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Until fairly recently, in Irish and Scottish rural society it was believed
that sickness and disease were caused by the fairies. A remedy could only be
given by a 'fairy doctor', a person gifted with some natural skill in
combating fairy magic. The most common herbs used in Gaelic fairy medicine
were VERVAIN, EYE BRIGHT & YARROW over which secret words would be uttered
and a ritual performed. A potion made of herbs by a fairy doctor must be
paid for in silver. However, a charm is never paid for; a gift may be given
instead. Herbs had to be gathered in a special manner, at the correct phase
of the moon, while reciting incantations. Herbs found by the side of sacred
streams were particularly effective, and used to cure wounds, bruises and so
YARROW: A sacred herb and a very potent healer, it intensifies the medicinal
action of other herbs taken with it. Helps eliminate toxins (good for
colds). It was most useful in its ability to staunch blood flow. Also
associated with weather divination.
VERVAIN: 'crubh-an-leoghain'(dragon's claw) A sacred herb in many different
cultures; associated with visions and prophecy; flowers used on Druidic
altars. Good for eye compresses and hair tonics. Sedative, anticoagulant.
EYEBRIGHT: 'lus-nan-leac' for all manner of eye ailments; also hay fever,
colds, coughs, sore throats.
PLANTAIN: ("slanlus" - herb of health) a very common remedy, used for many
ills. Antiseptic; expectorant. If hung around the neck of a child, would
prevent abduction by the sidhe.
TANSY: boiled, good for the heart. As a compress for bruises and strains.
CHAMOMILE: ("athair talamh" - father of the ground) One of the finest
healing herbs, has been used for centuries. Good for stomach disorders,
anti-inflammatory for wounds, sedative for nervous disorders.
LOOSESTRIFE: ("camal buidhe") keeps all bad things away
WATER BUTTERCUP: ("fearaban") good for bones and joints
LICHEN: ("dubh cosac") good for the heart
DANDELION: ("garbh lus" - rough herb) used for many ills, especially good
for the heart, for hypertension, also a good diuretic.
RIBGRASS: ("slanugad") will purge the body of all lumps.
MULLEIN: ("lus mor" - great herb) used alot in folk magic/medicine; can
bring 'back' children abducted. If a small piece taken regularly, will
ensure long life.
WOOD ANEMONE: ("bainne bo bliatain") put leaves in a poultice on the head
TRAILING PEARLWORT: ("mothan") very effective as a protective herb when
carried on the person. When placed below the right knee of a woman in labor,
it brought relief. Given to a cow to eat, it protected both the milk and the
calf. When placed above the door lintel, prevented the fairy host from
'spiriting away' any member of the household. Also used by women as a love
charm - pluck nine roots, knot into a ring, and place in the mouth. Then
seek a kiss from the man you desire.
ST. JOHN'S WORT: to ward off fever; sedative, pain reducing; also used on
St. John's Eve (midsummer) in divination.
PURPLE ORCHIDS: A magical plant ("lus an Talaidh" - herb of enticement).
Used in love charms. It has two roots, one larger than the other,
representing a man and a woman. The plant is to be pulled by the roots
before sunrise, facing South. Which-ever root is used is to be immediately
placed in spring water; if it sinks the person in question will be the
future husband or wife. The root can also be ground up and placed under the
pillow to bring dreams of your future partner.
ROWAN: Tree of high magic, from which potent charms are procured. Normally
planted at the door of the house for protection. Also twigs placed over the
byre door. Necklaces of rowan berries with red thread worn for protection by
ELDER: Another highly protective tree, beloved of the Sidhe. It is extremely
unlucky to cut down or harm an elder (bourtree). The green sap of the bark
applied to the eyelids gives the "Second Sight". Elder is also often planted
outside the house for protection. Elder is the medicine chest of the country
folk. Elder flower water used for eye and skin complaints, burns, bruises
and sprains; as an infusion both flowers and berries are used in cold
HAZEL: Used in the sacred need fires at Beltaine. Also used in water
divination. Hazel nuts associated with wisdom of the Otherworld. Children
were given 'the milk of the nut' to make them strong.
APPLES: The fruit of life of the Sidhe, and passport to the Otherworld.
Apples and hazelnuts used in divination rites at Samhain.
JUNIPER: Berries have protective properties. Burnt by Highlanders in the
house and byre at New Year for purification.
IVY: Used for the protection of flocks, of milk and milk products. Ivy,
woodbine and rowan woven together in a wreath and placed under the milk
vessels. Other "magic hoops" consisted of milkwort, butterwort, dandelion,
marigold; or trefoil, vervain, St. John's wort, dill.