Tuesday, May 18, 2010
A garden to Bridget
Ok! Enough with thinking, how about some action?
It is springtime and I need to be gardening! I have already transplanted roses and groundcovers, day lilies and herbs, and I just built four new raised beds plus a huge witchy flower border along my lower driveway. I have spent the last month busily filling my new beds or mixing compost or hauling leaves about the yard (and, this being central Appalachia, hauling rocks as well!) I am never happier than when I am with my kids or my flowers!
With all this new bedding space, I wanted to add plants for Bridget. I already have masses of roses and lilies - those superb Marian plants, but I wanted to expand to some Bridget offerings as well. A little research, and I am on my way. . .
Some plants to Bridget:
St. Brid's Comb
This was an obvious choice! Also known as betony, betonica officinalis or stachys officinalis, Bishopwort and Bishop's Elder, it is a longtime herb for the healer's garden. Some authors trace it back to the Greeks (and Antonius Musa, physick to Emperor Augustus, wrote a treatise on it). In the Medicina Britannica (1666) the author wrote: 'I have known the most obstinate headaches cured by daily breakfasting for a month or six weeks on a decoction of Betony made with new milk and strained.' In the middle ages, betony was gathered without iron as a dried herb for dozens of complaints. Fairy folk take note of the tradition to not touch betony with iron!
Mugwort is common wormwood, or St. John's plant (not St. John's wort - a different and wonderful plant). Wormwood is one of the artemesias, sacred to Diana/Artemis, and a long standby in my own garden. All artemesias are useful for protection and to identify your home as a witchy one. Wormwood is also a strong smelling plant, used all over the world for healing and to guard against bad spirits. (Also great to keep moths out of your spinning wool). Some writers consider wormwood to be the flower of the Isle of Man, and others associate it with Bridget because it's strong scent induced prophecy!
Angelica is an obvious choice, with its divine associations! Because of its name, angelica archangelica, it is listed in magical herbals as a protective plant. Used medicinally, it has been a tonic and strengthener. Sugar the flowers to decorate cakes, a traditional midsummer treat. Seeds are used to flavor gin. An all purpose herb, then!
Another sacred herb in Ireland and the Isle of Man, Ragwort has other wonderful names:
St. James' Wort, staggerweed, Mare's fart, and Dog Standard and Cushag (its Manx name, hence the poem:
Now, the Cushag, we know,
Must never grow,
Where the farmer's work is done.
But along the rills,
In the heart of the hills,
The Cushag may shine like the sun.
Where the golden flowers,
Have fairy powers,
To gladden our hearts with their grace.
And in Vannin Veg Veen,
In the valleys green,
The Cushags have still a place.
Ragwort is poison to cattle and horses, and a constant source of weeding for farmers in the UK and Ireland).
Despite this, however, ragwort is also well known for bee stings and eye problems. It is a famous green dye for wool.
Growing wild in my yard, but hard to transplant to my beds, Cowslip is also known as Lady's keys, Our lady's keys, Mayflower (when it blooms), Fairy Cups, Key Flower and Key of heaven. The common primula, then, is a wonderful magical herb. Still used in medicines, primula is an expectorant and diuretic, but more commonly its known for the famous cowslip wine of Victorian writers. It also goes in teas and vinegar, and my great grandmother used it in salads as a potherb.
Queen of the Meadow
Long one of my favourite plants: Eutrochium, Queen of the Meadow is a huge, pink, wayside wildflower also known locally in New England as Joe Pye Weed, in the south as Purple Boneset and Kidney Root. I love its pink, towering plumes in August! With its name, and its size, it is a must in my garden.
Also known as bear's foot and stellaria, Lady's Mantle is long associated with the Virgin Mary. The leaves of Lady's Mantle, placed under one's pillow, should bring a good night's sleep without bad dreams. As a tea, it is good for "women's problems" from cramps to heavy bleeding.
More common herbs:
I've also included traditional culinary herbs in my beds and border: sage and thyme, mints and lavenders, dill and fennel. (Some writers connect fennel to Bridget as well!) I put tarragon and chives in for my son, who loves them both, and sweet woodruff, my longtime favorite little mulchy groundcover, grows apace throughout my entire yard! Down the road, creeping thyme will go in the holes in the cement blocks used for my raised beds (here in the mountains, soil is strongly acid, which is great for those roses, but the cement gives me a little alkaline for things like thyme. )I added bags and bags of sand and pebbles, to counter the heavy clay that is Appalachia. And I have four new rose beds planned for June, when I hope we see some sunshine.
I will post picture updates as my garden grows! In the meantime, try gardening for magic, prayer and puja.
What do you want to grow?