By Hertha’s Seed and Ragged Weed

An Introduction to Wortcunning

By Hertha’s Seed and Ragged Weed

An Introduction to Wortcunning

Dawn R. Jackson

“One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow, One for the Dame and one to Grow.”

Wortcunning is a term that refers to the knowledge (cunning) and use of the secret or hidden properties of herbs (or plants/worts). Herbs or Worts as used for healing and medicinal purposes can be traced all the way back to Egypt’s Necropolis of Theban and the Eber Papyrus (one of the world’s oldest surviving medical texts). Many of the herbal ingredients and items listed therein may still be found in the dark cubbies and cobwebbed corners of many a modern Witch’s cupboards and cabinets today. A majority of these plants or herbs serve a dual function, being both used to treat medicinally as well as magically.

One of many tasks a practicing Hedge Witch undertakes during their time of study and learning is discovering the lore about such herbs or worts and learning how they may be utilized in various rites and workings of their own Art or Craft making. Uses of the many varied worts available abound from creating your own powerful aromatic incense blends, stuffing and lining poppet or mommet figures, to uses in workings of a more mantic nature by brewing teas that will be ingested to inspire prophetic dreams.

No matter what the cause or reason for the use of the herb there are many elements to consider from what the purpose of the rite or working is to the day it is to be held on or done when choosing your selection to harvest from the garden. All plants fall under the subsequent ‘rulership’ of a particular day of the week and it’s corresponding Spirit. By looking over the list below you will see the various names of these herbs, deities, day of the week and function and by researching what it is you hope to enact with your working you will be able to choose a combination of worts/herbs for that specific purpose. The waxing and waning influence of the moon will also lend its powers and associations to such rites and workings. As an example; the Waxing Moon is good for certain growth blouts and for cup sainings, and Waning Moons are excellent times for curses or banishings - even arthame sainings. Full Moons are splendid times for various types of fertility rites and Housles. And Dark or New Moons will always belong to Old Fate alone, for those are for workings to discover the very essence of Fate and of the Mystery.

Proper respect should always be shown for the taking of such gifts from the earth for our use. An offering is called for in situations such as these and a shortened version of the Housle may be used here or another type of oblation such as a gift of fresh milk for the local land spirits. This milk should be given freely and poured onto the earth near the plant you wish to harvest. One should always be tender and gentle when taking herbs from the ground in this fashion and be thankful for this power that we are given to share. Failure to heed these suggestions may mean the difference between worts harvested with their full spirit intact, (this being a great boon to any working) —- to worts that have no spark or life in them and are not beneficent in any manner either magically or medicinally.

Some material gathered from Agrippa’s Three Books on Occult Philosophy, the Arbatel of Magic, and Culpeper’s Herbal.

  • Sunday (masc/fem)

    • Ruler: Och, Arcitenens, Known as Light, A Solar Spirit.
    • Associated Worts: St. John’s Wort, Cedar, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Daisy, Oak, Heliotrope, Saffron, and Mistletoe Rowan, Goldenseal, Bay, Acacia.
  • Monday (masc/fem)

    • Ruler: Phul, Phebe, Known as Wanderer, A Lunar Spirit.
    • Associated Worts: Fern, Mugwort, Jasmine, Willow, Lemon, and Gardenia, Adder’s Tongue, Dulse, Purslane, Moonwort, Mallow.
  • Tuesday (masculine)

    • Ruler: Phaleg, Mavors, Known as Horned, A Martial Spirit.
    • Associated Worts: Rue, Wormwood, Allspice, Basil, Cumin, Coriander, Onion, Holly, Pine, Ginger, Garlic, Damiana, Broom, Briony, Pennyroyal, Thistle, Gorse, Squill.
  • Wednesday (masculine)

    • Ruler: Ophiel, Stillbon, Known as Master, A Mercurial Spirit.
    • Associated Worts: Sun Spurge, Cinquefoil, Dill, Fennel, Lily of the Valley, Marjoram, Mint, Parsley, and Peppermint, Flax, Goat’s Rue, Mandrake, Senna.
  • Thursday (masculine)

    • Ruler: Bethor, Diovispator, Known as Ruler, A Jupiterian Spirit.
    • Associated Worts: Houseleek, Agrimony, Clove, Dandelion, Fig, Nutmeg, and Meadowsweet, Linden, Hyssop, Borage, Witch Grass, Anise, Agrimony.
  • Friday (feminine)

    • Ruler: Hagith, Lucifera, Known as Lady, A Venusian Spirit.
    • Associated Worts: Maidenhair, Honeysuckle, Lady’s Mantle, Marigold, Primrose, Apple, Rose, Magnolia, Periwinkle, Persimmon, and Rosemary, Barley, Tansy, Ragwort.
  • Saturday (feminine)

    • Ruler: Aratron, Coelius, Known as Time, A Saturnian Spirit.
    • Associated Worts: Nightshade, Valerian, Cypress, Morning Glory, Lady’s slipper, Black Hellebore, Hemlock, Henbane, and Mullein, Scullcap, Comfrey, Hemp, Wolf’s Bane, Yew.
  • All days (feminine)

    • Ruler: Hertha, Tellus, Known as Mother, A Tellurian Spirit.
    • Associated Worts: Cypress, Sage, Patchouli, Juniper, Myrrh, and Orris, Oleander, Vervain, Rye, Horehound, Wheat, Asphodel, Knotweed.

To research other herbs/worts not listed here, try Nicholas Culpeper’s Herbal or Mrs. Grieves Modern Herbal (some of the definitive traditional guides to herbs and herb lore).

The Nine Herbs: An Anglo-Saxon Charm

Forget not, Mugwort, what thou didst reveal,
What thou didst prepare at Regenmeld.
Thou hast strength against three and against thirty,
Thou hast strength against poison and against infection,
Thou hast strength against the foe who fares through the land.

And thou, Plantain, mother of herbs,
Open from the east, mighty within,
Over thee chariots creaked, over thee queens rode,
Over thee brides made outcry, over thee bulls gnashed their teeth.
All these thou didst withstand and resist;
So mayest thou withstand poison and infection,
And the foe who fares through the land,

This herb is called Stime; it grew on a stone,
It resists poison, it fights pain.
It is called harsh, it fights against poison.
This is the herb that strove against the snake;
This has strength against poison, this has strength against infection,
This has strength against the foe who fares through the land.

Now, Cock’s-spur Grass, conquer the greater poisons, though thou art the lesser;
Thou, the mightier, vanquish the lesser until he is cured of both.

Remember, Mayweed, what thou didst reveal,
What thou didst bring to pass at Alorford:
That he never yielded his life because of infection,
After Mayweed was dressed for his food.

This is the herb which is called Wergulu;
The seal sent this over the back of the ocean
To heal the hurt of other poison.

These nine sprouts against nine poisons.

A snake came crawling, it bit a man.
Then Woden took nine glory-twigs,
Smote the serpent so that it flew into nine parts.
There apple brought this to pass against poison,
That she nevermore would enter her house.

Thyme and Fennel, a pair great in power,
The Wise Lord, holy in heaven,
Wrought these herbs while He hung on the cross;
He placed and put them in the seven worlds
To aid all, poor and rich.

It stands against pain, resists the venom,
It has power against three and against thirty,
Against a fiend’s hand and against sudden trick,
Against witchcraft of vile creatures.

Now these nine herbs avail against nine evil spirits,
Against nine poisons and against nine infectious diseases,
Against the red poison, against the running poison,
Against the white poison, against the blue poison,
Against the yellow poison, against the green poison,
Against the black poison, against the blue poison,
Against the brown poison, against the crimson poison,
Against snake-blister, against water-blister,
Against thorn-blister, against thistle-blister,
Against ice-blister, against poison-blister;
If any poison comes flying from the east or any comes from the north,
Or any from the west upon the people.

Christ stood over disease of every kind.
I alone know running water, and the nine serpents heed it;
May all pastures now spring up with herbs,
The seas, all salt water, be destroyed,
When I blow this poison from thee.

Mugwort, plantain which is open eastward, lamb’s cress, cock’s-spur grass, mayweed, nettle, crab-apple, thyme and fennel, old soap; crush the herbs to dust, mix with the soap and with the apple’s juice. Make a paste of water and of ashes; take fennel, boil it in the paste and bathe with egg-mixture, either before or after he puts on the salve. Sing that charm on each of the herbs: thrice before he works them together and on the apple likewise; and sing that same charm into the man’s mouth and into both his ears and into the wound before he puts on the salve.

Another Anglo-Saxon Charm

Erce, Erce, Erce, Mother of Earth!
May the All-Wielder, Ever Lord grant thee
Acres a-waxing, upwards a-growing
Pregnant with Corn and plenteous in strength;
Hosts of grain shafts and of glittering plants!
And of white ears waxing,
Of the whole earth the harvest!
Let be guarded the grain against all ills
That are sown o’er the land by the sorcery men
Nor let the cunningwoman change it nor the crafty man.

Traditional folk names for herbs have been used by Witches for centuries — even the three Wyrd sisters in Shakespeare’s infamous Scottish Play made use of them in their incantations. This being the case as they disguised the names and ingredients of common herbs and even so-called weeds that would have been called for in various Rites and Workings from prying eyes.

”…Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble…”
— William Shakespeare

Below is a list taken from Stephen Flowers:

  • A Bone of an Ibis: Buckthorn
  • Blood of Hephaistos: Wormwood
  • Semen of Hermes: Dill
  • Blood of an Eye: Tamarisk Gall
  • From the Loins: Chamomile
  • A Pig’s Tail: Leopard’s Bane
  • An Eagle: Wild Garlic (Trigonella foenumgraecum, but the reading is doubtful)
  • A Lion’s Hairs: Tongue of a Turnip (i.e., the leaves of the taproot)
  • Semen of Helios: White Hellebore
  • A Titan’s Blood: Wild Lettuce
  • A Hawk’s Heart: Heart of Wormwood
  • Semen of Ammon: Houseleek
  • Fat from a Head: Spurge
  • From the Foot: Houseleek
  • Bull’s Blood or Seed of Horus: Horehound
  • Graveyard Dust: Mullein
  • Unicorn Root: Ague Root
  • Wolf’s Milk: Euphorbia
  • Tears or Sleep Sand of a Hamadryas Baboon: Dill Juice
  • Hairs of a Hamadryas Baboon: Dill Seed
  • Blood of Ares: Purslane
  • Blood from a Shoulder: Bear’s Breach (probably Acanthus mollis or Helleborus foetidus)
  • A Man’s Bile: Turnip Sap (probably Brassica napus)
  • Blood of Hestia: Chamomile
  • Blood of a Goose: A Mulberry Tree’s Milk
  • Kronos’ Blood: Cedar
  • Semen of Herakles: Mustard-rocket (probably Eruca sativa)
  • Blood from a Head Lupine: Lupine
  • Semen of Hephaistos: Fleabane
  • Semen of Ares: Clover
  • From the Belly: Earth Apple
  • Ass’s Foot or Bull’s Foot: Coltsfoot
  • Calf’s Snout: Snapdragon
  • Sparrow’s Tongue: Knotweed
  • Wolf Claw: Club Moss
  • Bat’s Wings: Holly

Mushroom Redcap

I’ll nibble, nip your fleshy gills
And wander where my spirit wills
Lightning streaks, thunder claps
My dreams are dressed in faery caps.

Airy hosts now shimmer, shine
More cantraips glowing undervine
Hands of time no longer reckon
The weaving way below does beckon.

In twilight, earthen thighs do part
Silvered threads lead to the heart
Sweet dulcet tones caress my ears
River crossed, of blood and tears.

Multi-colored shifting shores
Radiate with drifting spores
Follow now the golden trail
Left by living cup, this grail.

Orchil’s loom now do I seek
Secrets never shall I speak
A weaving hand forever deft
Dawn the warp and dusk the weft.

Seek her out within the skein
Twisting tangles shadows stain
By Noxen garments Orchil dresses
Stars be found within her tresses.

Find galaxies within her eyes
Comets streaming in those skies
To navigate this starry maze
Find all you seek within her gaze.

© Dawn R. Jackson

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