Magic Plants

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Anonymous

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#1
Nooo...not that kind of magic plant, get back to reading the "horticultural" ads in the FT.

What I'm getting at is - there are a couple of good Fairy threads around at the moment, and I've read many reports of fairies being seen in gardens, even suburban ones. Now, please don't think I'm all woo-woo and fey, but I wonder if certain plants - "magic" plants if you like - could provide the right sort of ambience? If not for fairies, then at least to create a place where you could feel in touch with spiritual things. So does anyone know much about plant and tree lore, which are considered sacred or magic, and why?
 

TheQuixote

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#2
Rowan or Mountain Ash

Hazel

Blackthorn

Holly



I used to sleep with a lavender bag under my pillow as a kid because my mother told me that it attracted fairies and things like that (but the nice Victorian-stylised gossamer-winged flower fairy creatures, not the horrible wizened fairies who stole babies and left changelings).

I've never seen any- although one of my brothers as a child, was convinced he saw them at the bottom of the garden in my grandad's raspberry canes.
 

TheQuixote

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#3
(just saw May blossom mentioned on the Superstitions thread)

IIRC fairies are meant to live in May blossom. (Hawthorn)

This may differ from one region to another but that's what I was told as a child when my mother sent me back out the door when I made the mistake of bringing some in the house.

Oh and cowslips are meant to attract fairies too. Something to do with fairies using it to find gold.
 

Breakfastologist

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#4
Rowan should keep them away, iirc - certainly keeps witches away. My parents' house has a rowan tree beside it and all the time I lived there I was never once attacked by witches. You can't argue with evidence like that...

Blackthorn always seems a bit malevolant to me- if you get scratches from it's thorns they always seem to get infected and take ages to heal.

::follows link above::

Ah, not just me then...
 

gyrtrash

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#5
An old man I knew who collected folklore, especially of the plant kind, told me that certain other-worldly folk were especially fond of sitting around in/under Elder trees...

I still think it's true. Well, sort of :) I always have a sly look when I'm passing one...
 

Abraxas12

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#6
The elder is known as "the flower of fairyland" and is supposed to contain a dryad.
According to legend if you stand or sleep under the elder on mid summers eve you will see the King of fairyland and all his retinue pass by
 

Twin_Star

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#7
I guess it depends what part of the world you're in Thestral, and also whether you mean plants that have innate magical properties, or ones that are used in more formalised magical ceremonies. I guess that's nearly the same thing though in a lot of cases.


One of the most familiar will be Aconite (Wolfsbane / Monkshood et al), which has been in use for centuries / millenia and has demonstrable neurological qualities. Treatments include for inflammation and arthritis. The root, incidentally, is the area most rich in poison, and is thus discarded for all legitimate uses.

How about Mandrake, also called "nightshade"? Again it can be found in the more mountainous areas of the med and Asia, and long known for its analgaesic properties. Widely used since the middle ages, it is found in many poultices, simples, elixirs etc.

Moly, or Golden Garlic is actually a flowering onion. Described in many Greek classic stories and can be grown (with a bit of luck and some care) in the UK. It has a quite pleasant smell, not at all onion / garlic-y unless the flowers or stem are crushed. Useful for ceremonies carried out in late spring - when it flowers naturally.

Mastic, at least of the highest quality, comes from the Schinos plants on the island of Chios, Greece. Mastic has a huge amount of uses and is found in the majority of toothpaste, chewing gums and the like (hence the verb to masticate). Outside of this practical use, mastic is revered as one of the most useful tools in any aspiring magicians kit bag.

Specifically relating to Fairy-attracting gardenns etc, i found this sweet little sub-site, that gives good tips about how to attract the Fey into your locale:
to further fairy fidelity

A couple of points it mentions that i half-knew / half-remenbered:

Fairies love Bluebells, for adorning their horses and such and fairies love to look at their reflections in water, but hate mirrors. Maybe a small ornamental pool in some quiet area of your garden would be the perfect lure?
 

Breakfastologist

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#8
Another point in favour of elder is that if you take a bunch of elder flowers a lot of sugar and half a dozen lemons and put them in a bowl then pour boiling water over them, leave for three days to stand and run through a fine seive or filter, you will get the tastiest elderflower cordial that tastes like summer.
 

MrRING

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#10
The Mysterious Mandrake!

The Mysterious Mandrake
In its prime, this ancient plant was powerful and fearsome, giving rise to awesome superstitions


By David Bare
Winston-Salem Journal

>> a d v e r t i s e m e n t <<

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Some plants have the uncanny ability to work their way into our mythology and stay there. They evolve through history, their uses and appearance morphing to fit the order of the day. The mandrake is one such plant. Surrounded by legend, its life in our collective psyche goes back as far as the Old Testament. Recently, author J.K. Rowling brought the plant back into popular culture. The stewed root of the mandrake is used to cure petrification in Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets.

The mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, is native to Northern Italy and the West Balkans, according to the Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening. The dictionary describes the seed vessel as a "tomato like fruit."

The mandrake's mystical properties spring from the supposed resemblance of its roots to the human body. It is among the herbs represented in the oldest surviving illustrated-botanical work, De Materia Medica, written by Dioscorides in the first century.

The mandrake is portrayed as half-vegetable and half-man. Beneath a crown of leaves and berries spread out like an American Indian headdress, the brown man-root is depicted as having legs, arms, knees, and breasts, a face and long brown hair. The toes and fingers of the figure are long, fibrous and rootlike. People believed that there were male and female mandrakes. The males were depicted with long beards and the females with flowing hair.

The mandrake's herbal history preceded Dioscorides' anthropomorphism, though.

Mandrake fruits, along with lotus, olive and willow, were among the funerary wreaths placed in the tomb of Egyptian King Tutankhamen 3,000 years ago.

The mandrake is also found in Genesis 30: 14-16 where it is used as an antidote for sterility. The fruit is used here, giving rise to the name "love apples."

Highly esteemed

Its many properties and the lore of its supernatural powers made the plant very valuable. The mandrake was a powerful and highly esteemed root. It was valued as an aphrodisiac. It restored fertility. It was a sedative, a bringer of good fortune, an expeller of demons, and at one time, the most widely used anesthetic.

Mandrake appears in a list of useful plants in Arabic documents from the sixth and seventh century. Italian illustrations from the 14th century portray the mandrake as a man popping out of the ground wearing on his head a garland of leaves and fruits.

The root's humanlike form in these illustrations gave rise to the most fantastic superstitions surrounding the mandrake. The mandrake was believed to have the power to give a terrible shriek when pulled. Hearing that shriek would cause madness or sudden death.

The legend of the shrieking mandrake has grown wildly over time.

In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Juliet opines, "And shrieks like Mandrakes torn out of the earth, That living mortals, hearing them, run mad."

In Rowling's world, boy wizard Harry Potter and his friends wear earmuffs while transplanting mandrake sprouts in their herbology class. In answering a question about mandrakes, Hermione, one of Harry's best friends, says, "The cry of the mandrake is fatal to anyone who hears it."

Over the centuries, elaborate rituals grew around the harvesting of the long, brittle root. To harvest the mandrake root, the superstitious believed, one had to protect oneself from its horrible shrieking. In the simplest procedures, the harvester revealed the crown of the root and then tied a cord from the root to the neck of a dog. A piece of meat was placed before the dog and when the dog went after the meat, it pulled up the root.

Other rituals were more involved, including the instructions to draw "circles round mandrake with a sword and cut it with one's face toward the west; and at the cutting of the second piece, one should dance around the plant and say as many things as possible about the mysteries of love."

Despite having the power to shriek a root gatherer to madness or death and its use by witches in love potions and flying ointments, the mandrake root was believed to ensure a sort of blessing on households.

The roots were sold as amulets that could bring good fortune to a household and protect the bearer. The root was placed in water four times a year and the water sprinkled about the household to imbue it with good fortune. Between these bathing times, the root was wrapped in silk and kept among the most treasured household possessions.

This tradition became so popular that a market in fake mandrake roots sprang up. By crafting the root of the bryony plant - and, in some cases, growing it in compost to assume a more humanlike form - homeowners were deceived into believing that they were purchasing mandrake. Grass seed was even planted on top of the root to resemble hair.

"The rootes which are conterfited and made like little puppettes and mammettes, which come to be sold in England in boxes with heir, and such forme as a man hath, are nothing elles but folishe feined trifles, and not naturall. For they are so trymmed of crafty theves to mocke the poor people with all, and to rob them both of theyr wit and theyr money," the herbalist William Turner wrote in 1568.

A legend wanes

By the time Nicholas Culpeper came on the scene in the mid-1600s, the mandrake seems to have been stripped of its supernatural abilities.

"The root formerly was supposed to have the human form, but it really resembles a carrot or parsnip," Culpeper wrote.

Still, old legends die hard.

Ethnobotanists Marcel De Cleene and Claire Lejeune report in their book Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe that the mandrake root, which was in the Middle Ages believed to make soldiers invisible, was being worn by German soldiers in World War II.

So beware that tap-rooted dandelion that you're about to pull up from the lawn. It may instead be a madness-inducing, household-protecting, spell-breaking, fertility-restoring, shrieking-aphrodisiac mandrake.

It's the time of year for such things.
http://www.journalnow.com/servlet/S...SJ_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031778837441
 

Jerry_B

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#11
Breakfast said:
Rowan should keep them away, iirc - certainly keeps witches away. My parents' house has a rowan tree beside it and all the time I lived there I was never once attacked by witches. You can't argue with evidence like that...
Ash and hazel are both said to ward off otherwordly beings. It's also considered unlucky in some places to bring any ash wood into the house.
 
A

Anonymous

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#12
What about the mushrooms? Not necessarily the magic type, but they do lend a certain ambience to the notion that the wee folk are about.
 
A

Anonymous

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#13
Well, this is looking good, as I already have holly and hawthorn in the garden, and am overlooked by birch and oak, which i think both have their own lore. There's a rowan across the street, and next doors lawn had the most splendid and huge fairy ring.
There does seem to be some confusion, as many of these "sacred" plants have areputation for keeping spirits/what have you at bay - holly, rowan, yew - but maybe they just keep the nasties off? (didn't work on halloween - several dwarf/goblin/witchlike entities manifested themselves in the garden) ;)

edit - also got Rose and Apple, both mentioned on those (ever-so-slightly-wacko) fairy sites.
 

CuriousIdent

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#14
On first glance I thought I was opening a thread on "Magic Pants," and was slightly confused as to what I was reading when I opened it...

I'll get my coat...

And I think I'd better get a coffee while I'm at it.:D
 

nickedoff12

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#15
...?

Since when is Mandrake the same as Nightshade?

Isn't Belladonna the synonym (sp?) for Nightshade?

Did someone already point this out, and I didn't realize it?
 
A

Anonymous

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#16
Katharine Briggs excellent 'A Dictionary of Fairies' has a few pages on Fairy Trees.
"Some trees seem to be regarded as havng a personality of their own, and some are more specifically a haunt of FAIRIES or spirits . . .

. . .everyone knows the couplet,
Fairy folks
Are in old oaks . .

. . .Hawthorn has certain qualities of its own, but is primarily thought of as a tree sacred to or haunted by the fairies . . . [but]White may in blossom was supposed to bring death into the house . . "

Of the elder and fairies:
" . . . it was said that good fairies found protection under it from witches and evil spirits. On the other hand, in Oxfordshire and the Midlands, many elders were strongly suspected of being transformed witches, and they were supposed to bleed if they were cut."

"a beech is a holy tree, with no connection with fairies. It is said that the prayers spoken under it go straight to Heaven. Otherwise it it is difficult to think of a tree which has not some fairy connection."
 

Timble2

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#17
Re: ...?

nickedoff12 said:
Isn't Belladonna the synonym (sp?) for Nightshade?
Yes, Belladonna "Beautiful lady", because the atropine that makes it poisonous is an anticholinergic. When the juice is used as eye drops it causes the pupils to dilate, giving women a wide-eyed, come to bed, look that was considered sexy in medieval Italy....
 

mynah

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#18
On the subject of trees, how about the strangling fig of South East Asia?

Here's an extract from a jungle trekking guide:

One tree which leans over the boardwalk here is a large strangling fig (Ficus sp), and its hapless strangled host. Figs, including strangling figs, play a key role in the rainforest because of their profuse fruiting (the fruit usually sprout straight from the trunk). These fruit are a vital food source for hornbills, monkeys, and a whole host of other birds and animals. Strangling figs actually germinate up in the upper branches of their host trees, where a seed has been deposited by one of the animals or birds which has feasted on the fruit. The roots then grow downward around the host's trunk, (often) eventually strangling it (not all strangling figs kill their hosts).

The Iban have a legend that the strangling fig, Kayu Kara, used to live on the ground. Kayu Kara longed to climb up amongst the rainforest giants around it, to see the sky, sun, moon and stars. One day, it approached one of the big trees and asked if it could clumb up on its shoulders, to see the sky. The big tree generously agreed. Kayu Kara climbed up, and loved the view so much that he stayed there. After a number of years, Kayu Kara grew big, and became very heavy. The old tree who was his host said 'You have seen the sky for many years now, and have become very heavy. Please get down.' But the fig liked the view, and didn't want to come down, so he strangled the old tree, killing it, and stayed there. The Iban consequently call someone who borrows something and doesn't give it back Kayu Kara. They also believe that big strangling figs house demons, spirits and snakes, and don't cut them down."

I can tell you strangling fig trees are creepy to look at. Certainly not a tree for the garden!
 

Twin_Star

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#19
Re: ...?

nickedoff12 said:
Since when is Mandrake the same as Nightshade?

Isn't Belladonna the synonym (sp?) for Nightshade?

Did someone already point this out, and I didn't realize it?
Sorry maybe my venacular is a bit wooly sometimes.

Mandrake is in the family Solanaceae, which also contains the Nightshade specii, so i meant mandrake / nightshade were in the family way, although to be fair i've had a few herbalists call Mandrake "Squire's nightshade" when they've prepared things for me.

http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/n/nighwo06.html

Is a good website for budding horticulaturalists and the like
 
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