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Stinging nettleUrtica dioica
Stinging Nettle
A European folktale tells of a woman whose brothers had been turned into swans. In order to return them to human form, she had to knit them coats of "unspoken" nettles - the plants were harvested from a graveyard at night, and she was not permitted to speak to anyone until the coats were done. I wonder if this folktale is really describing death and resurrection rather than transformation from swans to men. The use of "unspoken" nettles for curative purposes occurred in Scotland as well as other north countries. In Ireland, nettles marked the places where the Elves lived and could protect a person from sorcery. If cows were fed wilted nettles, witches and trolls could not hex them to stop producing milk, so this is quite a protective herb, despite its association with death and burial. Indeed, according to contemporary belief, nettle carried on the person protects from lightning - and draws money. On the other hand, the Iroquois said that nettles mixed with the dried blood of a snake was witchcraft medicine. Perhaps in keeping with its Mars rulership, nettle is sometimes incorporated into rituals of ordeal. For instance, children who wished to study witchcraft in the Kawaiisu tribe had to walk through nettles as practice. In some traditions, nettles are added to the water in which a new athame is consecrated. Nettle also plays a role in fishing magick, probably because it was once spun into string for fishing nets. It would make a great tool for knot magic. Nettle is one of the herbs in the Nine Herbs Charm, and it is a candidate for the herb olieribos mentioned in the Necronomicon. It is connected to Scorpio.Top

This magick herb also has been associated with death and burial customs. Bronze Age burial cloths have been found that were woven of its fibers. In the highlands and on the islands of Ireland, people believed that nettles grew from the bodies of the dead. In Denmark, people thought that nettles grew from the blood of innocent victims. Welsh folk believed that if fresh nettles put under the pillow of a sick person stayed green, the person would live, and if they turned yellow, that person would die. Top

Mundane Uses
Nettle is a great textile plant. The fibers in the stalks are stronger than flax and when spun and woven look similar to hemp. Up until 19th century nettle fibers were still being woven into household articles and fishing nets in Scotland. To get long, straight stalks good for fiber harvest, grow in plenty of moisture and very rich soil. The aerial parts of this herb make a green dye on wool, black when iron is the mordant. The roots make a gold dye with alum. Dyeing nettle fibers themselves is similar to dyeing cotton. Top

Nettle was planted recently at a New York memorial to those who died in the Great Famine in Ireland (there are many people of Irish descent in NY), because it was one of the few things the Irish had to eat at that time. Tender spring tops are good cooked (cooking or drying destroys the spines). Later growth is tough and gritty. Nettle has many medicinal uses (it has a lot of vitamins and minerals), and Gypsies supposedly planted them everywhere they went for that reason. Nettle stings can supposedly be eased by rubbing them with nettle juice, dock leaves, jewelweed, rosemary, mint, or sage leaves. Nettle is also known as the devil's claw and the devil's plaything. Top

Nettle Safety
Nettle spinesThe stinging hairs of this plant are composed of silica (glass) and break off in the skin, injecting a venom. The spines can go through light clothing or cotton gloves. Handle nettles with heavy gloves, and don't allow animals to romp in them, although most animals have much more sense than to do so, and the plants have low toxicity for animals. There is one report of hunting dogs that died after spending some time blundering around in what was thought to be a large nettle patch, but there is some question about whether the plants they were affected by were actually Urtica dioica. Even if you are growing this for fiber, you wouldn't grow it in dense stands anyhow. Plants grown in shady areas have fewer needles than those grown in sun. Purple stalks mean more needles. Some people are very sensitive to this plant and will have a rash for several days after encountering it. Top

How to Grow Nettles
Barely cover seeds to germinate in 10-14 days at room temperature. Start in spring. Transplant to full sun/partial shade, spacing transplants 8-12"/20cm-30cm apart. Nettles get 30-60"/75cm-150cm high. They are perennial down to -30F/-30C and can grow in warm climates as well. Plants can have male or female flowers, and they also reproduce through underground runners that can grow 5 ft/1.5m per year, so be careful in situating them. Pick just before the flowers open. Wear heavy gloves and don't allow animals to romp in nettles. It is probably best to plant them in a container given their rampant nature anyhow. Caterpillars of various butterflies like to eat nettles. General growing info  Top

Urtica dioica
Stinging Nettle
200 seeds $3.50


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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Protection Spells
Consecration
Funerary Magic
Fishing Magic
Mars Herb

Get some dried nettles

2006, 2017 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission