The book: stuck on mugwort

NOT Our Mugwort

Sometimes–a lot of times–writing is just a slog. It’s like double digging a garden bed (an activity I avoid, having done it one season and that was enough for a lifetime). For instance, on this chapter on mugwort, which, yes, I am still working on, I found that some of the really neat info I uncovered on the relationship between mugwort and storm gods referred to something we witches would not consider mugwort: Artemisia ludoviciana ssp. mexicana, aka white sagewort. This grows in the southwest and has white leaves and is not like wormwood, although that’s yet another name for it. The essential oil is sometimes sold as peach leaf wormwood, and in dilution the essential oil does in fact have a slightly peachy scent (the actual plant, no). Oddly enough, this plant tends to grow around woodlands, which has a particular resonance for me right now–I’m finding that the woodland plants are generally growing well for me in contrast to the more typical sun-loving annuals, which are just up and dying in droves. At any rate, it was disappointing to discover that the neat connection I thought could be drawn between storm gods in China and Mexico and mugwort just didn’t exist historically. Dang. Even so, that made sense, because mugwort does not seem like a rain plant. It likes the sun but doesn’t want to get too close. But hey, you never know how our ancestors might have used a plant.

Here’s something I keep butting up against and can’t find info about, though–the relationship between Midsummer and human sacrifice. That seems to underlie a number of plants I am writing about in this book (like vervain, mugwort, among the St. John – Midsummer – herbs). The only information I have found so far about human sacrifice in the British Isles, where a lot of the connections between mugwort and Midsummer seem to come from, is not very dependable, coming from Roman sources. This is like depending on info about Native American practices that was written by the European invaders. It’s going to be skewed, even if well intended. If anyone knows any well referenced or just plain provocative works on sacrifice and Midsummer, especially in the British Isles, post the titles here or email me about them. I’m going up to the library at Cornell today to see what I can find and to do some research on elfwort’s historical uses, since that’s the next chapter.

A project for the next day or so is a fresh batch of mugwort jelly. I last made some a couple years ago. I meant to make it for the Scullery Maid and myself last fall and missed the boat, but now would be a good time to make it also. The mugwort is absolutely rampant, charging up out of the ground and expanding its territory. It is just begging to be made into a wine-based jelly. Herb jellies are usually made with a white wine, but I might use some local Cabernet I have lying around that is very tasty, lots of berry notes. ┬áIf you’d like to acquire a jar, let me know by sending me an email to groups at alchemy hyphen works dot com. A dab of mugwort jelly on a cracker with a schmear of cream cheese is just about the perfect prescription for dreaming. Just don’t do it too often, because IMO it’s exhausting and in everyone else’s opinion, the effect of remembering dreams wears off the more often the herb is used. Kind of like another psychoactive herb I can think of. I will post more about the jelly-making tomorrow.

4 comments to The book: stuck on mugwort

  • Incidentally, and unrelated-ish… there’s a book I saw an advert for and thought of you. The Mystic Mandrake by C.J.S. Thompson – “Raven’s Loft” (I believe it’s owned by Grimassi?) is selling copies.

    • herba15

      Thanks for mentioning it! I actually looked at this book at the library at Cornell. They have a ton of neat plant books there, since horticulture has been one of their things. I wouldn’t mind having it, though, just to add it to the collection. Last time I looked, it cost a forture, so I will give this a go.

  • faustianbargain

    i am thinking of cooking sorrel with a little bit of mugwort and cinquefoil leaves…with quince paste and goat cheese..all rolled together in a flat bread….it will be good..:)

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