This next series of articles will focus on the use of local plants in witchcraft. Local plants are a combination of native plants, i.e. plants that originate from that area, and naturalized plants, i.e. plants that have been introduced from elsewhere but have established themselves as a part of the environment. Using local plants for your magick offers a lot of benefits, enhancing your magickal practice and effectively taking it to greater depths than are readily visible and that you may not fully believe are possible. Plus, working with local plants is a cost effective alternative to purchasing exotic plants that you have no idea how they were grown or harvested, and if their harvest negatively impacted their environment.
Working with local plants serves to better harmonize yourself with the local energies and spirits where you live. This is a highly suggested practice if you have intentions of working with the genus loci -localized spirits of place that are attached to the land- and is a great preliminary step in learning about Them.
Each article will focus on one plant that is native to or naturalized within North America. As such, many of these plants can be found in Europe, especially within the United Kingdom. Many of the plants discussed are considered pests and weeds, plants that many people aggressively try to rid their yards of. Some may be wholly unknown to you, others familiar. But, each is an opportunity to broaden your knowledge and practice, becoming a stronger and more resourceful witch. Each of these plants is an often unappreciated and overlooked lovely that can offer powerful results -should you take the time to know them.
Regardless of where you live, there is a wide variety of plants that are waiting for you to find them, to teach you their secrets, and to become your ally. My own practice of witchcraft is highlighted by the use of local plants. Every ingredient comes to me from the wilds, be it a barefoot hike through the forest, a hike through the mountains, or a walk down urban streets. Plants present themselves, often unexpectedly, that are perfect for the spell work that I need to do at that time. This is something that you can easily have as part of your practice, too, the wonder of such this series of articles hopes to impart.
Witch Grass is a rather unassuming plant that often hides itself amongst other tall grasses and plants. It goes by many names, reflecting that its unknown status is modern and that it has a history of appreciation that directly contributes to its purposeful introduction to North America from Europe. While forgotten by most people as nothing more than a noxious and annoying weed, it has a lot of value to the witch as it is most strongly suited to a most necessary type of magick that other plants usually can only help with in combination with other plants. However, Witch Grass is powerful enough to stand alone.
Common Names and Latin Name
Common names of Witch Grass are: Couch Grass, Dog Grass, Quack Grass, and Witchgrass. Common names are also known as "folk names," as these are the names by which a plant are commonly known amongst the people who live in that area. Common and folk names often hint at folk lore and superstitions concerning plants -such are keys to a plant's magickal uses for the witch who has eyes to see. Its Latin name is agropyron repens which means "creeping field-wheat." It is a member of the grass family gramineae.
Medicinal and Culinary Use
While Witch Grass is virtually ignored in modern herbalism (notice a trend with this plant? Witches have occult knowledge, occult is that which is hidden, another reason why you really want to make this plant your ally...) Traditionally, it was valued for its high mucilage content which is soothing to mucus membranes when taken internally. It was commonly used as a diuretic and for urinary complaints.
Highly nutritious, Witch Grass makes a great addition to any foragers diet. And, seriously, foraging for food is one of the most amazing ways to truly get in touch with the land where you live, putting you in direct contact with the wild and the Spirits that inhabit that place.
For both medicine and food, it is the rhizome that you want. This is the underground root-like stem. Witch Grass, like many grasses, spreads adventitiously as well as by seed -that is, it grows new plants by sending out underground runners just below the surface that will node and create new plants. That underground runner is the rhizome.
To use, you'll want to thoroughly wash and pat dry the rhizome; this is standard protocol for harvesting any roots. The fresh rhizome can be boiled as a vegetable. Alternately, the rhizome can be dried and then powdered for a flour and even a coffee substitute. To dry the rhizome, after cleaning it, cut it into pieces no larger than an inch long and place on a screen to dry in a cool, dark place with low humidity. Drying on a screen allows air to reach the rhizome on all sides, contributing to a faster and more efficient dry time. Typically, roots and rhizomes can take as much as one month to be thoroughly dry.
The Witches' Ally
Witch Grass is traditionally aligned with Jupiter, and while it enjoys folk lore usage for happiness, love, and lust, its power for hex removal and exorcism are where it really shines and proves the most useful for the witch.
As a very young witch, I learned to make braids of Witch Grass. These can be hung in the home for protection, or you can burn and waft the braids for effective banishings and clearings. This use is also quite effective in psychic defense, should you need to remove a hex or curse and don't wish to send it back to the sender.
While medicinally and food wise it is the underground rhizome that is wanted, magickally it is the herb (the above ground parts) that are used. Cut the plant close to the ground. This will not kill the plant as the underground rhizome will simply send up another plant, either in the same place or nearby.
Three plants will make a good braid. They can be secured with a bit of string or thread at the cut ends. Be sure to braid them tightly as the plants will shrink when dry, resulting in gaps and spacing in the finished braid; Witch Grass will not braid nicely when dry.
If you are intending to hang the braid up for protection of your home, you can do so immediately. If you are intending to save the braids to burn later, then you will want to hang the braid to dry in a cool, dark place with low humidity. While hanging herbs to dry is the traditional method, it is not advised for herbs that will be used medicinally, as it does not produce the highest quality finished product. Where magick is concerned, the highest quality of dried herbs will always produce better results in your spell craft, so taking a note from medicinal herbalism when it comes to harvesting, drying, storing, and crafting is highly advised.
Identification: Easier Said than Done
Witch Grass can be a tricky plant to identify, as it is a tall grass looking very similar to other tall grasses. The key distinguishing factor is the flowers and seeds.
The flowers and seeds of Witch Grass are spikelets. The blossoms are purplish and can be seen between May and September. This is the prime time to harvest as it is very difficult, if not impossible, to identify unless it is flowering or gone to seed.
Where to Find
Like many useful plants, Witch Grass can be found growing in impossible places beneath impossible conditions. You may find it growing in your yard or garden, that incorrigible plant that growing at the edges and along the perimeter of your home or outbuildings. Find it also in waste places, empty lots, and in ditches and roadsides. It grows also along the seashore and along the river banks. Due to its tight network of roots, Witch Grass helps to prevent erosion and so can grow where other plants cannot.
Throwing the Bones