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Woad flowers Isatis tinctoria
Woad
This native of southern Europe became especially beloved in northern Europe, where it has been used since prehistoric times.  A member of the cabbage family, this native herb provided the only fast blue dye available in the West until the introduction of indigo in the mid-1600s. As with indigo, the dye process is complicated enough that you wonder how people ever discovered it. Overdye a woad-colored fabric with weld to make Lincoln green, the color worn by Robin Hood's men. A kind customer sent in a quote from The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom that implies that the Picts painted woad patterns upon their bodies in order to aid in shapeshifting.

Isatis tinctoria seeds This is a Saturn herb, probably because of its sulfur content and because its dye produces a Saturn color. It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for sore throats, hepatitis, fevers (clears heat), and as an antiseptic, and in times of famine was eaten with oil and salt.  In Europe, it was used as a poultice for pain in the spleen, for skin ulcers, and to stop bleeding. This is an invasive plant in western states because it likes to grow in open sites, and since people tend to clear land of trees, woad has become real attached to humans. It isn't edible for livestock, though; this is another reason why it is considered a "pest."  A short-lived perennial or biennial, this herb forms a rosette of leaves the first year.  The tap root can get more than 5ft/1.5m long, so this is a good selection for soil that needs breaking up and nutrients brought to the surface.  The second year, a stalk up to 4ft/1.2 m high comes up with the flowers on it. Woad can be grown throughout much of North America (zone 3-10).  Top


How to grow Woad: Sow in spring or late summer.  Soak seeds overnight in tepid water, then plant, barely covering (husk for higher germination). They will germinate in 10 days. Plant out in full sun and well drained soil.  Keep well weeded and give plenty of fertilizer (fish emulsion works great). Harvest young leaves (old ones are not good) when you need them, and harvest seeds when pods turn purple and detach easily.  Husk the seeds before planting (the pods contain a germination inhibitor).  General growing info.   Top 

Isatis tinctoria
Woad
30 seeds $3.75


 
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Uses in Witchcraft & Magick:

Shapeshifting
Saturn Herb

Other dye plants:

Indigo
Weld
Dyer's Chamomile
Dyer's Broom
Dyer's coreopsis
Safflower

2004, 2013 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission