Weeds for Witches Part V: Mullein

Great Mullein Flowers

Names: Candlewick, hag’s taper, hedge taper, king’s candle, feltwort, flannel flower, hare’s beard, velvet plant, Aaron’s rod, Adam’s rod, Jacob’s staff, Jupiter’s staff, shepherd’s club.

Where it Grows: Mullein is best known for being from the Mediterranean, but it also commonly grows in Europe and Asia. A few species of Mullein have naturalized in North America and Australia (esp. Great Mullein).  Mullein is not invasive, but persistent. It needs disturbed soil in direct sunlight and isn’t usually a problem for farmers to weed. You can never quite get rid of it though because of the thousands upon thousands of seeds it produces which are shook free in a breeze. Look for it in wastelands, open fields, construction sites, and almost barren sunny hillsides and roadsides.

Growing & Harvesting: Mullein is easily transplanted from the wild in spring before June 1st. It does well in poor soil with good drainage, but will also do well with a mixture of earth, sand, and manure. Otherwise plant the seeds in November or early March as they need to over-winter in order to germinate. This plant is very child-friendly with its large leaves like velvet rabbit’s ears. Mullein makes an interesting addition to vegetable gardens, but you could just as easily grow it in a pot on a sunny porch.

Verbascum Thapsus - Great MulleinMagic: Mullein as a single-stalked plant literally is the Hag’s taper. It belongs to the crossroads, to Saturn, and to the underworld. It it Hecate’s torch and Lucifer’s staff. It is a key and a door. Mullein resembles a torch with it’s tip covered in bright yellow flowers with orange and red pollen mimicking flames. Perhaps Hecate’s saffron robe was dyed with rich yellow Mullein flowers instead of actual saffron. The flowers were once used in ancient Roman dyes and pigments. Add the flowers to a recipe for a yellow magical ink – perhaps steeped in vodka with tumeric and saffron heated with frankincense or pine resin. Use for drawing prosperity sigils, sigils of the sun, wealth, success, and strength. Witches can use the soft leaves as candle wicks or soak the dried stalk in beeswax or tallow to make a torch for rituals of necromancy. Mullein is used to see manifestations of spirits, to see into the otherworld, and to commune with the spirits and deities who dwell there.  It is used for divination and dream work or a combination of the two (prophetic dreaming). Mullein protects you in your sleep helping to combat both evil spirits and nightmares. As it helps one to fall asleep when ingested, Mullein makes an excellent tea to encourage prophetic dreams and as an aid in lucid dreaming or astral travel while asleep.

Dreamer’s Tea

2 parts Mullein flowers
1 part Poppy flowers
1 part Mugwort
2 parts Spearmint

Blend Mullein and Dittany of Crete with traditional spirit summoning ingredients and you’ll have an incense which, according to folklore, will allow you to see spirits. Grind with a mortar and pestle and burn on charcoal during ritual after having created sacred and protected space.

The Witch’s Necromancy Incense

Mullein
Dittany of Crete
Myrrh
Sandalwood
Wormwood

Another blend that can be used to help manifest spirits for necromantic rites is one noted by Cornelius Agrippa in his work The Philosophy of Natural Magic. If used, it should only be burned outside due to its poisonous ingredients (unless you substitute the Hemlock and only add a pinch of Henbane).

“Also, it is said, that fume made of the root of the reedy herb sagapen, with the juice of hemlock and henbane, and the herb tapsus barbatus, red sanders, and black poppy, makes spirits and strange shapes appear; and if smallage be added to them, the fume chaseth away spirits from any place and destroys their visions.” ~ Agrippa

Agrippa’s Spirit Suffumigation

Asofoetida or Galbanum resin
Hemlock juice (substitute with anise, angelica leaf,)
Henbane, dried leaves
Mullein, dried leaves
Red Sandalwood powder
Black Poppy Seeds

Mullein is a safely smokable herb. Smoke it to aid in hedgecrossing, divination, to call and commune with psychopomps, crossroad’s deities, chthonic familiars, and spirits of the dead.  If you don’t smoke, it can also be used in a tea. A powerful magic tea would be a mixture of mullein and roasted dandelion root. It could be drunk for rites of Hecate, before performing divinations, or before summoning spirits.

Mullein in spring (before stalk)

Medicine: The flowers, roots, leaves, and stalk of Mullein are used in folk medicine. The flowers picked early in the morning and infused in olive or jojoba oil make an excellent oil for treating earaches in children and adults or mites in animals. Store the mixture in a glass tincture bottle with an eye dropper. The leaves are used internally (drunk or smoked) to treat pain, colds, coughing, lung and throat problems (asthma, brochitis, infections), and indigestion. Externally Mullein is used to treat inflammation, eczema, psoriasis, hemorrhoids, wounds, and sores. Like dandelion, the root is also used as a diuretic. Mullein root can also be used as a tea to help with bedwetting children and older folks suffering from urinary incontinence. Because it can be used to treat such common problems, it is a good weed to have nearby.

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Author Sarah

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  • Rhi *Kim* says:

    Beautiful post. Thanks! I’m going to need to see if I can grow Mullein here in Florida along with my poppy flowers.

    Wild & Bright Blessings!

    ~*Rhi*~

  • Fran McIntosh says:

    Sarah,
    I am a friend of Robin Prine. I love this blog and wondered fi I might receive it regularly?
    Thank you

  • Wow, thanks for all the info. Hopefully this won’t be too much of an issue to grow in Florida, I’d love to have a pot of it handy! I especially love the idea of using the stalk as a torch, that’s one I haven’t seen before.

    I’m wondering why it’s used to fight bed-wetting if it’s a diuretic, though…

  • Juniper says:

    A favourite of mine! I have a photo somewhere of a mullien that is as tall as my 6 foot father. Taken in the Merritt area.

    The leaves also make good toilet paper in a pinch (ewwww)

  • Ellie Di says:

    I’m curious as to the seemingly-contradictory medical uses for the root. How can it be used to treat incontinence if it’s diuretic? Wouldn’t that seem to be a counter-indication? Just curious!

  • Kim says:

    Actually, it isn’t uncommon for an herb to be used as both a treatment for incontinence, as well as a diurectic. I used to feel confused about such cases myself when reading about uses in different herbals, especially about how different tribes of Natives in different areas would use the same herb, down to it’s same parts, to cure opposite conditions. It really boils down to different ideas of healing such as fighting fire with water-(opposites) or fight fire with fire ( only the same can fight same). Another way of looking at it would be modes of modern approach to healing such as allopathic vs. homeopathy. Different conditions as well as different patients require certain approaches. Also to go a step further where did the condition start in the physical body as a germ-(virus, parasite, fungi, poison, allergic reaction, microbe, impaired immune response) or in the mind-(negative attitude, emotions, or thought in oneself or someone else directed at you), or in the soul/spirit and or Otherworld? Some believe you have to go to the right source of the start of the problem to truly cure and others believe it doesn’t matter where you cure because all three are interconnected and treat one you treat all three at the same time. That’s just a taste of the medical outlooks, that doesn’t include the different magical outlooks although they are often similiar. I hope that helps. Also peasants used Mullein torches as they often couldn’t afford candles or oil for oil lamps not just witches. I just prefer how witches used them.

    • Thanks Kim, you said it better than I could’ve! Mullein is one of many plants that just seems to be used for almost every ailment under the sun. The one in my garden has reached over 7 feet!

      I often hear history nuts say “witches of old would’ve been too poor to use candles” – not so – many had access to beeswax, animal fats to make tallow, and mullein. Not to mention almost all women rich and poor spun and excess could’ve been used for wicks.

      Light a candle or torch made with Mullein to see spirits of the dead at night… if you dare 😉

      Thank you for all your comments -glad you’re all enjoying this series!

      Slainte and a Merry Samhuinn to all!
      Sarah

  • Kim says:

    Thank you Sarah for the correction. I read a nice section about mullein torches in a book about Lost Craftmanship can’t remember the exact name of the book. That’s where I got the idea about peasants being too poor. No mention of witches in it at all. And of course I’m sure many witches were peasants. I guess historians just prefer to focus on the noble classes and just assume things. i’m glad you caught my lazy thinking because it doesn’t make sense. After all most farmers would keep hives, and chandlers in towns providing honey and candles would keep hives for their business. Witches of any class in anytime peroid of history would probably wish to keep hives for their gardens, not to mention for honey, and making candles. That’s one of the things I love about your blog-it reminds me not only to think but to question sources and not just to accept something just because it’s in print.

  • Skye says:

    Lovely post! This has set me on the path of being able to identify and know how to use all the plants in my local area. I had always wondered both what the woody plant around my house was called, and where to get mullein for smoking blends, I guess this answered both questions! Thank you.

  • Grundy says:

    My garden harvested mullien leaves are drying in the kitchen. I just transplanted several from a friend’s yard so I will have enough to harvest for flowers, torches etc. next year. I make and use lots of herbal medicines and potions. Just recently found your site/shop and am reading everything. Thank you for the recipes and all your wonderful posts!

  • Violet says:

    I saw some Mullein along the busy road by my house and first time I saw it I felt that it was something magical. In the spring I think I’ll see if it would like to come home with me.