Magickally, this herb is connected to the Magus card in the Tarot. The Druids incorporated it into girls' coming-of-age ceremonies, probably because of its blood color, and it makes a good dye for wands. This magickal herb is of Mars because it is prickly and makes things red. I am working on a magick ink made from it.
As A Dye
This root has been used for dyeing for at least 3000 years. The earliest example found so far was madder-dyed linen in the tomb of King Tutankhamen from 1350 BCE, but it is considered to have been used in prehistory. The Vikings dyed wool with it, it was a popular silk dye in the Middle Ages, and it colored the Redcoats' outer wear. It can also dye cotton, bast, plant fibers including paper, wood, and leather. It is weak, but repeated applications can make deep shades. Depending on the mordant, water temperature (higher makes browner), and age of the root when harvested, it can produce orange, red (tin), purple, or yellow dye.
In India, it has been used to redden lips and cheeks. It also has a 2000 year history as a medicinal herb in China, India, and ancient Greece for breaking kidney stones (it's a diuretic), to promote the flow of menses, cure jaundice, and because of its high tannin content, for various intestinal problems. In Europe, it was used to dye urine and bones for medicinal purposes. It is antibiotic and anti-inflammatory.
Madder root powder
Coming of Age Ceremonies
© 2004, 2013 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission