Lavender: It’s History, Use, Lore and Magick

Lavender: It’s History, Use, Lore and Magick

Lavender is one of the most ancient aromatic herbs, used and cultivated since the beginning of recorded time. Even to modern times, lavender has been valued mostly for the virtue of its fragrance. It is a woody evergreen member of the vast mint family, originating as a native plant of the mountains of the Mediterranean region.

Its cultivation and use has spread, but the most common are the English Lavenders. These hardy varieties were brought to England during the Medieval period and are mentioned in the writings of William Shakespeare. There are over 15 different species of lavender and many varieties, each with their own fragrance and color, which can vary from deep purple, pink, to white.

The name lavender has its roots from the latin “lavare’ meaning to wash. It as used in ancient times for cleansing, bathing, cosmetics, perfume, and strewn on the floors of temples. This tradition continued later in Spain and Portugal, where lavender was thrown on the floor of churches and into bonfires on St. John’s Day to avert evil spirits. Pinning lavender to your shirt is also a Tuscan ward against the evil eye. Lavender was a part of the ancient Egyptian embalming and mummification ingredients. When they opened the tomb of Tutankhamen the fragrance of lavender was still noticeable nearly 3000 years after he was entombed.

Lavender has been valued mostly for its fragrance, but it contains the chemical compounds of linalool and esters, giving Lavender its values as a natural antiseptic, antibiotic and insect repellant. Like so many herbs which are used to repel phantasm, it is is also used to repel moths. The earliest written record of Lavender’s medicinal properties we have was by the Greek Physician, Dioscorides, in 77AD.

“Stoechas grows in the islands of Galatia over against Messalia, called ye Stoechades, from whence also it had its name, is an herb with slender twigs, having ye haire like Tyme, but yet longer leaved and sharp in ye taste, and somewhat bitterish, but ye decoction of it as the Hysdsop is good for ye griefs an ye thorax. It is mingled also profitably with Amtidots.” —Dioscorides

As a Military surgeon under the Roman Emperor Nero, Pedanius Dioscorides, he passed through Italy, Gaul, Spain, and North Africa. He documented the existence of hundred of medicinal herbs and their qualities everywhere he traveled. Lavender was said to relieve indigestion, headaches and sore throats when taken internally, and was a useful antiseptic for wounds and burns. This herbal was translated into Latin from the original Greek, and for over 1500 years it remained the chief authority on medicinal herbs.

Lavender has always been considered a magickal herb, although its uses have changes throughout time, and was known by the ancient Greeks as the ‘witches’ herb. It is associated with attracting and deepening love, fertility, peace, calming, protection, success, and attaining money. Carrying a sachet containing lavender can help grant one love, peace and good health, and as a dream pillow it will attract good dreams and benevolent spirits. Lavender wands may be used as an asperging tool for ritual purification (sprinkling with water) and when dried, the wands can be burnt like sage as incense..

You can also make a tea from the flowers to attract these same things, but be sure to purchase food grade culinary Lavender that has not been chemically treated. Culinary lavender is also suitable for cooking, whereas ornamental and cosmetic grade lavender is not; the later is likely growing in your garden. Lavender is a good addition to wedding/handfasting/anniversary cakes with its delicate floral flavor and its associations of love and fertility.

A simple recipe to make is lavender sugar. Place the dried buds with sugar in a sealed jar, layering them alternately. Let then sit for a month in a cool dark space, and then sift the buds out. Sprinkle the sugar on cakes and cookies, and use to sweeten your tea.

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