Nature is like a witch’s personal charging station, as well as our repository. We gather rocks, wood, feathers, skulls. What does a witch need for that nature does not provide? Perhaps, nature’s greatest gifts to the witch are the plants it supplies for potions, powders, and good luck charms — so many resources at our fingertips, right outside our front doors.
Imagine your magic for a moment without plants. Not just the actual plants — as if that’s not bad enough — but the symbolism they have carried into all aspects of the craft. We use green for wealth spells because it represents money, right? No, it represents abundance,fertility, growth, and good harvests. Whenever we call on the element of earth, we are calling on the magic of our very world. And our world would be a very dark place without the colorful, delightful plants bursting at every seam. In fact, it wouldn’t be here at all. Trees provide the oxygen that sustains life. Plants feed us all. It is little wonder witches rely on them when performing feats of magic. What could be more magical than putting a seed into the earth and having it grow into a life-giving tree?
If you’re writing a spell or working on your craft, finding the best suited plant for your intention can be crucial. In this article, I hope to unveil the rich symbolism of plants — as well as provide you with a guide on how they can work for you in your magic.
The Quiet Magic Of Plants
An apple a day… well you know the rest. But did you know the Latin word for apple is mālum, which can also mean “evil” and is the root for other unpleasant words? Malpractice, malfunction… Malleus Maleficarum. The apple, when cut in half, reveals a secret pentagram and 5 seeds within.
Although not explicitly stated in the Bible, the apple is believed to be the forbidden fruit of knowledge and not in a good way. For witches at Samhain, the apple plays a big part in rituals, and at Halloween children bob for apples — all in celebration of the harvest. The Celts believed the apple contained magical properties, and perhaps in keeping with its link to knowledge and wisdom, apples are gifted to teachers as a show of respect. The apple is also a symbol of forbidden love and sex (appearing in art and on popular book covers to suggest the same).
Suggestions for use: I choose to ignore the apple’s less than savory connotations and would use this delicious little fruit in any divination or health spells and spells to help students excel in school.
A vibrant green, fragrant plant used in recipes all over the world; basil is known as the “witch’s herb.” As well as being a versatile ingredient, you can use basil in a variety of different spells and powders. Basil, or tulasi (the incomparable one), is a sacred plant in Hinduism and is a symbol of love in many cultures. In Haiti, basil is the herb of Erzuli, the goddess of love, and so basil is a go to for marriage spells and any spell to influence a lover. Basil also has many connections to travel, protection, wealth, luck, and health.
Suggestions for use: Because of basil’s versatility and its ancient connections to witchcraft, you can use this plant in many ways in your craft. Along with bay leaves, wishes can be written on basil and then burned so they come true. You can also eat leaves for a bit of fast luck.
The “goddess tree” and “pioneer tree.” Birch represents new beginnings and protection, and so was commonly used to make baby cribs. Its wood does not rot, because of this many people associate it with immortality and strength. Birch trees have a reputation for being resilient. In the case of forest fires, birches grow back quickly and repopulate an area with ease — another reason they are associated with starting over and new life. Besoms are made of birch, and birch bark was so thin and white that it was often used as paper to document sacred texts and symbols.
Suggestions for use: Birch leaves should be used in spells focusing on newborns or pregnancy (be sure to choose leaves that have been nibbled on if you can find them — follow the animals, these leaves are the choicest!). The addition of birch can bless any new endeavor and wishes for change should be written on birch and burned with care.
I’m obsessed with this little plant. Most people think of the shamrock as Irish and associate it with luck, which is correct, but the clover is also a symbol of the triple goddess. To find a four-leaf clover is lucky, but only because legend says it allows you to see friendly, hidden creatures like fairies and spirits! Though the four-leaf variety is more rare and famous, the three-leaf clovers have more symbolism, mainly religious. They represent the holy trinity, for example. For the Celts, the shamrock was a symbol of their knotwork as well as the balance of threes: gods, goddesses, and time.
Suggestions for use: You think I’m going to say luck, don’t you! Well, I live to surprise and my suggestion for the clover is air magic — communication, divination, astral travel, and matters of the mind. Dry the leaves, burn them, and recite spells while the smoke lingers in the air. If you are a Gemini, the clover will be especially helpful to you as the planetary association is Mercury, Gemini’s ruling planet!
There is a Victorian language of flowers. It instructs that certain flowers must be given at certain times and you may say anything you wish to and even insult the recipient with a simple bouquet. When it comes to the daisy, a pretty white and yellow flower that just looks happy to be here, the Victorians were clear: Youth and innocence. It’s given to new mothers, young girls, and anyone who needs a little cheering up. The old-fashioned yet charming game of “he loves me, he loves me not” is played by pulling daisy petals to reveal the feelings of a crush. The daisy is associated with young love and naivety, but also wholesomeness and a fresh, sunny outlook.
Suggestions for use: This flower is perfect for self-care rituals and magic to make you feel better. Keep some daisies by your altar to invite positive vibes. If you find yourself fighting negative thoughts, carry a pressed daisy in your wallet as a reminder to be open and find joy in every moment.
As a warding agent, garlic reigns supreme. What repels vampires? Garlic. What repels everyone else? Garlic breath. It is a staple in many mouth-watering recipes, but is also used medicinally and is great for your immune system, heart, and brain. Long before penicillin, garlic was an antibiotic used the world over and Hippocrates, of Hippocratic Oath fame, noted garlic’s amazing healing properties. Garlic was used by ancient Greek and Roman soldiers for courage, perhaps because garlic is associated with the planet Mars. Garlic is hung in ropes outside shops and homes for luck and chopped up and tossed in gardens to scare away scorpions.
Suggestions for use: This “stinking rose” may be one of the most powerful warding charms out there, but its health benefits cannot be denied. Hang garlic in your kitchen to encourage healthy cooking. Incorporate fresh chopped garlic in any healing spell and be sure to add a fire element to pay homage to Mars. If you’re in a pinch, powdered garlic can be used in talismans and spell bottles.
Seen as a counterpart to holly, ivy has maternal associations of protection and, less complimentary, clinginess. Houses with ivy covering a wall are “protected” by this plant, hidden and shielded from the rest of the world in a loving green blanket. Ivy grows in a spiral, a sacred symbol, and has five-pointed leaves, a symbol of the unity of the elements. Ivy is a hardy plant, thriving in many environments, and grows on a twisting vine. For these reasons, ivy is linked with fidelity in relationships.
Suggestions for use: Incorporate ivy in love spells, but be sure to include holly as well, to balance the two partners. For the less enamored, use ivy to bind. Place five ivy leaves in a circle and on each leaf, place a representation of one element, holding the fifth leaf in your hand. Make a taglock for your target, bind it with a piece of ivy, and squeeze the taglock tightly in your other hand. (Use garlic as your fire element if you’d also like the person to be driven away!)
This is an old plant, which has been cultivated by humans over the years to be bigger, more colorful, and impossibly perfect. The first roses had only five petals in the shape of a pentagram, so it has long symbolized sacred knowledge. The rose resembles the human heart so it’s connected to love and passion. It is associated with Aphrodite, Venus, Lakshmi, Eros… to name a few. Along with the lily and lotus, the rose is one of the most heavily symbolic flowers in the world. Royal houses adopted the rose as their sigils, the Tarot uses the rose as a way to show balance, and in Christianity, the rose is the flower of Mary, the quintessential mother. The rose, along with representing everything from virginal purity to wild sexual passion, is also the symbol of secrets. If something is sub rosa, it means it is confidential, only spoken of in whispers and under a veil of secrecy.
Suggestions for use: Love potions are a given. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a love potion (or written one) that didn’t include some part of the rose. But try to think about the rose in a new way. This is a flower that curls up tightly, hides many layers of petals, and grows thorns along its stem — all to keep you out. This is a clandestine flower, so it should be used during spells when you want to hide something or keep something safe. Use the rose when you need privacy or to keep someone out of your business. I suggest further research on this “most perfect” of flowers, though. If you have a magical need, the rose can probably fulfill it!