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CheloneChelone glabra
Turtlehead

This handsome plant is named after the Greek nymph, Χελωνη (Khelone), who was punished because she didn't want to go to the wedding of Zeus and Hera. In one version, she laughed at the very idea of these two marrying, and in another, she said she just preferred to stay home. She was changed into a tortoise, which has no voice and carries its home on its back. Chelone was one of the Oreiades (nymphs of mountain pines), who were followers of Aphrodite. The most famous is Echo, who was also deprived of independent speech, this time by Hera. The Oreiades were the children of what we would think of as male and female gnomes: beings who discovered iron and invented smelting. The Oreiades are often depicted carrying a large staff topped by a pine cone and carrying a snake, both phallic symbols. I wonder if this story is really about the silencing and dispersing of more ancient nature deities by the Olympian gods. Top

OreiadBecause of its affinity for water, most would consider this a Neptune herb, but I would align it with Water, in honor of its association with a much older set of deities than those represented by the known planets.  It is good for working with Turtle as the power animal, for works involving tenacity and persistance, and as protection for wanderers. One type of magic done with this plant is that an enemy's name is written on the leaves and they are wrapped up to make the person become sick. Turtlehead is also burned to cause harm to another. but I am surprised that this plant would be used in this way, since it is not a poisonous plant, and most baneful magic is associated with baneful herbs. In Hoodoo, turtlehead is known as snakehead; its root is a powerful protective herb, put into personal charm bags (mojo bags) and hung in the car or home for protection. Top

Chelone pink versionCherokee drank the bitter infusion of this plant's leaves for worms, to increase appetite, for fevers, and as a laxative. They also parboiled the young shoots and leaves, rinsed them off, and then panfried them to eat (probably a famine food). The Iroquois drank a tea of turtlehead as a protection against witchcraft, and the Algonquin made a medicinal tea of this plant combined with cedar bark. European Americans once used turtlehead in very small amounts as a laxative and tonic purgative, as an antidepressant, for people recovering from fevers, and as a bitter tonic for the liver and gallbladder. In the past, 1 teaspoon of dried herb was steeped in 8 oz water for one hour, and half of this was drunk before meals to increase the metabolism of fats and other hard-to-digest foods. It is harvested when flowering. This native to eastern North America is also known as balmony, white turtlehead, turtle bloom, fishmouth, codhead, salt-rheum weed, snakehead, bitter herb, shellflower, and Chelone obliqua. Top

 Turtlehead plantHow to grow Turtlehead: Sow in spring, barely covering, to germinate in 2-6 weeks at 68F/20C. Transplant to rich soil amended with plenty of compost and partial shade--it can get floppy in dense shade. Turtlehead likes to grow around likes stream banks, ponds, ditches, and damp ground. It can get mildew if it doesn't have enough water or enough air circulation. It gets up to 4.5ft/1.5m tall. This is a variable plant: its flowers can be white, tinged with purple or pink, totally pink or totally purple. It blooms late summer through fall. The flowers don't have a scent, but butterflies like them. This is a perennial in zones 3-8 (down to ), that is, throughout much of North America, excepting the hottest parts. Turtlehead spreads by creeping rhizomes, but I have never seen it invasive here in upstate NY. Once you get it started, you can make more by rooting cuttings in sand. Divide thick clumps of it in the fall. Bitter leaves make this a deer-resistant plant. General growing info  Top

Chelone glabra
Turtlehead
150 seeds $3.75


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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Protection Spells
Hexing
Turtle Magic
Neptune/Water Herb

© 2004, 2015 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction of any part without permission.