Magical Herbalism is the use of herbs in spellwork, ritual and other magical practices to affect change using the natural power and energy of the plant or plants you are working with. Herbalism is an ancient practice, from the first time humans or rather our humanoid ancestors were able to understand that some plants healed, others harmed and some could be used for cooking and flavouring dishes they began to use them. As civilizations grew, so did this knowledge and so the village Shaman or Wisewoman became, and those who were held the secrets and the knowledge of the plants, trees, herbs and flowers. They became keepers of the knowledge and the individuals who made remedies, who made tonics and potions and who taught the next generation of Shamans, Wisewomen and Cunningfolk.
The earliest record of using herbs was the Sumerians 5000 years ago, they used thyme and laurel. The Ancient Egyptians were another civilization that used herbs, as tools for food and tools for magic. It is well documented that the favourite form of ridding oneself of a rival in Ancient Egypt was poisoning. Written texts found, dated 1500 B.C., hold references to over 700 herbal remedies and uses, undoubtedly the Ancient Egyptians were experts in Herbal Knowledge. In China a medical journal written in 2700 B.C was found, lists 13 herbal remedies. The Chinese have been using herbs for over 5000 years. The Native American Indians also have extensive knowledge of herbs, trees, plants and roots, as did the Greeks and the Romans. Some of the more formative texts on herbal use have come out of Greece and Rome, most famously by Hypocrites who used herbs as the basis for treating diseases and other ailments.
The Druids also used herbs to help treat their villagers, but the Druids also used herbs in their ceremonies and religious rituals. Herbs were also used in Tudor times, most often at Weddings to decorate the bride’s headdress, to decorate tables and altars as well as being strewn about on the floor. At the end of the wedding, the bride and groom would sit under a “Kissing Knot”, this was made up of ribbons and dried herbs that had a special meaning for the couple.
The Welsh are also well known for being very involved in bringing herbalism to the forefront of medical practice. The Physicians of Myddfai were well known the world over for their herbal expertise. During the 12th Century they built monastaries and in these monasteries they would learn and refine their knowledge. They practiced for 500 years in continued succession in Myddfai, Wales with their last descendant passing away in 1743.
In medieval times, before medicine was fully founded, the Village Wisewoman took the place of Doctor. She knew all about herbs and their uses and she was the woman villagers went to when they needed treatment, a healing brew, a tonic to use as a method of birth control, a potion to attract that man who otherwise would not look at a particular girl, as relief during childbirth – the duties of the village wisewomen were long and plentiful, but unfortunately this knowledge was also what condemned them during the Witch Trials.
Now we come to Modern Times where herbs are used across the board for a variety of different reasons, cooking, decoration, aromatherapy, naturopathy, homeopathy, herbalism and of course Magical Herbalism.
Magical Herbalism is an integral part of Witchcraft. It states our connection to nature and its infinite ability to be shaped to affect change in our lives. Herbs hold the lifeblood of the earth in their DNA, their power is from the Universe itself. Each herb/plant/tree/flower has its own unique set of correspondences, it’s own unique purpose. During spellwork and ritual we can tap into this energy, we can create poppets, charms, amulets and a multitude of other items to help focus our power and bring about the desired change. Herbs are an endless and bountiful magickal tool. Even if you can’t afford the more exotic herbs, they should always be a staple in a Witch’s cabinet because once you begin the wonderful journey into the world of Magical Herbalism, you will want to grow your supplies as you learn more, you will truly want to work with the herbs and take into yourself all that they offer.