From the Wortcunner’s Cabinet, Wormwood

Originally posted 23/01/2018 via speakingofwitchwands.net

By Isabella @TheWandCarver

Instagram: @thewandcarver

wormwood
from Botanical.com

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.

Magickal
The scent of Wormwood is said to increase psychic powers. Burn with incenses on Samhain to aid invocation, divination, scrying, and prophecy. It is especially good when combined with Mugwort and strengthens incense 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 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 a maiden – and would probably 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.” ‘

Medicinal
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.

artemisia_absinthium_200610_300
Wormwood

Some regard Wormwood as a circulatory tonic and stimulant – this would make sense considering its use to improve 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.

Correspondences
Other names: Absinthe, Absinthium, Green Ginger, Old Woman, Crown for a King, Madderwort, Sweet Annie, Wormot

Planetary: Mars, Saturn

Element: Earth

Sabbat: Samhain

Powers: Binding, Psychic Awareness, Evocation, Love, Clairvoyance, Past Life Regression, Astral Travel, Protection

Associated Deities: 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 to all whom this way wander x

Sources

Wikipedia.org

The Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham

The Old English Herbals by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde

Botanical.com

Experience

Wort Cunning…What is it?

Originally posted 09/01/2018 via speakingofwitchwands.net

By Isabella @TheWandCarver

Instagram: @thewandcarver

Recently I was asked this question. I must remember that not everybody knows the old English/Welsh/Irish/Scottish words for things. To be fair, neither do I in some circumstances, but wort cunning is a very familiar occupation to me. To put it plainly, it is working with herbs and plants. That is the very simplest explanation, but it very slightly scratches the surface. Wort is an old English word for herbs and useful plants. Cunning is the art of working with herbs/plants [or anything] for the purposes of healing/leechdom, charming, protecting, and binding.

Still, this doesn’t fully explain, however, at least now we’re mostly all on the same page. To be a successful wort cunner it takes many years of study – reading and working with herbs and plants, trial and error; in truth, it is an ongoing, life-long mission. If you are fortunate, you might have a cunning parent or grandparent who can teach you much along the way. I was very fortunate to have my Nana for the first 22 years of my life to at least get me started in the right direction. I’m forty-plus years past that now and still learning.

I’m not trying to teach you how to suck eggs here. There are so many reading this who already have a fantastic working knowledge of wort cunning and the ones just starting out would do well to buy a few good books, grow some herbs, and get stuck into your learning experience. What I do want to point out is, just buying and growing herbs successfully, reading a couple of good books, does not a wort cunner make. You must learn when to plant and harvest, chants to say during planting, during harvest, whilst preparing for whatever purpose you have in mind, and other mysteries. That is if you want the best results.

from Google images

If you don’t have a wort cunner in the family, then what? It’s alright. The old ones didn’t, either. In many cases, the ones we’ve learned from as the information was handed down through word of mouth and if we’re lucky, published in books, simply made it up as they went, in a way. You wild-gather some plants or herbs…or buy little cups of baby herbs or seeds and plant them. Find out the right time of year to plant…the right planetary hour and day to plant and to harvest…care for them, and watch them grow. Read everything you can about the correspondences of the herbs and plants, such as their element[s], planetary correspondence, deities, zodiac. Also, read what each is or has been used for what problem by others. A very useful first book of herbs is Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs, 1985. It not only has herbs listed in it but also has a great deal of woods, flowers, and other plant life which have magickal powers. Another informative book to have on your bookshelf is a yearly Almanac. An Almanac is vital for those who are planning to grow all their own herbs and plants for your practise. Then, you must decide your reasons for working with the herbs and plants you’ve chosen…are you interested in herbal healing? What about herbal charms? Protections and binding magick? You may delve into as many reasons as you like for wort cunning but it’s always best to stick to one line of endeavour and see it through in the end.

Spoilt for Choice?

It is also useful to think about what kind of magickal herbalism you’re most interested in such as English folk magick…or Asian healing…perhaps you’re more into Voodoo or Hoodoo or Native American conjures. I hope you can understand that I don’t wish to tell you that you absolutely must do one or the other, you can do as you please, however, it is easier to pick a path and walk it well rather than hopping from here to there until you are no longer interested at all. In the beginning, you might have to try a few different paths to “find yourself”, but do keep in mind you will do best at one path in the long run.

Personally, I am not at all familiar with anything apart from English folk magick. I never had to make a choice, but I also don’t feel the choice was made for me…it’s just what I naturally evolved to which probably and most certainly was influenced by my ancestry. I am sure there are many reading this who are following a path for much the same reasons as mine. Still, there will be those who will need to try a bit of this and that ’til they know what they lean toward, and that is fine.

In Medieval times immense importance was placed on the rituals surrounding the gathering of herbs or plants for a “spell” and there were ones for everything imaginable whether it was for a protection, a charm to prevent or cure evil, or healing…in those days known as “leechdom”, a forerunner of what we know as medicine or holistic healing these days. If you delve into the old English herbal lore you will see that word a lot. If you can, order a copy of two of my favourite books concerning Medieval healing/leechdom. One is The Old English Herbals by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde, 1922 [last new publication in 2011] and Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England: Being a Collection of Documents Illustrating the History of Science in this Country Before the Norman Conquest, edited by Thomas Oswald Cockayne [Vol I, II, and III]. You will see for yourself how dedicated the old ones were in ritualising the very cutting of a herb or plant and how it all worked together to make the intended outcome “be well with him” as is often said of the “patient’s” health after the leech was finished.

A little example of what I mean by ritual, this excerpt is from my copy of The Old English Herbals:
Of periwinkle: “This wort is of good advantage for many purposes, that is to say first against devil sickness and demonical possessions and against snakes and wild beasts and against poisons and for various wishes and for envy and for terror and that thou mayst have grace, and that thou hast the wort with thee thou shalt be prosperous and ever acceptable. This wort thou shalt pluck thus, saying, ‘I pray thee, vinca pervinca thee that art to be had for many useful qualities, that thou come to me glad blossoming with thy mainfulness, that thou outfit me so that I be shielded and ever prosperous and undamaged by poisons and by water;’ when thou shalt pluck this wort thou shall be clean of every uncleanness, and thou shalt pick it when the moon is nine nights old and eleven nights and when it is one night old’.

This is a short example whereas some take several paragraphs with very descriptive instructions such as the day to begin the ritual, telling the cunner to sing the Benedicite and Pater Noster [clearly a Catholic cunner!], how to harvest the wort by “sticking thy knife into work, fast and go away”, go to the church and cross thyself, go in silence not speaking to no man, the sing the Benedicite and Pater Noster again, as well as a litany…and so on. It seems it could literally take a month in some cases to gather, enchant, then make the charm, poultice, salve, or whatever the case may be for!

Mind, these days we have learned to pare down our rituals for such things and everyone has their own way of enchanting their herbs and plants. Some Christo-Pagan witches might still sing a litany over their work, for all I know but most of us do not. You will find as you go that you will perhaps use things others have done and you will also start your own ways. Just like the old wort cunners of the past, we tend to stick to the methods which give us the results we need. And, like them, we should keep strict notes on what we have done and how it worked.

I hope this has answered a few questions and if not, please feel free to contact me. Most of all, I hope I have not confused anyone more than they were! Best of luck in your wort cunning and warmest blessings to all home this way wander x

Sources:

Experience

The Old English Herbals by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde, 1922

Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England: Being a Collection of Documents Illustrating the History of Science in this Country Before the Norman Conquest, edited by Thomas Oswald Cockayne [Vol I, II, and III]

Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs, by Scott Cunningham, 1985