Roses are known as the queen of flowers and if that is so I think Mugwort must be the high priestess. The plant embodiment of the crone, the cailleach, the wise woman. Working with mugwort evokes the feeling of a godmother guiding, of an old, deep wisdom and of a soft yet rich connection to the liminal, the past and the spirit. At least for me that is.
I remember the first time I encountered mugwort I was walking by the woods, around the time my eyes were being opened to herbalism and it was the most natural and wholehearted meeting that I have ever experienced. I glanced the tall feathery stalks and silvery leaves gracefully swaying in the wind and for the only time in my life so far I just knew what I was looking at, as if my eyes had met this sight a thousand times. Perhaps they had. At the time, I had not read about the dream inducing qualities associated with the plant but the message was clear to me to sleep with a stalk in my pillow that night- I dreamed that I was in the depths of the forest with with greenery extending from limbs and that I was in a dance with the trees around me. Later I read about mugwort symbolising for many the gateway to walking the herbal path which rang so true for me.
Upon wandering further down such path, I discovered so many things about mugwort that made me fall even more in love. This humble, often overlooked plant is in fact one of our oldest cultural companion plants, a teacher that connects us with sacred practices throughout history and even to the almost mythical times of our Neolithic ancestors. Mugwort is a plant of ancient use and was known as the Mater Herbarum — the mother of all herbs. Held sacred by various cultures and thought to be the oldest of plants, Mugwort was believed to offer deep protection. In many different cultures from Ireland to Scandinavia to North America it was common to hang a sprig over the doorway or to burn it as an incense to keep illness and woe away from the home. There is a Scandinavian ritual dating to pre-Christian times in which it was customary to wind a belt with the stalks and wear it for the midsummer night's dance around the fire. At the end of the night it was ceremoniously burnt in the sacred flames of the bonfire and thus the forces of evil were thought to be averted for another year.
There are so many artemisias but the one I work with the most and the one used in the studio is Artemisia vulgaris. The botanical name Artemisia harks back to the goddess Artemis or Diana, hinting at its divine origins. She was the lunar goddess of childbearing, protector of maidens and the wilderness and Artemisia is steeped in much folklore about its healing virtues. It has traditionally held a powerful affiliation with the moon and was considered to be a prime herb for women. Artemisia vulgaris has been used to soothe the pain of childbirth as well as monthly menstrual cramping. It may also help to regulate the menstrual cycle to a normal, cyclical rhythm. Herbalist Matthew Wood says that mugwort will restore the injured female nature. Mugwort’s actions on the body are warming and slightly stimulating. As such it helps to increase circulation throughout the body and to remove stagnant blood, hence its use for the menstrual cycle.
Perhaps the most well known use however, is its ability to impart vivid dreams and to support creative meditation. As I write this in mid October I can feel the brush of Winter’s cloak getting ready to cover us, Autumn is here and the leaves are falling. The evenings are closing in. Samhain is approaching and this is the time when the veil to the otherworld is at it’s thinnest. Sharon Blackie, author of If Women Rose Rooted, who writes about this in great detail describes this idea of the Otherworld as a place that we have always been connected to, and that even though we are perhaps more disconnected now than ever it can bring us home; to archetypes, to story, to ancestors, and perhaps most importantly to the land. Artemisia for me, embodies this relationship and I chose to introduce Mugwort now so that if you feel called to work together, there is no more perfect time than Samhain.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to research thoroughly before use.
Find Sharon’s website and booklist here. I can’t recommend all of her books enough.
If you feel called to deepen your dream work we’ve designed a dreaming ritual with mugwort infused oil
And find our autumnal recipe for dreamy milk or artemisia here