In the Garden
*Also known as bay laurel, bay tree, laurel, Roman laurel, sweet bay, and true laurel
Bay might be more familiar as a small potted tree that is often cut into pom-poms or other topiary shapes. It is an evergreen that can grow up to fifty feet tall, but it is most often kept pruned as a shrub. Growing on short stems, the dark green, leathery leaves are oval and sharply pointed. The small, greenish-yellow flowers grow in inconspicuous clusters and bloom in the early spring. The oval berries are small and turn bluish black when ripe.
Bay is a lovely tree for a garden if you live in the right hardiness zone. Luckily, it grows well in a container so those of us in the north can enjoy it, too. Bay works well as a houseplant because it is a slow grower that takes several years to reach two feet tall. The scent of bay complements the other aromas of the holiday season. Add bay leaves to a door wreath as well as your Yule altar.
It was customary for ancient Greeks and Romans to praise people of accomplishment with crowns of bay. To the Greeks, it was considered a powerful support for divination and prophecy, while to the Romans it symbolized wisdom.
Bay aids in prophetic dreaming, divination, and clairvoyance. Burn a leaf to increase psychic skills. In addition, its purification properties provide protection during this work. Bay also clears and protects the home from negativity. Hang a sprig of bay leaves in the kitchen to invite abundance.
Use dried leaves to enhance defensive magic and remove hexes. Prepare food with bay to aid in personal protection. Carry a leaf to ward off negative energy. At Yule, hold a bay leaf as you visualize your wishes and desires for the coming year, and then throw it on the bonfire or burn it in your cauldron.
Bay is associated with the elements air and fire. Its astrological influence comes from the sun. This tree is also associated with the following deities: Adonis, Apollo, Artemis, Asclepius, Balder, Ceres, Cernunnos, Gaia, Helios, Mars, and Ra.