The Celtic Traditions of Winter Solstice

In Celtic tradition winter is ruled over by the Holly King, and the Oak King, or Green Man, rules over the summer. In medieval times the Holly King was represented by a boy who walked around the town accompanied by his bride Ivy Girl, teasing and laughing and taunting each other in kind of ritualised courtship. These are the last remaining strands of a tradition going back millennia to where they were once a god and goddess, remembered in the old carol, The Holly and The Ivy’ where ‘the holly wears the crown’.
The Oak and Holly King are two aspects of our ancient god of the sun. Rising and falling he is forever reborn at the winter Solstice, this is an ancient and recurring motif across the world and seen in other sun gods like the Roman Mithras. In Britain, the sun god was known by many names, and can be found in King Arthurs as well as the old Celtic myths about the Mabon, or the “son”. Hounourded by the druids at the winter solstice, who reap his sacred seed the mistletoe with golden sickle, he brings life back to the land.
At the darkest time, try closing your eyes, and look within. In the distance is a tiny pearl of flame. This is the sun within you. As you breathe, the solstice sun grows in power, reaching out its rays, it touches your heart, bringing life, and renewal. May its blessings fill you with light. 

Celtic Six Cord Handfasting Ritual

Know that before you go further since your lives have crossed in this life, you have formed ties between each other. As you seek to enter into this state of matrimony, you should strive to make real the ideals which give meaning to both this ceremony and the institution of marriage.

With full awareness, know that within this circle, you are not only declaring your intent to be handfasted before your friends and family but that you speak that intent also to your higher powers. The promises made today, and the ties that are bound here, greatly strengthen your union; they will cross the years and lives of each soul’s growth.


Do you still seek to enter into this ceremony? “yes we seek to enter”


I bid you look into each others eyes.

________ will you cause him/her pain? “I may”.

Is that your intent? “No”.

________ will you cause him/her pain? “I may”.

Is that your intent? “No”.

(to both) Will you share each other’s pain and seek to ease it? “Yes”.

And so the binding is made. Please join hands.

(First cord is draped across Grooms’ or Brides’ hands)

________ will you share his/her laughter? “Yes”.

________ will you share his/her laughter? “Yes”.

(to both) Will you both look for the brightness in life

and the positive in each other? “Yes”.

And so the binding is made. (Second cord is draped)

________ will you burden him/her? “I may”.

Is that your intent? “No”.

________ will you burden him/her? “I may”.

Is that your intent? “No”.

(to both) Will you share the burdens of each

so that your spirits may grow in this union? “Yes”.

And so, the binding is made. (Third cord is draped).

________ will you share his/her dreams? “Yes”.

________ will you share his/her dreams? “Yes”.

(to both) Will you dream together

to create new realities and hopes? “Yes”.

And so this binding is made (fourth cord is draped).

________ will you cause his/her anger? “I may”.

Is that your intent? “No”.

________ will you cause his/her anger? “I may”.

Is that your intent?” No”.

(to both) Will you take the heat of anger

and use it to temper the strength of this union? “We will”.

And so this binding is made (fifth cord is draped).

________ will you honor him/her? “I will”.

________ will you honor him/her? “I will”.

(to both) Will you seek never to give cause

to break that honor? “We shall never do so”.

And so this binding is made (drape sixth cord). (Cords are tied with three knots)

“The knots of this binding are not formed by these cords but instead by your vows. Either of you may drop the cords, for, as always, you hold in your own hands the making or breaking of this union”.

Celtic One Cord Handfasting Ritual

The officiant holds the cord and says to the couple: Please hold each other’s hands (palms up and her hands resting in his).

____________ and ____________ this cord is a symbol of the life

you have chosen to live together. Until this moment you have been separate in thought, word, and deed. But as this cord is tied together, so shall your lives become intertwined. With this cord, I bind you to the vows that you have made to one another. With this knot, I tie you heart to heart, together as one.

The Officiant wraps the cord loosely around the Grooms’ or Brides’ wrists to tie a “love knot”.

Officiant says: The knot of this binding is not bound by the cord, but rather, by your own vows of love. For, as always, you have in your own hands the making or breaking of this union. May this “love knot” always be a reminder of the binding together of two hands, two hearts, and two souls into one. And so are you bound, each to the other, for all the days of your lives.

Cord may then be removed and placed on the altar. Many couples choose to keep the “love knot” as a memento of their new union created that day.

The Celtic Tree Calendar

The Celtic Tree Calendar is a controversial subject. It is a calendar which contains 13 lunar divisions (or months), each one associated with and ruled over by a specific tree. Each tree has a Celtic Ogham symbol associated with it (from the Celtic Ogham Alphabet). Each of the themes of the months tie in with Celtic culture and mythology.

However, it is controversial because there is no actual evidence that the ancient Celts ever used the Celtic Tree Calendar. It is believed by many that this belief was in fact fabricated by author Robert Graves. The works he used to devise this system mentions sacred trees, but not months, and so many believe that the calendar system itself is completely made up. One big ‘giveaway’ is that the calendar starts at January, whereas the Celts generally considered Samhain to be the end of the year.

Whether it has origins with the ancient Druids, there is no doubt that they held trees as sacred beings, and this has been well documented. Many Celtic witches and Druids use the Celtic Tree Calendar as a part of their studies – I personally observe it out of interest but don’t really work with it ‘hands on’ as it were. The meanings behind the sacred trees however are much more credible. Below are the 13 tree months and a brief description of their meanings:

Birch Moon: Dec 24 – Jan 20: A time of rebirth and regeneration. The Celtic name for this month is Beth, pronounced beh. Any magick done in this month favours new endeavors. Magicks around healing, fertility and protection are also good to cast at this time.

Rowan Moon: Jan 21 – Feb 17: The Rowan Moon is associated with the Celtic Goddess Brighid. It was known by the Celts as Luis (pronounced loush). This particular month is associated with success and personal power, initiations and dedications, and astral travelling or hedge riding.

Ash Moon: Feb 18 – Mar 17: The Ash tree was revered not just by the Celts. In Norse mythology the world tree Yggdrasil was made from Ash, as was the spear of Odin. The Celtic name for the Ash tree is Nion, pronounced knee-un. It is one of three trees sacred to the Druids (Ash, Oak and Thorn). This month is associated with spiritual journeys, any magicks focusing on the inner self, and propectic dreams.

Alder Moon: Mar 18 – Apr 14: At the time of the Spring Equinox, or Ostara, the Alder is flourishing on riverbanks, roots in the water, bridging that magical space between both heaven and earth. The Alder was called Fearn by the Celts, and pronounced fairin. During this period psychic development is at the forefront; divination and prophecy, connecting with your intuition, and making spiritual decisions are all good workings for this time.

Willow Moon: Apr 15 – May 12: The Willow grows best when there’s lots of rain, and in Europe there’s no shortage of that this time of year (think April showers). It was known to the Celts as Saille, pronounced Sahl-yeh. This is the period associated with healing and growth.

Hawthorn Moon: May 13 – Jun 9: Known as Huath by the ancient Celts, and pronounced Hoh-uh. The Hawthorn month is associated with fertility, masculine energy and fire due to its proximity to Beltane. Other associations with this month include anything to do with business and the career, as well as Faerie magick.

Oak Moon: Jun 10 – Jul 7: The Willow moon was known to the Celts as Saille, pronounced Sahl-yeh. The Celts called this month Duir, which some scholars believe to mean “door”, the root word of “Druid.” Magicks associated with this period are protection and strength, fertility, money and success, and good fortune.

Holly Moon: Jul 8 – Aug 4: The Holly moon was called Tinne, pronounced chihnn-uh, by the Celts. It was a symbol of masculine energy and firmness. The ancients used the wood of the Holly in the construction of weapons, but also in protective magic.

Hazel Moon: Aug 5 – Sep 1: The Hazel Moon was known to the Celts as Coll, which translates to “the life force inside you.” Hazelnuts are appearing on the trees, and are an early part of the harvest. Hazelnuts are associated with wisdom and protection.

Vine Moon: Sep 2 – Sep 29: The Celts called this month Muin. The Vine is a symbol of both happiness and wrath, and this month is often associated with Mabon. As such, magicks which focus on garden magick, joy, and the darker aspect of the Goddess are suited to being performed during this period.

Ivy Moon: Sep 20 – Oct 27: The Celts called this month Gort, pronounced go-ert.Samhain is near, and the Ivy is a fitting plant for this period as it often lives on after the host plant has died. As such, it reminds us of the cycle of death and rebirth, and is a good time for banishing the old to make way for the new.

Reed Moon: Oct 28 – Nov 23: The Celts called this month Negetal, pronounced nyettle, and is sometimes referred to as the Elm Moon by modern Pagans. During this period, magicks that focus on divination, death, energy work, spirits, and scrying are practiced.

Elder Moon: Nov 24 – Dec 23: The Celts called this month Ruish by the Celts (pronounced roo-esh). The elder moon is a time of endings, and suits magicks around creativity and renewal, new beginnings, as well as working with nature spirits.

Celtic Herb Lore

Celtic Herbs: Anemone

Latin: Anemone Pulsatilla Scottish Gaelic: Bainne Bo Bliatain Other Names: Wood Crowfoot, Smell Fox, Flawflower, Passover Flower Medicinal Uses: Effective against disorders of the mucous membranes, indigestion, catarrhhal affections of the eye, catarrhal diarrhea, menstrual difficulties, swolen testicles, bladder difficulties relating to age, spasmodic and whooping cough, bronchitis, headache, indolent ulcers, and incipient catarrh. Folklore: The flower petals of the plant foretell storms by closing up. They also close up at night, and it was commonly believed that this was because fairies nestled within and pulled the curtains ’round them. To gather the first anemones is considered protective. The plant was made into a pottage that was eaten at sacrificial feasts. Other Uses: The flower petals have been used as a dye. Tested Properties: Contains amemonin (pulsatilla camphor) and anemonic acid. Celtic Herbs: Apple Latin: Pyrus Malus Medicinal Uses: Thought to restore the powers of mind and body. Used specifically as a purgative of toxins (esp. of the liver), to quicken sedentary folk, for jaundice, skin eruptions, gout, burning and running eyes, weak or rheumatic eyes, constipation, dry and rough skin, stomach acidity, warts, and stones. Cider was believed to promote longevity. Folklore: The fruit was hailed as the food of the Sidhe folk (‘fruit of life of the Sidhe’); also seen as a passport to the Otherworld. Used in divination, especially at Samhain. It was said that apples would shrump up if picked when the moon was on the wane. Other Uses: Obviously, the fruit is a very popular food of widespread use. Made into a Celtic ‘lambswool’ (rather like applesauce and ale, mixed). A good skin ointment has traditionally been made of the fruit (“pomatum”). Made into beverages, desserts, dinner dishes and even breads. Tested Properties: Nutritive, Mucilaginous, Aromatic, Astringent. Contains much phosphorous. Celtic Herbs: Blackthorn Latin: Prunus spinosa Other Names: Sloe, Snag. The fruit are called Winter-picks or Prunelles. Medicinal Uses: An astringent medicine, also used for nosebleeds, constipation, eye pain and inflammation/ciliary neuralgia. Thought to improve vision. Folklore: The tree in bloom is considered an emblem of life and death in unison, as the beautiful white flowers appear when the tree has no leaves but only black bark and thorns; to carry or wear Blackthorn in blossom is thought to signify bringing a death token. Markings made upon linen with the fresh juice will never wash out. If three thorn trees are found growing closely together it’s considered wise to make a wide berth of them. This was a tree often beloved of the Sidhe (although the location of a tree was important to the Sidhe folk; it had to be growing within a rath or fairy ring, in a rocky field of rough grass, or by a large boulder or spring); anyone who harmed, or even disturbed a tree beloved of the Sidhe risked their wrath (which often came in the form of illness). Other Uses: The weather that prevails about the time of the tree’s flowering is called “Blackthorn Winter”. The wood was traditionally used as a flail and bludgeon. The leaves make a pleasing tea. The red juice imparts the colour and sub-acid roughness to port wine; Winter-pick wine takes the place of port for the common man. A desert liqueur and cordial is made provincially. The dried juice is Gum Acacia. Tested Properties: Astringent, Nutritive, Mucilaginous. A styptic. Celtic Herbs: Chamomile Latin: Anthemis Nobilis Scottish Gaelic: Athair Talamh Other Names: Earth Apple, Manzanilla, Father of the Ground Medicinal Uses: As a treatment for nervous excitability, spasmodic coughs, indigestion, distal neuralgia, nervous colic, stomach disorders, fatigue, delerium tremens, wounds; effective as a sedative, mosquito-repellant and intestinal wormer. Folklore: The herb’s ability to drive away flies was seen as evidence of its magical nature. Some commentary is made of the fact that Chamomile is regarded as a ‘plant physician’; if another plant is dying it will usually recover when Chamomile is planted near it, which was seen as a ‘magical’ ability. It dispels and prevents nightmares. The wild variety is far superior to the cultivated one. Tested Properties: Aromatic, Bitter. Anti-inflammatory Celtic Herbs: Chickweed Latin: Alsine, Stellaria Media Irish Gaelic: Fliodh, Seamair Mhuire, Luibh Nabh Francach Or Fleac Medicinal Uses: Used for swellings, and whooping cough. Urinary infections. Effective against childrens’ fits and gripes, scurvy, swellings, whooping cough, urinary infections, rheumatusm, stitches in the head and eyes, pressure and soreness about the liver, burning and bilious indigestion, general soreness (and specifically sore legs). Folklore: Seen as being ‘under the dominion of the moon’. The flowers have a strange, and well noted nighttime behaviour; they lean together in pairs when darkness falls and ‘protect’ small buds between them, which is seen as evidence of magical goings-on. Other Uses:Serves as food for a variety of small birds. Tested Properties: Contains earthy salts and potash. Emollient and cooling. Celtic Herbs: Comfrey Latin: Eupatorium Perfoliatum Irish Gaelic: Lus Na Gcn’amh Briste Other Names: Consound, Knit-Back, Bone-Set, Blackwort, Symphytum Medicinal Uses: Widespread use followed a faith in its ability to promote the healing of any bruised and broken parts. Used for wounds, the pain of inflammation, tenderness, broken bones, fractures and sprains, raw indolent ulcers, wounds of the nerves, tendons and arteries, cracked nipples, bleeding from the lungs or bladder. A useful preventative of foot and mouth disease in cattle. Other Uses: The herb has been used in tanning leather. In cooking it has served as an ingredient in aspic and a flavouring in cakes and panada. As well, a glue can be extracted from the root. Tested Properties: Astringent, Nutritive, Mucilaginous. Celtic Herbs: Dandelion Latin: Taraxacum Leontondon Scottish Gaelic: Garbh Lus Other Names: Rough Herb (in Scotland), Blowball, Time Table, Milk Gowan, Milk Golden, Wiggers, Swinesnout, Dashelflower, Priest’s Crown, Caput Monachi, Schoolboys’ Clock Medicinal Uses: As a treatment for ailments of the heart, hypertension, indigestion, coated tongue, night sweats, itching, cachexy; to prevent or stave off consumption, to remove warts, and to stimulate the liver and biliary organs. Folklore: Used for fanciful divination; the pattern of spores left when the crown was blown against was considered telling. The herb was also used to make protective wreaths or magical hoops. Tested Properties: Aromatic, Mucilaginous, Nutritive, Bitter. A good diuretic. Celtic Herbs: Dill Latin: Anethum Graveolins Other Names: Anet, Soyah Medicinal Uses: Considered effective against wind in children and adults, hiccough, swolen and cold limbs, indigestion, rheumatic pain, sciatica, and constipation. It was also used as a tranquilizer and to increase mothers’ milk. Folklore: Often spoken of as an ingredient in love charms; it is supposed that dill strips a witch of her will. The herb was used to make protective wreaths or magical hoops. Other Uses: Widely used as a spice, especially in pickling. Tested Properties: Aromatic. Celtic Herbs: Elder Latin: Sambucus Nigra Other Names: Arn, Akte, Bourtree (in Scotland), Eldrun, Burtre, Scovies, Iscaw Medicinal Uses: Credited as being a complete medicine chest in itself. Used as a purgative, fly repellant, for eye ailments, ill pigmentation, colds, constipation, asthma, sweating, croup, wheezing and cough, quinsy, sore mouth and throat, strangulations, congestion, fever, skin ailments, ‘serious humours of the blood’, haemorrhoids, nervous headache, burns and scalds, sprains, piles, swelling, dropsy, and epilepsy. Thought to induce longevity. Folklore: Second sight is imbued if the tree sap is applied to the eyelids. Elder was cultivated around cottages as it afforded propection. Growing or harvested crops beaten about with a green, leafy elder branch are immune to all depridations of blight and pest (except moths); the flowers are fatal to domestic fowl. The ability of the plant to repel flies is seen as magical. The flowers are somewhat narcotic and may therefore have been used in divination. It was believed the lightning never struck it, and therefore it afforded propection in a storm. A bough was buried with a corpse for protection; even now the traditional hearse driver’s whip is made of Elderwood. Beating with an elder rod was thought to arrest the growth of boys who were becoming too lanky or ‘weedy’. A cross of the wood, affixed to stables and cow-houses, afforded the livestock propection from possible harm; a cross made of Elder and Sallow was hung about children’s necks for protection against illness (especially where red thread was employed in the making of these charms). Folk belief held that the Dwarf Elder would only grow where blood had been shed in battle or murder. This was a tree often beloved of the Sidhe (although the location of a tree was important to the Sidhe folk; it had to be growing within a rath or fairy ring, in a rocky field of rough grass, or by a large boulder or spring); anyone who harmed, or even disturbed a tree beloved of the Sidhe risked their wrath (which often came in the form of illness). Other Uses: The hollow branches made tubes to blow through for brightening up a dull fire. Young branches were made into musical pipes. The flowers, when placed among apples, impart an agreeable odour and flavour to the fruit (like muscatel). Used to dye hair (black). The ‘rob’ of the buds and berries was made into preserves, cakes, and a capital wine (the 3-year old wine constitutes English port). The buds were made into pottage and small ale. The flowers have been distilled into perfume. Summer was traditionally marked from the flower of the Elder to the fruit. Sheep cure themselves of foot-rot by eating the bark and shoots. Tested Properties: Astringent, Bitter, Diuretic. Mucilaginous, Aromatic, Nutritive. Celtic Herbs: Eyebright Latin: Euphrasia Officinalis Irish Gaelic: Roisn’in Radhairc Scottish Gaelic: Lus-nan-Leac Other Names: Casse-lunettes, Augen Trost, Adhil Medicinal Uses: Widely used for all manner of eye ailments, as well as those affecting the lining of the nose and throat. Also used for hayfever, colds, coughs, sore throats, bronchial cough, scrofula, catarrh, and weak memory. Thought to improve brain function. The flower’s center resembles the human eye. Tested Properties: Astringent, Mucilaginous. Celtic Herbs: Foxglove Latin: Digitalis Purpurea Irish Gaelic: Me’aracan Dearg Other Names: Thimble Flower, Finger Flower, Gants de Notre Dame, Foxesglew, Fox Music, Flop-a-dock, Flop-top, Cow Flop, Flabby Dock, Throttle-wort. Known in Ireland as the Great Herb, Lunsmore, and Fairy Cap, Goblin’s Gloves (in Wales), Dead Men’s Bells (in Scotland) Medicinal Uses: Used externally for scrofulous swellings, and internally for colds. The plant entire is used to dispel fleas. Folklore: Used recreationally to obtain a kind of intoxicated high, thus possibly used in ritual/divination. No animal will touch the plant. Tested Properties: Bitter. The plant contains digitalin, a dangerous, active principle which acts on the kidneys and heart. Celtic Herbs: Garlic Latin: Three varieities of garlic grow wild in the British Isles and Ireland: Ramsons Allium ursinium, Crow Garlic Allium vineale, and purple striped garlic Allium oleraceum. Other Names: For Ramsons; Buck Rams, Buck Rampe, Bear’s Garlic, Star Flower Medicinal Uses: Garlic was believed to cure the bite of any venomous snake or reptile. Worked admirably well as a digestive aid. The odour was useful in reviving hysterical sufferers. Used against spasmodic affections of the chest, asthma, irritable spines, indolent scrofulous tumours, gout, red and irritated skin, plagues, tubercular consumption, erosive skin disease, lupus, abscesses, sores, rheumatism, nervous headache, and leprosy. Folklore: Used to drive away venomous creatures. A morsel when chewed by an athelete will ensure victory; it was also thought to be spurring to men in battle. If garlic was planted at the full moon it was said to come out like an onion, with only one clove instead of many. Other Uses: When Crow Garlic was fed to birds it so stupefied them that they could be caught by hand. Tested Properties: Stimulating, antispasmodic, expectorant and diuretic. Celtic Herbs: Horse Radish Latin: Cochlearia Armoracia Other Names: Mountain Radish, Great Raifort, Red Cole Medicinal Uses: A powerful stimulant. Used against facial neuralgia, rheumatic or palsied limbs, indigestion, hoarseness, sciatica, joint-ache, hard swellings of the spleen and liver, whooping cough, and acne. Employed to induce vomiting and sweating, and to stimulate the entire nervous system. Folklore: Metals turn black when touched by the root. The juices have been used to remove natural markings and pigmentation of the skin. Other Uses: Probably introduced and not native; the plant can be found growing most commonly near the sea. Widespread culinary use as a condiment and ‘spice’. It is a country habit to re-plant the horseradish after having taken a scraping or two from the root (and using the plant again and again in this manner until little was left). Used in a cosmetic; also used to remove freckles. Tested Properties: Expectorant, diuretic and emetic. Contains a large quantity of sulphur. Bitter, Mucilaginous, Nutritive, Aromatic. Celtic Herbs: Ivy Latin: Hedera Helix Other Names: Winter-grunt, Winter-green, Kissos Medicinal Uses: Employed for corns, plagues, spasms, rheumatism, lice and vermin, disorders of the spleen, whooping cough, neuralgic toothache, sore and smarting eyes, severe headache and hangover. Folklore: The plant is conspicuously green even during the coldest months of winter, and the flowers have no scent, both of these are seen as Otherworldly properties. The later custom among the common folk of decorating houses and churches at Christmastide with ivy was discouraged as being ‘Pagan’. Ivy was especially used for the protection of flocks; wreaths or magic hoops of ivy (with rowan and woodbine) were woven to stand under or around milk containers. The bruised plant destroys lice and vermin. Other Uses: The gum was employed as one of the first fillings for teeth. Ivy has always been associated with alcohol, perhaps because of its ability to cure hangover coupled with the fact that it was employed in the making of ale. Tested Properties: Contains balsamic resin and aromatic gum. Mildly aperient. Astringent, Aromatic, Bitter. Celtic Herbs: Lesser Century Latin: Erythroea Irish Gaelic: Dr’eimire Mhuire Other Names: Gall of the Earth, Christ’s Ladder, Felwort, Tausendgulden Kraut, the Herb of a Thousand Florins, a Hundred Golden Sovereigns, Center of the Sun Medicinal Uses: Effective when taken internally for rheumatsm, asthma, respiratory problems, languid digestion, heartburn, and poor appetite. Folklore: Some discussion is made of the fact that it grows wild in great abundance, and in a great many types of soils and conditions, but cannot be reared in a garden – thus the herb is believed to be under the care of magical folk/elements. Tested Properties: Bitter. Celtic Herbs: Lichen Latin: There are many varieties of lichens, those of the greatest medicinal value are Irish Moss Chondrus crispus, Oister-green Lichen marinum, and Iceland Moss. Scottish Gaelic: Dubh Cosac Other Names: For Irish Moss; Carrageen Medicinal Uses: Considered good for the heart. Employed against pulmonary consumption with bleeding from the lungs, gout, chronic sore throat, dysentery, diabetes, atrophy, and weakness of the back. Other Uses: All of these types of lichens are used in cooking. Irish Moss is often cooked as blancmange or made into pudding, sweetened with lemon rind, sugar and ratafia. Iceland Moss is made into cakes, bread, broth, and jelly. Tested Properties: Mucilaginous, Nutritive, Bitter. Iodine-rich. Celtic Herbs: Marigold Latin: Chrysanthemum Segetum Other Names: Corn Marigold, Mary Gowles, Bigold, Buddle, Boodle, Ruddles, Yellow Ox-eye Medicinal Uses: As a treatment for night sweats, fever, spasms, contusions, wounds, simple sores and ulcers, chronic vomiting, suppurative discharges and drainings, burns, and all breaches of the skin surface. Folklore: The herb was used to make protective wreaths or magical hoops. Marigold is one of the herbs believed to strip a witch of her will. Other Uses: Milkmaids churned marigold petals with their butter to colour it. Tested Properties: Astringent, Aromatic. Celtic Herbs: Milkwort Irish Gaelic: Gluinech Medicinal Uses: Employed against warts. Folklore: The herb was used to make protective wreaths or magical hoops. Celtic Herbs: Mistletoe Latin: Loranthus Viscum Other Names: Mistilton, All-heal, Vogelleim, Gui, Thunder-beson, Herbe de la Croix, Devil’s fuge, Spectre’s Wand Medicinal Uses: The dried young twigs and leaves are the principal medicinal components, employed against epilepsy, convulsions, and giddiness. It was thought to lessen reflex irritability and provide a tonic for the heart (as it strengthens the heartbeat). The berries, when chewed, provide immediate relief from stitches, and are still used for this by country folk. Folklore: Mistletoe is an evergreen parasite that grows on deciduous trees; the plant most favoured by the druids attached itself to the Oak (it was said that the mistletoe was the visible soul of the Oak), and Oaks sporting mistletoe are most sacred. Both its parasitic nature, and its bright colouring in winter, were seen as evidence of its magical nature. It was hung in houses for protection, and credited with endowing fertility to all animals. Mistletoe was harvested in a ritual fashion – those who meddled with it without respect were said to be struck blind in one eye, or lame in one leg, or to shortly suffer terrible injury to a limb. Mistletoe is never to be seen in modern churches, with the exception of a sculpted rendering of mistletoe in a tomb in Bristol Cathedral. Rites which involve holding a branch of mistletoe are believed to compell a spectre to appear and speak. Other Uses: A bird-lime is made from the viscin. Thrushes are attracted to mistletoe and are largely responsible for disseminating the parasitic plant. Tested Properties: Mucinaginous, Astringent, Aromatic, Bitter. Celtic Herbs: Mullein Latin: Verbascum Thapsus Scottish Gaelic: Lus Mor Other Names: Great Herb (in Scotland), Hedge Taper, Torch, Candela, Cendela Regia, Candelaria, Plant of the Lord, Adam’s Flannel, Blanket, Shepherd’s Club, Aaron’s Rod, Cuddie’s Lungs, Feldwode, Cow’s Lung Wort, Hare’s Beard, Jupiter’s Staff, Ladies’ Foxglove, Velvet Dock, Bullock’s Lung Wort Medicinal Uses: The plant is widely used in Ireland and Scotland against the symptoms of pulmonary consumption/tubercular lung disease. Also used for gout, falling sickness, hair loss, cramps, megrins, cough, asthma, migraine, ringworm, ear infection and consequent deafness, itching eczema, otorrhoea, enuresis, frost-bite, bruises, piles, and for ‘troublesome evils of the fundament’. Famed in Celtic countries for curing cattle of ‘the scab’ and lung diseases. Folklore: Widely used in folk magic. The herb is credited with being able to bring back children abducted by the Sidhe. A small bit of the plant, taken regularly, is believed to ensure long life. Staves off the putrification of fish, which was seen as evidence of magical properties. The plant was used as a torch at funerals and other gatherings. Other Uses: Used as a hair dye (blonde). Tested Properties: Bitter, Mucilaginous, Aromatic. Antibacterial. Celtic Herbs: Pennywort Irish Gaelic: Corn’an Caisil, Lus Na Pingine Medicinal Uses: Brewed into a medicinal tea. Celtic Herbs: Plantain Latin: Greater Plantain Plantago major, Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata, and Water Plantain Alisma plantago Irish Gaelic: Cop’og Ph’adraig Scottish Gaelic: Slanlus Other Names: Greater Plantain; Waybred, Waybread, Waybroad. Ribwort Plantain; Ribgrass, Soldiers, Cocks-and-hens, Lamb’s Tongue, Hard-Heads, Fighting Cocks, Devil’s Head. Water Plantain; Greater Thrumwort. Known in Scotland as the Healing Plant Medicinal Uses: Applied externally for broken shins, toothache, and sores of every kind. Taken internally for tubercular consumption, fevers of the springtime, hemorrhages, bedwetting in children, piles, vernal ague, swollen legs with dropsy, and hydrophobia. Folklore: Used in divination (known in modern times to induce vivid, meaningful dreams when brewed in a tea); if hung around the neck of a child it would prevent abduction by the Sidhe. Toads were thought to cure themselves by eating the leaves. Other Uses: The expressed oil of the seeds (a favourite food of birds) is used in place of linseed oil; the root is sweet and has great culinary use as a starchy vegetable. Tested Properties: Aromatic, Astringent, Bitter, Nutritive. Antiseptic and expecorant. Celtic Herbs: Purple Loosestrife Irish Gaelic: Lus na S’iochana, Earball Cait’in or Cr’eachtach Medicinal Uses: Medicinal tonics. Folklore: To banish discord in a house. Other Uses: Used for dyeing Celtic Herbs: Purple Orchis Scottish Gaelic: Lus An Talaidh Other Names: Herb of Enticement (in Scotland), Satyrion, Gethsemane, Long Purples, Dead Men’s Fingers, Cain-and-Abel, Ram’s Horns, Crake Feet, Keat Legs, Neat Legs Medicinal Uses: Thought to renew exhausted vigour and vitality; used to allay hunger and to treat chronic diarrhea. Folklore: Considered to be a very magically endowed plant; used widely in love charms. The plant has two roots (one large, one small) which were seen to represent a man and a woman. These roots were used in divining the identity of a future spouse in at least two ways. In the first; with the thought of someone in your mind you picked the appropriate root before sunrise while facing south, then if the root sank when placed (immediately) in spring water the person in mind would indeed become your spouse. In the second divinatory method the root was ground up and placed under the pillow to bring dreams of your future mate. Other Uses: A starchy product called Salep or Saloop was made from the tubers and commonly drunk before the introduction of tea or coffee. Tested Properties: Nutritive, Aromatic, Mucilaginous Celtic Herbs: Ragwort Latin: Senecio Jacoboea Irish Gaelic: Buachal’an Bu’i Other Names: St. James’ Wort, Canker Wort, Flea Wort, Seggrum, Jacoby, Yellow-top, Stagger Wort, Stammer Wort, Fairies’ Horse Medicinal Uses: Used externally for sciatica and wasting disease; taken internally it is credited with being a tonic. Thought to cure the staggers in horses; used externally to cure fresh cut young bulls. Folklore: In Ireland this plant is dedicated to the fairies, they are supposed to gallop about on the blossoms at midnight. Tested Properties: Astringent. Contains senecin. Celtic Herbs: Ribgrass Scottish Gaelic: Slanugad Medicinal Uses: Thought to purge the body of any lumps. Celtic Herbs: Rowan Latin: Aucuparia Other Names: Mountain Ash, Quicken Tree, Quick Beam, Wiggen, Witcher Medicinal Uses: The unripe fruit and bark are used to check diarrhoea when taken internally; externally they soothe the throat and bowel in the form of lotions or poultices. Folklore: The tree is believed to avert the evil eye. Crosses made of the branches and tied with red thread were worn on the clothing of Highland men; Highland women wore necklaces of the berries strung with red thread (both charms were for for protection). Mystical secrets were believed to have been carved exclusively upon this tree in the British Isles and in Scandanavia. Planted at the door of a house the Rowan afforded protection; twigs were also placed over the byre door. This was a tree often beloved of the Sidhe (although the location of a tree was important to the Sidhe folk; it had to be growing within a rath or fairy ring, in a rocky field of rough grass, or by a large boulder or spring); anyone who harmed, or even disturbed a tree beloved of the Sidhe risked their wrath (which often came in the form of illness). Other Uses: The berries of the tree are eaten voraciously by birds, and are used to bait bird-snares. The berries make a delicious drink and jam. Tested Properties: Nutritive, Bitter, Astringent. The fruit contains malic and citric acid when ripe. The leaves contain prussic acid and are poisonous Celtic Herbs: St. John’s Wort Latin: Hypericum Perforatum Irish Gaelic: Luibh Eoin Baiste Other Names: The Devil’s Scourge, The Grace of God, The Lord God’s Wonder Plant, Witch’s Herb, Amber, Hundred-Holes, Terrestrial Sun Medicinal Uses: Used for bedwetting in children, insanity, hypochondria, bleeding, wounds, bruises, catarrhs, injuries of the spinal cord and nervous system, to avert sickness in children, baldness, bed-sores, ulcers, lockjaw, sciatica, broken shins, scabbed legs, to ward off fever. Employed as a sedative and pain reliever. Folklore: The sap is red and resembles blood. If anyone trod on the plant after sunset a fairy-house would appear and carry them about. Used on Midsummer, when picked under certain conditions and while uttering certain words, for divination. The herb was also used to make protective wreaths or magical hoops; St. John’s Wort is on of the herbs able to strip a witch of her will. Other Uses: Plant parts were used to dye fabric (yellow). Tested Properties: Astringent, Bitter, Aromatic, Diuretic. Celtic Herbs: Scarlet Pimpernel Latin: Anagallis Arvensis Irish Gaelic: Rinn Ruisc, Falcaire Fi’an, Seamair Mhuire Other Names: Burnet Medicinal Uses: Used for obstructions of the liver and spleen, melancholy and asociated mental disease, hydrophobia, epilepsy, urinary irritability, pulmonary consumption (in its early stages), and rheumatism. Folklore: Used recreationally and possibly magically for its narcotic properties; used magically to imbue second sight and/or hearing in a person. It’s usefulness in treating mental disease may indicate that it was formerly used as a remedy for enchantments. Tested Properties: Astringent, Bitter. Celtic Herbs: Self-Heal Latin: Self-heal is a name given to several hedge plants, including Wood Sanicle Sanicula Europoeia, Prunella/Brownwort/Brunella Prunella Vulgaris, Bugle/Middle Comfrey Ajuga reptans and Ladies’ Mantle Alchemilla. Irish Gaelic: Tae Na Ngarraithe, Du’ain’in An Tseanchais Welsh: Lluellin Medicinal Uses: Often seen as a cure-all, but used specifically for internal bleeding, sore throat (with swollen glands), cuts and wounds, dysentric diarrhea, and stones in the bladder. Considered soothing and comforting. Other Uses: Leaves were placed under the pillow to promote quiet sleep. Tested Properties: Astrinent, Aromatic. Celtic Herbs: Speedwell Latin: Polychresta Herba Veronica Irish Gaelic: Seamar Chr’e Other Names: Farewell, Goodbye, Forget-me-not (ancient), Birds’ Eyes, Blue Eyes, Strike Fires, Mammy Die, Fluellin, Cat’s Eye, the Paul’s Bettony, Prize of Honour Medicinal Uses: Used for scabby eruptions, gout, leprosy, coughs, asthma, catarrhs, pulmonary consumption, to stimulte the kidneys, to promote perspiration and reduce feverishness, against itching, and in the longterm to overcome sterility. Folklore: The herb was sewn into the garments as a protective charm, although there is an isolated folk belief that if the herb is brought into a family the mother will die within a year. Tested Properties: Astringent, Bitter. Celtic Herbs: Sphagnum Irish Gaelic: Sus’an Medicinal Uses: Used for dressing woundsCeltic Herbs: Celtic Herbs:Tansy Latin: Tanacutum Vulgare Other Names: Athanasia Medicinal Uses: Used internally and externally for gout, roundworm, ague, spasms, epilepsy, bruises, strains, colic, hysteria, skin diseases, and to prevent miscarriage. Thought to purify the humours of the body, and to be especially good for the heart. Used to preserve dead bodies. Folklore: Used recreationally, and possibly magically, to obtain a giddy high. It’s usefulness in treating hysteria may indicate that it was formerly used as a remedy for enchantments. The herb’s ability to drive away flies and its ability to stave off decay on flesh was seen as evidence of its magical nature. Other Uses: Young petals were used to flavour cakes, puddings and omlettes. Tested Properties: Bitter, Aromatic, Mucilaginous, Nutritive, Astringent. Celtic Herbs: Trailing Pearlwort Scottish Gaelic: Mothan Folklore: Carried as a protective herb. Believed to relieve labour pains when placed under the right knee of a woman in childbirth. It was traditionally fed to cows to protect both the milk and the calf. The herb prevented the family members from abduction by the Sidhe if place above a home’s door. It was also used by girls as a love charm; if you pull nine roots and knot them into a ring, then hold the ring in your mouth while seeking a kiss from the man you desire… the man will be yours. Celtic Herbs: Vervain Scottish Gaelic: Crubh-An-Leoghain Other Names: Dragon’s Claw (in Scotland), Common Vervain, Verbena, Simpler’s Joy, Holy Herb, Tears of Isis, Tears of Juno, Persephonion, Demetria, Frog-foot, Verbinaca, Peristerium, Juno’s Tears, Mercury’s Moist Blood, Pigeon’s Grass, Columbine, Sagmina Medicinal Uses: Used for ailments of the eye, thinning and ailing hair, sleeplessness, inveterate headache, scrofulous disease, indolent ulcers, and sore throat. Folklore: A sacred herb associated with visions and prophecy; the flowers adorned altars (it was supposedly as favoured by the Druids as Mistletoe). The herb was also used to make protective wreaths or magical hoops, and was also an ingredient in charms for love. Vervain was sprinkled about the dining chamber as it supposedly made the guests merrier. It is without any odour or taste, which is regarded as magical or Otherworldly. The reputation for being Pagan has clung to the plant as it was regarded as surpassingly sacred in pre-Christian times; worn around the neck as an amulet (that rendered the wearer inviolate) and widely employed in rituals. A country belief holds that the devil revealed Vervain as a secret, and a divine medicine, to men. Vervain is supposed to strip a witch of her will. Other Uses: Pigeons are attracted to the plant. Tested Properties: Sedative, anticoagulant. Astringent. Celtic Herbs: Water Buttercup Latin: Caltha Palustris Scottish Gaelic: Fearaban Other Names: Marsh Marigold, Mare-blobs, Marsh Horsegowl, Marsh Gowl, Marsh Golden Flower, Bublicans, Meadowbrights, Crazies, Christ’s Eyes, Bulls’ Eyes, May Blobs, Drunkards, Water Caltrops, Wild Bachelor’s Buttons Verrucaria, Solsequia, Solsequium, Sponsa Solis Medicinal Uses: Marsh Marigold was considered a most effective treatment for weak bloodlessness (anaemia), and overall for bones and joints. Also used for headache, giddiness, coated tongue, diarrhoea, intermittent, small or rapid pulse, heaving of the limbs, fits, unhealthy eruptive skin, and warts. Other Uses: Employed as a mild dye (yellow). Tested Properties: Astringent, Aromatic. A vulnerary. Celtic Herbs: Yarrow Latin: Achillea Millefolium, Achillea Ptarmiga Greek: Stratiotes Chiliophullos Irish Gaelic: Athair Tal’uin Other Names: Holy Herb, Milfoil, Nosebleed, Gearwe, Sanguinary, Thousand Leaf, Old Man’s Pepper, Soldiers’ Woundwort, Staunch Grass, Carpenters’ Weed, Bloodwort, Old Man’s Mustard, Bad Man’s Plaything, Devil’s Plaything, Devil’s Nettle, Militaris, Meleflower Medicinal Uses: The hairy filaments of the leaves were inhaled to cause nosebleed and cure headache; as well it was a famed herb for staunching blood flow in all forms. Also used for hysteria, flatulence, heartburn, colic, epilepsy, rheumatism, toothache, colds, internal bleeding, loss of appetite, ague, sore throat, sore nipples, heavy menstruation, piles, cuts and contusions, eliminates toxins. This herb intensifies the efficacy of other herbs when taken in conjunction. Folklore: Widespread use as a love charm (when picked in a certain fashion while speaking certain phrases); hung in homes for luck. Worn in a little bag about the neck to bring the bearer success, and to bring about the transmission of magical secrets. Very famous as one of the herbs of the “Lancashire Witches”, which one admitted to using to cure distemper and in divination. Brought by bridesmaids to weddings for ‘seven years love’. Used in divination, especially weather. Considered a sacred herb; picked at Midsummer. It’s usefulness in treating hysteria may indicate that it was formerly used as a remedy for enchantments. More Folklore: The leaves of the yarrow are placed over the eyes, and thus will allow someone to see into the Otherworld. The stems, when dried, can be used for divinatory purposes by holding them in your hand and casting them. Celtic folklore holds that witches could achieve flight by wearing a sprig of the yarrow plant within their cap, which is called a `Cappeen d’Yarrag.’ The yarrow also has strong healing powers/ This, though, could be attributed with its ability to banish negative forces. Tested Properties: Bitter, Aromatic and Astringent Ferns In Slavonic lore, the fern was sacred to the God Kupala. They often referred to it as the `Fire-Flower,’ and gathered it during a special ritual on the night that was sacred to this God during the midnight hours. The fern would then confer upon the person the ability to undersatdn the language of the plant kingdom. Other beliefs hold that the fern should be burned upon a balefire to induce rain. Scientifically, it has been shown that ferns, when burning, produce a chemical called silver nitrate that will cause rain. American farmers have been known to utilize this chemical for “seeding clouds” to produce rain during the dry season. “Lucky Hands” are fern fronds that have been dried over the summer solstice balefire. They can be hung around the home as protectants. Rumor has it that if at midnight on the summer solstice you go into an area of the woods that is thickly populated with ferns and are quiet and wait, then Puck will come and visit you and possibly grant you a wish.