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Magic Names

When the old recipes began to be recorded many early herbalists, Witches, magicians and occultists wished to keep secret the most powerful of the old magics. So they used magic names and symbolism and even added fanciful ingredients to the formula.

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 often quoted illustration from Shakespeare’s Macbeth serves as a useful example of this practice. Every ingredient he lists as being in the Witches’ pot (filet of a fenny snake/in the cauldron boil and bake:/eye of newt, and toe of frog,/Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,/ adder’s fork, and blindworm’s sting/Lizards leg, and howlet’s wing,/etc.) refers to a plant and not to the gruesome substance popularly thought.

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.

Yarrow

Seven Year's Love, Thousand Seal

Lady's Mantle

Bear's Foot

Angelica

Masterwort

Southernwood

Lad's Love

Wormwood

Crown for a King

Tarragon

Little Dragon

Mugwort

Witch Herb

Aster

Starwort

Belladonna

Dwale

Daisy

Eyes

Borage

Star Flower

Calamint

Lizard

Shepherd's Purse

Shepherd's Heart

Lily of the Valley

May Lily

Foxglove

Bloody Fingers, Fairy Fingers, Lady's Glove, Witches Bells

Meadowsweet

Queen of the Meadow

Fennel

Fumitory

Earth Smoke, Wax Dolls

Sweet Woodruff

Master of the Woods

Wood Avens

Golden Star, Star of the Earth

Ground Ivy

Cat's Foot

Hops

Nightingale

Perforated St John's-wort

Ears of a Goat

Elecampane

Elfwort

Orris Root

Loveroot

Lovage

Love Parsley

Club Moss

Wolf Claw, Wolf Foot

Horehound

Eye of the Star, Bulls Blood

Melilot

Honey Lotus

Cat Nip

Cat

Marjoram

Joy of the Mountain

Bistort

Dragonwort, Snake, Dragon's Scales

Tormentil

Flesh and Blood

Rue

Weasel

Sage

Toad

Elder

Blood

Houseleek

Thunder Plant

Rowan

Witchwood

Sphagnum

Bats Wool

Chickweed, Common

Starweed

Comfrey

Ear of an Ass, Dragon's Blood

Dandelion

Lion's Tooth, Urine, Swine Snout

Colt's Foot

Ass's Foot, Bull's Foot

Valerian

Rat

Vervain

Enchanter's Plant

Wild Pansy

Love-In-Idleness

Chives

Lilac

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