Sweetgrass, Hair of Our Mother
This plant is usually associated with Air on account of its vanilla scent (which also connects it to Venus). Its Water affinity is strong too. The Mohawk used this sacred plant in ceremonies, the Iriquois make fine, small baskets from it, and young Ojibwa men would wear two sweetgrass braids joined behind their necks and let fall down the sides like braids of hair. It is often grouped with cedar, sage, and tobacco, and the Chippewa smoked it together with red willow and bearberry so that prayers, thoughts, and wishes might rise with the smoke to the Creator. Sweetgrass was also considered holy in Western Europe and was strewn on festivals. It develops a vanilla scent after the flowers have bloomed and is especially aromatic after being dried. The leaves are dried and woven into braids; the strands represent mind, body, and spirit. Harvest after blooming and before frost for the best scent. Cut (don't pull--this will ensure you have plenty for next year) leaves you want and hang them to dry in the sun for three days. It is traditional to give the Earth something in exchange when harvesting. A bit of tobacco is often used, but a handful of compost would also be fine. To braid, place in warm water for a few minutes, then braid and hang in the sun to dry. Sweetgrass grows in a ring around the Earth in the northern hemisphere and is hardy to zone 3. It likes water and naturally grows in wet meadows, low prairies, on the edges of marshes, in bogs, on the shady banks of streams, around lakes, and in cool, moist mountain valleys. The plant gets 1.5 feet/60 cm high, but the leaves can be 3 feet long--they bend back to the earth.
I also have the braids ready-made. Because
this plant does not often produce seeds, they are expensive. These are cleaned
seeds (husks have been removed), so they are doubly so. Top
How to grow Sweetgrass: This
plant is very difficult to grow from seed, although once you get
a couple of plants going, they will spready quickly through underground
rhizomes. It is not unusual to get only 10-20% germination at one
time. Barely cover seeds with moist
seed planting mix or in a kelp-soaked Jiffy-7. Keep moist (not sopping)
and place pots in indirect light. Sweetgrass can take 4-6 weeks to germinate. If you get no germination in
that time, use cold stratification.
Transplant out to sun or partial
shade. This plant has an extensive root system and rarely produces seeds.
Although it can expand from a single plant to a thick square foot of grass
in six months, it is shallow-rooted and so grows peacably with other grasses
and shrubs. It can be grown in a pot. Four several years I had it growing
in a tub inhabited by a small frog. General
growing info Top
Witchcraft & Magic:
© 2004, 2014 Harold A. Roth;
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