Medicine and Magic in the May Garden

 

I love the month of May – the whole country becomes lush and green and seems to me to be full of magical promise. Every time I turn around there is a new plant to discover, a new flower blossoming, a new leaf just opened on a young tree.

Some people might say that it is a terrible year for weeds as the heat and the soft rain have really encouraged vigorous growth but lets not forget that many of those weeds are medicinal and magical.

Horsetail – Equisetum arvense is a wonderful urinary herb and is very beneficial to the body in other ways.  He also has many uses in the garden itself; in a compost tea, as a spray for blight and as a spray for rose fungus, so don’t get too het up about finding him in your garden.  Be grateful and put him to use – that is why he is there.  Horsetail can be used in fertility spells which is not surprising when you see how prolific Horsetail is!

Red Clover – Trifolium pratense – looks so sweet and pretty, actually she really does taste sweet.  Try the flowers in a salad.  You can also use this little herb for coughs and skin complaints as well as part of a detox formula.  As for the garden, she fixes nitrogen into the soil so all your other plants benefit from having her there.  Use Red Clover in a spell for Love, Success and Abundance.

Here is Cramp Bark – Viburnum opulus, also known as Guelder Rose, can be seen in many a hedge row and like other trees she is dressing up in her flowers.  Later in the year she will produce bright red berries.  Although she can be used for muscle tension and cramps anywhere in the body, she is in particular a herb for women.  Always take the bark from a branch or a twig and NEVER from the trunk.

Elder – Sambucus nigra – is a tree that just keeps giving!!!  She shares her bark, leaves, flowers and berries!  The flowers and berries are especially prized for relieving upper and lower respiratory problems.  Elder is said to be ” …a veritable medicine chest…” as she can help with almost every physical complaint in some way.  Not only that, she has the magic of being the Crone Tree, a wise tree with much to teach us.  She is the fierce Mother who will do away with harmful negativity and protect us from all harm.

All of the plants mentioned so far are magical,  of course, simply by being who they are and by the way they share their healing attributes with us.

Here is Marshmallow – Althaea officinalis  looking beautifully lush and green before flowering.  You can see just how soft and velvety the leaves are.  I collect the leaves once the flowers have appeared as they make a very soothing medicine for chest problems during winter.

 

This is a real magical plant. Foxglove – Digitalis purpurea – was grown from some wild seed and I have planted several plants around my garden.  I saved seed last year too and now I have about thirty or more little seedlings sitting in the green house.  I would not personally use this as a medicine although it has been used traditionally for heart complaints.  I use it to honour the faeries and the Spirits of Place, the spirits of this land that I am guardian of.  This is one of their plants and I want them to feel at home here.  I am so glad it is in flower this month as May is such a month of faery activity.  As for the magic of this plant, I use the fallen petals to make a magical summer incense with and include it in my Summer Solstice celebrations.

What list of May plants and May magic would be complete without Hawthorn?

 

Hawthorn – Cratagus oxyacantha – is so associated with the month of May that her blooms are often called May Flower and Hawthorn often represents the Maypole.  Hawthorn is a herb for the heart, helping with blood-pressure issues and reducing cholesterol as well as toning the heart muscle and the cardiovascular system.

Hawthorn is a Bealtaine plant, representing youth, fertility and conception; falling in love and starting a new generation.  I think that her association with the heart is very interesting because if there is one plant, one flower, that can help open your heart to the Beauty of Nature, then it has to be Hawthorn.

Last weekend I attended a herb conference and all of the international visitors and speakers commented on how stunning they thought the Hawthorn in the hedgerows looked.  One speaker, who had travelled all the way from the Amazon, was astounded by Hawthorn’s beauty and her message to us. They were all touched deeply by the beauty of this lovely hedgerow plant.  Don’t you think that is magic?  That one of our magical trees can affect people to such an extent?

Hawthorn is of course, a magical plant.  Here in Ireland she is a faery plant and even today people still believe that it would be unlucky to cut down or interfere with a lone Hawthorn tree.

Isn’t she graceful? Each lone Hawthorn is said to hold the spirit of a faery, one of the Sidh and they are often found at Holy Wells in Ireland.

The time is here now for us to acknowledge that plants are not only sentient beings and have a lot to teach us; they are also wiser than us.  It is easy to build relationships with plants and during this month of May, when our hearts are touched by the Beauty of Nature, go out into your garden, park, hedgerow, cemetery or any wild place and start building relationships.  Our planet, our amazing Mother needs us to do this, wants us to do this and the plants are waiting for us to do this.

Let me know how you communicate with plants and if you need a little help to get started, have a look at the Weed Handbook Volume 2.  Maybe consider the Wise Woman Training which will soon be available in digital format.

May Blessings of love and fruitfulness to everyone!

 

Hawthorn, Magical Faery Tree at Bealtaine

One of the most iconic images of the west of Ireland is that of the Hawthorn tree, bent over due to the prevailing winds, looking almost like a graceful woman dancing.

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The Hawthorn tree is also known as Whitethorn and as the May tree.  It is just coming in to blossom here in my garden and during May will be full of white blooms  with their distinctive perfume. Once Hawthorn is in bloom you know that summer has arrived.  Bealtaine, Irish for the month of May, also marks the beginning of summer in the Celtic calendar.

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Medicinally, Hawthorn is taken as a tonic for the heart.  The flowering tops can be picked from May onwards – these include twiglets, flowers, buds and leaves. The berries are available from mid September. As a heart tonic it nourishes and strengthens the cardio vascular system, relaxes peripheral blood vessels, balances blood pressure, tones the circulatory system and acts as a diuretic thus reducing blood pressure.. It helps to open up the arteries as it dissolves cholesterol, it reduces palpitations, and can also be used to treat angina. It is an incredibly safe herb with no side effects or contra-indications.  However, if one is using allopathic cardio drugs one should see a medical herbalist.

Hawthorn can also be used as a tonic for “emotional” heart problems during menopause and in cases of anxiety, restlessness and other emotional pain.

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The flowering buds can be eaten in a salad and the berries can be eaten or fermented into wine.  The leaves and fruit have strong drawing powers and can be made into a poultice to draw splinters and thorns.

Metaphysically the Hawthorn helps to ‘open’ the heart to love and compassion and bestows courage on those who feel vulnerable.

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A lone or single Hawthorn is regarded as a Faery Tree and in Ireland no-one in their right mind would cause any harm or damage to it because they would risk the wrath of the Faeries. Indeed, during Bealtaine, (when the Faeries are especially active), the trees are decorated with bright ribbons, red cloths, shells and garlands.  These are offered to honour the tree and the Faery within and to invoke the blessings of fertility for land, livestock and human folk.

Bealtaine celebrates fertility and abundance, new life, the land awakening.  It is thought to go back to the time when the Celts were nomadic herdsmen, driving their cattle out to the summer pastures.  The Bealtaine bonfire represents the blessings of Bel (a sun god) and the return of the strength of the  sun.  Cattle were passed between two bonfires to ensure health and vitality.  This fire was very much a sacred fire of health and protection and in Connemara and elsewhere, the ashes were sprinkled on cattle, over crops and around dwellings.  Every hearth fire would be doused, put out and relit the following morning with a burning brand from the bonfire to ensure good luck for the coming year.

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Young men jumped over the bonfire to impress the girls, demonstrating their strength and virility. Hand fastings or wedding ceremonies often took place at this time of year, as the sap is rising and burgeoning life is obvious everywhere.  Hawthorn flowers were included in the wedding bouquet to ensure fertility for the happy couple.

Bealtaine and the Hawthorn are unquestionably linked, both representing the beginning of summer, love, light and fertility. During the Bealtaine celebrations offerings of milk, oats and honey would be made to the goddess of summer for the continuing abundance of life and good fortune.

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We are holding a Bealtaine celebration here.  See details on the home page and get in touch if you would like to come along and join in.

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