Even today scholars look over old manuscripts, shake their heads, and wonder why old occultists used such horrifying ingredients as the “ear of a Jew,” “bloody fingers,” “dove’s feet,” “bat’s wings” and so on.
The list of such names is quite long and varied, but a few examples can be given here. “Bloody fingers” refers to foxglove. “Tongue of dog” is simply hound’s tongue, a common herb. “Blood” is the sap from an elder tree. “Eyes” mean any one of a group of plants resembling the eye, such as the aster, daisy, chamomile, or perhaps even eyebright. Crow’s foot, dog’s tooth, horse-tongue, Jew’s ear–are all magical and dialectical names for herbs and plants.
Then, too, many plants were given “folk” names which reveal their uses in magic or the superstitions surrounding them. This is especially common in the British Isles, where one plant can be known by as many as two dozen distinct names.
Finally, there are a whole bookful of plants with appellations such as “Our Ladies Fingers” or “Old Man’s Oatmeal.” These are plants originally dedicated to the Pagan goddesses and gods of the common folk and after the introduction of Christianity were assigned new roles as representative of the Virgin Mary and the Devil respectively.
Following is a list of some magical names of herbs, along with their more common ones. Knowing these names may not give you additional power, but reading them is like taking a walk through a Witches’ garden, and to the keen eye the old names reveal magical uses and a good deal of folklore.
|Latin Name||English Name||Magical Name|
|Achillea millefolium||Yarrow||Seven Years Love, Thousand Seal|
|Alchemilla vulgaris||Lady’s Mantle||Bear’s Foot|
|Artemisia abrotanum||Southernwood||Lad’s Love|
|Artemisia absinthium||Wormwood||Crown for a King|
|Artemisia dracunculus||Tarragon||Little Dragon|
|Artemisia vulgaris||Mugwort||Witch Herb|
|Borago officinalis||Borage||Star Flower|
|Capsella bursa-pastoris||Shepherd’s Purse||Shepherd’s Heart|
|Convallaria majalis||Lily of the Valley||May Lily|
|Digitalis purpurea||Foxglove||Bloody Fingers, Fairy Fingers, Lady’s Glove, Witches Bells|
|Filipendula ulmaria||Meadowsweet||Queen of the Meadow|
|Fumaria officinalis||Fumitory||Earth Smoke, Wax Dolls|
|Galium odoratum||Sweet Woodruff||Master of the Woods|
|Geum urbanum||Wood Avens||Golden Star, Star of the Earth|
|Glechoma hederacea||Ground Ivy||Cat’s Foot|
|Hypericum perforatum||Perforated St John’s-wort||Ears of a Goat|
|Iris florentina||Orris Root||Loveroot|
|Levisticum officinale||Lovage||Love Parsley|
|Lycopodium clavatum||Club Moss||Wolf Claw, Wolf Foot|
|Marrubium vulgare||Horehound||Eye of the Star, Bulls Blood|
|Melilotus officinalis||Melilot||Honey Lotus|
|Nepeta cataria||Cat Nip||Cat|
|Origanum majorana||Marjoram||Joy of the Mountain|
|Polygonum bistorta||Bistort||Dragonwort, Snake, Dragon’s Scales|
|Potentilla erecta||Tormentil||Flesh and Blood|
|Sempervivum tectorum||Houseleek||Thunder Plant|
|Sphagnum sp.||Sphagnum||Bats Wool|
|Symphytum officinalis||Comfrey||Ear of an Ass, Dragon’s Blood|
|Taraxacum vulgare||Dandelion||Lion’s Tooth, Urine, Swine Snout|
|Tussilago farfara||Colt’s Foot||Ass’ Foot, Bull’s Foot|
|Verbena officinalis||Vervain||Enchanter’s Plant|
|Viola tricolor||Wild Pansy||Love-In-Idleness|