, be kind to me,
In dreams let me my true-love see.” ‘
Wormwood is said to be useful in the treatment of some depression. It is very good for those who feel utter despair because of their life circumstances. It has some anti-inflammatory properties due to the presence of chamazulenes, so it could be used to treat inflammatory digestive disorders. It is used to treat liver and gall bladder congestion where this has led to jaundice, and liver related depression, lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting. As it is warming, it is particularly good for those who suffer from a depressed autonomic nervous system, leading to impaired digestive function. In addition to all the above, it can be used to treat diarrhoea and intestinal parasites.
Some regard Wormwood as a circulatory tonic and stimulant – this would make sense considering its use to improve the digestion. It can be used to treat nervous exhaustion and other nerve issues such as neuralgia and depression as previously mentioned. Apparently it can be used to ease alcohol induced hangovers although it may be better to dose up on milk thistle before you start drinking or simply not drink as much. This is another of those odd herbs that can be used to cure epilepsy but will also cause it if you use it in large enough doses.
Wormwood has a strong anti-bacterial property – the root, though not often used in medicine, is extremely powerful and useful to ease infections of the throat and lungs. It eases pain and is very cooling and soothing. It can be used topically as an antiseptic.
As an emmenagogue, it can be used to stimulate absent menses where this is due to uterine stagnation which causes delayed menstruation. It can also be used to ease painful periods. It is used as a pain reliever during labour and can be taken as a weak tea or applied as a rub to stimulate sluggish labour, when contractions are too weak.
A rub made with the essential oil can be used to relieve the pain of arthritis and related joint complaints, though the oil should NEVER be taken internally.
Other names: Absinthe, Absinthium, Green Ginger, Old Woman, Crown for a King, Madderwort, Sweet Annie, Wormot
Planetary: Mars, Saturn
Powers: Binding, Psychic Awareness, Evocation, Love, Clairvoyance, Past Life Regression, Astral Travel, Protection
Associated Deitie: Diana, Artemis, Aesculapius, Horus, Isis, Castor, Iris, Menthu, Pollux
Harvesting: cut the flowering tops off wormwood when they are in full bloom on a sunny day when the sun is at its peak
‘While Wormwood hath seed get a handful or twaine
To save against March, to make flea to refraine:
Where chamber is sweeped and Wormwood is strowne,
What saver is better (if physick be true)
For places infected than Wormwood and Rue?
It is a comfort for hart and the braine
And therefore to have it it is not in vaine.’
~ Tusser (1577), in July’s Husbandry
Many thanks for reading and warmest blessings x
The Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
The Old English Herbals by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde