Herbal Grimiore

Witches are “supposed to” have a Grimiore – a book about plants and their magical & medicinal uses.  Well, here’s the thing: This witch is not a gifted gardener, and she was planted in a part of the world which is very different from Northern Europe, where most “traditional” knowledge of such things originate.  I live in a semi-arid, Mediterranean climate with hard, dry clay soil or sandy, alluvial soil.  We don’t get a lot of rain, we don’t have snowy winters, most of our landscapes have been irreparably changed by humans over the centuries.  We do not have shady hedge rows with damp earth beneath them to support the sort of plants that grow in those conditions. It gets hot here – really hot, like over 100º F – in the Summer frequently, but overnight the temperature may change by 30-50º F.  It is not a gentle place in that regard.  Add to these natural challenges the fact that I am not a gifted gardener, and it becomes clear that those previously published, Northern European-based grimoires are little help to me.  I struggled with it, then I gave up for a while, then I had a flash of insight:  there were people living here before the Europeans invaded and they used the native plants for healing and magic/ceremony! The Chumash know this land and its gifts/resources – perhaps I could learn from them?

I found December’s Child at a used book sale, and I splurged on Chumash Ethnobotany, and I looked around.  I decided to choose one plant at a time to study, one plant I saw every day of my life, so I know it grows here.  I would read and learn what I could, then I would talk to the plant.  From all of this, I would build my personal grimoire. It’s been slow going, but I think it will be worth it.

What’s missing here are the “old” traditions, though – things like what deity this plant is sacred to, whether it is helpful in warding off the evil eye, etc.  This is where intuition and testing come into play – meditating with the plant and/or on the problem/spell to find the appropriate plant(s) for the job:  real witchcraft, direct communication.

We begin with…

RICOH IMAGING

Pepper Tree (Schinus molle)

Characteristics:

  • Native to the Andes, now an invasive species elsewhere (like CA)
  • Drought tolerant
  • Sexually dimorphic
  • Evergreen
  • Seeds more likely to germinate if passed through the digestive system of birds or other animals first, but will readily germinate under the mother treeRICOH IMAGING
  • Fast growing

Uses:

  • Culinary:  pink peppercorns
  • Medicinal:  antibacterial & antiseptic qualities, anti-depressant, diuretic, good for toothache, rheumatism & menstrual disorders
  • Used by Mesoamerican cultures in bunches for shamanic cleansing & blessings
  • Used in dyes in the Andes
  • Spanish colonists used the wood to make saddles

Symbolism/Correspondences

  • Purification
  • Healing
  • Protection (often seen lining driveways here – no coincidence there!)

Observations

  • Shaggy bark like rough skin provides homes for spiders & insects, which attracts birds

  • Early Summer = floweringRICOH IMAGING
  • Late Summer = fruit beings to mature & is abundant
  • New growth moves with the windRICOH IMAGING
  • Pepper = heat = summer = fire
  • Sexual dimorphism = God & Goddess
  • Grows fast = fire
  • Evergreen = Yule (less meaningful here)
  • Time of Day = Late afternoon, when it’s very hot but the breeze begins to blow and the cooling begins
  • Day of the Week = Sunday
  • Animal = Horse (saddle-making
  • May be best used in conjunction with other plants or animal spirits = seeds germinate after passing through the digestive tract of birds

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