The Meaning of Wortcunning
"One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow, One for the
Dame and one to Grow."
(Old Planting Charm)
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
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 Hedgewytch 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 for this essay gathered from private
Ruler: Och, Arcitenens,
as Light, A Solar Spirit. Associated Worts: St.
John's Wort, Cedar, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Daisy, Oak, Heliotrope,
Saffron, and Mistletoe
Rowan, Goldenseal, Bay, Acacia
as Wanderer, A Lunar Spirit. Associated Worts: Fern,
and Gardenia, Adder's Tongue, Dulse, Purslane, Moonwort,
Ruler: Phaleg, Mavors,
as Horned, A Martial Spirit.
Associated Worts: Rue, Wormwood, Allspice,
Ginger, Garlic, Damiana, Broom, Briony, Pennyroyal,
Thistle, Gorse, Squill
Ruler: Ophiel, Stillbon,
as Master, A Mercurial Spirit
Associated Worts: Sun
of the Valley, Marjoram,
Parsley, and Peppermint, Flax, Goat's Rue, Mandrake, Senna
Ruler: Bethor, Diovispator,
as Ruler, A Jupiterian Spirit
Associated Worts: Houseleek,
Agrimony, Clove, Dandelion, Fig,
Meadowsweet, Linden, Hyssop, Borage, Witch Grass,
as Lady, A Venusian Spirit
Associated Worts: Maidenhair,
Honeysuckle, Lady's Mantle, Marigold, Primrose, Apple, Rose,
Magnolia, Periwinkle, Persimmon, and Rosemary, Barley,
(feminine) -- Ruler:
Aratron, Coelius, Known
as Time, A Saturnian Spirit
Associated Worts: Nightshade,
Glory, Lady's slipper, Black Hellebore, Hemlock,
and Mullein, Scullcap, Comfrey, Hemp, Wolf's Bane, Yew
Days (feminine) --
as Mother, A Tellurian
Sage, Patchouli, Juniper, Myrrh, and Orris, Oleander,
Vervain, Rye, Horehound, Wheat, Asphodel, Knotweed
Some material gathered from Agrippa's Three Books on Occult Philosophy,
the Arbatel of Magic and Culpeper's Herbal
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.)
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
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
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
Saxon Charm follows below:
Erce, Erce, Mother of Earth!
the All-Wielder, Ever Lord grant thee
a-waxing, upwards a-growing
with Corn and plenteous in strength;
of grain shafts and of glittering plants!
of white ears waxing,
the whole earth the harvest!
be guarded the grain against all ills
are sown o'er the land by the sorcery men
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
"...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..."
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 mollisor 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
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
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.
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