The Greeks incorporated pennyroyal into secret rituals of initiation. Amongst Celts, it is associated with the Great Mother, and it is usually considered a Venus herb. It does contain the planetary metal for Mars (iron) and has some Mars qualities, though, such as causing sweating (heating) that has been used to chase away a cold. It is also associated with the Moon because of its ability to sedate and calm. The Old English name for pennyroyal is dweorge dwosle. The first part of the name is from the word for dwarf, dweorgh, meaning not a small person but a metaphysical being who lived the earth and was associated with mining and smithing. The derivation of the second part of pennyroyal's Old English name is unknown, although it is possibly derived from the word for destroy, dwascan, in which case the name for pennyroyal would mean "dwarf destroyer." Was pennyroyal used in charms against dwarves? We don't know - nor do we know why people would feel the need for such charms. Perhaps to protect their own dwarfish pursuits - mining and blacksmithing? Still, this gives us a new perspective on pennyroyal with possible anti-Earth Elemental uses. This would coincide with its Airiness as a member of the mint family and a minty aromatic. Something to consider in your work with this herb.
The Romans used the leaves as an insect repellent, and during the Middle Ages, it was a strewing herb (it smells really good) and used to get rid of bugs. Renaissance sailors purified their drinking water with it, and its scent mixed with wormwood was a remedy for seasickness. Many recommend stuffing pennyroyal into a cloth collar to help companion animals fend off fleas. I have tried this with my cats to no avail. The best non-toxic method I have found to deal with fleas is daily vacuuming of the house. Pennyroyal tea has long been popular for warding off colds, because it causes sweating.
Toxicity and abortions
This Venus-ruled herb has also been made into a tea and drunk to start menstruation, and it has a reputation for causing abortions. But does it really do that? Here is an article about pennyroyal toxicity by a registered herbalist in the UK. Besides comparing pennyroyal toxicity to that of the OTC-painkiller acetaminophen (called paracetamol in England), he makes the point that pennyroyal does not cause abortions. The American College of Clinical Pharmacy agrees, asserting that no documented case of pennyroyal causing an abortion exists. The idea of using pennyroyal as an abortifacient appears to be a misreading of Culpeper, who said it was sometimes used to expel a DEAD fetus that was stuck inside the mother. This misinformation has just been repeated and repeated, with no one even checking Culpeper. If you need an abortion, contact Planned Parenthood for help finding one. You can enter your zip in the box on that site to find a center near you, or you can email them or call them. Pennyroyal has many uses for magickal ritual, including as a help for exploring the border between life and death. Use pennyroyal to explore that borderland magickally, not physically. This herb is also known as pulegium, run-by-the-ground, lurk-in-the-ditch, pudding grass, and pilioleria.
Uses In Witchcraft & Magic:
© 2004, 2016 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission