In the Garden
*Also known as catmint, catnep, cat’s play, and field balm
Reaching up to three feet tall, catnip has heart-shaped, grayish-green leaves that are covered in downy hairs. Growing in dense whorls at the end of the main stem and branches, its white or pale lavender flowers are marked with purple spots. The flowers bloom from July through October.
Since the time of the Romans, catnip was a popular garden herb for culinary and medicinal purposes. According to legend, chewing the root provided courage and was used by executioners before carrying out their duties. In England it was often used for tea before trade with the East brought in black tea. Today it is used medicinally as an herbal tea to calm the nerves. Contrary to some rumors, smoking it does not provide a high.
The oil that the plant releases to ward off insects attracts cats. More of this oil is released whenever the plant it bruised, which inadvertently happens when it is transplanted. If you want to grow it in your garden without attracting all the cats in the neighborhood, sow seeds instead of buying plants and leave it where it grows.
To enhance animal magic or to attract benevolent spirits, sprinkle dried leaves on your altar. Quite naturally, catnip aids in bonding psychically with a cat. Drinking a cup of catnip tea is effective for increasing abilities in dream and psychic work. To make the tea, pour one cup of boiling water over two tablespoons of dried leaves, and let it steep, covered, for ten minutes. Catnip should not be ingested during pregnancy. Also, if you don’t grow your own, make sure to purchase food-grade catnip if you plan to use it for tea.
Catnip is associated with the elements air and water. Its astrological influence comes from Venus and the fixed star Deneb Algedi. This plant is also associated with the goddesses Bast and Sekhmet.