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Stachys flower engravingStachys officinalis
Betony
Some (such as Culpeper, who recommended it for headaches and indigestion) consider this a Jupiter herb, and some connect it to Juno. In the British Isles, this magick herb was associated with deities of Justice, but because of its use as a nervine and for headaches, it sounds like a Mercury herb to me. This herb is thrown on the fire at Midsummer to help with purification.  It is also considered protective, especially against fearful visions and despair. Hildegard of Bingen (12th century Germany) recommended stuffing dream pillows with betony to protect the sleeper from nightmares. A different way to take advantage of this herb's protection is to dye some wool with it--it makes chartreuse on wool with an alum mordant. For extra oomph, dye some Z-twist yarn you have spun yourself (the twist slants in the same way as the diagonal bar in the letter Z). Z-twist is considered magickal and has been used historically in various cultures for items associated with shamanism. Only a small amount of yarn would be necessary to add to a garment as a decoration and protective amulet. Incorporating such a yarn into a bed blanket would be a handy way to ask betony's protection against nightmares. Top 

Stachys leafIn Britain, an ointment made of rosemary and betony was applied on adder bites. Interestingly enough, a Gaelic prayer said on the feastday of St. Bride (betony is also known as St. Bride's Comb), runs: "Early on Bride's morn shall the serpent come from the hole. I will not harm the serpent, nor will the serpent harm me." Another version of this prayer sounds much older and feels like it has nothing to do with snakes or saints; it involves making a snake shape out of peat and saying, "This is the day of Bride. The Queen shall come from the mound. I will not touch the Queen, nor will the Queen touch me." St. Bride is a Christian version of the goddess Bridgit (the Church of St. Bride in London's Fleet Street was built over a temple to Bridgit, for instance). In another tradition, Asatru, betony is sometimes identified with attorlothe (OE attorlaše / poison-hater) and included in the Nine Herbs Charm (Mugwort (“most senior of herbs”), Plantain (“mother of herbs”), Lamb's Cress (“resolute”), Betony (“fought the serpent"--interesting in connection with the snake associations of this herb in Ireland), Chamomile (“never for infection should anyone yield their life”), Crab-Apple, Chervil and Fennel). In Wales, wood betony was worn in the hat to keep off witches. Top

Stachys plantHerbal Uses. This sedative, astringent herb makes a good aromatic, nervine tea (use 1 heaping teaspoon/cup). It makes a fine tonic for head injuries and head-associated problems. In the past, the dried herb was made into a snuff to help relieve headaches through sneezing, and it was sometimes combined with coltsfoot and eyebright and smoked for headache relief. It is considered helpful for hysteria, vertigo, nervousness,  anxiety, poor memory, and tension, and it has been used to aid people who are unassertive, passive, and feel ungrounded. Historically it was even taken before drinking as a way to decrease the chances of hangover and to lessen intoxication generally. It has also had Venus-connected uses as a wound dressing (like its relative, Stachys lanata) due to the amount of tannin in the leaves and as a calmative to PMS. It is sometimes combined with scullcap for headache. Top

Stachys flowerThis plant can still be found growing wild in New York and Massachusetts, but it is protected some places, like in Northern Ireland. It likes to grow in the dappled shade of woodlands, along woodland paths, or even in meadows where the sun is not too intense. Flowering stalks shoot up 1.2-2 ft/0.6m-0.45m from a rosette of leaves, and the plant will spread from clumps to cover the ground. It is perennial from the far South to the North (zone 4 - down to -25F/-32C). You can divide mature clumps in the spring to make more plants.  Like most members of the mint family (which is easy to distinguish by its square stems--just feel it), wood betony is a favorite of bees. This herb is also known as Stachys betonica, woundwort, common hedgenettle, lousewort, purple betony, bishopwort, bishop's elder, spiked betony, and St. Bride's comb. Top

How to grow betony: Sow on Winter Solstice (see the Solstice Sowing page).  Or sow at 41F/5C to germinate in 30-90 days. This would probably be a good seed to try cold moist stratification. You can sow in a paper towel that has been wet and wrung out, then put in a baggie and into the fridge, checking periodically for germination. Once you see it start to germinate, plant root size down in a tiny hole in the soil (don't touch the root). Or you can try soaking in cold water in the fridge, with water changed daily, and then plant after two weeks. Or just plant outside in fall. Transplant to dappled shade and rich, moist soil. Harvest the budding tops in the morning after the dew has dried. This is a great bee herb! General growing info Top

 

Stachys officinalis
Betony
100 seeds $3.25


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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Justice
Celebrating Midsummer
Purification
Protection Spells
Dream Pillows
Honoring Juno

© 2004, 2015 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission