The Herbal Lore of Witchcraft
the herbal lore of witchcraft
I do understand that some people will be offended at the beginning middle and end of this post because they have been taught to see any witchcraft as evil. This has been made worse since the film industry turned that 'evil' into an ever more unholy practice and people can be afraid of what they don't understand and tend to believe what they see in films, even if only a little. One petty example would be the croak of a frog as used in Hollywood - only one species of frog makes that noise and they only inhabit the West Coast of the USA - these are the only ones that say 'ribbit' yet children from all over the world believe that is the noise of a frog.
I hope that you will take the time to read this and I also strongly hope this will help you to see that witches are not, and never have been, an evil entity. There is no sacrifice of babies or anything else come to that. The imaginative names used for various 'spell' ingredients can sound alarming by those who have never been taught any different but no small animals have their toes, tails, eyelids or ears removed, and that by the end you may have gained an insight into the use of herbal lore.
Throughout history (and pre-history) herbs have been used for medicine and magic in all cultures and the two uses ran side by side until the 17th century. Now in the 21st Century the gap is shrinking again - but nowadays we most often use the word 'science' where historically we would have used 'magic'. How do you think people in the seventeenth-century would have thought of a metal box that flies in the sky with people inside it? It is all a case of perception and the times we live in.
Herbalism was often the only medicine available to ordinary people through most of our history - those who could not afford a doctor would go to the wise woman (or man) in their community who understood herbs and would heal a great many of their ills. Those people have always suffered for the gift of helping others to heal and have paid the ultimate price for their abilities over centuries.
If the patient was cured then it was seen as magic and people naturally are afraid of what they don't understand. Part of the reason that so many did not understand was because of the lack of education and exposure to the wider world. People rarely ventured far from their homes yet the healers were known to travel far - to collect the herbs they needed but still seen as mystical to the general public. Then all sorts of weird happenings took place - the herbs were dried out and smashed up and mixed into pastes; some were smoked (as in smoked fish not as in cigar) and others were mixed with some very unpalatable ingredients (urine was a popular one that thankfully has died out).
Unfortunately, this created mystery which only added to the perception of witches as working some form of magic that was not generally understood. Everything was blamed on the witch, especially when it came to illness. If the patient failed to recover this became the fault of the healer and some imaginary 'hex' that is supposed to have been cast. There is a no win situation here that somehow religion and society still hold to this day.
This is a no-win situation that somehow religion and society still hold to this day. Unfortunately, this has led to a loss of a lot of the knowledge of natural healing as 'witches and warlocks' were condemned to death and they took most of their secrets with them. Doctors and scientists are relearning those lost traits and almost daily somewhere in the world a cure is found for some ill using plants and their unseen properties.
Doctors and scientists are relearning those lost traits and almost daily somewhere in the world a cure is found for some ill using plants and their unseen properties.
In some of the more remote areas, the witch-finder was not so lucky and was not able to wipe out all knowledge. There didn't seem any point in wasting time hunting down two witches in the hills if you could spend it catching ten in the towns. From those few cultures - most European countries held some secrets, - comes the knowledge that is available today. Many believe it is the Druids who alone carried this knowledge forth but it was carried by other faiths as well, other healers in many societies simply worked less publically and because of the danger of being caught and killed they would pretend to 'hex' someone in the hope of tying their tongues and preventing open gossip and disclosure
Many believe it is the Druids who alone carried this knowledge forth but it was carried by other faiths as well, other healers in many societies simply worked less publically and because of the danger of being caught and killed they would pretend to 'hex' someone in the hope of tying their tongues and preventing open gossip and disclosure, it is also disingenuous to suggest that this is a purely Western phenomenon as there are thriving communities in all areas of the world that hold this knowledge and use it to help their neighbours, in the US some of the same ideas have been preserved through the Shamanic teachings and there are people in every society who practice this. It isn't a faith - faith is something very different and many herbal healers (or witches if you want that name) are Christians, there are even some in the Vatican - now how can that be evil?
The teaching of a witch is not how most envisage it either - there is no crawling around in dusty, cobweb filled cottages with a fat old woman who has never washed in her life and has a wart on her nose big enough to hang your hat on.
The first thing any 'witch' is taught is to be very careful when choosing and picking herbs. Never pick something that you are not sure of and always pick with care. Never take a solitary plant and never take more than you need. It is through this understanding of the needs of the plants and what is needed to help them survive that many of the oldest herbs are found today in remote areas where the knowledge was and is kept.
Another major area of confusion around witchcraft is the ingredients of spells.
A herb is often known either by either a connection to the area of the body it heals; by some aspect of the plant or leaves that visually resembles something else or that it grows near the natural habitat of animals. I will put some below and you can hopefully see what I mean:
* Ass's Foot Coltsfoot
* Bird's Eye Speedwell
* Blood Elder Sap
* bone of an Ibis Buckthorn
* Eye of Bull Marigold
* Paw of Cat Ground Ivy
* Witch wood Rowan
* Goats Beard Vegetable Oyster
* Heart of a mother Shepherd's Purse
* Toe of Frog Bulbous Buttercup
You see there is no running around and dismembering all that is alive and if you look at the Heart of a Mother you will see that it is now called Shepherd's Purse - is that not the same thing? You call it that because of where it grows and what it looks like. Do people believe they are working with a real shepherd's purse? It is a naturally grown plant, my father would have said it was planted by God for people to use, and that's as good a way as any to describe herbalism.
I hope this has helped increase the understanding of what is a large part of witchcraft. I promise I don't bite (I'm even a vegetarian lol) and I care very deeply about the people in my life whether known or mere stranger.
Image Credit » picture is my own and all rights are reserved