Gardening for Health

Keep The Witches Away

By Maria Price

According to A Witches Brew, by Adelma Simmons, Halloween celebrations have an ancestral beginning in the Samhain festival celebrated in early Britain by the Druids. At this time, bonfires were lit in honor of the sun god to express gratitude for an abundant harvest.

On the eve of the festival, Samhain, god of departed souls, called all the wicked souls together to take them to his world of darkness. The Druids believed that everyone who died in the past year would rise and search for passage to the netherworld. Folk tales tell of great processions of the living and the resurrected dead accompanying the priests and the sacrificial victims to the pile of wood, which would soon blaze up to the heavens.

Originally, human sacrifice was part of the Druid ceremonies but later evolved into burning figures in effigy. These effigies are now seen in our culture’s use of scarecrows, corn dollies, imitation skulls and skeletons.

Today’s Halloween is a pale reflection of this rich, colorful and terrifying past, with its collection of glowing pumpkins, piles of fruit, brown nuts, mulled cider, masquerades and pseudo-witches.

Witches could be good or bad. White witches were healers that could help with bewitched cattle or human ailments. Black witches in contrast were always mischievous, dealing in spurious remedies and poisons. Bad witches could enchant people with their supernatural gaze, thus the fear of the Evil Eye. Therefore ancient people used plants that had a reputation for keeping witches away.

For Halloween, make a door decoration or swag to keep the witches away. Cut branches about two to three feet long and bundle them neatly together. Symbolic plants to use are rue, willow, hawthorn, oak, dill, elder and rosemary.

Dill seedheads were thought to protect against witches and hinder their spells. Elder trees were considered magical and used to drive away evil spirits. The elder tree mother lived and watched over it and folklore says you have to ask permission to cut a branch. Hawthorne was considered a highly magical and protective tree. Onions, garlic and leeks were thought to avert the Evil Eye and prevent bewitching. Rue has a history of expulsion of witches and driving out infection. Aromatic rosemary was carried where witchcraft was suspected and could avert evil.

Witches apparently don’t like fire so add red, yellow and orange leaves and ribbons to your swag. Add an orange bow and all witches will run away from your front door.