Mugwort is one of those plants that is heavily associated with witchcraft and magick. Its Latin name is Artemisia vulgaris, hinting at its occult nature. Yet, despite it’s witchy reputation, mugwort has many applications, both in the home as well as in your own practise or craft, and perhaps that it is why it is a favourite of herbalists, especially those with a streak of the occult running through them! It must be said that whilst mugwort is generally safe to use if you are well and healthy, if you do have any medical issues or are taking any kind of medication, it is always best to check with your doctor before working with it. If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or breastfeeding, then steer clear of mugwort as it is an abortive herb; it stimulates the uterus and encourages menstrual bleeding. It can also pass through into breast milk.
Where to find mugwort
It grows abundantly in Europe, North America, as well Africa and India. It grows everywhere in the town where I live. It’s one of those plants that when you’ve learnt to identify it, you see it everywhere! Get yourself a good identification guide for your country. For example, Collins does a very good book called The Complete Guide to British Wild Flowers and The Wildflowers of Ireland. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds also does a good wild flower identification guide called Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. Whatever book you go with, make sure it is relevant for your country. After all, it’s no good having a guide for flowers of Britain if you live half way around the globe! You’ll also want a book to have detailed pictures and photos that show leaf and flower, with information pertaining to the height and spread of a plant and where it is likely to be found. If you enjoy walking or foraging, then look in hedgerows, verges and borders, wasteland and fields. If you cannot find mugwort growing wild, then have no fear, for it is easy to grow from seed, and despite the health warnings above, it is safe to grow if you share your home with pets.
Magical applications of mugwort
Mugwort is sacred to Artemis, the Greek goddess associated with the moon and the hunt. The herb is also associated with the Roman goddess Diana, a lunar deity and, as such, it is related to the menstrual cycle. However its associations with these goddesses are not the only reason why mugwort is so well known and well used amongst witches, sorcerers, and occultist herbalist. Mugwort is also a mild hallucinogenic, and it promotes astral projection and lucid dreaming. It is perfect for use before meditation and in trance work, either by smoking it (it is quite safe to smoke, or as safe as smoking anything can be), or it can be burnt on a charcoal disk.
Divination with mugwort tea
Mugwort can be used in divination by making a tea with its leaves. Steep a tablespoon of the flowers and leaves in hot water for around five or six minutes, or to taste. It is bitter, so you might want to add a sweetener, such as honey, and drink it 10 to 20 minutes before you divine. Additionally, if you practice the art of reading tea leaves, mugwort tea is the perfect brew! Related: Reading tea leaves: A beginner’s guide, by Tabitha Dial
Making a mugwort ointment
Mugwort can also be made into flying ointment, either by using mugwort alone or by mixing with other, perhaps more potent plants. Using an ointment is a good way to begin your journey along the poison path, if perhaps you don’t want to inhale smoke or you want to control the effect. To make an ointment, simply steep dried mugwort — both leaves and flowers — in any kind of oil, though I use a blend of coconut oil and beeswax. (Have a play about until you get a texture that works for you. I use around half and half of each.) Once you’ve found what works best for you, you will want to use one part plant matter to two parts oil. I use my slow cooker. Fill the bottom with water and sit the jars in it (sit their lids on, but do not tighten). Then place the slow cooker lid on, and turn to the lowest setting for at least eight hours. You can do the same in a pan of water on the stove top, with the hob turned to its lowest setting. You can also leave the jar somewhere warm for several weeks. Whichever method you choose, when it is ready, simply strain out the plant matter, and pour the liquid into a clean jar. If necessary, leave to set, and then it is good to use. As already mentioned, the ointment can be used as a flying ointment. Mugwort ointment is a good place for beginners to start their journey along this path, as it isn’t as strong as those flying ointments containing the likes of datura or belladonna. You can apply it before bed to bring on lucid dreaming. For the first time, use only a pea sized amount. That way if you have any adverse reactions, you can simply wash the ointment off. It’s better to start slowly, because you can always add more should you need it, though I do suggest waiting a good half an hour or more before topping up. Apply it to the soles of your feet, the back of your neck, and also pulse points and your forehead (stimulating the third eye). Medicinal uses of mugwort Muwort has so many practical applications in the home. Medicinally, mugwort can be used for general aches and pains, in poultices as well as ointments. Ointments can be used for bug bites, burns, itchy, irritated skin, or on painful or prominent scars. Mugwort tincture is good to use for colds, coughs and sore throats. A tincture is made with good quality alcohol, usually vodka or rum, though I am partial to brandy. With tinctures, I don’t really measure anything out, I usually just use enough alcohol so that it covers the plant matter, but if you do like to be more precise, then use a ratio of one part mugwort to two parts alcohol. The alcohol extracts more of the active ingredients from the plant matter, particularly those that are not water soluble, and this paired with the alcohol can prove quite potent. Place the dried flowers and leaves in a jar, cover with alcohol, and leave to steep for a week or so. Take a spoonful or two a time to ease cold symptoms and coughs, and gargle for sore throats. Take a small glass of the tincture (you can dilute with water if it tastes too strong), or add it to a cup of tea before bed to help with insomnia and restlessness.
Mugwort has so many practical applications, and yet it is such an underrated plant. To many it is a weed, but to those with a cunning eye, it can be so much more. Image credits: Dan Mullen