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Milk thistleSilybum marianum
Milk Thistle

Long considered protective against snakes and their bites, you'd think such a thorny critter as milk thistle would be a Mars herb. Yet it's typically thought to be a Jupiter plant, because it is tall and imposing and good for liver ailments, which is Jupiter's field of medicine. Because the liver is traditionally the seat of anger, some magic practitioners believe that the wearing of milk thistle potentiates anger. It would certainly be uncomfortable. Eliphas Levi describes malicious sorcerers who drowned vipers and asps in milk to which milk thistle sap had been added to create a virulent poison, an example of Mars work. It is the herb associated with the star Aldebaran, which in turn represents the Archangel Michael, a Fire spirit. The flowers can be either purple (Jupiter) or a rosy red (Mars), so I'd say it's a tossup whether this magic herb is Mars or Jupiter. Either way, it is good for all sorts of magical protection.

Mundane Uses

Silybum marianumAlthough all parts of this plant are edible, they all need preparation first, primarily in terms of removing prickly or tough parts. Also known as Marian, Mary's Thistle, St. Mary's, wild artichoke, variegated thistle. Not the same thing as blessed thistle, which is Cnicus benedictus and which is the thistle for milk production. Although this is called milk thistle, it is actually not helpful for that but for "melancholy" or liver-based diseases; Culpeper, for instance, recommended it for jaundice. In Europe, it is the antidote of choice for poisoning by death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides), which is a hepatotoxin, and it does indeed work, regenerating liver cells, but if you are poisoned by such a mushroom, go to the hospital instead of the garden. There is a story that milk thistle got its name because Mary spilled her milk on it after being pricked by its thorns, but I wonder if the name actually might come from the fact that the young, despined leaves were typically boiled with milk for a remedy.

How to Grow Milk Thistle

Start indoors 6 weeks before last frost to have blooms the first year. It germinates in 7-14 days at room temperature for transplants or direct sow outside after danger of frost for blooms typically in the second year, after which it produces seeds and dies. This plant is big and thorny; plant it where it can have room. It gets 4-6ft/1.2-1.8m tall and is typically planted 24-36in/60-90cm apart. Flowers get 2in/5cm wide and might take two years to show up, as this plant can be a biennial (hardy down to -20F/-29C) but is more typically an annual. Goldfinches love the seeds, and butterflies and sphinx and hawk moths love the flowers. Wear HEAVY gloves when handling. Parachutes of seeds have to be removed before storage; wear gloves and rub seeds on a screen or sieve to do that. To use medicinally, grind the seeds and make a tincture, pouring brandy or vodka to a finger's width above the top of the seeds in a jar. Let infuse for one moon and the strain. You can also tincture the plant material instead.  General growing info  


Silybum marianum
Milk Thistle
20 organic seeds $3.75


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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Protection Magic
Jupiter or Mars Herb

2011, 2016 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission