In the House
With the weather getting warmer, we can bring the outside in by opening windows and bringing in flowering plants or cut flowers. This is a good time to purify and bless your home, and to clean and rededicate your altar and ritual space. In my opinion, there’s no better plant to use for this than sweet woodruff.
(Galium odoratum syn. Asperula odorata)
*Also known as lady’s bedstraw and waldmeister
Sweet woodruff grows in clumps with stems eight to fifteen inches tall. Whorls of six to eight leaves grow around the stems. Growing in small clusters, its dainty, white flowers are funnel shaped with petals that splay open at the end. While the flowers seem to have little or no fragrance, they develop a strong, sweet, hay-like scent after they are dried. The scent can linger for several years. The dried leaves smell sweet like freshly mown hay or vanilla.
The name woodruff evolved from wood-rove, which was derived from the French rovelle, meaning “wheel.” 40 This is in reference to the leaves that resemble the spokes of a wheel as they grow in a circle around the stem. Although it is also called lady’s bedstraw, its cousin (Galium verum) is more widely known by that name. The name waldmeister means master of the forest.
During the Middle Ages, sweet woodruff was strewn on the ground in public places to deter odors and insects. In churches it was intended to ward off evil and pests. Garlands of sweet woodruff were hung in homes to freshen the air. Also, dried leaves and flowers were placed among linens to scent and protect them against insects.
Because the fragrance of sweet woodruff is stronger when dried or crushed, use it as a strewing herb on a porch, patio, or outdoor ritual area. This will scent the air and dispel negative energy. Also infuse the leaves and/or flowers in water and then sprinkle it around the home to purify and bless it. Burning dried leaves or flowers as incense works, too.
Make a tea with one to two teaspoons of dried leaves in one cup of boiling water. Let it steep for at least ten minutes and then strain. Drink this before bed to foster prophetic dreams. Have a question on your mind before going to sleep, and have paper and pen or a smart phone handy at your bedside to take notes when you wake up.
In Germany, sprigs of sweet woodruff were used to make May wine, which was traditionally served in bowls. Make the wine for May Eve or May Day to attune to the season and celebrate. This herbed wine goes nicely over strawberries. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use sweet woodruff or May wine.
1 bottle white wine
1 cup fresh leaves
Pick several sprigs of leaves before the flowers bloom and hang them to dry for about a week. Depending on the humidity level, it may take a little longer. Or, lay the leaves on a baking sheet and dry them in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven with the door open for about twenty minutes. Place the leaves in a pitcher, decant the wine into it, and let sit for several hours. Strain out the leaves before drinking.
Sweet woodruff is associated with the element fire. Its astrological influence comes from the planet Mars and the fixed star Aldebaran.
28 Payack, A Million Words and Counting, 175.
29 Linda J. Ivanits, Russian Folk Belief (New York: Routledge, 2015), 8.
30 Ernest Small, Top 100 Food Plants: The World’s Most Important Crops (Ottawa, Canada: National Research Council of Canada, 1999), 149.
31 Kear, Flower Wisdom, 7.
32 Ibid., 9.
33 Jack Sanders, Secrets of Wildflowers: A Delightful Feast of Little-Known Facts, Folklore, and History (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2014), 78.
34 Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, The Druid Plant Oracle: Working with the Magical Flora of the Druid Tradition (London: Eddison Sadd Editions, Limited, 2007), 94.
35 Inge N. Dobelis, ed., Magic and Medicine of Plants: A Practical Guide to the Science, History, Folklore, and Everyday Uses of Medicinal Plants (Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1986), 301.
36 Ina Baghdiantz McCabe, A History of Global Consumption: 1500—1800 (New York: Routledge, 2015), 161.
37 Kear, Flower Wisdom, 200.
38 Ibid., 120.
39 Sanders, Secrets of Wildflowers, 66.
40 Grieve, A Modern Herbal, 853.