In the Garden
Common Juniper (Juniperus communis)
*Also known as gin berry, hackmatack, horse savin, and savin
Juniper is a spreading evergreen that usually grows four to six feet tall. The bark is brown to reddish-brown. The juniper’s foliage consists of needles in sets of three that grow in whorls along the branches. While young plants have needle-like leaves, mature ones have scale-like foliage, though some cultivars keep the same type of leaves all their lives. Like holly, juniper has male and female flowers on separate plants and you need one of each type of bush if you want berries. Blooming from April to June, the male flowers are yellow and the female, yellowish-green. Both are inconspicuous and grow in groups of three at the base of the needles.
The round berries come from female flowers and are technically considered a cone. Taking about two years to mature, the berries turn from green to blue-black and frequently have a dusting of white powder covering them. Juniper berries are well known for their use as flavoring in stews and roasts, and especially gin. They are also used medicinally and for making an essential oil that is used in perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics.
According to folklore, burning juniper during childbirth would keep fairies from substituting a changeling for the baby. During the Middles Ages, juniper was burned as protection against the plague. In parts of England, it was believed that a person who cut down a juniper bush would die within the year. In Italy, branches were hung over doorways to frighten witches away. It was also believed that juniper could be planted in front of a house as protection against witches, who were (for some inexplicable reason) expected to count all the needles on the tree before they could pass through the doorway.
Burn dried needles as incense to purify a large space or to ward off the energy of negative people. Also burn juniper for defensive magic, as it is especially effective against black magic, hexes, and dealing with unwanted spirits. Use dried berries in a sachet to enhance divination and dream work. The berries also help increase psychic abilities. Burning any part of juniper strengthens psychic protection as it keeps energy grounded in the physical world. String berries together into a circlet, let the fruit dry out, and then use it as an amulet to attract a lover. A juniper bush on your property is effective for manifesting abundance and prosperity. As an offering, tie three small dark-blue ribbons within the thick foliage of a bush as you say:
With branches of green and berries of blue; beautiful juniper, I thank you.
Juniper is associated with the elements earth, fire, and water. Its astrological influence comes from Mars, Mercury, the moon, the sun, and the fixed star Sirius. It is also associated with the deities Balder, Holle, Loki, and the Morrigan.
Figure 39. Juniper is associated with the rune Sowelu.