Plants of the Dead by The Herb Witch
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When working with herbs, we have an innate knowledge that they provide us with a connection
to the sacred and assist us in transcending the mundane. Like our ancestors before us, we can
use herbs as a conduit to the “other”, to the world of the dead. I will be discussing the herbs that
I use in my practice and by no means is this a list that must be strictly adhered to as you are
most welcome to explore the herbs that truly resonate with your practice.
Wormwood to put it bluntly, smells bad! But as they say, it works! Wormwood can be burned to summon spirits and to assist in manifestation. I use wormwood when calling back to my distant ancestors as I require an herb that is super potent to aid in this. Wormwood can also be burned to Honor Hel and to ask for entrance into the realm of the dead. I like to believe that because of its strong odor and the staying power of its smoke, it is also effective in keeping away any negative energies or spirits who may want to tag along with the dead you are intent on connecting with.
Cedar is an amazingly clean and pure burn and it is used by myself and my family as an offering to the beloved dead. It signifies to me the everlasting and the connection to the afterlife. I often bundle cedar and burn it outside in an offering fire to the recently passed members of my family or immediate ancestors such as my grand parents and great grandparents. The smoke from cedar acts like wormwood as it always repels anything negative when engaging in the burning of offerings. Cedar has an pureness that I believe is appreciated by the beloved dead, and with this pureness , comes the pureness of our intent.
Mugwort to me, is an essential herb to burn when transcending this world and traveling into the realm of the spirits. When engaging in spirit journeys, I will burn mugwort for Odin/Woden to assist me in that journeying to the land of the beloved dead. As mugwort is also associated with astral traveling, it makes sense to use it to travel between the land of the living and the dead. It is in essence, a traveler’s herb, a seeker’s herb and hence in my mind certainly with a strong correspondence to Odin.
Dandelion leaf is my go-to herb when working with the dead. According to my British Nana, Dandelion leaves could be steeped in hot water and drunk as a tea to connect with the dead. She said that drinking the tea would make you temporarily invisible and able to slip into the world of the dead. Unfortunately, as soon as you urinate, you will start to lose that invisibility! Aside from my Nana’s advice, dandelion is an effective herb for communicating with the dead. Burning the leaves can ease the practitioner into the other realms, into a meditative state that serves as a roadway or path to the other side. The smoke from the burning leaves is said to summon spirits. So, either through a tea or burning as an incense, dandelion leaf is yet another conduit to the world of the dead and as such can also be offered to Hel before seeking to travel to the other realm.
Marigolds are often used in funerary rites and memorial services. This tradition began centuries ago and continues to this day. I offer marigolds in incense and will burn on the anniversary of a loved one’s passing. I often use marigolds in any offering to Baldur as to me Baldur signifies death and the great grief that often accompanies one’s passing. Marigolds can be added to bundles of cedar as an offering to your beloved dead or to your ancestors.
Black Eyed Susans
Black Eyes Susans are said to be connected to those who have passed away and represent the beloved dead. It is believed that they act as a conduit to the dead and can be used for connecting and talking, communicating with those that have passed. My Nana told me that it was always good to have a vase of black eyed susans in the home as it would encourage your deceased loved ones to visit you in your dreams. These flowers can also be bundled with cedar for an lovely offering to the ancestors or as a memorial bundle to the beloved dead.
I will leave you with a few incense ideas, using the plants of the dead I have discussed.
Ancestor Offering/ Beloved Dead Incense
A sprinkle of marigold petals, black eyed susans (the heads of the flower), forget me nots and
Speak to the Dead Incense
Equal parts mugwort, wormwood, dandelion leaf
As we enter Winterfylleth and the dark months, this is an opportune time to connect with your house spirits, your ancestors or to engage in spirit work. Many Blessings to your home and hearth!
A highly recommended Youtube channel is that of Freyia Norling who is extremely knowledgeable regarding the use of herbs and more with Norse Folk Medicine.