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ElfwortInula helenium
Elfwort, Elecampane
This magick herb is said to be a favorite plant of the Elves, but it is also used against Elvin magic: stabbing the root renders an Elf spell null and void. It is also used to attract fairies, although it is a big, rough plant and not at all delicate, as one would expect from a fairy plant. In Germany, it was traditional to put an elfwort blossom in the middle of a bouquet to symbolize the Sun and the head of Odin, and the flower has the typical Sun shape (and the freshly harvested seeds smell like the Sun-ruled resin frankincense). Culpeper and others, however, considered it Mercury because the root is helpful for lung complaints. In its Mercury association, it is connected to the Magician in the Tarot. There is a wonderful folktale in which the sister of six brothers cursed to live as swans must make six little shirts for them out of elfwort flowers in order that they be returned to human form - a good example of Mercury's transformative properties. The flowers are dried and burned for purification. The root is camphoraceous and violet-like in scent, so consider elfwort for Moon work, but also because of its Mercury rulership, for shape-shifting. It is sedating and helpful for those with insomnia, so it makes an interesting dream herb. Some carry pieces of the root on their person to attract love. Others believe that elfwort can help in scrying or learning divination, a Mercury task. Top

Mundane Uses

Inula heleniumIn Russia, elfwort is used somewhat like valerian, for its sedating qualities.  Pliny wrote that the roots of this European native helped digestion and "cause mirth." It was raised in medieval gardens, especially in monastery physick gardens. It was brought to North America by the Colonists and has become naturalized here. Although this does not look anything like a Mercury herb, Culpeper believed it to be so because of its usefulness against lung complaints. Still, it is Sun-like in its effects, being warming and drying. It's an old remedy for tough coughs and against poison, especially venomous bites. Top
 
The fragrant root is a nice addition to pot pourri and like orris root, is a good scent fixative. It also yields a blue dye when it is combined with whortleberries and ash. In Wales it was put into ale with other herbs as a treatment for poisonous bites. The ale had to be drunk at the New or Full Moon after the afflicted person had bathed in the sea. In the past the root was put into ale or beer to give it a nice smell, and it is still used to flavor absinthe and vermouth, absinthe's poor cousin. Elfwort is also known as elecampane, elf-doc, elfdock, dyavosyl (devil's strength), wild sunflower, alycompaine, nursewort, yellow starwort,
eolone (Old English), velvet dock, scabwort (because it cured sheep of the disease called scab), horseheal, and horse-elder. This plant was given the species name "helenium" because Helen of Troy was picking its flowers when she was kidnapped by Paris. Top

How to Grow Elfwort

Start inside 7-10 weeks before the last frost in your area. Barely cover to germinate in 7-10 days at room temperature. After the last frost, transplant outside to full sun or partial shade and rich soil with a touch of acidity (you can add some peat or some pine needles - not too much). Place the plants 18-36"/.4-.9m apart. The spread of the rosette of leaves is pretty wide. Harvest the root in the second or third spring or fall of its growth, slice it in pieces 1/2"/1cm thick while it is still fresh, and then dry. This plant can be slow to get going if it encounters a setback like extreme heat or drought when it is young. Otherwise, it will grow up to 8 ft/2.4m and flower in the second year.  Elfwort is a perennial down to -40F/-40C.   General growing info. Top

 

Inula helenium
Elfwort
75 seeds $4.25



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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Elf Magic
Protection Spells
Divination
Dreamwork
Shape Shifting
Acquiring Magical Skills
Love Magick
Honoring Odin
Mercury/Sun Herb

2004, 2017 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission