In Greek mythology, yarrow grew from the rust that Achilles (thus, Achillea) scraped from his spear to help heal a man he had wounded (there's an interesting connection between iron/rust/blood/war/Mars here, kind of a neat obverse of the Venus/love aspect of this herb). Perhaps this myth is why in the language of flowers, yarrow can mean war or healing. Because it is aromatic, yarrow is often associated with the Element of Air, and it contains the planetary metal for Jupiter (tin), but it is traditionally connected to Venus because of the usefulness of the fresh herb as a poultice in skin problems. Yarrow also has the ability to potentiate other herbs when added to incense or when incorporated into love magick. It is put into love sachets, because it is believed capable of keeping a couple together for 7 years.
Magickally, this herb is good for divination--the I Ching was originally thrown not with coins but with dried yarrow stalks--it makes a nice ingredient for dream pillows and for divinatory incense and tea (great to combine with mugwort for this purpose). Burning yarrow is said to produce visions of snakes. On a lighter note, yarrow has often been a device for divining the identity of one's future lover or determining whether one is truly loved.
As a Protector
In the past, yarrow was used as a protectant. It was strewn across the threshold to keep out evil and worn to protect against hexes. It was tied to an infant's cradle to protect it from those who might try to steal its soul. The Saxons wore yarrow amulets to protect against blindness, robbers, and dogs, among other things.
Yarrow was commonly used to flavor beer before the introduction of hops, and it still flavors vermouth and bitters. A tea of the flowers raises the body temperature (good for the start of colds), works as a bitter tonic to help digestion, helps promote healthy coughing, eases spasms, and promotes menstruation (don't use during pregnancy). In India, yarrow was put into medicated steam baths for fever; the Chippewa used it very similarly for headache. Even now, the tea is sometimes taken as a remedy for the blues and for restlessness, especially during menopause. It is helpful in shedding fear and negativity.
Its Many Names
The many other common names for yarrow reflect how widely this herb has been used: allheal, angel flower, bad man's plaything, bloodwort, cammock, carpenter's weed, devil's nettle, devil's plaything, dog daisy, gordoloba, green arrow, herbe militaris, hierba de las cortadura, knight's milfoil, milfoil, nosebleed, old man's (the devil's) mustard, old man's pepper, plumajillo, sanguinary, soldier's woundwort, squirrel's taile, stanchgrass, stanchweed, thousand-leaf, thousand weed, woundwort, and yarroway.
Yarrow Flowers, chopped
© 2004, 2016 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission