By Isabella @TheWandCarver
Plantain [plantago major] is originally from Asia and Europe. It has had many names attached to it over the years, but one which makes me smile is the Native American name for it – White Man’s Footprint – because the seeds literally immigrated to the Americas on the soles of the European settler’s boots…and probably in or on many of their belongings such as in with grain seeds. It became naturalised in the Americas quite the same way as in every other part of the World. To most in the civilised world it is just a pesky weed. But to us, it is a magickal weed.
People pay to have this “weed” eradicated from their lawns. If I had the back to do it, they could pay me to come pull it from their lawns and I would use it! Just learn what to look for – I’m sure [unless you live where there is nothing but concrete and even there it will probably come through the cracks] you have seen it in your own lawn – and you will never need to buy Plantain for your health purposes or magickal work again. Just take it from the ground bare-handed like our forebears did! Or, you may want to leave it for protection against snakes.
It is said the best time to gather Plantain/Waybroad is to gather it during the last quarter of the Moon’s cycle, during the hour of Mercury. But as you will read further down below, the best time to gather it is just before sunrise… if then, the hour of Mercury happens to fall at that time, the all the better. I’m not sure if the hour of Mercury is when it should be gathered – unless! – it is for a spell that must be performed at the hour and day of Mercury. For this knowledge you would need to check your Seven Keys of Solomon and your planetary days and hours.
I think it best to mention from the beginning that Plantain enhances any other herbs you might use in your working. If you want to add some extra energy and strength to whatever you’re making – incense, witch bottle, poppet, sachet, or charm, just add a pinch of Plantain to power it up. Plantain is used in spells related to strength, healing and protection, and as a charm against snakebites. It is linked with snakes as it is also said by some to be linked with St. Patrick who was said drove the snakes out of Ireland. Plantain is also used in charms and talismans to prevent nightmares and protect against evil spirits [sprites]. An effective way to use Waybroad for nightmares is to put it into a sachet to place underneath your pillow at night for a good night’s sleep.
Folklore and Fact
I must tell you of a charm from antiquity using Plantain or Waybroad. It is a prescription for headache from the Leech Book. You must “dig up [Waybroad] without iron before sunrise, binding round the head with a red filet [red wool]”. Binding with red wool was a widespread custom in Great Britain and Europe during those times as red was a colour sacred to Thor and abhorred by witches and all evil beings.
Another of my favourites, from the Lacnunga which gives a charm and list of herbs to prevent “flying venoms”, which are, as we would say in these times, to prevent catching a cold or flu. It was written in Wessex dialect and goes back to the 10th century.
The nine sacred herbs/worts: mugwort, waybroad [plantain], stime [watercress], atterlothe [may have been viper’s bugloss?], maythen [chamomile], wergulu [nettle], crab apple, chervil, and fennel.
These nine attack
against nine venoms.
He tore asunder a man.
Then took Woden
Nine magic twigs,
Then smote the serpent
That he in nine dispersed.
Now these nine herbs have
Against nine magic outcasts
Against nine venoms
And against nine flying things
And have might against the
That over land rove.
Against the red venoms
Against the runlan venom
Against the white venom
Against the blue venom
Against the yellow venom
Against the green venom
Against the dusky venom
Against the brown venom
Against the purple venom
Against the worm blast
Against the water blast
Against thorn blast
Against thistle blast
Against ice blast
Against venom blast
If any venom come
Flying from east
Or any come from north
Or any from south
Or any from west
I alone know a running river
And the nine serpents behold it
All weeds must
Now to herbs give way
And all salt water
When I this venom
From thee blow”
I have seen this widely circulated online, not always in its entirety and almost certainly never correctly. This charm comes from a very antiquated book and I highly doubt many have access to such writings. But, here you have it, all present and correct. If you wish to give this a go instead of your yearly flu jab, why not? Whilst the charm and the ingredients are all here it does not tell one what else to do. There was always a great ceremony of gathering one’s herbs for a charm…certain times of day or night to gather as well as certain times of the year. There were often litanies to be sung and prayers to be said. This information is not included in the Lacnunga but I’m sure the people of the 10th century and upwards knew what was to be done. Although, from most of what I have read, I would almost bet the farm that red wool was always involved 😊
Plantain is rumoured to have an expectorant effect on the lungs and the tea is recommended for people who are trying to quit smoking as well as for people suffering from lung complaints.
People who take blood thinners or who are at risk for blood clots should never take Plantain internally, not as a vegetable or a tea, but can use it externally.
Plantain can be shredded or chewed and applied to insect bites, poison ivy and other skin irritations for quick relief. It can also be added to a poultice.
Plantain may be used in place of Comfrey in all herbal preparations, particularly for those with liver issues. It is a safer alternative and has comparable properties.
Although plantain is used for treating skin irritations, some people get contact dermatitis from it. Use caution.
Powers: Healing, Strength, Protection, Snake Repelling, Power over supernatural
Deity: Orcus, Hades, Pluto, Persephone
Other Names: Waybroad, greater plantain, common plantain, Soldier’s herb, White man’s footprint, Cart track plant, dooryard plant, healing blade, hen plant, lambs foot, roadweed, roundleaf plantain, wayside plantain, white man’s foot, Englishman’s foot
Many thanks for reading. We hope you found some useful information to help you in your herbal practise through this blog and if you have, kindly rate us 5 stars, like our blog, and share via the buttons below. Warmest blessings to all x
*The Lacnunga, by Edward Pettit, 2001
**The Leech Book
The Old English Herbals by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde
* The Anglo-Saxon Lacnunga is a miscellaneous collection of almost two hundred mainly herbal remedies, charms, and prayers found only in a mostly 10th-11th century manuscript in the British Library. It was put together Edward Pettit and published in 2001
** Bald’s Leechbook (also known as Medicinale Anglicum) is an Old English medical text probably compiled in the ninth-century, possibly under the influence of Alfred the Great’s educational reforms.