Plants Can Be Witches Too

"Memento Mori" by Sarah LawlessMemento Mori by Sarah Lawless

For those who aren’t animists, this might be a hard thing to wrap your head around, but some plants are witches too. Not all plants, but a select number around the world are. Some plants are just natural sorcerers and magicians just like people with the powers to curse or heal, enchant or uncross. They each have their specialties. It’s not always the traditional poisonous plants associated with witchcraft either like the usual suspects of Aconite, Belladonna, Datura, Henbane, Mandrake, or Nightshades, no, sometimes it’s a completely harmless plant most people wouldn’t even notice like Blackberry, Coltsfoot, Enchanter’s Nightshade, ferns, Mugwort, and Mullein. Trees can be witches too, the most well known witch-trees being Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Elder, and Rowan.

I have always been very drawn to these sorcerous plants. They whisper spells, recipes for potions, and how to make them into talismans. Working with many of these plants is like being in a coven where each individual witch brings their own talents and knowledge to the table. Eventually you learn which pairings can be “covens” that work best together and which don’t get along at all and shouldn’t be put in a herb coven. To keep it simple like seems to like their like. Herbs that “belong” to certain deities are usually well-paired as they serve the same master or mistress. For the most part the Solanaceae get along together and that is why most of them are often found together in old flying ointment recipes. Conjure roots that both like moist wet soil pair well together like Sweetflag and False Solomon’s Seal. Large woody roots with medicinal barks like Oregon Grape and Devil’s Club also pair well together – especially when it comes to protection, healing, and banishing evil spirits.

Alrauns, herbal root fetishes, are little witches and should be treated like a teacher or helper in the craft. They need to be fed, cared for, and talked to like a good friend or they will either curse the owner of the root or rescind all the help they’ve given and abandon the root they housed.

If we sorcerers start treating plants and trees like fellow magicians we’d sure get a lot more from our work with them. Our spells and rites would work so much better with the aid of willing plant spirit allies rather than “herb correspondences”. Let’s make plants willing participants in our magic instead of dried inanimate objects we “hope” will do something to enhance our magic and rites. Let’s start telling the plants what we’re doing with them and why we need their help. Let’s start thanking them in return for that help. Let’s stop taking power from nature and start asking for it. We might just find that the dynamics and efficacy of our magic changes completely for the better.

Give a shit and get involved in the magical lives of plants! Research them, grow them, harvest them, talk to them, and work with them as partners in magic and ritual.

Author Sarah

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  • Very interesting as always. I recently just created an Alrune over a period of a moon cycle, feeding it blood and milk and singing to it. I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I was very surprised to see it take on a life and personality all it’s own. I find that by showing it deep respect, it returns the favor many times over and has been one of my greatest helpers. She’s definitely a little plant witch 😉

    • What did you use to make your Alraun? I plan on getting some mandrake seeds from Alchemy Works to give me a bit of a challenge while I grow some easier herbs. But I’m still on the look out for strong Dandelion roots as well 😀

  • Nikkie says:

    Hehe…here in my “village” I’m known as ‘that strange Woman that talks to her plants’. I have caught my own garden helper staring at me with disbelief on his face when he first heard me talk to my plants. I also sometimes sing or whistle and most often than not, I will find a message in the song I’m singing or whistling. Sometimes it is something extremely obscure like an aria from an opera but when I go look it up, I will always find a message either of quantities or a descriptive word. Oh my plants are all magical indeed…I am blessed with a few ‘sorcerers’ as you call them, but they are native to my country and region. How do I know this? I do because they told me so and because I can feel it in them and around them. They talk to me, for sure they do and my Path is so much the richer for it.

  • Well said, Sarah! I can’t wait to start my little herb garden and get to know some of my favorite herbs.

  • Amaranthine says:

    At the end of every summer a woman I know (a Midwife on the Gulf Islands) would trim back her blackberry bushes, all but 1. He (as she determined it was a he) grew off to the side and never seemed to quite make it into the hedgeline with the rest of the bushes. He was a darker green and his berries were always a little tarter. She believed his spirit was that of a Witch, of something darker but not quite evil. She left him be, respectfully, and he grew and stunted as he pleased. She’s leave him offerings of wild tobacco and animal bones that she’d find on her property, and over time he almost became a second, living altar. I’ve always remembered her talking about that bush and now whenever I find a plant or tree growing apart from it’s kind I always wonder why it chose to isolate itself, if it’s spirit is that of a Witch, or if it was just something that happened with no forethought.

    Lovely sentiment in this post. As always, I love how you capture the *feel* of natural witchcraft.

  • Shaman Dagaji says:

    No shit. Your knowledge inspires me to the uttermost! Wish I had you for a scoutmaster! I am so Not in your realm, but your wisdom seems to me the answer to so many of the world’s problems. I look forward to everything you write. Keep up the good work!

  • rosrua says:

    Perhaps that is why I have always talked to plants and had trees for friends from an early age. In my learning, I practice, not as much from what has been written before, but from what comes from my spirit reaching out to herbs and plants. Odd to most perhaps, but too real to deny and I wouldn’t deny the life, reality or relationship of any living thing.

  • sara says:

    I’m real partial to poppies and clary sage, now that I’ve managed to nurse them from seedling to full happy plant, when it comes to taking great pains to: 1) make the grandmother garden a really nice place for the plants to grow and thrive, 2) let the plants know I think about them often and would spend more time outside with them if I had time to. Yeah, I talk to them, too. I introduce my younger cat to them, explaining he’s just very nosy, and I explain that my hens are a really chatty bunch and just want to see everything grow (seriously, they charmed my tomato plants like snake charmers, last summer.)
    The first plant to announce itself to me as a force of its own was Solanum nigrum of course. It volunteers in my yard in highly improbable places now (in the potted avocado, for example.) It really messed with me. Kind of annoyed me like a precocious student showing off, actually. Messing with my head so that I thought the hens were muttering and swearing at me, and changing the sky to purple, that was quite enough.
    But I am glad I had those experiences, don’t get me wrong. At this point I greet that plant and go on my way. It grows all up and down the path I travel to and from work again this year, too. It is good to know I am not alone.

  • Harold Roth says:

    I sure second your sentiments in this post. I think working with plants is often the most accesible means for connecting with the spirit world and acquiring initiation into witchcraft.

  • Jow says:

    Wonderful! Truly wonderful work, Ms. S. Weaving the web is so much easier when you ask/cooperate with the rest of it, no? A valuable lesson: All living things have power, and many understand how to use it. Respect is key.

  • rachael says:

    i was just talking about this with my mother the other day…there was a water hemlock plant down the street that was particularly social (in my dreams for a week) a few weeks ago. i also agree about mullein. it’s a lovely experience standing face to face and looking eye to eye with a plant.

  • Great post! Even in an urban roof garden like ours, certain plants have a power for teaching that is hard to explain. Also, on the places where we wildharvest regularly, we make sure to make friends first with the place and its elements, and leave offerings several times before we take anything.