Take heart my loves. With the recent fascist attacks in Charlottesville we must hold our loved ones close and take care of each other, and our selves. This is an overwhelming time emotionally, and as a person with an anxiety disorder (which is what I choose to call my experience of extreme anxiety), I know right now taking care of my inner landscape and that of my loved ones is paramount.
As I see the boldness that racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, etc. cowards are acting with against our comrades I can choose two options in my reactions: I can feel hopeless, defeated and let the reality of how little we have progressed as white people in the last 100 years stifle me, or I can ask myself, what can I do? Well, I'm a Witch. I am a forager. I am a medicine maker. There are some things I can do. Even little old me. I hope sharing this information freely helps you feel a little more able to care for and feed you and yours, and to soothe your aching heart. Also, don't forget to hex fascists if you feel up for it.
In wild crafting and foraging, the rare mushrooms and fantastical, fleeting fruits get all the love. But what about those humble standbys? Who will always be there to feed us? To soothe us? I want to give love to the violet, the humbler heart of the Earth, who feeds me April thru November, who I make into salads, tea, cooked dishes, decorate cakes and cookies with and drink sparking refreshers purpled with its syrups.
Violet is one of 525 to 600 species in the Violaceae family. All of whom are edible. Most occur in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, but a few have wandered elsewhere. Where I live in Western North Carolina, I commonly see a few different species, but on the land I live, the common blue violet (Viola soraria) is queen. Native to the eastern United States, this plant has an interesting history. Strangely enough, the happy purple, yellow and white flowers are often associated with death in old plant lore, as well as constancy and innocence, which seem much more appropriate for a little purple flower which is entirely edible and nourishing.
Few plants represent both hope and death in folklore and mythology. The Romans heaped violets on the graves of young children as a symbol of both mourning and hope. Hamlet displays this play between hope and loss when Ophelia tells Laertes that the violets themselves have died of grief:
"I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father
They are also linked to images of death and rebirth, as in the story of Persephone and her dual residencies in both the Underworld and in our world, where the violets bloom to herald her return each Spring. Aside from nourishing our bodies. The violet reminds us that even in death there is a promise of birth, even in destruction there is a promise of growth.
Despite violets association with mourning, to dream of them is thought in many countries to be a herald of good luck. When I see them in large clumps, as they tend to grow, I feel the robust abundance of their medicine, food and magic, as if unseen eyes are watching me from some dark place and whispering, "we have all you need, take care, o take care."
From our sweet friend Madame Grieve we know violets were even mentioned by Homer and Virgil. They were used by the Athenians 'to moderate anger,' to procure sleep and 'to comfort and strengthen the heart.' Interestingly enough in Macer's Herbal (tenth century) the Violet is among the many herbs which were considered powerful against 'wykked sperytis.' (Wicked spirits for those of us unfamiliar with 10th century creative spelling.)
Use the powdered leaf of violet in your charm bags against evil, from both the dead and the living. The root is strongly purgative and laxative due to its alkaloid content so do not ingest it as most species case nausea and vomiting. However, the somewhat robust roots can be used for alraune magic or fetishes for love work. I also use the roots to purge or drive away a person or more often a spirit that I'd prefer move elsewhere. The violet's association with death, especially of the young, and hope make it a fine root to work with in necromantic or ghostly endeavors when dealing with the spirits of departed children.
In rural Germany, they decked the bridal bed and cradles of girl children with violets--this was done by Kelts and Greeks as well. Purple is a color for all humans, but magically, if one needs to call upon the feminine aspects of the universe, violet may be your ally.
Violets are nutritious and useful medicinally in a huge way, and my friend and mentor Juliet espouses on this greatly in her awesome post about violet. I eat them cooked like spinach, dried for winter tea, soups and stews, and even fried crisp in coconut oil or butter. They are lovely with mushrooms as well.
In the Middle Ages we can see the great association of violet with the heart through its folk name "Heartease". It's perfect little heart shaped leaves could be seen through the Doctrine of Signatures to bring joy and settle an unquiet heart. It was not just used to gladden though, this gentle plant also has been used externally for serious ailments of the skin. Hildegard von Bingen, an 11th century abbess, visionary mystic and herbalist used violets to treat skin cancers externally:
"Take violets, press out their juice, and strain it through a cloth. Add olive oil one-third weight of the juice and take just as much billy goat fat as violet juice. Boil everything in a pot and prepare a salve."
Leaf palasters were also used on nasty wounds and boils historically, this cooling, moistening plant is perfect for such applications. Associated according to Culpepper with Venus, this plant can also be employed in all magical workings of love and the heart, especially where the passions have cooled a long, lasting love is growing.
Daniels, Cora Linn, and C. M. Stevens. Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World. a Comprehensive Library of Human Belief and Practice in the Mysteries of Life through More than Six Thousand Years of Experience and Progress ... University Press of the Pacific, 2003.
Madame Grieve's Violet Article
Juliet Blankenspoor's excellent article on Violet
Susan Wittig Albert's works on Violet
Witching and Bitching in Western NC.
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