Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium)
Wormwood is a pungent, bitter herb. The Old Woman of the Artemisias. Energetically very hot and very dry. It is famous for its inclusion in historical absinthe recipes, but it has a long history besides in folk medicine and folk magic. A potent form of magical protection and a good cleanse, either for your floorboards or your insides. It can be harsh, this herb has a fire to it, but that fire is quite useful when managed sensibly.
Protection magic may only be truly necessary if spiritual hygiene fails. Washes or baths with wormwood are strong enough to repel most spiritual ills, and any effective regular spiritual cleansing routine allows the practitioner to focus on securing boons and making advances rather than self-defense and clearing. Even here, I'm speaking in the language of war and battle... This plant is often associated with Mars, which makes sense, but there are Lunar connections here as well (look at those silvery leaves).
To my mind this is an herb that evokes the wildness of the magical path. The spirits attracted to my Wormwood plants have been mischievous and slightly ferocious. There is a bit of the underworld here, but it's a playful and active chthonic signature, nothing too heavy. Let Wormwood grow big on the edge of your garden, or in a container kept near the front door, and cultivate a good relationship with the Wormwood spirit to have the help of a wizened old protector in your space. The weird and stringy growth habit makes this right at home in a gleefully haunted cottage garden, wherever in the world, the city or the country, you may be.
Identification & Growing Info
This should be fairly straightforward given Wormwood's distinctive leaf shape. The color of the foliage varies from light green to a whitish or silvery cast. The foliage is soft, even just a bit silky.The smell of the crushed leaves should be pungent and reminiscent of evergreens, but with a sharper tinge.
Wormwood is a hardy perennial herb. It will die back in a harsh winter, but it will quickly form woody growth from which it will be reborn in the spring. The woody parts tend to have a swirling and gnarled growth habit which can be quite beautiful. Mature plants can get quite large, even 3 feet tall, and can become very bushy as well. It's a strong and vigorous grower that can handle pruning if you need to keep it tidy. Wormwood is naturally dry. Be careful not to overwater it.
The Words of Herbalists Past
Paul Sédir, aka Yvon Le Loup, in Occult Botany (1902):
"Ruling planet: Mars Zodiacal signature: Capricorn
Occult properties: Wormwood has febrifugal, nervine, stomachic, tonic, and vermifugal properties. This herb is a receptacle of the lower astral realm." "From the standpoint of biblical literature, wormwood could justly be characterized as an “unholy herb.” The Hebrew name for wormwood, laʿanah, derives from the unused root, which is cognate with Arabic laʿn or laʿana, meaning “to curse” or “damnation.” In the Hebrew Bible, wormwood is often used figuratively to describe anything bitter or poisonous, and the same is true of the New Testament usage of the koinē variant ἄψινθος: “The name of the star is Wormwood. And a third of the waters became wormwood, and many died from the water, because it was made bitter.” "
Hildegard Von Bingen, in Physica (12th Century):
"Wormwood (Hildegard called it "Wermuda") is very hot and has much strength. It is the principal remedy for all ailments."
"When Wormwood is fresh, pound it and express its juice through a cloth. Then gently cook wine with honey, and pour the juice into this wine, so the wormwood overcomes the wine and honey flavor. Drink this every other day before breakfast, from May to October. It will check your melancholy and sickness in the loins, and make your eyes clear."
This short film entitled The Wormwood Star (1956) features the occultist and artist Cameron. A good soundtrack too:
Note: this is part of series of posts connected with the release of the Mystery Seed Packs. These posts are intended to provide solid plant identification info as well as basic magical and esoteric uses. They are not exhaustive, but introductory. An invitation to deeper relations...