Copyright 1998 Max Dashu

       the Nine Herbs Charm contains plant-spirit invocations to mugwort, plantain, nettle, camomile, fennel and other herbs, addressing them as living powers. Mugwort (Artemisia) was also known as waremodh ("aware-mood"). It was the primary herb in the Nine Herbs Charm, an Anglo-Saxon incantation recorded in the 10th century Lacnunga:

Remember, Mugwort, what you made known/ What you arranged at the Great Proclamation./ You were called Una, oldest of herbs./ You have power for three and against thirty./ You have power agains poison and infection,/ You have power against the loathsome foe roving through the land.

Like its American relative desert sage and its Chinese relative ai (moxa), mugwort was known to remove negative energies, clear away pain and affliction, banish ill spirits. It was used in smudging people, animals, and buildings. It was gathered at Midsummer's Eve and worn and hung as garlands. Dancers threw last year's wreaths, that had protected homes and barns, into the bonfire.

If this herbe be within a house there shall no wyched sprite abyde. –The Grete Herball, 1539

Another Middle English herbal calls artemisia modirworth, and recommends gathering in summertime along with fennel, to be hung in house entryway "to keep devil and wyk sprith (wicked sprites) away," and protect from peril.

Germans called it beifuss ("by foot"). It's derived from OHG pipôz, MHG biboz, from pôza, to beat, to pound. People put it in their shoes when they set out, as it protects and invigorates travellers: “you may go 40 miles before noon and not be weary.” Germans also
hung it over doors to protect from evil influences. They would gird themselves with it on St Johns day (the Catholic name for Midsummers holyday) and then throw into the fire with spells and rhymes. So it was also called sonnenwend-gürtel, gürtel-kraut (sun-course-girdle, girdle-plant). The French “dig the root up solemnly, twine it into wreaths, hang it about them, and each flings it into the flame along with any griefs he may chance to have about him. He that has beifuss on him wearies not on his way.” [Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, 1221]

A Galloway tradition of the Scots told of how relatives had about given up on a girl dying of tuberculosis, “when a mermaid, who often gave the people good counsel, sang: “Wad ye let the bonnie may die I’ your hand, And the mugwort flowering in the land!” They gave her mugwort juice and she recovered. Another story tells of a Glasgow teen who died of the same illness. The mermaid raised her head above the water as her body was being carried past, and called out in slow measure, “If they wad drink nettles in March, and eat muggons in May, Sae mony braw maidens Wad na gang to the clay.” [Grimm 1212]

>> Slavic serpentine initiations related to Mugwort, or Chornobyl


[Excerpted from unpublished MS by Max Dashu, Secret History of the Witches]


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