In the Wild
Greater Burdock (Arctium lappa)
*Also known as billy buttons, bur, burweed, and cockle buttons
Growing six to eight feet tall, greater burdock is a biennial with purplish, grooved stems. Its elongated, heart-shaped leaves are dull green with wavy edges. Clusters of purple, thistle-like flowers bloom from July to October. The spiky round seedpods called burs turn brown and remain on the plant until they get attached to passing animals or people. The burs are said to have been the inspiration for the invention of Velcro. This plant is called greater burdock because it has a smaller cousin called lesser burdock (A. minus). Burdock is found along roadsides, in fields, and in waste areas.
The ancient Greeks called burdock arcteion, which was derived from arktos, “bear.” 105 The bent hooks on the burs are said to resemble coarse bear fur. The common name burdock comes from the French burre, meaning a “ bur,” and the Old English doc, meaning “large leaf.” 106 Although they are somewhat similar in appearance, burdock should not be confused with the toxic common cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium).
Wearing a costume covered in burs, the Burry Man was part of an old village tradition in England. In some areas this practice was associated with harvest festivals. Occasionally accompanied by attendants, the Burry Man paraded around village streets. While the origin of this custom is unknown, one theory is that this character was a form of the Green Man representing the spirit of vegetation. Another theory is that the Burry Man walked the village to symbolically catch evil in his burs and carry it away.
According to folklore, burdock leaves were used in love potions to stimulate lust. They were also used in a form of divination to tell if someone had a sweetheart. A bur tossed at a person’s back that stuck to his or her clothing was an affirmative answer.
Wearing gloves and a hat for protection, walk to an area where burdock grows. Carefully place three burs on the top of your head. Continue on your walk as you think of things you want to remove from your life or things that you fear. After doing this, remove the burs and roll them between your hands to break them up. Throw the pieces to the wind as you say:
Be gone, be gone, from my life be gone.
Collect four burs and keep them intact. Place one at each corner of your house for protection. Burs and/or leaves can be used in defensive magic to ward off negativity. Also, grind a dried piece of root, and then sprinkle it in a circle to purify your ritual space.
Burdock is associated with the element water. Its astrological influence comes from the planet Venus and the fixed star Ala Corvi.