Today, we return a little to some of the material used in the corn dolly blessing to whip up a little bit of a potion.
What You’ll Need
- A small jar of dried corn
- Purified water
- 1 teaspoon dried blessed thistle
- 1 teaspoon dried mandrake root
Use the corn kernels that you saved in a jar several days ago. Add to the jar your dried herbs. Begin with the mandrake root. As you add the root, say:
Mandrake to preserve and bless all life.
Then add the blessed thistle, saying:
Thistle to protect and guard against strife!
Cover the corn and herbs with purified water and seal the jar with a tight fitting lid. Allow this to sit on a windowsill at nighttime for one complete lunar cycle. Put the jar away each morning and set it back out each night for 28 days. When the lunation is complete, drain the liquid from the jar. You can use this holy water to bless and protect your home, your family, and yourself.
When I read the instructions for this little charm, I had to stop my eyes from rolling a little bit. Mandrake. Why ever not? It’s not like there’s a bazillion protective herbs.
Oh wait…yes there are.
I’m of the opinion that neo-Pagans keep turning to mandrake because it just sounds so cool. Along with deadly nightshade, it’s probably the most common herb associated with witches in fiction. They seem to always be adding it to some noxious potion or other, or using it as a poppet in unethical love poppetry. I think this is a little unfortunate because the plant is actually pretty scarce. In cultivation, it takes a couple of years to get established, and then a few more before it can make it through winter without losing all its leaves, scabbing over, and the like. Unfortunately, it’s the taproot that the magicians are after, which means it’s a one-time harvest sort of deal.
I also sort of gave a curmudgeonly grumble at the use of holy thistle, which–unlike many thistles–is one grown in Europe and Iran and is not supposed to be grown in America. But many thistles share the same powers of protection, strength, healing, hex-breaking, and the like. Holy thistle just happens to be more popular with the pagan set.
But I set off to see about acquiring the proper herbs anyway…and couldn’t find either! I ended up at Mrs. Thompsons, where the proprietor suggested may apple and nettle as substitutes. May apple, which is also known as American mandrake, maybe has a little more magical oomph in drawing money than European mandrake, but even Scott Cunningham notes that it is “generally used as a substitute for the European (true) mandrake” for “its uses are practically identical” even if the plants are not related in the slightest. Nettle, like Holy Thistle, is also strongly protective. Cunningham suggests carrying it in a sachet or using it to stuff a poppet used in protective magic or to sprinkle it around the house to protect it from evil.
Supplied with these substitutes (which cost a whopping thirty-five cents), I turned to assembly. I proceeded with Roderick’s directions, saying “may apple” and “nettle” instead of “mandrake” and “thistle” and thought about protection and safety as I assembled everything together. Now I just get to wait until June 14th.