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The warming properties of this magick herb shows its ruler to be Mars; Culpeper noted that it tended to be found growing around Martial iron, such as foundries, and wrote it was good for injuries from "martial" insects like hornets, wasps, and scorpions. In its association with Mars, it is also used in making vengence, but consider it for investigating traditional witchcraft as well, for it is said to have sprung up in the track of the Serpent as it left the Garden of Paradise. On the Isle of Man, along with rowan, a seagull's wing feather, and the strip of skin from a conger eel's belly (another snake-like critter), it went into a charm protecting against a pestiferous magical creature called a buggane, a denizen of the earth. In Russian folklore, carrying a sprig of wormwood when traveling through the woods protects against attack by the rusalki, who are armed with iron hooks; to me this sounds similar to wormwood protecting from Martial insects, as iron is a Mars metal. Sir Richard Blackmore describes the goddess Bellona (the Roman deity of war, sister/mother/wife of Mars) drinking wormwood and being crowned with snakes. Frazer with some condescension tells of Central European peasants making an incense from wormwood, laurel leaves, and holy oil intended to remove witches from storm clouds. In ancient Egyptian manuscripts, wormwood is an ingredient in an ink with which one might write a question of the god Bes to be answered in a dream. Its flower essence can be helpful in journeying and for initation into magical paths. The pale color of the leaves make it shimmer in the moonlight, so despite its Mars connection, it is a good Moon garden plant.
This herb grows wild all over Europe and the US. Wormwood's traditional household use in the West has been as a pesticide--to repel bugs from stored clothing and as a strewing herb--as an antiseptic, and the seeds have been taken internally in small amounts to get rid of worms (thus the name). It is also a component of the liquor absinthe (visit the Absinthe FAQ). The bitter component of wormwood is an alkaloid, absinthin, which is removed by tincturing (soaking the plant in water or alcohol), but absinthe cannot be made by tincturing wormwood. Distilling is required. Top
How to grow wormwood. In the US, this very hardy perennial (lives more than one season) grows from northern Minnesota to south Florida (although the Keys are too hot for it). The seeds are very tiny, so take a pinch between your fingers and very carefully sprinkle them on sterile moist planting medium, then gently firm in with your fingertip. Don't bury them, because they need light to germinate, but as with any seed, do not put them in direct sunlight. They take a week to ten days to germinate at room temperature (65-70F/18-22C). Over 80F/26C and they most likely will not germinate at all. You can get a jump on their growth by starting them 6-8 weeks before the last frost in your area. Use mist or bottom watering. They should be transplanted outside after danger of frost is over and when they have at least one true set of leaves (after the first two leaves). Put them in a sunny or partly shady spot with dry soil and at a spacing of 2-3ft/60-90cm. Once the plant is established, you can harvest individual leaves and dry and store them to use at once, so your plant will keep producing indefinitely. It can be cut back to 2ft/60cm the second year of its growth. This plant gives off chemicals that prevent the growth of other plants, so it should be on its own, although I have seen it used for borders. It grows 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m high when it's happy. That's a lot of wormwood! General growing info. Top
Moon Garden Plant
© 2004, 2013 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction of any part without permission.