Mugwort - Botanicals

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005


(Artemisia vulgaris)

Other names: Motherwort; The Red Goat

Caution! Mugwort is not safe for pregnant women or for those actively attempting to conceive. Mugwort Essential Oil, also known as Armoise, its French name, is unsafe for everyone and is potentially fatal. Dried or fresh mugwort herb (the whole thing, not some concentration) is safe for occasional use by most adults.

Mugwort’s Latin name refers to it as common or vulgar Artemisia, as if any member of that plant family could possibly be common or vulgar. They are named in honor of the goddess Artemis. The most famous explanation is that she gave the plant as a gift to the physician centaur Chiron, who tutored Achilles and many other renowned Greek heroes. However another version suggests that the plant is named after Artemis because most of its medicinal uses involve female reproduction over which she has dominion.

Image Mugwort has been used to stimulate menstruation, whether to induce fertility or to terminate pregnancy.

Image Mugwort has historically been used to harmonize menstrual cycles with lunar cycles. If one understands that Artemis shares the same essence as the moon, then one is harmonizing oneself with the goddess as well.

Once upon a time, mugwort was considered among the most important of women’s herbs. It was incorporated into infusions and baths and burned as incense.

Image The ancient Anglo-Saxons considered mugwort first among their nine sacred plants, calling it the Mother Herb.

Image In Poland, mugwort, known as bylica and called the Mother of All Herbs, is the most powerfully magic plant of all.

Image In Russian, mugwort is called chernobyl, which obviously has terrible modern connotations because of the disaster at the nuclear power plant in the town bearing that name. The word has long held magical significance in Russian witchcraft traditions and also makes reference to crow’s beaks and has associations with the spirit, the Queen of Snakes. It is sometimes a forbidden word, not to be uttered during certain forms of spell-craft because if uttered, the spell is immediately nullified.

Image In the southern Tyrol, mugwort is called “broom herb”; because of its association with witches’ brooms.

The plant allegedly protects against witchcraft, ghosts, and thieves. It is a traveler’s herb, providing safety and protection. Another nickname for mugwort is Saint John’s Girdle, commemorating John the Baptist, who allegedly roamed the wilderness eating wild honey and wearing a mugwort belt.

Mugwort is among the original bitter herbs; it doesn’t taste good and so has very few culinary uses. Mugwort’s uses tend to be restricted to women’s reproductive issues and to magic. By the Middle Ages, possession of Artemis’ sacred gift was considered sufficient evidence for conviction of witchcraft. Only midwives or witches (and for many, those terms were synonymous) could possibly use mugwort, a botanical that must be handled with care.

It may be used to stimulate fertility, however if used during pregnancy, it may have disastrous effects. Its potential gifts are dependent upon administration by skilled herb-doctors who understand both the nuances of the botanical and the nuances of the female body.

It doesn’t grow easily from seed but grows wildly rampant in wastelands and ruins. Those who desired mugwort were often forced to gather it in the cemeteries and ruins it favors, increasing its sinister associations. (When it’s happy in its environment, mugwort grows so well that in part of the North American Midwest, where it has been naturalized, it’s treated as a pest, fit for nothing but eradication.)

Although dried mugwort may be easily and inexpensively purchased from herbal suppliers, living mugwort plants can be difficult to obtain today. Mugwort, the ultimate witch plant, is most frequently found today in packaged “dream teas” and “dream pillows.” It is almost always the activating constituent in dreamstimulation products although, because mugwort tastes so bitter, it may be buffered by many other ingredients. As might be gathered, mugwort’s other profound gift is stimulation of dreams and clairvoyance. It usually has a fairly dramatic effect: mugwort opens the portals to other realms and shoves you through. It is worthwhile remembering that Artemis the Huntress was not a gentle goddess by anyone’s standards.

Mugwort sometimes reaches heights of five feet, blooming and achieving its peak power at Midsummer’s Eve. Mugwort is among the plants most associated with Midsummer’s. Mugwort ashes from the Midsummer’s bonfires bring good luck all year round.

See CALENDAR: Midsummer’s Eve; DIVINE WITCH: Artemis.