Everyone knows what is being spoken of when someone remarks that an especially pretty girl is “like catnip”. The truly amusing thing is that the idea behind the remark is as old as the hills and probably has a magickal basis.
Catnip has been used in hoodoo for hundreds of years. It attracts men in particular, and ladies have been using its magnetism to just that end. The idea is that the herb will make a woman look more enticing and her conversation seem more charming to gentlemen. With this in mind, catnip quickly became a favorite among the quadroons of old New Orleans.
It was not uncommon for debuting girls to wear catnip flowers to the Black and White balls where the wealthy and decidedly white gentlemen would pay (often a hefty sum) to dance with and be entertained by these mixed-race ladies. The end for everyone was a nice arrangement whereby the young lady would set up house under the gentleman’s patronage and any children of their union would be given his last name so, of course, competition tended to be fierce. A little catnip pinned to the bodice or worn in a locket or broach was said to give a girl an edge in a sea of pretty women. To seal the deal, a lady might offer a flower to the gentleman and then burn the rest of the catnip she was wearing with love incense upon arriving home. Monsieur would surely come to her like a cat to, well, catnip.
Other traditions have similar workings built around catnip. Growing it in the yard or hanging some over the door is thought to attract luck and helpful spirits. As with hoodoo love mojos, which frequently include catnip, Wiccans fashion sachets to draw love with dried catnip and rose petals. Scott Cunningham mentions holding catnip in your hand until it is warm and then, after setting the herb aside, holding another’s hand. That person will forever be your friend as long as you keep the catnip you used in a safe place.
And then there’s your cat. The tradition goes that giving him or her catnip increases your psychic bond and that wise women in Europe would do so to make a stray cat a docile familiar. If nothing else, it will make the cat happy. Bon chance ~
Header: The Musical Contest by Jean Honore Fragonard